Thank you, Gethin. Ladies and gentlemen, it is, I must say, a great honour to be here today, and to preside over this wonderful fiesta, now in its thirteenth year. I have heard one or two complaints that, as festivals go, ours is less than venerable, and, indeed, is a rather artificial affair, a flimsy excuse for public inebriation, not based at all on a genuine tradition, but shamelessly copied from similar festivals to be found in Spain or Portugal, one or the other, or perhaps both, or neither. Malta maybe? But never mind about that. Some cynical souls have even suggested that the whole event has been manufactured with the sole aim of drawing in crowds of gullible tourists and pocketing their foolishly spent money. Yes, boo hiss indeed, ladies and gentlemen. Boo hiss indeed. Well might you boo, and well might you hiss. But not with your mouth full, Mr. Jenkins, that would be my advice. But, looking around me, I see so many local faces, that, while I won’t say that this is a local fiesta for local people, ha ha, it does illustrate the value we in this lovely little town attach to a sense of community, for what can bring a community together more effectively, more cohesively, than burning a giant fish on a beach?
Those of you who have attended the fiesta before will know the routine: from here we march in procession to the sweet sounds of our talented band, through the centre of town, over the bridge, down to the yacht club, where there will be some entertainment and a few words from me (as if that weren’t entertainment enough), and then it’s just a short walk to the beach, where, after we have given thanks to Almighty God, our fishy friend here will make the supreme sacrifice, and be set alight. And then, at the end, we’ll have the raffle, with the first prize being this impressive magnum bottle of champagne. For the procession we have, as you see, six bearers to carry the effigy―a round of applause, ladies and gentlemen―including Mr. Andrews, who, of course, being a genuine local undertaker, is used to this sort of thing. Following them will be our weeping, wailing widows, and a fine sight they are, I’m sure you’ll agree, ladies and gentlemen, so another round of applause, if you please. Don’t milk it, Mrs. Pryce-Evans, there’s really no need for a twirl.
Right then, if everything is ready, let the procession begin! Don’t push, Gethin, I’m ahead of you, it’s only proper. I wish this music were a bit more mournful; rather too jaunty for the occasion, don’t you think? Widows, your keening is commendable, but might I suggest a few more ululations, and less of the giggling, if you please. This is a serious matter, after all. Thank you, Mrs. Pryce-Evans; that was an excellent flutter of the handkerchief, but try not to overdo it. Let dignity be your goal. And bearers, if you could just attempt to assume a more solemn air, that would be appreciated. For God’s sake! Who is that wearing trainers? Mr. Andrews, I am disappointed! You, of all people, should know better. Some of you, I regret to say, are not taking this quite as seriously as you should, but there we are, it can’t be helped, I suppose. What is it, Gethin? No, I don’t want a shot, get back to your place, mun.
Now then, ladies and gentlemen, here we are, and, as promised, we will have some entertainment for you very shortly. But first, as your minister, it behoves me to say a few words on this momentous and splendid occasion. Those of you who know me will know that community is one of my chief concerns, and in our community, we value very much those members of it who go out to sea and bring us back its bounty, braving the winds and the waves and the terrors of the deep. Thank you, God, for keeping them safe. But God, if you must know, I have bone to pick with you, because, to tell the truth, the catch has been a bit disappointing this year, hasn’t it? Not much of a bounty at all, really. And what’s worse, it’s a continuation of a recent trend. People talk about overfishing and marine pollution and what-have-you, but other towns and villages, some of them not so very far from here, have done much better than us, and that’s a fact. Why is that, Lord? What have we done? Where have we sinned? I know you move in mysterious ways; that, I can’t deny. But if, in your infinite and impenetrable wisdom, you could see to it that next year we have a better catch, I for one would be most grateful. To that end, we offer you this piscine effigy, and hope you like it. In fact, I’d say it looks so fetching, that you’d be a bit of an odd fish not to. Odd fish, ha ha.
Now, I am well-known in these parts for the keen interest I take in fishing matters, which some have said rivals the interest I take in religious matters. More than rivals, thank you! Mr. Jenkins, there, always ready with his little quips, some of them, as you can see, being less successful than others. I have been on several fact-finding missions across the globe in order to develop and enhance my understanding of the issues, and to attempt to find a solution to the relative dearth in maritime produce that has brought about so much local consternation. For instance, at the Trøllbøgrøll Institute in Bergen, in Norway, where I have been―TWICE!―I was reliably informed that the annual percentage, not excluding… Ah, I see that Gethin is gesturing to me in that characteristically frantic way of his, and I can only interpret his gestures as a polite reminder that time is of the essence, and on that, he has my full agreement, for if we take a moment to consider time, yes alright Gethin, keep your bloody hair on, boy.
