I was at a Guy Fawkes' Night bonfire on Saturday. Number of strands to blog from this but I can't think how to tie them all together. So here are my random thoughts:
1) I found myself thinking 'it's like Beirut round here!' when every garden in the area was letting off fireworks. Then realised what a child of the 70s and 80s I am. There was always war and terrorism in Lebanon when I was a child and that was a regular Guy Fawkes comment by the adults. I suppose it would be Aleppo or Mosul now but it seemed terribly inappropriate to say, when we know about the suffering being caused. And there we were, all covering our ears and laughing and telling everyone not to stand too close. We have no idea about being under fire for real.
2) It has since occurred to me that we were supposed to be celebrating victory over a terrorist plot. The Catholic plotters of 5 November wanted to blow up King James I and parliament. But if our press is to be believed (!), there is nothing to value in parliament these days Apparently there is no need for parliament to even debate the Brexit agreement because 'the people have spoken'. Except they haven't really. Not completely and overwhelmingly. More like just about sneaked it because a large number couldn't be bothered to vote at all. Unlike in 1605, our monarch does not have power over parliament. We all sing God Save the Queen but really it should be God Save Democracy and Free Speech. And God Save our Independent Judiciary.
3) To this day, no-one really knows if Guy Fawkes was fully implicated in the 1605 plot. But he was the man caught, tortured and put to death in an attempt to forestall any further Catholic plots. We read about his torture and execution with gritted teeth. 'How could they?' 'How awful!' Yet torture remains as much a part of life in many places as it ever was in Stuart England. And now the threat of it is permeating our society in new ways. The woman who funded the court case for a parliamentary Brexit debate has been threatened with gang rape and beheading. Rapes and serial killings - particularly against women - are continual 'entertainment' on our television channels. Documentaries, contemporary drama and historical drama are all getting ever more explicit. The news is full of ISIS torture and murder. Are we therefore desensitised to a point where threatening such violence is acceptable? How did we allow this to happen in a civilised society?
4) By the time I blog again, we will finally know who is the new President of the USA. Many bonfires in the UK used Trump effigies as their guys this year for the comedic value. Let us hope that we can still find comedic value if he actually wins. I strongly suspect that there will be nothing to laugh about if he gets into the Oval Office.
And as a family history 'by the way', be careful what you Google for. I typed in a weird disease name from an Indian death record yesterday. I was faced with the most horrible list of porn sites I have every seen! I did eventually work out what the certificate should have said but be warned!!!!