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Get From Under


George Grinham was a bit of an enigma, he kind of just appeared on the scene at the opening of the new Chelsea fire station. He was part of the additional manpower required to crew up the new hose lorry allocated to Chelsea at the changeover. Upon reflection he was undoubtedly what would be termed a throw out. Some station officer in some far distant station, upon being told he had to transfer one fireman to A8 Chelsea, without hesitation chose our George to go, banished from his realm, his own personal station officers fiefdom, hopefully forever. Although the transfer increased George’s travelling distance considerably, I think he also was pleased to go, to get from under in brigade parlance, put distance between all his previous crimes and misdemeanours. These transfers allegedly give a man a fresh start in life, a clean crime sheet. But of course the old jungle drums soon start beating, the internal telephone wires burn hot, with the result, as if we had not already guessed it, our George was a bit of a reprobate.

(Note. Get from under, derived from the brigade standard warning call when dropping an object from aloft. ‘Stand from Under’ an old navy term I think. Thus derived ‘Get from Under’ IE. book gone, don’t hang about, lest the falling shit hits you on the head)

George was always clean shaven and smartly dressed, he stood about five feet ten inches was of a muscular and trim build, in fact if viewed from afar would seem to be the ideal fireman. Unfortunately it was not his appearance that was the problem. George despite his winning smile was one of life’s incorrigible rogues. It was not that he chose to be nasty or vicious, in fact he was quite benign and good humoured, it was just that things tend to happen to George that did not happen to your average fireman. His nature was such, that if you bet him a shilling he could not scrub out the appliance room with a toothbrush, he would do it!. Not because he wanted the shilling, but just to prove to you that he could do it. If necessary, and with the right incentive George could probably even bear excruciating pain. He could and would be totally single minded, he would no doubt have made a good SAS soldier, if not for his peculiar ability of never knowing quite when to ‘stand from under’. George to my mind is the unfortunate guy that always gets caught with the smoking gun in his hand. Like the time the whole watch was involved in hoisting the guvnors bicycle up the hose hoist, then when it crashed to the ground completely buggering it up, it was George that was in the frame for the dastardly deed. It was George that came up with the brilliant idea of acquiring some flash powder, then frightening the sh-t out of the junior bucks by igniting the flash powder in an ashtray in the middle of the night in the dormitory. Then when the resulting conflagration, scorched a huge burn mark in the brand new carpet, it was George that was left holding the not so hypothetical smoking ashtray, when the defecation hit the fan.

George had I think a wife and four kids to support, therefore he was permanently short of funds. He also seemed to have at least one mistress on the side, although I do not think mistress would be the applicable word in his case, for mistress is normally associated with kept women. In Georges case this would definitly not apply, Gigolo springs more to mind. Although I never pried into his private life, he must at least been good at one thing, judging by his nefarious off duty activities.

A fireman on another shift who happened to live next door to George, they both living in fire brigade accommodation told his own story of George. It appeared that his weekly milk bill from the milkman, had soared considerably. When he queried this with the milkman, he was informed that he had ordered an extra pint of milk every other day. The firemen went on to insist that he had not ordered extra milk nor had he received any. Very assuredly the milkman informed him, “oh yes you did, Mr Grinham next door (George) most definitly told me, that you wanted an extra pint every other day”. This somewhat gullible milkman who had refused to continue to deliver milk to George’s house, because he had not paid his bills, really should have known better!. This little tale brought a smile to my face, I would not had been surprised had George carried out this little scam, down the whole terrace of the houses, thus avoiding irksome milk bills. He merely had to wander down the street early in the morning picking up the extra pints he had ordered.

The watch room in the new Chelsea fire station, was vastly different from the one at the old Brompton station. Here it was part of the general station office on the ground floor at the front of the fire station, and looked out directly onto the Kings Road. It had large clear glass windows at the front, and looking out into the appliance room. The duty watch keeper (the duty man) instead of being ensconced all on his own in a little glass cubicle, was now part of the hubbub of general station life. As in all things this had its downside, instead of being left in peace to read his Beano and Dandy comics, or the vast library of illicit top shelf magazines invariably stashed away in fire station watch rooms, he now tended to get roped in for little mundane office routines. It also meant of course that the duty man being alone in the watch room/office all alone in the early hours of the morning, the office staff had very few secrets they could keep from us. MI5 or MI6 whatever it was, had nothing on us, we could get the guvnor’s desk drawer open quicker that he could, and he had a key.

