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Remember, remember

England isn’t lost yet; these people love them some fire and explosions.

Happy Bonfire Night! Remember, remember the fifth of November — 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the houses of Parliament. Parliament, king and all. He and his buds hoped to make England a Catholic nation again.

Problem is, the last time England was a Catholic nation — 40-some years earlier, when Bloody Mary was on the throne — a good 300 Brits were burned alive for the heresy of Protestantism.

They’re still grouchy about it.

Still, any excuse to dress up, parade around with torches, drink beer, set off fireworks and have a hellaciously huge bonfire with an effigy on top. I think only Lewes still burns an effigy of the Pope every year — 17 Lewesians were burned at the stake during the Marian persecutions — but everybody burns somebody.

In Sussex, they don’t have Bonfire Night, they have Bonfire season. From September almost through to Christmas, local village bonfire societies take turns having bonfire celebrations, so we can all turn up to all of them. Or lots of us turn up to lots of them, anyway.

On the fifth itself is our favorite: Icklesham. It’s a tiny town near Hastings, but they have a robust bonfire society, the Robin Hood Bonfire Society (out of the Robin Hood pub). And they charge £3 admission, which goes towards next year’s festivities. They always put on an excellent show.

They did it again tonight — though it was a bit a mizzly out and attendance was down, which may affect next year’s celebration. Still, the beer was my favorite!

Pull up a toasted Catholic and join us!


Comment from Scubafreak
Time: November 5, 2010, 11:33 pm

SHIT!!!! Why the hell didn’t someone TELL ME that it was Guy Faukes night? I would have hoised a toast to the only man who entered the halls of Parlement with honest intentions!

Comment from Allen
Time: November 5, 2010, 11:45 pm

In remembrance of the first week in November… US version.

Penny for the Pelosi.

Like the proverbial bad one, she insists she will be a good minority leader. This is our version of Boxing day.

Hey, we need a roaring with laughter Wesealcon. Until then…


Comment from David Gillies
Time: November 5, 2010, 11:48 pm

No fireworks here. It’s been raining since Monday and now the hillsides are starting to come down. 40+ dead already.

I’m really surprised the elfin’ safety mob haven’t outlawed fireworks in the UK yet. I sure there’s whole mobs of neo-Puritans thinking up ways they could ram a ban through. I did see a gerbil worming slant on it last year until everyone blew them a big raspberry and stuck two fingers up.

Comment from Bill the Butcher
Time: November 6, 2010, 12:48 am

Following the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot conspiracy, King James I of England (aka James VI of Scotland) did the reasonable thing and pointed out that only a relative handful of his Catholic subjects had been involved in the plot.

Of course, just to be on the safe side, he authorized the torture of Guy Fawkes to see what the fellow knew…

Comment from Mark
Time: November 6, 2010, 12:53 am

Hey, if the Dems wanna keep Pelosi as the face of their party in the House, sounds like an OUTSTANDING idea to me!

Comment from Armybrat
Time: November 6, 2010, 1:16 am

Any day with fireworks is a good day!

In other news, the husband and I walked home, one of the few days left before the omnipresent gray of winter takes over everything. Sat outside, ate dinner and still walked home in comfort. This will not happen again until May or June.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: November 6, 2010, 2:04 am

Cool photo, looks like a good time. Wish we celebrated that here in Canada…nobody yet has tried to blow up our Parliament, well, except for that foiled plot by some muzzies last year, but I guess that doesn’t count…the Mounties always get their man 🙂

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: November 6, 2010, 2:08 am

I, too, am sorry I forgot. My excuse is that I’ve never been to Britain, if you except the habitrails at Gatwick.

There’s a goodly pile of clearing slash out back, and if I’d got a bit energetic I could’ve collected more. Maybe next year, if I remember. Texas isn’t big on Guy Fawkes day, but perhaps a tradition could be established.


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: November 6, 2010, 2:24 am

Ric–but if I remember correctly, Texas does have a long history of bonfires, although celebrating something of a good deal less political importance than the attempt to destroy the seat of government? (I was going to say “celebrating something a good deal less important than the attempt to destroy the seat of government,” but I was afraid that college football fans might hunt me down and make opprobrious remarks about me.)

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: November 6, 2010, 2:48 am

Hark — hmph. They made it of whole tree trunks set vertically and strapped into place with wire rope, then another layer, resulting in a cone shape as much as a hundred feet tall. A couple of years ago the structure fell down and killed some people. Now they just have a brush pile. I can do as well out back.

