Grumpy Old Men


I shall explain.

Yesterday, a man chastised me for enjoying Bonfire Night. I should not, according to him, enjoy the night when a man was set up as a fall guy; and, he added, the whole thing encourages anti-Catholic sentiment.

I love it when I have a huge shiny great balloon of joy and some killjoy comes along with a pin to pop it.

Yes, I know Guy Fawkes was set up. I can read. Yes, I know he was a Catholic. I’m fairly sure it was a great big spin job by James I to endear himself to the English public – who didn’t really want a Scottish King who thought he had divine rights  – and loved Good Queen Bess with their whole hearts, despite the fact she was a protestant and a bastard and had her own publicity battles to deal with. In fact, being a Shakespeare scholar and avid historian, I probably know more about James I than the grumpy old man who was chastising me.

I know that if Barack Obama celebrated the execution of ‘alleged’ terrorist Osama Bin Laden in the same way, and over 400 years later, people were still celebrating the event, it’d be the biggest political spin ever. It’d be a spin triumph of a similar-ish ilk with a bogeyman and a happy ending. I say alleged not because I don’t believe OBL was a terrorist but because I don’t trust George Dubya Bush to have told the truth about Mr BL and also I have unresolved feelings about the US’s puppetry in the Middle East, not least Saudi Arabia. So I don’t know. Until I see the smoking gun and I’m damn sure who fired it, I’m a hung jury. I feel like that about Guy Fawkes.

And can you imagine if the US decided to burn effigies of OBL on bonfires??! I think there would be war. Bonfire Night would never happen these days.

So yes, I’m perfectly aware that it’s an achievement of spin that’s lasted a good 400 years. And I don’t need a grumpy old man to pass judgement on my love of parkin and toffee apples and fireworks. Let’s be honest, the Bye Plot was intended to kidnap James I and torture him until he agreed to become more moderate towards Catholics. Let’s just say both sides were as bad as each other. James was a menace; Catholics were a menace. But me being grumpy about it to make a 400-year-old point isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference.

I mean, let’s face it, every time we have a party, it’s chastise-worthy. Christmas? A grump would say it’s nothing more than a Christian Roman Emperor’s attempt to appease the pagans and that really Easter is the big festival. And Christmas has been hijacked by all the corporations and has become little more than a time of materialism and greed. Forget what it once was, people get themselves into hock to buy as much as they can for their pampered little Tarquin or Clintessa and worship at the altar of Mammon. Underneath it all, the winter solstice and Yule are much more ancient festivals.

Easter? So, we’re celebrating another Christian Roman marriage of a Christian ‘event’ with a Pagan one. Those early Christians knew that we pagan peasants in the hinterland need parties.

Hallowe’en? Just Samhain for the masses, coupled with a healthy dose of consumerism these days.

New Year’s Eve? If you’re on our calendar maybe… I’m not sure it’s of any significance to the Hindu Calendar or the Chinese Calendar.

Birthdays? Why celebrate the day of pain some woman had as she squeezed you into existence, complete with a lot of wailing and crying on both sides?

Don’t get me started on Thanksgiving or Bastille Day.

So whilst I appreciate the Grumpy Old Man’s misguided assumption that I am some brainless airhead who is perpetuating anti-Catholic sentiment (and, let’s face it, few organised religions these days don’t have blood on their hands. I’m not surprised the English were anti-Catholic after Bloody Mary…) I resent the assumption that I need chastising. People will celebrate.

It might be less laden with historical guilt to celebrate the solstice and the passage of the sun and the moon around the world. It might be nicer to have harvest festival and Yule and Eostre and Midsummer’s Eve.

But people would think I’m some kind of hippy, pagan nutcase if i did that.

All I want to do is eat cake and have a party. We peasants and land girls like a bit of that. If it comes at a good time of year and brings a little cheer into the darkness, well, I’m all for it.

So if I get a bit over-excited at the thought of bonfire toffee, leave me to it. Don’t come along and judge me as if I’m some kind of mesmerised sheep following in the tracks of all the other mesmerised sheep. Your judgement will just make me want to enjoy it all the more. Next year, I might even make an effigy myself to burn on the bonfire. It might even be an effigy of a kill joy.

I reserve the right to understand both the hypocrisy and history behind a festival and enjoy it anyway.

What was worse was that this Mr Buzzkill Mc-Killjoy decided that he needed to come along and piss on my parade. Let’s face it. Reality sucks. You’ve got to get your kicks while you can.

Whilst I was looking for this Cyanide and Happiness cartoon (I was looking for the Easter one that’s ‘Zombie Jesus Day’…) I also found this:

May God love these miserable, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou people who feel capable in their invincible and eternal wisdom of passing judgement on me and who never do anything wrong themselves. God better love them, because they make me MAD! It must be great to go around the world being better than everyone else.

Anyway, since I am but a lowly peasant who likes fireworks (I’m easily amused), I’m going to keep on enjoying Bonfire Night until you come up with another November night dedicated to bonfires and explosions. Feel free to move Walpurgis Night to November. I don’t like it in May, but that would do fine. Of course, it’s another one based on a Catholic myth, but I won’t let that stop me…

* I was obviously in a fit of pique and apologise for this venting of spleen that grammar and sense failed to constrain. I’ve amended this accordingly. Sorry!

** I also reserve the right to get annoyed about fireworks on any other day than a special occasion. But that’s a rant about errant youths, not Bonfire Night.


5 thoughts on “Grumpy Old Men

  1. Deary me! So cross your usually impeccable writing style has suffered!

    A Catholic friend of mine told me that he was never allowed to participate in Bonfire Night. I was amazed at how seriously it is still taken when we moved to the UK. Having not grown up with it, it was just a load of very annoying loud explosions for me and an excuse for the local yoof to terrorise the populace with artillery (yes — some of it qualified, and is no doubt illegally acquired), blow up people’s letterboxes and throw crackers at them in the street to frighten them out of their wits. I’m afraid I do not have fond memories of Bonfire Month from my time in England. Plus there’s all those incinerated hedgehogs to consider.

    However, I do sympathise with you being ticked off by some self-righteous nerd who, as you quite rightly point out, almost certainly has less of a grasp of real history than you do.

    1. Totally agree Susan. In Lancashire, there’s a run-up called ‘mischief night’ and it’s horrific. However, if he’d objected to noises and bangs, that’s fine. It’s definitely true that it seems to extend for a good month now and most people are sick of the noise. I think the problem is more with the errant youth than the actual bonfire night thing. That, I can understand! We did always check for hedgehogs, it must be said.

  2. Well that blazed off the page! Personally I could never really get into bonfire night; only ever went to one that was fun the way you describe it. The rest were more akin to Susan’s experiences and not fun.
    Mind you, I would have been severely tempted to ‘oh so accidentally’ trip the self-righteous g-t into the fire!

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