Right, time now, ladies and gentlemen, for that entertainment I mentioned earlier, for which I am sure you have been waiting with baited breath. And so, without further ado, let me introduce you to someone who needs no introduction, the one and only, our very own, Mrs. Llinos Wendy Davies! A warm welcome, ladies and gentlemen, please. That’s better. It’s a thrilling performance we have in store for us now, ladies and gentlemen, because Mrs. Davies, who no doubt has already captured your attention with her remarkable attire, is about to combine the noble arts of belly dancing and fire juggling. Take it away, Mrs. Davies!
After that eye-opening spectacle, no-one can say that the years have not been kind to Mrs. Davies. Indeed, one might say that age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite b―yes, you’re right, Gethin, that would probably be a bit off-colour. Well caught. Careful, there, Mrs. Davies, one of the torches is not quite―Good God, she’s on fire! Someone put her out, for the love of Christ, I can’t bear all that screaming. What are you doing? You can’t chuck her in the harbour, the bloody tide’s out, mun. What? The prize champagne? But what about the raffle? Oh, sweet Jesus, what a waste! Still, at least she’s out. Thank you, Mrs. Davies, that was unforgettable. Don’t worry, the ambulance is on its way. I’m sure, ladies and gentlemen, that you will all join me in wishing Mrs. Davies a speedy recovery. Now then, Gethin, what can we get to replace the champagne? We need something for the main prize. A big bottle of Strongbow? Very well, it will have to do. Wait, it looks as if it’s been opened. Well, if it’s only one swig, I suppose no-one will mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, after that excitement, it is time now to move on to the ceremony itself. Bearers, widows: to your positions please, so that we can go down to the beach. Musicians, there’s no need, we have had the benefit of your talents for long enough now. This year, ladies and gentlemen, in a bit of an innovation, we have built really quite a large pyre on which the mackerel will be placed. A bit more oomph, you see, like a Viking funeral. Doesn’t it do the town proud? Here we are. Before we consign this extraordinary effigy to the flames, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to say a few brief words and to lead us all in prayer. Yes, Gethin, I did say brief. Lord, we are gathered here today in thy presence to give thanks for thy munificence, which, though in the opinion of some may have fallen a bit short in recent years, nonetheless blesses us and is still a cause for gratitude, and after all, Lord, who are we to complain? We are but maggots, crawling and slithering repulsively in the noxious depths of sin and iniquity, blind to thy holy purposes, Lord, and undeserving, mostly, of the paltry crumbs of sustenance you deign to drop, from time to time, when the mood suits you, and evidently it hasn’t suited you much this past year or in previous years, but that’s quite alright, mustn’t grumble, you are the Lord of Light and Life, after all, and we thy humble―alright Gethin, no need for that. Burn the damn thing, amen.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a promising start to the conflagration. The mighty, marvellous, majestic, magnificent mackerel really giving out some heat, there, ha ha, although I do detect a faint aroma of… I’m not quite sure what, exactly, but I can’t honestly say it’s pleasant. Gethin, what did you use to make the fish? Plastic! Good God, mun! Whose bright idea was that? No, it was not my idea, you lying git. What kind of plastic? What do you mean you don’t know? No, it’s not a bloody technical question, it… wait, are those tyres? You put car tyres in the pyre! You fucking idiot! You useless bucket of shit! Jesus fucking Christ, the smoke coming off that thing! Oh God, the smell! No, no, ladies and gentlemen, stay put, I think the wind is about to change. Yes, yes, there we are, see, blowing it all back into town, out of the way. Great black billows of Satanically noxious smoke, pretty poisonous, I should think. I hope people in town are inside with their windows closed, although on a lovely sunny day like this, it’s quite possible that they’re not. Still, rather them than us, ladies and gentlemen, eh? Ha ha. No. No, Mr. Jenkins, you’re right, that was inappropriate. Gethin, you’re sure this isn’t dangerous, aren’t you? I mean, I hope we’re not going to get sued.
Oh Christ, I think the wind has changed again. No, don’t panic, ladies and gentlemen, there’s no cause for alarm, it’s simply a minor… My eyes! My God, my eyes! And my throat, too! Thank you, Lord, thanks a fucking bunch. Run! Run, ladies and gentlemen, run for your lives! Christ on a bike, I’m blind! Oh fuck fuck fuck. Gethin! Gethin! Gethin, where are you, boy? Don’t leave me! Oh, the pain! I can’t breathe. Not like this, Lord! Not like this!