Many many moons ago when I was just a young lad, probably around 8 years old, I learned a very valuable lesson while on a long weekend with the family in a summer house. This so-called life lesson literally stuck with me for some time.
Winding back the clock, it was a nice warm summer in the late ’70s and no jokes related to ‘That 70’s Show’ are allowed. I will admit that I wore cord pants and shorts, in my orange velour T-shirt. A pretty awful sight I’m sure, but it was the latest trend.
In true 70’s spirit, my parents had been invited to a sleep-over weekend at some friend’s place, including kids and other families. In total, we were about 6 families and 12 kids – the nuclear families had joined forces. Fun-filled family weekend with BBQ, bonfire, outdoor games and live music in the evenings in the comfort of the living-room).
To make matters more 70’s idyllic, we were on a small island with a ferry connecting us to the mothership, and that only operated a few times a day. A small grocery store catered for all the islanders, and intruders like us, and only carried a small selection of goods. All in all, it was like taken out of a romantic musical … with no signing or music.
As with all 70’s nuclear family/friend events, we spent most of the day outside and when darkness slowly crept in a large bonfire was built on the nearby beach.
We kids loved watching and feeling the fire. There’s always something magical about flames and my curiosity grew to see how hungry these dancing flames were. I was not the only kid with this question and soon we were fuelling the fire with a variety of items; wet wood, rocks, sand, soda cans, plastic cups, paper plates and a plastic bucket filled with seawater.
It was obvious the water would have a negative impact on the flames, but the fascinating thing was how quickly the flames recovered and slowly ate the blue plastic bucket.
Soon the bell rang and all the mothers had cooked a delicious meal of stewed picked mushrooms, mixed with meats and other vegetables. All ecological of course!
The evening went on and I barely remember falling asleep among the dogs, but I certainly remember waking up by the extremely strong (and bad) breath from the family labrador. Not too sure what he ate the night before, or what he might have licked, but it was nasty!
Anyway, it was just after 7 am and several of us kids who were still dressed from the day before decided to explore the wonderful morning.
On the beach, the bonfire had died out although one could still see smoke from the midst of the bonfire. Everything had been eaten by the flames, more or less, but I could still see parts of the blue bucket.
Suddenly my sister called my name. “Look!” she said, “isn’t that the handle from the bucket?”. And it was. Then her voice changed slightly, she stared at me and commanded “I want that handle. Get it for me!”. I didn’t dare to refuse her, so I stepped into the ashes and bent over to grab the handle.
As I grabbed the slightly white handle, a pain went through my body like lightning. The bloody thing was roasting hot. In fact, it was so hot that it had started to burn into my skin.
It was like Ansgar in the dark ages, who tried to convince the Vikings to convert to Christianity, by holding a piece of red hot iron in his hand
A roar (more likely a high pitched scream) went through my lungs and I ran as fast as I could to the kitchen, where all the adults were sitting nurturing their hang-overs. I had the perfect hangover cure … my scream.
I was quickly surrounded by every parent who carefully attempted to peel off the hot handle from my palm, without taking too much skin off. After an agonizing 2 minutes, I had been freed from this piece of iron. Some of the mothers smothered my palm with some homemade ointment, which smelled a bit like pee, but it had a healing and soothing effect.
The pain in my hand was severe and I received loads of attention the next few hours, much to the annoyance of my lovely sister.