Too hot to handle


Nope, still appalled. I thought if I gave it a few hours, then I’d have decided that praps it doesn’t matter, it’s just a party. Mind you, I thought a few hours’ sleep was all I needed, yet I woke up this morning even more upset than when I dropped off.

It had been a long day: first stop, Brighton, to give a talk to some journalism students about, erm, journalism. Dunno how it went – I really enjoyed it, which might not be a good sign – but the plan for the evening was to meet up with a local chum and walk over the hills to Lewes for their famous Bonfire Night celebrations. A gloriously muddy starlit walk along the tops, then down to Lewes for a few pints and a bit of near-the-knuckle fireworks, then train home – that was my sortof plan.

Now, I knew the sort of thing they go in for, down Lewes way, of a Bonfire Night, and I also know that the town was particularly badly hit by Mary Tudor’s counter reformation, but bloody hell. Maybe I’ve been in Ireland for too long to get the joke, but signs that say No Popery and Lest We Forget, awnings commemorating King Billy and processions featuring cardinals and burning crosses are Just Not On. Not any more. Think I’m being squeamish? See some pics here.

The whole thing was so wrongheaded, so self-regardingly aggressive (‘Fuck off if you don’t like it!’), so politically muddled. Exhibit A: the celebratory representations of both the French Revolution and our own Glorious Revolution. These are not comparable events. It makes no sense whatever to commemorate the two at the same time. Especially not when it’s mixed in with celebrating the preservation of the status quo, which is what at least 80% of Bonfire Night is all about.

French Revolution: the oppressed populace rises up, kills their corrupt overlords, forms a republic and spends 10 years in a vortex of state-sponsored murder against their own people.

Our Glorious Revolution: the crowned incumbent hustles off intact into exile after someone pops over to Holland and invites another royal couple to come and take over.

What was the point Lewes is trying to make? It can’t have been the independence of the lower orders against oppression, because where was Magna Carta? Or the Civil War? The whole thing just seemed like a celebration of sectarianism and violence – both state-sponsored and freelance. Served alongside a few morons throwing fireworks into the crowd (two visitors were permanently blinded last year), some astonishingly strong, specially brewed beer, and burning torches left in the gutter, it’s hard not to see this as spoiling for a riot.

Having said that, it’s a bit off that I should be lecturing on journalism and then only put one side of the case. So here’s what lewesbonfirecelebrations has to say: ‘For those of you that want to shoot your mouth off or disagree with some of the elements of the Lewes Bonfire Celebrations, please go through the pages within this site, and absorb the facts before passing any judgements.’ Fair enough. Muscular way of expressing it, but fair enough.

‘The Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations on Monday November 5th 2012, will not be a personal dig at groups or individuals as such, despite what you may see at the fire site, paraded around the town or one of the many media circus versions…’ Ok. I’m overreacting, it’s just a historical reenactment. Sorry.

‘… it is the act or event that is important to us and it simply serves as a reminder that we now have a freedom of choice and speech at a cost to believers lives, (martyrs, soldiers etc), which was and still is denied to many people across the globe.’      

Whoa! Whoa! Freedom of speech? That’s the sort of shit the BNP comes out with.

‘No one will get hurt (except for their ego), nor is it the intention of anyone to hurt anybody on Monday November 5th 2012, if the freedom of speech is curtailed then we will be on a slippery road back to 1605, and when we get there you can be sure that the 20/36 barrels of gunpowder will be replaced with something more akin to 20/36 nuclear warheads!, Religion, Politics, Money, The Bomb. Has man actually matured enough to be responsible for that?’

Um, what?

‘So come along if you wish, but you do not have an invite and therefore you will be gatecrashing our style of celebrations, and remember “When In Rome . . .” and “Volenti Non Fit Injuria”. So please do not go home crying to the web or media if you did not like what you saw. Also if you do not like my website or my views, hit the X button and p&^S off . . Simples ! . [sic]’

Anyway, after a couple of hours of this I had every intention of p&^Sing off smartish, so I returned to the station, only to be kettled while waiting the 40-odd minutes for the next train back to London. I didn’t mind – I was at the head of the queue, furthest from the town and nearest the blessed chariot that would carry me far and fast away from what, for one night a year, turns from a friendly, pretty little town into what looks remarkably like an unhinged hellhole.

But sure, it’s only a party.


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