Monday, January 03, 2005

Whiz Bang

Many countries have a day when the people set off fireworks in celebration of something or other. In the Netherlands it is New Year's Eve. A few days before, the build-up begins. Occasional pooms of firecrackers litter the soundscape. The frequency increases gradually, at first, but actually it is an exponential curve so that the rate of firecracker explosions and rocket launches increases until the evening of the day itself. This is when kids are to be seen throwing firecrackers at cars and occasional bursts of cluster-firecrackers. Through the evening, there are increasing numbers of fireworks launched.

Upon the hour of change itself, all hell breaks loose. What before sounded like sporadic gunfire, becomes a full-on assault. The world, his wife and their 8-year-old son are on the street setting off huge rounds of firecrackers and launching all manner of fizzing, popping, whooshing, whizzing, spinning, sparkling, sploffing, poofing, booming things. Mostly in a way that is frighteningly unsafe.

In the UK, our firework day is the 5th of November and celebrates a failed attempt at what today would be called terrorism, but was probably more of a revolutionary thing. The plan was to blow up the seat of government, and there are those that joke that Guy Fawkes was the last man to enter Parliament with honest intent. The joke would be somewhat different had he succeeded, I am sure. But in the lead up to the celebration of the thwarting of the gunpowder plot (celebrated by setting of fireworks and burning effigies of Mr Fawkes), there are so many public service announcements and advertisements about the dangers of fireworks that most English people are convinced even looking at one can cause harm. And as a rule, they are set off by following the instructions to the letter.

I am always surprised at the lack of death and injury the day yields. I read that one kid was killed from a firework to the face, but have not seen any figures for injuries. They must be high. Alcohol, exuberance and fireworks are not the safest combination there is. That is probably lukewarm tea, light enjoyment and a nice warm scone. Happy New Year, everybody, raise your scones high.

Fireworks - Scones - The Choice is Yours

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