OK, confession time. When I was 8, I should have ended up in Paddington Green on a charge of "conspiracy to cause explosions." Although, in my defence, I wasn't entirely to blame. I'd noticed on the side of a battery, probably from my Meccano set motor (because I didn't have a lot of battery operated toys, it was the 70s after all), that it said "likely to explode if disposed of in fire."
Explosions, I pondered, are good. I liked Guy Fawkes night, and the prospect of having something likely to explode if burnt was almost orgasmic to my young brain. So, the following day in school, I hatched a plan with my friend Alan.
"If we get all the batteries we can, we can blow up the school and we'll never have to go again."
"Yesssss, excellent" he replied with a menacing hiss.
We blitzed our homes. The remote for the TV no longer worked. The torch was dark. The radio played nothing but silence. And the following morning, we met in the banned playing area behind the third and fourth year block and displayed our not unimpressive haul. I had about 20 batteries, mostly big C and D type batteries and all hidden in my Muppet pencil case. Alan had loads of 9v square batteries, and with some authority announced "these are higher voltage, so they'll make a bigger bang." I'd managed to swipe a box of Ship matches and we set about trying the light the end of the battery.
Nothing. Nada. Zip. The nipple type end of the battery got slightly hot, but the matches kept going out, and anyway, the bell went. We scrambled our IED into our hidey holes and went into class. Of course, our over-active imagination went into overdrive, and we realised before morning play what we were missing was a fuse. We also surmised that the more batteries in the explosion, the better, so Alan distracted Mr Pillar whilst I swiped some blutak. We returned to our illegal den as soon as we got out, and built a 4 battery 'stick' of battery dynamite, with a piece of string sticking out of the top. I got Alan to hold it, and lit the fuse. Of course, it went out. We tried a second time, again to no avail. The string was crap as a fuse, and we needed to find out how to make it work. Alan promised to dip it in petrol (uh oh) and return it the following day, but he forgot. So, plan B took over.
Maybe a fire would work, if we threw the battery into it. We created the world's smallest bonfire, out of the now rapidly dwindling stash of matches. It was about 2 inches wide, and contained about 20 matches in a small conical form. We lit the tip of the cone, and howled with glee as a large 'genie' of smoke appeared and the fire ignited well.
"Quick, throw it on the fire" yelled Alan.
So I did, and we turned to run for cover from the obviously huge explosion. The battery flattened the conflagration, the matches fell apart, and finally a gust of wind reduced them to a smouldering pile of burnt matchsticks, with a slightly blackened battery on top. We'd run out of matches.
"Stuff this," said Alan, picking up his batteries, "it'll never work. I'm off to play football."
30 years later, I know that they would have only burst, showering me with hot copper and zinc. Kinda lucky I didn't succeed then, or I could have ended up hating the western world and promising to avenge my scarring. Guantanamo Bay, you can now rent out my room.
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