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A Musical Interlude


Stewart Shepherd was on the white watch at Hammersmith fire station. He was around 25 years of age, quite a handsome chappie (allegedly) unmarried, and a bit of a beau with the opposite sex.
In the main, his off duty activities all seemed to revolve around preparing for, and chasing the ladies. Stewart had even attended a watch piss-up (social evening) wearing a suit of gleaming white materiel, and sporting a gold medallion on his chest for all to see through his open necked shirt.
To be able to wear these golden adornments around Hammersmith at the time meant that one was either simple minded, could fight well, or run very fast, for they were regarded as definite Mugger bait, so it could be seen that Stewart was prepared to face all risks in his pursuit of the ladies.
All the other firemen on the watch had common all garden motorcars such as Fords, Austin’s, or Vauxhalls, Stewart had a Jaguar car, a gleaming bird magnet, in painted in British racing green colours, of which he was inordinately proud.
One Sunday day duty Stewart arrived at the fire station with one of the latest must have boys toys at the time, a motor car audio cassette player, this he announced he was going to fit into his Jag this Sunday afternoon at stand-down time. It would appear that this particular cassette player had somewhat nefarious origins, for it came without any packaging, fixings, leads etc.
That afternoon down in the drill yard around his motorcar, Stewart had been joined by a sundry group of firemen all keen to find out how to fit one of these boys’ toys into a motorcar in case they should acquire one themselves.
The bonnet of the jag was raised to expose the engine compartment and battery. The first problem arose when one of the more electrically minded firemen enquired, “was the cassette player negative or positive ground”. This at first caused some confusion, until a close examination was carried out by all, then a contentious of opinion deemed the cassette player to be positive ground. The electrically minded fireman then stated quite clearly, and with a hint of malice “that’s it then your f**cked, cos your motorcar is negative ground it can’t be fitted to this car”. Then going on to add “if you try to fit a negative ground cassette to a car with a positive earth, it will burst into flames and bugger up you cars electrics as well”. On hearing the verdict Stewart was visibly upset, overcome be a severe attack of the glooms. He had acquired the latest state of the art boy’s toy, with which to entertain the ladies and so doing enhance their romantic mood, and now he could not fit it, because it would apparently ignite his beloved motorcar.
Around the motorcar all present convened a conference to discuss the problem. It was decided that if the cassette player could be isolated from the vehicles chassis, then a separate feed of power supplied direct from the battery this could work. Even the electrically minded fireman agreed with the proviso that this system must be protected with a low amperage fuse. So we set to work, enough materials were found on the fire station and in the boots of other men’s cars to accomplish the task. Two hours later with the cassette player isolated from the car chassis with plastic and insulating tape, and a separate electric supply fed through direct from the battery, and the player connected up to the in car speakers, the job was done. With due ceremony the player switched on, a cassette inserted and set to play and the sound of music wafted around the station yard, and Stewarts face was beaming with joy. “Better try it with the car ignition on and the motor running” suggested the electrical fireman. Stewart produced his keys that in themselves made a statement about the man, a huge bunch of keys and badges, which seemed to proclaim aloud to all that viewed them, my car is a Jaguar. No doubt to him a very important part in his strategy in pulling the birds, the ladies are invariably impressed by flash motors cars, so letting them know that you own one, gets brownie points from the outset.
He put the keys into the ignition started the engine, everything went well, the cassette player happily played out its music. That’s it we all thought we have cracked it, a job well done. The electric fireman reminded him “don’t forget Stewart as soon as you can, fit an inline fuse into the wiring, just to be safe”. Leaving Stewart ensconced in his motorcar listening to some very loud music, we retired to the station mess room for tea break.
The watch went off duty that Sunday at 1800 hours; we were due back on duty the next day the Monday at 0900 hours. Stewart as was the norm, travelled to work on weekdays by public transport, to avoid traffic congestion. It was only after roll call and checking the fire engines at the change of watch, that we were seated all around the mess table, when somebody casually enquired, “how’s the tape deck Stewart still working”. “No it’s bloody not” he replied with venom in his voice. “You wouldn’t bloody believe it but after all our work do you know what happened”. “It chewed all your tapes up,” suggested one voice, no replied Stewart after all our efforts to isolate the deck from the chassis, the bloody thing self-destructed. He then told us the sad tale which none of us could have foreseen. On the Sunday night he was driving home from work lulled into a peaceful mood by the soothing music from the cassette deck, when he had to brake suddenly. Then has he braked the big bunch of keys and badges hanging down from the ignition switch which was situated just above the tape deck, came in contact with metal work on the deck thus causing a dead short, and to use his words “the bloody thing went up in a puff of smoke”. This little accident was of course unforeseen by us all, some even thought it funny, but dared not show mirth with mood Stewart was currently in.

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