Tonight, I’m going to stare into a fiery pits of a diabolically massive bonfire and get neck-ache going “oooh” and “ahhh” at some wondrous good rockets and other fireworks.
Bonfire night is one of those occasions I hate to miss. Not because I like noise – though I don’t mind it – but because of the connection with real fabulous, leaping fire, which you don’t see much these days unless you’re an ardent fire-engine follower – and the chance of seeing fireworks that are even more spectacular than last year’s.
It’s a kind of pilgrimage, converging on Speech House, the heart of the Forest of Dean and following scores of dark figures trudging over collapsing soaked ferns, fallen autumn leaves and squelchy pasture towards the smoky red glow of the inferno across the field.
People of all ages turn up, including some very young babies which always puzzles me because unless they are totally deaf they are likely to be a bit terrified.
DT man isn’t overly fond of fireworks but he would quite happily take charge of a selection of bangers or personally ignite a selection of feck-off huge rockets – the sort they bury in the ground and make your feet shudder as they shoot off into the sky.
Me? I like colour, design, spectacle. Roman candles, catherine wheels, and fantastic rockets. When I was small the Jackie Jumpers you got in the small boxes of Standard fireworks were fun. They only made very small bangs and you could squeal and panic a bit if they jumped randomly near your feet knowing all the time they they couldn’t do much harm.
My mother used to talk about how, when they were both aged 10 – 13 in the 1930’s, my two uncles used to be able to buy dozens of bangers very cheaply, stuff their pockets, then go up the wood and chuck them at each other.
Turns out DT man did exactly the same in the 60’s when he was that age – fireworks still being freely available in the shops.
“But Roman candles and Catherine wheels and more interesting fireworks were available then, surely…?”
“Oh yes. But we only ever bought bangers and lobbed them at people across the street. That was the thing to do. We all thought it was hilarious.”
Son no2 wasn’t aware of this history but proved to be a chip off the old block. He returned from a school skiing holiday in the French alps with a full and heavy rucksack.
“Ooooh what have you brought back?” I cooed expectantly, thinking delicately painted Alpine ceramic, maybe? Delicately perfumed Alpine chocolates? Collection of Alpine mugs? Alpine pen and pencil set peut etre?”
He tipped the contents out on the kitchen floor. Dozens of black, powdery fireworks. All bangers, purchased from shop in the ski resort.
“Oh for God’s sake!” was my reaction. “You brought this lot home in the coach, through customs?”
He was unrepentant. “Some of my friends bought knives in the knife shop but I didn’t.”
“You even try setting these off in the back garden and you’ll get us all kettled by the police and carted off as terrorists,” I warned him.
“But why can’t I use them? I spent all my money on them.”
We decided he should either put them straight in the bin or take them down to his mate’s house in an isolated spot in the Forest of Dean, play commandoes and set them off there. People are always shooting stuff in the Forest so a few more explosions wouldn’t be out of place.
A week later there was a sensation at school. Persons unknown had blown up a school litterbin using fireworks. No-one was injured by shrapnel. The headmaster was making enquiries. Ahem.
DT man displayed his usual laissez-faire attitude
“Big fuss over nothing. Perfectly normal boy behaviour.”
Just as well, perhaps, that the audience at the display tonight will include children and women like me who like pretty colours.
Left to the chaps, I suspect it could turn into a family-friendly version of anti-tank weapon testing on Salisbury Plain.