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» Darwin Awards

Flaming balls of shit!
I have a mate. He's a bad influence. When he and I get together, we're positively chaotic. This episode tells of a time shortly after he was blessed with his first child. Sit back and enjoy.

So my mate lives on a fairly remote farm. Not served by regular trash pickup, he is quite canny with his rubbish. Once their little crotchfruit came along, however, he and the missus quickly (within three days) tired of terry-towelling nappies, and bought disposables. All was fine for four months. To deal with the disposables, he simply tossed them into a 55-gallon oil drum outside the house.

Well, the inevitable happened and one day, the drum was full. This happily coincided with a hot autumn day, a visit from yours truly, and less happily, after quite a lot of beer had been drunk. What to do, what to do?

Burying? Nope - not biodegradable. Can't take it to the tip, we're all too pissed. No more drums, so can't start another load. I know; let's burn it! It's, after all, a metal oil drum. That'll work great! Ah, but the drum is full - to the very brim - with sh*tty nappies.

So Dumb and Dumber dug out a drill and cut a hole about a foot from the bottom of the drum. We then dribbled, over the course of the next two hours, five (FIVE!) gallons of petrol into the top of the barrel.

Then - and we both thought we were SO very clever - we used some detonation cord, and ran it through the hole in the bottom of the drum to light the petrol from the base of the fire.

Now - picture this in slow motion - the following things happened. The det cord lit. The burning ACME-like spark travelled prettily along the cord. It vanished into the freshly cut hole in the drum. There was a rumbling sound. That was the oh-no-second. We turned around and began to run. Behind us there was a sort of squishBOOM sound as the tragically explosive mixture of petrol and festering, rancid nappies exploded.

So here's what happened next. It turns out that (who knew?) 55-gallon oil drums are stronger than nappies, especially when the top of the drum is missing. When you ignite a tightly packed drum full of nappies from the bottom, you have created a superb nappy cannon. As we found out. After the squishBOOM, there was a louder FLOOOOOOM sound. I looked over my shoulder to see a huge tongue of fire leaping out of the drum, and balls of fire above that.

The balls of fire turned out to be flaming, shit filled nappies - which flew about 300 feet into the air and then started raining down on the house, the cars, the tractor, us and everything else. We also found out that stamping on them to put them out isn't nice.

The smell was truly incredible. Some of those nappies had been festering throughout a British summer, at the bottom of the nappy cannon. The sound of the molotov shittails thumping down around us, along with the smell of roasting piss, shit and rotten nappy will stay with me forever.

The final crowning glory was when his wife came out of the farmhouse, looked around at the still-unfolding carnage, muttered "fucking hell" and went back inside - not knowing that at least 30 flaming balls of shite were setting fire to the roof above her head.

We eventually got the fires put out, with not too much damage to property, but I was banned for a LONG time.
(Fri 13th Feb 2009, 0:56, More)

» Darwin Awards

Inappropriate explosives.
I've sat on this story for a LONG time. More than 25 years. Now I live in a different country, on the other side of the world. So perhaps it's time to unburden myself of this tale. It is a story of stupidity, near-death, mayhem, soldiers and more. How I survived, I will never know. But here goes. It's a bit of a long story, with a 20-year-later twist, so apologies for length and girth, if not volume.

Back in the early 80's, I was an 11-year-old South African kid somewhat adrift in the world of English private boarding school. I'm not going to give any more detail than "the school was in the south of England". I was bright and nerdy, so they put me in the Scholarship Class. This class had only seven kids in it, and we were all quite bright. Science lessons were our favourites. They were conducted in a portakabin-type of classroom just outside the main school building, which was an old 1800's-style stately home affair.

Our science teacher decided that, since we were the "bright" kids, we were also the "responsible" kids - and stupidly gave each of us a key to the science lab, carte blanche to spend our time in there whenever we wanted, and a signed pad of requisition chits. These chits could be filled out and passed to the school secretary, and because they were already signed, we could - and did - requisition whatever we damned well liked. Can we spot a recipe for disaster yet? Read on...

A couple of the kids got into making beer and wine. I helped them and we made a still. Then we had a great trade going, selling beer, wine and moonshine to all the other kids in school (the oldest kid in our school was 13). This helped us raise some money. Another couple of kids used the science lab's darkroom to develop folks' films (for money, of course), pocketing the profits. I tired of the still once it was made, and didn't really care for the taste of the moonshine. But I did like the way it burned when you set fire to it... You will already know from my previous post to this QOTW that I'm a bit of a pyromaniac, so it was inevitable that I started experimenting with explosives.

