Tag Archives: Guy Fawkes Night

What we need in Britain are firework parties celebrating the coronavirus…

Beirut in 1993/1994 – home of sundry death-dealing devices

I spent New Year’s Eve 1993 (turning into 1994) in Beirut.

There was much celebration by way of firing sub-machines and sundry death-dealing devices in the air. 

I stayed inside my hotel on the seafront that night on the basis that what goes up must come down and that, if people were firing hundreds of bullets vertically up into the air, the last place I would want to be would be under the airborne missiles which would inevitably succumb to the force of gravity.

Tonight, I was reminded of that night in Beirut.

In the erstwhile innocent days of my youth in Britain, we used to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Night on 5th November with firework displays, parties and children begging in the street – a joyful, innocent time when we celebrated an attempt to overthrow the government with high explosives by setting fire to effigies of people (not all of them Guy Fawkes – sometimes politicians).

Elliott, ET and commercialism overwhelmed Guy Fawkes…

Then, in 1982, along came Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which imported the European and American concept of Hallowe’en on 31st October with loads of fireworks, fancy costumes and parties.

The UK had largely ignored Hallowe’en until then. With the impact of Elliott, ET and international marketing, that worldwide commercialised concept soon mostly overwhelmed simple old Guy Fawkes’ Night.

A bit later, along came Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights which lasts for five days sometime between mid-October and mid-November, with fireworks and parties.

So we ended up, the last few years, with about two or three weeks of fireworks going off.

With the advent of COVID-19 this year – and with the UK in various national stages of lockdown – the two weeks of parties have mostly disappeared or been scaled-down dramatically. But we have had erratic firework outbreaks for the last couple of weeks or more and when I went out this evening – Diwali started on Thursday; this is Saturday – there were bangs and bangs and rat-a-tat-tats going off all over the place in the darkness. 

Diwali at The Golden Temple in pre-COVID days

Diwali’s Festival of Lights seems to have changed into a Festival of Bangs. 

Either that or I am having flashbacks to Beirut.

Diwali commendably symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. But this is Britain, so it may eventually turn into a festival of loud bangs, scared domestic pets and maimed children.

It strikes me that, as we already celebrate Hallowe’en (Death) and Guy Fawkes’ Night (Treason & Death), perhaps in years to come, we will – or should – nominate a day when we celebrate the coronavirus and everyone can dress up in blue masks, have parties, cough a lot and set off fireworks. For neatness’ sake, it should be held around mid-October to mid-November to coincide with the existing triumvirate of banging firework celebrations.

Only a suggestion.

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I met actor Telly Savalas last night after comic Phil Zimmerman’s anarchic party

Phil Zimmerman (right) with Nigel Noize last night

Phil Zimmerman (right) with Nigel Noize last night

This blog was written earlier. Obviously. Otherwise you could not be reading it now.

I met Telly Savalas last night. Not a lookalike but the real Telly Savalas who used to be on TV as Kojak and who was in The Dirty Dozen. It happened after I went to the annual Guy Fawkes Night party at comedian Phil Zimmerman’s home in West Ealing, London. The house has its own website. Apparently the party – organised by Nigel Noize – has been running annually for 14 years.

There is a video shot in the house on YouTube.

At the end of the suburban garden was a mini Glastonbury Festival tower with two giant screens playing random film clips and music videos. Nigel Noize aims to turn the garden into a “huge, complex, art-installation which will eventually be entered for the Turner Prize“.

Phil Zimmerman’s bak garden

Nigel Noize & Phil Zimmerman’s back garden

On my iPhone recording, the first thing audible amid the loud rock music is Phil Zimmerman saying:

“Jenny Eclair on the 21st November at the No 5 club downstairs at the Drayton in Ealing.”

He wanted me to mention it.

“Why should people come and see that?” I asked.

“Because I’m MCing,” replied Phil, “and you never know what could happen.”

“Is it monthly?” I asked.

Phil Zimmerman’s Ealing club plug

Phil Zimmerman’s Ealing comedy club plug

“Yeah, sort of. It’s on various Fridays.”

“You have,” I asked, “more than one comedy club?”

“Yeah,” said Phil, “I’ve lost count of how many clubs I have.”

“How many?” I asked.


“Are they all regular?” I asked.

“Yeah. Except when the second one goes off for four months or six months.”

“Where’s that?”

“Faversham in Kent.”

The fireworks started off in the back garden

The fireworks started off in the back garden

Phil and I were standing beside a row of rockets stuck in the ground about two feet from a roaring bonfire beside a sunken bathtub. Last year, the bathtub had water in it; this year there was some earth.

