I’ve loved fireworks and Bonfire Night ever since I was a child; the bigger, louder and more protracted the display, the better, while my propensity for these things is undoubtedly a reason why I enjoy Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, V for Vendetta and Apocalypse Now as much as I do. My son Jack saw in the New Year at a party on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach last year and the moment I saw a photograph of the celebrations, I was euphoric, because I could feel the detonations in my diaphragm and I could literally smell the gunpowder in the drifting clouds of smoke.
These experiences were and still are exhilarating, but my perception of these things changed when my dog Blueboy became a part of my life, around fourteen years ago. Like most animals, I suppose, he hated the noise and in recent years, this has got worse, to the extent that the poor creature would flinch and whine at the rumble of distant thunder or a far-off farmer’s shotgun being fired. As for the fireworks on November 5th or any other night, he would try to find a place to hide somewhere around the house and he was inconsolable, so I was bracing myself for another distressing episode last night.
Not long after darkness fell, it was as if my home were situated in downtown Beirut in the mid-1980s or in Grozny in the mid-1990s, with the opening artillery salvo from the Battle of the Somme interspersed throughout the cacophony. To my amazement and delight, however, Blueboy seemed utterly oblivious to all this, sleeping serenely through the worst of the explosions and paying absolutely no attention to them when he awoke to go to his bowl to get a drink, or to wolf down a treat.
He is certainly not deaf, because his ears immediately prick up if I so much as whisper his name when we’re in the same room, so I can only attribute his happy, new-found immunity to the ear-splitting racket made by fireworks displays to his doggy dementia. He can still drive me to distraction with his unpredictable nocturnal wanderings and howlings, when he confronts a different reality to the one that I perceive, but this is all a trifling price to pay for the loving company of this wonderful old boy.
“Suns, when they set, can rise again
But we, when out goes our brief light
Sleep we must one endless night.”