Sunday, October 5, 2008

On This Day, a lifetime ago...



.......Doorman-Priest burst into this world.

And so to celebrate, a little tale from my recent past:

So, I came home from a quiet night on the door, arriving about 3.30am, put the car away, put the washing machine on, climbed into bed and immediately thought: "That rain doesn't sound like rain, its got a crackle to it. Why is there a glow coming through the curtains and why is there a powerful smell of smoke? Is this house on fire? What's that bloody child left on in the loft? Hang on, why isn't our smoke alarm going off then?"

So I stagger out of bed and open the curtains to see the garage of the house opposite going up in roaring flames and Doris, the 86 yr old next door to it, standing in her kitchen doorway, with melting guttering dripping on her, burning door-frame and all and with her dustbin gently melting at her feet, throwing a glass of water on the conflagration.

So, dressed in nothing but boxers and body art, I leg it over the road as Doris's's shed roof catches. (My neighbour, Maude, watching from her bedroom, said my near naked dash was by far the most enjoyable episode of the whole incident, but she is also 86 and wears very strong glasses.)

The owners of the garage have now appeared, both much the worse for alcohol and mill about aimlessly, wailing. (They are new to the street and have not long returned from their Elvis themed Las Vegas wedding. Enough said.) My wife has had the presence of mind to dial 999 and I have joined a small group of voyeuristic passers by who have appeared out of nowhere at that time in the morning and none of whom seem interested in doing anything other than making fatuous comments on the events like a Greek chorus.
“That’ll have been started by something you know.”
"Hot isn't it, fire?"
"Is that a burn or a tattoo?"
“I’ve got a pair of shorts like that, only mine are green.”

I bundle Doris into her kitchen and lock the back door just as the heat cracks the window. It's hard to know whether its the fire or me, now wet from the rain, dripping in her kitchen, which worried her the most.

It must be the spirit of the Blitz, but she was not going to be hurried out of the front door and over to our house where my wife had, of course, in the time honoured way of these things made a pot of strong sweet tea. No.
"Where is my hearing aid? (Pardon) I can't find my glasses. You know I've nothing on under my nighty."
"You may have noticed I'm not exactly over dressed. Lets go. Out."

And so we exit through the front door.

We now have two fire engines with blue flashing lights but no crowd of bystanders because it is now raining very hard. (No staying power, the British public.) The wife of the garage owner is actively impeding the dousing of the flames by lasciviously chatting up anyone she believes to be a fireman: "I like your uniform. (Obviously not directed to me, that one.) Are you married? Can I sit on your engine?"

And I've got no shoes on!

Guttering and piping is melting, dustbins have gone and so by now have one garage, one shed, a fair bit of fencing, some hedge and half a tree. Windows are cracked, doors are charred and tiles have buckled.

I have now got dressed. (Maude, disappointed, has gone to bed believing my having got dressed to be a sign that nothing of further interest would occur.) The chief fire officer insists on reporting to me as the least insane member of the party now gathered in the ashes in the pouring rain. He believes the cause of the fire was a discarded cigarette end. Garage owner's wife looks both drunk and sheepish - difficult to achieve and deeply unattractive.

The next day the garage owner's wife will have a shock when she tries to use her washing machine with the now melted piping and the garage owner will have a shock when he showers: I hope they were insured for fire and flood.

And I still got to bed by five a.m. even after Doris told us for the eighth time that she'd been just getting ready for bed, couldn't find her hearing aid (“Pardon”) or her glasses and has no nickers on and, by the way, had I seen that man with no clothes on? Did I think he might have started it?

Ho Hum.