The Great Fire of Sawston

Evidence over the last 24 hours has once again demonstrated that I would make a very poor witness – unless my feet committed the crime (and they are generally pretty law abiding, so far as I know).

Yesterday evening I went to the theatre (again! What am I like?) in darkest W11 (and not the WW1 seaplane of that name).  ‘Twas a bit of a challenge reaching London as, for the second of three attempted journeys to the capital by our hero in the last month, the overhead lines were down in the vicinity of Sawbridgeworth (I’m still unsure why that particular Hertfordshire town is so inimical to the survival of catenary power lines).  Foolishly, after the departure of Hurricane Katia, I had failed to check that the power was still on – and so arrived at the station en vélo to discover a distinct dearth of trains.  I cycled back home to discover, from the NXEA website, that trains were about to re-start, so pedalled back to the station again (this rail travel certainly keeps you fit!).  A train did, indeed, arrive but the driver was very unsure how far south he would be able to go – and initially only promised Audley End.  However, fortune favours the brave and we did in fact make it all the way – if a little slower than timetabled.

The play, “Wittenberg”, at the Gate Theatre was very good – and my second play of the summer to include Dr Faustus (though no-one has suggested that last night’s playwright had penned any of the works usually attributed to Shakespeare: possibly as he is still in his 40s).  The Gate is slightly basic as a theatre – and so no ice cream (or anything else) on offer in the interval and whilst it is directly above a good pub, the pub was closed for refurbishment (a chap could start to think that it’s not his day!).  A tarte au citron flavoured yoghurt from M&S made a somewhat acceptable substitute – and its 225 calories ensured that my blood-sugar levels did not fall dangerously low during the second half (or should that be act?).

NXEA did mange to return me home – through the badlands of Sawbridgeworth – with only a relatively mild delay so I could collect my bicycle and return home.  I did notice that an area of the road outside the police station and another a little beyond my house were rather wet – though it didn’t seem to have rained elsewhere – but thought nothing of it and, after parking my trusty steed, went to bed (oddly, that mention of steed does make me realise that the bowler hat would make a rather fine choice of millinery for the stylish cyclist).

This morning I wandered about the house as usual, nipped into the garden to gather some herbs, and later passed through the garden again to un-park my bike ready to go into town.  My errands completed, I returned home some hours later – and the mystery of the wet patches of road was explained to me by a neighbour.

Last night as I was travelling home, my neighbour noticed a dim orange glow in one of the gardens that lie behind the extensive parklands that gird Fish Towers.  This was originally thought to be a garden lantern, but luckily she noticed that it had waxed somewhat brighter a little later in the evening.  This led to the discovery that the glow came from a large fir tree that was burning with some vigour – and within a very few minutes had transformed into the arboreal equivalent of a towering inferno.  You may think that I exaggerate, but the Fire Brigade (called in from Cambridge) could see it from several miles away as they raced towards Sawston in a bid to save the village from destruction (OK, maybe I am over-egging the risk to the village a tad).  It could not be determined in which garden the tree resided, and so the fire brigade climbed over my neighbour’s back fence with their hoses – hence one area of wet road, and the police station is the nearest hydrant which explains the other.  It would seem that I had missed the departing fire engine by only seconds as I regained my home.  Still, the excitement did help to put train trouble, pub closure and lack of an ice-cream in perspective – with hind-sight (nothing to do with a deer, a female deer: apparently), I chose a jolly good evening to be away from home.

How I failed to notice the massive, charred and blackened skeleton of the tree on the many occasions I looked in its direction during the morning is somewhat of a mystery to me (I can just about be excused last night as it was dark).  I have only recently visited an optician and my prescription is fully up-to-date – so I can only conclude that my powers of observation are virtually nil.  As a result, I would strongly recommend that no-one ever tries to call me as an eye-witness or invite me to join their team in a competitive match of Kim’s Game (not yet, so far as I know, an Olympic sport – but surely it can only be a matter of time).

I do wonder if this was a message from on high – He does have form with burning vegetation as a method of communication.  Just to be on the safe side, I am going to make a determined effort to pay slightly more attention to my surroundings in future – and will try to tear my eyes away from my feet (gorgeous though they may be), though this could lead to an increased trip hazard, every once in a while.

For any doubters, I shall try and obtain a photo of the conflagration and add it to this post…

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