‘Health & Safety’ gone bonkers…

If you were hoping to warm your cockles by the fire on the frosty November evening, then tough luck! Bonfire night. I remember when we used to put on our own bonfire; we’d spend months collecting wood and used to look forward to it from one year to the next. All our best friends came, we used to have a wicked time, ooing and ahhing at the fireworks and writing our names in the air with the sparklers. For extra entertainment, my then boyfriend Spud and I used to dissect gun cartridges and chuck the charges over our shoulders into the fire and laugh when everybody shit themselves when the bang went off. I was only about eleven years old.

When I was living in New Zealand, I used to really miss bonfire night, it’s just not celebrated over there. Wouldn’t be right in 80 degree heat and light until 10pm anyway. I love fireworks, the bigger the bang the better. For the first time in about twenty years, seeing as I’m back in the country, last night I decided to go up to the local village bonfire. Thought I might get some good photos, I had a half hatched plan that I might photograph the families present, then flog the prints on my website. Christmas soon, they’ll be mad for it, I thought. When I got up to the village, I couldn’t see where the fire was going to be, so I went into the pub to ask. “You’ll be able to see it from here”, I was told. I enquired further, ‘Will I need to walk down the lane to get to it?’. “No, it’s in the field over there”. Right.

The pub started to fill up, in fact it’s the busiest I have seen it for decades. I had a couple of glasses of wine while we all waited for the show to begin. The thought crossed my mind that it felt very strange not knowing 85% of the people in my own local boozer. The same boozer where I used to have a sneaky half of cider when I was thirteen, when things weren’t so ridiculous in this country. I felt a bit like I’d just disembarked from a spaceship that had shuttled me in from some planet other than this one, a stranger in my own town, in a way. People started to shuffle outside, so I followed everyone out onto the village green and expected to make my way down to the fire. The village green was as far as we were allowed to go. I honestly couldn’t believe it, yet another fantastic example of ‘health and safety’ gone barmy. You couldn’t warm your hands on the fire, because the fire was in a different field, which you weren’t allowed to go into. Even with my telephoto lens fully zoomed; the fire was still miles away. You might as well have just set up a big orange floodlight and wafted a curtain in front of it for effect, the result wouldn’t have been dissimilar. My astonishment at the scene completely distracted me from taking one single photograph of a person, so my little money earning gem went down the drain, I snapped a few fireworks then went back to the pub. Completely unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. Still, the local economy, the boozer, will have had a nice injection of lolly last night. My hangover will be gone tomorrow, what won’t be gone is the increasingly preposterous and outrageous rules we are forced to adhere to in this laughable country. I’ve never been one for being told what to do, and I’m not about to start now.

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