I am lucky that 28 years ago today I escaped with both my eyes fully operational.
As a youngster both my parents worked full time, so during school holidays myself, my sister and my four cousins spent the days at my Gran’s small bungalow. Schools around here break up for a week in October, so the boys spent the week collecting wood and old furniture, in order to build a bonfire in my Gran’s large garden. We went everywhere around the estate collecting anything that would burn, we would make a bonfire in excess of two meters high, ready for the November 5th bonfire night celebrations.
Our parents would chip in with fireworks, my Mum, Aunts and Gran would make the food and toffee, the girls would make a guy (an effigy of Guy Fawkes), the whole family would then come together for the first time each year, the only other time would be Christmas Day.
And the fireworks fly
And the fireworks fall
But I have seen the best of all
And it’s true, after every charge is through
I can still hear the thunder call
(Fireworks by Brave Saint Saturn)
That year however, myself and my older cousin had spent the holiday’s not only building a bonfire, but building homemade banger fireworks. I won’t go into the full details of how we made these and the ingredients, but you do need to know that they included sellotape.
We made them in varying sizes, which had differing results, generally they just exploded with a loud bang, louder than the bangers that were available to buy in the UK in 1984. They had power too, one large banger could provide enough force to lift a galvanised dustbin lid several feet into the air!
As the night went along, our parents set of many legal fireworks and my cousin and I set off our homemade bangers, everyone was enjoying themselves, the 10 year old me included, but then my eye started to itch, it gradually got worse.
It itched more and more, the more I rubbed it the worse the irritation and then the pain got, so I had to show my parents. Inside, in the light, it was clear that something wasn’t right, both my eye lids were raw, not just from the rubbing, but something more sinister. There was no alternative, hospital, so off I went with my parents whilst the others continued the celebrations.
For a bonfire night, the hospital was rather quiet, so I was seen almost immediately. The Doctor said it was clear that there was burning to both the upper and lower eye lids, but amazingly no damage seemed to have been done to the eye itself, he said I was lucky, I must have blinked as a spark or whatever it was had shot into my eye, in doing so protecting the eye from impact and an almost certain loss of some or all the sight in that eye.
It would appear that the sellotape used in the construction had melted on ignition and shot into my eye, I never notice the impact, only the itching sometime later, but luckily as the Doctor stated I must have inadvertently blinked, which save my sight.
I was the only bonfire night casualty in the town that year, I made the local paper, although due to my age at the time they didn’t mention me by name. I would make the paper again, only five days after this event I passed my black belt grading, so I made the local paper two weeks running, although the second time they did name me!
Last weekend at the Church getaway, it was the first time I have been close to a bonfire since that very night 28 years ago, it brought back a few memories, luckily no one brought any fireworks, never mind homemade ones, although the youthful exuberance was still evident, as the younger members of the group proceeded to jump over the fire as it died down.
Twenty eight years later, I thankfully still have perfect vision, despite this event and my many hours spent wasted staring at a computer screen, either at home or at work. So now I thank God for these moments in my life, that without me knowing it, he was there looking out for me, saving me from my own arrogance and stupidity.