AT dusk one evening last summer a firework display in my village went on longer than the ususal weekend pyrotechnics. It finally drew me out to try and identify the source of the prolonged spectacle. Not in admiration but anger that the peace of a still summer's evening had been so comprehensively ruined.

As is often the case, the fireworks weren't as close as they sounded. They were about a quarter of a mile away, towards the bottom end of my strung -out village, where I live smack in the centre. Walking up the street, with the rockets still going off behind them, was a couple I knew. "Do you know whose fireworks those are?'' I asked, doubtless in a tone that reflected annoyance, if not my real fury.

"Oh. (Name mentioned). 50th birthday I think." This was said in a way that implied: "Why are you asking?" "Absolutely outrageous," I fumed. A look of incomprehension passed briefly across both their faces. They obviously wondered why I was complaining. The word "killjoy' probably passed their lips the moment after I bid them good evening and chuntered back home.

So not everyone feels that private firework displays are an unwarranted addition to the clamour that already bedevils our lives. The increasing numbers who now let off fireworks at almost any pretext certainly don't mind the din of other people's displays. They have passed through some kind of sound barrier, content to live in a world of noise, perhaps even stimulated by it.

Still, the 143,000-name public petition to Parliament, urging curbs on fireworks, demonstrates the mounting concern about this new public nuisance. The vital point of principle is whether the celebration of a purely private event should impact on the wider community. And most of us, I imagine, would feel a little embarrassed to mark a birthday, even a big 'O' birthday, in a manner that recalls VE day or the new Millennium.

But the satisfaction that has greeted the Government's support for a Private Member's Bill aimed at restricting the use of fireworks seems misplaced. To me, the many Parliamentary hours that will be spent on the Bill look like being a complete waste of time.

OK, the most explosive fireworks, some of which, incidentally, frightened my two grandchildren to tears during a recent visit, will be banned. Very good. But stronger controls on the sale of fireworks won't stop any adult getting them. And a curfew from 11pm to 7am will only marginally curb the disturbance factor. Animals will be distressed whenever the bangs occur.

And with weddings and birthdays ruled in as fireworks' occasions, the new law looks like making little practical difference. Bonfire Night and New Year (including Chinese) apart, firework displays should be licensed and restricted to community occasions. A village fete, a school pageant, an open air concert - fireworks yes. A 50th birthday, a ruby wedding, a new baby - fireworks no. We wish you, especially the baby, well of course. But, unlike your party guests, an evening of bangs, screeches and whooshes is not what we had in mind.