Friday, November 05, 2010

Terrorism and the British Tradition

Terrorism is not new.  It has been with us since the beginning. On November 5, Britains "celebrate" one of the most "celebrated" acts of terrorism - Guy Fawkes Night. Here is more than you want to read about a "guy" in the 1600's, 1605 to be exact, who set out to blow up the British Parliament.

It was basically all about religion - isn't it always. Interestingly enough, after the execution of Guy Fawkes, parliament passed a bill, called the "Thanksgiving Act" which remained for 250 years as a day of Thanksgiving for the preservation of parliament.

Would the idea of Thanksgiving actually have started with this act and would the emmigrants from Britain to America have perhaps carried this special time with them?  Who knows?

I do, though, remember when I lived in London passing a few effigies of Guy Fawkes, created and attended by young people asking for, "a penny for the old guy". I gave them the penny - one of those very large, very heavy pennies that were, before I came to England, actually subdivided into farthings - hence the "penny farthing" bicycle. The large wheel was the size of the penny and the small wheel was the size of the farthing or a quarter of a penny - well the scale for the bicycle was much bigger, but you get the idea.

I lived in London before the conversion to the metric system. I know, I am dating myself.  I still have fond memories of the thr'p'nny bit or threepence (pronounced thr'pence) and two pence was tuppence. I was even there before they phased out the halfpenny, pronounced (hayp'nny). I always remember buying vegetables at a stall from an ancient women who annouced that I now owed her tuppence, ha'p'nny.  I suppose there are guide books that would translate, but, how do you translate an era?

I went to London looking for Charles Dickens and for the most part, I found him.  I found a turn of phrase, a set of customs, a "stiff upper lip mindset" that permeated British literature, and I have to believe Britain itself, at the time of Dickens and his contemporaries.

A chill still runs through me when I remember sitting in a teacher's staff room one day and someone asked the time. An old voice from the corner annouced that it was "five and twenty past the hour." Mrs. Haversham where are you?

What has this all got to do with knitting and the business of knitting - not that much, except that knitting is a tradition, with a rich heritage - though most of the characters from Emily Bronte did petite point, because, of course, the peasants knit. There is still an understanding that those who knit are part of a very old, even ancient, tradition.  It keeps us grounded; it connects us to the past; we pass it onto the future. Knitting doesn't celebrate terrorism, but it has supported "the war effort" many times and although few women were at the "front" - many were in the rear, clicking away. Celebrate Guy Fawkes, if you like, we need to be reminded that we have a history, not everything, is virtual; but some things are virtuous!

Dinner? Why Bangers and Mash, of course!  You can't blow up anything with out a "banger" - sausage and the resulting destruction is a mash - potatoes (mashed) and you are allowed to smother the whole meal with Ketchup and, if you really want to be British - do not serve anything "green".


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