'Boom, Phuff.' - An Anecdote from Rex Niven's Nigerian Kaleidoscope



I admit that I currently lack the inspiration for a blog post worth your time, dear reader. I am currently struggling to organise my thoughts and put together an argument to the satisfaction of my collaborator in the lorry art project. And, while I suggested I'd use this blog to organise my thoughts I find that I am not quite at that stage right now. So, in the meantime I keep flicking through various books including, still, colonial and postcolonial memoirs. That may be part of the problem, you say? However, I usually do find it helpful to read widely – even if there is little direct relation to what I am working on at any one point. And, indeed, I do keep stumbling upon potentially useful paragraphs and views while I do that. 
Still, today is not one the days I offer you one of those. Instead, there is this rather humorous anecdote in the otherwise rather dry memoirs of Rex Niven's colonial service in Nigeria that I share with you below. It doesn't quite relate to any of the topics I am currently working on but those children rather brightened an otherwise not very entertaining read. So, if nothing else, I hope they make you smile as well.

The scene in question is set during his posting in Maiduguri in 1940, hence during World War II.

In Maiduguri itself, we set up a Defence Force and an air raid service. Air raids seemed more than likely, but mercifully they did not happen. An airborne attack was also not unlikely and for that we could only make tentative plans. So we had first aid classes and rescue squads, and motor transport, demolition and rescue squads. Rehearsals were unconvincing, because no one in the African town had the least idea what the reality might be like. We felt that we should demonstrate an actual explosion to the various units before they met a hostile one. The Engineer laid a good charge under some mud buildings which we wanted to demolish. The fuse was lit, and everyone retired behind various bits of cover. We held our breaths and said our prayers. Then there was a little 'boom' and a small cloud of dusty smoke drifted across the Dandal. It was unimpressive, but the children who had been watching loved it. They rushed about shouting 'Boom, Phuff', then falling down flat with shrieks of delighted laughter. Whenever they saw the Engineer afterwards they would shout 'Boom, Phuff' and fall to the ground.

Rex Niven (1982): Nigerian Kaleidscope: Memoirs of a Colonial Servant. London: C. Hurst. 178.

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