Remember, remember. Bonfires. Scorched faces. Warm, peaty smoke. Stamp-your-feet coldness that rises through your shoes and socks. Sparklers. Fireworks. Adults drinking hot punch.
And of course, weeks of children hawking overstuffed strangely transvestite dummies dressed in mum's old stockings and a hideous anorak in a wheelbarrow asking for cash. Eventually the Guy would end up on some teetering bonfire. All very pagan. All very satisfyingly incorrect. Remember, remember.
But it feels as if it was just memories now. Yes, there will be bonfires tonight. Don Valley Grass Bowl, Ottery St Mary, Sticklepath near Okehampton will all be singed. But I realised yesterday evening that although you can't move for (American-style) Hallowe'en tat in every supermarket in the land, I haven't seen a single Guy this year.
Guy Fawkes Night was all very incorrect. Burning the Pope in effigy was, after all, a ritual dreamt up in the late 17th century to inspire us to such heights of anti-papistry that we would shuffle the Catholic King James II off the throne and welcome the gloriously Godly (ahem) Protestant William and Mary to our constitutional bosom.
It's of a piece with the hideously pope-ophobic Westminster Confession and our succession laws, which not only insist that the monarch or heir cannot marry a "papist" (which the Government is rightly changing), but that the monarch must swear to be a faithful Protestant, to uphold the Church of England (and the Church of Scotland) and join in communion with the CofE. All summed up beautifully in the casual Anglican superiority of 1066 and All That: "The pope seceded with all his followers from the CofE."
Leaving aside the fact that I'm intrinsically suspicious of worldwide hierarchies and prefer religious autonomy, I have my complaints about Catholicism. The only role model for a faithful woman seems to be an immaculate mother. The policy on contraception and HIV has meant poverty and ignorance have flourished in much of Africa and Latin America. And the Catholic bishops got their soutanes in a terrible twist on gay adoptions, admitting that Catholic adoption agencies place children with single gay men and women, but refusing to do so with a gay couple. What price the church's respect for commitment? The tragedy is that the Catholic agencies used to do a brilliant job at placing some of the most difficult children – and gays took many of them.
Yet, even though it can't be right to keep on burning Guys, I wish we could go back to Bonfire Night rather than Hallowe'en.
Disobedience Cherie Blair-style
Incidentally, I remember visiting Tony Blair when we were changing the law to forbid discrimination in the provision of goods and services, and there was a rumour that Blair, at Cherie's behest, was sympathetic to an exemption for the Catholic Church. We played it carefully, taking along a Labour MP called Pope, whose brother is a Catholic bishop. We needn't have bothered. Tony's first words were, "Cherie has asked me to tell you that if anyone thinks she would do something just because a bishop had told her to, they really don't know her." Oddly, that seems to be the attitude of most of my Catholic friends.
The devil is always in the detail
There was a rather odd contribution from the Archbishop of York in the Lords debates on the Health and Social Care Bill on Wednesday. It was all about whether to include the words "physical and mental" in Clause Two. The Archbish was opposed because "human beings are psychosomatic spiritual entities". So far, so good.
But then he went on to tell a story about a young girl who had visited a witches' coven where a goat had been sacrificed. He had been asked to see her as a young vicar in south London because she was terrified of being the next sacrificial victim and had taken to screaming in the middle of the night. Apparently there was a "presence" in the house. "All that I could do," he said, "was to say a prayer in that little house, anoint the girl with oil and light a candle." Apparently it worked.
Now, I don't want to be cynical about exorcisms but I just wonder how the new-style (privatised) NHS is going to ensure universal access to the casting out of demons.
Ogmore, twinned with Gomorrah?
This week the Rhondda Labour Party celebrated its 100th anniversary with a packed dinner in the Penygraig Labour Club. The spirit of the party was formed in the dark and the damp and the danger of the mines, but it was the brutality with which the Tonypandy riots of 1910 and 1911 were put down, with the connivance of the Liberal Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, that finally inspired the local trade unions to apply to join the national Labour Party on 31 October 1911. We've been Labour ever since.
My next-door neighbour, Huw Irranca Davies, is envious of our centenary. The Ogmore constituency party was created in 1918 and, thanks to the boundary changes, he suspects they will never get to 100. Mind you, a change of name for the constituency might be in order. Spellcheck corrects Ogmore to Gomorrah. What that says about the neighbours I don't know.
Political lewdness? There's an app for that
Last week was self-proclaimed "Parliament Week", celebrated with fanfares and special events. There's even a Parliament Week iPhone and tablet app. Sadly it's available only to over-12-year-olds. The bearded Lib Dem Deputy Leader of the House, who has lost a lot of weight of late, explained on Thursday that this was because it might include "mild or occasional sexual content, nudity, fantasy violence, alcohol and drug abuse, profanities and crude humour".
I've obviously been missing out on all the fun of late, although I do recall listening to the Lords debate the Sexual Offences Bill on 19 May 2003 when they considered an amendment that didn't make it through the parliamentary email filter. Lady Noakes moved the amendment, "leave out 'genitals', and insert 'penis'". Delightfully, she called it a "probing" amendment and withdrew it.