From the boring (phosphorous in a shower head) to the exciting, I spanned the gamut of lethality. I then found a book called the Anarchist's Cookbook, which led me to my ruin. My first real achievement was to create almost a kilo of gunpowder. I used one of those huge science-lab mortars to mix the ingredients, with a large stone pestle to crush everything together. Once the mix was made, I poured a bit more than half away into a storage container, and then decided to "test" my mixture. On this occasion, I was alone in the science lab. So I lit a match, tossed it into the stone mortar (which had about half a pound of black powder in it) and legged it to the other end of the science lab.

From this "safe" distance, I watched as... nothing happened. Meh; I started walking back towards the mortar, when there was a blinding white flash and a spectacular "FOOM" sound. Yay! It worked! I was about 10 feet from it when it blew, and I still felt the shock/heat wave - cool! As I walked towards the mortar, this huge (10-15 kilo) stone mixing bowl slowly and silently cracked in half... and the pestle (itself a good 10 inches of granite) had vanished. Looking up, I noticed a perfectly round hole in the ceiling of the science lab, with powder burns all around it, and a matching hole in the roof above... Cue a chit from the pad for the school handyman to fix the roof. I explained it away as "a science experiment". Phew - got away with that, eh? Did I learn? Did I buggery.

The fascinating publication I had found then told me about nitro-glycerine. Chit for the ingredients? NO! Of course not - I'm not that stupid. I spread them out over three chits. So a little while later (wavy lines) there I am with three large beakers full of nitro, wandering about the lab showing me mates (I still shudder and get the cold sweats thinking about this). I took a pipette and squirted little drops onto the floor, where they amusingly exploded with little petard-like flashes and bangs. Cool, eh? Enough for me? Oh, no. Oh, no - not even slightly.

Turns out that you can use (unstable) nitro-glycerine to make much more stable dynamite sticks, which can then be used for wholesale destruction. And my faithful book told me what to do. Off to the woodworking shop went I, coming back with two large bin-bags full of sawdust. Then off to the kitchen for a roll of brown waxed paper. But that wasn't all. The other thing I needed was a method of ignition. Fire or impact will do it, and I couldn't get or make electric detonators. So I decided (on the advice of my book) to make fuse (or detonation) cord. Off to the school laundry, where I blagged three old threadbare sheets. Back to the science lab with my haul...

You make dynamite sticks by combining sawdust with liquid nitro-glycerine. This stabilises the nitro, so it's harder to ignite by accident. You can make them sturdy by wrapping the gooey mix up in wax paper. You make the fuse cord by taking long strips of bedsheet, coating them with glue, coating them with a fine layer of the gunpowder you made earlier and then twisting it (before the glue dries) into a long string. You then cut 12" lengths of this string and insert it into the middle of each of your dynamite sticks, before you roll it all up and sellotape it tight.

Before long, I had 15 and a half sticks of dynamite, looking exactly like something you'd see on a Wile E Coyote cartoon (only without the ACME logos). I also, by this time, had an accomplice - Tim. Sorry, Tim. So what on earth do we do with this stuff now? This was a dilemma, to be sure. So Tim and I went for a walk outside to consider our options.

Outside the science lab was the stump of a massive old oak that had died many years before and had been chopped off, about 15 feet above the ground. The oak was wide enough around that we couldn't reach each other's hands if we both hugged the tree; it was a bit big, then. The stump was next to a barbed-wire fence, which was made up of wooden fence posts about 6" across, with barbed wire between them, at about 8 feet apart. Inspiration struck! Wouldn't it be awesome to use the massive, old, dense, heavy tree to absorb our explosion(s)? So - off to the woodworking lab again for a hand drill with a sufficient diameter bit to drill holes to take our sticks of dynamite.

It was exhausting, this - drilling holes in this old tree. The sticks that I'd made were about 10" long and 1" across, so each hole needed to be at least that size. However, we persevered, and over the next week or so, we went out and drilled holes until the tree was ringed with holes, about a foot from the ground. Unfortunately, we mis-counted, and the tree got 14 holes. But we had 15 and a half sticks... What to do? Well, there was that tempting fence right next to the tree... You guessed it; the post nearest the tree got a hole and so did the next one in line (toward the science lab).

