I came up to read Felix a bedtime story, to find him at his open attic window gazing out at the chilly night.
I scooped up a duvet and wrapped it round him. There was no need to ask why he was there: the fireworks were lighting up the night sky. While the trend is for great big displays, there are still those who buy trolley loads of explosives from the supermarket, to let off in small municipal back gardens. And no matter their source, they fill the sky with bling.
Why? We all know the story. Once upon a time, in 1605, in fact, a naughty man named Mr Fawkes was arrested whilst guarding insane amounts of explosives planted in a cellar beneath the House of Lords. His plot to blow up a busy parliament was foiled.
While the story still has as many holes in it as a sieve, and conspiracy theories abound, it fitted the purposes of the time admirably. Mr Fawkes and his friends were Catholic. No wonder they were so frowned upon. Bounders.
So loyal subjects of King James built fires to celebrate his deliverance; and gradually the anti-Catholic feeling grew until little boys in the 18th century were making money by asking for a penny for an effigy of Guy Fawkes which, rather shockingly, was thrown onto the fire to be burnt.
Fireworks were banned for long stretches, for public safety; starting in 1682 after violent anti-catholic scenes, and continuing with subsequent bans under James II.
But these days the bangs and cracks of fireworks puncture the damp November night, and the smell of gunpowder is on the air.
And while Felix loves it, there are others who are less enthusiastic.
Macaulay is acclimatised to bangs and cracks for a most unusual reason: his doggy walks take him within hearing of the Sandhurst Military Academy’s manoeuvres training ground.
Thus, his happiest times are spent nosing around in the undergrowth whilst explosives detonate crazily nearby. Well: within a three-mile range.
Fireworks are not a problem.
Bond, however, is new round here. The small cat gets most agitated: along with most of the local animals. Clover, my sister’s collie, shakes uncontrollably at the sound of fireworks.
And for them, there is a new way to tackle that perennial terror, thanks to our caricature of an English actor, Simon Callow.
We all love Simon Callow. Is there anyone more bluff, and irrepressible, and ebullient, than our affable thespian? Who better to read A Christmas Carol, or to be an acclaimed Sir Toby Belch, than this man who, in ‘Being Shakespeare’ undertook to play Shakespeare’s characters and the great man himself ?.
And who better to soothe our pets, in a ground barking- I mean, ground breaking new technique.
The first bedtime audiobook for dogs has just been released. And it’s free: a virtuoso piece of publicity by More Than Pet insurance. There I go again, publicising them. Doh.
One simply plays “Teddy and Stanley’s Tall Tale’ by Laura Quinn, to one’s pet. Every night, working up to November 5th and beyond if necessary. The story was written in conjunction with pet behaviourist Karen Wild.
The story is based on Real Science. Something to do with ”a number of proven animal psychology techniques, communicative signals, bioacoustics and years of scientific research into dog behaviour to capture a canine’s attention and help it relax when in a state of stress”.
And miraculously, it will calm your loved canines. They will adore the story so much that they simply won’t notice Armageddon outside.
I shall play it to my dog for experimental purposes, of course. And I may experiment by using it on the cat.
Pour yourself a glass of something; park your pet on a nearby comfy cushion; and enjoy.