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Standing By


At Hammersmith fire station one night duty we had insufficient riders to man both fire engines. This then entails arranging with divisional staff for two firemen from other fire stations in the division having surplus riders to travel to Hammersmith to make up our shortage of riders, this is known as stand-by duties. IE to stand-by at another fire station. At 1815hours (6-30pm) we were informed via the telephone that two firemen had been ordered from Feltham fire station to stand-by at Hammersmith for the night.

Now Feltham fire station is right on the periphery of the London fire brigade area. It is directly under the flight path at Heathrow airport. At times when the wind is in the right direction, to stand in their drill yard is not recommended for those of a nervous disposition, for it seems that the gigantic Jumbo jets, merely skim inches above their drill tower as they land at the airport. After a period of time at this fire station Feltham fireman develop certain peculiarities they have this ability to suspend conversation, and carry on exactly where they left off minutes later (aircraft noise) some of them could even lip read allegedly!. Also when engaged in conversation (even away from their fire station) they tended to intermittently look up at the sky and cover their ears with the palm of the hand, by sheer habit. So to sum it all up, certain allowances have to be made, for those firemen stationed at Feltham fire station. So as my tale continues it can be understood that whilst I was initially slightly perplexed by the somewhat peculiar behaviour of these two stand-by firemen, being as they were from Feltham fire station I duly made allowances.

I was seated the station office at around 1915 hours (7-15pm) when there was a knock on the door and two firemen both in their mid twenties entered and announced fireman Smith, fireman Brown to stand-by from Feltham Guv. Ok lads I replied, have you been told which machines you are riding I queried, “yes Guv” and with that they wandered off out of the office.
It was at supper time with the whole watch seated around the mess table, that I was able to view them fully. They seemed a couple of nice clean wholesome young lads, A bit overawed by the present company, Hammersmith firemen on the whole being a rather reprobate bunch. Then Feltham fire station being on the periphery of the brigade we did not see or socialise with firemen there much, so these two lads were amongst total strangers. They were pleasant enough and would answer direct questions, but otherwise kept their own company.

At around 2100hours (9 O’clock) they came into the office and asked to be issued with their bedding, stand-by firemen draw bedding from station stocks. Now by Hammersmith standards this was definetly an early night, but then these lads were from Feltham. The Sub officer took them to issue their bedding and show them where to put down their folding trestle beds, alongside the snooker table. From this point on, it began to get interesting!.

There was a group of around four firemen playing snooker at the time, with total disregard to these firemen the two Feltham blokes began to put down and make up their beds. It had already been observed that the two Feltham, guy’s were not exactly yer run of the mill firemen. Everywhere they went on the station they went together, never more that six inches apart. Allegedly, and only allegedly they had been seen actually holding hands together!, but then again allowances were made for their quaint Feltham ways, two country lads up in the big city. What happened next though began to worry the hard bitten Hammersmith boys. They put down the two trestle beds in the corner of the snooker room, then with no embarrassment whatsoever patently and blatantly pushed the two together to make a double bed, and proceeded to lay the blankets over also as a double bed.

The game of snooker was brought to a hurried finish, the losers declaring that their opponents ten point lead, with only seven balls left on the table was insurmountable. In the mess room even the inexorable game of contract whist came to a halt, as the snooker players bursting in saying incredulously “Here lads you are never going to believe this”. One by one the firemen invented excuses to go into the snooker to check for themselves, the two Feltham firemen said nothing just giving gentle smiles. A council of war was called, I’m not having this said a voice, what happens if he gets fed up with turking his mate and wants to have a go a me instead, I won’t be safe in my own bed at night. Its disgusting said another voice, who’s renowned sexual exploits would probably extend as far as sleeping with a donkey as long as it was female.

The war council arrived at a decision, Feltham fire station would be phoned up, to get the background on these two deviants. The one sided telephone conversation was avidly listened to by all in the mess and went something as follows.
Feltham, is that Feltham?, well its Hammersmith here, those two stand-by firemen you sent us tonight are they alright.
Yeh yeh, (pause for response) no not that kind of alright, I mean are they straight. No no, that kind of straight, not straight as a die! I mean are they bent?. (Pause) For Christ’s sake Feltham you know what I mean bent, bent as in twisted, a couple of perverts (pause).
Ok Ok then I will make it crystal clear, are they a couple of fucking poofters. No? (pause) well they must be! do they always sleep together in a double bed at your fire station.
They don’t! (pause) yes they have just made up a double bed in the snooker room. Whadaya mean, what have we done to them, we ain’t done nothing to them (pause) whadaya mean, you’ve heard all about us deviant lot at Hammersmith.

Here there was a prolonged break in the conversation, the Hammersmith man duly explaining and signalling to all gathered in the mess room, by pointing upwards with his finger and then at the telephone handset, saying 747 coming in to land.

This was without a doubt a superb wind-up, the problem was that I was not sure who was winding up who. Was it the Feltham firemen putting the fear of god, into their two young stand-by firemen, telling them they had to watch their bums, because the Hammersmith lot were a load of deviants. Had the two young firemen, all on their own thought to put one over on the Hammersmith mob. Or was it a combined Feltham gag IE the whole bloody fire station were in on it. I can only say whoever thought up the gag it worked a treat, the only problem was we had a pretty busy night (fire call wise) and I don’t even know if the two blokes slept together at all that night.

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