Part of my experiences of living and working in London include immersing myself in the local culture and festivities. On Saturday, we went to the fireworks display in Crystal Palace, a five-minute walk from where I live. Being perched on top of the hill, overlooking the rest of London, I was expecting to get a good view of the fireworks, however such was not the case. Crystal Palace usually has the feeling of a sleepy suburban and is quite disconnected from the centre of London.However Saturday saw the pubs and streets full of people, who came from all over to witness the fireworks display at the palace grounds.
“Bonfire night” or the “Gunpowder plot” as they call it here, is celebrated every year on November 5 since the sixteenth century, to commemorate the failed attempt of catholic rebels including Guy Fawkes trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament and overthrow King James I. Fawkes and his fellow men were then executed for treason and agitated Londoners who knew little more than that their King had been saved, joyfully lit bonfires in thanksgiving. In short ever since that day, the tradition continues. People burn effigies of Guy Fawkes on this night and light bonfires.
Crystal palace had a celebration of a different kind though. The fireworks display that was to start at 8, were delayed by forty minutes. In the meanwhile, we thought to kill a bit of time in the cold lighting sparklers. Leo seemed to have attracted much attention. When he lit up his, kids from a distance ran up to him and were rather mesmerized as though he was performing magic. It wasn’t long before the cops showed up and trampled on our sparklers. Tim’s sparkler seemed to have taken a little longer to be put off, at one point we could smell melted rubber from the cops shoe.
When asked why, his reason for banning sparklers was due to a new health and safety policy. It all seemed a bit of a paradox I thought. Barely a distance away I could see fireworks, but sparklers were banned. And bonfires too.Why? For health and safety. Then I heard someone in the crowds shout out, “That’s like our childhood taken away. Health and safety seems to be the blanket reason for stopping most fun activities today.” I reckon in a few years, even fireworks will be banned, so much for health and safety.
Some more friends arrived, the fireworks lasted a good fifteen minutes. Soon after we headed to a local pub for a few drinks. Still keen on using our sparklers for the rest of the evening, we held on to them. At around midnight, we lit a couple of sparklers, which we were barred from using earlier outside ‘The White Hart’. Some fellow drinkers sitting outside were quick to join into the spirit and the generous Leo shared some with them. Before we knew it, a few others joined in with their own and came by to light theirs. Everyone was just happy; so much for sparkles that brought cheer to strangers in the street. Oh come on officer, you can’t take away the Sparklers away !