Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Thirteen
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Thirteen Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
All Pages

I became 'Uncle Ray' and did at work what I did at home - mind the kids. This involved getting them up and dressed in the mornings, making beds, seeing they washed and did their teeth etc, taking the infants to school after watching them at breakfast, talking with them, listening to them, helping the older ones with their homework, cleaning their shoes, discuss their worries and try to put them right, teach them new things, take them swimming and down to the beach in summer.

The children were always interested in what people who worked there did before, and I found I was using some of my past experiences quite deliberately to arouse their interest in the world outside. One question that arose quite soon was 'What is the most dangerous animal in Africa?.' The obvious answer to that, of course, was 'man', but that was not what they wanted to hear. They also did not think that the next answer - the tiny mosquito - as the creature causing most deaths there, was right. I was a bit pushed to get around this as I had no idea of the comparative statistics for death by dangerous animals. I know the hippo comes close to the top but in my own experience, the crocs were more trouble. What they really wanted to hear was stories of big lions jumping from behind bushes and eating anyone passing by.

In reality of course, as I tried to explain to them, it would more likely have been a lioness, or several of them, as lions, being family, or pack animals, tended to hunt and work together. The daddy lion tended to wait to be served dinner by his ladies. Some of the kids [usually the boys] thought this was quite right and proper. Others didn't go much on this version as their own experience of family life had left them with skewed ideas of how one worked and for some, a male parent was an unknown concept.

They were quite interested in my Fire Service days and would ask quite sensible questions. One cropped up as we were watching the TV news one evening showing a very large bush fire in California somewhere near Hollywood, which they all knew about, and some dreamt about. The reporter had finished describing the scene of destruction with a phrase to the effect that 'unfortunately', a strong wind had suddenly sprung up to hamper the efforts of the fire fighters. He made it sound as though a capricious wind had decided to suddenly take mischievous action all by itself. The kids had also noted this and wanted to know why this always seemed to happen. I explained that cold air [the wind] would always rush in to replace the hot air currents that would be rushing skywards. The bigger the fire, the stronger the air currents rushing in. I told them of a reported incident that was related by the then Chief Fire Officer of the City of Hamburg in Germany. During one particularly heavy air raid on his city, the fires reached a proportion known in the trade as a 'Fire Storm'. i.e. virtually uncontrollable. The wind rushing in to replace the enormous rising hot air currents was so strong that it impelled a tram, something like a double decker bus but on railway lines and weighing several tons, into the inferno. They found that hard to believe.