Luminox was magic. I stepped into Broad Street and entered a fire garden...one almost expected to see salamanders (the fire elemental, not the animal) whizzing through the air. From a fire chandelier held up by a crane to streamers of fire descending to the Bodleian to a Rube Goldberg-like fire and water feature, it was a sensory delight. (And a pyromaniac's one, of course.)
Suddenly, the strong smell of burning coal took me back to winter nights in Pakistan, walking down a dark Bahawalpur street or sitting on a roof in Sahiwal...for a moment, I could feel the dust beneath my feet. As I walked down the darkest part of Broad Street by firelight, I half-expected a Juma'a bazaar to appear and to hear the Friday night haggling on a chilly subcontinental winter evening.
Fire is primal. It exerts great power in our lives and in our imaginations, bringing us comfort and fear, light and heat, life and death. It has been considered one of the four elements, alongside water, earth and air. People were drawn to it like...erm, well, I was going to say, 'moths to a flame'. The street was crowded, and faces flickering past me were smiling, engaged and enchanted, something so rarely seen in these days of post-technological ennui.
And all because of fire - as part of various structures, granted, but the structures were simple in form - a chandelier, a sphere, streamers...magnificent to behold and hypnotic, nonetheless.
As per the Orange cinema advert about the New York blackout:
Sometimes things need to switch off for people to switch on.