I suppose that all good things must eventually come to an end. I’m talking about this year’s wonderful hot summer which this morning finally turned into Autumn. The trees are showing tinges of gold and I, at last, succumbed to the temptation of putting on my trusty dusty red sweater. It’s like being reunited with an old winter friend. Crikey—how times flies. It’s been the best part of a year since I last wore it. Sleeves too short… perhaps my body stretched during the summer…
Welcome to the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, of Autumn gales and swirling leaves, of chestnuts and conkers and an extra hour in bed when the clocks go back (Sunday, 28th October if you were wondering). And yes, welcome to Pumpkin Pie—the most visible and all-pervasive evidence of onrushing Halloween. I am not really a fan of pumpkin pie. I like to look at pumpkins, hollow them out, put candles in them or use them as door stops. But never do I try to eat them as I find them completely inedible and hard as concrete unless you bake them for three hours. And then they’re just soft orange mush and equally inedible. Perhaps I should carve one of them into the shape of a certain President’s head and call it Trumpkin Pie, and then set fire to it for a laugh?
The annual arrival of pumpkins in shops is like an outbreak of mad vegetable disease. It’s an advert for ‘Trick or Treat’ time and Halloween is just one of Autumn’s many festivities and parties. It really is the party season. Other celebrations around this time include Diwali, Bonfire night, Hanukkah and of course Christmas. And I mustn’t forget ‘Thanksgiving’ (November 22) because it’s only a matter of time before it wings its way to the UK, just like Halloween gradually oozed across the Atlantic during the 1970s. I can remember a time when Halloween hardly featured in the UK. I can even recall Dorchester without any bats or spiders or skeletons and certainly no shop windows flushed with orange and black. All of that arrived along with Disney and Dallas and hamburgers and other American imports.
Anyway, ‘Thanksgiving’ is a good thing and we should adopt it because it’s now the only festive occasion that truly celebrates the family. I know that Christmas is also supposed to be a family event, but over the years it’s become saturated with too much ‘Ho Ho Ho-ing’ and Frosty the Snowman and plastic Rudolph reindeers glowing in windows. There’s no longer any time to relax with the family at Christmas. I’m too busy replacing broken Christmas tree light bulbs, stopping the dog from eating the mistletoe and worrying if the turkey is big enough now that Uncle John is coming with his appallingly loud kids. Yes, I know I’m being ‘Bah Humbug’ but it’s already October and I have to get into practice before December.
Then there’s bonfire night: the most singularly English of all festivals. It’s as eccentric as a Monty Python history lesson and as odd as the European Song Contest. Only the English would celebrate failing to blow up their own Parliament and ritually setting fire to a mock-up of the would-be assassin! Of course, we all enjoy the fireworks (except for our dog who goes mental at any boom or bang), but personally I much prefer setting them off myself. It’s a boyhood thing I’m sure, but I like regressing back to childhood. However, the only problem with lighting them is you never get a chance to actually see them, because you’re too busy trying to set off the next one to ensure a seamless display. And videos are a waste of screen time. Fireworks on the screen look like boring white dots moving against a black background, and you really miss the sound, the shrieks and bangs and the whiff of gunpowder. But I am never entirely sure about the ethical purity of Guy Fawkes and bonfire night. Is it a celebration of escape from danger, a patriotic call to arms and revenge, or is it perhaps a warning to ourselves and to others of what nearly might have happened back in 1605? Rather than get too excited over a failed seventeenth-century act of terrorism in London, let’s commemorate some south-west regional events. Historically, we should observe such events as Monmouth’s failed rebellion (summer of 1685) or the Tolpuddle Martyrs (March 1834). Let’s let off a banger or two every year for a couple of excellent locals: Mary Anning of fossil fame (birthday on May 21st 1799) and Sir Francis Drake (Tavistock, sometime in 1540) who circumnavigated the globe and was good at bashing up Europeans, or more accurately, the Spanish.
When we either crash or slide out of Europe next year, will we have an annual firework display in celebration or sad remembrance every 29th March? Quite possibly but I can only suggest we light the blue touch paper and retire gracefully. Incidentally, why is touch paper always blue? Is this a political firework? And if the Labour party should win an election, would the touch paper be red?