The government didn’t tell us that dirt is dirty!

Best  newspaper comment in a long time is by someone called Andy Loates on the shock-horror revelation that there are bacteria in dirt. (Thanks are due to the Jannie – via email)

Typical comments here; blame the government for not explaining that dirt is dirty, and if you get your hands dirty you need to wash them. Exactly where do people think Legionnaire species are usually found? Do you think they only evolved AFTER hospital air ducts were built? Of COURSE compost is dirty and full of bacteria, some of which can be harmful to H.Sapiens. That is the whole point of compost isn’t it? A warm moist medium for bacteria to flourish, breaking down garden rubbish into nutrients good for plants. Surprise that if you ingest it, it may cause health issues? Duh! BTW most infections from scratches incurred during gardening are down to bacteria living on the skin, not in the soil or a ‘rusty nail’.

He’s right, there are comments like this one –

And our Health Authorities remain silent about the risk, This speaks Volumes about the UK Government, and the Scottish Government “couldn’t care less” attitude to the public who voted for them, And That is More than Disgraceful!!

If the health authorities have to tell you to wash your hands when there is dirt on them then you are too stupid to live. Do the drones really need hazard warning signs on every bit of dirt now? I rather think they do. Legionella is in dirt and it can be dangerous. It’s not alone.

Listeria is commonly found on grass. That’s where it lives, and why air exposure is so damn dangerous when making and storing silage. When the silage is oxygen-free and acidic (it’s fermented grass, basically, and full of lactic acid) then it’s safe. If it’s exposed to air then mould will grow on the exposed surface. Mould will break down the acid, raise the pH and then bam – Listeria gets going. It was on the grass the whole time. Still want to let your kids camp in that field? There’s no danger unless the kids like to eat a lot of grass and aren’t goats, but it’s easy to convince the drones that there is.

The beasties responsible for anthrax and gas gangrene are also happy to live in soil. Not in anywhere near enough numbers to cause anyone any problems, normally, but that’s where they live. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc grow underground. In soil. The health authorities have never mentioned this either and there are no warnings on supermarket shelves. This is a fun game, isn’t it?

Cowpats are toys. Dried ones are frisbees, fresh ones are for putting bangers in and spattering passers-by. Well, that was true when I was a child but I don’t think kids are allowed to buy boxes of bangers and matches any more. I’m glad I grew up when the world was less scared of everything. I was able to buy my own camping knife when I was 14 and nobody batted an eyelid. I used to have a swordstick, bought when I was about 18. Nobody asked for proof of age. The only time any authorities were involved was if someone used one of these things to commit a crime. Otherwise, nobody cared.

Anyone remember sodium chlorate? An effective weedkiller that was also the prime ingredient of very effective bombs. When I was 16 I could, and did, buy it in the local hardware shop in one-pound lots, weighed into a brown paper bag. No warnings, no names or addresses, no age checks, nothing. ‘Here you go, sonny.’

One of the other ingredients came from the local chemist. Again, no questions asked. It’s probably best not to go into detail because these days, the authorities take a dim view of adults discussing adult things.

We did make bombs with it. They worked too. We set them off at the end of a mate’s very long garden, using string soaked in saturated weedkiller and left to dry as fuses. Oh it was all very scientific, we cut a length and timed it so we knew how far away we’d get before the bang. We set off a little one in his bedroom one day because it was raining. That was not our best idea, the smoke from even a tiny one was like tear gas.

Then there were the Airfix and other kits stuffed with match heads and set off from a distance with an air rifle. We weren’t buying boxes of matches, we were buying packs of boxes of matches for that one. Not one shop ever questioned why we wanted so many matches, so often.

We could also walk down the street with air rifles and nobody cared. Nobody. In fact, the only time I recall anyone looking worried was when I was out with my old Zenit camera with a 500mm lens and a pistol-grip shoulder-brace attached. Admittedly it did look like a bazooka. I once fitted it with two lens doublers but that needed two tripods to hold it all steady.

I wish I’d kept that camera. No auto functions and it weighed a ton but damn, it took sharp photos.

My childhood was normal but nowadays it would be seen as horrifying. Children aren’t even allowed to climb trees or torment ant nests with ‘plastic napalm’ (yeah, best keep that one under wraps too) or set up the last jam in the jar for the wasps and wait with a .22 airgun at the other end of the garden or indeed do anything a normal child would do. They can’t even play in the dirt!

