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  • Tam had got a new car. Well an old new car. 20 years old to be precise, but in good condition, which had been well looked after by an elderly couple.

    And despite his mature years, Tam had just passed his driving test a week before, and was ultra-cautious and rather deliberate in his driving style. It had a lovely smell of leather inside.

    "There's a lovely smell of leather in here Tam" I said as we drove along, sedately.

    He replied "Yes I'm wearing a new and very expensive leather jacket Wendy has bought for me! "

    "Aha. Very nice." I said, now realising that the squeaking I was hearing was not, as I'd thought, coming from the ancient car but from Tam, as the leather 'settled' into its new life on Tam's back rather than the cow that had donated it.

    We were heading for a community event in the local school hall that evening, a lovely bright and sunny summer night. As we passed a caravan parked close to the road, we both saw...smoke. Dangerous-looking smoke. Lots of it.

    "Bugger! Smoke! That caravan's on fire" I said.
    "Jeez" said Tam
    "Quick quick turn in the gas station forecourt, quickly!" I shouted

    Tam mustered all the recent driving examiner' exhortations he could recall, and with deliberate and careful post test care mirrored signalled and manoeuvered from the side of the road to the middle apparently using the white line spacing as a guide for his actions and s l o w l y crossed to the opposite lane and entered the gas station and fluffed a gear and got all flustered and tried to pull back out again.


    We glacially moved back along the road and crossed to the entry to the small track where the caravan was sending out massive clouds of thick black smoke.

    After what felt like an eternity we pulled up and leapt out. Tam, an ex-fireman sized it up.

    "BAD!" he shouted.

    "Aye, I can see that!. What will we do?"

    We both knew that an old fellow with a drink problem lived in the van. I knew from seeing him as I cycled past regularly, Tam knew because he's observant and cares about people.

    "The old fellow, what if he's inside!" I shouted.

    We could see nothing through the windows. "We need to open the door." said Tam.

    And so the combined and not inconsiderable muscle of the pair of us was put to work. Tam a bodybuilder and weightlifter, Scottish veteran men's powerlifting champion to be precise, and me a weightlifter and long-distance cyclist, mountain runner and off-piste skiier with thighs of oak and shoulders to match. Unfortunately our muscle extended only to the base of our necks. Had we been better equipped higher up, nearer ......say, our foreheads.........we would have realised much much sooner that the door against which were manfully hurling ourselves, and being rebuffed from like pingpong balls............opened outwards.

    Yes. Caravan doors ALWAYS open outwards. A significant detail we had somehow overlooked in our frenzied assault.

    "It opens out, it opens out!" I shouted at Tam as the penny dropped, just as he lobbed himself against it once again.

    "Oh bugger!" he said, as he looked up at me from the ground, where he'd been artfully ponged after pinging off for the fourth time.

    "We need to smash the lock" I said "I'll get a boulder" so set off into the long grass to look for one.

    Meanwhile, if you recall we were beside a main road, which had now filled up with curious drivers and passersby all intrigued by the Buster Keaton antics unfolding before them. Many of the onlookers we recognised (small town!) as friends and neighbours. All of whom stayed well clear.

    I found a boulder and set to smashing the life out of the lock, door, doorframe, and anything connected to it, while Tam, anxious for the welfare of the elderly and still unaccounted-for owner shouted:

    "DESPERATE GAMBLE REQUIRED HERE! We need to see if the old guy is in there, I'll lob this bin in the window, the water might quell the fire a bit but the increased oxygen will really make it flare. We'll need to be quick, you smash the lock, as it breaks open I'll whack this lot in the window and we can see if the man is in there and get him out. If he's got a gas cylinder on his cooker we're in deep shit, its going to go off like a bomb!"

    The bin Tam was referring to was the old fellows water supply. A large but clean plastic refuse bin filled to the brim with drinking water. Summonsing all his veteran champion powerlifting skill Tam hoicked the bin up to head height and as I finally trashed the lock, he lobbed it through the window. I could not even have lifted the bin, never mind thrown it. But off it went in slow motion through the glass, followed by a dull thump as it hit the inside, a whoosh as the water lolloped about, then a fractional silence as the oxygen followed, then an almighty CRUMP as the fire leapt into life with renewed vigour sending a sheet of flame back out of the broken window.

    But Tam was onto the door in a flash, pulled it back, splintered lock and aluminium panels offering no resistance now, and thrust his beautifully polished bald head inside.

    "OOOOOHHHH YA BUGGER!" he yelped, as I readied to follow and help drag the hapless and overcome old lad to salvation.

    "NOBODY THERE!" yelled Tam and fell out, landing on top of me, overbalancing me and knocking us both backwards, the two of us ending up flat on the ground as a devilish tongue of flame shot out the door and headed skywards, followed by several of its friends.

    By this time the aluminium was starting to melt, lots of black smoke, massive yellow and orange flames ripping through it as the cheap fabrics and insulation inside ignited.

    Then the Fire Brigade arrived. A volunteer brigade, all local lads, old school friends of mine, who although concerned for our, and the potential caravan resident's welfare, could not resist a bit of gentle teasing "SO what mischief have you got up to THIS time MacPherson?"

    The van was empty, no loss of life, so we decided to leave them to it. We had an appointment at an event and needed to get there.

    We continued our stately progress and got to the school hall.

    Tam's singed forehead glowed like a traffic light at red, the few wisps of hair he'd recently had were now frazzled to a crisp, their ends yellowed and blobby. A smell of burning hair pervaded the car.

    On reaching our destination Tam wisely decided he'd best phone his wife Wendy, as several people he knew had passed us as we fought the blaze, and word would have quickly got to her that the two of us were up to our necks in conflagration, so he thought it best to reassure her.

    He pulled out his mobile.

    The conversation, well the half I could hear, went like this:

    "Hi Wendy. Just to let you know I'm ok. Bit of an adventure on the way to the school. Caravan on fire. John and I had to do some messing about......"
    " a caravan........smashed the"
    "No it's fine....I've got a little bit its ok....."
    " no it's I said it's not..........."
    "Well I got a's not all......."
    "Look I've said it's can see when I get's ok!"
    "Look I'll see you soon, you can you can see for yourself shortly!"
    "Yes ok. Bye dear".

    "Everything ok Tam? Is Wendy alright" I asked.

    With a look of consternation, accompanied by a long deep sigh, and reaching for his flame-crisped scalp, gently touching it with his fingertips, he replied "She just needed reassuring that the new leather jacket didn't get burned."
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