I’ve always liked fireworks. It seems delightful that, amidst our LED-illuminated high-tech world of lasers, giant displays and 3D computer graphics, the best way to make a large crowd of people all gasp in pleasure simultaneously is, still, to employ a Chinese technology more than a millennium old.
In my youth, Guy Fawkes’ Night was a treat, when we trudged across a couple of dark fields in our wellies to the local hill where, in the glow of an enormous bonfire, the town council put on a modest but very pleasing display; generally the one night of the year when fireworks would be seen.
Now, however, people seem to let them off on every conceivable occasion. There were some here last night, for New Year’s Eve, which is fair enough, and no doubt some of our neighbours will decide to pop some tonight to celebrate New Year’s Day. We had some near Christmas, too. And for this newfangled Halloween thing, now I come to think about it.
Then there are those who decide to let them off on some other night, perhaps the weekend closest to whatever date is being celebrated, so more people can attend. Since November 5th fell in the middle of the week last year, we had something going bang up above us most nights for a whole week. Random corporate, sporting or university events decide to include them occasionally throughout the year. And, of course, being in central Cambridge, where we are surrounded by the college May Balls, there is a week or so in mid-summer when there are fireworks going off every evening, usually from more than one venue at once.
All of this is exceedingly distressing for our rather nervous spaniel, and no doubt for most other animal life in the area. But it seems a bit sad to me, too. When they were something you could only see once a year at a special event – since very few people of our acquaintance would purchase them for a home display – it was, well, a bit more magical. Christmas comes but once a year, and rightly so. I can’t help feeling that Bonfire Night would benefit from the same self-restraint…