Fireworks Weekend: Fear and Hope

Submitted by Janine on Sat, 11/04/2006 - 12:57

This last week, the crack of fireworks has been the backing music for every evening. Outside at night, you sometimes feel like you're in snipers' alley.

Last Saturday, there were even fireworks being let off in broad daylight in the afternoon. After dark, I can reassure myself that it's probably just people doing a private display, and it's probably safe. But in daylight?! The only reason to let off fireworks in daylight is if you are being an arsehole.

Tomorrow, I'm going with family and friends to an official fireworks display in Victoria Park. I'm very nervous about it, but feel that if I don't, I may never go out of my house at this time of year again.

But I'm annoyed that I have to go out of Hackney to see an official display. While Jules Pipe and his Council trumpet themselves as the defenders of the Borough against Channel 4's snobbery, they might pause to think about what level of service they actually provide. Some people won't, or can't, go out of the borough to catch an official display. They will do, or go to, an unofficial one instead. And someone might get hurt.

Why doesn't the Council put on a display? I haven't seen an official explanation as yet, but I'd put money on it being, erm, money. I'd ask them this: Does a safe, official firework display really cost more than the public purse has had to shell out putting me back together over the last year? I doubt it.

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Yesterday, I did something fabulous, and engaged wth some fabulous people. I visited the two Year 6 classes at my sons' primary school, talked to them about what happened to me, and fielded their dozens of questions and anecdotes.

I didn't want to tell them what to do or what not to do, I didn't want them to spend the weekend cowering under the kitchen table while other people went out and enjoyed fireworks. But I did want them to know the possible consequences of reckless use of fireworks, and I wanted them to come back to school on Monday in one piece.

So they got the whole gory story, and they all listened intently, mouths open at some points, faces screwed up at others. Miss wouldn't let me take my false eye out to show them, to the disappointment of some but the relief of others! They all put a hand over one eye to see what the world looked like. And they asked ... Does your false eye move? Does it hurt when you put it in? Can you cry out of your injured eye? Did any other part of you get injured? Did anyone come and visit you in hospital? Have your sons got over it yet? Were you awake during the operation or asleep? Did you have to pay for your treatment? Did they catch the people who did it? Will you get any compensation?

And during the questions, they started to tell their own stories too. One lad showed me an injury to his finger from a firework that had struck him the other day; another a scar by his eye from an accident with a bolt. One boy told me that the boy sitting next to him had a brother whose eye was damaged back in the country where they were born. I heard about a sister who had to put medication in her eye every morning. One boy can look down on a railway station platform from his bedroom window: he sees kids a bit older than him firing rockets at the trains and laughing. One lad had a firework whistle past his ear a few days previously; a girl told of people on her estate who kept letting them off at dangerous angles.

While politicians and the press scream about youngsters as the perpetrators of harmful anti-social behaviour, they should remember that they are also the victims.

I left, and the kids got to work writing and drawing about firework safety. I get to see their work next week, and I can't wait. I don't think I spoiled their weekend! But hopefully, if mum or dad puts on a display in the garden, the kids will remind them to read the instructions, and if their mates suggest getting hold of some fireworks and lobbing them about, they'll say No, let's not.