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Lee Finans Move


Lee Finnan a fireman who features in some of my other books had been at Hammersmith fire station now fresh out of training school for two or three years. He was of English Irish parentage and had been born and lived in the Pimlico area of London all his life. He was inordinately proud of the fact that he held two passports, an English one and an Irish one. He stated that he much preferred the Irish one, because it was a very pretty green in colour, and also that it had the Irish harp, the logo of the Guinness brewing company on its cover. He did remark by way of compensation though, the English one would come in useful in the future, cos in the past he had overstayed his time in the US of A on the green one, and had been thrown out of the country. So if in the future he needed to visit his many relatives in the US of A, he could sneak back in again using the English one.
Lee in his early twenties and a bachelor lived with his widowed mum in a posh block of council flats in Pimlico. Lee’s mum Millie, was the salt of the earth type Irish mother, who on the odd booze fuelled occasion would have had the greater part of the white watch Hammersmith firemen kipping down on her living room floor. Sending them off on their way in the morning with a full cooked English breakfast inside them.

Now Lee being a red blooded male, heterosexual bachelor, and of part Irish decent, played a full and active part in the watches off duty activities. A major part of off duty activities involved going along to the local pub, the Laurie Arms, a few doors along from the fire station, for a few bevies after the first day duty shift. Now for Lee, especially Lee, this was an important part of his life, the alternative being to home to straight home to his mum and have his dinner, then watch the television Boring!. This routine went on for some eighteen months without fail, then it was noticed that Lee would occasionally miss one of these après works dinkies without him giving excuses. These little variations in Lee’s life style were duly noted by his workmates, they were surmised not due to lack of cash, because Lee had a very profitable little part time window-cleaning round in the affluent Pimlico district of London.
Gradually over the mess table, firstly by reading between the lines in his conversation, then by direct challenge it emerged that Lee was in love. Somewhere in his off duty activities he had met ( it was surmised this could only ever have been in a pub) a delightful young London ambulance lady. It was pretty obvious to all, that his relationship with the young lady was getting serious, for even when he did come for the après day shift drinkies, he would scurry off after only a couple of beers.

Then after a couple of further months, came the staggering announcement. Lee was going to leave his lovely old Irish mum Millie, and shack up (live with) the little ambulance lady. Lee explained that the little ambulance lady (I never did find out her name), cos in the early days Lee used to refer to her as his tart. I cannot just keep calling her the little ambulance lady though, cos it takes to long to type each time, and I can’t very well call her Lee’s tart, so I am now going to refer to her as his betrothed. Lee explained that his betrothed’s mother who lived in a block of council flats over the other side of the Thames, in the Elephant and Castle district. Well his betrothed’s mother knew somebody, who knew somebody who for a consideration could arrange the tenancy of a council flat. This little arrangement had already been duly effected, Lee apparently providing the consideration in ready cash. Then for quite some months socially, Lee more or less dropped out of sight.

As time went by judging by the increasing frequency of him partaking of the après works drinkies, and conversation around the mess table, which us old married hands interpreted as the signs of domestic disharmony it was pretty obvious that Lee’s betrothed was giving him some gip. Later on Lee began to open up more; I think he was using his old watch mates as stress councillors. It turned out he had double trouble, not only was his beloved giving him bags of grief, but apparently the future mother in law was twice a fierce. He confided me in once saying “Guvnor you wouldn’t believe it, I’m full grown man yet I’m afraid of her” meaning the mother in law adding “then when they both have a go at me at the same time, I have to book gone and go home to mum”.

There it was, as I had prophesised right at the beginning, Lee booked gone and went back home to his mum permanently. There his old mum Millie once again did all his cooking laundry etc, etc, no doubt on the princely housekeeping sum of around five shillings a week (twenty five new pence in new money).
So once again Lee settled back into the old routine of old watch social outings and après the watch drinkies imbibing the amber ale’s at the Laurie Arms public house. Shortly after Lee had done his prodigal son act, in returning home to his mother’s and the fire brigade fold, then seated around the mess table late one night, Lee casually asked me. “Ere Guvnor how much do you think it would cost me to hire a furniture van”? I naturally replied “what would you want a furniture van for”, He in turn answered “I’ve got to get all of my kit out of the mother in laws flat”. It being that time of the night, with nothing much happening, I waffled on a bit, enquiring “depends how much kit you have got, on how big a van you want, for example how many cubic metres big did you want the van, depends on how much stuff you have” I added. This brought the immediate retort back “don’t frig about Guv, getting all bloody technical, I just got some odds and end’s and bits and pieces, what do I know about cubic metres”. Further questioning of Lee revealed most of his gear was small stuff, Hi Fi equipment, portable TV records, a few clothes and such like. Lee’s face beamed as I said “that lot should easily fit into my van Lee”. It was then and there agreed on the next tour of duty, on the day between night duties, we would set off for the Elephant and Castle in my old Volkswagon camper van, and pick his kit up.

