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They’d never got on before the dance
And they certainly wouldn’t now,
For Geoffrey Raise had showered praise
On the Fireman’s girl, somehow,
And she, Charlene, was impressed, it seems
With the Engine driver’s call,
And changed her date, though it seemed too late
To the Fireman, at the ball.

They stood on the plate of the Duke of Kent
With the fireman raising steam,
Shovelling coal to the firebox
In a movement swift and clean,
He scattered the coals on the glowing bed
With a practised twist of his wrist,
While the driver kept his eyes ahead
As the steam built up, and hissed.

‘Why did you jump on Charlene then,’
Said the Fireman, Henry Rice,
During a break, his back was bent
With sweat, but his eyes were ice,
‘I don’t have to answer to you,’ said Raise,
‘Charlene was anyone’s girl,
I liked the way that she held herself
And she sure knew how to twirl.’

The train pulled out of the station with
A puff and a cloud of steam,
And clattered along the track from Klifft
On its way to Essingdean,
Pulling a dozen coaches and
A Guards van at the rear,
And a hundred and twenty passengers
At the high time of the year.

‘What would you say if I did to you
What you did to me, back then,
Cutting in on your date that night,
What was her name, that Gwen?’
‘She wouldn’t have looked at you,’ said Raise,
As he pulled the chord to toot,
‘And as far as your feelings go, old chum,
I really don’t give a hoot.’

The train was rocketing down the line,
And flew past the water tower,
While Raise had opened the ***** right up
To give the Express more power,
The gauge was inching at sixty five
As they flew past Barton Dale,
While Rice was shovelling coal once more
Though his face was pinched and pale.

He took Raise down with the shovel as
They raced through Weston Town,
Who lay, half stunned on the footplate
Hanging off and looking down.
He kicked on out at the Fireman with
His size twelve steel-capped boots,
Who reached and hung on the chord that gave
The Duke of Kent its *****.

The train was racking up seventy five
As they kicked and punched and swore
Totally out of control it passed
The Halt at Elsinore,
They narrowly missed a rumbling freight
As the points took it aside,
While Raise had yelled, ‘You can go to hell,
But control your wounded pride.’

The Fireman opened the firebox
Spraying hot coals on the plate,
‘Now dance again as you danced Charlene,
If you think that you’re oh so great.’
‘Just let me get to my feet,’ said Raise
‘Or you’re going to wreck the train.’
‘It might be time,’ said the Fireman,
‘For your life to fill with pain.’

They hit the buffers at Essingdean
And the engine left the track,
It leapt up over the platform as
The roof ripped off the stack.
Raise was told when they went to court
That he’d never be re-hired,
And Rice, for want of the girl he sought,
The Fireman was fired.

David Lewis Paget
Nigel Morgan Dec 2012
‘This is a pleasure. A composer in our midst, and you’re seeing Plas Brondanw at its June best.’ Amabel strides across the lawn from house to the table Sally has laid for tea. Tea for three in the almost shade of the vast plain tree, and nearly the height of the house. Look up into its branches. It is convalescing after major surgery, ropes and bindings still in place.
 
Yes, I am certainly seeing this Welsh manor house, the home of the William-Ellis family for four hundred years, on a day of days. The mountains that ring this estate seem to take the sky blue into themselves. They look almost fragile in the heat.
 
‘Nigel, you’re here?’ Clough appears next. He sounds surprised, as though the journey across Snowdonia was trepidatious adventure. ‘Of course you are, and on this glorious day. Glorious, glorious. You’ve walked up from below perhaps? Of course, of course. Did you detour to the ruin? You must. We’ll walk down after tea.’
 
And he flicks the tails of his russet brown frock coat behind him and sits on the marble bench beside Amabel. She is a little frail at 85, but the twinkling eyes hardly leave my face. Clough is checking the garden for birds. A yellowhammer swoops up from the lower garden and is gone. He gestures as though miming its flight. There are curious bird-like calls from the house. Amabel turns house-ward.
 
‘Our parrots,’ she says with a girlish smile.
 
‘Your letter was so sweet you know.’ She continues. ‘Fancy composing a piece about our village. We’ve had a film, that TV series, so many books, and now music. So exciting. And when do we hear this?’
 
I explain that the BBC will be filming and recording next month, but tomorrow David will appear with his double bass, a cameraman and a sound recordist to ‘do’ the cadenzas in some of the more intriguing locations. And he will come here to see how it sounds in the ‘vale’.
 
