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- airborne burner, constructed largely from a half-kilo of lead, came inches away from
taking MacLennan's head off. I had a couple of near things myself, though apart from
giving ourselves ringing ears and bright spots before the eyes now and again neither of us
harmed so much as an eyelash.
BAM eventually graduated to electrical detonation of the sodium chlorate and sugar
bombs and we tried our hand at making gunpowder (technically possible, but overly com-
plicated) before disbanding BAM for good when we went to our respective universities.
This was probably just as well in 1972 as the IRA of the time were doing their damnedest
to take all the fun out of explosions.
A few years ago, struck by an excess of nostalgia, I bought some sodium chlorate
weed killer for the first time in 30 years, but - rather unsportingly, I thought - the man-
ufacturers are obliged to add a flame retardant to the stuff these days, and it just doesn't
work as an explosive component any more.
FLEE is a rather more above-board concern. FLEE has headed note paper, a bank ac-
count and its own cheque book. We even have corporate pens, key rings and coffee mugs,
for goodness' sake. Les is Company President, I'm Managing Director and Chairman,
Aileen is Finance Director and Ann is Company Secretary. There's a place on the board
waiting for Eilidh as Creative Director once she's legally old enough to fill such a post, at
The whole idea was to get our hands on some serious fireworks again after they were
banned from sale to the general public and restricted to professionals. We'd fondly ima-
gined that just having a proper company would be enough to be accepted as pros, but it
isn't. We still can't buy bigger fireworks than anybody else. Still, the key rings are cool.
It's all because Glenfinnan has its own fireworks display on November the fifth. Glen-
finnan is just a wee village and the Community Council can't afford to set aside very
much each year for a fireworks display, but it's fun all the same. A good decade or so
ago I managed to inveigle my way onto the pyrotechnics team (Pyrotechnician, we've
decided, sounds so much more professional than Nutter Running Round Letting Off Fire-
works In The Dark) so I get to help let the fireworks off.
Sitting round the bonfire a few years ago, lamenting the fact we used to be able to buy
even bigger fireworks, we came up with the idea of FLEE. It was going to be called BIFF
originally, but that had already been taken. Anyway, in retrospect, Companies House
might have baulked at Big Impressive Fuck-off Fireworks.
There's even a link between whisky and pyrotechnics, my chum Gary Lloyd has dis-
covered. Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they used to test the proof of the
spirit by mixing it with gunpowder and setting light to it! Seriously. If the soggy mixture
blew up it was too strong, if it went out it was too weak and if it burned steadily it was
about right. How blinkin cool is that? Very rough and ready, in the sense of being wildly
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