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Monday, 28 May 2012

The bells, the bells! - Suburban Village #7

We lived in Queen Anne's Gardens,
a cul de sac that formed a dog leg
with Glebe Path. We could have been
the knee cap, looking, as we did, straight
down Glebe Path, across Church Road
to the small green where was a small boy's
heart's desire: the local Fire Brigade's new station -
complete with tower, from which they'd hang
their hoses down to dry.

In Queen Anne's Gardens and Glebe Path
some firemen had their homes. In these
the fire bells rang each time there was a shout.
It was a joy to see the firemen run -
in every state of dress and undress, still
dragging on their clothes - whenever
bells went down.

The best of these for entertainment value,
was Red Jock, - always followed by his wife
who would be holding out his jacket,
helmet, once or twice his axe as if his time
had come - once even offering his boots.
With her unable to keep up, they'd disappear,
as like as not, just beyond the tower.
They were the Smiths - though no one,
I discovered, quite believed that was their
true and proper name.

Once by the station when the bells went down,
we stayed to see the spectacle. The usual few
were running in from Queen Anne's Gardens
and Glebe Path, still pulling on their uniforms.
Mr Smith was there, of course, but fully dressed,
his wife detaching from him like the spent half
of a rocket. Inside the station, visible through
wide glass doors, were other men cascading down
the pole. And then, the doors flung wide,
the gleaming tender (we said engine), red
and hungry, came out snarling almost silently,
the firemen clinging hairily to either side,
still pulling on their clothes, their lives at stake,
the engine sashaying the two tight bends. But best
of all - I'd never guessed! - my Mr Smith
was driving it!

Was I impressed! And yet, I didn't envy him -
as many a small boy might have done. The one
I envied was his friend who shook the leather strap
to toll the great brass, clanging bell that swung with
such authority in front.

13 comments:

jane.healy said...

Fabulous - I see it all. I am reading Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha at the moment and this is so much in the same vein, memories of a small boy. Great stuff.

Daydreamertoo said...

LOL...What a memory!
Precious. I loved this. Reminded me of when I was young and being all excited to see them come out of their station. Now, as an adult, I just tend to feel sorry for whoever's house is on fire or, has had an accident. But to kids, those big old engines were huge toys! and firemen were heros.
Loved this read Dave!

elizabeth said...

I remember reading one of your poems some time ago about a dent made on a metal window casing during the war.....
Such vivid details.
Very "Summoned by Bells" --which I admire greatly.
Grandpa was a volunteer fireman in Kent in the days when they had to run round the field in their pajamas to
catch the horse to hitch to the wagon.
Came to you via the estimable Weaver.
Memo to self:Visit more often!

Brian Miller said...

smiles...very cool dave...my grandfather was a fireman...and i remember being over at the firestation with him...the smell of smoke on his hands and watching him pull out knowing he was going to save someone...really nicely writ man..

Laurie Kolp said...

When I was growing up we always had to get in the car and chase the fire trucks. Now my cousin's a fireman and drives one in Houston.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

The vividness of the details, the cinematic force of the images...the firemen perpetually in a hurry and half-dressed running....quite impressive.
How great it would be if you published a collection of these recollections!

Carl said...

Wonderful - All small boys love firetrucks and firehouses. You conveyed the excitement brilliantly and with a dash of comedy to boot. Nice work as always dave.

Mary said...

I enjoyed this childhood memory, Dave. I can picture this engine with the firemen hanging on. Somehow when I see firetrucks around now I don't see men hanging to the sides; but I remember this from my youth too. Keep the memory poems coming.

A Cuban In London said...

What a spectacle! And what fun you must have had! Very colourful characters. "His wife detaching from him like the spent half of a rocket". What an image.

By the way, yes, you're right about your comment on my blog. The Scream came from nature. I don't think I made it very clear in my post.

I wasn't aware of that fact until I read the poem that appears on the frame of one of the pastel versions. It's extraordinary where inspiration comes from and where it leads people to. Thanks a lot for your feedback.

Greetings from London.

Windsmoke. said...

Just about every boys dream to become a fireman :-).

zongrik said...

i'm trying imagine this time when firefighters had to ring clangs, and didn't have sirens. wow....this is so nostalgic

vivinfrance said...

A great story poem, vivid and exciting. Elf and Safety has a lot to answer for these days: no more sliding down the pole, no more hanging on the sides, no more bells even!

http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/village-carnival/

Dave King said...

jane
Wow, a mention of me in the same sentence as Paddy Clarke! How can I thank you enough?

Daydreamertoo
You're right, w had no thought for those whose were suffering - same with the air raids, I found them exciting and looked forward to going out shrapnel hunting in the morninng.

elizabeth
Thanks. I'm flattered that you remembered the earlier poem. this one is really the sum of lots of memories. The warped French windows was a single memory, and as such more vivid, I suppose, than those that have gone to form this poem.

Brian
Much thanks. Yes, that must have been a very great feeling indeed. I'm afraid I hadn't developed my finer feelings by this time!!

Laurie
Thanks. You have it on me there: we didn't have such things as cars at that time. I wonder if we would have followed them if we had...

Tommaso
Many thanks for the kind words and for the suggestion also. I tend to agree that it would be great. Maybe I should look into it...

Carl
I remember I had a model fire engine (American) at one stage - used to light fores in ashtrays and put them out! I don't remember all that as clearly as I recall the real one, though.

Mary
No, that's right: it's so long since I've seen a truck with men hanging on, I was almost doubting the memory, but I'm sure they did: they stood and they held on. Thanks for your thoughts.

A Cuban in London
Yes, I think colourful characters seem to have largely characterised (ouch!) my childhood - and later to some extent. When I started teaching I had in my first class a Roy Rogers, a David Lloyd George, a Peter Wilson (top sports writer at the time), a Victor Sylvester (band leader) an d one or two others possibly less well know.. There was also myself, of course - David King was at the height of his fame. Except for the last mentioned they were all as flamoyant as their names suggested.

Windsmoke
Mmmmm, mine for a time.

zongrik
Strangely, I've been trying to remember when sirens first came in. I guess it must have been during or after the war. I preferred the big, clanging bell, though!

vivinfrance
True, true, true. I felt a lot safer then, somehow. A false sense, no doubt, but a lot to be said for just FEELING safe.