London is currently a very pretty, sparkly, colourful, scary war zone.
There’s a buzz of anticipation in the air along with a cloudy haze and a definite whiff of gunpowder. The night is rent with whining and whistling and crackling, loud volleys of short staccato pops and punctuated by deep booming base notes. Everywhere I look I see stabbing flashes of light twinkling briefly, expanding, then fading into nothing. Fireworks are legal here, although I’m sure the emergency services wish they weren’t. I’m sure there must be more to it than just being an excuse for people who like exploding things, to go to their local supermarket and stock up on things that explode.
This outburst of explosion fever doesn’t just occur on Bonfire Night, although it’s a definite climax, but ramps up, like Christmas, for a month or so beforehand. Perhaps it’s because people aren’t sure of the date, as they can’t remember the rhyme (which, frankly, is a pretty poor excuse for a mnemonic, as one could substitute any one of nine monosyllabic ordinal numbers for the word ‘fifth’ and any of three months ending in ‘-ember’ for the word ‘november’, giving a total of 27 potential date options that would fit the phrase perfectly.)
I wonder how many people celebrating Bonfire Night with enthusiastic and reckless abandon actually know the history of the event 403 years ago? How many recognise its basis in religious persecution, and an act of desperate terrorism, or a celebration of deliverance from catholicism? (and we all need deliverance from catholicism.) Maybe people are tonight celebrating the victory of Barack Obama! Certainly something to celebrate there in my humble opinion. Much as I like the pretty colours and flashing lights I can’t help but think that it’s all a huge waste of money and resources and a prime example of short-termism – momentary enjoyment and flashiness today with no thought for tomorrow. Bah-humbug.
I’m not sure we’ll get much sleep tonight, as we live near the Whitechapel Hospital and will probably be continually interrupted by ambulance sirens and helicopters delivering foolish burnt and handless people to the A&E.