Kids! Don’t mess with fireworks! It’s not big and it’s not clever.
Grown-Ups! Don’t mess with fireworks either.There are paid professionals out there whose soul purpose in life is to mess with fireworks so you don’t have to.
This arrangement works fine. It’s just very, very dull.
Now, if you still insist on letting off large quantities of explosives and lighting huge bonfires in the privacy of your own back garden in the name of celebrating some Catholic guy’s doomed attempt to blow up the King four hundred years ago, here’s some friendly tips for you:
Number One: Don’t light you bonfire by hurling on a load of petrol out of a milk bottle. You’re setting yourself up for all kinds of trouble, mostly involving a long wait with other burns victims at the Royal Berkshire Hospital; and on November 5th, the waiting time in casualty is approximately six weeks.
Number Two: Don’t use the same milk bottle as an improvised launching tube for your rockets. It may be the only suitable thing you’ve got to hand, and it may be OK for the Russian space programme, but you’re setting yourself up for all kinds of trouble. Again.
Number Three: Do not attempt, under any circumstances, to let all your fireworks off at once.
So, come November fifth Nineteen Eighty-Something, we had the obligatory Pyromaniacs Anonymous fireworks party, and I can assure readers that no drink was involved. Merely stupidity.
Straight from the off, Geoff ignored warning number one, and the effigy of Guy Fawkes burned merrily on the bonfire. Yay, and hardly anyone was hurt in the ball of flame as a pint of petrol spontaneously combusted. Lovely blue flames, and hey, who needs eyebrows anyway?
Then we flagrantly ignored warning number two. I remember it well. We had already set fire to the fence with a catherine wheel nailed in with a six pound club hammer, so things weren’t exactly going particularly well. In went the rocket - it wasn’t a particularly big one either. Geoff lit the blue touch paper at arms’ length with the wimpy little smouldering taper that’s been provided to save your life. The fuse smouldered for a few seconds, as we all stood back to wait for the thing to fizz into the air and detonate with a disappointing “pop”.
Only it didn’t. Instead, as the gunpowder caught with a flash of sparks, so did the petrol fumes left over in the milk bottle. There was a mightily impressive explosion that brought excited cheers from the watching masses.
But the firework still hadn’t finished its work. With its primitive motor still powering on - a legacy of thousands of years of Chinese pigshit-and-sulphur technology, Newton’s Laws stated that it had to go somewhere, and this somewhere was up at an angle of approximately twenty degrees. Straight towards Geoff’s house.
How we laughed.
To be honest, it was a chance in a million. But as they say, chances in a million come up nine times out of ten. The window had only been left open a few inches to air the room, but like a guided missile, the thing found the gap, and gasps of awe changed to shrieks of parental horror as it entered the house. Free it was, free to steal things from the fridge, rustle through the laundry hamper and shit in the airing cupboard. Or, on the other hand...
“That’s our bedroom!” shrieked Geoff’s mum.
...free to explode with a disappointing “pop” on the bed.
How we laughed.
There was a scramble for the back door, muddy footprints up the stairs, the bedroom window flung open and a flaming duvet was flung into the garden, where it joined Guy Fawkes on the happily raging bonfire.
As precocious youths in charge of the pyrotechnics, the shit quite naturally hit the fan, and Geoff spent the next three months paying off new bedding out of his paper-round money.
At that moment in time, we still had a big tin box full of fireworks. Adult interest in the fun had waned somewhat in favour of a punchbowl later described as “rocket fuel mixed with antifreeze, and no, you’re not having any” by rat-arsed parents, and we were left with a large quantity of lethal weapons to dispose of.
And there’s where rule Number Three went for a burton. It was like the artillery bombardment before the Battle of El-Alamein, and the whole lot went in minutes five. Fun. Great big, fat, stupid, life threatening fun. We saved the airbombs (now banned by a pussy-footing, wimped out government) to let off down the railway arches the next day, and peppered the surrounding area with a barrage that would have shamed the RAF at Dresden.
Geoff’s mum, now considerably cooled off, came down the garden towards us, as we hurled buckets of water over the evidence.
If the bloke from the garden centre behind Geoff’s house happens to be reading this: we’re really, really sorry about your hedge. Honest. It grew back, didn’t it?