Tuesday 4 November 2014

The Legend...

Me being daft
Once upon a time, not really that long ago, The Legend began. 

Lots of things happened. 

Then he met me.

In a moment of near insanity, my then partner and I thought  that it would be a REALLY good idea to buy a newsagents in Lowestoft just as the recession was getting into its stride. So we uprooted our lives in Guildford and journeyed East, 3 weeks before Christmas 2009. The trials and tribulations of our experiences could fill many a blog but, I think it’s fair to say, life would have been much tougher, and certainly a lot less fun, without The Legend’s help and humour.

He first came to our attention during the school holidays when he helped Monkey unload after a trip to the cash and carry – a favourite job involving bringing in about 4 billion litres of milk. We offered him a paper round when he turned 13 and he informed us he was 13 already (Ooops!) but couldn’t do a paper round as he left too early to catch the bus to school. So we created a job specifically for him after school (hoovering the shop, doing the newspaper returns for collection the following morning etc.)

At this point we called him Our Little Cherub – boy were we gullible!

Then he started coming with me to cash and carry on a Saturday morning, pushing me in my wheelchair as if we were at Brands Hatch. On one occasion we were heading for the bread at top speed – obviously this was essential in case it sold out (!) – I had complete faith that he would stop in time. And he did. So did the wheelchair. I, however, did not and ended up sitting on the floor. I’d like to say that he rushed to my aid full of concern and remorse. He didn’t. He laughed. A lot. And, in fairness, so did I.

As I said in I couldn’t eat a whole one, I am not naturally maternal. I am still too much of a big kid myself. It doesn’t help that The Legend reminds me A LOT of my school friend, Pieman, so I tend to regress very easily to behaving like a teenager in his company and instances like the aforementioned were not uncommon.

Anyway, The Legend became a regular visitor and it didn’t take us to long to realise that maybe “Cherub” wasn’t quite the right word for him.

Trumpton Fire Brigade
So, he battled his way through his early teens in a not uncommon storm of anger, frustration, rashness, bravado and foolhardiness, tempered by his charm, kindness and wit. He got through his GCSEs and headed off to East Norfolk Sixth Form College to study Public and Uniformed Services.

The Legend was studying this particular course with a view to being a firefighter. From my childhood I remember the Trumpton Fire Brigade had two main responsibilities: Putting out fires and rescuing cats that had got stuck in trees. I believe in both respects I aided The Legend’s career path significantly.

Putting out Fires

1.   In one of those moments when I completely forgot I was supposed to be an adult I showed him how to move your finger through a candle flame without burning it and how to get two matches to stick together end to end and then get the flame to burn the whole flimsy structure to a blackened crisp (this is tricky, can waste a lot of matches and burn your fingers but when you get it right it is SO satisfying. Try it.)
The Galvanised Incinerator

2.   When he passed his GCSE maths retake and asked if he could burn his text book in the garden I, of course, said “Yes. Why not?” I understand now that the parental “No” reflex becomes hypersensitive to the words “Can I…?” uttered in a certain tone. At the time, I was not burdened by this knowledge and so the sacrificial cremation took place.

3.   The recent emptying of the garage was combined with the nightly burning of anything vaguely flammable (including the garden waste that actually NEEDED burning) in the newly acquired Galvanised Incinerator.

You could say I fuelled the flame of his fascination with fire into a burning ambition to be a firefighter (but probably best not to, way too many groan-worthy puns.)

Rescuing Cats

When The Legend first starting venturing beyond the shop and into the living space at the back (and above) he was wary of animals. That could have been a problem as at our peak we had 4 rats, 3 cats, a snake and a dog (a bit like a Dr Seuss version of The 12 Days of Christmas.)

Tina 1 week old in the palm
of  The Legend
Not long after The Legend started college, the shop closed, my partner moved away and Beardy Man entered my life. He had recently been made redundant and so it wasn’t many months before the strange dual existence of living partly in Abingdon and partly in Lowestoft began.

So I was spending a lot of my time in Abingdon and The Legend was chief cat carer in my absence. Monster (the kitten formerly known as Poppet which was a misnomer in the same league as Cherub) was about 9 months old and she and The Legend had bonded well, his confidence in dealing with cats growing enormously from knowing her as a kitten. Then she got pregnant (I am a responsible pet owner, honest, we had booked her in to be spayed but cancelled as I ended up in A&E, which is another LONG story.) I arranged to be there when the vet said the kittens were due but Monster hasn’t played by the rules EVER and so she had them 10 days early. The Legend then became chief kitten wrangler in a vaguely Dudley Dursley-esque kind of way which did, at least, ensure that nothing the children did to the kittens was going to phase them at all.

So that’s him trained to join Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb. 

Or maybe not. 

Children’s TV didn’t really cover dealing with RTAs, chemical spillages etc. As I am writing this firefighters are risking their lives to get the fire at Didcot Powerstation under control. My main concern for young people studying courses like Public and Uniformed Services is that the reality of a genuine emergency cannot truly be replicated in a learning environment.

In March this year The Legend appeared on both ITV and BBC local news as a result of his part in helping at the scene of an accident that took place in front of the college minibus as it was taking him and his fellow students to do survival training in the Peak District. He helped to get the rear passenger out of a vehicle that was leaking fuel. The man concerned was struggling to get out and was very distressed. Another member of the class performed emergency first aid whilst The Legend talked to him, trying to keep him calm and making sure he knew he wasn’t alone.

The man died at the side of the road.

When the emergency services arrived they congratulated the students on their actions and The Legend and 6 of his fellow students were nominated for the Bernard Matthews Youth Award for Bravery and came second (Bootiful, really bootiful) and he is receiving an award of some sort from Norfolk Fire Service. I have tried and failed to find out more details but have been met with a typical teenage vagueness.

He has done it for real now and, far from being put off, is even more driven to succeed.

His uni course is Fire and Leadership Studies. I’ve covered the firefighter bit and, just to end on a slightly lighter note, I am just as confident in his leadership skills. There were a number of girls who would hang around while he “worked” in the newsagents, one of whom had a younger brother and he had a friend. I would watch with interest and a wry smile as, in the manner of Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence, The Legend would offload his duties onto this posse. Usually with such subtlety that his “victims” didn’t realise they were being delegated to. Sometimes he met with resistance but, after a period of hard negotiation involving sweets, he would eventually succeed in subcontracting his jobs.

The boy will go far. 

He is The Legend.

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