Most evenings for the past week, I have heard fireworks going off in the area around where I live. The noise of the loud bangs, whooshes and crackles have taken me right back to my childhood.
I loved Guy Fawkes night when I was young. I remember the peculiar joy of making a Guy by stuffing old tights with dried leaves and creating something that resembled a somewhat sinister scarecrow. One year I had the immense satisfaction of burning my hated school beret on the Guy.
I can still taste the hot potatoes, tomato soup and sausages, eaten as we stood by the bonfire. In later years we had more sophisticated food, chicken drumsticks marinated in spicy sauces for instance.
The wonderful part for me, though, was the fireworks. The rockets were frustrating as they often burst into stars too high up for me to see but the other fireworks, well, that was a different matter. Golden and silver showers of stars, bright pinks and greens and the amazing whizzing speed of the Catherine wheels are all fixed clearly in my mind’s eye.
Sparklers were great too. You could write your name in the air and create pretty patterns of sparks.
The next morning, my brother and I would go round the garden collecting the now soggy and unappealing spent fireworks. Why we enjoyed doing this is a mystery to me now. Perhaps it helped us relive the fun of the night before.
At some point our family decided that burning money wasn’t very sensible and that peering at explosives in the dark whilst trying to light the blue touch paper by torchlight wasn’t the best idea either, so, we paid to go to an organised display. To me, it was a disappointment. You couldn’t stand close to the bonfire watching the flames and listening to the crackling sounds and the public had to stand so far back that I couldn’t see a thing.
This is where the whole topic gets tricky. I do think that fireworks are basically dangerous and many people nowadays don’t have long enough gardens to allow for spectators to stand well back from the firing zone. The rational, safety-aware, part of me says organised displays are the best way to watch fireworks. The trouble is, they are a dead loss if you have limited vision.
There is another issue too. Most animals absolutely hate fireworks. They find them terrifying.
I belong to a WhatsApp group for former students of Chorleywood College. This week, several guide dog owners have expressed their desire for fireworks to be banned altogether. One person had to miss a concert she had been planning to attend because she literally couldn’t leave her dog. I am sure if I had animals in the house, I would feel the same.
Notwithstanding all the above, I miss those homespun firework displays of my childhood. I can’t think of any occasion since when I could see such vivid colours.
Perhaps the answer is to have organised displays in uninhabited areas and allow the visually-impaired spectators to stand at the front? I don’t know if there is a perfect answer but, for now, I will have to rely on my memory and imagination.