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5th November 2021

How we longed as children for Bonfire Night with its bangs, flashes and rockets lighting up the sky – only please don’t let it rain! Of course we also knew it was dangerous. There was a girl in my first class at school whose ghoulish party piece was to hike up her skirts to show the burn scars on her legs caused by a jumping jack becoming entangled in her clothing when very young. We were warned never to return to a firework that hadn’t  properly ignited – and make sure the cat doesn’t get out!

But it wasn’t only the danger to life, limb and property. As I grew into teenage years I was troubled that our dog would tremble uncontrollably all evening at the bangs, and nothing could distract her. I also learned it was a nightmare for former soldiers, especially WW1 veterans who’d had to endure solid days and even weeks of shelling in the trenches. The bangs of our fireworks were obviously nothing in comparison, but they still had the power to release dark memories that those survivors struggled daily to keep suppressed.

Tonight’s festivities undoubtedly have their downside, but we’d probably feel sad to be denied them. However, I suspect even greater sacrifices will soon be required. If COP26 currently meeting in Glasgow is to bear fruit so as to pull our world back from climatic ruin, then a lot of what we regard as normal and enjoyable in life may have to be re-thought, re-worked, or even discarded. Massive global and personal changes have to come – if they don’t, there really will be fireworks!

Ken Stewart