Friday, December 3, 2010

Guy Fawkes, the man behind our farm family planning.

The 5th November is a big night in England, known as Guy Fawkes night. In 1603 Guy Fawkes a Catholic who was not happy with the new protestant way, wished to see his church free and made the national church once again. As things were not happening quick enough he and some friends decided to fill the basement of the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder and have a quick change of political direction, mainly upwards! History tells us he was caught in the act while lighting the fuse (just like in a Bond movie, saving the city from annihilation with 1 second to spare), poor fellow was tourtured and killed but did not give away his accomplices. So to rub salt in the whole Catholic /Protestant thing every 5th November all over England Guy Fawkes (like scare crows) are burnt on top of large open air bonfires. There are lots of fireworks and every one has a fun time. Most have forgotten the Religious and Political meanings behind it all unless they come from my old home county of Sussex. There it is serious business, many villages and towns have bonfire societies, which hold torch light processions (flaming wooden torches, not flash lights) with every one dressed up in fancy costumes, marching bands and walking jazz bands. Every one ending up at the village green or near by field to light a huge fire to burn the “Guy” and watch a fire work display. This goes on every weekend from mid October to December. The Glorious 5th though is reserved for the county town, Lewes. It has 5 bonfire societies of its own, the oldest and most notorious is the “Cliff”. Their fire and firework display is held against a huge sheer chalk cliff that towers above the fire and people reflecting the goings on.
This was where the real political statements were made. Many young student types would get on a soapbox and air their views, usually to be pelted with firecrackers. The main attraction though was the large paper Mache effigy of the Pope, which was blown up and burnt to remind every one what Guy Fawkes night was all about. So as not to be considered too inflammatory they also had a similar sized effigy of a political figure who every one despised that year and blew them up as well. I well remember in the early 70s they had one mounted on a lorry to parade through the streets along with the 50,000 people and flaming torches. It was a cage with a huge gorilla swinging to reach some bananas. The face though was that of Idi Amin the ruler of Uganda at the time. He was blown up to great cheering as we were inundated at that time with Ugandan refugees that he had thrown out of the country, (which was still considered part of the Empire). You can see from the preceding sentences that Political Correctness had not reached the shores of England in the 70s. Those days the closest any body came to it would be to abstain from passing wind whilst speaking in public!
After all this History and such what on earth does this have to do with farm family planning? Well over the years Shepherds worked out that if you put the rams in with the ewes on Guy Fawkes night you had lambs starting on April Fools day. By then there was plenty of grass in England and it was easy to remember these dates for illiterate farm folk. I am not so sure this worked near Lewes though as with all the fires and explosions the sheep were just too stressed for procreation until the next week when their nerves had settled down.
Here on our farm we keep up the tradition and this Friday 5th we will be sorting ewes and rams into their groups for 36 days of courting. With no fires and fireworks in sight all should go well. If you drive by though go easy on the throttle especially you two wheelers. May be I should make a new road sign, “Shh, rams working” with the obvious picture!

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