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8:53pm on Saturday, 5th November, 2005:



I love fireworks. I love the sound, the smell and the sight of them.

We just got back from the Bonfire Night display in Colchester: 10,000 people crammed into Castle Park, watching £10,000 worth of fireworks going up. We go there every year, as it's the best display for miles, but I have to say that on this occasion it was the greatest it's ever been. Because it's the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, they'd themed it with music related to it in some way (Going Underground, Roll out the Barrel, and anything with "London" in the title — including London Bridge is Falling Down), which seemed to inspire them to choreograph the event better. There were many different types of music, which meant they could put up different kinds of sequences from what they normally do, which made it less predictable than it often is.

It started off with a relentless barrage of trailing silvery things that went on for over a minute, as if to say "we've just let off more fireworks in sixty seconds than any of the village shows will have in their whole programme, just because we can", then it launched the big rockets and got properly under way.

Thirty minutes of incredible pyrotechnics later, they started playing Rule, Britannia and it was therefore obvious that this was going to be the finale. Ye gods! Was it ever! I'd already decided that this was the best display I'd ever seen in Colchester, but I wasn't prepared for what they did at the end. They sent up maybe 8 or 10 silver flowery rockets of the kind that are this big and hang in the air, then moments later they sent up another volley, and then another. The whole sky was silvery gold, it was real tears-to-the-eyes stuff; absolutely amazing, and worth the entry price for that alone.

The best firework display I ever saw was in London once, following the Lord Mayor's Show. I've seen better ones on TV — for the golden jubilee, for Charles & Diana's (and later Camilla's) wedding, and the one they had in Portsmouth for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. However, nothing I have seen in any of these, or any of the displays put on anywhere in the world for the year 2000, had anything as good as one, single firework that went up at the very end of that Lord Mayor's Show.

We knew it was going to be special, because when it was launched from its own barge on the Thames it made a bang louder than anything we'd heard during the rest of the programme, by several orders of magnitude — real feel-it-in-your-internal-organs loud. This trace of light went high into the sky, and it just kept on going, up and up, further than I'd ever seen a firework go before nor have since. Then, all of a sudden, it exploded, BOOM, and the sky was filled with glowing, golden lights. Just as people were breaking into applause, each light exploded into maybe 5 or 6 new lights. We were utterly gobsmacked, it was just stunning, absolutely sensational to behold. Yet as we were catching our breaths and beginning to cheer, each one of those lights also exploded, into dazzling shards of intense silver that were individually attached to their own tiny parachutes. It was like looking at a sheet of sparklers descending serenely over London for maybe two whole minutes. It was utterly stupendous, half a million people were just standing there, awestruck; a wonderful, wonderful sight.

I yearn to see its like again, but it's probably illegal or something now. Still, there'll always be Colchester Castle Park on November 5th to keep my spirits up...

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).