Pity. I’ve been to a couple of those, and helped build one. They were spectacular.


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: November 6, 2010, 2:52 am

Ric–I’m a great fan of pagan rites. . .even if it’s a shrine I don’t worship at. It did sound pretty spectacular–but give the brush piles time; traditions creep back in disguise, and everyone is always trying to trump last year. At some point, big Texas bonfires are likely to be back.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: November 6, 2010, 3:06 am

The back paddock was getting cleared, then I lost my help. It’s all mesquite, and at one point we had the notion of cutting it into chunks, splitting it, and taking it to Dallas to flog to the suburbanites. When Bruce[1] left, all those plans went away.

Maybe I can gather up the energy to get it all in one stack and set it off on Thanksgiving. If so I’ll take pictures.

[1]6’2″ Texas redneck; lithp, and you’re likely to wind up with fewer teeth than he has.

Comment from Randy Rager
Time: November 6, 2010, 3:52 am

I dunno. If the Brits were inventing things like Bacon Jalapeno Cheesy Beer Bread, I might think there was hope for them.

But they’re not. I am.

Comment from Sporadic Small Arms Fire
Time: November 6, 2010, 4:29 am

SWeasel is the Jane Goodall, I declare.

Comment from MCPO Airdale
Time: November 6, 2010, 5:28 am

As a toasted Catholic (thanks, Bushmills), I take no offense.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: November 6, 2010, 10:58 am

I just got a flash on what is really making my teeth itch about the Dem reaction to their recent nard-kicking: it’s how they’re all, “oh, we should have taken time to explain it to hoi polloi, and then they’d have strung garlands of geraniums round our necks, plied us with ouzo, let us sleep with their buxom 17-year-old daughters etc.”

In other words, it’s precisely the sort of disdainful stereotype the oh-so-sophisticated Donk-voting gentry have when they picture the ‘unwashed middle’ visiting foreign climes:

“Where is the bathroom?”
“Den kataleveno”
“Oh, so sorry, I vote Obama now. And is down end of hall on right. I bring you more retsina and dolmades, yes?”

Note to correspondents for The Nation: if you want to know why Obama got his ticket punched by Middle America, it is not necessary to hire Martin Sheen to venture into the jungle in a fucking river boat. Just look in the mirror and picture how much of a complete twat you would look if you could still see your reflection.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 6, 2010, 1:49 pm

Oh, for sure, David. That’s the infuriating bit. “If only they were bright enough to understand what we did for them, they’d LOVE us.” Let us hope it’s a pose, or the next two years are going to be highly irritating.

Autumn bonfires go way, way further back than Guy Fawkes, of course. The current Bonfire Night — like so many other things — is a 19th Century invention. Before that, celebrations were at random times and were more like small riots.

Bonfires were once a part of our Halloween nights (see Meet Me In St Louis).

Comment from David Gillies
Time: November 6, 2010, 2:16 pm

Fun: check out Olbermann on Twitter (if it’s really Olby). He’ll be crawling in his his own filth by sundown and be a cutaway segment on the TMZ by Tuesday at this rate. Affiliate footage from the rat-catchers that shadow the paramedics when they get the call to the motel on Thursday. It’s a riot.

Also, Samhain for Oct 31/Nov 1 bonfires. Very pagan. Full of the cycle of life sort of thing. Just about the only sort of religion bollocks I could plausibly talk myself into believing.

If, guys, you’re not averse to a cuddle with a doolally chick who believes all this Wicca nonsense then Google Beltane.

Comment from Mags
Time: November 6, 2010, 4:46 pm

We did make a nice little effigy last night – we even included a little barrel. Unfortunately, the fireworks leftover form the 4th of July were dam,p from their long rest in the basement. But! We sputtered nicely and the sparklers stuck in him still burned…

Comment from Stephen Brown (aka chicken farmer)
Time: November 7, 2010, 12:02 am

Had a great Guy Fawkes night here in my part of Sussex. Friendly local farmer let us build a middling bonfire on his land, six conifers, each over thirty feet in height, when chopped up make for a fair old pile of sticks.
The weather was kind, we had a FANTASTIC BBQ (I was the cook!) but I prefer to call it a braaivleis (origins showing)
The kids, aged from four to seventy-four lit the fireworks, that’s the best part. Stuff the H & S stasi. I showed the younger lads how good it was to light a banger which was in the end of a piece of 1″ pipe, sealed at the near end. Once the blue touch paper started to fizz, the pipe was held vertical and the BOOM and the FLASH went up into the sky!
As I said, stuff the H & S Stasi!
All of the young kids (there was a herd-and-a-half of them) were all happily in exhausted slumber by 10 o’clock which let the older attendees finish off the three barrels of Theakstons Old Peculier. It is ruby-red perfection.
But it attacks your legs something awful!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 7, 2010, 2:41 am