The rot set in a long time ago. At university I shared with some Big City types who had no idea how to set a snare or what do do with a whole rabbit. I had rabbit skins stretched on boards, being scraped and rubbed with saltpetre, and had to make up a fast lie when one bloke’s girlfriend asked what it was (the instruction to lie was in the look he gave me).

I made several rabbit faces, skinning and preserving those took some effort but it was worth it.

Still, one of the Londoners was Chinese (with an Esher accent, his parents were immigrants and I met his mother, fantastic cook) so I wasn’t alone in Droneland. He was as sane and normal as me, we made pig’s head brawn and stuck pig’s eyes and squid tentacles to doors, we left the remains of a cow’s skull over an ants’ nest so they’d clean it for us, we tried shark steaks and frogs’ legs and cow brains and tripe and sweetbreads and he once brought duck’s feet home. We also did our best to keep the brewing industry in full employment but they weren’t making enough. So we made nettle beer and tea brandy and.. well, I’m rambling.

The point is, none of the above was illegal or even frowned upon when I was a youth. None of it would have gained  more than rolled eyes and a ‘tut’ from any adult. We harmed nobody (with the possible exception of a few cow-pat passers-by and they were only mildly disgusted) so nobody minded. Nobody ever called the police.

Now? If a little kid goes outside in a cowboy suit with a plastic Colt, some utter cretin is going to call the police and the police will take the report seriously. No wonder kids grow up twisted and strange these days. They are supposed to get all that weird stuff out of their system early on but they aren’t allowed to. So it carries over into adulthood – for those that even achieve it.

Those who don’t know that dirt is dirty are the ones who have failed to grow up.

They never will.


32 thoughts on “The government didn’t tell us that dirt is dirty!

  1. XX . I used to have a swordstick, bought when I was about 18. Nobody asked for proof of age. The only time any authorities were involved was if someone used one of these things to commit a crime. Otherwise, nobody cared. XX Hummmm. Still an “Offensive weapon,” even THEN.

    XX set up the last jam in the jar for the wasps and wait with a .22 airgun at the other end of the gardenXX

    A blue bottle fly fits PERFECTLY into the breach of a .22 air rifle. (I presume wasps as well, but…..) AND from 10 feet they do NOT break a window, when fired.. But the blood splatter pattern is REALLY interesting….. so I heard.


  2. Brilliant. We used to spend most of our time, aged say from about seven to around fourteen, devising and crafting weaponry. By far and away the best devices were throwing arrows, which were projected via a piece of waxed twine. Aged about ten, one could easily cast one of these from goalmouth to goalmouth of a football field. With a finely honed device and a developed skill, corner flag to corner flag was possible. Everyone in those days could of course throw even stones properly and somewhat expertly. Hand-crafted throwing arrows (carbon-fibre car aerials were the best, straight pieces of bamboo the more basic material) were the pinnacle of the throwing art for small boys. There will be no more details here of these fine devices for the obvious reasons. Besides, it’s an arcane art, with secrets I would like to keep.

    Here’s the bad bit though. I tried to re-create one about three years ago – and failed. Miserably in fact. I cannot do now aged fifty, what I could do with great facility when I was aged ten. Sob.

    As I say, aged about 14, all these boyish pursuits were gradually abandoned. I discovered girls. It turned out that they were far more dangerous in the long-term, or even not so long-term!

    I won’t mention acetylene bombs in baloons though!


  3. In 2005 when my older boy was 10, and we were on holiday with my wife’s family in Poland, I bought him a .22 air rifle in the local street market for 150 Zloty, inc 500 rounds. We calmly walked back home with it through the public streets, as part of our normal shopping, and also there, nobody batted an eyelid.

    Perhaps it’s different there now too, but I doubt it. It’s the UK that’s gone mental.


  4. There are still isolated pockets of resistance out there. A friend recently found her 13-year-old son, an aspiring medieval historian, at the bottom of the garden firing flaming tennis-balls from a home-made trebuchet; after a quick word about avoiding the local livestock, she simply left him to it.


  5. Et in arcadia tu, Tibiaferro! Mind you, I used to build my own archery bows. Real ones, 50 pound draw weight, would shoot an arrow through a car door. (Ask me how I know.) The local kids would have had no qualms about potting at each other, or any other live target. They are raised with absolutely no sense of danger and no capacity to evaluate risk. Give ’em access to (as you might put it) “certain ingredients readily available from hardware stores or seed merchants”, they’d go for a one pound mass right away, and hang their heads over the equipment as it did its thing. I’ve been thinking about trebuchets myself lately. Got Payne-Gallwey’s book and everything. Hmmm.


