As Rudyard Kipling didn’t say on the morning of the 5th in Lewes when the various Bonfire Society tableaux were trundled to their various destinations. Or in the case of at least one, temporarily left in the bus station to ponder, thoughtfully on its fate while an army of snappers and tweeters rushed to reveal what was once the Best Kept Bonfire Secret. Because Once Upon A Time, the very idea that the subject of the tableaux would be shared beyond a select few In The Know, was unheard of. Programmes would reveal the tab title but this was always pleasantly cryptic and allowed much pondering but no certainty until The Great Reveal. Which to many of us was the moment that the tab was moved into its place in the procession on the night of the 5th. A moment well worth waiting for and made all the better by the waiting. Delayed gratification being a great trick if you can do it.
Unfortunately, tableaux gratification is rarely delayed nowadays and this can be blamed on several factors. Ignorance and Social Media being the prime suspects.
Because not so many years ago – in 2009 as it happens – it was perfectly possible to take a Gigantic Astronaut waving the Stars & Stripes for a walk through Lewes on the morning of the 5th without attracting any great attention. And certainly not the sort of attention that would see its creators receiving death threats before teatime.
This latter situation occurring in 2014 when some cockjuggler at East Sussex County Council decided to misuse their access to the council’s Twitter feed to post a quickly snapped shot of an effigy of the then Leader of the Scottish National Party that was slowly making its way up the town. The media furore that followed this act of crass stupidity was quite epic. Suffice to say, the Leader of the SNP did meet his fiery fate but not on the 5th November. Because, as nobody ever needs reminding, Being Druv is not something up with which we’ll ever put. Regardless of how much the media would like to think we can be influenced differently.
And of the media, their assumption that we might have any need for them presumably goes to explain why, every year since the Beginning of Time, editorial instructions have been handed down to the spotty-faced, fresh out of Journalism Skool trainee to ring all the bonfire societies to ask the traditional question “Who Are You Burning, This Year?”. To which they get the traditional answer which isn’t “Gosh, thanks for being so interested! We’d love you to come down to the tab shed every Wednesday for the next couple of months so you can report progress in your paper”. No. That definitely isn’t the answer. It’s usually much more succinct and concludes in “Off”.
Unfortunately, what passes for much of the media nowadays is something politely called “Citizen Journalism”. The more realistic description being “Any Fuckwit With A Phone Camera’ and sadly every fuckwit has a phone camera nowadays. And a Facebook/Twitter account. So when they aren’t posting Minion quotes or clicking on dodgy videos they are ready – with a positively incontinent keenness – to answer the call to “Share Your Lewes Bonfire Pictures”. Thus an early morning sight of a bonfire tableau going about its business is going to send these Intrepid but Desperately Amateur Reporters into a state of orgasmic snappery. And, fellow Bonfire Boys & Girls, there’s not much that can be done about it since we aren’t about to return to the old-fashioned state of affairs that would have seen any picture taken on the 5th November in Lewes not being ready for collection at Boots until some time after Robertsbridge. Neither are we about to see the demise of social media any time soon. In fact, I’d postulate that Facebook would certainly survive the Zombie Apocalypse given the cognitive abilities of so many of its current users.
Which is what brings me to the issue of Ignorance. Because sadly, people are ignorant of how things are done. They might be paying their bonfire society subs but they don’t know how to behave. In some cases, their leadership doesn’t know how to behave either so for sure, if they can’t clutter their heads with an understanding of Bonfire how the hell can their members? Nonetheless, I would still suggest that there is complete intolerance of any so-called Bonfire Boy or Girl who reveals the tableau before its Due Time by posting pictures of it anywhere. They should be shamed. Publicly.
But that said, to return to this over-sharing of tableaux, what is to be done? Because they have to be transported through the town ready for the night and they can’t travel in kit form like some sort of flat-packed but explosive IKEA bookcase. It’s also completely unrealistic, in Kipling’s words to expect the populace to “turn your heads” as the tabs go by. I think we have to accept those things over which we have no control but strive to promote the delights of waiting for that Great Tab Reveal moment. All good things really are worth anticipating. In the meantime, perhaps there’s a greater role for tarpaulin too.PS. The Cliffe’s Tab Captain was rather pleased to learn that this sight of his team’s splendid representation of the unspeakable Sepp Blatter (pictured above) actually made me sick. Clearly, when faced with such a realistic encounter it was more than a person’s stomach could tolerate. I wasn’t quite so delighted since this unexpected reaction put an end to my 5th at the desperately early hour of 9pm. But I made up for things at Battle where I bonfired Like There Was No Tomorrow!