HMS ABDIEL, USS TERROR, and the French submarine RUBIS must have been manned by sailors with nerves of steel. They were all mine-layers, and in naval service in WW2. Whenever they sallied forth to do what they got paid for they were chockablock with infernal devices designed to sink ships. Some of the fields they laid were defensive ones, some offensive, and they all came under fire – indeed ABDIEL was sunk by mines laid by German torpedo boats at Taranto. RUBIS and TERROR survived to old age and the breaker’s yard.
So where does the sheer delight of the title come from? Certainly not out at sea with the Navy and probably not on land with the Army – minefields being bad news for everyone concerned there too. But if you are a civilian in peacetime with nothing but kindness and happiness in your heart, they can be great fun.
All you need are the mines and the targets. They can be actual or virtual; today we deal with the actual. Make sure you select something that is innocent and can be sown with safety. No good setting out dangerous things as that is illegal and can cause you harm. The best choice is books. They are portable, durable, and darned effective.
You can choose books from the entire spectrum of literature, but try to avoid obscene ones – they do no good at all. You can certainly choose controversial, infuriating, sad, dull, or stimulating ones as these all have the desired effect. Economy dictates that if it is a large field you are laying, you must get your mines at a cheap price. Secondhand bookstores are good, but the best of all is the 50¢ public library clear out that happens annually. You can be sure of some top-quality ammunition there, and frequently it is in perfect unread condition.
You must be prepared to launch your mines properly – wrapped up in brown paper parcels with string is the traditional way, though recently a lot of good work has been done with discounted Christmas wrapping. However you encase the mine, it is considered a point of honour to place a label on it forbidding anyone who finds it to open it. This will, of course ensure that they do.
You may also wrap up kitchen utensils that have proven to be ugly or ineffective and sow a field with them – but be aware that using patented vegetable slicers for this purpose will result in someone cutting off the end of a finger in 109% of cases. Do you wish to be responsible for this deplorable consequence…? Think well…
Wrapping decorative objects like ugly vases or souvenir teacups is a variation on the theme that can play very well if the field is sown in the right place. It might be thought difficult to find someone who would be distressed at finding a carved junk figure from Bali in a brown paper wrapping but they are out there – art societies are a good target. If you can succeed in placing the Hello Kitty or Bali object on their own shelves so that it is in full view of others…and eventually of themselves…the shock, horror, and indignant embarrassment is all that one could wish for.
Occasionally you will lay a mine that is a dud. The thing is never opened and just thrown out with the rubbish. Or is spoiled by the rain. Accept a certain percentage of failure philosophically. You’ll also have to accept the situation where the mine is successfully laid, discovered, opened, and then delights the victim. You’ll have to resign yourself to having made someone happy and just move on.
Next post: The virtual mine.