  6. “Anyone remember sodium chlorate? An effective weedkiller that was also the prime ingredient of very effective bombs”
    A former work colleague was a bit of a pyromaniac, and I used to be dispatched to the nearest hardware shop to buy a pound of crystals (this was before it became legally adulterated with an additive to stop its explosive tendencies). A saturated solution was duly made and a particular brand of blotting paper soaked in it. When dry this was cut into thin strips, rolled up and stuffed in some small cardboard tubes. These were bundled together and strung up on a long length of wire between the building and a tree. I’m sure you can guess the rest!

    As for “nasties” in the garden – OMG!!! I was cutting the grass yesterday, and the day before that managed to bash my elbow on some sharp wire mesh I’d fixed on the top of the fence to discourage the local cats. I did slap some TCP on the cuts, and washed it later – but am I now going to die?


  7. Happy days, in metalwork I reamed out a 1″ steel bar, shaped it on the lathe, drilled a tap hole at one end and that was my cannon. Tried it first with a mixture of S, KNO3 & C but just spluttered, next was news****r soaked in saturated solution of Ch*****e, better, but best was co***n w**l soaked in saturated solution, and carefully dried. My friend tried drying in the oven, not recommended especially as it was a gas oven. Well that was the end of his pocket money.


  8. I loved chemistry at school in the early seventies. Explosives, gin and wine making, etc… Great fun and the teacher had no problems keeping our attention. A mate of mine took it too far and experimenting with a home made cannon he blew his bedroom window out. Home made bows & arrows during the sixties, easy access to fireworks although I had one accident on an industrial estate involving bangers when I was ten years old – best I don’t go into details although it involved the fire brigade. Happy days.


  9. Leg Iron seems interested in horror stories. You ought to write a true one, simply listing the common, everyday freedoms lost in your lifetime.

    I doubt that it’d be much appreciated, come to think.


  10. Back when I was doing my PhD research twenty-odd years ago, I had reason to visit the local garden centre a good deal. This was rural Wales, so health & safety hadn’t quite reached it, and the garden centre was still selling boxes of nitrate of potash. One evening I happened to mention this to some friends on the CompSci course, and of course they wanted to play with the stuff. They had a yen to make rocket fuel, for a spot of amateur rocketry; the garden centre sold out of KNO3 very, very fast (I had to rush to secure my own supplies; should’ve done that before I told ’em).

    The manufacturing process was dangerous; luckily the seafront halls are still standing so these daft sods’ technique of melting sugar and nitrate on a gas stove somehow didn’t get them killed. Unfortunately, the thing with CompSci students is that they’re only half smart. They don’t know about fuel to oxidiser ratios, nor about adding in accelerants (which is a pity, powdered sulphur is cheap and easy to buy, no questions asked).

    The site of testing was to the Aberystwyth Castle; right in the middle of town but nice and handy for the pub. The testing went reasonably well; the rockets were over-fuelled and didn’t fly, but at least these experimenters didn’t manage to blow themselves up in the process. The curious blue strobing effect observed through the clouds of smoke and huge purple flames was merely the local constabulary come to observe proceedings; the experiment got accelerated a bit at that point and the dauntless experimenters simply lit off everything and scarpered to join the interested crowd who were observing proceedings from a safe distance.

    That garden centre unfortunately didn’t resupply with nitrate of potash, for some reason.


  11. Oh yes, penny bangers were great fun. I remember at the time if you wanted something a bit more seriously explosive, you could get big, fat thrupenny bangers too. We used to use those for dynamiting fish in the local canal.

    Here where I live, November to March is open season, and it’s quite normal when out walking to bump into guys with a double-barreled 12 bore slung over their shoulder. Sometimes they will stand by the side of the road when you’re driving past, gun to shoulder, and let off a couple of rounds over the car if they spot a wood pigeon. Nobody blinks an eye.


    • XX We used to use those for dynamiting fish in the local canal. XX

      Amateures. We used to nick Pottasium from the school chemistry lab. But then, the fish came out ready cooked.

      One for Leggy, I used to have a large “N” gusge layout. Buildings were all Heller.

      So… we were re-grassing the garden, and it was pure soil for about two months. Take one index finger, make a hole in the soil as deep as it will go without burying the hand. fill with black popwder, carry on as many times as you like, and lay a fuze trail between the holes. Place said Heller buildings on top of powder filled holes. lay a LONG trail of Black powder to a “safe place”, throw a lighted match, and watch what fun Heller buildings can proveide for a bored 25 year old.


