We went to the local bonfire night event last night, and it was wrong in so many ways that there was a point at which Richard and I both gave up and sat on the floor with our heads in our hands at the immeasurable incorrectness of it all. Here is why:
1. It wasn't on actual Guy Fawkes night. However, we will forgive this point as it is much more convenient to go and watch fireworks at the weekend when you have children.
2. It cost £6.00 per adult and £4.00 per child to get in. A crude bit of mathematics on my fingers tells me that this totals £20.00 for your average family of four. TWENTY QUID. TO WATCH SOME FIREWORKS. WHICH LASTED 15 MINUTES. (we'll get to that later).
3. As we walked through the gates into the park, we were greeted by the most disagreeable, eerie sound one could imagine to hear on a cold, dark night in November: Someone doing a Punch and Judy show. Are you kidding me? Punch and Judy is petrifying even on a hot summer's day, but I assure you that hearing Mr Punch's unearthly, nasal screech penetrating the darkness is enough to send you running in the opposite direction.
4. I'm still on the Punch and Judy show here. Lets suppose that people actually like Punch and Judy (which is a huge suspension of disbelief, because nobody actually does): What is the point of putting it on in the dark at an event attended by thousands of people? It takes place in a tiny puppet theatre booth, making it impossible for more than about 50 people to see it. Whereas we all got to hear every single haunting "Mr Crocodile is coming for you" and "that's the way to do it" because they'd mic'd it up so that it could be heard for miles around, with extra added reverb to make it even more terrifying.
5. Sparklers were banned for health and safety reasons. I know they're dangerous. I know. But they're fun. And anyway, they were replaced by a stall that sold light sabres for the kids to swoosh around instead. I refer you back to the health and safety point here. Whoever decided to replace sparklers with light sabres has obviously not got a child, because if they had a child, they'd have been poked in the eye with a light sabre, or belted over the head with one, or prodded in the guts, or worse. I'm quite glad that Rich and I have made the decision not to have any more children, because after the blow to the spuds that he took with one of said light sabres, I'm not sure he'd be capable of providing me with any.
6. It was hosted by someone who I can only compare to Brian Potter off of Phoenix Nights. We were subject to what felt like hours of inane gibberish and playing for time via another microphone. At one point he was joined by some bloke from the fireworks team, leading to a particularly unfunny Chuckle Brothers effect. We did at least three countdowns to the start fireworks, by which point, nobody cared any more. "FOR GODS SAKE, SOMEONE SHOVE ONE UP HIS ARSE" heckled a bloke from behind me to a small but vehement chorus of approval from those around him.
7. More health and safety: a) apparently the ground was too wet to put any fairground rides up. This doesn't bother me, because why on earth does a bonfire and firework display require fairground rides anyway? b) It had rained a bit earlier in the week, so they couldn't do the bonfire. Whaaaaat? I remember watching bonfires in cascading rain in the 80s and 90s. Other displays around the area managed to have bonfires, why couldn't we? Basically, we were charged £6.00 per head, but two of the main attractions (aforementioned pointless fairground rides and a bonfire) were not on. Gah.
8. When Brian Potter had finally stopped talking and the (admittedly lovely) fireworks had started, someone whacked up what seemed to be something along the lines of Greatest Club Classics 2007 on the speakers. Seriously? Fireworks don't require backing music, especially not when it's shit backing music. One of the other local displays apparently had their fireworks to the music from Star Wars, which is a bit pointless, but at least makes sense. Or if you really wanted music, you could have fireworks to a rousing classical piece. Handel wrote a one entitled 'Music for the Royal Fireworks', which gives you a strong clue that it might be suitable. Something that sounds like it's pounding out of a squalid nightclub at chucking out time is generally not.
9. The fireworks lasted 15 minutes. They were beautiful. But 15 minutes long. For £6.00 per head.
Here's what I want instead. Take note local firework event planners:
A bonfire: A Big One. One that a Guy is chucked on at some point, because, after all, Guy Fawkes is what this night is all about. There's a best Guy competition early in the evening, possibly presented by a self important middle aged man with a megaphone. There are hotdogs - made with real sausages, which several dads are cooking on huge barbecues - none of that frankfurter malarkey. Real sausages, fried onions, mustard, tomato ketchup. Also, enormous jacket potatoes in tin foil with baked beans and cheese. And toffee apples, and possibly those apples on sticks dipped in chocolate and hundreds and thousands, which are basically just toffee apples for wusses. Steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows and a nice WI bake sale table with cakes. If it's deemed necessary, perhaps there would be some old fashioned village fete games like splat the rat and hook a duck. AND THEY WOULD COST 50 PENCE PER GO, NOT 3 QUID. There are sparklers everywhere, because people are not goddamn stupid and follow the clearly set out safety precautions. They could even be kept in a designated area if necessary.
Fireworks would be announced, by the self important man with a loudspeaker from earlier and would last about 40 minutes. They wouldn't be as fancy or coordinated as the ones we're used to now, but that's all part of it. A few firecrackers go off and everybody cheers. Pause for a few minutes while some dads in day-glo orange tabards set up the Catherine Wheels, and everybody goes "oooh, look, it's time for the Catherine Wheels now", because it's exciting, you know? Three rockets go off together. Yes, three. "OOOOOOOOOH" says everybody, followed by an "AHHHHHHHH" at the quieter, prettier fountains showering sparks everywhere. The display is punctuated by orange tabarded dads bravely running up setting lights to them, then pegging it back to the crowd whilst trying to maintain a hint of masculinity. It's all a lot calmer, a bit quieter, a bit old-school and one hell of a lot more charming. "AND THERE'LL BE A LOAD OF BOYS STANDING AROUND NEAR THE BONFIRE CHUCKING CANS OF BAKED BEANS INTO IT" interjects my husband excitedly. I don't think this is entirely safe or necessary and it's probably something that was only ever a 'thing' in Trowbridge where he grew up, but you have to admire his enthusiasm.
There's no fairground rides to pay for or freaky Punch and Judy show. And most importantly, everyone goes home when it's all over feeling like they've had a cosy evening out rather than like they've left the house for half an hour and been robbed blind. How novel. Just a thought.