A "Kids! Don't try this at home!" Special
One of the advantages of joining the Air Cadets, I found, was that you get to meet a better class of lunatic. I thought I was a pyromaniac, but Ally and Jim were a danger to society. They seemed to know all the best combinations of household chemicals for maximum results, they knew how to rig up all kinds of trip flares, rockets and things that just went off very loudly to scare old ladies.
Jim also had a “mate”, who’d just come back from hitching round Europe, and knowing his interest in the dark arts of exothermic chemistry, had got hold of a little present for him whilst in Spain. A Civil War vintage German Stick Grenade. The genuine article, we were told. The lads soon found out it was a dud with none of ze banging-machen-werfer inside it, but they soon put that right with a concoction known only to themselves and certain Irish terrorist groups.
A small knot of enthusiasts were invited up to the woods around Sonning Common to take a look. And what a bunch of tin-pot idiots we must have looked: combat jackets, Dunlop Green Flash plimsolls and chunky push bikes.
Achtung Tommy Hawkins Englander Pigdog Etc
We gazed on the Wehrmacht’s finest in awe before strutting round the wooded clearing with jerky goose steps and shouting out “Gott in Himmel, Englander” and “Achtung Spitfire” to anyone who might have thought it was funny.
“Achtung!” shouted Jim, as he lobbed the grenade into the centre of the clearing.
With cries of “Fookinhell!” we dived for cover, fully expecting red hot shards of metal to fling themselves towards us.
“Relax, relax!” says Jim matter-of-factly, “You’ve got to pull the pin first”, as we sheepishly picked ourselves up off the dirt.
There then started a game of chicken, where someone would chuck the bomb in the air, and we’d all leg it, still acting the giddy goat, shouting “Die Englander Pig Dog!” from the safety of the trees.
“You lot think you’re sooo clever”, beamed Ally, nonchalantly pulling the pin out of the grenade. It took him a full second to realise what he’d done, where his jaw dropped, and his arms and legs all decided to move in different directions.
“Throw it you twat! Throw it!” Jim finally yelled from about fifty yards away.
So he did, with all the effort that his now jellified arms could muster. It hit a tree with a hollow CLUNK and bounced back to land at his feet, the astonished look on his face giving way to one of desperation.
Galvanised into action, we did what any true coward would do: “Fookin’ leg it!” came the cry, and we took off for the safety of the road, our bikes, Jim’s house, anywhere that was a long, long way away.
As I ran, I was aware of the words “OhshitOhshitOhshitOshit” getting closer and closer. It was Ally, who had finally got both his legs working again, and pumped up an adrenaline rapidly overtook the lot of us and disappeared into the distance.
Seconds later, there was a WOOOOMPH as the thing went off, and a warm glow lit our backs momentarily. Bits of wood, leaves, pine cones, stones and the odd lump of twisted metal rained down onto the clearing. It wasn’t a big explosion by any means, but it would have been enough to leave Ally in pieces up a tree somewhere.
Sheepishly, we headed back to the scene of the crime. There was a small crater, ringed by burning undergrowth, which we tried to stamp out, but it just melted the bottom of my hyper-trendy Green Flashes.
There was a blue flashing light. God knows how, but someone had called the Police.
“Now lads, what’s all this about an explosion in these woods then?”
I must admit, it all got a bit out of control from here on in. We sold the copper a cock-and-bull story about how we were building a den up in the woods an’ climbin’ some trees an’ stuff when all of a sudden, like, we heard an explosion, up in the sky, like, and God strike us down if we’re lying sir, a meteorite landed right near us. Look at the crater, sir, just here. Amazin’ sir. Couldn’t believe it. Is there a reward?
He stood. He looked. He stuck his pen in the hole surrounded by charred grass. He took some notes, and the next day a load of hairy scientist types turned up in a white van and took away all the molten metal bits and some stones. The miracle of the Sonning Common Meteor even made the Henley Standard, and the mystery schoolboys were feted as heroes, but by then we were far too busy hiding from the authorities under our beds.
As far as I know, the “meteor” is now sitting in a museum or laboratory somewhere, or at the very least has been carted off to that huge warehouse in the final scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where it can do mankind no further harm.
What an evil web of lies we lead. The Man’s bound to find out sooner or later. Might as well be now.