What's that you say, it's nearly November? I feel like there's something I should....oh yes, remember!
The fifth, you say? Of course. Don't forget the fifth, that just wouldn't do. Because on the fifth, on the fifth of November some stuff happened, didn't it? There was this guy- that chap with the cutlery, the Forks Guy... Yes the Forks Guy I remember now, I remember the project we did in Year 4. He had really bad hand writing and loved fireworks. I think he was the old face of sparklers until Hale and Pace got serious and told us we'd be shrink-wrapped in our shell suits if we got too close to a bonfire and had TOO MUCH FUN. So how could I forget the fifth of November? It's that really important night of the year.
Nestling amongst that passage of bang-on historical fact is of course the kernel of a genuine point. Or rather I'm about to shape it into a genuine point like a master-craftswoman whittling a swan from the withered husk of a dead branch. My lathe is my pen.
The way I see it, it is all very well remembering, and having rhymes that ask us to remember- albeit pretty catchy rhymes- but these days we're not really remembering anything in particular about the fifth of November are we? Its national significance has faded. Guy Fawkes Night, Fireworks Night, Bonfire Night or Gunpowder Treason Day as was its catchy moniker in the early 1600s - is now but a number. The Fifth. And unless the fifth happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the date is really an abstraction. At a weekend around the fifth, we shuffle out into the crisp grey evening drizzle and set fire to things, write our names in the night with sparklers and spend four quid on an underwhelming bag of hot nuts. There is some nostalgia in hearing the hidden crackle of an nearby display; knowing it's flourishing into the sky somewhere down the street giving you just precious seconds to run from window to window to hopefully catch a glimpse of its wonder. Or jeer at the impotent gurgle of No. 12's squib. This year the fifth falls on Tuesday, and I am fairly sure that there won't be many special Guy Fawkes lessons in schools, or items on the national news acknowledging the foiling of the most audacious plot to assassinate a monarch in our country's history.
Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder, treason, should ever be forgot.*
I see a fair amount of reason it should be forgot, at least for the way England marks the occasion. It seems an odd thing to celebrate when you think about it. Granted at the time it was undoubtedly Big News. It follows that pre-Twitter and BBC News 24, you'd want your entire populous to know that the Bad People had failed. The King survived along with the very fabric of parliament; nothing (angry Catholics) could shake the nation (God's True Will, if you're Protestant King Jim). Is it really cricket in today's society however to observe a day that ostensibly celebrates the horrific execution of a man who was caught guarding the explosives; a man whose confession was tortured out of him so severely that he could barely sign his own name? We seem to have forgotten that by the politics of the day we're celebrating killing a Catholic, which is a bit icky isn't it, PR-wise?
So let's forget the fifth altogether I say; why bother remembering what we've clearly already forgotten?
Enjoy the forgetting, revel in it. And let's not let the fifth get all the attention, oh no. What about the fourth, or the third even? Let's make a conscious choice to forget one arbitrary day and see what happens. Forget, forget, the third of November. Do not remember. Whatever you do, please forget this day. I urge you all to banish it from your minds. It has nothing to offer you, nothing. What day? No day. You can't tell me, because you've forgotten. Forget to set the alarm on this day so you forget to get up for work. Enjoy it. Forget what your job is so there's no need to panic that you've forgotten to travel to it and do it, whatever it is. "Am I am butcher?" you'll wonder. "Do I drink coffee?" you'll ponder as you stare at the kitchen, trying to remember what the kettle is for. "This must be where I sit when the birds sing" you'll reason, as you attempt to reverse yourself into the washing machine. It would be embarrassing for your neighbour to see you through the window in this act as you've clearly forgotten to put any clothes on, but of course your neighbour has forgotten what clothes are. They are wearing the Radio Times as a hat and surfing on the ironing board to MagicFM. There's a bit too much Kraftwerk on the playlist this morning as the DJs have forgotten what constitutes an 80s power ballad, but no one minds; they have forgotten that they once might complain. Bills are forgotten, money worries gone; circuit training at the gym a wisp of a memory. Think of all the fun we could have if we put our minds to forgetting one day. Just one; just enough for a bit of pure freedom and liberation. Not enough to recklessly remortgage the house to fund a controversial cosmetic procedure for your cat or to forget to not sleep with your boss's husband.
How much more interesting to forget fully, than remember half-baked. Forget forget, the third of November... I can't recall how the rest of it goes.
*There are other variations on the November Fifth rhyme, some involving poking Guy Fawkes in the eye and shoving him up a chimney, but they don't serve my argument as well.