Like a coming of age tradition, everybody can remember the first time they saw fireworks. Most men will remember the first time they had fireworks too. If you are older than 18 you may also remember bangers (sadly now banned). It seems that most people also had fireworks for the first time before the age of 18. It is something that has always attracted the younger males in society, the potential for blowing things up. In some countries, Spain for example, children are allowed to possess fireworks and use them in a public place as young as 10 years old. They are taught respect and safety measures and actively encouraged to use fireworks safely. In the UK we bombard them with danger posters and warning signs. Surely making the prospect of owning mini explosives all the more appealing? What is the correct age to start using fireworks?
Do you remember the first time you held a sparkler? writing your name in the night sky. Smelling the chemicals burn and fizz and indeed sparkle. What age was you? 4? 5? The legal minimum age for using sparklers in the UK is 5 and anyone under the age of 18 must be supervised. That said sparklers cause more injuries than any other fireworks every year and are glowing hot strips of metal – 3 of which together generate the same heat as a blow torch – that are designed for 5-year-olds. Anything seems strange about that?
Do you remember the first time you lit a fountain or a roman candle? the thrill of setting fire to a fuse and legging it (never run around fireworks) as it starts to burn, the phosphorous smell that ends up embedded in your clothes and hair. And the intensity of the colours and crackles and how every fountain seems so different and exciting. Nowadays if I have seen one fountain, I have seen them all.
Catherine Wheels were always an exciting event. Someone would nail 1 to a tree or fence post, light it, stand back and watch the garden and half the audience get covered in burning hot sparks that leave black scorch marks everywhere. As a kid I loved Catherine Wheels. Today I can’t really find the time for them in a display and when I do see them I am not amazed and staggered by their beauty and colour. Just watching warily for the stray spark that will set my hair on fire.
So have fireworks got worse in the years between taking hours choosing what selection box to buy from the local shop and taking hours to choose how many thousands of pounds to throw up in a 5-minute display? In my opinion, no. Fireworks have gotten a lot better, and it is just as well, as our imaginations only get worse. Either that or experience and exposure turns us into pyrotechnic snobs who will only be impressed by the very best effect and strongest colours.
Whatever the reason, I know for that for every generation the same applies: Fireworks are much better now than when you were young and fireworks will never be as spectacular as you remember them.