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The Parsimonious Bonfire Night

In which the noise and the smell are as important as the sights.


Today, we were up in Worcestershire; and as we drove home down the dark motorway, we watched rockets flying up into the sky, from all the towns and villages along the way. Strensham, Tewkesbury; Gloucester and Stonehouse.

Back at Symbolic Towers, we have a tiny little pocket garden, almost all of it rather flammable. Now, if you read the instructions on a box of fireworks, you’re supposed to leave more space between firework and buildings, firework and burnables, firework and yourself, than we ever have any chance of having behind our house.*

Despite that, when we got home, we went through to the back of the house and stood out in the garden, the air damp and smoky, and listened to the sound of Bonfire Night. Living in a city, the dark evening was a constant bubble of crackles and bangs, deep bass thumps and high-pitched, tense rattles. Every now and then the sky would flash; every now and then there would be a rocket close enough to see. We stood out, until it got too cold, stood still, sniffed the burning in the air and listened to the noises of the fireworks. The noises of winter starting.

* Of course, the same applies to the vast majority of gardens, because you’re supposed to leave a huge amount of space for safety. But that doesn’t really alter the fact that, if we were to try setting off a rocket from our little patch of land, we – and the garden – would end up rather singed.

Keyword noise: , , , , , , , ,

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4 comments on “The Parsimonious Bonfire Night”

  1. Dimitra says:

    ‘The noises of winter starting.’ I liked that. And it’s true.

  2. bsag says:

    Lovely! Very evocative. I’m fond of this time of year, despite all the fireworks.

  3. David says:

    Fireworks seem incredibly dangerous to me. Maybe I have been brainwashed, but in some ways I am surprised, given pervading “health and safety” concerns, that there has not been more pressure to outlaw their sales to the public. Incidentally, I notice that reduced visibility, due to smoke from a nearby fireworks display, is being mentioned as a possible cause of the recent M5 motorway crash.

  4. Forest Pines says:

    Banning over-the-counter firework sales is something that, I think, is suggested regularly by various organisations. I don’t think an outright ban is likely to happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the maximum size of fireworks gets reduced; and, with the Taunton crash, if fireworks displays are brought within the remit of local licensing authorities.

    @BSAG: Thank you! The part of me that likes cats and hedgehogs does get a little uncomfortable about fireworks and bonfires altogether; but there is nothing quite like the sound and smell of a city full of them.

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