Monday, November 5, 2018

Night and dark

Another Guy Fawkes Night has passed, and tomorrow I'll be off to work in the morning, kicking spent fireworks on the street as I walk to the bus.

Guy Fawkes Night is our national guity secret. We have no claim to it, and little good ever came of it, save the delights of children in wicked firelight and bangs and cracks loud enough to wake the Devil.

Trooping the Guys, Oamaru, November 1936.
Photo courtesy: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19361118-49-4

As a child, particularly in the Seventies, I loved Bonfire Night and the excitement of fireworks, took part in enjoying the casual availability of firecrackers and rockets once pocket money became a factor and have plenty of good memories from years of marking the event: genuine actual rural community bonfire nights in Morven, an hour up the road from our home town where real Guys were wheeled around before their ritual immolation for various charitable ventures. I remember Tom Thumbs, Po-Has, Golden Rain (stop sniggering back there) and Roman Candles (but not Doublehappies), and my Dad nearly burning a hole through his new wooden fence with a shonkily-nailed Catherine Wheel, and I remember school friends who'd work their way through toy plastic soldiers and a pack of smaller crackers, doing what schoolboys have done to toy soldiers since time immeasurable. My memories aren't unusual, and do count for something, but I'm happy to have them in the past when the present means that public displays (especially in the bigger cities) are much more spectacular, better run, safer and free, and I haven't bought a firework (sparklers included) in nigh over twenty years.

But the whole thing is an absurdity placed where it is, and when it is to this day: during Daylight Saving at a seasonally dry time of the year in a past colony when even Australia don't observe the festival. It's a throwback.

You know where I'm going with this. Every bloody year, newspaper editorials about grass fires, damage to property, cruelty to pets, and worse in the past (skyrocket fights between the towers of Otago University's Unicol hall, for example)Yes, I think, as I mentioned earlier, we need to move fireworks to another time of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. Remove the barbaric Jesuit Plotter observance - it is literally meaningless in New Zealand, serving only as an excuse for jokers to bring out the perennial gag concerning Fawkes being "the only person to enter Parliament with honourable intentions" (ho ho), move any actual fireworks to a winter month like, say, July, and stop the public sale of fireworks altogether.

of course, this is exacly what the Wellington City Council did this year, observing matariki as a true winter festival of light, and while the night was cold, the publc still came, braving a waterfront chill to be assured of a good show (slightly delayed due to an errant whale in the harbour, of course) at a child-friendly time.

Fireworks AND Parliament. Matariki 2018

So there - proof of concept, and we'd have the unending thanks of emergency services, the SPCA and parents of very young children the country over.

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