So, now begins the Darwin part of the story.

I carefully inserted a stick into each hole in the tree, leaving the fuse cord sticking out. Each snicked home with a satisfying "thunk". The fence posts got, respectively, the spare full stick and the last half a stick. I then got my long roll of fuse cord and started at the side of the tree facing the science lab, tying each stick's cord to the roll and then moving clockwise around the tree to the next one. Soon enough, I had reached the fence, so I attached the full stick and then the final half stick. I ran the remaining cord to our shelter. Our shelter was, and I want to be completely clear about this, utter shite. It was a low (18 inches or so) berm of earth with grass on it, about 25 feet from the tree. Our plan was to lie on the ground behind the berm, light the fuse and watch the fun - if things got too hairy, we'd hide behind our carefully-chosen shelter.

With the inevitability of all really really stupid decisions, we lit the cord. If you've ever seen the little spark run down Wile E Coyote's fuse cord, I'm here to tell you that yes - in real life, it looked just like that. Only it moved a great deal faster than we were expecting. The spark jogged merrily along the ground to the first fence post, where the half stick was waiting. Exactly as planned, and in true Mythbusters style, the spark reached the knot, split in two and continued a) towards the next stick (a full one this time) in the second fence post, and b) into the drilled hole at the bottom of the first fence post, while we peeked over our berm like a pair of retarded Chads.

Then all sound ceased. The earth below us heaved, and the bottom of the first fence post vanished in a bright, blinding white flash and a huge cloud of splinters (tiny, tiny splinters that were also very much on fire). The shock wave knocked the wind out of us and flattened us to the ground, while the first fence post whizzed straight up, to be restrained by the barbed wire (I imagine a comedy "bwoinnnnngggg" noise).

Unfortunately, the shit train had, by now, well and truly left the station. That was, you will recall, just the first stick - and a half stick at that. It was about this time that the second one went off, followed by regular THUMP-THUMP-THUMP explosions as the remaining 14 full sticks - confined in their dense, wooden lairs, started to blow. The crushing, overwhelming force is impossible to describe. The earth beneath us was bucking and kicking. We couldn't hear a fucking thing; all hearing was gone. We couldn't breathe; there was a rapidly-expanding fireball full of wood splinters that engulfed the air around us. We were completely flattened behind our pathetic little berm and totally convinced that we were going to die.

When the concussions stopped, I risked a peek up, to see something even more horrifying, if that could be possible. The tree stump - all 15' of it - was rising majestically into the air atop a huge fireball. It was slowly corkscrewing, too (remember, the sticks went off in sequence, not all together). I will remind the gentle reader that we were not very far at all from the science lab... When you're 11, and deaf, and on fire, and you then see about eight tons of flaming tree rising into the air, your brain just kind of shuts down. I just lay there, mouth open, watching like a mong as the stump reached its apogee, and - gravity being a harsh mistress - began its inevitable return journey. My memories of the time have it going at least ten miles into the air; measuring the lateral distance later, I reckon I got it a real 200 to 300 feet up. When it began its downward journey, still burning like an Apollo rocket, I couldn't move to run out of its path. If it had landed on me, I wouldn't be here now. Luckily, it headed in the direction of the school pool, but didn't reach it. It crashed to earth (with another huge concussion) about halfway between the science lab and the pool, and began smouldering.

Now came the aftermath. Neither Tim nor I could hear ANYTHING. We looked at each other, and we could both tell we were talking (screaming?) because our mouths were moving, but neither of us could hear our own voices, let alone each other's. Tim was on fire, with burning sawdust and splinters on his back, so I quickly batted the flames out, and then he did the same for me. Then we thought to look around; take stock, if you will. Behind us, the science lab...

The wall facing us was scorched black and peppered with chunks of wood and splinters. Every single window was gone, and all the desks and tables inside the lab had been swept clear. Beyond the lab, the old school building was also in a bad way. Every window facing the science lab had been blown out, and - what was this? There was a flood of kids and teachers leaving the building very quickly indeed. I imagine they were screaming, as many mouths seemed to be wiiiiide open. The music teacher (male) was running like a girl, all flappy hands and arms and such, mouth wide open, trampling kids in his haste to leave. So Tim and I looked at each other; we stripped off our (burned) school jumpers, flung them into the science lab, and joined the screaming exodus. Just merged with them.

