It all started so innocently with long afternoons under my bed ignoring my parents’ about the dangers of playing with matches. It then moved up to "genie-ing" entire boxes of Swan Vestas and chucking them out of the window. Within weeks there was a whole gang of us diligently scraping the heads of matches and watching with abject terror as they all went up in about a quarter of a second, usually depriving at least one of our number of their eyebrows.
It would have stayed at this innocent level had my mate Graham not got involved. Graham was a wizz at science, and filled our heads with ideas of rockets, bombs, and certain combinations of garden chemicals and innocent kitchen ingredients which I won't go into right now the CIA would be down on me like a ton of bricks if I did. He would turn up after school with something he'd knocked up in his shed, which we'd pack full of "substances", light the fuse and dive for cover. At the peak of our art we had rockets that could travel a good quarter of a mile, and what the bomb disposal people would call "viable devices" that would leave a sizable crater. It was gratifying to see that some of the innovations we brought about subsequently turned up in the Iraqi Supergun a few years ago. This success, inevitably, was to be our downfall.
Being 14 year old kids, we didn't have a firing range to test on like the army did. So we used the school field. After one particularly excitable device had veered off course and set fire to a hedge, we were chased home by a baying hate mob who had witnessed the whole affair from the adjacent youth club. In our confusion, we ran through the wrong hole in the fence into our neighbour's garden, and it was quite a relief that the little squirt took the rap for the whole affair and not us.
But had we learnt our lesson ? Oh no ! Up the local chalk pits we went the following weekend with a satchel of the things determined to make a noise. Dressing in combat gear didn't help our cause much: there was this blue flashing light as the law eventually rumbled our little game of world domination. Being the cowards that we were, we laid the blame squarely on one of our number who had got cold feet and had run off home to watch Saturday Superstore on TV.
Graham is now a research scientist, and at least one of our gang has used the experience gained in this little episode to forge a career in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. I, for my sins, still have the scar tissue on my right hand, and most importantly, survived to tell the tale.