Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
Dad and me and the Farm Fire
"Sorry Son, we're busy!"
"Sorry Son, can't you see your brother and I are busy. Go and play!"
"What is it now?!"
"I've set fire to the farm!"
And I had. Well around half of it was ablaze by this time after I had:-
1) Playing with matches in my den in an abandoned chicken coup placed atop a loose straw stack next to the new piggery, started the fire.
2) Thought it a good idea to abandon my first reaction of turning away from the now blazing single entrance and going to the rear of the dilapidated little shed.
3) Decided to brave the flames, rush through them, slide down the stack and head for the water bowser. The one unfortunately situated a hundred yards away on the other side of the farm yard.
4) Look for and retrieve a galvanised two gallon bucket and fill it.
5) Discover that at seven years old I did not yet have the strength to lift a heavy bucket with twenty Pounds of water added, out of the bowser.
7) Wipe my eyes and run hell for leather to the hawthorn hedge beside the road which Dad and my older stepbrother Robin were cutting with their shears. The hedge two hundred yards from the now well alight straw stack and adjacent timber built (recently newly built) piggery, housing around a dozen protesting pigs, all destined to become roast pork.
The Fire engine from Wisbech six miles distant arrived remarkably quickly. The hot pigs had thankfully already been released by Dad and Robin to roam about, un-scorched, in the Bramley orchard, behind where the new piggery once stood. Flames were beginning to lick around the long chicken shed containing four hundred laying hens. Dad knew that if we released them there would be no way of ever recovering them. With the result our village of three hundred dear souls would probably be feasting on roast chicken for a fortnight.
The fire engine and tender did their bidding though and saved the chicken shed along with all the birds, albeit some were now a little wet. I swear some birds laid hard boiled eggs for a week following.
I was a little worried. After coming out of hiding I returned to the farmhouse and where Mother pretended nothing had happened, although appearing somewhat nervous whilst preparing supper. All the village boys who had turned up upon their bicycles to take in the spectacle had since departed.
I sat at the kitchen table. Still worrying. Dad returns with a more than usually rosy face, with added soot. He lifts off his normally almost surgically attached Harris Tweed flat cap to reveal a sort of tide mark above which was a contrasting pale forehead. It looked quite funny but Mother stepped in and suggesting to me that now was perhaps not a good time to giggle and thus to stop it. Dad went upstairs to bathe. I went to bed.
The insurance company paid up. The destroyed farm buildings were rebuilt. I learned a new expression - 'Spontaneous combustion', and which I was encouraged to repeat in the event I was ever interrogated by people I didn't know. Particularly if they were wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase.
Nothing was ever said. Never. Not by Dad, Mother or even gentle Robin, my greatly admired six year older dear Step brother and who, much like his Father, taught me so much.
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