Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

I have just stopped 8yo googling 'percussion grenades' on the iPad. #grumpydeafgrandad has a lot to answer for.

On a balmy evening last week our son's primary school held their Summer Fayre.

A more quintessentially English Summer occasion you couldn't wish for.  

Competitions to see how far a wellington boot could be thrown.  

Whether the name of a teddy bear could be correctly guessed.  

Which of the assembled little boys could purchase the largest amount of rubbish from the second hand toy stall, most of the items on offer having been surreptitiously donated by their parents anyway.


This year there was the additional attraction of a toy stall.  The assembled primary school pupils buzzing around like flies.  

The stall appeared to be selling a wide range of pocket money priced products, many of which I'd not seen for many years.  Unsurprisingly our eight year old son and his friend made a bee line for the miniature firework section.  Returning to where I was helping with the barbecue, laden with boxes of what I always knew as mini bangers but that are now called 'Throwdown Fun Snaps.'  

The snaps, little balls of gunpowder wrapped in a small piece of thin paper, make a bang disproportionate to their size when thrown on a hard surface.  Essential and extremely satisfying fun for the discerning eight year old.


The snaps were put to good use by the assembled children post haste.  The rather grumpy and, frankly, not very child friendly children's entertainer engaged for the event, standing on the only hard surface on the field, was an easy target for the little darlings and their new found explosive toys.

Quickly hushed away by horrified yet secretly amused parents, including J, the Throwdown Fun Snaps were safely stowed out of harm's (and son's) way.


Realising what he had bought I was torn between horro and nostalgia.  Horror because I knew the chaos the fun snaps can cause.  Nostalgia because they used to be just about my favourite thing when I was eight.

They were sold by a small toy shop, situated in the corner of the Corn Exchange in the town in which we lived.  The shop was one of those that had a tiny internal space but that opened out into the area directly in front of it, spewing racks and baskets full of toys onto the cobbled pedestrian area.  

An Aladdin's cave I loved it and could spend hours there. 


Grandad came to dinner the following evening.  

Keen to show off his new, loud, toy, our son took Grandad out onto the patio for a demonstration.  

Returning, impressed, not least because he could for once hear the satisfying 'bangs' the snaps made, Grandad launched into a series of reminiscences for our son's benefit.

"You know what you need to make an even bigger bang, don't you?" Grandad asked our son.  "During the war we used to get hold of bullets and turn them into banging darts."

J, who disapproved of the fun snaps in the first place, now began to visibly blanche as Grandad launched into his description of how to turn a live bullet in to a 'fun banging dart'.  The detail includes taking the gunpowder out of the bullet and nailing a piece of wood to it before replacing the gunpowder.  

By the end of the description our son was looking bemused while J and I looked on horrified.  Grandad caught our expression, "What's wrong?" Grandad asked, confusion etched on his face.

"Grandad, any conversation that starts 'you need to find some bullets' is never going to be a good one." I replied.

Grandad waved away the objection, "Oh, they don't need to be live bullets," he said.

Oh, that was OK then.

"Anyway," Grandad continued, "you can have much more fun with percussion grenades."

J spat our his coffee at this statement.  

"We used to act as runners for the Home Guard and would steal some of their percussion grenades and thunder claps.  Threw them on the roof of a hotel bike shed once.  Whole thing exploded.  You should have seen how quickly they all came out of the bar after us!"  Grandad was dewy eyed as he remembered his childhood misdemeanours.

I thought J might self combust at this point.

"How do you spell 'percussion'?" Our son asked behind me, looking intently at the iPad screen.

This wasn't going very well at all.  I therefore decided to try and divert Grandad with a description of the shop in the Corn Exchange, how I had bought bangers similar to the Thunder Snaps and how he had equally disapproved of them wholeheartedly at the time.


"That shop used to be next to the game butchers, didn't it?" Grandad replied.

I said I didn't know.

"That's something else you could do.  Find a dead rabbit and I'll show you how to gut it and takes it's feet off to make key rings," Grandad suggested to our son, whose interest sparked in this new, gory direction.

I think I preferred the stories about live ammunition.