King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Tuesday, August 10

Picture the scene

It's 1980-something, and the summer holidays. A positively heeee-uge 6 weeks of having no school, and what are you going to do over that time? Well if this were a film the screen would go all wavy, and a flashback would occur.

Where I lived as a child ran down the side of a hill at a gradient of about 8%, and this meant that all the local kids lived basically in two terraces one behind another of a dozen houses or so. Also in the same neighbourhood was a long thin stretch of woodland, ideal for the same kids to go and play in. This was normally the first stop at the start of the holidays, and would involve many a "camp" (something used in such different terminology nowadays) sprouting up all over the woods. They would normally start off extravagant affairs, with real weaved leaf roofing over the top, heavily camouflaged to hide from your enemies (aka the kids from another local school) and secret entrances that would even have dogs puzzling how to get in. Over the next few days this would degrade into an almost lord of the flies style as weapons were developed, items stolen from houses to make the camp safer, and food taken from larders to make the place more homely.

Then someone borrows (*cough*) their mum's lighter. "I know," they cry, "we'll have a camp fire." Much scrambling for dry burnable bits of wood and a veritable cone of firewood if ready in front of the camp. A damp newspaper can always be found in these woods, so fuel to actually start the fire is readily available and before you know it a small conflagration is burning merrily away and half a dozen kids sit around it pretending to warm themselves even though the sun is out and the air temperature is in the upper 70s.

A few days into this simple life and someone (always the local bully where I lived) decides that, in his words, "This is crap, lets see what else burns." So he nicks the lighter and wonders off into the woods to see what a pyromaniac can really do. A few smoky points around the woods are formed but succumb to no real fuel, before he strikes gold and comes across a dry, large pile of leaves left over from last autumn. This goes up a lot quicker then anybody else would expect, and all of a sudden one corner of suburbia is truly threatened in real Australian bush fire fashion. Of course, we could do the responsible thing and leg it home, call the fire brigade, and deny all knowledge. Or we could stay and watch. Hard choice, huh?

2 hours later, and there we are, lined up in front of our quite frankly appalled parents. Each of us has blackened faces, hands and clothing. One or two have developed a really quite severe cough. And best of all, the twat that lit the fire is now being pointed to by all his "mates" as the one that started the fire, and he cannot deny it because the lack of eyebrows sort of gives him away. Still... a week later, another camp is built, another lighter is stolen, and another campfire is being built.

It's a wonder there are any trees left in the area at all.