On November the Fifth people gather on the heath
Point their Roman candles at the sky
Out of broken branch and leaf they construct a fiery wreath
Ready for the burning of the Guy
The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Home Fires’
Of course some of us here being good Scots, we wholeheartedly celebrate Guy Fawkes Day with a ritual burning of the traitor in a bonfire. We do skip setting off the traditional fireworks as various creatures resident here really, really don’t like them.
The Several Annies usually construct him from paper and plaster over a wire frame with each group trying to be creative, such as when they recreated the gunpowder casks he tried to set off before he was captured. This year, they just did Guy himself and put authentic-looking clothing and boots upon their creation. Almost a shame that we burned him but he was a Papist after all.
Surprised that we’re at least nominally anti-papist? Don’t be as this is after all a Scottish Estate and many of us are Scots born and raised. Even if Halloween is supplanting that day in much of Great Britain (as writer Christopher Fowler, author of many books sugh as The Victoria Vanishes, laments here), we still relish it on this Estate, even though we also celebrate All Hallows Eve and Samhain as well!
Jack has a look at a history of the plot that underlies Guy Fawkes Day: ‘In Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpower Plot, Antonia Fraser whose bestselling books include Mary Queen of Scots and Six Wives of Henry VIII again demonstrates her ability to bring history to life. Antonia clearly doesn’t believe what James Goldman said in his introduction to his play The Lion in Winter: “Historians and storytellers don’t have much in common, but they do share this: the past, once it gets hold of you, does actually come alive. For scholars, this is troublesome. For writers, it’s the good stuff.” Antonia believes that history truly does come to life if told properly.’
If you’re not into plots or burning effigies, how about a nice book about Wolves and the Wilderness in the Middle Ages? That’s something that fits the time of year. Robert notes: ‘The wolf has been a potent image in myth, folklore, and fairy tales throughout history, and one would expect that to be particularly true of the Middle Ages, when so many of our legends and tales had their beginnings. Aleksander Pluskowski presents a detailed study of the wolf image in the early Middle Ages, tracing its development from Pagan sources through the period of the conversion to Christianity.’
Tom Baker is considered one of the best Doctors by most fans of the Dr. Who series and Cat has a look at one of his stories: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang with great enthusiasm crafted a Hammer Films worthy horror monster with a sf trope of the Evil Warlord fleeing justice by time traveling back to an era where he could muster his forces for another attempt at total domination.’
Even visitors to Kinrowan Hall get put to useful work if someone such as the Kitchen staff needs a hand. Elizabeth, author of such works as The Stratford Man novels of Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth discovered that one late autumnal evening. It’s a mundane affair (I think) but well-worth your reading as it’s a quite charming a tale.
Cat has more horror for us in a D.C. series: ‘Gotham By Midnight centers around Precinct Thirteen, the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force. It’s just a handful of personnel — a Catholic sister and a forensics expert, both consultants, a GCPD Lieutenant, and of course, Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre. But this is not The Spectre as traditionally depicted in flowing robes and such with a hooded cloak. No, this is a much horrifying Spectre — one that lives just within the skin of Corrigan who himself is far less handsome than he was in the DC Showcase I previously reviewed. Of course, this is Corrigan in the dark nights of Gotham City, not the sunny vistas of Los Angeles.’
Kage and Kathleen have a look at Jethro Tull’s Live at Montreux 2003. ‘Montreux is no longer just about jazz. However, if you like jazz but are in the dark about rock and roll… . no, there is no Jethro in Jethro Tull — the group was named long ago for an 18th century agronomist. Even if you are totally befuddled about rock, you may well recognize Ian Anderson, the lead singer, lead writer and — well, leader: he’s the cold-eyed Scottish flautist who has been fronting the band (mostly standing on one foot) for the last 40 years.’
A new recording of old Albanian folk music called saze got Gary’s attention. ‘This is definitely one of the world music releases of the year,’ he says of At Least Wave Your Handkerchief at Me by an ensemble called Saz’iso.
Gary has good things to say about the self-titled fourth release by Canadian Tamara Lindeman, who performs as The Weather Station. ‘The playing, the arrangements and the production are all notable, but what holds it all together is Lindeman’s voice. It’s a superb and engaging instrument, and she’s wielding it with precise and gifted phrasing.’
Gary reports from the mysterious frontier that lives in the music of Gun Outfit. Their new album Out of Range, he says, is ‘a guitar-laden melange of cosmic Americana, psychedelia and desert airiness, recognizable to fans of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Meat Puppets, Giant Sand and the like.’
November may seem an odd time to look at a zoo, but as Robert points out in his tour of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, this one is open 365 days a year and there are nice cozy houses you can stop in to get out of the chill: ‘Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States, is brand-new – again. Over the past ten or fifteen years, the Zoo has undergone a major update, with new exhibits, better quarters for the collections, and a stronger emphasis on conservation and breeding of endangered species.’
For your Guy Fawkes celebration, let’s finish with ‘‘Home Fires’, the Guy Fawkes song from The Men They Couldn’t Hang, a left of centre English folk rock band whose recordings we’ve reviewed many times. I’ll note that this this is definitely representative of the band and its music.