I’M NOT a Bonfire Night fan, although I might be more inclined to celebrate if a descendant of Guy Fawkes had done a better job last Tuesday, November 5th, underneath the Houses of Parliament.
I’ve nothing against community and charity events, with their bonfire toffee, baked spuds, sickly-sweet parkin and the like. It’s just the military-grade ordnance that’s now part of the package – Guy Fawkes wished he had explosives like those found at the Boy Scouts’ annual fundraiser.
As kids, we had Catherine wheels, sparklers, Roman candles and an occasional rocket that went 50 feet before going a red-gold-silver pop-pop-pop. Today’s fireworks are like the opening barrage at the Somme.
We would pile our ‘chumps’ into a bonfire in the back garden and buy bangers for a shilling or half a crown (ask your grandparents, kids) and throw them at one another like WWII hand grenades. Then one foolhardy ‘commando’ would hang on a tad too long, get a blackened paw and run home crying, where mum or dad usually replied: “I’ll bloody well give you something to cry about!”
Now? We have bonfires you could burn Parliament on (the good ideas are flowing today!) and where admission is by bringing a firework. And no, not a little pyramid thingy about two inches high, which emits a feeble ‘fizzy-fizzy pop-pop’ for 20 seconds.
Oh no, what they mean is a lethal armament that can be seen 12 miles away and heard almost as far – and, if you are a dog, no one’s told you this is supposed to be ‘fun’.
I suspect a pal was boasting rather than complaining when saying he’d spent 50 quid on a firework (and there isn’t even a flaming bonfire half the time!) yet his wham, bam, thank-you-mam pyrotechnic was all over in a matter of seconds.
“You’d have been as well setting fire to a handful of tenners,” I replied. “It would have lasted as long and you’d have saved a few dozen dogs from being terrified half to death.”
He wondered, very briefly, if I was joking. I wasn’t.
I’m writing this with my faithful old Labrador buddy Arthur laying on my feet in the darkened confines beneath my desk. He’s panting like he’s just run the London marathon and his eyes are on stalks. His heart’s going 300 to the minute.
This is his ninth consecutive night like this and there hasn’t even been a firework tonight. As darkness falls the poor old boy is in a state of complete distress for hours on end.
If you’ve not had a pet, think of a baby, crying as only they can, unable to tell you what’s wrong. It’s not its nappy, or wind, you’ve fed it, you’ve given it Calpol, you’ve rock-a-byed for hours – and there’s no GP to visit, or NHS hotline to call.
Dog owners just have to sit tight, hope it will pass, and curse the gunpowder vandals. (And a quick tip for fellow dog owners here – if your local pet store recommends calming tablets called Zylkene can I suggest you recommend they use it as a suppository. Still in the box. It’s £28 and useless).
I digress. This year has been particularly bad because our neighbours forgot to tell us they were having a bring-a-bomb party – several days before November 5th. They’d even sent their nervous dog away for the night.
I spent 90 minutes driving terrified Arthur round darkened countryside while Mrs L went to assure them I wasn’t really going to shove their ******* Apollo 5s up their *****. Our neighbours were mortified at the oversight – but the damage was done.
You know, I don’t want to be a miserable so-and-so. Bonfire parties and fireworks have their place. But sorry, not for a week either side of November 5th or New Year’s Eve. At least if it was just on the night, animal owners could make appropriate plans and take such precautions as there are.
One night last year the new, nouveau riche occupiers of ‘the hall’ in our village had some impromptu nuclear fun – at midnight. It was still going at 1.20am when I went full Rambo (I’m sure I looked daft with the red bandana tied round my bald head and black Kiwi boot polish daubed on my mush). Luckily my daughter stood me down – she’d called the police.
Some days later the completely unapologetic hall owners found a poo-bag had been catapulted down their drive – the yucky photo even made it onto the community website.
“Was that you, Danny?” asked the village pub landlord, “because you were really narked about it and poor Arthur was in a right state.” Arthur and a few dozen other dogs were in a right state.
“You’d have known if it was me,” I replied. “I’d have rubbed his face in it.”
DON’T ask me what kind of a world we’re going to be looking at on the morning of December 13th. I haven’t a clue – although if Jo Swinson finds herself in any kind of position of power, we really might see civil strife.
Nah, she couldn’t … could she? Strange things happen in elections and this is the strangest I’ve ever witnessed, including a council poll in 2012 when Dewsbury South candidate Abdul Patel got more votes than there were voters (that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one).
I remember going to bed on election night in April 1992 confident of waking up to Prime Minister Neil Kinnock, only to find that pasty-faced waste-of-time John Major still in No.10.
Mind you, champagne socialist Kinnock has gone on to show his true colours every bit as much as Major – as with most of the trough-snouting power-seekers in Westminster.
I always try to take any person as I find them – even politicians. I was in the Green Room before a BBC Newsnight programme with Labour’s Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn, who was a thoroughly pleasant chap, despite being responsible for what I consider an act of betrayal, the Parliamentary bill that hamstrung our efforts to get Brexit done.
His father Tony Benn, an MP of immense political wisdom and, rarely enough, integrity, would be ashamed of him, in my view.
In the same Green Room that night was Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose political intellect I quite admire, but who couldn’t have given me a wider berth that night if I’d had fangs and a tail that rattled.
So, will people vote for their local MP on local issues? Will they vote on Brexit lines rather than traditional Labour/Tory allegiances?
Will they listen to long-serving Labour MPs terrified of a Marxist Corbyn-McDonnell dictatorship? Or to Remainer Conservatives who can’t stand the sight of Bonking Boris?
All I will predict is that the early hours of December 13 will bring us something entirely unexpected.
It’s my birthday on the 15th. If no newspapers appear that week, you’ll know Comrade Corbyn got in and old Locky’s putting his feet up in the Caribbean somewhere…
MY VIEWS on flaming fireworks apart (pun intended), this time of year is always special for the various services of remembrance. And unlike bonfires, I can’t get too many of them.
It’s ironic that the people who despise such public recognitions of sacrifice should so fiercely champion the very men who made the greatest sacrifice – the ordinary men and women of working class Britain.
Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t be bothered with the fabulous Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.
He was probably heeding the ‘wise words’ of The Guardian’s resident champagne socialist Polly Toynbee, who’s been calling for us to ‘get over’ the poppy and these pathetic annual exercises in nostalgia – tributes ironically to the people without whom she would not have the freedom to write such tripe.
At least Corbyn didn’t wriggle out of Sunday’s Cenotaph ceremony, although when he reluctantly, almost invisibly, bowed his head after laying Labour’s wreath, you knew he’d rather be eating a plate of week-old tripe.
When we stop paying those respects, we will cease being a nation in any meaningful way.