Then the police came, along with the fire engines, and the Army, too. We were all interviewed - every one of us - and the school was closed for two weeks. Once Tim and I could hear, we agreed on our story (we were in the science lab, doing homework, when - BOOM - and that's all we knew) and swore that neither of us would breathe a word for at least 20 years AND only if we'd emigrated. We were both absolutely shitting ourselves that we'd be caught. I mean; blowing up your school? That's Borstal for sure, right? The thing that bothered me the most was the incriminating trail of ingredient requests...

The Army posted a guard on the school for the next six months; we had nice squaddies with Landies and guns looking after us and the girls' school next door. The bomb squad came out, and they analysed the residue. They concluded that the IRA had targeted the school, blaming them for the home-made explosive and for trying to kill the poor widdle kiddies. It turned out that the chits went in the bin as soon as the stuff was ordered, and the overall bill for "stuff" drowned out my ingredients; nobody put two and two together at all. Impossibly, we got away with it.

To this day, I have a small glass vial with some of that gunpowder in it. I keep it to remind myself to NEVER BE THAT FUCKING STUPID again. Doesn't always work though.

Still with me? Thanks! So there is a final chapter in this story. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were living in California, next to a really nice American family. They invited us around for Thanksgiving dinner, and after a lovely feed, the cigars, brandy and stories came out. So I told this one, to general acclaim, horror and so on.

A week or so later, my Mum came to live with us (different story, don't ask), and the same family invited us all to Christmas dinner. At that same dinner, the family's son-in-law also attended. He's a fantastic sort; a practical joker, and exactly the sort of person with whom I should DEFINITELY NOT associate. So he started telling HIS stories. Then his father-in-law uttered the fateful words... "Lustfish! Tell Zak the story about blowing up your sch...." But it was too late. Me, standing behind my mother, making throat-cutting motions and mouthing "Ix-nay on the ool-skay"... My mum turned around, and with a look of pure frost, said "yes, why DON'T you tell us that story...?".

All those years, and I never told her. Never breathed a word. She had had to come and take me out of school because of the nasty old IRA, and she never knew it was me... She didn't speak to me for weeks (WIN) and still hasn't quite come to terms with the whole thing. Mouth like a cat's bum or what!

This whole episode made the front pages of all the rags in England that year, until the government put a media blackout on it. They didn't want the IRA getting the publicity, apparently.

How I'm still alive today is a complete mystery, to be honest.

Apologies once again for length!
(Fri 13th Feb 2009, 21:17, More)

» Hotel Splendido

Turkish delight
I travel - a lot - on business. Many years ago I learned that when the company is paying, DO NOT CHEAP OUT. Ever. I have a number of miserable hotel stories...

When I checked into a hotel in Istanbul, I was given a room on the second floor. When I got out of the lift, I was somewhat surprised to see bullet holes all around the foyer. I knew they were bullet holes, because the porter then took great pride in showing me the huge bloodstain in the carpet.

I stayed in a Horrible Inn in Johannesburg in 1995 (during the Rugby World Cup). I shared this hotel with the All Blacks. Who got food poisoning. The All Blacks claimed that the Sarf Effricans had poisoned them. All I can tell you is that they tried it on me first. A crap or a chunder; I had no idea what was coming next. All I could do was lie in a puddle of my own fluids mewling quietly.

I checked into a hotel in Los Angeles, walked to my room, opened the door to be greeted by a very fat man shagging a very ugly arse. That's all I saw. Went back to the reception desk to request a new room and was disbelieved by the receptionist. I had to take her to the room to prove it, where Mr. Fat was still energetically pounding Ugly Arse. I still, to this day, do not know if Mr. Fat was shagging a bird or a bloke.

I had checked into a hotel in Boston and gone to bed. I was woken up by the arrival of a man who had also been given the room and was very upset to find a naked man sleeping in his (?) bed.

In a flea-pit motel in Cincinnati I got propositioned by a lady who (from the bulge) had a bigger willy than I did.

In a very swanky hotel in Seattle I was intrigued by a red LED inside the air conditioning duct. I opened it to find a video camera trained on the bed. The police got involved with that one. It turned out that the assistant manager and two maintenance guys had five of the best (including the two honeymoon suites) rooms rigged up with cameras and were flogging amateur porn.

