Received Sat, 8 Nov 2014 at 10:18 a.m.
Please to remember
Submitted by Hype.O.Thermia on Sat, 08/11/2014 – 1:07am.
“We’re not “celebrating” Mr Fawkes as a hero. We’re celebrating the fact that he failed to destroy parliament, failed to institute an absolutist monarch.”
Back in the distant days of my childhood the connection with Mr Fawkes and the night of fireworks was clear. We had bonfires, we gathered wood for it and built it up, kids being told by adults, and you don’t just chuck sticks in the direction of the pile, there’s a right way to do these things. And we had a guy, trousers and shirt and a round head-shaped bundle with a hat on top if someone’s Dad could be persuaded to part with an old one. So the story of Guy Fawkes was told, short and medium and long versions, and we knew from kids’ stories that English kids trundled their guy around the neighbourhood and people gave them money in response to their call, “Penny for the guy?”
Safety has ruled out all but the most rigidly organised public Guy Fawkes nights. We can’t have our own bonfires among friends, so there’s nowhere to burn a guy, so they don’t get made and the story has died or, as is seen in comments, misunderstood as celebrating Guy Fawkes, hero. Many popular types of fireworks have been outlawed for reasons of safety, only for the law of unintended consequences to kick in. Manufacturers added ear-shattering noise to replace the banned excitements.
In country areas the bonfire could be 2 or 3 neighbours’ shared festivity, or in a nearby town the Lions or some other group might organise a big bonfire for all comers, and Plunket sold hot dogs and cuppas to raise funds. Everyone would bring along their own fireworks, little kids waved sparklers, older kids lit strings of crackers and threw them at each other and laughed when the target leapt in shock at the bangs at his feet.
Next day we kids scoured the scuffed area around the charcoal and ashes looking for fireworks whose fuse had gone out, and the greatest prize: an untouched one that someone might have dropped in the dark. This was before daylight saving, we stayed up way past our usual bedtimes, but after all this was a special occasion, only once a year.
The ratio of injury to activity was pretty good, from memory. Especially with the private family bonfires, there was a great deal of scouring for dry branches and dragging them to the bonfire site, everyone had to physically do something. In the process we tended to get our ears bent about bonfires and matches and dry grass and how easily fire could spread, and the importance of having water buckets and a hose if it would reach, and sacks to wet if there had been no rain for a while and there could be sparks into dry vegetation.
Perhaps fireworks do need to be removed permanently from sale to the public, because so many of the public are no longer in touch with real practical elements of life such as safe outdoor fires, urban digital competence is a whole different knowledge set from what we grew up surrounded by when I was thrilled by November 5th, some double happies and being allowed to light one of the rockets, reminded of the checking procedure, where is it pointing, and is the bottle it’s sitting in well-seated so it won’t tilt?
[abridged at ODT Online]
● Lake Okareka Volunteer Rural Fire Force 2014 [okarekarural.fire.com]
● Sparklers, CrispNZ Trips [cris.lovell-smith.com]
█ NZ Herald 31.10.14
█ The Economist 4.11.14
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr