The half-night shift had really got off to a good start for Big Pete and myself … all those best laid plans had already gone by the wayside as within fifteen minutes of booking on shift we were grappling on the floor with some drunken crazy guy who objected most profusely to us barging our way into his house and having the gall to arrest him for, in his eyes, “nothing more than giving the old bitch a good slap” !! After all, apparently she’d deserved it by the realms of some god-forsaken twisted reasoning that we really couldn’t be bothered to delve into but in either way, he was going to be spending the next few hours in one of our palatial hotel rooms whilst the poor innocent lady of the house had to endure hours of waiting down at the local A&E to get her now swollen, battered and bruised face looked at.
It didn’t help matters that the local Custody Unit was already full, the only van on our sector was broke ….. again ….. and we had a additional 20 minute journey to the next nearest available cell space in a neighbouring division. The trip consisted mainly of much shouting and balling, and me virtually sat on top of our latest friend in the back of the panda for the majority of the journey whilst Big Pete ‘made progress’ and arranged for a nice welcoming committee to greet our guest when we arrived at his new temporary home.
Dave and Kate had kindly offered to meet the lady down at the hospital and take some details from her whilst we dealt with the males accommodation requests and then headed back to Bigtown to start the great paperchase.
It’s not actually a bad drive back from Medbury to Bigtown, especially when you get chance to look at the view; aren’t hurtling along it at break-neck speeds and aren’t sat on top of the wriggling writhing mess of a 16 stone violent, smelly drunken wife-beater. As you come over the top of Medbury Rise there is a great view for miles over the rolling hills of the next county and a good long mile long straight down a shallow incline back towards Bigtown itself. In fact the only thing to spoil the view as you drop down the bank is the whacking great hyper-mega-mart superstore that the local planning committee decided what an ideal thing to build across several acres of prime greenbelt land.
Still even the thoughts of endless hours of paperwork for some CPS lawyer on the end of a phone and fax machine to read and then decide he wasn’t brave enough to prosecute didn’t deter from a splendid Autumn evenings view –hardly a cloud in the sky, the sun just getting ready to set over to our left …. and a great plume of thick black smoke rising from the ground some distance ahead of us ……
Now there’s a thing about smoke – I don’t know if you’ve taken much notice. If it’s white, or light grey, or a bluey-grey colour, that tends to suggest that there’s wood or general rubbish burning; a bonfire, or maybe even an over excited chimney …. but this smoke was black as coal, and there were lots of it !! Pete and I both knew the typical signs of a car or building on fire – something with lots of rubber, plastics and other equally man-made products which were now expelling themselves over much of the nearby environment.
I think both of our shoulders dropped at the same time and we both let out a sigh as Big Pete commented “Best we go and have a nosey at that don’t you think ?” There was no chance of anyone else being able to deal – the other 50% of our late shift were down the local hospital with our IP, so with great visions of further impending doom, Big Pete started heading towards the sources of the situation. I called up on the radio just to see if we had had any calls about a fire, which we hadn’t, and then asked the Control Room to give Trumpton a ring, wake them up (after all it was getting on for 8.00pm !!) and see if they had a special secret they might want to let us in on. The reply came back a few minutes later that indeed, the Fire Service had had a couple of calls and had sent an appliance out but hadn’t been able to locate anything as yet.
Now I’m not a fireman, and nor is Big Pete. We’ve not had all the extensive training that firefighters get these days in dealing with tricky and difficult / dangerous situations, but Pete and I both conceded that despite our limited knowledge and training on such matters, we reckoned that if you continued to head towards where the smoke was coming from, the chances are you might stumble across a clue or two as to what was going on !!!
Between us and the site of the impending disaster was an industrial estate, which obviously was where to problem lay; in one of the factories or units there; most likely an accident, and probably something involving nasty, horrible chemicals which as far as we were concerned, was as good an excuse as anything for the fire engine to get there first. We were going to be more than happy to stick a road closure on somewhere nearby, preferably upwind, so as to stop any innocent (nut most likely as nosy as vultures) members of the public straying to near to the proably noxious substances spewing out of Acme Widgets & Co or whichever business had now gone up in flames.
The problem was, as we got nearer, it became more and more obvious that the source of the fire wasn’t. It was definitely still a mile or so away from us, over the fields beyond the industrial park. “There’s nothing special over there” Big Pete quipped “Well nothing but that Farm Park place where the kids go”.
As soon as he said it we both knew where we would be going …… Holly Farm
Holly Farm has become quite a successful local enterprise. Given the difficulties faced by the farming community in general over the last few years, many framers have diversified into other areas such as accommodation; Working Farm Experiences, etc – there’s one not far off that’s built a big go-karting track over what used to be dairy cattle pasture, but Holly Farm has gone one better and turned itself into a mini-wildlife park, complete with lots of friendly animals so visiting kids can get in with them and feed the goats and sheep and wallabies and suchlike. It still didn’t explain why there was copious amounts of black smoke coming from the location though.