Tonight, we went to Winchelsea. It was beyond good. If the gods of English weather favor us, we’ll do our fireworks tomorrow night.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 7, 2010, 12:03 pm

Comment from Mark
Time: November 7, 2010, 2:08 pm

Scotland sure is a magical place. For Haggis:

Comment from Richard
Time: November 7, 2010, 5:59 pm

Good choice of beer

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: November 8, 2010, 10:49 am

I had an English girlfriend at one time, ( an ex-Bunny, Gloat Gloat ), and she told me that chips were basically the same as steak fries. Is this so?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 8, 2010, 11:25 am

Hm. Well, they don’t have the skins on. And they aren’t quite so big. But they are usually big and squishy rather than thin and crispy.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: November 8, 2010, 9:02 pm

Proper chips, here’s how

Ideal potatoes are Maris Pipers or King Edwards
Best cooking fat is beef tallow but a stable high temperature oil like safflower or sunflower will do. A lot of commercial places use solid vegetable oil which comes in 20kg boxes for convenience.

Peel the potatoes and chip them lengthways into approx 1cm x 1cm pieces.
Soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes to remove a bit of the starch. Rinse them, remove from the water, and make sure they are thoroughly dry.
Bring the oil up to a cool temperature (120 °C).
Blanch the chips in batches for 7-8 minutes until they are just starting to take on a golden colour. Drain them using a spider onto baking sheets and set aside in a warm place for anything up to eight hours. About four is ideal. You will often see chip shops with the trays over the fryers to keep warm – this is very handy if you get a rush on and need to cook cod and chips thirty times for a coach party full of tourists for example.
When ready to serve, raise the temperature in the fryer to hot (175-180 °C).
Cook them off, again in batches, for 2-3 minutes until deep golden.
Drain with a spider onto paper (butcher’s paper or virgin newsprint is the best)
Lightly salt, add malt vinegar if desired, and eat as hot as you can bear. If the paper is used to make a nice tight parcel they will keep hot enough to serve for a half hour or so (long enough to get them home from the restaurant)

I used to work in a chippy so I am something of a purist. When done right they are among the finest foods in creation. The two-stage process is the key – if you cook them straight through you get fried potatoes which are OK, but they ain’t chips.

Comment from Some vegetable
Time: November 8, 2010, 10:57 pm

SORRY to disagree with a professional chip man, but No No NO! VEGETABLE oil is NOTa truly acceptable substitute for tallow. Anybody -even we Americans who only have humble potato chips can tell you that, Sir.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: November 9, 2010, 1:04 am

Hm. Vegetable, how about lard? Not many fried foods that aren’t notably better with lard.


Comment from Some vegetable
Time: November 9, 2010, 3:06 am

Indeed, Sir, indeed. Corn shouldn’t be squeezed into oil- God intended it for making Bourbon. My ancestors took part in the whiskey rebellion so I speak with some passion on that matter as well. Hmm -fried food and whiskey -perhaps a Scotsman slipped into my family history unannounced?

Comment from David Gillies
Time: November 9, 2010, 6:48 am

Sorry, no: a) pork fat’s not stable at the temperatures the final cook-off stage needs, at least not for more than one session b) chips cooked in lard taste vile c) who said anything about corn d) whisky has no ‘e’ in, neither does it maize e) tallow is a meat (beef) product and cuts every vegetarian, vegan and Hindu from your clientèle – not a good idea if you’re running a business rather than a fried potato wank-fest for limousine foodies.

Chips are ideally cooked in tallow, but disdaining those cooked in vegetable oil is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I might be a purist, but I’m not a fucking plaster saint.

Oh, and look at my name: Scotsmen are my history.

Comment from Some vegetable
Time: November 9, 2010, 1:23 pm

Ouch I yield …

Comment from Tom More
Time: November 10, 2010, 8:31 pm

“Still grouchy about it…”
“Pull up a toasted Catholic…”

I would guess that some of that well known UK anti-catholicism is rubbing off on you?

What? Nothing about Cromwell and Henry VIII persecution and murders of thousands of Catholics in England and Ireland? No?

