There is a particular breed of Sunday shoppers which can, in many ways, be likened to the Sunday drivers towards whom Lady Bracknell's esteemed father used to direct such enraged invective in her youth. Sunday drivers may have been consigned to the annals of history, but Sunday shoppers are with us still. Lady Bracknell twice narrowly escaped being trampled on by persons who felt a sudden urge to step back from the dazzling displays of frozen convenience foods and alcohol in order, perhaps, to better appreciate the range of products in its entirety. (It is Lady Bracknell's considered opinion that, no matter how far away one stands from the frozen convenience foods, one will struggle to spot anything particularly exciting.) Lady Bracknell was also faced, at every turn, by a mother and child whose sole purpose in visiting the shop appeared to have been to block other shoppers from reaching anything on the shelves.
The only day which is worse than Sunday from this perspective is Thursday morning, immediately after the old age pensions have been collected. Quite how married couples who have lived together for forty years or more can remain unsure about their own and each other's food preferences is a profound mystery. Perhaps they have so far run out of things to say to each other that discussing the merits of one brand of baked beans over another is what now passes for sparkling conversation in their household. But, in any event, do they really need to block the aisle entirely with their shopping trolley while having that discussion?
But Lady Bracknell digresses.
On exiting the shop, she was accosted by a rather grubby small boy who suggested that she might like to donate a penny for the guy. Given that there yet remain some four weeks before Bonfire Night, Lady Bracknell politely declined to contribute.
It is a sad reflection on modern society's rejection of the pleasures which can be derived from everyday life that we must all be forced to live in constant anticipation of the next "big day". In Lady Bracknell's youth, one did not start to think about Bonfire Night until after Hallowe'en. Indeed, one took one's - by that time - somewhat shrivelled swede lantern (there was a dearth of pumpkins in the UK in those days) to the firework display, and held a sparkler in one's other mittened hand. Add a baked potato to the picture, and this was almost more excitement than a young child could contain without bursting.
Likewise, one did not think about Christmas until mid-December. But now houses across the land are bedecked with lurid and ghastly lights for a period of almost two months in total. (Lady Bracknell will desist from railing further against the modern Christmas pro tem: but her readers may be sure that she will return to the subject again at a later date. Possibly more than once.)
The purpose of the guy is to sit atop the bonfire and be consumed by flames during the course of the evening. He is called a "guy" because he is an effigy of Guy Fawkes who, as every school boy knows (or ought to know), attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and who was consequently put to death for treason.
However, the "guy" for whose benefit Lady Bracknell was encouraged to hand over a penny this morning was by no stretch of the imagination an effigy of Guy Fawkes. It was, ironically, a Father Christmas pyjama case. And one clearly fashioned from a synthetic fabric of a type which would melt - and, quite possibly, emit toxic gases while doing so - rather than burn. Lady Bracknell cannot decide whether to be amused or appalled by this confusion of two characters with such diametrically opposed modus operandi.
Two questions remain:
- ought one of our national periodicals to run a "first sighting of a guy" poll, somewhat akin to that for the first cuckoo song heard each Spring? and
- what would the average modern street urchin's response be to the donation of the single penny which he has requested?