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Published: July 23rd 2009
This is Puivert
We're sitting by the lake, and the town is just below the castle in the distance
I liked fireworks. They were a winter thing for me. Part of the regular calendar when all the children were small was getting warmly muffled up on November 5th with woolly hats and scarves and sensible shoes ands going off to one of the municipal bonfires in Sheffield, then later, Leeds. Elinor, a Bonfire Night baby, used to be convinced the festivities were for her, the birthday girl.
Close to the blazing fire, the cosy scarves would come off as everyone relaxed, finding friends to talk to as we waited for the fireworks to begin. Then wonderful whirling, shooting, exploding, racing tracks of colour twirled and whizzed through the skies for maybe 20 minutes, and it was all over for another year. We’d leave the comforting fire behind, and wander happily home for winter treats like parkin and treacle toffee.
I don’t include Harrogate in these memories. For some bizarre reason (Health and Safety?) the bonfire there is lit after the fireworks, so once you’ve squished dismally across a usually sodden Stray, there’s nothing for it but to stand around shivering till the fireworks begin. OK if you’ve been brought up with this system, but I lost heart, and
gave up on fireworks years ago. Until last night.
Puivert’s a pretty little town not far from here, with a ruined castle and a lake. During high summer it has a Wednesday evening market, and just once a year, a firework display to go with it. We went. Down on the lakeside beach, we spent time choosing our picnic spot, and regretted forgetting our costumes as we watched bathers swimming in the still hot evening sun. Friends came and joined us, and we took it in turns to wander off and decide what food to buy from all the stalls geared up for the crowds. Mexican? Chinese? Organic barbecued lamb? Pizza? Cheeses and fresh bread for an impromptu picnic? Crêpes? Paella? Sheep’s milk ice cream? One way or another, the time slipped by easily enough as the light faded and 10.30 approached.
At half past ten prompt, the music started, and the show began. This was a class act. ‘Orchestrated’ seems the only way to describe the ranks of fireworks that shot right, left, obliquely or straight up in complex sequences that any chorus dancers would have been proud of. Rockets whizzed above us and seemed to vanish,
their energy spent, before exploding in umbrellas of red and golden droplets. Half way through, the fireworks stopped, and palls of green blue, red, golden smoke misted up the far side of the lake and hung mysteriously over the water. Then it all started again. More ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ from the crowd, and then it was over. Time to pack the picnic hampers and the rugs, and wander back to our cars for the drive home.
On balance, sitting by a still warm lakeside in shorts and t-shirt watching the light fade and the stars come out has just as much to recommend it as toasting mittened hands in front of a giant civic bonfire. Do you fancy coming with us next year?
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