I grew up at a garage and petrol station. At the back of the house we had two three thousand gallon tanks of 93 & 95 octane petrol, and a five hundred gallon tank of 99 octane. We had a paraffin tank, a couple of bulk engine oil tanks, a bulk waste oil tank, and various forty five gallon drums of the stuff.
Potentially it was a fire-bomb: potentially a fire-storm. If it caught fire, dad used to mention, it would destroy not only our house but the two next door.
When I was a kid I played with toy soldiers. I stuffeed airfix plastic tanks with the cut-off heads of matches, and blew’em up – using Jetex igniter wick to set the fire. This didn’t burn like the powdre trails you saw in the movies, slowly and with lots of smoke, but went, at about forty foot a second, like a shooting star across the night sky. The tank turrets, like the heads of terrorists who have detonated their explosive vests, flew up into the air.
I used to play this game in my bedroom, where I had the ruins of cardboard city in which to stage my toy soldier battles. Another trick I pulled was with a die cast model of a siege gun. This fired a small metal shell, by way of a spring. If you replaced the shell with three matches taped together….
Getting the matches to ignite was the difficulty. They passed too quickly through a candle flame set at the end of the gun barrel. But if you coated them in bostik they ignited. The plan was to fire them into the cardboard city, where caches of cut off match heads waited to be exploded.
Glued up and on fire the matches weren’t so aerodynamically sleek. My first successful shot hit the bedroom window, or rather, the net curtains which covered it. Jetex igniter wick burns nowhere near as fast as net curtains. At least I didn’t knock the candle over as I ran for the window, but, as luck would have it, by the time I got there (three paces?) the curtains had burned out, like that map of the Ponderosa at the start of Bonanza – if you can remember that far back.
When playing with matches you can have no idea what, or who, might eventually get burned. I learned that the relatively easy way. Some learn it the harder.