March 3rd, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

So, what do you for a follow up?

Time travelling again. And it's back to the seventies - 1975 to be precise - and an answer to that long-asked question 'What do you do the year after you liberated the country nextdoor?'

Some people might retire - how can you top a stunt that pushed the General Election result off the front page? But people like me - addicts - have to keep going. And so when Plymouth Rag Week came around again, I was waiting. After all it was my last chance. My finals were eight weeks away and if I didn't organise something I'd have to revise.

Thought number one was 'the man falling off a roof stunt.' A quick note to all readers of a nervous or squeamish disposition - don't just look away, run as fast as you can into another room.

Have they all gone? Okay, for those who've never heard of the 'man falling off the roof stunt' the idea is to fool people into thinking ... yes, you guessed it. The art comes in how you go about it. Being me, I insisted on an industrial strength dose of credibility. People had to believe there was a man up there and that he'd really fallen. (large note to everyone reading this: a. don't do this at home or anyone else's home, and (b) remember I was a teen at the time with extraordinarily low reality appreciation)

The first part was easy. Every year the student abseiling team insisted on abseiling down the face of all eight stories of the Plymouth Poly main building. Note: this was the 1970s when any surface above ten feet in height would be covered in men with hard hats, orange vests and a rope. It was an obsession.

So, all I had to do was convince the abseilers to play along. A crowd would be gathered below to watch the demonstration, one of the abseilers (in bright orange) would show himself by waving at the crowd from the parapet, a rope would be thrown over and then ... so would a dummy dressed in bright orange.

Which brings me onto credibility test number two. The dummy, and how to make it look real. Second warning to the squeamish - if you thought it safe to return, think again, we are about to plum new depths. Even I'm having to type this with my eyez cloped.

So, to fall realistically the dummy has to have weight. And to land realistically the dummy has to have ... something to splat. So, can you all say - offal. And er ... pig's blood.

I will quickly add that good sense, a commodity not often associated with adolescent males, prevailed for once and this stunt was not approved. Far too expensive to buy all that offal...

And so Plymouth, and probably at least half a dozen onlookers who would have immediately plunged into cardiac arrest, were saved. That is until I tell you about the stunt that was approved. Which I'll do tomorrow. Needless to say it was an unusual stunt and involved a coffin, a Cornish pasty and a midnight call to the police.