Thursday, December 02, 2010

How I Nearly Wasn't

Next Wednesday, 8th December, it will be two years since the Communist died.

So since he's not here to regale us with his stories, I'm going to tell one or two over the next few days.

In his late teens, the Communist was a Bevin Boy - - that is, he worked down the coal mines in the Second World War.

It was very hard work and very dangerous, too. He always claimed that the pit helmet, rubbing on his forehead, caused his premature baldness - I was born when he was 33 and I never knew him with hair - but I think that may not have been entirely accurate.

He worked with pit ponies which lived underground all year, apart from when they came up for two weeks' holiday in green fields. They knew exactly how many coal wagons they were supposed to pull and if an extra one was added they wouldn't move until it was taken off again.

There were still canaries in those days, to check for dangerous gases - the idea was that canaries were very sensitive to such things so if the canary suddenly keeled over, you got out of there fast.

Miners tended to be short and stocky and the Communist was exactly that: but he had size eleven feet, huge in those days. It was his proud boast that he wore the biggest pair of pit boots in the Yorkshire coalfield.

One day he was working at the far end of a tunnel, next to a more experienced miner. Suddenly, the Communist's colleague said, very quietly, but with some force, "Get back."

The Communist got back and the roof collapsed, burying his shovel all along its length until only the tip of the handle could be seen.

"And that," he used to tell me, "was how you nearly never existed."

5 Comments:

Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I wonder to what extent that experience contributed to the Communist's decision to become a pharmacist....

6:43 pm  
Blogger Katherine said...

You write so well. We've been sad here recently because of our coalminers at the Pike River disaster.

3:38 am  
Blogger Kim said...

yeah I know this is a bit late, but did his work mate get out ok as well??
I know its a weird thing to help, but I notice these things and worry :p
good story though, the bit about the biggest boots in Yorkshire made me laugh
*hugs* XxX

5:53 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Hi Kim, good to hear from you - and yes, his workmate was fine too! Hope all's well with you! Dxx

6:03 pm  
Blogger Kim said...

ahh good, thanks for getting back to me so quickly :D
all is well with me, how are you?

6:13 pm  

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