The modern fireworks display is very much centred on bangs and explosions. Firework selection boxes that offer comparatively timid squibs, such as the volcano and the Roman candle, are often shunned in favour of those that screech, flash and burst. The attraction of the more volatile brand of firework is not a new fad though.
I remember successfully buying my first box of bangers, having lied to the newsagent that I was 14. With explosives in our hands (or rather in our pockets for convenience, even though public information films stressed that fireworks should never be carried this way), a group of us roamed the estate in search of novel ways to detonate our charges. We lit the blue touchpaper up drainpipes, in biscuit tins (lid blown off) and down car exhausts. One lad did the old trick of splitting open a banger and making a pile of the ‘gunpowder’ that came out. He lit this with a match and it went up in a puff of thick white smoke; a stunt that was generally deemed a waste of a banger. These explosive enterprises offered more by way of excitement than any fountain of sparks that came from a box of fireworks.
When my own children were about first school age, I noticed a guy from the next estate setting off a box of fireworks for his kids on a grass hill nearby. I took my children to watch, but others from the estate had turned up too, some of who were not shy in offering their opinion of the display. As the bloke lit a series of tame fireworks that offered nothing by way of explosion, but threw out coloured flames and sparks, the uncouth element of the audience laughed mockingly, and words such as ‘crap’ were heard from that section throughout the performance. I really felt for the guy.
Many years later I went through a similar experience. I was at a bonfire party at a friend’s and I was Shanghaied into the role of pyrotechnics manager, along with my friend Graeme. I don’t know if it was because the fireworks were stored in damp grass, but they fell some way short of spectacular. We were in a field at the bottom of a hill, and up at the top, by the house, excited children waited with their parents for the big display. You’ll get an idea of how poor the fireworks were when I tell you that the biggest ‘ooh’ from the kids came when Graeme flicked his cigarette end away.
Whether you will be detonating air bombs, or creating showers of flame for the kids this Guy Fawkes’ Night, be careful and safe in what you do. And remember, many pets are terrified by fireworks.