Bang! Boom!

Today, 5 November, is Guy Fawkes and tonight many animals will be scared witless by fireworks, and a number of children and drunks will be injured by fireworks while celebrating something/someone that they know very little about. 

When I was very young Guy Fawkes was celebrated in South Africa (although we seemed to think it was called Guy Fox), and we knew even less about what it was about than people in the UK.  Frankly we didn’t really care either because it was all about shooting off fireworks!

Fireworks back then were a “controlled” item; they were only available before Guy Fawkes and on the 6th of November were removed from the shelves for another year. As kids we saved our pennies (cents) and bummed money from our parents to buy “crackers”. And, naturally it always seemed to rain on 5 November much to our disgust.

Once darkness fell we would go shoot off our horde of eagerly collected fireworks and watch those rare occasions when people splurged out on some really expensive “Roman Candle” that fizzed away to our accompanying oohs and aahs.  Occasionally there would be the swish of a bottle rocket and the staccato bangs of “Tom Thumbs” being lit by the boxful. Once our fireworks were done we would look for the squibs that had not gone off and break them in half and light the middle bit to burn the gunpowder that had escaped. They would briefly burn with a satisfying flame that the relatively tame “Sparklers” did not have.

And then it was over.

The next day on the way to school we would examine the burnt out remnants in the vain hope that we would find unexploded crackers or squibs that we could set off that night. But pickings would be meagre and that night there would be the occasional pop and squeeeeee and we would not see or hear from fireworks for another year

At some point Guy Fawkes died when the government decided to ban fireworks altogether and it soon faded into memory until the ban was lifted a few years back.

The problem was that the stuff being fired off now was not the tame Tom Thumb of our past but huge fireworks that seemed to pack more power than a thunderflash. There was also no control over them so they became available at the drop of a hat to celebrate  Christmas, New Year, Diwali, Guy Fawkes, favourite team wins and so forth. The amount of pets that got lost went up almost immediately and emergency rooms saw the usual crop of drunks and kids who had not played safely with fireworks. There were also the usual sadists who attempted to blow up their dogs or children and occasionally each other. 

Guy Fawkes did not feature in it at all. In fact if you asked anybody in South Africa who Guy Fawkes was they would have probably mumbled something about “that oke with the crackers who wanted to blow up the toilet”. 

In the UK though Guy Fawkes does have some sort of relevance, and tonight there will be some fireworks and bonfires and drunks and kids in emergency rooms.

Should we even care about shooting off fireworks?

Make no mistake about it, a controlled fireworks display is stunning to watch, but it is a short lived event that only exists for that period and is then over with. It does not carry on for the rest of the week and at random times of the night. A talented pyrotechnician can do some amazing things with fireworks, and in Southampton there were often displays over the harbour when a new ship sailed on her maiden cruise.

Unfortunately the effect on animals is not very good, and my brother always used to give his dog a tranquilliser to see him through the evening. 

Some religions do include fireworks in their celebrations, and I can understand their reasoning behind it, but frankly things that go BANG! do not cut it with the PC mob any longer, and I suspect we will see less and less of them as time passes. I am sure there is already an app to download your own fireworks to your smartphone. If that is what it takes to scare one less animal then I am all for it, make it so! 

Tonight will probably be a loud one, and the emergency services will be on alert as people loose their marbles. Let us hope it is of limited duration, for the sake of the dogs and cats as well as the kids, although I am not too sure about the drunks.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 05/11/2016. Images of fireworks kindly provided by  


This entry was posted in Heritage, Personal, Retrospective, South Africa, United Kingdom and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.