‘Are we doing luncheon for the BBC men? They are all men I suppose? When we were on Gardeners’ World it was all gals with clipboards and dark glasses, and it was raining for heaven’s sake. They had no idea about the right shoes, except that Alys person who interviewed me and was so lovely about the topiary and the fireman’s room. Now she wore a sensible skirt and the kind of sandals I wear in the garden. Of course we had to go to Mary’s house to see the thing as you know Clough won’t have a television in the house.’
 
‘I loath the sound of it from a distance. There’s nothing worse that hearing disembodied voices and music. Why do they have to put music with everything? I won’t go near a shop if there’s that canned music about.’
 
‘But surely it was TV’s The Prisoner that put the place on the map,’ I venture to suggest.
 
‘Oh yes, yes, but the mess, and all those Japanese descending on us with questions we simply couldn’t answer. I have to this day no i------de-------a-------‘, he stretches this word like a piece of elastic as far as it might go before breaking in two, ‘ simply no I------de------a------ what the whole thing was about.’ He pauses to take a tea cup freshly poured by Amabel. ‘Patrick was a dear though, and stayed with us of course. He loved the light of the place and would get up before dawn to watch the sun rise over the mountains at the back of us.’
 
‘But I digress. Music, music, yes music . . . ‘ Amabel takes his lead
 
‘We’ve had concerts before at P. outside in the formal gardens by AJ’s studio.’ She has placed her hands on her green velvet skirt and leans forward purposefully. ‘He had musicians about all the time and used to play the piano himself vigorously in the early hours of the morning. Showing off to those models that used to appear. I remember walking past his studio early one morning and there he was asleep on the floor with two of them . . .’
 
Clough smiles and laughs, laughs and smiles at a memory from the late 1920s.
 
‘Everyone thought we were completely mad to do the village.’ He leans back against the gentle curve of the balustrade, and closes his eyes for a moment. ‘Completely mad.’
 
It’s cool under the tree, but where the sunlight strays through my hand seems to gather freckles by the minute. I am enjoying the second slice of Mary’s Bara Brith. ‘It’s the marmalade,’ says Amabel, realising my delight in the texture and taste, ‘Clough brought the recipe back from Ceylon and I’ve taught all my cooks to make it. Of course, Mary isn’t a cook, she’s everything. A wonder, but you’ll discover this later at dinner. You are staying? And you’re going to play too?’
 
I’m certainly going to play in the drawing room studio on the third floor. It’s distractingly full of paintings by ‘friends’ – Duncan Grant, Mondrian, Augustus John, Patrick Heron, Winifred Nicholson (she so loved the garden but would bring that awful Raine woman with her). There’s  Clough’s architectural watercolours (now collectors want these things I used to wiz off for clients – stupid prices – just wish I’d kept more behind before giving them to the AA – (The Architectural Association ed.) And so many books, first editions everywhere. Photographs of Amabel’s flying saucer investigations occupy a shelf along with her many books on fairy tales and four novels, a batch of biographies and pictures of the two girls Susan and Charlotte as teenagers. Susan’s pottery features prominently. There’s a Panda skin from Luchan under the piano.
 
These two eighty somethings have been working since 8.0am. ‘We don’t bother with lunch.’ Amabel is reviewing the latest Ursula le Guin. ‘I stayed with her in Oregon last May. A lovely little house by the sea. Such a darling, and what a gardener! She creates all the ideas for her books in her garden. I so wish I could, but there’s just too much to distract me. Gardening is a serious business because although Jane comes over from Corrieg and says no to this and no to that and I have to stand my corner,  I have to concentrate and go to my books. Did you know the RHS voted this one of the ten most significant gardens in the UK? But look, there’s no one here today except you!’
 
No one but me. And tea is over. ‘A little rest before your endeavours perhaps,’ says Clough, probably anxious to get back to letter to Kenzo Piano.
 
‘Now let’s go and say hello to the fireman,’ says Amabel who takes my arm. And so we walk through the topiary to her favourite ‘room’,  a water feature with the fireman on his column (mid pond). ‘In memory of the great fire, ‘ she says. ‘He keeps a keen eye on the building now.’ He is a two-foot cherub with a hose and wearing a fireman’s helmet.
 
The pond reflects the column and the fireman looks down on us as we gaze into the pool. ‘Health, ‘ she says, ‘We keep a keen eye on it.’
 
