I’ve been nervous about fires ever since a moment of inattention almost turned into a catastrophe. I decided to have a fire on the allotment in July… during that drought heatwave of 3 or 4 years ago. On a roastingly hot, windy day.
I’m sure you’re way ahead of me: I turned my back for a few seconds to do something, only to find that the little fire I’d started had been blown into a raging inferno.
And when I say inferno, I mean it: this was a huge, dangerous conflagration that took hold of some brambles and went nuclear. The flames were 4m high, and getting higher. And the noise – crackling, whooshing, hissing, roaring. Terrifying.
My pathetic efforts to douse it were utterly useless. I managed only to singe off half an eyebrow and set my trouser leg on fire.
By the grace of God, an allotment neighbour happened to be watering with a hose and came to my rescue. But it still took us 20 mins to put the fire out. I was pathetically, weepingly grateful. For a few minutes, I’d been the man responsible for burning down everyone’s allotments and several neighbouring houses.
I could see the headlines spinning in my fevered imagination: “Soilman Fucks Up Utterly”.
So I’m now cautious to the point of paranoia. Fires only happen in bins, and I stare at them so hard I barely blink. Where fires are concerned, dear Reader, I recommend Serious Care and Attention.
Here endeth the lesson.