Monday, 5 November 2007

Gunpowder, treason and plot

Today marks the 402nd anniversary of the discovery of a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder, killing the King, his court and all other inhabitants. And as a result, we get to celebrate this every year by setting off tons of dangerous high explosives.

Who said irony was a modern invention?

Growing up, Bonfire Night was one of my most favourite times of the year. You'd got over the shock of returning to school following the summer holidays, Christmas was tantalisingly just around the corner, and you had the joy of fireworks. Always the fireworks.

As a young child, I'd get taken to my aunt and uncle who had a house with a decent-sized garden in Hall Green. My brothers and our cousins would watch as my uncle built a huge bonfire - normally about 12 feet high with a full-sized Guy wearing that year's cast-offs - and with the assistance of a petrol can he'd set the thing off. I swear, some years this would be visible from space and face-meltingly hot from fifty feet away. The Health and Safety gurus would have had a field day.

The thing I've only just remembered, though, was the relatively poor quality of fireworks back then. There were two main British makes - Brocks and Standard - and it's fair to say that they could have been filed under "fizzle" rather than "bang". However, as a child it didn't matter, and we would find it magical, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the colours, the pops, the whooshes, the sparks.

I've just thought of something else. When my brothers got too old to come along, we stopped going to Hall Green. Our garden was too small to have a bonfire party. So on November 5th, to get my fix, I'd go upstairs with a glass of milk and sit at the window of my room, lights out, watching everyone else's fireworks.

If you can think of a sadder picture than this, I don't want to know.

Fast forward to now. Fireworks have become much more effective, with manufacturers turning to China (where, let's face it, they have a pretty good history with gunpowder). They're louder, brighter, more powerful. And relatively easy to get - you can buy professional display-quality stuff from any number of temporary shops that spring up each year.

We live in a happily multi-racial society, so whilst my neighbours may not celebrate the quashing of a 17th century assassination attempt, they have other reasons for the son et lumiere. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, tend to happen around about this time of year, too.

As a result, around here we have airbombs going off with no notice for about three or four weeks - especially at weekends. The air hangs heavy with the smell of cordite, and there's always one or two pillocks who think it's a bit of a laugh to let one off at 3AM.

This must be an age thing - I am clearly reaching old-fartness here. You see, as a child I would have loved to have had firework displays pretty much all the time. But you must be careful what you wish for.

You know what? With what sounds like The Somme going on outside my window, I'm beginning to go off fireworks.

9 comments:

Tom said...

We only get them at or around Independence Day.

I'm sorry I don't mean to bring up bad feelings.

And what in the world is a pillock? I think I can guess, but I don't know for sure.

Le laquet said...

Yeh but they're pretty and ... yeh ok you're right almost old-fartness makes me want to tell them to shut the hell up too!

Rebecca said...

Tom said it before me, but we Americans only get mucho fireworks on Independence Day and not after that time. The only time of year when Christmas can conceivably be called right around the corner--that is, without the advertising influence of Madison Avenue--is our Thanksgiving, the third Thursday in November.

City Girl said...

I only just learned about this holiday last week!

It turns out that all those noisy, nasty fireworks are supplied by a manufacturer/importer right here in my little Alabama town.

Such a small world. :o)

Kate said...

I sympathise, here in Wolves we have the same thing, constant explosions for weeks.
They're pretty for a while, but I'm now fed up with having my legs shredded by scared cats!

fatboyfat said...

Oh my God, so many comments! I would respond properly, but I'm so tired - just had a very disappointing evening trying (and failing) to watch my brother's wedding on the Internet.

But suffice it to say, Tom, "pillock" is the word I'd use to describe whoever is responsible for bandwidth at the Little Chapel of Flowers at Las Vegas. It's not terribly complimentary.

City said...

Uh-Oh. It's Tuesday and you haven't posted yet - HURRY!

fatboyfat said...

No problem - I've got a few hours yet - but thanks for the heads-up!

Tom said...

I think the person responsible for the bandwidth at the Little Chapel of Flowers is Elvis. Since he's dead, you kinda have to cut him a little slack. It's hard for dead guys to keep up with all the technology.

I mean, the constant disinterring... it makes you want to be cremated after awhile!

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