It was one o’clock in the morning on a balmy summers night, Chelsea fire station was still wide awake. In the brightly lit watch room, the Venetian blinds were up and the sliding windows open seeking a cooling breeze. In the watch room were around six night owl firemen keeping the duty man company, and watching the world go by in the Kings Road outside. George being the second duty man, and due to take over the watch room at three o’clock, was getting some sleep in an adjacent bunkroom. Into the hubbub of conversation, came an effeminate voice, with a speech impediment “hello lads how’s ffings”. There at the open window head and shoulders in view, was a small slightly balding man with a great big smile on his face. He carried on to say “wwhere’s George, he told me he would be on duty tonight”.

Immediately alarm bells began to ring in the other firemen’s minds. It was known that George had been seen drinking in the company of this particular little shirt lifter, in the six bells pub opposite the fire station. Now on the face of it, it would appear that George had effected a liaison with him, in the wee small hours of the morning, when George was on his own in the watch room. “Which George is that then mate” came back the droll dry reply. The reply from the window confirmed their worst thoughts, “you know, George the good looking boy”. “Oh that George” was the ominous reply “is he a mate of yours then”. “Oh yes” said the little shirt lifter, “me and George are very very good friends”. Who would have believed it! we had heard the stories of various soldiers of the Guards regiments selling their bums down the Kings Road, but a fireman and one of our own! this was beyond the pale.

From here on in, I think things got a bit vicious malicious whatever, because the next fireman’s voice was saying. “Well George is asleep in bed at the moment in the bunkroom, would you like to go in and see him”. “Oh yeth please” said our little man at the window, unable to conceal his delight. The outside door to the station was unlocked, and the little man led being firmly grasped at the elbow. He was led to the door to the bunkroom, and told George is in there asleep. The door was opened quietly and the little man pushed unceremoniously into the room. For a while all was quite, then a clatter as the little man crashed into an unseen something. Then a click, and a small bar of light appearing underneath the door, told that the room light had been switched on. Then, then, we cannot be sure of this because it was somewhat muffled, at first a voice that seemed to say “hello Georgie surprise”. Then a voice that was most definitly George’s saying piercingly “what the f**cking hell are you doing here”. Then, and this opinion varies somewhat, a sound that sounded very much like a pound of sausages slamming down on a butchers slab. At this point some of us were already beginning to think that we had seriously misjudged our George. We were now giving thoughts to getting out from under, and being damn quick about it too!. As we scampered up the stairs back to the first floor mess room, the door to the bunkroom crashed open. The little man emerged from within clutching his nose with bright red claret trickling through the fingers of his hand. “You bathstards, you bathstards he was crying out aloud. Heh Piffle what’s he complaining about said a voice, it was nothing to do with us was it? we didn’t make him go into the bunkroom did we? he went of his own free will. Yeh said another voice suppressing laughter, “that will teach you not to try and get your evil way, with our best mate George” We had just made the first floor level of the station there to exit into the mess room. When echoing around the stairwell enclosure was heard Georges loud and extremely irate voice, in a tone that could only be described as demonic and hell bent for retribution “Right you bastards just you wait, who let that f**cking little deviant into my bunkroom”. I freely admit we turned off all the lights on the first floor, then since I held the key to the bar, we all went in there and locked the door behind us. Later, much later, when discussing the evenings events and it was agreed by all, that any doubts about George’s sexual orientation had been fully dispersed. It was agreed with no dissentions that George was without doubt, a red blooded heterosexual male, just like Genghis Khan was. Some weeks later over the road in the Six Bells pub, George was to tell us. That if the soppy little poofter wanted to buy him beer all night long, that he George was prepared to sit there and drink it, but that’s as far as it went, and as far as it was ever likely to go. Then laconically going on to add “anyway the birds do it all the time with the fella’s don’t they”

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