I once made the mistake of taking a UV light with me to a hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina and then the bigger mistake of shining it on the room's contents when the lights were out. Bedspread, carpet, chairs, curtains (!) covered with "DNA".

I arrived at a hotel in Hawaii and went for a pee in my room's bog - to find a turd (sans paper) of truly epic proportions. I mean, this thing was a bum torpedo. Bigger than my willy. Bigger than John Holmes' willy. I took a picture of it because I didn't think anyone would believe me.

I arrived - after a late Virgin Shaglantic flight - at my hotel in New York to be told that there were no more rooms left at the hotel. The air steward also checking in smiled at me and offered me to share his bed. Then the hotel offered me a room at another hotel, but I'd have to drive there. This was pre-satnav, and it was - I'm not kidding - like the effing Overlook. A scarier hotel I have never been to. I slept in my clothes.

I don't know why, but more times than I can count I seem to have been in the room next to the couple who are going for the "world's noisiest shag" record. One couple shagged - loudly and energetically - for almost four hours. When they finally came (and believe me, the whole floor knew it) they got a round of applause.

I have more but it's already too long as it is (steady on, ladies).

I hate hotels.
(Fri 18th Jan 2008, 20:56, More)

» Personal Hygiene

Me tits hurt
I have one for you all. A mate of mine is a real, honest-to-dog doctor. At the beginning of his career, he acted as a locum doctor in Gloucester for several surgeries. One night, after such a locumage, I went around to visit him and he wasn't his usual chirpy self. Over a beer, the story came out.

He was holding court in a doctor's office, and being a locum, didn't enjoy the services of a nice nurse to get the next person in from the waiting room. About four patients in, with a full waiting room, he went out to ask for "next please" and became aware of an odour. In the waiting room.

Over the next hour or so, the number of patients waiting seemed to shrink, while the stench grew and grew. As he put it "it stank of corpse".

Eventually, he called the next patient, and the stench came in with this somewhat worn-looking woman. He surreptitiously sprang to the window and flung it open, subtly hanging his head outside in the pouring rain gasping huge lungfuls of air.

When he'd controlled his gag reflex, he asked the lady what seemed to be the problem. Opening her topcoat (which proved to be the only item of clothing she was wearing, bar only shoes) she claimed "Me tits hurt. And me cunt, too".

He asked her to move to the examination table (little point in asking her to disrobe behind the curtain) while he smeared Vicks under his nose, and put on two pairs of rubber gloves. Using a tongue depressor, he began the examination. Starting with the lady's boobs, he lifted one of the sagging, pendulous dugs to discover advanced gangrene underneath. The other was the same.

Investigating her lady parts, and talking to her at the same time, it turned out that she'd been a lady of the evening for some three years, didn't believe in condoms, and hadn't washed since her new business venture.

There was crusty cum and other deposits all around her floppy catflap, turning green and mouldy. She had gangrene in her taint. She had public lice (so much that he could see her pubes seethe). The same lice were in her armpits and probably her head hair, too.

By this time, my mate was gipping - the Vicks not being particularly efficacious against this WMD onslaught. He referred her to the hospital, and called an ambulance to take her there.

The ambulance crew later posted him a dog turd to thank him for this kindness.

The stench was so bad in the doctor's office that they couldn't use the room until the carpet had been replaced.

He said that the combination of sights and smells, along with the wet squelching sounds as he manipulated various parts of her body were the most disgusting thing he'd ever had to endure. He hurled, periodically, for three days afterwards because the smell had coated the inside of his nose and he occasionally smelled it.
(Sat 24th Mar 2007, 20:28, More)

» I witnessed a crime

Just checking
Many years ago, I worked in Bristol. There was a multi-story car park where we parked. One of my hapless colleagues bought a nice BMW. After a few days, he came back to it to find the window broken and stereo gone.

"Crivens", quoth he (or something like, anyway). Had the car fixed and replaced the radio. Over the next two weeks this happened twice more. Eventually he bought a CD Walkman (remember those?) and put a note in the windscreen saying "no radio fitted".

He came back to the car to find the window broken, his note turned over and a new note: "just checking".
(Wed 20th Feb 2008, 1:39, More)
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