I don't like fireworks, they make me nervous, usually because they are either found in the hands of horrible pikey type people or fat middle aged men who are slightly merry after supping one to many pinot grigios and are now out to impress friends and neighbours with a tour de force display of pyrotechnics. Either way, best case scenario; local countryside or cityscape's are set on fire. Worst case; horrific burns and injuries are inflicted on innocent onlookers.
If on the other hand the pikey type people are injured I don't really mind, I'd be lying if I said I was ambivalent because I think shopkeepers and other purveyors of the sparkly hot stuff should be able to make a judgement call if a suspected pikey tries to buy fireworks (are they wearing a cap/sports kit/sallow skin/Lizzie Duke jewellery?) If yes then they can pick up the 'bargain pikey party pack' with those special fuses that are much shorter than normal ones, when I say much shorter, I actually mean non-existent; the fire work just goes off instantly, in their face with any luck.
I jest of course, (I'm don't, I mean it.)
But what is it about fireworks that attracts so many people, I'm a long way away from my own childhood, so much so I don't remember if I liked fireworks (or anything else really.) I can only assume since I was as miserable then as I am now (if in a more general sense, I'm much more focused now) I probably wasn't keen on them. All the oohing and aaahing that goes on, people can't still be serious when they do that?
Maybe fireworks bring out the child in us? Big bangs and sparkly colours? Is that doing it for you? (Its not doing it for me.) Perhaps its the expense, all that cash going up in such dramatic circumstances? (A microcosm of the banking crisis?) Or maybe its the sense of community, standing among hundreds of fellow revellers freezing your tits off as things crackle and go bang in the sky? Maybe its a throw back to darker times when we cowered in our caves at anything not mud coloured?
Who knows and to be honest, who cares.
Now for the educational bit, what is it that inspires people to waste so much money on or around the fifth of November? Well, a person called Guy Fawkes a.k.a John Johnson or Guido Fawkes, the Guido he adopted while fighting for the Spanish (not while he was holidaying there.) He returned to England hellbent on destroying the throne and government of King James the I of England and IV of Scotland. James was the son of Mary Queen of Scot's and not popular with Guido Fawkes and his catholic co-conspirators.
They rented some space beneath the Houses of Parliament (not something I imagine one could do these days) and proceeded to fill it with gunpowder. Shortly before it was due to go pop, a letter was received, the Parliament searched and Fawkes captured. He admitted his part in the plot but they tortured him anyway in the Tower of London (the room is named after him, which is nice) where after several bouts of physical persuasion he gave up the names of his cohorts. King James was a Scottish King as well as English (and not very good by some accounts,) when asked by members of the King's Privy Chamber what his intentions were Fawkes was heard to say "to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains." Which is nice.
What was even less nice and if I'm being honest, despite his apparent dislike of the 'Scotch' was the sentence handed down after he (and seven others) were convicted of high treason, I quote: "...put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both". Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes, and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become "prey for the fowls of the air."
They had me at the genitals bit and would have had me at the 'halfway between heaven and earth' if I knew what it meant.
As it turned out, Guido Fawkes managed to fling himself off the scaffold set up for the purposes of dismemberment, breaking his neck in the process. The London crowd, not to be deprived of a spectacle watched as his body was quartered and sent to the four corners of the kingdom to put others off the notion of any copycat crimes anyway.
The upshot was, on the 5th of November 1605 London citizens were encouraged to light bonfires in celebration of their King not being sent ot the moon. The fireworks part of it all didn't start till a bit later (the 1650's,) the effigy that was first burnt on the bonfires wasn't Guy Fawkes but the Pope due to the heir apparent's secret transmogrification to Catholicism in 1673ish, (say ish because this is all mostly from wikipedia so who knows...) Nowadays, the effigy can represent anyone not popular, the list is long containing as it does anyone who ever went on My Super Sweet Sixteen.
Finally, Guido Fawkes is sometimes referred to ""the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions." I can relate to that (the sentiment of the 'Scotch' being blown back to the hills not-with-standing.)
All that has very little to do with fireworks though these days, I suppose I'm being curmudgeonly (again) because while they do make me nervous, that is only true when they are in the hands of the demographic I mentioned in the first paragraph, for hogmanay for example; I don't mind.
We used to do a fireworks display in our local village (when I say we, I mean they, I steered well clear.) There would be a bonfire and burgers, the villagers would don the cold weather gear and watch in boredom as one firework was lit at a time, whoosh! Wait a minute... Fizzz! Wait another minute... Hold on, dropped the lighter thingy... Cracklewhooshfizzz! Wait a minute or two... Repeat for about an hour...
In short, it was boring as fuck and freezing cold too. Much better they put the whole lot in a pile, douse with petrol then throw a match at it and its every man, woman and child for themselves.
I'd go and watch that fireworks display.