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The trapeze artist who set fire to his trousers

sleeping puppies

It had been a hard night, and I was ready to go home. I had spent my shift checking off the news pages of the morning paper where I worked. Some of my mates were talking about going for a drink, but I knew if I hurried up, and nobody famous died, I could send third edition to press and get to Euston just in time for the last train home. This meant that I would get my first decent sleep in a week, and that I would wake up in my own bed and not on somebody’s couch. And, it would be nice to see my husband.

So I went home. I have to say here that we live way out in the country in what was once a large house, surrounded by fields. The house has been divided into three and, although the neighbours on one side are perfectly normal, you couldn’t have said the same for our other neighbour, Mr P. He was, as far as we could make out, a retired optician and part-time composer, who spent most of his time writing letters to the Times in green ink and was only ever seen in his pyjamas. Although he did wear a dressing gown when he drove to the village in his rusting Ford Escort.

Anyway there we were, husband and I, a few hours later, snoozing away in bed, when bang! bang! bang! I came to rather fuzzily. Bang! Wtf? It sounded like a gun. Some crazed extra from Deliverance was sneaking up the drive with a gun. Suppose they were going to come in and rob us? Or worse, play the banjo? There was only one thing to do. I woke my husband.

‘There’s somebody outside,’ I said. ‘With a gun.’

Husband took some waking up and when he did, he looked at me blearily. ‘A gun?’

‘Shots, I heard shots. Somebody’s outside with a gun.’

At this point my husband did something really, really brave. ‘All right,’ he said rather sleepily. ‘I’ll go and have a look.’ And he got up, and went.

Long minutes passed and I began to drift off. Maybe I’d dreamt the bangs, because after all, I had just finished a 60-hour week, and it did seem like some remnant of a crime story that had maybe stuck in my head. There was no noise. Nobody was shouting, ‘Give us the telly, you gurt dollop, or we’ll tie you naked to a tree.’

Steve came back upstairs. ‘It’s all right,’ he said, looking rather dazed. ‘It’s not a gunman. It’s a trapeze artist. His car’s exploded and he set fire to his trousers.’ He paused. ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

I opened my eyes and stared at him. ‘You what?’

‘Tea,’ he said. ‘Do you want a cup? Carmela and I are having one. Nice girl. She’s lost all her clothes, but she managed to keep hold of her handbag. Not like her twit boyfriend. Can’t get any sense out of him at all. His dad’s in Australia, you know. ’

I was definitely dreaming. I think I must have lain back at that point and closed my eyes again, because the next thing I remember is Steve coming back with the promised cup of tea.

‘Here you go,’ he said. ‘The fire brigade are here. It’s a huge blaze. They’re worried it’ll set fire to the yew tree, and then Mr Panting’s garage will go up. Amazing flames. Look.’ And he drew back the curtain, and I stared open mouthed at a column of flame about 20 feet high. ‘Have we got any blankets?’ said Steve. ‘Because Carmela’s getting a bit nippy.’

Thinking back, I suppose I should have got up, but my brain wasn’t up to it. I put the empty mug on the bedside table and went straight back to sleep. In the morning, I came downstairs and there, at the kitchen table, was a glum-looking young bloke with a ginger beard, and a beautiful dark haired girl, wrapped in a blanket, who kept laying her hand on his arm and talking to him softly in Spanish. Steve was frying bacon. Rather too cheerfully, I thought.

It didn’t take long to get the facts. The lad was indeed a trapeze artist and he lived with his dad in Muswell Hill. He had got a gig performing at some fete at a stately home near us. His dad had gone on a business trip to Australia, leaving strict instructions that son was not to touch his brand new car. Son, in order to impress girlfriend had ignored dad, and set out in car for stately home. Unfortunately, after about 80 miles he decided he needed a kip, so had driven straight into the field next to us and, being a city boy, even though he had six acres to choose from, had to park right next to our garden wall; for company, I suppose. While girlfriend put up the tent, the lad sat in the car, got out his camping gaz stove and held it upside down so it dripped fuel all over his trousers and soaked the car seats. Then, he lit the stove. In the car. He then spent the next five minutes rolling around the field with his trousers on fire, while his car lit up the night sky. The bangs I had heard were the tyres exploding.

So that was almost it really. We gave the boy who, amazingly, was hardly singed, a pair of Steve’s old trousers. (Carmela, it should be said, had the rather scanty clothes she stood up in, but her luggage was burnt.) We took them to the stately home (and no offer of a free ticket for the show, which I thought was rather poor form) and left them there. When the remains of the car cooled, Steve and the farmer up the road cleared the mess.

It was a few days before Steve thought to tell me about Mr Panting. Apparently, while the firemen were struggling to stop the blaze spreading to our trees, he had come out of his house to see the fun. Fully dressed, mind. At 4am. Cavalry twill trousers, tweed jacket, and a cravat. He stared at the commotion for a while and then beckoned to Steve. ‘Do you think you could come and have a look at my car? While we’ve got all this light? I’m not sure it’s running correctly.’

This post was prompted by one from pieterk515 about burglar alarms. Thanks Pieter.

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


23 thoughts on “The trapeze artist who set fire to his trousers

  1. FAbulous! And some people will say that our stories are a bit far-fetched!

    Posted by olganm | August 4, 2014, 10:37 am
  2. Heehee! 🙂

    Posted by toritto | July 19, 2014, 1:35 am
  3. Ok that was SO much funnier than my story!! Thanks for making my day. Your husband seems to have the driest sense of humour ever.

    I loved how you said You what! and he only replied with an offer of a cup of tea.

    And the trapeze artist…well there is just no pills fot stupidity is there?

    Posted by pieterk515 | May 19, 2014, 6:41 am
    • Well, you inspired me. I had forgotten all about this, until I read your piece. Although how I could forget it, beats me.

      Posted by elainecanham | May 19, 2014, 9:59 am
  4. How come I missed this hilarious posting and have only just discovered it? The trapeze artist, in borrowing his father’s car, was walking a fine line.

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | May 19, 2014, 1:29 am
  5. This is the funniest thing I’ve read all month! Really made my day (which really wasn’t going so well so far). Gave me an idea for a post myself :p Thank you for thr laugh and the inspiration 🙂

    Posted by Sally | May 17, 2014, 5:37 pm
  6. And as a return favor I will share one with you of Hebrew origins I learned years ago. Dayenu – “enough already”. Pronounced “Die-Yay-New”

    Posted by lbwoodgate | May 16, 2014, 11:56 am
  7. An American has to ask, what the hell is a “gurt dollop”

    Posted by lbwoodgate | May 16, 2014, 11:34 am
    • hmm. it means, great lump. as in, she’s a gurt idle dollop. it’s actually a term more generally used in the west of England (Somerset/Devon and so on) but i thought it might be the sort of thing said by a banjo wielding yokel, (not that we have any in these parts, she said hurriedly).

      Posted by elainecanham | May 16, 2014, 11:49 am
    • All right then. I have another “exotic” expression I can plant in some future post of mine. Much thanks. 🙂

      Posted by lbwoodgate | May 16, 2014, 11:53 am
    • you’re welcome my lover (that’s what they say in Bristol). you can also have ‘it’s as dark as a cow’s guts’ if you like.

      Posted by elainecanham | May 16, 2014, 11:57 am
    • Ha! Splendid

      Posted by lbwoodgate | May 16, 2014, 12:11 pm
  8. Hysterical!

    Posted by First Night Design | May 16, 2014, 10:56 am
  9. Not short of characters on this Sceptered Isle are we.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Posted by davidprosser | May 16, 2014, 9:48 am

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