I’d like to talk about Bonfire Night. It’s the one day a year where it’s alright to play with fire, and giving pyrotechnics to your children is actually encouraged. It may well be over by the time you’ve read this – but that doesn’t matter, I think it still represents an important turning point for the year.
We’ve just had this year’s elections – and what better way to celebrate by burning the likeness of a chap who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. I’d rather not get into all the socio-political layers of what celebrating it really means, but as a ‘holiday’, I really enjoy it. It draws attention to the fact that winter is coming, and the hot summer sun has given up for another year.
I live in West Sussex, and there’s a place quite near me that holds a massive celebration, which I’d love to go to this year. Basically a huge scary fire worshipping festival – that’s effectively what it is right? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I actually love Bonfire Night – it’s got a magic to it that’s not as annoying as Christmas or as lack-lustre as Easter. Entranced by fireworks whilst revelling in the sight of a fake burning man it may be, but it acts as a pretty decent reminder that we are all as messed up as each other.
I’m fairly sure the only thing stopping us from burning a real life man is the fact that we are not allowed to. The most twisted part of all of it is the campaign (I think it was the RSPB) that warned us to watch out for hedgehogs when lighting a bonfire, as they like to make their homes in them. Poor little hedgehogs. I love animals, and that campaign really got me – and I found myself really worried last year that a lot of hedgehogs were going to die. ‘John, be careful – we must ensure that all the hedgehogs are out of harms way before we can reenact burning a bloke to death’ – weird, right? There’s a lot going on in the news right now about how screwed up the world is, and I can’t say I’m comfortable about this whole Ebola thing – by the way, I think one of these newly elected States Members should be campaigning for a wall around Jersey so we can at least protect ourselves from it! I really can, however, find a sort of morbid humour in Bonfire Night. Think about it, all year round we say ‘don’t play with fire and don’t murder people’ – then one day we give literally everyone fire and a fake guy to use it on. If that doesn’t say hubris, then I don’t know what does.
“Think about it, all year round we say ‘don’t play with fire and don’t murder people’ – then one day we give literally everyone fire and a fake guy to use it on. If that doesn’t say hubris, then I don’t know what does”
On the slightly more sensible side, and I think I touched on it earlier (that’s what she said), November symbolises a turn of the season. Jersey has been pretty badly affected by the weather in recent years, and there have already been mentions of ‘snow-mageddon’ this year. the winds were so bad last winter that one of our trees blew down. I was confused at first when my Irish grandmother told me she saw a trio of gentlemen roaming around the garden, but when I saw the tree being chopped up by a man with a chainsaw, I realised that she’d actually said ‘tree-fellers’.
I think Jersey was pretty well prepared for the weather last year, and with any luck it will be the same this time. I’m considering booking my flights home for Christmas now, because I can see a lot of weather-induced delays and cancellations. If you’re flying over to England, there are already worries of floods and the like where I live, so I would do the same and book early. I guess there’s also the worry that with the turn of the season, tourism drops big time. I guess that’s true, but then again Jersey kind of gets forgotten about in the winter. There is a lot to do though, and I hope I can make it back for some late night shopping. I like the phrase ‘late night shopping’, it sounds a bit rude. Anyway, in my eyes Jersey really lights up around Christmas time – and I know there is a while to go yet, but if I were you I’d start thinking about it now. It’s not long until ‘burn a fake man day’, before you know it you’ll be opening presents on ‘magic baby day’. The point I’m trying to make is that preparation is good. As I write this I am about to leave for a good friend’s wedding in the West Country – and I still haven’t learnt my best man speech. I guess the best advice I can give for the change of season is make sure you’re prepared and you might just enjoy it. Jack Frost is on the way, let’s just hope he didn’t stop off in West Africa on the way.