Helen Martin: Rocket racket’s the blast straw

The seemingly never-ending array of firework displays in the Capital. Picture: Greg Macvean
The seemingly never-ending array of firework displays in the Capital. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THERE are times in middle age when you suddenly realise how curmudgeonly you have become. This time of year does it for me. My tolerance for fireworks is waning – in fact, it’s burned out.

Everything nowadays, particularly from October to January, is celebrated with whizz-bangs, rockets, explosives and whines.

I remember with great clarity the years when fireworks were allowed and expected only on November 5. A couple of rockets fired out of milk bottles – cautiously – by the grown-up in charge, a Catherine wheel nailed to a post, a sparky little volcano erupting from a sandbed and that was it, apart from bobbly-hatted and carefully gloved children being allowed to wave a sparkler in circles.

Now there’s hardly a night from the middle of October onwards when there isn’t some antisocial family within sight and earshot of “chez nous” having their own little ad hoc pyrotechnic gig going on and to heck with the neighbours.

The organised displays are supposed to be better and certainly safer. They are also mega powerful. Apparently those who paid for tickets at Meadowbank are fizzing – if you’ll excuse the pun – because those seated couldn’t see above the low protruding roof. They got a lovely view of the things blasting off, a brief glimpse of sparks falling to the ground, and absolutely nothing of the crucial bit in between.

I’d charge them less to come to my garden on the other side of Holyrood Park where they could watch multiple displays at once. Equally we can’t escape the nightly nightmare of the Tattoo fireworks, or the Hogmanay extravaganza. Public money we can ill afford is spent on this nonsense. Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, we are happily burning cash while the banks and fuel companies fiddle.

At least we know when the big shows are scheduled. At home we can pull down the blinds, have the TV and the radio on and try to ignore them. That’s the appropriate veterinary advice for soothing terrified animals. Behave normally as if nothing’s happening, yet offer the poor creatures somewhere to hide.

The random back garden jobs are a different matter. Just when you think it’s all over, some other bright spark decides to have a fireworks party and the cat either comes rushing in or stays out for hours hiding and 
trembling under a hedge. God help the wild animals with nowhere to go.

For humans, fireworks happen so often now, there’s nothing special about them any more. Yet still people gather to “ooh” and “aah” like so many cavemen witnessing a spark from a flint. It’s not “awesome”. It’s a firework. Get over it. Or preferably, stop it altogether.

Of all forms of group entertainment, fireworks are the most intrusive and antisocial, foisted on people for miles around whether they want them or not. Bits of debris fall from the sky. Idiots don’t read instructions and wind up in accident and emergency. Worst of all there are still some morons who use them as weapons or throw them – lit – at someone as a “joke”.

Numbskulls decide to throw flammable liquid on bonfires to get a good blaze going. Sparks travel and firefighters risk their lives coping with this folly. Isn’t it time we all grew up?

Owners need training to stop dog attacks

THERE is a very difficult point to be made about most, though not all, incidents of dogs mauling children.

No-one wants to add to the grief of a parent, but in a great many cases the choice of dog, its background or the number of dogs, the age of the child, numbers of children, size

and suitability of the home, and circumstances of the attack, give rise to questions about the owner’s decisions, experience or knowledge of what they were taking on.

Muzzling all dogs is not the

answer, though.

Making it much harder to own a dog in the first place with home inspections, assessments and a modicum of owner training would be better for everyone.

Shaping up for disappointment

DEBENHAMS is now using size 16 display mannequins, the size of the average woman in the UK. Good.

However, until I was 46 – that’s years by the way, not size – I was an eight or a ten. Today I am a 14-16 – OK, mostly 16.

With an increase in size comes a complete change of shape. It is after all, extra fat that settles in different places on each person. Thus the outfit on a perfectly-proportioned, size 16 mannequin is no more likely to fit me than the size ten for which it was designed.


SUCH a shame that the first two new stores to rise from the site of the 2002 Cowgate fire are . . . Sainsbury’s and Costa Coffee.