It’s November 5th. Time for the Bonfire of Inanities.
‘G20 leaders in Cannes end their summit with a plan to boost growth and rebalance the global economy, but give no details’
“We will fight to defend Europe and the euro,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a closing press conference for the G20. I must confess to being at a loss as to who exactly Nico will be fighting. I don’t discern any invaders on the horizon, apart from the Chinese buying an airport here, and a harbour there…but then, they’re not doing anything illegal.
As I find it very difficult at the moment to view the antics of our Betters without (a) laughing in a vaguely manic manner, or (b) trying to buy a gun on the internet, I suggest we move on to other more engaging topics.
Tonight is Bonfire Night, when we British celebrate the idea of burning wicked Catholics to death. Like so many rituals which lose their pernicious significance over the centuries, this one segued into the the mid Twentieth Century devoid of any meaning beyond lots of enjoyment for everyone. As a kid, I can only recall the avid collection (and secretion) of various types of firework, stuffing straw and old bits of useless cloth into a Guy, and then collecting bits of wood, knackered fencing, vegetable boxes, and wind-destroyed tree trunks into a pile on a muddy patch of common land somewhere.
On the night itself, Mums produced trays of treacle toffee. These were mainly consumed by adults, the kids being far more interested in chucking firecrackers around in an entirely irresponsible manner. Wimpy southerners call these things Jumping Jacks, but we northerners knew them only as Rip-Raps. The other missiles chucked in the direction of frail grandmothers and weak-heart patients by kids like me were called ‘bangers’ (1d each) or ‘cannons’ (2d each). I have no doubt that, were children today to behave like this, they would become the subject of in-depth Sunday Magazine features about a new anthropological trend. It would probably be described as The New Ageism, or some such equally nonsensical fiction.
Because I remember the 1950s largely as a decade when it rained non-stop apart from two short breaks in August, it usually fell to my Dad to light the damp wood of the Guy Fawkes bonfire. Pop jealously guarded the ability to do this because, being a travelling cloth salesman, he had access to petrol above and beyond the coupons supplied by various austere governments still trying to repay the cost of having won the War. How surreal that sentence looks today. (What’s even more surreal is that Dad was a Catholic.)
Today’s authorities would have an attack of the vapours about the idea of a father of two small children chucking buckets of petrol onto a bonfire without a single local Council steward within miles of the scene. Had Health & Safety been invented, they would, without doubt, have arraigned Dad for trial as some kind of anti-social criminal at a Court in the Hague somewhere.
In 2011, Libertarians have hijacked Guy Fawkes’ image in order to wear his likeness as masks at various events and demos. I wonder how many of them understand just how illiberal, censorious and murderous the real Guido Fawkes was. The bloke was little more than an odd hangover from the Spanish Inquisition – which wasn’t, let’s face it, entirely libertarian. The red-robed priests would’ve had Paul Staines stretched on the rack before you could say Monty Python.
Dogs are less keen on Bonfire Night. For them, the whole thing involves unexplained bangs, and an unwarranted interruption of the eternal canine pursuit of cats, rats and any other small, tree-climbing rodent. It’s weird, is it not, that we worry about the effects of noise on dogs who would break the neck of other living thing without a moment’s thought or guilt. But then, this is all part of the glorious muddle of being British.
Does being British mean something any more? If it means anything, I’d like to think it is having the maturity to have grown beyond the original, eccentric bigotry that shaped us. The EU was an attempt to do this for Europe as a whole, but it was previous – and has failed. We in this offshore island find such precocious attempts brave……but ultimately, funny. I think that, above all, we are suspicious of those who cannot laugh at cultural difference.
For the British, foreigners will always be subjects for endless amusement. But what worthy pc pillocks should remember is that nobody laughs with more gusto at the British than the British themselves. The French and the Americans insist that they have no class system. The British, by contrast, openly admit to having one, taking the merciless piss out of its idiocies. The Germans’ serious pursuit of a European ideal strikes us as laughably worthy. The Italians’ ability to elect a buffoon like Berlusconi feeds a thousand comic routines in precisely the same way that Mussolini’s ludicrously set jaw did 76 years ago. Yet only the British could have a joke that goes, “The Devon slang ‘presently’ is like the Spanish ‘manana’, but without the sense of urgency”.
All around us today, there are tedious commissarines desperate to persuade us that we are structurally, intrinsically, innately and incurably racist, sexist, heightist, fattist and altogether fascist. I think this to be unutterable bollocks. Want to hear some real racism? Go to a Serie A game in Italy, and listen to the abuse handed out to black footballers. Want to read some naked fascism? Download any East Coast US University thesis on the nature of affirmative action. Want to see some cruel fattism? Watch the sneers of every stick-person as an overweight beach bum wobbles past them in Cannes.
I hope this piece goes some way to explaining why Hattie Harman’s pursed lips, David Cameron’s insincere common man act, and Ed Miliband’s studied, Statist sanctimony make me want to vomit. And why I long to revisit the free-and-easy, Council-free Bonfire nights of my childhood. But then, if you’ve no idea what I’m on about, there are billions of other websites from which to choose.