Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Public firework displays. What's that all about then? Don't get me wrong - bonfire nights in the back garden are one of Britain's loveliest traditions. Friends and family gathered round the fire, sipping hot toddies. Kids running around, munching on treacle toffee and toffee apples. Paranoid parents keeping the children twenty feet back from the fireworks. Nervous fathers gingerly approaching that Roman candle that still hasn't gone off. An effigy - not Osama Bin Laden, please - burning away. Ah... bliss.

Public firework displays, however, have none of this charm. Last night I accompanied three bewildered Swedish guys to the firework display at Clapham Common. Attempting to introduce them to some English customs, I handed out sparklers. Janne whispered "What are these?" Tomas whispered back: "Santa Claus". "Ah." They waved them around, half-heartedly, while I grinned like a madman, writing Marcus's name in lights across the sky.

Thousands of people lined the streets around the Common, waiting patiently for the 20-minute display. Thanks to an unseasonably warm October, our view of the fireworks was obscured by dense leaves, but the crowds still oohed and aahed dutifully at every bang, before filing home again.

"What an odd tradition," said Tomas. He's right, you know. Guys, I can't wait for Santa Lucia night!

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