My love affair with danger is over, some would say before it started. I never enjoyed speeding, and my interest in scary theme park rides disappeared in the late Seventies. I did used to enjoy climbing the front of buildings after a few drinks, but I've got kids now, and I can't be doing that sort of thing. I haven't been on a ledge since 1995, when I got locked in a flat in Paris. I still allow myself the small thrill of clambering on to the roof to re-position the TV aerial, but even then I change into special shoes.
So it's not surprising I hate fireworks, even when you factor in my youthful obsession with them. I grew up in Connecticut, where fireworks were illegal, and therefore extremely popular. I bought my first dozen bottle rockets from some hippies. I remember one of them giving me a stern lecture about safety, which sounded a bit pious coming from someone who was selling contraband explosives to an eight-year-old. For weeks after the 4th of July, my friends and I combed the beaches for unexploded remnants, from which we collected the gunpowder to fashion larger explosives. Over time our interest in fireworks became ancillary. All we really wanted to do was start fires, and make bombs.
Then suddenly, I grew up. After too many burnt fingers, flaming coats and close calls, the whole business lost its edge. Nowadays few things depress me more than watching grown men arse about with fireworks. Have they never burnt down a shed? Has the novelty of having something blow up in one's hand not yet worn off?
You can imagine how much I enjoy Bonfire Night, where even official proceedings are often out of control. At the last one I attended, the bonfire took off with the roar of a jet engine, driving the crowds back as flames licked the underside of the M40 overpass. Bits of burning rubbish descended into people's hair, while children lit fireworks underfoot.
My wife misses the point of my anti-fireworks stance, preferring to believe it stems from my being, to use one of her adopted Americanisms, "a pussy". Suffice to say she has never seen me climb the front of a building.Reuse content