Friday, 15 January 2010

House fire Number 1

I am not a pyromaniac. Perhaps I say that in the same spirit as an alcoholic denies their alcoholism. Let me see.......

Evidence for pyromania:
*Two and a half house fires
*A forest fire
*An exceptionally good understanding of what burns well
*Never getting past the sugar volcano experiment in my chemistry set
*A father that would get instantly angry at the sight of me with a naked flame (of any kind and I tried a few out for size)
*The only song my brother wrote about me was called 'Closet Pyromaniac' (it was a statement about how I always had a fire when I felt my life needed to completely change in direction...but this all happened on an unconscious level of course)

Evidence against pyromania
*I can never find a light when I need one
*You can grow out of things right?

****fuzziness to denote back in time*******

It was the very last night I was to spend in our very mouldy student shared house that had been home for the second academic year of my degree. My eccentric friend Louise had recently brought me back a HUGE joss-stick from Japan. I wasn't sure I wanted to cart it all the way back to my dad's house for the summer holidays, so I decided to burn it before I left. It took a few minute's full flame on the gas hob to light it. Once lit, I faced the unplanned-for problem of where to put it. Now, in my defence, I am naturally 'dancing with the dream clouds' while doing anything in the physical world in front of me, so my decision to stick it into a bin full of screwed up bits of paper - burning end up (more defence)- that my already-vacated housemate had left - wasn't a fully conscious one. The bin held it perfectly and I might have even felt a bit pleased with myself for finding such a practical solution.

Being the last night before the summer holidays warranted some of the more usualler than usual: a celebration - involving a little drink to help us let our hair down a little and a dance in a nightclub (the Jacquard) until 2 a.m.

My father had come to Norwich to pick me up and take me home but he was sleeping in a van on a campsite. I don't think our house could be stomached by anyone whose nose had not been on the three term acclimatisation scheme. (Also the sick that had been hovered up off the carpet a few days before was adding an aroma even our noses were somewhat challenged by). It's a shame as my dad didn't really drink and he was the most sensible man in the universe. In hindsight I believe he probably would have done things a bit differently on this particular evening - the one I am about to describe. However, my brother was staying with us as he had travelled up with dad and our dog was with us too. The dog never settled while in the house - he had too much sniffing to do.

We returned from our night out - a little wobbly. Every now and then someone queried, 'what's that burning smell?' but by this point, frankly, we did well to put ourselves the right way up in our beds. Sometime later, I awoke suddenly to hear my brother having a little hissy fit. I rolled my eyes and said to my boyfriend at the time something like, 'what is he up to?' Upon opening the door, my question was answered by a blast of smoke.

Now get this. I got fully dressed and calmly said to my chap, 'you get all my (packed) stuff out of the house and I'll put the fire out,' Proof that I am very good in a crisis.

I went to the burning room to see the curtains gone, a chair smouldering and the mattress on the floor half eaten by flames. My brother had woken up with his head surrounded by fire. (Both my brother and I have only used about six of our nine lives up - so we should be OK for a while yet). I instructed my brother to go to the phone box at the end of the street and ring the fire brigade. He did as told except when asked by the operator where the fire was, he answered, 'in the house.' Apparently he had to run down to the end of the street to find out its name.

In the meantime, my fellar and I were running backwards and forwards from full on taps with a mop bucket and a salad bowl frantically chucking water at the flames. I remember having a naughty child's mindset: that if we put it out quickly enough, maybe nobody would notice. We did eventually extinguish it but the huge black hole at the front of the house showed a little. Having put it out, I then surmised that the fire brigade were probably unnecessary. I asked my brother if he had managed to call them. His answer was, 'listen,' ......three fire engines and a police car turned up. It was at this point, as we stood outside the front of the house surveying the damage and collectively reassuring each other that it 'wasn't that bad' that my boyfriend realised he was completely naked. He wasn't that quick to react either, because I remember a policewoman saying to him jokingly, 'I ought to do you for indecent exposure.' The fire brigade threw all the burnt materials into the front garden and pushed any of the shattered glass that had not fallen, on top of the black deformed pile. I remember thinking, 'well they've made it look much worse'.

I was surprised not to have been breathalysed. Clearly drunk in charge of a burning house isn't a prosecutable offence.

