Starting a kitchen fire wasn’t my finest moment | Alun Newman

A while ago on the radio show, we had someone from Hampshire Fire and Rescue talking about Fire Safety Week.

Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 9:37 am
Alun Newman was stressed when his kitchen caught fire.

I tend to assume that fires always happen to other people. Those smoking late at night who fall asleep watching Match of the Day.

Or possibly the last six people in Britain who still have a deep fat chip-pan (makes the best chips) and use cold water to cool the oil in emergencies.

In the 1970s, there wasn’t a school fete on the south coast that didn’t have that horrific demo running. The bulk of the UK seems to have got the message.

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However, when the fire expert started recounting stories of cheap mobile phone chargers catching fire at night and locked back doors that mean you can’t get out in a rush, I started a quick rethink of my fire safety smugness.

Time to move the washing basket and remove phone chargers from bedrooms (one of those tasks was easy to achieve).

Generally, fire safety is a base we’ve got covered. Although, I remember once asking one of my children what they would do if they heard the smoke alarm go off.

I expected them to say ‘get out of the house’ or ‘dial 999’ they actually said ‘wave a tea towel at it’. All the answers had merit, however, the first one is more likely to save a life.

At the weekend, I was knocking up some tomato-based ‘magic’ sauce that would provide sustenance to the family while creating the same dish I’ve been creating since the book of Genesis was written.

I took my eye off the ball.

I walked away to locate our bluetooth speaker and when I returned to the hob, I had a fire on my hands.

A drying-up-cloth was too close to the gas ring and was well ablaze.

I didn’t panic but swiftly picked it up and chucked it outside.

As we all know with a small fire, the entire family will smell burning and appear needing information and offering insights.

‘I can smell burning.’

‘Is someone having toast?’

‘Is everything okay?'

'I smell fire!’

My wife appeared to inquire and also let me know that she had picked up the aroma of danger.

‘Not a problem’, I said. ‘All sorted’.

She then added: ‘Why’s the garden on fire?’

A slight oversight on my part.

I had simply chucked the cloth into the back garden and assumed it went out.

It had in fact landed on a pot of something dry and had continued on its quest to shame me by starting an even-worse inferno.

Men who panic are not sexy and with this in mind, I raced out and stamped on it before it took the garden furniture as well as a couple of plants.

All sorted, I returned to the task of salvaging my overcooked (burned) tomato-based sauce that would still be good enough for a bolognese.

My reflection was this: fire can start quite quickly and if you're smug and careless, you may end up with your whole family mocking you at the dinner table.

No one wants such an outcome. Especially as 2020 has been tough enough.

My advice: if you can’t keep your disaster to yourself and if you do set the kitchen ablaze, then pretend it’s a fire drill.

You’ll need a clipboard, register and you have to be the only one with a coat on.

Language is so interesting

I had a lot of fun on the radio show the other day talking about Belisha Beacons.

I used the word with some friends and was mocked, appropriately and mercilessly.

None of them knew what I was talking about.

Surely everyone knows that the Belisha Beacon is the orange ball, flashing light thing, on a zebra crossing?

It would seem not.

Via the show, I discovered that it’s named after the Minister for Transport who introduced them, Leslie Hore-Belisha.

I love the idea of language changing.

I also like its rich tradition.

It seems a shame to let some of these odds words and phrases slip away into the night and I hope we can bring them back.

In tribute to my dad, I use ‘stair-rods’ when it’s pouring with rain.

We had plenty of similar examples flood into the show and it was so fun to hear about other family language traditions.

One of my favourites was a lady whose mum would always say that she ‘couldn’t talk now’ as she was ‘incommunicado’.

A phrase that irritated the listener as a child and now she uses it out of fondness.

Another phrase that a caller refused to let disappear was ‘one iota’ which means a small, tiny letter in the Greek alphabet.

Another was the word ‘facetious’ which incidentally contains all the vowels in one hit.

Language has to change – that’s life.

But it can be nice to hang on to a few favourites just to wind up the youngsters.

Or in other words, those nippers, scallywags and rascals.