Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Column, November 8, 2005

WHATEVER happened to Guy Fawkes?
Well, I know what happened to him, he was hung, drawn and quartered, a fate that would make gently roasting on a bonfire seem like a breeze. What I mean is whatever happened to guys?
Has the march of political correctness finally stormed the bastions of our national Catholic-baiting festival?
It’s just that I haven’t seen many of them recently. Time was that every year you could trot along to your local municipal display to see the original fall-guy burnt in effigy.
Happy that we had once again commemorated the knavish, Papist plot to blow up Parliament you could toddle home.
But suddenly it’s no longer Guy Fawkes’ Night is it. Now it’s just Bonfire Night and that’s all you get, a big bonfire, nothing else.
No overstuffed effigy sitting atop the motley collection of flotsam and jetsam whose head inevitable falls off when the first flames lick around his toes to the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
You can perhaps just about understand why your local council display has decided that burning a guy is as inflammatory as making the Satanic Verses compulsory reading in primary schools. So perhaps you can be charitable and forgive them their abandonment of tradition.
But now everyone’s at it. There were kids going round asking for a ‘penny for the guy’ last week – with no guy. Why not abandon all pretence of history and just say: “Give me money for fireworks.”
Even the village bonfire has abandoned its guy and was just a bonfire this year, not the recreation of the immolation of the nation’s most hated traitor.
But why? Everyone knows it was a set-up, Guy was just a patsy and it was orchestrated to foment anti-Catholic feeling.
If we burn a guy nowadays we’re doing it ironically aren’t we and no, we don’t really hate all Catholics and everything they stand for do we?
But I blame this abandonment of tradition for the two-month long expenditure of ordnance that follows what used to be Guy Fawkes’ Night.
There was a time when November 5th would be preceded by the occasional banger and then the whole lot would be expended in one glorious night filled with the smell of gunpowder.
After that Rover and Tiddles could be let out safe in the knowledge that high explosives would not illuminate the skies for another year.
Not now. Oh no. November 5th is just the first salvo in a display of rocketry that lasts until New Year’s Eve.
Either they are making more gunpowder nowadays or people have more money to send up in a puff of smoke because every evening is punctuated by explosions that would raise a few eyebrows in downtown Baghdad.
And while we’re about it can we have a word about people’s aim when they’re setting the damn things off?
There was a point on Saturday when the village bonfire resembled the closing scenes of Apocalypse Now. Banks Junior was fortunately too young to know the danger he was in as the incandescent phosphorus fell around us.
“Ears daddy, ears,” he said, complaining that my hands which had been hitherto protecting his delicate eardrums from the sound of the explosions, were now occupied carrying him out of No Man’s Land and to what we hoped would be a place of safety.
Can we return to the days when Bonfire Night meant just that – one night? Set off your fireworks now or keep them until next year. If you let off as much as a banger on November 6 you get locked up.
And if we’re not going to have a guy on the top of our bonfires can we at least have some acknowledgement of the historical significance of the day?
What about burning the Houses of Parliament in effigy? A neat reminder to its present occupants of what might have been.

IT is often said that barristers do not ask a question in court that they don’t already know the answer to.
The theory being they like to know where the questioning is going.
Perhaps AMs would do well to take a leaf from their book.
Conservative Mark Isherwood has asked for an independent review of AMs’ workload after remarks made by Peter Hain.
Be careful what you wish for Mr Isherwood, you just might get it.
As a soft-handed journalist I’ll cast no aspersions about workload, but voters might think that an AM’s workload compares very favourably to their own.
And come to think of it – you asked for the job and all you need to do is ask the voters to sack you if you don’t like it.

I’VE figured out why we lost to the All Blacks.
Too much singing.
Not in the game that is, you can never have enough while the match is on to raise the spirits and so on, and boy did they need raising on Saturday.
But all this singing at the start.
First you get the New Zealand national anthem, which is fair enough, then the Haka, which, again is part of the grand occasion.
I do think it’s got a bit testosterone-driven though. If you see archive footage of its origins it was no more threatening than a bout of pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
But I digress.
Then we get Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and there can be no more rousing sound than the massed choirs of the Wales fans singing that.
But then, instead of getting on with it when everyone is fired up, we have yet another song. Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, led from the stands.
Just get on with it.
The great beauty of ‘Bread of Heaven’ as a rugby anthem is, like You’ll Never Walk Alone at the Kop, the way you just catch the first hints of the melody spontaneously starting in the crowd. Usually it’s when Wales are at their lowest ebb and need all the encouragement they can get.
Then gradually the rest of the crowd pick up the theme until it is being roared around the ground. Now that is inspiring.
They shot their bolt on Saturday before the match had even kicked off.
The next Six Nations looms, next time we should keep our powder dry until we need our best songs.

1 comment:

Chicken Legs, Twm and The Kid said...

I'd like to proudly say that we had a 'guy' this year, however things didn't go quite as smoothly as we'd hoped. His head was made from an old pair of black stockings filled with straw. I can't say how many people made comments about the KKK and the lynching of the guy. We had a number of small children (many of whom had helped to build the guy) but I don't think their parents had warned them just what exactly burning the guy meant. A number of screams were heard when the burning head of the guy came apart from the body and rolled (ablaze) towards a tearful four year old. The children seemed less impressed with the actual fireworks than I can remeber being some twenty years plus ago, sparklers and big sticks to poke the fire were the order of the day. Atleast I'll know now for next year.