Remember, remember, the 5th of November?/Gunpowder, treason and plot.
It is Guy Fawkes Night, and a soundtrack of exploding shells has put us all on edge. We are pushing together around Kemo Sabe’s chair, alert to the frightening screams which are rocking what is usually such a peaceful time of night. Beyond our homestead, out towards the islands, flames prance ferociously up into the darkness from a truly enormous bonfire which has been burning for well over an hour now. It is all very disturbing, and it is hard to see what pleasure people gain from it all. It was, after all, originally a celebration of anti-Catholic fervour, long-outdated but still enacted at the culmination of Bonfire Night in the Sussex town of Lewes, where an effigy of the Pope is burned and a crowd of 80,000 cheers at what they take as fun. Yes, it’s a funny old tradition but, among many communities, one which has lost its focus as the very name of Guy Fawkes recedes into oblivion. For most dogs like us, however, explosions of various decibel levels remain an inescapable part of this time of year, the frolics of Hallowe’en now the more usual excuse for fire and brimstone.
Pondering on the flames and the fear flowering in the breasts of wild things has distracted me from reflecting on our extraordinary day out recently. The countryside was flat, fertile and stretched far, far into the distance, the roads prepared by legions long ago and, before retracing our steps into the encroaching darkness from which earlier we had emerged, there was a completely delicious cappuccino ice cream and a manic run on a deserted beach at Cleethorpes. You never know where your life is going to take you; that one day you will gaze into the North Sea – mare nostrum, if you like – from a different angle, beneath endearingly rusty instruments of innocent fun and gaze down the estuary towards the Humber forts at its mouth. The Greenwich meridian passes through the town, linking us as we sat on the prom with the Dickens Dogs’ former home, and a signpost points to the North Pole, a mere two and a half thousand miles away. Thank you for having us, little town, on this special day; you have your history, as do we all.
For sleeping within the coils of his closest relatives, we left a tiny new boy inland, awaiting our return to his rural birthplace when he is ready to join us for a life-changing journey in a few weeks’ time. Nicholas: a name at last. He has much to learn, like his namesake.