“About three years ago at one of these Guy Fawkes Night parties,” I said, struggling to make myself heard above the loud rock music, “a neighbour decided to take pot shots with an air rifle at people in your back garden. Are the neighbours any happier now?”

“Yeah,” said Phil. “They generally seem to like it quite a lot apart from when they come round and start banging on the door with a hammer.”

I went into Nigel Noize’s toilet - perhaps foolishly

I maybe foolishly went into Nigel Noize’s toilet

“Do they hammer on the door on the night of the party,” I asked, “or all year long?”

“It could happen at any time. We had a very loud band playing in the loft last year or the year before at 2.00am and a neighbour took a dislike to it and arrived on the scene with a hammer. But we had a very tall security man who persuaded him not to use it.”

“Was this the year after the air rifle incident?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s all scrambled up now,” said Phil.

At this point, a girl in a red pullover asked us: “Is Nigel there?”

Phil Zimmerman’s loft

The girl in the red pullover slept amid this – with added music

“I don’t know where he is,” Phil said and, when she had gone, told me: “That young lady there was living in the loft for a while.”

“With the band?” I asked.

“With,” Phil explained, “the 24-hour music video going on. She was living up there and it was the maddest thing. I came home from holiday and I thought the house had been bombed and burgled because of the disarray. Can you imagine someone who can actually live in that loft with that noise going on.”

There is a video giving some hint of life in the loft on YouTube.

“That stuffed figure in the corner of the garden,” I said. “Is that Tom Baker as Doctor Who?”

“That’s Jeremy Paxman,” said Phil. “He’s going on the fire later.”

Back garden bath (left), fire (right), rockets (back)

Suburban back garden bath, fire and rockets

“These rockets that we are standing by next to the bonfire that’s throwing sparks everywhere,” I said. “Are all the rockets going to go off at one time?”

“Well,” said Phil, “we’ve got this madman in charge of the fireworks. And he’s mad. Usually what happens is people start running, terrified, when it starts – dodging the rockets.”

“When does this happen?” I asked.

“What, the rockets?” asked Phil. “Well, it could happen any time. The bath was on fire earlier, but it’s stopped now. The bath is a bit scorched.”

“What time does this party finish?” I asked.

“Usually about Tuesday,” said Phil.

About 90 seconds later, some of the rockets started going off.

Which brings me to Telly Savalas.

Telly Savalas in a 1973 publicity pic for Kojak

Telly Savalas in a 1973 publicity pic for Kojak

I had gone to chat for this blog to a woman who works in an advertising agency. There was some big ‘do’ at their offices. She was difficult to talk to and, somehow we found ourselves sitting next to Telly Savalas.

“I’m sorry,” I told him, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I thought you were dead.”

He laughed.

The three of us went off to a Starbucks coffee shop by a bridge. There was some very loud collision of vehicles outside and, when we looked out the window, there was sand everywhere.

“We use it to make the coffee,” said the bloke who made the coffee for this particular branch of Starbucks.

Telly Savalas’ head was a slightly different shape to what it had looked like before. He looked less like Telly Savalas than before because, of course, he was not. Telly Savalas died in 1994 and, throughout this blog, whenever I typed in ‘Telly Savalas’, the Apple spellcheck has changed it to ‘Telly Savages’.

Phil Zimmerman’s loft

After all this came the surprise meeting with Telly Savalas

Meeting Telly Savages – you see what I mean?

Meeting Telly Savalas was a dream I had when I was asleep after I came home from Phil Zimmerman’s – or, rather Nigel Noize’s – Guy Fawkes Night party.

I very rarely remember my dreams, so I tend to write them down. In this case, the surreality of the party blended in with the dream when I woke up at 6.30am – two hours before my alarm went off.

But the Guy Fawkes Night party at No 67 was real and meeting Telly Savages – you see what I mean – meeting Telly Savalas was a dream. At least I think both those things are true.

"Ever drifting down the stream. Lingering in the golden gleam..." (by Lewis Carroll - Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

“Ever drifting down the stream. Lingering in the golden gleam…” (by Lewis Carroll – Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Certainly Jenny Eclair is performing at one of Phil Zimmerman’s irregular regular clubs on 21st November.

He wanted me to tell you that.

I have.

Now I am going back to sleep.

This blog was written earlier.

Not just earlier than when you are reading it. Earlier than posting it online. I went back to sleep and then woke up again.

At least, I think I have.


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