Somewhere along the line, somehow, something’s gone terribly wrong.
I recently celebrated my first Guy Fawkes night in several years – the first since coming back from Japan. Believe it or not, Japan isn’t big on celebrating failed acts of terrorism (but they do have some pretty stupid festivals of their own).
When I saw the bonfire posters up around town, I nearly wet myself with excitement. Candyfloss! Fireworks! Funfairs! A massive fire! I’m not one to miss out on forking out £8 to stand in my local park. I hadn’t missed a single year prior to leaving the country, and I wasn’t about to start now once I was back. I coerced my mother into coming with me, just for the sake of nostalgia.
It was glorious. The mud was ankle deep, just as I remembered, and the air was redolent with the aroma of sizzling onions. The funfair was in full swing, and the rides looked terrifying. Not in a ‘wow, look at the speed on that’ kind of way – just a general air of creaking foreboding. Just like in my younger days, there were masses of children running around, crying.
Alas, there was no bonfire this year. I have fond memories of a boy from our school throwing his sister’s Barbie into that fire – just as in life, her hair was the first to go.
Time for the fireworks! My mother and I jostled politely to get near the front, to stand before the nonexistent bonfire.
An Irish MC worked the crowd. “But before we begin, give it up for the Deputy Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham-”
The crowd booed dutifully. The poor woman, who had probably helped organise the night’s proceeding for these ingrates, did her best to convey her delight to be there.
And then we were off! The music was a fantastic mix of 80s pop hits and classical. The fireworks were just as I remembered.
But wait! What the fuck was this? As the rockets fizzed, a sea of hands shot into the air. Attached to the hands were little windows, through which the fireworks crackled in pixilated euphoria.
Absolutely everyone around me had their phones out. Their beady little eyes were intent on their screens. The only people observing the fireworks unaided were the kids, but their parents were fixated on their Samsungs, trying to get that perfect shot.
Some were filming the entire display. What, so they could post the video to social media? Look at this firework display, guys. I was there!
Call me whatever you will, but the last time I went to a fireworks display, people actually looked at the fireworks firsthand, and not through little glass objects, like 21st century monocles.
What world are we living in, I mused, as ‘Thriller’ blared into the surrounding treetops. What world is this, where we take pictures of food instead of eating it, where we tell our friends to take our picture over and over until we look our true selves? What world is this where we have to charge our cigarettes and our books on our laptops?
I turned to my right. My mum was taking a picture of the sky.
Oh, for God’s sake.