Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Friday, 22 October 2021

Hooptedoodle #410 - Big Bang in Oman


 The kick off for this yarn is an incident we had here about a month ago on the farm. Some unusually well organised hooligans appear to have arranged an impressive firework display on the beach in the early evening. It lasted about 15 minutes, was very noisy, and scared the resident horses very badly, as you might expect. Apart from being inconsiderate, this is also very illegal. One horse in the stables was injured, fortunately not seriously, but it took a while for everything to calm down afterwards. There was a pile of rubbish left on the beach, but there was no sign of the perpetrators, only 20 minutes after it finished. [Bad strategy here - the farming family sent a couple of people down to the beach, whereas they would have done better to wait for the baddies coming up the lane from the car park, on their way out. I may even have heard the getaway cars, come to think of it. Note for next time.]

This incident has reminded me of my favourite-ever firework story, of which I am so fond that I was sure I must have trotted it out here before. I did a quick search on this blog, but couldn't find it, so - if I have told it before - any mismatches between this version and last time can be attributed to old codger's licence, which is a noble tradition. I also have to own up that one reason the story is a hit with me is because I am shamefully scared of all sorts of fireworks. I come from a long line of cowards.

In the days when I was musically more active, I was involved in a jazz festival in the Middle East (this, I reckon, was October 1998), flying from Amsterdam to Bahrain by Gulf Air business class (I only ever flew in anything other than steerage class if someone else was paying - normally, my seat on an aircraft was equipped with oars). I found I was sitting next to a rather scruffy-looking English chap on the plane, who I assumed must be another musician; however it transpired that he was a technician working for a British company who specialised in putting on what he described as "high end" firework displays. It seems that fireworks are very popular in the Emirates and thereabouts, and he was on his way to do some estimating for some mighty forthcoming show.


He told me some entertaining tales of life in his industry - he had set off big bangers all over the known world, and some of the sums of money involved were very scary indeed; let us not get into the politics, but the cost of one of these shows would have fed or educated an awful lot of people for a long time.

He told me about one very special show in Muscat which had gone badly, some years earlier. He was (disappointingly) pleased that his company had not been involved; it was a Dutch organisation, who were sued into oblivion as a result.

The event was (I think) connected with the National Day, and many hundreds of invited guests of the Sultan of Oman and his family were there. Royalty, heads of state, film stars, the Stinking Rich and all sorts of international gangsters - the place was dripping with jewellery, there were $1000 dresses all over. The heart of the event was a 2 hour concert dinner, featuring the Vienna Philharmonic, Andrea Bocelli and so on and so on. Fireworks were to be tastefully added to the entertainment throughout, building to a blockbuster finale, complete with full orchestra. There were 3 articulated wagon-loads of fireworks, and the technology was all state of the art for that time - lighting, orchestral cues and the firing of the pyrotechnics were all driven by MIDI, which is where we were at in those days.

Everything started around 7pm in a huge garden setting, built specially for the occasion. There were some introductory speeches, and then the orchestra began with some very gentle Strauss, while champagne and the first appetisers were brought out. The requisite, subdued floral-effect fireworks were started up, and, because of some (mooted) electrical fault, the entire 3 trucks-worth of fireworks all went off in a single, sustained barrage lasting about a minute.

No-one was hurt, fortunately, though some may have been temporarily deaf for a day or two. There was a general state of shock, as you would expect, with people sitting, concussed, in their soot-stained finery. I had a wonderful moment wondering how they must have spent the rest of the evening, but apparently some contingency plan snapped into action, everyone was hustled away to waiting transports, and the site was cleared very quickly. There may have been a few beheadings - legend does not relate - but there was certainly a complete news embargo. This, of course, was in the days before social media would have made such a thing impossible.

That's the end of the story, really. I failed to find any evidence of this Big Bang online - maybe it never happened, though the guy's stories were generally very good and seemed plausible - I can't think why he would make it up. Form your own judgement. Quite why I should be quietly pleased by the idea of so many rich people being frightened at such extreme cost is something I'll have to think about, but there we are.


If you have been upset by this story, please phone our usual number for counselling. Whatever you do, please take care with those sparklers in the UK on November 5th.

 


21 comments:

  1. A cracking yarn, I too am a fireworkophobe (a medical term) from when I was two years old and scared shitless by a firework display.

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    1. This is a very sad tale Paul. You can probably sue them, even after all these years. You could certainly sell your story to the papers...

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  2. Agreed! While it was fun as a small child to go with our parents to the annual July 4th celebration, which culminated in a fireworks display put on by the city in which we lived almost 50 years ago, I generally avoid stuff like this now. Too noisy, too many people. . . and too many people behaving very stupidly. Even when they are not directly involved with the municipal display. Fireworks (large ones too) are legal for purchase in Michigan, and why there are not more horrible accidents each summer in late June and early July I'll never know.

    Kind (and Quiet) Regards,

    Stokes

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    1. I really like big professional displays, but the domestic version is expensive and pretty feeble really, and some desperado will always mess about. I don't like the smell at all! Somone once gave me a knickerbocker glory ice cream with a sparkler stuck in it at a birthday party, and the ice cream was covered in disgusting crunchy particles...

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  3. Sounds quite plausible to me and I think your reaction is known as Socialist Schadenfreude!

