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.
In which we suggest some healthy and Government-approved alternatives
It’s November the 5th, and so it’s time, of course, to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, the cunning plan to murder the King, the government and the parliament, 400 years ago today. I’ve always thought the November timing to be a bit convenient for an event involving warm fires and pretty explosions. What would we do if the Opening of Parliament was in, say, June? You can’t have a nice big effigy-burning in June – that would be silly, and everyone would overheat. You’d have to stay up damn late to see the fireworks, too.*
Just remember, though, if you’re at a bonfire or if you’re watching the fireworks, to make sure you don’t make any jokes along the lines of “we could do with fewer politicians anyway,” or “shame they didn’t finish the job properly.” That would be glorifying terrorism – you can probably get away with saying it now, but this time next year comments like that will be strictly illegal and liable to land you with a lengthy prison sentence. Instead, the Symbolic Forest management would like to suggest the following alternative, appropriate Government-approved phrases for use at fireworks displays:
“God save the politicians!”
“Hurrah for torture-extracted confessions!”
“Look at that nasty terrorist burrrrrn!”
The legality of using the phrase “Wooo!” when a rocket explodes is, at present, unclear.
* Yes, I know that both the French and Americans manage to have firework celebrations in July. It gets darker earlier in France and America, though. So there.