Tonight's display was for the switching on
of the Yarmouth Christmas lights, bringing a little closed-season
light and joy to the town for some six or seven minutes. Not
a huge amount of gear to tote then, but enough for someone
like me to see the rudiments of setting up a small pro display.
Pyro Pete, PeteB and I arrived late in the
morning at Yarmouth's Market Gates shopping mall. I'd been
warned this show would involve lugging gear up onto the rooftops
and a lot of waiting around in bitter weather, so I took enough
food for a small army and enough spare clothing to stock an
Oxfam shop. As it turned out however, we were spared a lot
of extra effort and the worst of the cold thanks to the wily
ingenuity of one of Britain's major political parties. We
discovered a secret Tory lift direct from the ground floor
carpark to Yarmouth Conservative Club's rooftop headquarters.
Furthermore some of our group were to shorten the long hours
in the cold still further by clever infiltration of the nearby
members' Blue Rinse Bar…
We checked in at the site office deep in the
anonymous, MoD-like bowels of the Market Gates shopping mall,
then retreated to a nearby greasy spoon to await the Fully
Fused team. Over tea and sausage rolls, we swapped manly firework
anecdotes and speculated on what the grey skies outside might
bring. Past displays here had been called off at the last
minute or reduced to a coloured haze by fog.
James, Zoë and Dave were slightly delayed
by their route conflicting with Johnny Vaughan and Channel
4, filming Space Camp near their stores at that time. However,
once they arrived we all went up top to choose a good firing
spot. There was quite a stiff breeze up there, but the only
flags flying were fake wooden ones bearing the mall logo.
The prevailing wind seemed to dictate that fallout would land
conveniently on an adjacent rooftop, so James decided to fire
from a spot fairly close to the roof access, but with the
option of moving to another rooftop if the wind changed.
It took about three hours to get set up, and
there was a real damp nip in the air. Later in the day, the
skies clouded over and the temperature rose very slightly,
so it wasn't the marrow-chilling affair that the others remembered
from previous years. Still, we did need something to keep
our energy up, and I found it when I produced a large slab
of Fruit & Nut. There was a brief feeding frenzy and much
grateful chomping as we hunched like gerbils around a dish
of nuts. To anyone else thinking of getting into pro firing,
I would suggest this as a way in: bring Fruit & Nut.
Another highlight of the afternoon was James'
cold remedy. Suspecting he was coming down with the pre-Christmas
lurgy, James decided to try some state-of-the-art antiviral
nasal spray which apparently acts by hurting a lot more than
the cold does. I wish Pete had filmed this. Two little puffs
of wonder drug, then a strange hangfire followed by a fit
of wincing, cringing and shaking. James tried this only twice
while we were up there and then decided the full-blown cold
would probably be more fun.
Twilight, and we retreated by turns for either
some food or a McDonald's and a pause before the action. At
some point after our return, an amplified stream of pointless
drivel gradually began to superimpose itself over people's
enjoyment down in the town, and someone remarked as we folded
back the tarpaulins that the roadshow must have arrived. New
European regulations prohibited us from aiming a shell at
his trailer, so the only way to silence Russ Adenoids the
DJ was to start the show.
On with safety gear then.
Half-past six came and MC Adenoids was calling
out "ten, nine, eight…" and then the crowd was ours. We had
three rack clusters with three, four and five inch shells
and a couple of six-inchers, one for openers and another with
the finale rack. There was also a group of large candles and
eight or ten Cat 4 cakes. As the shells began, I found myself
thinking how similar they sounded to those cannons going off
from their cave in The Guns of Navarone. Funny what you think
of under the influence of adrenaline. Well, have a look at
Pete's fantastic footage and you'll hear the curiously truncated
detonations echoing from nearby walls (followed by enthusiastically
boozy yells from the pubs below and some car alarms).
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Cleaning up afterwards was very quick, and
all our fallout had gone down on the neighbouring roof as
predicted. We got up all the live and other waste in a few
minutes and then it was just a matter of using the Harold
MacMillan memorial elevator once more to get everything down
on the ground.
As we were shoving a trolley through some
doors, James asked me if I had felt scared by my first close
encounter with Cat 4 fireworks. I said that I had, but not
as much as I was expecting. There had been an intense adrenaline
rush right beforehand and then a kind of resignation to the
ferocious power going off around me. Nevertheless, I think
there was a delayed reaction going on, as when I subsequently
drove home, I felt as if I might be flying the car.
I'd like to say thanks to James and Fully
Fused for having me along to help, and to the two Petes for
getting me involved.