Up in the mess room at the breakfast table, we discussed the forthcoming days events. I formulised a plan of action, Lee and myself would travel over to the Elephant and Castle in my campervan, we would park as near as we could to the block of flats. We would both go up to the flat on the third floor, at this point Lee interrupted in bit of a panicky voice saying “oh no, not me I’m not going up there” I was a bit terse saying back to him “why not, it’s your bloody stuff isn’t it”. Lee replied with a worried note to his voice “it’s not that I’m bothered about, it’s her, the old dragon”. Explaining “as I was walking out of the doors that final time, the old dragon, the mother in law, threatened if she ever saw me again, she would bite my bollocks off, and Guv I believe she meant it”. So we had a change of plan, Lee’s best mate Charlie seated on the other side of the breakfast table who had been listening to the sad episode, volunteered that he would come with us as well, to help out.

So the three of us set out in my old Volkswagon camper van, turned onto the Hammersmith road, headed for the Elephant and Castle. The first little problem came after only three minutes into the journey, I was intending as always to turn right at the next set of traffic lights, I had my right hand indicator flashing and was waiting to turn right. Behind me some impatient person was blowing his horn, I was mentally debating whether to get out and politely inform the gentleman that impatience would get him no where. Then coming towards me on the other side of the road a taxi driver was flashing his headlights at me and indicating by hand signals that I could not turn right here. Then it dawned upon me, bugger bugger bugger, we always turn right here in our big red fire engine, cos it’s a fire engine. Now I’m not in a big red engine, I’m in my old camper van, and I can’t turn right here. I know Hamersmiths fire ground like the back of my hand, but that’s not good enough. It seems I also have to also know the fire ground in two separate ways “A” in a fire engine and “B” not in a fire engine. This actually was not too much of a problem, I just have to mentally re-program my route, and set off again.

After about half and hour jostling with London’s traffic we arrived at the great divide, the bridge over the murky river Thames, and crossed over to the other side of the river the North side. There is a great difference between the South and the North bank of the Thames. Basically to put it in a nutshell, after crossing over to the North side, then returning back to the South, you hope and then consider yourself lucky, if you still have the same number of hubcaps as you started out with. With Lee giving directions we were guided to the council estate where mother in law lived. Then after a while Lee said “Ok stop here, I’m getting out now” “but we are not there yet are we” I queried “no he replied but this is as close as I am going get to that old dragon, I’m taking no chances whatsoever”. Lee gave us directions for the last five hundred yards or so, we went onto the estate, and came to a halt outside mother in laws block of flats.
Here me and Lee’s best mate Charlie held a council of war, bearing in mind Lee was apparently terrified of the dragon, then discussing all possible outcomes, like what would we do if the old biddy should actually set about us and suchlike. I parked up the van making sure it was in a position for a quick escape if necessary, then we made our way up to the third floor of the flats. Here my old fire brigade habits kicked in, me carefully noting the way back out, and any obstructions on the way.

Looking a bit apprehensively at Charlie I went for it and rang the doorbell then stood back a couple of paces. Shortly the door opened and a demure little old dear about five foot two in height answered the door. At the sight of her my courage returned saying to her “morning missus, we are two of Lee’s firemen mates come along to pick up his kit”. She then replied “Oh hello firemen I’ve been expecting you there is his stuff there” indicating one or two items in the passageway. A bit surprised at the few items there I enquired “is that the lot then”. “Yes fireman” she came back “that’s the lot that’s everything”. Now to say I was surprised would be an understatement. It had taken the whole morning, three men, and my camper van, possibly a gallon and a half of petrol to collect one electric kettle, half a dozen long playing records, and half a dozen drinking glasses.
When we eventually found Lee again, skulking out of sight in a shop doorway, first thing I said to him was to ask for a description of the dragon. Sure enough the way he described her, it could only be the little demure lady that we had just met. Then when he asked, “Ok where’s my stuff”, I just opened the sliding side door to my van and pointed to the dozen items lying there. Lee simply said the same as I had said to mother in law “is that the lot then” then on getting my reply “yes” simply said “AH sod it, lets go down the pub then” which we duly did. This caused me to wonder then, why is it that so many of our off duty activities, seem to be concluded with this simple statement “sod it let’s go down the pub”.

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