Surely you want to mention the well known conspiracy of the Catholics starting the Great London Fire in 1666.

Sorry, I am getting a bit grouchy when I read this sort of tripe after my fellow Catholics are being murdered in the middle east on a daily basis.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 10, 2010, 10:42 pm

Name a religion, I’m willing to be equally snarky about it. I’m an atheist of the obnoxious “magic book and sky fairy” variety, though I don’t post in that vein.

The fact people have been and are being horribly murdered due to colliding religious beliefs isn’t exactly an endorsement of religion, is it?

Comment from Tom More
Time: November 10, 2010, 11:52 pm

Ahhh…. Who’se asking you to endorse religion?

I think most of the religious colliding (as you put it) is rather… one sided, eh? Moslem on Christian, eh? Don’t hear much about Catholics flying airplanes in to Westminster shouting out “Long Live Pope Benedict?”, eh? Not many Catholics blowing up railway stations in London, eh?

As I said, I suspect you find it easier to be “UN equally snarky…” with Catholics than any one else, eh? What’s one more “toasted Catholic” in the name of “magic book and sky fairy”? You might want to try a bit less relativism in your day to day thought. Not much chance of you and your family being blown to smithereens by the local Catholic parish.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 11, 2010, 12:03 am

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates the Jews

This post reaches back to a time when Protestants and Catholics took turns killing each other under successive British monarchs. Trust me — nobody looks good in this one. It could be argued that the Enlightenment grew out of the revulsion Europeans felt for generations of pointless slaughter in the name of religion.

If I were forced to pick a flavor of Christianity, though, it would probably be Catholicism. Because it’s primal. And I rather like the pageantry and the Latin and the “bells and smells.”

Stop practicing to be a holy martyr, dude.

Comment from Tom More
Time: November 11, 2010, 12:32 am


You remind me of that bit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail… “Let’s not worry about ‘oooo killed ‘oooo”.
This ain’t 1650 pal.

Do you know the original definition of Martyr? It meant “One who bears witness”. I’ll leave you with a quote from a local hero St Thomas More: “When death comes, and we stand before God, no king can command Him, no authority can restrain Him, no riches can hire Him to wait past his appointed time even one moment of an hour. Therefore let us speak what we are bound to speak and do the deeds we are called to do. No empty time is allowed to any of us.” Just so you “get” the martyr / witness thing. Finally, you might find you’d be a tad less… flippant in your comments and post if YOU and yours were under the gun now and not 400 years ago.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 11, 2010, 12:39 am

I am sustained by the belief that I shall be this flippant until my last breath, however I snuff it.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: November 11, 2010, 2:18 am

Wow! I’ve heard the “we are the chosen football” mantra before, but never from a Catholic (the point, actually, of that snippet of Lehrer you posted, Ms. Weasel, yes?) But, although English Catholics can certainly claim a degree of persecution in the, um, distant past, if persecutions of the past count today, then Catholics in general are in no position to whine about being castigated. Torquemada? Not to mention how the Catholic Church (and, to be fair, all Protestant churches) treated the Jews for centuries?

As far as today’s middle east is concerned–first I’ve heard that Catholics (as opposed to Christians in general) are a primary target population throughout that region. And, again, if we are to look at historical roots–the Catholics and the Muslims were at each other’s throats for generations–and each side made a point of targeting the other. Tit is for tat; you can’t complain about how your particular category has been singled out for bad treatment if you have singled out others for bad treatment based on their category. Some (not all) Catholics have, throughout history, singled out others for bad treatment. . .just as some (not all) [jews/muslims/protestants/buddhists] have, throughout history, singled out others for bad treatment based on the category they belonged to. It’s how human beings behave. It is wrong and ugly, but it isn’t limited to any religion, race, nation, ethnic group, culture, political belief, gender, or preference-in-pets. Folks you have cared about have experienced its effects? OK, but the solution ISN’T to snark and escalate hostilities against the group you think is targeting your folks.

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !”

Sorry, Stoaty, I know you can fight your own battles. Been a tough week, so my self-restraint is low.

Comment from V
Time: May 1, 2011, 10:42 pm

As my site has been referred to in the links above , I like to say that we in Lewes and Sussex are not anti catholic or anti any religion and the pope that is burnt is the pope in power at the time of the reformation etc. The celebrations are about freedom of choice and remembrance without fear of repercussions . . Think of Liberty and Freedom and your old Popes Day Celebrations

Comment from V
Time: May 1, 2011, 10:46 pm

Also we gave you Thomas Paine !

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