Concerned by our dad's potential panic about what would greet him when he came to the house the next morning, we put up many signs covering the front of the house, the gates and the back door saying, 'the dog is OK.' I'm not sure what that says about any of us - my dad, my brother, myself, my boyfriend or the dog.

And eventually the adrenaline subsided and we returned to our beds to let the alcohol knock us out.

I was awoken the next morning by the incoming-calls-only phone. It was the landlady ringing to ask us to leave the house tidy.

By the way. I am not an alcoholic either.


  1. You know I've never heard that story in its full glory before. Brilliant. Lots of sniggers and two proper out-louders. Is house fire number two to follow? xxx

  2. *chuckle* Well I hope your landlady was pleased that all that untidy burnt stuff was taken *outside* of the house. And she didn't say "please don't leave any big black holes in the walls", now, did she?

    You remind me how glad I am that I stopped being a landlord.

  3. *snort*
    Molly, you are hilarious, but a tad 'dangerous' maybe?
    but defninitely NOT a pyromaniac.
    Otherwise, wouldn't you have ENJOYED all of that mayhem?
    Add that to 'evidence against'.
    Off to get my morning cuppa and some toast so I can read some more of your posts.

  4. Thanks for sharing that, brilliant story! And no one was injured, bonus.

    I have an unintended tale of conflaguration that I should probably tell sometime blogwise involving model rocketry engines.

  5. Ha ha - I love a good reminiscing (that does look odd spelling)

    I remember setting fire to a mattress in my bedroom years ago when we were smoking illicit substances. We never had three fire engines and a police car turn up though - and nobody was naked.

    Isn't it amazing we are still alive?

  6. Hehehe, wonderful story!! I have a few 'fire' stories myself...including the one when I managed to set fire to my own there's a talent for you. (Don't nasty damage was done...although I'm quite sure the lady on the phone will never recover!!)

    C x

  7. I want to own the soundtrack to that story!



  8. Nick -thankyou.

    Claire - all true - as it was. I don't think they should let Potters into the world unsupervised by adults before they are 35. I forgot to mention that when we woke up in the morning and saw our faces in the sober and light...we looked hilarious...grey - with hair that satyed where you put it. Three Einsteins.

    Codgi - We all had to give character references so the insurance compant paid up. To be honest, the house was so damp and furry with mould I am surprised it burnt at all.

    Clipster. I think more evidence is needed if I am not to receive the pyromaniac label.

    Eric - your story os so much more dramatic than mine. I will try harder.

    FF - they wouldn't let us sit together in class then would they?

    Carol - see once someone starts it all off, fire stories come pouring stories of the paranormal, stories of disasterous holidays, stories of non-returnable goods......

    Pearl - most of it was drunken shuffling and snorting...

  9. I enjoyed this post - reminds me of my student days and some funny stories I ought to tell. That gives me an idea....

  10. Have you ever set fire to the wrappers on Amaretti biscuits and watched them float up to the ceiling? I guess I shouldn't encourage you really.

    Whereabouts in Norfolk are you (or would you rather not say)? Mr FF is from there but he's not an 'oo arr' type of bloke (if you know what I mean)

  11. Thanks for the tip but my chap won't let me near a naked flame either. (House Fire Number 2 to follow one day - makes it clear why)

    Norwich. Originally I am from Gatwick (film of oil on your drink if you drank it outside)...Dorset after that...but then Norwich....lovely Norwich.

  12. Where is Mr FF from...I am bound to know it...I drive everywhere in Norfolk for my job.

  13. Thank you Mark and come on....student tales are always funny....pretending to be adults, behaving worse than kids.

  14. Well he grew up on one of tbe Broads - um, forget the name of it. Until she moved about ten minutes away from here his mum was in Norwich - out in Costessey

  15. and his brother is in (I think anyway) Dereham

  16. Oh...yep...strong Norfolk links there!

  17. Apart from the tedious journey to get there - that road beside the forest (is it Elvedon) that is always chocka with traffic jams - Norwich as a city centre is very nice.
    I liked the park with the pretty bandstand - it's near a theatre.

  18. Chapelfield Park - yes lots happens there. it hosted the Spiegeltent this summer...which is amazing.

    They are going to dual the A11 completely...which has caused controversy. I get the feeling some people like to make it hard for people to get here. I think it's the only county without a motorway!!!


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