Saturday, November 04, 2006


Face it, a good firework display rocks.

The noise of masses of fireworks going off, rather like the noise of a jumbo jet taking off, is one of the most life-enhancing sounds on earth. Which is why I make a point of attending a firework display every year.

Unfortunately, there are a number of displays at which some twat has decided that we prefer to hear the soundtrack of frigging War Of The Worlds booming out in its entirety instead of fireworks. That's what you get for allowing members of the Round Table to organise events though.

This time of year always draws me back to memories of early childhood: the return to school after the summer break; various nature projects which featured primary school teachers' endless fixation with the colours of autumn leaves; the clocks going back; Hallowe'en night; the flourescent armbands we were bullied into purchasing for "fifty-new-pence" every year so that WE COULD AVOID BEING RUN OVER CROSSING THE ROAD ON THE DARK, MURKY MORNINGS AND EVENINGS.


There was also a list of terrifying Firework Code rules that we were expected to memorise and adhere to, most of which revolved around NEVER RETURNING TO A LIT FIREWORK. "KEEP PETS INDOORS ... NEVER RETURN TO A LIT FIREWORK" was a droning mantra third only to learning my times tables and the Lord's Prayer in the League Of Droning Mantras You Have To Learn At Primary School.

As my parents were too poor to let me attend an organised firework display I had to make do with seeing half a dozen crap fireworks lit, but not returned to, in our back garden. Because it wasn't very well lit out there it was a bit like stepping out into a primordial swamp, especially if there was a fog caused by the collective bonfires in the gardens of surrounding homes. The "display" used to last twenty minutes, tops.

Then, one year in the 1990's, I returned to the homestead with Geoff on Bonfire Night and we decided to go out into the garden just to watch the fireworks going off around us.

Of course, it was extremely dark and foggy. You couldn't see the fireworks going off but you could hear them. Once again I was dragged back into the primordial swamp of childhood. It was a REALLY uncanny and disturbing experience, like being sucked into a vortex. I became disembodied - it was as if I'd travelled back to a pre-birth time and was just a handful of cells. Possibly how Mr Proust felt when he tucked into his bit of Madeleine cake and experienced some kind of epiphany, the big bloody ponce. Still, it only lasted for a few minutes, thankfully.

... ahem, anyway, I now make a point of going to a firework display every year, and it compensates for all the ones I missed in childhood. Have a nice Bonfire Night, and ...


I always managed to lose a mitten and my hotdog would exit the end of the stale roll after the first bite faster than a rocket. The most fun we had was to return to the site of the fire in the morning to coax it back into life and burn anything left still standing. H&S have spoiled a lot of the fun but then that's true of most things these days
Fireworks were banned during my childhood in Northern Ireland so we had to make do with indoor 'fireworks', which I seemed to remember consisted almost entirely of snakes of ash coming out of a bit of tinfoil. Pretty crap really.

What is it with teachers and leaves they are obsessed.
Off up to Danson Park then Betty? I only ever went there once for fireworks and it poured and was thick with mud. I had my three year-old daughter with me and she dutifully sat on my shoulders the whole time holding her little brolly up keeping us both dry. The little treasure.
Ziggi - well, my parents didn't even lay any food on as far as I can remember (sorry, I'm straying into Monty Python four Yorkshiremen territory here).

It's probably a good thing that there aren't all those bonfires now. I can remember they resulted in peasouper fogs that made me really wheezy. God knows what it was like for asthmatics.

Realdoc - outdoor fireworks weren't much better in those days. They all seemed to go off about a foot above the ground. My parents had banned me from having state of the art bangers and rockets because they claimed they were too dangerous.

Teachers and leaves - they probably think it's a good way to teach young kids about the life cylce in an easy to understand way. I suppose.

