Why should I have to be ill on Bonfire Night? It so unfair!!

Sometimes I do believe that there are large interfering and ironically spiteful gods up there preordaining our fates. They must be very bored at the moment because they have decided to turn their mischief onto me.

How else would they decided to give me a throat infection just when I have an appointment with my “swallowing consultant” – see yesterday’s blog. – Well, the gods decided it was time for the Wolf to have a cold and specifically one of those full tonsil-swelling clogged up throat ones which is just what you need if you have a paralysed vocal chord which stops you closing your windpipe properly.

The plan, up there, is this:

Attack the Wolf at his most vulnerable point so that he chokes during the nights when it is impossible to watch out for efficient swallowing techniques and then to ruin one of the most entertaining days of the year in this small Sussex town.

First the choking….yep, it worked, thanks up there. I had one of those heaving, end of the world type choking attacks in the middle of the night – a good few minutes of not getting my breath and sounding like an asthmatic donkey as I threw myself round the bedroom trying to get some air into my lungs. Certainly puts a bit of spice into the common cold this.

Now I feel crap, of course, in that man ‘flu, sleep deprived, no voice way where the last thing I feel in the mood for is my town’s annual moment of glory: Bonfire.

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November….as the song goes. It is the annual celebration of fireworks which traditionally marks the failed attempt of one Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th. November 1605:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,I know of no reasonWhy the Gunpowder TreasonShould ever be forgot.Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intentTo blow up the King and Parli’ment.Three-score barrels of powder belowTo prove old England’s overthrow;By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Well he didn’t get away with it as you may recall and ended up having one of the most unpleasantly sadistic executions even our noble history has to its dishonour. We still have the Houses of Parliament and the monarchy but we also have a very jolly night out every year here in Lewes, Sussex, where bonfires, processions and fireworks mean that the whole town is closed down to traffic after 5.00 in the afternoon and the lords of misrule are given their freedom. Holloa boys!

As a child who was always fascinated by making effigies of Guy Fawkes and burning them on the biggest possible bonfire, I particularly remember another sadistic little rhyme associated with that day:
Guy, guy, guyPoke him in the eye,Put him on the bonfire,And there let him die.
Lewes, an irritant in the side of government for centuries now with its non-conformist and often radical agenda, has the most famous Bonfire celebration in the country but, fortunately, long gone are the days when this was just another way of attacking Roman Catholics. Lewes is the site where 17 local Protestants were burned on the orders of the English Catholic Queen, Mary Tudor – Bloody Mary to her enemies. These were the good old days of religion, well Christianity, when everyone had to be Catholic or Protestant depending on the current King or Queen. When Mary went to meet her maker, her sister, Protestant Queen Elizabeth Tudor, turned it all round and burned Roman Cahtolics instead. It was a bit like a computer game but with real blood.

Now of course the mortal remains of the two royal sisters lie next to each other in Westminster Abbey, at peace with each other and the rest of us – and you would be lucky to find anyone who admits to be either Protestant or Catholic in these parts.

Guy was one of Pope Paul V’s men apparently and so every year Pope P5 is also burned in effigy form along with other more modern public figures – usually British politicians, it was Margaret Thatcher for years then of course Tony Blair, several unpopular pop stars, and even the chief of our local police force who made the mistake of trying to stop the marchers from letting off fire crackers along the line of the fancy dress processions which dominate the town all night. That policeman took on Lewes and lost – holloa boys!

I hope to be out there tonight but the gods are against me as I sit here coughing and spluttering and trying not to choke. Maybe the procession will come to me tonight….oh hang on a minute, it does that anyway, every year this wonderfully wild and anarchic riot processes past my front door.

If I am feeling very ill, I will just have to stand there propped up in the doorway with a comforting tumbler of whiskey – Stuart Chrystal perhaps in memory of those roguish and nominally Catholic Stuart pretenders to the English throne. Holloa boys!

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