Well, yes, agreed…. the last blog was pretty curmudgeonly so I’m making amends by sharing one of my big huge shut-up-now-forgoodnessake enthusiasms.
With a bit of luck they will make the earth move, they certainly blow your neural cortexes if you experience enough at once and they are an annual tradition which makes November bearable.
I refer, of course, to fireworks.
One of the big disappointments of my life was to discover on the eve of New Year in Beijing, that they have no fireworks. There we were, in an Italian restaurant in the consular quarter of the capital, four whiteys having a New Year’s Eve meal when we heard the chimes of midnight striking downstairs and the staff starting to congratulate each other.
Outside, there was a great fat nothing. Course, it was a basic error expecting the Chinese to celebrate the Western New Year. The party poppers didn’t pop either.
But there were further disappointments in store. A pal of mine who was living the dream in a big Chinese city (his dream not anyone else’s) told me that on Chinese New Year there are bangers aplenty (notice archaic phrase there? He writes like that actually. It’s charming) but no actually pretty fireworks and very few rockets.
I have never been able to understand fully how the people who invented the wondrous thing that is a firework don’t actually have decent displays themselves.
That’s actually a sweeping, inaccurate statement so we’ll make it slightly more accurate by excepting the fantastic Olympic ceremony fireworks in the Bird’sNest Stadium, which was stupendous – but staged for the world’s benefit not The People’s benefit.
And I’m excepting Hong Kong, which, although Chinese, has feet firmly planted in the Chinese and Brit-influenced Hong Kong camps and celebrates Western New Year with an extraordinary display of pyrotechnics over the water.
So although the Chinese invented pyrotechnics, I’ll always be grateful for the Gunpowder Plot, the legacy of which has enhanced my childhood and my life no end.
I’ve written before about the childhood experiences so I won’t re-visit those but suffice to say that explosions and skies full of sparkling colour hold a lot more excitement for me than halloween.
Tempted though I was to spend hard cash on a display box of firework from Sainsbury’s, our garden is too small and I didn’t want to traumatise the cats. My springer spaniels were always fine with fireworks. As gundogs it would have been shameful for them to be terrified around loud bangs. So as puppies we had games of bursting blown-up bags. If I tried that with the cats, I’d never see them again – they are *very* scaredy. With the kids too, I wanted them to enjoy fireworks and weather so if there was a dramatic storm with thunderclaps and lightning, we’d always open the curtains and watch. The weather is a free show, after all and often beats what’s on TV.
Organised displays are the way to go. They’re usually for charity and they each have their pro’s and con’s but the big pro is usually fantastic fireworks – which, with a bit of luck, vary each year.
At the Gloucester Docks display last night, they had a sky full of millions of different gold and silver splinters of light which lasted for a couple of minutes a time. There were others that I hadn’t seen before – the reflections in the waters of the Victoria Basin made it even more special. These were not rockets but medium-height fireworks. The rockets were fabulous but – and I’m going to be picky here – too far away from the crowd.
They should take a leaf out of the book of the organisers of the Speech House bonfire and fireworks in the centre of the Forest of Dean where the rockets are so powerful you can feel the earth move and they burst right over your head, filling the sky completely. Also, the Speech House ‘do’ features a fierce bonfire the size of a house which will singe your eyebrows at 1000 yards.
The Docks display was a bit over-packed with features. Although it was triffically well done, with a Gloucester Aircraft Through the Ages Theme, you don’t really need lasers, a commentary and twerky pop tunes blaring out (Your Sex Is On Fire seemed apt though) – the fireworks, pure and simple, should be the thing.
There’s nothing wrong with using imagination with the fireworks. In Glasgow someone’s allegedly been pushing the boundaries. Amusingly naughty but hey, imagine the bliss of being able to design your own firework?!
My dream firework would be a fuck-off huge rocket, set to burst right overhead with a massive toddler-tearjerking EXPLOSION…… first releasing a dazzling sky umbrella of red and purple sparkles, out of which would drop a million golden fizzy commas making farty-popping noises (comedy effect), which be followed by individual bursts of golden pom-poms which turn into clouds of softly-hissing, slowly-falling sparkly silver hearts.
Ooooohhhhs and aaaaaahhhhs compulsory. Anyone got an email address for Standard Fireworks?