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DAMP SQUIB

19-10-2006

Bonfire night and Diwali fireworks are contributing to making Dave Woodhall's life a misery. Funnily enough he sounds quite glad about it.

I'm a curmudgeon, and I make no apologies for it. I've had three ambitions in life - to be young and obnoxious, middle-aged and miserable, old and cantankerous. I achieved the first no problem, I like to kid myself the second will come round one day, and the third will happen in due course.

It's easy to be a miseryarse these days. All you have to do is look around you and there's another reason to start bah humbugging. My particular cause celebre this week is fireworks. It's an easy target, but no less valid for that.

When I was a lad, we used to mess around with fireworks for a couple of weeks before bonfire night. We'd stick a few old rags together as a guy, or more often than not stick someone's younger brother in an old pram, and tour the local pubs. As we grew up the technique was refined - we'd tour the pubs, find which kids littler than us had the best guy, rob it off them and supplement our income that way. I think we might have bought a couple of fireworks, but they were bangers we threw at each other for a few days before the novelty wore off. (Have you noticed how they were supposed to blow your hand off if you messed around with them? Do you know anyone with one hand missing because of a banger-inspired accident? Me neither.)

Now it's a whole different scenario. From early October, building into a crescendo in the first week of November, before falling off until the climax on New Years Eve, they're going off every night. And not just bangers; some of these things could take a plane out. It won't be long before some bright little spark walks around with a rocket launcher on his back. You have the daft situation where you can't buy a bottle of wine after eleven o'clock in many supermarkets but you can buy enough explosives to blow the building sky-high.

And in all seriousness, it's about time something was done about it. Legislation was introduced a few years ago to limit the times when fireworks could be let off. I wasn't aware that 1.30am on October 18th was a time of particular religious significance, unless you count the Feast of the Lesser Dickhead. Time was when fireworks were strictly let off on November 5th, and even then it was all over by about nine o'clock. Now, for some unfathomable reason, that's when the fun starts. It's reckoned that the heaviest bombardment of the First World War took place in the few minutes leading up to armistice, as every gun crew on the Western Front wanted to fire the last shell. The same thing goes on every Bonfire Night. Somebody, somewhere, just HAS to let off the last firework of the night, or possibly the first of the following day

It's long-overdue that something was done. An outright ban would be nice, but far more practical would be to sell fireworks only to people who possess a licence. These could be obtained by spending a few hours on a course where you'd learn how to store and set them off, the potential dangers and basic first aid. It could be paid for by the companies who make them, and it'd limit the number of fireworks getting into the hands of morons who think it's great fun to annoy everybody in the neighbourhood for weeks on end.

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