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November 5th

There were thousands of people downtown this morning running 3.1 miles to cure cancer. Very admirable but why does the cure have to be pastel pink? It’s fine as an accent but annoying when seen in giant clumps and on dogs wearing visors. And I doubt cancer finds it very scary, except the dogs perhaps. It should be a more powerful colour like Silver or Indigo. Nothing beats silver. Except gold, but gold isn’t cool.

But I really don’t have the time to change things. It’s November 5th, the day we commemorate Guy Fawkes’ unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. He was a Catholic so of course we celebrate his failure. He was caught in the act and apparently almost got away with it by claiming his name was actually John Johnson and not Guy Fawkes. Perhaps if he’d chosen a less made-up sounding name, but that’s what happens when you’re under pressure. I wonder if he woke up the next morning and thought of 10 brilliantly clever names he could have given instead. It’s the same for me in comedy, except I just risk total silence and not the fate of being hung drawn and quartered like poor Guy/John.

We mark the occasion in England by having a big bonfire in a field and some fireworks. It’s usually rubbish, or at least it was before I was old enough to smoke and drink hot chocolate laced with whisky. For a start, November is a crappy month for fireworks – it was either freezing cold or raining and the layers of clothes you were forced to put on just made you sweat when you got anywhere close to the fire. Plus I hated having to wear wellington boots, they make everyone look like a pig farmer.

We’d generally have some fireworks at the house before going to the village event. There’d always be sparklers, a great novelty for a child, but only the first time. After that you’d stand around rather awkwardly, writing your name into the air with a flourish that in no way resembled your regular handwriting and hoping the thing would fizzle out soon. I can’t prove it, but I believe the sparkler idea also originated with Guy/John. There’s pictures of his handwriting before and after he was tortured on the rack and the former was just as I described above. I think you’ll find that’s evidence enough.

Dad always made an effort and would buy a fireworks selection box that included a couple of rockets, some fountains, that I still think are quite impressive and a Catherine wheel. This was the most tricky as he’d fix it to a hook on the side of the house so it could spin freely. A couple of revolutions in and it would fly off and land on the ground, still firing off sparks while we all stood around awkwardly trying not to say ‘told you so’.

While dad was being all masculine with fire, mum was making Parkin. It’s a bit like gingerbread but made with oats and black treacle. So quite different to gingerbread really, but similar in its stickiness. And better than I’ve just made it sound.

The only other certainty was the TV ads showing foolish burned children who’d gone back to a firework after it had been lit and having it blow up in their face. Seeing all that charred skin was enough to put you off your parkin.

I was feeling a bit nostalgic for all this when I read about Saddam Hussein being sentenced to hang. I suggest it would be better to just throw him on a bonfire. Hanging can’t be enough given the expression “hanging would be too good for them”. Maybe if they also drawed and quartered him like Guy/John. He’ll be half-hung and thus still alive when they cut him down, disembowel him and burn his entrails in a dish in front of him. Then they’ll cut him into quadrants and feed him to the town cats.

Then when he’s been fully digested, the war in Iraq will be over.