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  4. Sadly, I’m a sucker for them. Something very visceral about the whole sound and vision experience. Probably the closest I’ll get to experiencing black powder warfare.

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    1. Big shows are spectacular and worth watching, agree. Our big Hogmanay show in Edinburgh is rather spoiled by the vast crowds of drunken idiots, but we can see it from our attic windows, 40 miles away!

      I knew a guy who was blinded and severely injured when he was a volunteer helper at a public display in Edinburh in 1986 or so - he later became rather a famous worker for blind programmers. He was hit by a big sky rocket - he was standing over it when it took off. These things are weapons. Apart from my Nanny State concerns, I just don't like the noise or the smell. Maybe I would like films of fireworks better?

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  5. Entertaining story. I was petrified of fireworks for many years but managed to cure myself on the turn of News Years Day 2000.
    Picture an 11 year old lad taking his younger brother to the local school firework display in 1977. We arrived early to get to the front and as the evening wore on I decided to kneel down. Midway through a roman candle began pushing out a series of sparkling balls of coloured flame to great oohs and aahs. Until it fell over and fired into the crowd, hitting yours truly just above my right eye and ending up fizzling away in the hood of my coat. I remember pulling it out and burning my fingers. I also remember the smell of burning hair and lots of blood. Three stiches later I was back home determined never to meddle with these things ever again. (If only I had been standing I would have had a scarred knee instead).
    Roll on to New Years Eve 1999 - everyone is going out to parties but as nominated driver (no one was going to get a cab home the next morning that year) I was sipping fizzy drinks and watching the rest of the world getting mightily plastered. I thought at the time the greatest risk was a Y2K non compliant Jumbo falling from the sky - but no it was host. He had bought enough fireworks to have done the parliament job itself, including what he called "the most powerful rocket you can legally buy".
    Picture the scene then when my quite inebriated host struggles out clutching his box of incendiaries. The Plan was to walk inside and stand as far away as possible but as I watched him falling flat on his face with everyone falling about laughing I realised I was the only sober one present (alright there was my wife and 3 young kids but the inner coward was even more scared of the shame of asking them to step up). So I put my best quivering foot forward, adopted a devil may care air (Errol would have been proud) and set the darn things off myself at a minute past midnight.
    I don't remember if my scar throbbed in the Harry Potter/Voldermort fashion, in fact all I remember was making sure the fuse was alight and that I was as well back as possible a nano-second later.
    Greater love has no man than saving his drunken mate from setting his own house on fire, as they say.

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    1. This is an excellent story - thanks for this Matt.

      I was put off when I was a small kid (my mother was permanently put off at the same event) when our firework party in our back yard was wrecked by my mad Uncle Arthur...

      https://prometheusinaspic.blogspot.com/2013/10/hooptedoodle-102-uncle-arthur.html

      ...setting off some of his home-made fireworks, including an anti-personnel device packed in a cocoa tin. This was a literal show-stopper - all the kids were screaming, everyone went indoors, white faced and shocked. The only good news was that Arthur burned his hand.

      Since that evening, I've always had a fear of loud noises - I can't stand shotguns - when I was working I used to get invited to corporate clay-pigeon shooting events at Gleneagles, and had to come up with all sorts of embarrassing lies to explain my refusal to take part. I also used to hate the circus because they set of firecrackers etc.

      What a killjoy, I guess, but I could never see the attraction. I also had a friend at school who had to get skin grafts on his leg when some prankster put a lit banger down his Wellington boot. Oh what fun.

      I associate neighbourhood firework parties with the very strange tradition of eating potatoes which were charcoal on the outside and raw in the middle. That was crap too.

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  6. Hate fireworks but I’d never pass up the opportunity to legally burn an effigy of Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson. Penny for the guy anyone?

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    1. I'll transfer a modest sum to your terrorism account - send me details.

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  7. Tip with sparklers - start them nearest the hand and they burn away from you, so never get too hot to hold . . .

    H

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    1. Thanks for this Hugh. My personal plan is to stay a long way from the blighters. If God had intended us to set fire to stuff he would never have given us the iPhone candle flame app.

      Prometheus who?

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    1. Apparently the Big Bang was followed by a rain of smouldering bits of cardboard, which went on for quite a long time. I have a sad vision of the Vienna Philharmonic sheltering under their music stands.

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  9. A cracking tale, so to speak. The same firm weren't set on by Saddam Hussein to do that little job on the Kuwaiti oil fields were they?

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    1. Interesting possibility; that Kuwait show might have been an accident - collateral damage from some other fireworks project. Apparently the 1 minute firework show in Oman had taken 2 weeks to set up, not counting the building and landscaping. Maybe they should have had some grown-ups there to check on what was being done.

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    2. Obviously the electrician's two weeks holiday.

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  10. I am quite fond of fireworks … so the idea of the whole lot going off in a one minute barrage might be rather fun… as long as was a good distance away… of course 😁
    I wonder how much the lingerie laundry bill was…😳

    I am lucky to have the river Trent between me and one of the big Guy Fawkes displays… I get an excellent view well outside the blast radius with a comfortable seat and plenty chilled beer… and of course no annoying people…

    All the best. Aly

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    1. Yes that would work for me. Especially the bit about the people. 😁

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