The parrots are singing wildly. I didn’t realise they sang. I thought they squawked.
 
‘Will they sing when I play?’ I ask.
 
‘Undoubtedly,’ Amabel says with her girlish smile and squeezes my arm.
This is a piece of fantasy. Clough and Amabel Williams-Ellis created the Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales. I visited their beautiful home and garden ten miles away at Brondanw in Snowdonia and found myself imagining this story. Such is the power of place to sometimes conjure up those who make it so.
JV Beaupre  May 2016
Then and Now
JV Beaupre May 2016
Canto I. Long ago and far away...

Under the bridge across the Kankakee River, Grampa found me. I was busted for truancy. First grade. 1946.

Summer and after school: Paper route, neighborhood yard work, dogsbody in a drugstore, measuring houses for the county, fireman EJ&E railroad, janitor and bottling line Pabst Brewery Peoria. 1952-1962.

Fresh caught Mississippi River catfish. Muddy Yummy. Burlington, Iowa. 1959. Best ever.

In college, Fr. ***** usually confused me with my roommate, Al. Except for grades. St. Procopius College, 1958-62. Rats.

Coming home from college for Christmas. Oops, my family moved a few streets over and forgot to tell me. Peoria, 1961.

The Pabst Brewery lunchroom in Peoria, a little after dawn, my first day. A guy came in and said: "Who wants my horsecock sandwich? ****, this first beer tastes good." We never knew how many he drank. 1962.

At grad school, when we moved into the basement with the octopus furnace, Dave, my roommate, contributed a case of Chef Boyardee spaghettios and I brought 3 cases of beer, PBRs.  Supper for a month. Ames. 1962.

Sharon and I were making out in the afternoon, clothes a jumble. Walter Cronkite said, " President Kennedy has been shot…”. Ames, 1963.

I stood in line, in my shorts, waiting for the clap-check. The corporal shouted:  "All right, you *******, Uncle and the Republic of Viet Nam want your sorry *****. Drop 'em".  Des Moines. Deferred, 1964.

Married and living in student housing. Packing crate furniture. Pammel Court, 1966.

One of many undistinguished PhD theses on theoretical physics. Ames. 1967.

He electrified the room. Every woman in the room, regardless of age, wanted him, or seemed to. The atmosphere was primeval and dripping with desire. In the presence of greatness. Palo Alto, 1968.

US science jobs dried up. From a mountain-top, beery conversation, I got a research job in Germany. Boulder, 1968. Aachen, 1969.

The first time I saw automatic weapons at an airport. Geneva, 1970.

I toasted Rembrandt with sparkling wine at the Rijksmuseum. He said nothing. Amsterdam International Conference on Elementary Particles. 1971.

A little drunk, but sobering fast: the guard had Khrushchev teeth.
Midnight, alone, locked in a room at the border.
Hours later, release. East Berlin, 1973. Harrassment.

She said, "You know it's remarkable that we're not having an affair." No, it wasn't. George's wife.  Germany, 1973.

"Maybe there really are quarks, but if so, we'll never see them." Truer than I knew.  Exit to Huntsville, 1974.

On my first day at work, my first federal felony. As a joke, I impersonated an FBI agent. What the hell? Huntsville. 1974. Guess what?-- No witnesses left! 2021.

Hard work, good times, difficult times. The first years in Huntsville are not fully digested and may stay that way.

The golden Lord Buddha radiated peace with his smile. Pop, pop. Shots in the distance. Bangkok. 1992.

Accomplishment at work, discord at home. Divorce. Huntsville. 1994. I got the dogs.

New beginnings, a fresh start, true love and life-partner. Huntsville. 1995.

Canto II. In the present century....

Should be working on a proposal, but riveted to the TV. The day the towers fell and nearly 4000 people perished. September 11, 2001.

I started painting. Old barns and such. 2004.

We bet on how many dead bodies we would see. None, but lots of flip-flops and a sheep. Secrets of the Yangtze. 2004

I quietly admired a Rembrandt portrait at the Schiphol airport. Ever inscrutable, his painting had presence, even as the bomb dogs sniffed by. Beagles. 2006.

I’ve lost two close friends that I’ve known for 50-odd years. There aren’t many more. Huntsville. 2008 and 2011.

Here's some career advice: On your desk, keep a coffee cup marked, "No Whining", that side out. Third and final retirement. 2015.