      • Amateures. We used to nick Pottasium from the school chemistry lab. But then, the fish came out ready cooked.

        I was only eight at the time – we didn’t have chemistry labs at the school I went to. Probably a good job, too. I shudder to think about the mayhem I might have caused…

        I think the most fun I had when I was in grammar school (where we did have chemistry labs), was when I took the top of a demijohn of ether and put it on top of the radiator at the back of the classroom. It was one of those fan assisted radiators, and ran quite hot, so the fumes were well distributed around the back of the classroom. Heh! After about five or ten minutes it was bloody bedlam in there, with more than half the pupils totally off their heads. Laugh? I laughed like a drain. Not least because I was as high as a kite on the stuff myself, what with sitting right at the back. I guess that was when I realised what fun intoxicants can be…


  12. Having set the seed, I feel the urge to join in. A few years ago, my son – 30+ – was having a firework party and a rocket misfired despite being set off in a six foot length of metal drain pipe. We did the sensible thing. After waiting about ten seconds, we kicked the pipe – nothing. Thus assured it was dead, we removed the rocket and dismantled the remains. Inside we found a sphere which we correctly surmised contained the bit which went “bang” up in the sky. There was what looked like a fuse on it, so we stood it on an upturned plastic bucket. Safety-minded to the last, we organised an ignition source on the end of a long stick, I crouched down holding the stick at arms length and touched it to the fuse. That fuse must have had a five millisecond delay because, believe me, a “bang” up in the sky is a bloody great “KABOOOOOM!!” at an arm and a stick’s distance and we couldn’t find most of the bucket . . .


    • Arf! That reminds me of an incident back in the 80s when I used to do a lot of work for Virgin. A mate of mine was a project manager for them, and he lived in what was basically the gatehouse to a Virgin club on the canal at the top end of Ladbroke Grove. One November 5th (it must have been a Saturday, I guess) we’d spent most of the afternoon at his gaff drinking copious amounts of booze and smoking copious amounts of dope, and at about six pm there was a knock on the door. It was the manageress from the club. “Hey”, she said, “I’ve got this big box of fireworks and we’ve advertised at the club that there will be a firework display at eight, and I don’t have anyone to light the fireworks. Will you do it?”

      “Yerrr, no fuckin’ problem, we can do that!” we said, full of booze fuelled confidence.

      Now when she said ‘fireworks’, I’d pictured one of those boxes that you’d buy from the local shop. You know, a few roman candles, a couple of Catherine wheels, half a dozen rockets and maybe a mount Vesuvius. So we staggered out at about seven to set it up, armed with a few (newly) empty wine bottles (plus a couple of full ones, to keep out the cold) for the rockets.

      Ha! The box was more like a shipping crate, and was filled with heavy-duty mortars, rockets with sticks the thickness of broom handles and a multitude of stuff that was a complete mystery to us.

      So anyway, in a semi-drunken stupor, we sort of set it up. It did actually have a bunch of really fat Roman candles, which I set up on a wall, ready for ignition. The mortars were set, the thinks that looked like a suicide bombers belt were tied to posts, and only the rockets needed to be dealt with on a one-by-one basis, as we could only find one receptacle that would accommodate the sticks and what would obviously be a massive ignition thrust.

      So the crowd gathered on the level above the club on the other side of the canal cut, and the show began. It was really going pretty well, until I lit the Roman candles. They were great, quite spectacular, in fact, and belched out huge sparkling multicoloured sprays like billy-o. Then my mate nudged me and said “do you think we should move the box of rockets out from under the Roman candles?”

      “Yes, yes”, I said, as I watched the fiery cascade pouring into the open box.

      I made a run for the box, but alas, too late. Within the next few seconds, the blue touch paper on several of the rockets was lit. There was one of those periods where time slows almost to a standstill, as I watched first one, and then the next, and then the next rocket make its fiery bid for freedom. The spectators started diving for cover as they found themselves under an unscheduled and sustained attack from a dozen or more unguided missiles. It was like a war zone, with ordnance exploding everywhere.

      In retrospect, it was quite extraordinarily spectacular, but unfortunately the spectators were too busy running for their lives to notice. Pity really.

      Still, it was certainly a firework night that they will remember!


