Guy and the clock

Today is Guy Fawkes Day in England, and Clock Change Eve in America.

It’s Clock Change Eve because tomorrow is, this year, the first Sunday in November.  Clocks resume approximately natural time, meaning that midday is when the Sun is highest, after being an hour ahead of natural time since March 13.

You are supposed to turn your clocks back an hour at 2 AM on Sunday.  Reasonable, in a way, since few people are doing anything else after 1 AM and so they don’t get to disagreeing with each other about the time.  Perhaps some literal law-abiding souls do wait till 2 AM to carry out the rite, but most of us do it on Saturday before going to bed.  Or else much later on Sunday, on realizing that we’re now out of step.  Perhaps the Sunday rule was chosen because Saturday is a day when more people than usual are up past midnight, so they may, if not too drunk, turn their watches back at 2, and stay up for another hour.


Twilight scene at the same clock time on November 5 and 6.

It’s Guy Fawkes Day (otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night, or Fireworks Night) because it’s the 411th anniversary of one of the events most undeserving of being commemorated: November 5, 1605, when my misguided and courageous namesake was arrested, to be tortured to death two months later.

He joined a conspiracy to kill the Protestant king, James I, and replace him with a Catholic queen.  They rented a basement under the House of Lords and stashed gunpowder there – nowadays they would have used a ticking clock.  Guy volunteered to guard the place, and was caught.  The parliament decreed an annual day of thanksgiving, with a compulsory church service; it became a divisive and frequently violent Pope Day; is now an atavistic outdoor revel in which the figure of Guy is burned on a large bonfire.

“Remember, remember / The Fifth of November, / Gunpowder, treason and plot…”  The sects and the monarchs, the merciless justice, they all might be better forgot.

When I was leaving Manchester, we had to get rid of a small piano that had been given to us and that nobody would take.  It went onto the Guy Fawkes bonfire and died with a last twangle of chords.


14 thoughts on “Guy and the clock”

  1. Upon reading your comment about burning the unwanted piano, I immediately thought of John Cage because I recall he composed a work that consisted of a piano burning, or so I thought. Searching on “John Cage” and then, separately, “burning piano,” Wikipedia informed me that Cage composed several works for *prepared piano* but they make no mention of him burning a piano. Four contemporary composers were cited as having composed works for a burning piano. More weirdly, the page states that the RAF and the US Air Force stage piano burnings to commemorate particular types of important events.

    1. Gabor Cossa, eccentric owner of an antique shop in Cambridge, England, rented (so I was told) a hall in London and gave a concert with a piano from which he had removed the strings, so that there was no sound.

  2. Was Venus changing her clocks this evening? Or was she hiding gunpowder beneath Olympus? Wherever she was, I’m relieved to see she’ll be back in the sky tomorrow evening.

    1. The name is older than Guy Fawkes (who, when traveling in Europe to seek support for his Catholic rebellion, used the Italian form, Guido). Since I was born in what was then part of Warwickshire, I was named for Guy of Warwick, the hero of a medieval romance. The origin of the name is uncertain (it may or may not be connected with “guide”).

      1. If “Guy”, “Guido”, and “guide” have common roots, your parents named you well, Guido Siderius.

  3. It is a long time since I last saw a guy on a bonfire. Some years ago I think images of Margaret Thatcher went that way. Perhaps some Trumps have been sighted?

    1. Trump pinatas are popular in the parts of the United States that used to be Mexico.

      By the way, Mexico has agreed to build and pay for a wall on her pre-1848 border with the United States.

  4. I have a household in a small therapeutic community for adults. We customarily rise later on Sundays and have a late brunch. Since the night-time change would make the stomachs grumble indeed, I revert to Standard Time after Sunday brunch.
    I DO wish we could stop the whole nonsense though, once and for all; and have several supporting points to this conclusion – which I shan’t bore you with since it would be “preaching to the choir”.

  5. and thanks for the info about who Guy Fawkes was. I often wondered about him, A shame though to put a piano in a bonfire. I would never do that with mine, nor my accordion.

  6. I love setting my clocks back some earlier than others and my plants just LOVE gettin that extra hour of sun in the morning, LOL,,, as if any of this make any difference to them. Not much of this makes any difference to me either as I’m retired for 8+ years already and still surviving. Now tell me why the dude threw his alarm clock out the window??? He wanted to see time fly.
    Time flies like an arrow……. Fruit flies like a banana…..
    I’ve been told not to lose my sense of humor.. I reply that if I lose that, I’ll have no sense at all.

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