Richard - argg, Danson Park. We've been to a few of the displays, but probably won't again after last year's experience. We left at the wrong exit and ended up miles from nowhere, so had to get the bus back and it was full of demonic fourteen year old boys generally terrorising everyone. The bus driver - a five foot tall woman - raced them off the bus, shouting "fack off! I've facking 'ad enough of you! You've been driving me up the facking wall all facking day!" So of course they all trooped back on at the next stop ...
I hate leaves. So...there are some exceptions to the rule. If you pick them up, sometimes they have do-do on them...

I think we should start a revival of mittens. Mittens with only one thumb. So you can't actually hold a sparkler. So, you actually freeze with fear because you know you are going to be set alight. Mittens that have elastic sewn onto them and up your arms and over your shoulders through your coat arms. 'Don't lose your mittens Betty!' One thumb? What was that all about.

Bobble hats. Now, they are great! Bobble hats and matching mittens. Revival I say.

The last line of this really made me laugh. What about that old lady in the zupermarket who left her purse on the top of her wickerbasketthingy and someone stole it, then the camera flew into her face and she screamed: 'MY PURSE!!!!'

Molly - don't very little kids still wear mittens? Those ones that always end up being stuck on the end of fence posts?

Perhaps there should be a revival of those sheepskin mittens which reduce hand mobility by about ninety eight per cent. Ever tried opening an umbrella wearing them? Or looking for keys? Impossible.

The last line of the post is the beginning of my experiment with colour to, ahem, add colour to the words in the post.

Unfortunately, it won't work for people who are not yet on Broadband, as they're still in black and white. Colourblind people will also be confused.
i'm still trying to work out why you have to pay to see fireworks.
can't you just go up in a tall building downtown, or up on your roof or something?
remember too that i live in contraband fireworks heaven-surrounded by reserves where firework sales are legal-and so on any given fireworks holiday i have only to step out into the back yard and be ready to run.
I think it's the smell, Betty. The most powerful human sense (but a 1/1000 of the canine version) produces the evocative flashbacks. The cordite smell of Fireworks is so distinctive and only smelt once a year.

Mr P. like Smiffy gets everything wrong as he gave up his job on the 6th November last year after reading "Light one end and retire immediately".

I'm off to hide under a bed and feel sorry for the poor roasted hedgehogs.
Ooooooooooooooooooh! Aahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

(just getting into the firework spirit)
I didn't go to Crewe fireworks even though they're held in the park opposite and are usually extremely good. Instead I went to Tescos. Because of a crash I ended up coming back along a different road, a mile long straight road, the end of which brings one out right by the bit of the park from where the fireworks are launched (the park's a natural amphitheatre, a bit like a miniature Danson with a lake etc). As I drove along towards the park, the fireworks started and they were probably the best I'd ever seen. Huge er...golden showers and massive starbursts. The colours were incredible! I've never seen ochres and terracotta used before and those fantastic lilacs, purples and greens that have become very popular. I had to stop at the end of the street, right underneath them. As the park is sunken they were exploding not far above our heads so it felt as if we were in it. Wow! Betty, they were choreographed to Queen tunes and done extremely well too, We Will Rock You particularly so. Stepdaughter and BF went and said they were even better inside.
It was the hospital, or the ambulance drivers, used to do the Organised Display in Dumpstable/Luton. We went once or twice, but it was very expensive for a family with 7 (ahem) kids.

But THE most expensive display I ever attended was in the village of Holmbury St Mary near Guildford. My sister was doing that law thing down there for the year, and I went down for the weekend. This display cost a lorra lorra lolly to get in, but it was awe inspiringly good.

Local celeb Mike Read/Reid/Reed (the DJ) did the honours in starting the whole thing off. There he was, on a dampish November night, in his white suit.

Ever since, firework night is spoiled for me because I know that rich people get better displays than we ordinary mortals do. Though to be fair, Milton Keynes always does a good 'un.
Ah, mittens!
First Nations - actually, the firework display we went to was free, but with some firework displays I suppose some of the money paid at the gate goes to charidee. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere overlooking the park, then you can cop a free view, a bit like those people who live in flats that overlook sporting stadiums.

