Monday, January 19, 2015

Burning Ambition.

All that business in Oxfordshire last week, with that bloke allegedly setting fire to several buildings, including the council office, reminded me that I'd once considered a career in arson.  We're talking about way, way back here, when I was a teenager and, basically, enjoyed setting fire to things. Don't misunderstand me, I wasn't setting fire to buildings and endangering lives.  I was into smaller scale stuff - like setting fire to models of buildings I'd made from cardboard. Another favourite was making model boats out of polystyrene, setting fire to them and sending them drifting down the river.  One particularly spectacular blaze was the result of myself and a friend throwing the inner tube from what looked like a tractor tyre onto a bonfire we found already burning in some woods which were being cleared (we found the inner tube there as well).  The result was huge orange flames and a pall of thick black smoke which could be seen for miles.  I also tried mixing arson with vigilantism once.  One of my brothers and I once torched this sort of den a gang of kids who had pissed us off somehow (I forget the exact details) had built in a disused quarry.  I hasten to add that they weren't in, or anywhere near, the den at the time and all that went up inflames were some old chairs that they had there.  That and the plastic sheeting they were using for a roof.

But some of my best junior arson antics took place at school.  I remember setting fire to the toilet paper in the toilets in the school sports pavilion.  I recall that one taking a while to get back under control.   And I was a demon with the Bunsen burners in the chemistry lab at school.  Actually, it was even better is you lit the gas tap directly, sending a long flame shooting across the bench.  In fact chemistry lessons lay at the centre of my school arson experiments - the drawers in the work benches were invariably empty and the ideal place to set fire to some paper.  The key was to set the fire in the drawers at someone else's bench, when they were away from it, shutting the drawer once it was well lit.  Eventually smoke would start escaping and the person working there would open the drawer and flames would leap out, startling them and attracting the attention of the teacher.  Invariably the person working at the blazing bench would get the blame.  It was a great way of getting bullying bastards back.  Sadly, one of the best school arson incidents was one I couldn't take credit for - someone set fire a waste paper bin during a design and technology class, resulting in the metalwork teacher running around like a maniac holding the blazing bin above his head and shouting: 'Oh my God! Oh my God!'.  Anyway, it was hardly surprising that I should consider a career in arson.  As a teenager it looked like fun.  But as I grew up I realised it wasn't at all glamourous and I decided to leave it to the insane amateurs like that guy in Oxfordshire.

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