Health, Lewes

Remember, remember 18 October Gunpowder, treason and plot



Well, I made it home after my month in hospital but “discharge him back to the community day” was not without its moments. Lack of immediate capacity in the community nursing service to visit Chez Blog on a daily basis to drip feed my newly acquired bug-battling drug habit threatened an additional week’s bed-blocking stay in hospital while arrangements could be made. There was also some reluctance on Mrs. Blog’s part for me to vacate the hospital ward and head homewards while we still had a few days paid-for hospital Wi-Fi left on both the iPad and my laptop; and the family car resolved to let itself down on the journey home by attempting to complete the trip without the benefit of either clutch or gearbox.

Somehow I expected, having been incarcerated for what felt – from where I was – like an eternity, that major change would be evident all around me: a brand new government economic policy not based entirely on making poor people poorer in order to make the rich feel better; the reintroduction of Fry’s Five Boys Chocolate; or Liverpool FC signing a player that might be able to score the occasional goal.

“So, where you been, then” asked the taxi driver who picked us up from our still smoking, abandoned car and eyeing my two crutches and natty, hospital issue compression socks as Mrs. Blog and I scrambled out of the pouring rain.

“Nearly five weeks in hospital. Should have been a couple of days. What have I missed?”

“Lucky so and so! We’ve had five weeks of road works in Station Street, it’s been like a cross between Sodom and Gomorrah and that other thing. You’ve been in the best place, mate, take it from me. When you next do the lottery, let me know and I’ll copy your numbers!”

But, as ever, I get ahead of myself.

During my last few days in the ward there was “industrial action” within the NHS by the trade union of which I was a member throughout a 30 year public sector career. Having been advised by the ward nurses that it would be inappropriate to join the picket line outside the hospital (they suspected I might not come back), I settled back onto my bed and cheerily called the day shift nurses “scab” for having crossed the picket line, in the confident expectation that my care would be unaffected. Tricky stuff, labour relations.

I think Mrs. B is happy that I’m home. She’s not impressed that I’ve been demanding a daily menu of sandwich and hot meal choices from which to make my selection, which is no more than I became accustomed to in hospital. And she’s quick to point out that some of the TLC tasks fall well outside anything she ever signed up to under the “for better, for worse” clause – and what’s more, she would, in her work environment, delegate those to a veterinary nurse, or pest controller. On the other hand, there are vital things on the top shelves in the kitchen she hasn’t been able to reach for weeks, like jars of solidified Horlicks, and the precise roles of those pesky recycling boxes have remained impenetrable as far as Mrs. B is concerned – though, to be fair, in my absence she has succeeded in sorting my empty wine bottles by grape type.

On balance I think it’s probably helpful that Mrs. B is able to bring to bear her full array of veterinary skills to my recuperation. That said, there is a tendency to over-elaborate on the range of potential unhappy outcomes that might arise from any line of treatment – my lack of a moist nose and a glossy coat, apparently hinting at some dark scenarios. And, although she’s more than well versed in giving me some of the essential jabs, I didn’t like the way she seemed to be lining up her syringe last night like Phil “The Power” Taylor on the “oche” some eight feet away.

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Mrs. Blog prepares to administer my anti-thrombosis jab


I must make mention here of Mrs. Blog’s recent fund raising efforts on behalf of a local cats’ charity. Burdened by a fear of heights and evident lack of fitness, but determined to rise to the challenge – and, crucially, having been promised that a branch of M&S lay just out of sight on the other side – she managed to secure several hundreds of pounds’ worth of sponsorship to make an ascent of the roof of the O2 Arena in Greenwich. This she recently completed – together with the almost equally important descent.


Mrs. Blog takes a well earned rest at the summit


Mrs. B would, I feel sure, welcome suggestions for future charitable challenges. My own list for her includes bungee jumping, bareback rodeo riding and knife thrower’s assistant.

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I’m conscious of having got this far with no explanation of the blog title.

The small, historic town of Lewes, East Sussex, where this blog is firmly rooted, is – strangely – the UK’s epicentre for all things “bonfire”. Take some of the fiery beacons once common across the nation as a method of communication, add in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, throw in the 17 Protestant martyrs burnt at the stake in Lewes during the Marian Persecutions, some Victorian mythmaking and modern perspectives on “reclaiming the streets”, and you end up with thousands of strangely clad, processing Lewesians (including family Blog) and many thousands of spectating outsiders in the narrow streets, tens of thousands of blazing torches, huge effigies stuffed with pyrotechnics, dozens of bands and half a dozen spectacular bonfires and firework displays, each of which could rival a major civic display in a provincial city. Health and Safety? Don’t ask.

On 5 November not only the various Lewes based societies, but also representatives of a couple of dozen bonfire societies from surrounding towns and villages, gather in Lewes for the nation’s biggest bonfire celebrations. And, on a series of Saturdays through October and November, members of the Lewes societies gather in town before being bussed out to support the locals in their own festivities. This is the “season” when one might expect to be propping up a bar next to a couple of Vikings, a platoon of Confederate soldiers and the occasional Zulu. But then, that’s not exactly unusual In Lewes at any time of year.

Family Blog have been members of one of the grown-up bonfire societies in Lewes for a decade or so and, before that, we dressed and “marched” for another ten years — as punks, smugglers, millennium bugs, superman and catwomen (you name it, we forced ourselves into the costumes) – as members of the town’s junior bonfire society, on a half term Saturday evening in late October. Yup, you’ve got it: blazing torches and huge bonfires, marching bands, huge aerial displays, and all in the hands of youngsters. What’s not to enjoy??

Pet friendly it isn’t. Through October each year, Mrs. Blog professionally advises her veterinary clients on how best to counter this awful assault on their pets’ eardrums and nerves. And on November 5th she dons her Commercial Square Bonfire Society yellow and black “smugglers” jersey and strides out with the rest of Lewes to the sound of “Sussex by the Sea”, hurling fire crackers and crow scarers. Hey ho.



This year I have it on good authority (Mrs. B – and I’m not inclined to argue) that I won’t be seen anywhere near so much as a sparkler this year. Crowds in their tens of thousands squeezed into Lewes’s narrow thoroughfares, lengthy processions and jostling throngs around the fire sites don’t exactly lend themselves to sensitive arrangements to accommodate the temporarily incapacitated with a dodgy hip. The most I can hope for is a small breakaway group at the end of proceedings calling round to describe the evening’s costumes and pyrotechnics to me with the aid of a box of Swan Vestas – it’ll be like listening to radio commentary on arm wrestling or tug of war.

I’ve told the Lewes Bonfire Council that they should press on without me this year and just try to make the best of it. I’ll be back…




6 thoughts on “Remember, remember 18 October Gunpowder, treason and plot

  1. Jean McKern says:

    Another good laugh!!!! It is strange isn’t it the expectation of monumental change.
    After the pristine white of hospital home, however well prepared for the homecoming, can look at bit shabby. Hope Mrs Blog is quicker off the buzzer than the hospital nurses!!!!

    Lewes has come a long way since our visits to bonfire night in the 1950s. How I hated the tom thumbs leaping round my feet.

  2. Scan my Chip says:

    Dear Steve,
    Just to say, your blog is so entertaining, but sorry it’s had to come from your hospital bed – reassuring to know “scab” obviously felt you were a priority case – thank goodness!!
    Good to know you’re back on your pins and all set to replenish your collection of fine wines.

    • Hi “Scan”! Many thanks for this. By my reckoning my long course of treatment by antibiotics — and therefore abstinence from alcohol — ends precisely on New Year’s Day. Any advice??

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