Chinese Fuses

It still amazes me the amount of 'useless' information', that I carry around in my head (luckily this space isn't at a premium). Not that this particular piece of information was ever imparted as part of the official school curriculum. I do however have permanently etched on my brain, regardless if it is factual, that 'Chinese fuses' burn slowly.

The reason I know this? Are you sitting comfortably ... I will begin.

My chest would swell with pride to think that this particular prank was down to someone from our form, however, in truth I can't remember. It was in the 4th or 5th year and for O'level subjects I believe the whole year was streamed, per subject, by stupidity.

I actually suspect the boy involved (of oriental extraction himself) and his accomplices were academically very bright; which didn't make them immune from getting into trouble ... their pranks were just of a much higher calibre.

The general idea was to tape a 'banger' (firework not sausage ) to the back of the middle of three blackboards. Attached to the banger was a 'Chinese fuse' which would smoulder away and at some point would explode, ideally with the teacher, Frau Benbow, as close to the board as possible. I don't believe the exact moment of explosion had been calculated 'a la Mission Impossible', but was left more open ... preferably sometime during the lesson.

On entering the class she commented on the smell, but that did not deter her from diving head first into the German lesson (totally understandable). We all sat with bated breathe ... and we sat ... and we sat ... and we sat to the point that it was generally accepted that the fuse had gone out and nothing would happen. BANG! Not too dissimilar to the last great cosmological explosion except this involved generations of chalk dust ... think of the accumulated knowledge released in one fell swoop. Frau Benbow didn't see it that way (no soul) she just looked like an extra on a 'HomePride' advert. Not only did this give rise to clouds of chalk dust but also the cavity between board and wall seemed to magnify the noise causing teachers to come running from the four corners of the compass. Not particularly relevant but the first to arrive to Frau Benbow's aid was a diminutive geography teacher 'Mr Smythe', akin to getting a garden gnome when dialling 999.

When you were younger the detailed planning stopped at the 'funny-bit' and rarely thought of the consequences. The CID arrived on the scene, in the shape of Mr Montgomery (as for all serious school crimes). Despite intensive questioning ... Ok who is responsible? (is this taught at teachers training colleges?) ... I believe the whole class got detention for a week. Worth every minute.

Wonder what the German for 'Where did all that Chalk dust come from?" ... any ideas RL?
(Colm Foley 71-78)

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