  13. Yes, and when I was a boy during the war we used to to get sulphur from the ironmongers and another ingredient – maybe I shouldn’t name it as I’m not sure of my memory here – and mix a small amount together. We then took two large screws and one nut to fit them. We joined the screws together via the nut, having dropped the powdery mix into the join under the nut. Then we stood back and threw the two joined screws at the wall of the air raid shelter in our road. On impact there was a bang. None of us was older than about 12. We also ran a football team and a cricket team, to meet teams from other nearby areas in the local park. And there was no adult ever in evidence. Or needed. I’m still rather proud of a broken finger sustained at mid on at the age of 11. And we produced our own handwritten magazine which we circulated among ourselves. We also smuggled ourselves into a local sports club by tunnelling under its fence and taught ourselves to swim in its pool, while I’m pretty sure, now, that the people in charge turned a blind eye. We always made sure to walk round the cricket square, rather than across it, as we made our way back to the fence. Sometimes we saw American servicemen practising baseball. Seemed very strange to us.


  14. Anyone remember sodium chlorate? Do I? 😉

    Same thing, my suppliers were the local chemist or hardware store… I like the chemists best because the old chap would correct your formulas. I used to write mine in an old exercise book and he’d suggest better ratios or substitutions – bit like school really, he’d cross stuff out and write remarks in the margins.

    And this wasn’t just a bunch of lads making things go bang down the bottom of a field… we were deadly serious about it. We’d spend hours upon hours in the library reading, looking up stuff, following clues about one thing until it lead to something else. We got so good, we were able to ‘discover’ our own formulas (which it later transpired had probably already been invented a hundred years previously). We built our own electrically fired detonators. Made pipe bombs in my mate’s dads workshop, Welded two steel car wheels back-to-back to make 30lb ‘earthquakers’.

    And not one of us lost so much as a finger… although several bits of countryside and disused quarry were slightly rearranged.

    The sad thing is, even typing into Google the words from my old tattered exercise book would likely cause a light to come on in Cheltenham.


  15. Ugh, schooldays. How I hated them. Except for mayhem and tomfoolerey. I was probably not the pupil that tipped a 50g piece of Sodium into the school pond. Or the pupil that discovered connecting a bunsen burner to a water supply gave a 20′ high fountain. How I ever gained a Honours degree God only knows.


    • Those were both me. Were you at my school? I was also the one who filled all the Bunsen burner tubes with water and reconnected them to the gas taps so that when someone held a match over the top and turned it on – it put the match out.


  16. Happy memories. At the time I thought I must be having the most boring childhood and adolescence in recorded history, but if I’d been born 30 or 40 years later my parents would be in prison and I’d be in care with a major ritalin habit.


  17. Bondo bombs were our favorite and they got even more interesting when I was stationed at a bombing range in floriduh. There we had aviation ordinancemen who would and could take apart a 500 pound bomb. Take the guts and make fascinating colorful loud bombs just for fun!

    Once a certain second class ordinance man I knew yelled up to the spotting tower to me and said WATCH THIS……….He took his t-shirt and used it as a fuse to the gas tank of the 5 ton truck we drove out in and blew it up……………Of course the truck was sent to be used as a target for the range so no loss was incurred except we had to walk back 5 miles to the barracks chased by horse/deer flies bigger than your hand…………But alas todays world is a sterile environment and isn’t it telling that with our childhoods we could make bombs,shoot our guns tote them around and nobody cared less…………It made us kids a generation capable of fighting a war and especially with the skills we acquired as kids. Now they gotta teach you how to do what kids could already do in the military…………..Boyz should be left to be boyz with no nanny BS!


    • XX It made us kids a generation capable of fighting a war and especially with the skills we acquired as kids. XX

      Yup. And therein lays the problem. They did away with conscription, in the hope that in an emergency, they could call up volunteers to “fill the gap.”

      THEN they emasculated the potential voulunteer force.

      HEL! We have a generation, at LEAST ONE, that go running to mummy/the Police, because someone called them a nasty name on twatter. And these queerfied bastards are supposed to defend us, when called up?

      Excuse me whilst I piss myself laughing.


  18. I can’t believe this one hasn’t been brought to our attention before. GRASS KILLS!!! Not only that but our Government is complicit in this policy of murdering our cheeldrens, by sanctioning village greens and protecting common land. Schools deliberately expose pupils to playing fields, or more rightly “killing fields”. TV insist on showing various sports, all played on this toxic substance, therefore we should tarmac all village greens, pave all the school fields and tear up all the “hallowed” turf at the death arenas like Wembley, Lords, Millennium, Twickers, Murrayfield and Ashton Gate. How much longer are we to put up with this sort of thing? Got to go, nurse is calling…


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