Late on Wednesday afternoon we went to Puivert. Why not? It’s a pretty town not far from here, with a beach beside a charming lake.
When we arrived at 5 o’clock, the car park was already almost full. We weren’t surprised. Nobody was leaving the beach: in fact, like us, dozens of people were making tracks for it, burdened with swimming gear, beach towels, fold-up chairs, picnic hampers.
We were getting there early, to make sure of a grand-stand view. After the regular summer-Wednesday-evening market, there was going to be a firework display, and we knew it would be good. We picked our spot under a tree and near the lake. Nearby, a musician set up his stall, and his balladeering (think Simon and Garfunkel) helped while away the evening. A spot of swimming (not for me, not this time) a spot of people watching, and soon it was time to think about food. About half those market-traders had set up stoves and ovens and complicated gas-rings and were busy slicing, stirring, grilling, frying and baking to provide meals for the hundreds of us who planned to eat ‘sur place’ as the evening wore on and darkness fell. What to choose. Local grilled meat? Tapas? Pizza? Something salady? Paella? Something oriental? Wandering round in a state of terminal indecision’s part of the fun.
We chose paella, Susie and I, our young companions went Chinese, and we all finished off with sheep’s milk ice-cream (rose petal’s very good, so’s speculoos).
Then it was time to move nearer the water, listen to the nearby singer and the croaking frogs, and wait for darkness.
I enjoy fireworks. But about 10-15 minutes is usually enough. There are only so many rockets and golden fountains you can exclaim over. This though, was different.
As it became truly night, laser beams (‘testing, testing’) drew blue lines and beams across the darkness. White smoke emerged from large pipes at the water’s edge, and billowed softly across the lake. What on earth?
Then it began. Laser beams drew architect’s plans in the sky. These futuristic ‘buildings’ revealed clouds above them: ah! That’s what the smoke was for. And above them, orange and red firework fountains dripped from the sky, seen through the ‘ceilings’ and the clouds. The laser drawings slipped and slid, plunged and dived, in an ever-changing palette of electric blues, citric greens, livid yellows and magenta. The fireworks went relentlessly on, mirroring the insistent rhythms of dramatic, dynamic music which seemed to herald the Apocalypse. I don’t know how to describe how utterly involving and exciting it was. My camera – no camera – begins to do justice to that extraordinary marriage of lightshow and fireworks.
After 20 minutes, it stopped. Just like that. We held our collective breath, utterly silent, hundreds of us. And then we applauded, wildly, recognising the genius of what we’d just seen, and knowing that an encore simply wasn’t going to happen. Not this year.
It was, quite simply, one of the most exciting and compelling spectacles I’ve seen. Ever.