Bonfire Night: time to take fireworks off the shelves and end November 5 traditions

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Do we really need Bonfire Night anymore? It’s been eclipsed by Hallowe’en where grown adults turn themselves into Bettlejuice characters and go partying, while some kids still go guising, although not on the scale we did as nippers.

Bonfire Night feels like a bit of a relic clinging on to a tradition that has run its course. The flames feel more like embers.

The days of seeing kids intoxicated by huge firework displays in shops have gone, and it must be 30 years since I last went to an organised event in Kirkcaldy. Standing around a bonfire - most of them down to the sterling work of Rotarians and Round Tablers on a freezing, dark night with toasted marshmallows and a mug of something warm has lost its wider appeal.

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Some endure, but few towns have major displays any more, so maybe it’s time to simply sweep fireworks off the shelves and declare an end to all this gunpowder, treason and plot malarkey on November 5.

How Guy Fawkes Night used to look (Pic: TSPLK archives)How Guy Fawkes Night used to look (Pic: TSPLK archives)
How Guy Fawkes Night used to look (Pic: TSPLK archives)

As kids growing up in Sighthill in Edinburgh I can recall building a huge bonfire on waste ground next to our flats. We scavenged for for what felt like weeks, and loads of folk turned out to watch it burn. So did the fire brigade, but we didn’t respond by lobbing bricks and stones at them which seems to be the default setting of some of today’s generation just itching for a scrap with anyone in authority. Last year parts of Edinburgh became no go zones. The destruction and violence were appalling.

Our displays in the back garden were pitiful in comparison with the industrial strength pyrotechnics people buy nowadays which are then set off by folk with zero thought given to neighbours, their kids or pets. Start when you like, finish as late as you want, and pack as many ultra-loud bangs into the time as you can - that seems to be the ethos of too many people to allow this annual chaos to continue.

They’d laugh with derision if they were handed the boxes of fireworks we had as bairns - Catherine wheels stuck on shoogly nails on the fence, and some pitiful wee rockets plonked in milk bottles, while the youngest kids got to draw circles with a sparkle. It was a miracle if half of our fireworks even ignited let alone exploded with a sound wouldn’t have scared a mouse.

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Astra fireworks bought out of Woollies were pretty rubbish, but they did the trick for a generation and more until someone raised the ante and unleashed a new arsenal of big bangs to stage shows which seem to be on par with the finale to major concerts and sports events. Do we really news that?

Pet owners hate them with a passion, parents of young kids resign themselves to a broken night, while anyone within earshot just has to thole the explosions until the last mortar has been sent skyward.

The “it’s only night of the year” argument holds about as much water as the buckets we used to have handy in case a wee rocket went rogue, because too many people misuse fireworks, and too many don’t care. It;’s my show, my garden and I’ll make as much noise as I want seems to some up too many on Bonfire Night.

Silent fireworks may be one solution - they aren’t wholly silent but significantly better - or maybe we just bin the whole night once and for all. I doubt it’d be missed.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Fife Free Press.