Is it Gunpowder, treason and broth?

Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes
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IT was a November 6 when I first became aware of irony.

A little girl in my class arrived at school with a scalded arm.

Upon questioning, she explained how the previous evening her dad, fearing the youngster could be burned by a firework, had sent her into the family home to watch through the windows.

There, briefly unattended, she spilled boiling soup on herself.

I was seven, maybe eight, but I snuck a chuckle.

What can I say? Kids are cruel.

But then, as I figured at the time, kids who spill soup on themselves are stupid.

There is, I don’t believe, much of a moral to be drawn from this story (apart from that perhaps one should stick to the more traditional jacket spuds on Guy Fawkes night) but in the intervening years I have drawn one anyway.

It is this: Bonfire Night is rubbish. A smoky, noisy, expensive, pet-scaring, why-does-some-cretin-always-post-a-lit-banger-through-an-old-person’s-door load of rubbish.

And that’s not even taking into account the dangers of soup.

Of all this country’s national celebrations, it is by far the worst – and you’re reading a man who stays home on New Year’s Eve, treats trick-or-treaters to a kick up the backside (as long as they’re no older than 12 and can’t kick back, of course) and would rather give his old man a wedgy than a Father’s Day Card.

If I was in charge – and, frankly, I see no reason why I shouldn’t be – it would be struck from the calendar, and anyone who tried to bring it back would be meted with the same treatment as Guy Fawkes.

Ah...

Guy Fawkes...

I will not lie, I have always admired him.

Clearly 400 years have softened my 21st century mind to the death and destruction he sought to wreak on 17th century London. But what a baddie he was.

A dark and dashing Yorkshire man, Machiavellian, mercenary and merciless, stalking London’s underbelly of cellars and Catholic pubs, praised by his peers for his consummate professionalism, complemented by the very king he would kill for his composure under torture.

For sure, on the one hand, one should never condone attempted mass murder; but on the other – what a beard he wore. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

If history was a movie, Guy Fawkes would be Boba Fett or The Man With No Name.

A few minutes screen time but stealer of the show; an enemy too good to be given a chance.

But of course history isn’t a movie. It’s almost always a raunchy, sweary TV series commissioned by HBO. The Stewarts! Where James I is a Protestant king with explosives in his pants as well as the cellar.

Ah...

James I...

I will not lie, I have always admired him.

Clearly 400 years have softened my 21st century mind to his totalitarianism and the gruesome torture he subjected his 17th century enemies too. But what a king he was.

For upon the discovery of the Catholic gunpowder plot, did James not ignore those advisors who demanded a domestic purge of the religion and an international war with Spain? Did he not allow Catholics to retain prominent public positions while securing peace in Europe? Did he not preside over an age of tolerance in a period clouded by prejudice?

Perhaps there are lessons there the world could still learn today.

Perhaps, indeed, that’s worth celebrating after all.

Just watch out for the soup.