As we got closer however, it became quite clear that one of the wooden buildings had taken on the appearance of a dress rehearsal for Bonfire Night. All that stood between us at this point was a hundred metres or so … and an eight foot high pair of wooden gates …. chained and padlocked wooden gates. Whilst I was busy on the radio interrupting a controller desperately trying to deploy two PCSO’s to a now three hour old report of the heinous offence of kids playing football on some grass to let them know where we were and would they mind awfully letting the Fire Service know where to go as well, Big Pete had set about destroying the padlocks to the gate with the aid of a jemmy bar and big red key we luckily happened to have about our persons – or at least in the boot of the panda.
Once inside it became clear that a fair few of the animals were in varying states of distress – certainly none of them wanted to be the next item on Burger King’s Flame Grilled menu !!! there was a fair amount of assorted animal noises and stomping of hooved and other feet as the heat and smoke form the fire spread itself around the main enclosure area. The flames, as luck would have it, appeared to be coming from a very full hay storage barn (although how much hay was now left was a debateable point) rather than one of the animal pens themselves, but that didn’t alter the fact that it was very close, none of the staff or keepers were on hand to move the animals, and that meant we were going to have to do something about it.
“We’ll just have to open the pens” shouted Big Pete, “it’s fairly enclosed here” he said, pointing roughly to the visitor area where we we both stood, and pointing to another paddock not too far away he shouted louder “if we can herd them over there they’ll be fine”.
“Just one thing” I shouted back, trying to make myself heard above the crackling of the flames, and the noises of the resident animals, but before I could challenge Pete as to his round-up abilities, he was already lifting the bolts on the first pen and releasing the assorted livestock from their pens. “Have you any idea how to move this lot then ?” I shouted as loud as I can just as Pete opened the gate on the last pen and out ran three of the biggest,most humungous, angry, scared, antlered creatures you have ever seen. Evidently they didn’t want to stay where they were a moment longer; and their anger at being faced with the prospect of being this evenings Special Whopper Meal was only topped by the anger they felt towards this pair of yellow jacketed buffoons who were now stood in the middle of their compound !!!
“Aren’t they reindeer ?” shouted Pete. “Hell if I know” I called back “but they ain’t happy” and with that, the reindeer, accompanied by various other deer and cloven hoofed animals which Big Pete had just saved from their inevitable doom showed their appreciation by all running at full speed towards … well in any direction they could to be honest as long as it was away from us. Suddenly, Pete took off his fluorescent jacket and started waving it about like a Matador’s red cape, not really sure if it was intended to be used as a deflectionary tool, or a target for the wildlife to aim at “Which one do you think is Rudolph ?” he yelled, and then laughed, clearly enjoying himself far too much.
Bizarrely it seemed to work. Or maybe the livestock just felt sorry for him, or got fed up of laughing at him themselves. Either way the animals started closing together and herding away from Pete’s flapping Hi-Vis jacket. “Come on” he yelled “Get yours off and help – we need to drive them at that paddock”.
So there we were, the two of us, waving our yellow police coats in the wind, amongst the thick smoke of a burning barn, hoping amongst all hopes that the animals would be sufficiently more frightened of us mad-men than they were of the fire, and head off in the direction we needed them to go.
After a few false starts, we managed to corral the animals into a small paddock far enough from danger that they wouldn’t come to any harm, then took a moment to contemplate our next move. Now we’d got them there what were we going to do with them all. After all, they must have been kept in separate pens for a reason – the last thing we wanted now was to be threatened with being sued for accidently allowing the wrong two animals to start getting too frisky with each other.
And then, whilst we we having a laugh to ourselves about what had just happened, we heard a strange, other noise ….. almost like, well very like, the sound of people clapping. We both turned around at the same time to find the crews of two fire engines stood behind us, propped against a small boundary fence, laughing and clapping at us two, smoke covered, worn out and dishevelled souls. A couple of the firefighters had two hoses trained on the burning hay and barn, but the rest had undoubtedly rested themselves in a prime spot to watch the two Woodentops do their own Morecambe and Wise type live special, and had found the whole thing highly, highly amusing.
At least when the staff arrived they thanked us for our prompt efforts before calmly wandering over to the evils megabeasts and simply slipping collars onto them and leading them away, one by one to another part of the site as if nothing had happened. The Fire Investigator deemed the blaze to have been accidental – seems it’s a very common thing for stored hay and straw to spontaneously combust – something to do with the chemical reactions.
Big Pete and I made our excuses then, and left them all to it – after all we still had a worlds worth of paperwork to get through from our earlier domestic. We never did work out however, given that Dave and Kate, the only two other officers on duty at Bigtown were still down the hospital with our victim, who was responsible, but by the time we arrived back at the nick, our trays and desks were absolutely plastered in pictures of Rudolph and any number of other reindeer type images.
We were, of course, also very proud to have gotten a mention in the weekly Force Bulletin, which outlines major incidents that have taken place, along with a copy of the appreciation letter from a Mr S Claus thanking us for all our efforts to protect and save his flock, and assuring us that it would be remembered and we would get an extra special something in our stockings next Christmas ….. why oh why did I get the feeling it would be Reindeer droppings though …….??