Smoke Signals at Night

      I have to be the only person in all of Britain who got a dozen fully kitted out firemen to remove their wellies before swarming all over my new carpet after running with miles of fire hose across the frozen mud of a cow field.

      I'd woken up one bitter wintry night to find the new stove, new flue and all, hell red with heat, and the wooden deck, through which the flue poked, aflame. The firemen cut out the burning deck, then began destroying what was not burning, which was the rest of the Searchlight. 'But why?' screamed I holding Silky who seemed merely curious, 'it's out! You've put it out!' 'We cannot leave the premises, Missus', said the only one without a mustache, 'until we are absolutely sure the fire is completely under control and that it will not break out again. If it should do that, it becomes our responsibility and our fault'. 'You mean', I shuddered, 'you're going to dismantle this boat?' 'Yes', he said, 'we are'. Back to work with their axes they went.

      Meanwhile, up above sat Vivian in his studio writing a song before the fiery falafel penetrated his concentration. 'Halfway through "Smoke Signals at Night" and I thought: this is a bit realistic'.

      At which point down the stairs came Vivian, hunch-backed as were all the firemen. Wearing a long black velvet robe which he hadn't bothered to close, and no pajamas, he looked round with enormous disapproval, glowered at this one and glared at another. 'Cease! And desist! Immejitly!'

      Which, ordinarily, they would never have done. But this time they all stood still and gawped, until one among them found the wit to say, 'Cor! It's Viv Stanshall! This your boat, mate?'

      'It is indeed, amigo. But if you persist in chopping it to kindling, it will no longer be my boat at which point my family and I will be homeless'.

      Horror spreads through all. Forget the family, but Vivian Stanshall homeless? Never. They milled about a bit, not easy when you're twelve fully grown mustachioed men in socks discussing the matter earnestly, and came to the conclusion the fire was out and the boat was saved. Da ta!

      The best part of all this was watching a dozen English firemen trying to find and put on their own wellies from a pile of the things on a slippery deck in winter's dark.

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