Sunday, October 22, 2006

Firework frenzy

It’s time again for the annual month long explosion of fireworks in our streets. They seem, these days, to begin before Halloween and extend long after the celebration of the rumbling of Mr Fawkes.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to love fireworks. I remember, as a kid, the 5th November was cold, I mean properly cold. It was a Michelin man quantity of layers and still toes go numb kind of a cold. Not this dark soggy humid pretend sort of cold that seems to have come hand in hand with the noughties. That is fine by me, as I am not one of those people who relishes my blood being unable to heat up my furthest extremities. Give me heat and humidity every time.

It is not the apparent change in temperature which has marred my enjoyment of these colourful explosions. It is, I think, what happened to me on that tube last year. I wasn’t very close to the bomb, the explosion I heard wasn’t shocking or deafening, but now I am pathetic with any sort of sudden noise. They do not have to be loud, or even unexpected. Last week I watched as a bottle of Champagne was opened in the office. I have cracked open enough in my time to know it will result in a noise, a pop and a fizz kind of a noise. I watched, I waited, the cork flew out and simultaneously, unexpectedly, I screamed. The shriek was met with surprised stares followed by nervous laughter. ‘Holly that was pathetic’ someone said and don’t I know it, but it’s beyond my control.

I have seen glorious displays of fireworks all over the world. I greeted each explosion with a whoop and a laugh whilst revelling in the thud deep beneath my ribs. One day I hope to rediscover that exhilarating joy but this year I fear it will remain far from sight.

I know what they are when I hear the boom, it doesn’t even help when I can see them. Each bang and blast hits me with a sickening horror and fills me with terror and sadness. It’s stupid and irrational but I cannot overcome it. Fireworks take me back to bombs and death, sadness and guilt, all wrapped up in a beautiful display of glowing colour.

Last year I barricaded myself behind closed doors, turned the TV up loud and hit the bottle. This year I will be in a craggy fishing village on the north coast of Cornwall. I hope to join the locals at the mouth of the harbour and watch the explosions amongst the rapturous crowds. Perhaps the excitement will be contagious and they will help me to dispel my fears. I think it’s too soon to hope for enjoyment, but I am not going to run away and hide. I will force myself through because I want to overcome it. I don’t want to be a firework fearing casualty for the rest of my life. I want to be able to ooh and aah with a smile across my face that is true and heartfelt.

I don't know when that day will be or if I will ever find it. I don't want to forget but I want to move on and fireworks still take me back. I wrap myself in the comfort that others will be going through the same. Not only those from the tubes that day but our troops coming back from Iraq. The dogs will not be the only ones cowering under the kitchen table on the 5th November, and I will be thinking of all of you who will be down there with me.