There are a few nights of the year sent to test you as a parent, and fireworks night is definitely one of them.
As a kid in the ’80s it was great – big blazing bonfires to which you could get close enough to need a completely new set of eyebrows in the morning, sparklers tracing out your name in the darkness and plenty of whizz-pops and bang-clatters to make a great evening out. Not to mention plenty of hot food and hand-warming drinks.
5th November 2019 on the other hand – not so great.
I really need to start in the morning, when a general lack of funds and the staggering realisation that with four kids just getting a burger each at the festivities was going to put me back something close to thirty quid, meant that I wasn’t really in the mood for fireworks night.
Let’s be honest, I’m a miserly scrooge at the best of times and fireworks is literally burning money. My wife is all for hosting her own firework party like her dad did when she was a kid, but when I ask her an intended budget for such a personal fiesta and she replies with “hundreds, probably a thousand”, I baulk like any sane man would. No amount of her passionate storytelling of bygone days is going to sway me to the idea that I want to drop a grand on some flashes in the sky.
Back to the morning though, and I’m ready to cancel the very idea of it. I’m sure I can cite ‘work’ or ‘not feeling well’ but instead, I do the ‘good dad’ thing and look up the local options. Nothing like a last minute unplanned decision to guarantee a fun night out!
It’s clear after about five minutes on Facebook that the only real choice is to go into Swansea for the night. There’s a lot of promotion going on regarding their display to mark the 50th anniversary of becoming a city (whatever that entailed back in 1969). “Party on the beach!” the headlines declare and just like that, I’m in.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s advertised as being completely free.
There’s even a blog article written by either an underpaid copywriter (cough) or council staffer that goes on about just how bloody great this night is going to be. There’ll be pre-event entertainment with superheroes (Spider-Man is even in the picture) and the best firework display South Wales has to offer! Oh, and food. Lots of great food! Sounds perfect.
It’s half an hour to the waterfront in Swansea from our door, so of course I’m pushing people to get into our van-cum-minibus from about 4pm in order to be there for six. Fireworks are due on at seven, but I want to park easily and not be stuck in traffic. I have no idea why it takes my family so long to get ready but we squeeze out of the house somewhere around 5:20. Go team!
Of course, every fucker and his mate want to go to this epoch-defining social event, so the 30-minute drive becomes closer to an hour and a half sat in traffic arguing over who gets to choose the next song (hint: never me). Car parks are bound to be full, so I make us stop and walk a bit to not get locked into central gridlock which makes me the arsehole, but I’m willing to wear the crown to not get stressed further. One kid’s asleep and I have to carry her, the other three are all over-excited. Well, that’s good, they should be! It’s going to be awesome!
Shall I cut to the chase? It’s a fucking mess.
First of all, there are no food stalls to be seen. I have four hungry kids and a hungry wife (and myself, pretending to be fine while eyeing up other people’s stray children in a cartoony stuck pig way) and we can’t even find a burger van. We’re in the right place – the crowds prove that – but it seems the promise of a wide range of culinary delights is just that; a promise.
(In fairness to accurate reporting, we did find two (2!) burger vans through the night, plus a coffee one and something selling nuts. With a few thousand people to serve, the queues stretched to England somewhere, so we didn’t bother.)
We get to the beach. Not lit, a little damp in places, with nighttime shell-picking a more exciting activity for the little two than the prospect of a mind-altering firework display. There’s no entertainment, and if Spider-Man is here, then he’s in Peter Parker mode, lost in the crowd and not up for autographs.
No one seems to know where the fireworks are going to be. Some sort of loudspeaker setup allows a low-quality wannabe presenter the opportunity to shout irrelevant boring crap out across the beach, but the fireworks turn out to be half a mile or so further along the shore from this central point. Still, the DJs egg up the crowd to do a countdown to…
…pretty much nothing.
Let’s not talk too much about the 20-minute wait due to ‘technical difficulties’. I’ll skip over the complete lack of any sort of bonfire, and not dwell on the fact that the very distant fireworks themselves were little more than a very basic display. I won’t even mention that all four of my children seemed more interested in other things (like moaning about being hungry) than the colourdy sky sparkles.
Thank Christ Sainsbury’s was open on the way home.
Five hours from start to finish, most of it in traffic with hungry complaining children and nothing worth seeing anyway. Swansea celebratory anniversary fireworks night can fuck off.
At least it didn’t cost me any actual money.