There was an odd lack of enthusiasm among my work colleagues towards Guy Fawkes night this year.
Very lack lustre, really. “I’m done with fireworks.” “If you’ve seen one fireworks show, you’ve seen ’em all…” “I’m not getting chilled for an hour waiting for a fifteen minute display any more.”
For goodnessake!! There is nothing finer at this time of year than a proper whizz bang pop firework display whether it’s for four in a back garden or six hundred watching the show in a vast field.
With Father Christmas completely eclipsing parents at Christmas, it’s just about the only time of the year when dads are allowed to be heroic.
I remember my own father’s difficulties with errant Catherine wheels. They invariably stuttered to a halt after a couple of turns but continued to burn.
“Leave it dad. It’s on fire!! It’ll explode!” we kids would exhort nervously but brave dad would fearlessly approach and nudge the lethargic firework with a finger, whereupon it would perform a few jerky spark-scattering twirls, fall off the nail and splutter to nothing in the damp grass.
Memories are made of this. And the year dad left the fireworks box too close to his display, so a spark from only the second Roman Candle sent the entire box hopping noisily and spectacularly around my nan’s back garden. We all took refuge by the coal shed and although it was all over in about two minutes, it was a firework night we never forgot!
November 5th is a benchmark of the year; much more so than Halloween, which has been transformed due to the lamentable American influence from a mild pagan-inspired festival to a pumpkin-riddled horror-fest where children as young as three are dripping with faux blood, offer you a severed hand and can just about ennunciate “Trick or treat.”
So obviously, we went to the firework display I always enjoy at Speech House in the Forest of Dean. It was even more popular this year than ever before, but that’s good as all proceeds go to the Lions Club who organise it and distribute goodies to local charities.
There were a few fairgroundy attractions at the back of the field, but much more compelling was the bonfire – huge and leaping against the backdrop of tall trees glowing red in the smoky firelight. A big fire is always fascinating – to me anyway. Maybe it comes from all those peaceful afternoons at home reading or drawing in front of a real coal fire – pausing to examine it and imagine the fiery caves and kingdoms within the burning embers before the soft collapse of ash into the grate re-arranged it all.
The fireworks were fabulous – and included at least four I hadn’t seen before, including one rocket which I swear had an outer circle of red and a smiley face in the middle featuring two green eyes, a red nose and a red smiley mouth! Clever or what?!
If I had to gripe, it would be about the lack of noise. Few of the fireworks seemed properly noisy. I feel you really need the sound-effect of slightly muted artillery fire; the sort of bangs that would make a grown man yelp. That’s a proper firework. I’m sure modern fireworks are fitted with silencers. The thud of the big rockets leaving the ground were good enough but there were only a few fireworks with banshee wails. The rest were a almost library-quality.
It’s not as though anyone’s going to be traumatised by a bit of noise, surely? When my uncles were boys, they used to go round throwing bangers at each other. It was part of growing up. They weren’t issued with £4 a time glowsticks because they weren’t allowed sparklers. They wouldn’t have been seen dead with a sparkler anyway – the only acceptable thing was wearing shorts featuring two pockets bulging with proper bangers.
I should probably add that this was Wales, which has gone comparatively H&S and gentile. No doubt they are still chucking bangers in other parts of the country.
A youth in Leeds lobbed one at me when I was walking the dog, one evening. I was startled but Rolls less so, because he spent much of his puppyhood listening to the bang of exploding crisp packets and enthusiastically investigating the crumbs which resulted.
Sadly, on that occasion, there was only dogged disappointment over the lack of crisps.