Sunday, 9 November 2014

Remember, Remember, the 3rd of November

We all seem to have a day or two that are special, don't we?
For Americans it's the fourth of July to mark the celebration of the end of bad teeth, for the French it's Bastille Day on the 4th of July to mark the end of bad dictators, and for many Brits it's November the 5th to mark the end of over-priced fireworks.

And of course, many countries have many celebratory days. To judge by the fact that decorations have now been up for seventeen weeks, a lot of us are rapidly approaching the 25th December when we all celebrate bad jokes (and no, I'm not referring to my regular posts). Then a week later there's New Year's Day for many of us on the 1st of January, and for many more its eight weeks later on the 19th February.

On the 14th February a lot of Westerners will celebrate Valentine's Day when stalking is allowed for 24-hours, and in the UK we will even celebrate the 'glorious 12th' (of August) when we can start shooting at the tiny Red Grouse with the sort of big guns that make many Americans whimper.

We even create new holiday days on a regular basis. The very religious festival of Mothering Sunday which originally referred to the Mother Church was the only day when servants were allowed to take a day off to go and worship. This his morphed into the flower-and-card shop sponsored Mother's Day event (for a slightly cheaper option, simply wait for a bad traffic accident in the area and flowers will become available from nearby lamp-posts - joke, honest). For the record it will be held on the 15th March in the UK next year, and on May 11th in the US.

This, of course, led to Father's Day which is curiously (or not) exactly nine months before Mother's Day in the UK (June 21st in both UK and US next year). We now have days set aside for grandparents of both genders, the armed forces, Remembrance, national saints (there really are four in the UK and bets are off as to which one can be named most readily despite very few of us having leprechaun blood), Hallowe'en when five-year olds are allowed to mug us, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Boxing Day, Labour/Labor Day (dependent on nationality) and ones for every Saint imaginable (Ignatious, anyone?).

There are days after days after days when the deepest reverence is called for. This is, of course, these days normally in the form of a greetings card comprising an old photograph of a clearly-drunk family member waving a discarded bra around her head with a caption referring to bodily functions which are better seen than heard. Mostly.

This begs two important questions.

Firstly, with so many celebratory days how the hell did one of the UK's largest chain of card stores go bust last year? And secondly, with so many familial days (sister, mother, father, brother, grandfather, etc. etc.) is it true that some families of a certain travelling type in the UK only need a couple of cards to cover all eventualities?

That brings me to one day last week which happens to be 'my' day. For me the 3rd of November holds so many memories of note that I view it with a certain degree of trepidation each year.

When I was a boy all of my family lived in London and on the 3rd November 1969 (which if you believe some of my recent comments means that i would have been minus eleven, but when I was actually nine), my parents and I moved out of the great big dirty City and into the Garden of England. Well that's what the advertising said. In hindsight (isn't it amazing how hindsight is the only guaranteed 20:20 vision we have?) this was not necessarily the greatest move ever - at least not for a soon-to-be teen who really wasn't that keen on meat that still went 'baa' or 'moo'.

I was still a teenager when another 3rd of November brought about a rather lovely change in my personal standing. Or rather my very personal lying down, if you get my drift. It was a day when one 'V' word disappeared and another took its place...

My internal jury was still out on the whole (check spelling...) 3rd November thing, but then when I was a mere 24-year old my first wedding took place on that day. I joked at the time about it being the only way to guarantee fireworks during my honeymoon, but maybe I should have taken more note of sayings things said in jest. You might also note that the phrase I used earlier in this paragraph was 'first wedding' - and that should be sufficient a clue as to how I have viewed that particular 3rd November ever since.

Then, on a rainy Sunday in 1991 - the 3rd November, of course - my soon-to-be second wife moved into my London apartment where I had been living for a few monastic (ahem) months after parting from my first wife. Happy days was not just a much-repeated American sit-com.

The scales for the day were definitely lifting from the negative and a few (four) years later I was the recipient of my first and only decent national lottery win to guarantee it. Technically it was won on the 4th, but it I had bought the ticket the night before after work. They really should - and probably do - make a 'Happy hangover' card. The 3rd November was back in positive territory.

All good things and all that, though, and that day nineteen years ago was probably my last 'happy' 3rd of November. Since then I have seen one 3rd when I worked twenty-two hours, one when I had a car stolen, one when I attended my first MS clinic, one when... actually, I'll stop there before depression sets in.

For most people, birthdays-excepted, I'm sure that November the 3rd is simply the 307th or 308th day of the year. In this hemisphere it holds the promise of Winter to come and represents a near mid-point between the last of Summer and the yuletide festivities that lay ahead. It's a dull day for many, I'm sure.

Not for me, though. There have been three very good ones in the last forty-five years, but by and large it's been a black day for me. At least I survived the latest one with my marbles intact, so that's good enough for this gerbil. Happy thingy and don't let the cat litter melt!

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