St Peter's School
“Remember, remember the 5th of November.” A rhyme I have known since childhood and it felt very special yesterday to be marking Guy Fawkes’ Day here at his old school. Guy Fawkes is of course something of a contested character and no doubt an excellent example for the age-old debate on whether one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
What is without doubt is that his name and indeed image has stood the test of time. In last week’s Spectator magazine there was an excellent cartoon with a satirical comment on Brexit showing Guy Fawkes underneath the houses of Parliament surrounded by barrels of gunpowder and holding a bomb to which he has tied an extra-long fuse with underneath the caption “It is an extension”.
We are in the season of remembrance and not just for Guy Fawkes. Hallowe’en takes its name from being the evening before All Hallow’s or All Saint’s Day – the day in the Christian calendar when we remember those who have died and next Monday the 11th of November is Armistice Day or Remembrance Day as it is most commonly known.
During the two minute’s silence we will of course remember former pupils of our school who have died in the pursuit of peace but I am sure that I will not be alone in remembering others known to me. As we leave chapel we are all invited to take the poppy from our lapels and place on the book of remembrance. A simple act in some ways but significant as the poppies grow from one or two to a gathered pile. A visible sign from each one of us not just of respect but also commitment, as we will say on Monday, to strive for all that makes for peace, to seek to heal the wounds of war and to work for a just future for all humanity. I hope you will find completing this act both memorable and an opportunity for reflection.
This can be a sombre time of year for many reasons. The days are shorter and darker as we move into the winter timetable and the weather is colder and wetter. I can’t be the only one to have felt an enormous sense of deflation watching last Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Final. After the brilliance of England’s performance against New Zealand the sense of excitement and anticipation turned into something flatter – it was, you might say, rather ‘mehh’.
Our ancestors felt exactly the same at this time of year and it is no coincidence that the Christian feast of All Hallows falls on the same date as the pagan festival of Samhain – a time of feasting and a festival of light almost as an act of rebellion against the onset of winter. We all need a bit of that Samhain spirit at this time of year. For some that will be in a concert or choir, others in sport or in a play. Just getting some decent exercise can be important and alongside that the opportunity for winter treats such as hot chocolate, cookies, hearty stews, good books or good films. The thing the Danish call hygge – meaning fun, cosiness and warmth. So alongside the time for reflection and remembrance make sure you give yourself a bit of a hygge too.