I occasionally kick myself for not staying with physics—I’m jealous of friends that did. I moved on, but stayed interested. Continuing.

I’m eighty years old and walk like a duck. 2021.

Canto III: Coda

Honest distortions emerging from the distance of time. The thin comfort of fading memories. Thoughts on poor decisions and worse outcomes. Not often, but every now and then.

(Begun May 2016)
From where I lingered in a lull in march
outside the sugar-house one night for choice,
I called the fireman with a careful voice
And bade him leave the pan and stoke the arch:
‘O fireman, give the fire another stoke,
And send more sparks up chimney with the smoke.’
I thought a few might tangle, as they did,
Among bare maple boughs, and in the rare
Hill atmosphere not cease to glow,
And so be added to the moon up there.
The moon, though slight, was moon enough to show
On every tree a bucket with a lid,
And on black ground a bear-skin rug of snow.
The sparks made no attempt to be the moon.
They were content to figure in the trees
As Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
And that was what the boughs were full of soon.
Craig Harrison Aug 2014
If I told you I was a fireman and a building fell on me while I rescued children from a burning school
would you still look at my scars and judge me unfairly

If I told you I pushed an old lady out the way of a speeding car
would you still look at my limp and judge me unfairly

If I told you I gave everything I own to charity
would you still look at me for been homeless and judge me unfairly

If I told you I had cancer 3 times
would you still look at my bald head and judge me unfairly

I am more than what you see
please don't judge me
Pedro Tejada Jul 2010
"Boy toy
or girl
toy! Don't
make me tell
you again, Pedro!"

I have committed a felony
within the land of the Golden Arches.

I have gone through
another patient's order
and forgotten which gender
to assign to the child
standing right next to them,
as if in need of another
fresh new coat in
traditional roleplay,
as if these little ones
were the cattle of tradition.

How foolish of me to assume
that the tiny calf in pigtails
would enjoy the strong-willed,
goal-setting, leadership-evoking
action figure instead of the sanitized,
goal-admonishing, vapidity-provoking
fashion doll.

I wouldn't want to lose
another valuable customer.
Cody Edwards Mar 2010
Look.

He was just very enthusiastic about
being a fireman. He was always on
time and he never stole anything.

That's all I wanna say about it.

He never touched nobody or nothing.

That's all.
Really.
And stop calling.
© Cody Edwards 2010
there was a little rabbit and he just longed to be
a fire engine  driver a fireman was he
putting out the fires with a fire hose
and his little mask hanging from his nose
going in to buildings that were all a blaze
with his great big torch shining through the haze
climbing up the ladder right up to the top
spraying lots of water till the flames did stop
setting people free from the burning mess
taking them to safety while they were in distress
this is what he longed and he hoped to be
a servant of the public a fireman was he
there was a little rabbit and he just longed to be
a fire engine  driver a fireman was he
putting out the fires with a fire hose
and his little mask hanging from his nose.

going in to buildings that were all a blaze
with his great big torch shining through the haze
climbing up the ladder right up to the top
spraying lots of water till the flames did stop.

setting people free from the burning mess
taking them to safety while they were in distress
this is what he longed and he hoped to be
a servant of the public a fireman was he
Ryan Long Dec 2015
We come before you Almighty God,
Policeman, Fireman and EMT
to say a prayer before we go
Our ways to each his own Duty

Together now we've come to pray
In case we forget to
During our busy day

The Policeman steps forth,
“Dear God above
Keep us save
and also those we love.

We pray for your unending favor
that we never need use
the rounds we chamber

Our Vests that we wear
for our own protection
please keep 'em bullet proof
and our safety never question”

The Fireman steps up, and then takes a knee
“Dear God above I need you now
I know you're always watching me

In the Fires of our Hell
or on the highway to there
Please keep us from hurt
and not singe a single hair

Give us the strength to lift a wall
or tenderness to pick up a tiny child
give us peace when others are losing it
and peace if the scene starts getting wild”

The EMT takes his stand
“God I guess it's my turn
Not really safety out there
or the protection from a burn

But rather Lord I need your help
let me make the right decision
on every patient that I care for
Their lives in my hands I've been given”

Then all Three stand together
with their heads all bowed low
Dear God above, to all of us
please your mercy would you endow

Keep us safe and bring us home
to our wives and our children
And each time a truck roles out
let it come back safely to it's building

— The End —