A fire at Brookfield
With hindsight, it had been a mistake holding the fireworks party in the garden of their farmhouse built many years before on the Brookfield flood plain but Daphne hadn’t expected that strong wind to come in from the West to guide errant rockets or still-burning cigarette butts to land in the thatch, still very dry after the rain-free month of October, and set it alight. Perhaps it was just a single cigarette butt, probably from that blazer clad Henry that she didn’t remember inviting. She had only seen him once, in the Bull, and she hadn’t liked him then. He smoked, which was bad enough, but his suicide weapons of choice were Du Maurier filter kings. Those expensive cigarettes in their cartons with pretentious purple panels framed by gold.
The fire had been quickly seen by those in the garden so there had been time to get everyone clear of the house and to call the fire service. Her mistake had been to go back in and climb the stairs to her bedroom to try to save some of her precious photos. Up here she could feel the heat but was taken by surprise when a backdraft up the stairs goaded the flames to break through the ceiling and free the deadly beam, dried to kindling by the cascading centuries, to fall, trapping her legs. She was not hurt but could not move with the weight of the old knotted oak crushing her to the floor.
The immediate danger was the choking smoke which quickly filled the bedroom, making her cough uncontrollably, rather than the encroaching flames which were already raising the air temperature. She burrowed her head down to the floor to try to hoover up the remaining oxygen from the clear air layer clinging to the floor boards, when she felt the blessed coolness of a water spray from the firefighter’s hose as she fought her way up the stairs behind her colleague who was protecting her with a water wall barrier against the flames and heat with his fan-set hose.
She had a sudden, panicky, irrational thought of Manderley and wondered if Rebecca had managed to set the all horses free from the burning stables or had the fire trapped her favourite thoroughbred, Jamaica, in? She remembered then that there were no stables at the farmhouse and didn’t think she owned any horses but she couldn’t look now. These crazy, fear – inspired thoughts were for the birds.
‘I thought I was going to die’ she muttered to the first firefighter as she bent over her to check for injuries. ‘Can you get this off me?’
They strained to lift the beam, let it fall to one side and gently strapped her on the Neil Robinson stretcher ready for the medivac.
‘ We knew you wouldn’t die’ they reassured her, ‘We checked the script and you are in the next episode’
Her over tensed body sagged with relief, she was desperate not to be written out of the Archers.
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