If you’re a horse or pet owner, chances are you hate fireworks because of the distress and even injury that they can cause to animals. Hopefully, you also share my loathing of Chinese lanterns, which can cause devastating harm to wild and domesticated animals as well as damaging property.
I’d love it if the sale of fireworks to individuals was banned and that “quiet” ones only could be used solely at licensed, organised events. As for Chinese lanterns, I’d be ecstatic if they were banned, full stop.
Am I the anti-social one? If so, I don’t care. I don’t think we in the UK enjoy fireworks. I think we’re caught up in a tradition that could be consigned to the history books without anyone feeling hard done by.
Think back to your childhood memories of Guy Fawkes Night, if it’s part of your family tradition. Do they give you a glow as warm as a crackling bonfire and a sense of history? Or are you more likely to remember loud noises, cold hands and feet and a sense that you weren’t really enjoying yourself?
For many people, Guy Fawkes Night is simply Bonfire Night. It isn’t really a commemoration of the failure of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, when activists planned to assassinate King James I and blow up the Houses of Parliament in the name of religious freedom.
Instead, it’s a chance to stand around a bonfire, eating jacket potatoes, sausages and toffee apples, washed down with mulled wine/beer/beverage of your choice. If that appeals, go ahead – but why not ditch the fireworks and save money and stress?
Every year, petitions to the government demanding restrictions or bans on the sale of fireworks are started on the government website. Every time a petition on petition.parliament.uk, attracts 10,000 signatures, the government must respond, while 100,000 signatures mean that the petition must be debated in parliament.
Such petitions regularly attract more than 100,000 signatures, so if you feel strongly, search for and sign current ones. If you think I’m curtailing your freedom of choice, and know that you only use fireworks responsibly, please remember the many who don’t and the heartbreak they can cause.
The only fireworks display I remember with pleasure was staged as part of a performance of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. It was held on a summer’s night at a stately home, well away from “ordinary” houses.
Unfortunately, I have a sharper memory of what happened to a neighbour’s mare six years ago. The organisers of a nearby event in a rural area forgot to warn neighbouring farms that they would be letting off loud fireworks for ten solid minutes and the mare, who was stabled, panicked.
She cut her eyelid, developed stress colic and was later found to have damaged a suspensory ligament. All that because of ten anti-social minutes.
Ever since, her owners have added a supplement designed to promote calmness to her winter regime. The memories of that ghastly night are so strong, they say they’re tempted to sprinkle it on their cornflakes.
These days, fireworks are everywhere and Guy Fawkes Night lasts for a fortnight. I appreciate that fireworks are part of Chinese New Year – after all, the Chinese are said to have invented them and 90 per cent of the fireworks we buy are made in China – but fireworks and those unspeakable Chinese lanterns at weddings, for heaven’s sake?
Stick to sparklers and let the happy couple make their own fireworks. They’ll have much more fun.