Murphmeister - you're absolutely right. The combination of firework smells and whiff of bonfire on a crisp autumn night is an annual thing. Another thing which is an annual event is the letter you always get in the papers advising you to check that there are no hedgehogs in your bonfire from the Tiggywinkles Home For Retired Hedgehogs, or whatever it's called.

Richard - the pyrotechnics are constantly improving, judging by the one we were at last night. All pretty tastefully done, but then it was terribly naice Blackheath.

Rob - you're probably right, but I think the one in Blackheath was extremely well done and lasted for around half an hour, so I can't grumble as it was all for free. No crappy local yokel DJ playing dedications for Kelly's mum at booming volume beforehand either.

Stitchwort - I think I'm going to have to do a serious investigation into whether mittens are still available in shops, especially those sheepskin ones.
The very worst thing about mittens is that they make you throw snowballs like a girl. I have a pair I occasionally use in which the "fingers" peel back for occasional fine work. It's the very best of both worlds.
"In which"? That's all so wrong, isn't it. Oh well.
Billy - sorry I missed you out there. I'm feeling a bit "fragile" this morning and will have to dose up on a cocktail of Aspirin, Feminax and Ajax before I can feel barely human.

Anyway - "Ooooooooooooooooooh! Aahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" Or "Ooooooooooooooooooh! Aarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" as your mates The Wurzels would say.
At Ally Pally they had fireworks roughly synchronised to the music. The climax of Coldplay's 'Fix You' was strangely moving. It really was!
The good thing about the Blackheath display was that the music didn't drown out the fireworks. Plus, they played On Her Majesty's Secret Service by John Barry. You can't beat a bit of John Barry.
I'm thinking it's almost a very long time since the old JM Jarre docklands thing. '87 wasn't it? I went and it was very wet. That kind of thing was very new back then and we were all dutifully astounded.
I would rather watch The Matrix Trilogy back to back, attend a Lord Of The Rings convention, spend the weekend at a battle re-enactment, knock out my own front teeth or have a bout of sleep paralysis than attend a Jean Michel Jarre gig.

Mind you, he is a bit of alright, that I have to concede.
Do you know we went to the display held at the local primary school and
a) they had a crappy address system blasting over the noise of the fireworks - would I have noticed this if you hadn't pointed it out - hmmmm don't know but it annoyed me
b) I nipped in for a wee on a loo where my knees kept my ears warm so I stayed there for 5 minutes.
c) on the way there I passed 2 displays of autumn leaves - ahhhh!
d) I work in a primary school and we have never done a display of autumn leaves - the only person obsessed with them here is the caretaker who does a shoddy job of sweeping them up!
no wonder Ofsted weren't impressed - I shall mention the Autumn leaves thing to the Head at once.
Has anyone mentioned mittens on strings yet? They keep your hands warm and when you don't need to keep warm you can twirl them around. More entertaining than Jean Michel Jarre anyway.
Insert rocket in Jarre (or milk bottle)

Light blue touchpaper

Stand well back
Ziggi - at Blackheath they had announcements done by a mumbling bloke. A Brummie Whispering Bob Harris he was, warning people menacingly that they'd be shot on sight if they were found to be carrying fireworks. Or something like that.

Yeah, your school definitely needs to work on its autumn leaf profile. You certainly need a "how a leaf changes through the year" chart pinned up in the corridors at least.

Realdoc - I think Molly mentioned mittens on strings somewhere earlier. I wish the same principle could be applied to other things that come in pairs for those of us who are scatterbrained and prone to losing stuff - shoes on strings, socks on strings, earrings on strings etc.
Geoff - I wonder what happened to that bloke you worked with who only liked Jean Michel Jarre and nothing else? What an event filled life he must have led ...
I would just like to put on record that I don't actually own anything by JMJ, I attended purely for the curiosity value and because I'd had a dream that one day there would be a system of interlinked computers whose only practical use would be to disuss such things.
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