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A Shout From The Attic: The Thermogene Protocol

Ronnie Bray recalls the fiery night of the Thermogene experiment.

To read more of Ronnie's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

It seems to have disappeared. Apart from a band of musicians of similar name, my search for Thermogene Wadding raised only one spectre of an uncomfortable night I
spent in agony resulting from the simplistic practice of self-medication during the twelfth year of my life. The event is all the more damning when I tell you that there was nothing wrong with me to begin with, and that all I ailed was an inquisitive nature and a lack of common sense, two characteristics that when brought into proximity can have disastrous results.

I did not discover Thermogene Curative Wadding in a ‘eureka’ moment. It was always there from as early as I can remember. No one seemed to use it, but it was always there in its attractive box the size of those that great pleasures came in, mutely lodged in one of Nanny’s two big wardrobes that stood along the entrance hall.

These giant receptacles contained treasure trove such as now fills museums, along with most of the domestic artefacts and childhood toys of that pre-plastic era in which there always seemed to be a surfeit of whalebone, real and artificial, and other remnants of Victorian inventivity that, it was discovered, we could live without if only we put our minds to it. .

We did put our minds to it, but only because bits of the devices chipped off, or failed, or were torn off by us to serve purposes for which they were not intended, but which they served admirably. Some of the items the wardrobes contained were useful only for gazing at and wondering what the heck they were and how they were used. Since our household was singularly uncommunicative no such burning questions were asked, and no answers given, although it is fair to say that had the questions been asked, the answers would have been curt and dismissive, so why ask?

Among the irresistible array of goods from all corners of the Empire were hairpins, long and short, hair curlers with interlacing crocodile teeth that pulled chunks of flesh from fingers unwisely inserted to test the strength of their grip, sachets of henna shampoo whose use on any head in the place was not evident, tiny blue bottles with medicinal looking labels announcing ‘Smelling Salts,’ whose pungent odour, enthusiastically inhaled through an unsuspecting nostril, caused strong men to weep. It was a useful thing to take to school if you wanted people to put you on their ‘do not call’ list.

The wardrobe also housed a fox fur collar that could not have seen the light of day since Adam was a lad. I swear it blinked its glass eye whenever I opened the door to have another forbidden peek at the stock. I saw that beautiful fur and stared into its glassy eyes so often that I know I would recognise it if I ever came across it again.

But of all the boxes and bottles, including one that shall remain unnamed and undescribed, lay a box that promised a hint of the exotic and a cure for all ailments. Now that was interesting. I could experiment. It would be easy for the instructions were, ‘Apply to the affected part.’ There was other writing on the container but it was so small and my eyesight was by this time suffering a severe challenge that I did what I do with all fine print – ignored it.

There are points in our lives when making a different decision would have fundamentally altered the course of history. I did not know it at the time, but this was one of them.

I grasped the box, stuffed it up my jumper, then, after closing the big brown door and turning the key in the lock, I crept upstairs with my prize, and began the experiment.

It wasn’t all that complicated. Anyone would have done it. The box held a thick wad of wadding and nothing else apart from a piece of printed paper in small, and therefore, ignorable, print. But, this was no ordinary wadding. This wadding was bright orange wadding.

I applied to the affected part, only I didn’t have any affected parts. That was soon the change. The unrolled wadding looked eminently suited to wrapping around the neck. So, I wrapped it around my neck, and went to bed, and then to sleep.

In the days of childhood I slept soundly. So soundly that the air raid siren a couple of hundred yards down Fitzwilliam Street didn’t rouse me, and I asked that I be allowed to remain in my attic bedroom when it wailed in warning of an air attack by the Luftwaffe.

This request was granted, so while the rest of the household assembled in the cellar sitting room in case one of Hitler’s bombs hit the house, so they could all perish together as the two stories and a stone roof came in on top of them, I snored on in my skyroom.

But the protocol was changed on Thermogene-nacht, and I was roused from slumber by an incendiary bomb that fell directly on my neck and immediately burst into flames, searing the tender flesh!

That is not really what happened. The impregnated padding loosed its chemicals and applied gentle heat to the ‘affected part.’ This stage of its ministrations went unnoticed. Then, chemical acceleration overtook the ancient stuff and all the pent-up heat that had been originally applied in the factory multiplied exponentially and then osmosis forced it through the tender skin of my neck to settle in the deep tissues to finish what it had begun on the surface.

Whilst the household slept and dreamed of better days and bigger fortunes, he whose Red Indian name was ‘Burning neck’ was in the bathroom with his head and neck under water, lathering up a storm, and failing to make any impression on the unstable chemicals that transformed my bedroom near the gates of heaven into the torment place near the doors of hell.

No matter how much I scrubbed and sloshed water on my neck, the burning would not go away. If felt as if an army of thousands of vicious fire ants was biting me. Eventually, I gave up the unequal struggle, wrapped a wet towel around my neck, and went back upstairs to bed.

When morning broke, the fiery sensation had turned itself down to a simmer, and life went on much as before. I never spoke about my adventure, and nobody missed the Thermogene Wadding or else I would have found out about it when questioned by the domestic police.

According to my reckoning, there must be hundreds of simpletons who do not read the instructions on similar products and who must, therefore, have fallen foul of the Thermogene Protocol as I did. That being so, I can’t understand why I am the only one to confess to his foolhardiness. A web search turned up but a single reference to the hot stuff in the shape of an advertisement carried by the Journal of the Royal College of Nursing of April 1919.


Thermogene Curative Wadding
(Thermogene Bureau, K31
Hayward‘s Heath, Sussex)
is much in demand at the present time.
It can be obtained of all
chemists and drug stores,
and is used in Naval and Military
and Red Cross Hospitals.

And by daft lads who, to their detriment, don’t bother reading the fine print!


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