Monday, October 06, 2014


It seems incredible to me that this is the 900th post on Siren Voices! A huge thank you to everyone for reading & commenting over the years. I know it’s quite a banal thing to say, but it’s absolutely true – I couldn’t possibly have done it without you!

To celebrate, I thought I’d do something a little different, but still in the voices theme: a list of 900 9 random ambulance cab conversations.

1.    ghosts
My Dad said he saw the ghost of an old woman on the stairs of the block he lived in as a kid.
– Did she look ghostly?
– A glowing skull – you know – all Scooby Doo?
– Did she disappear suddenly, walk through a wall?
– Did she hover in mid-air? Cackle a lot?
– So how’d he know she was a ghost then, and not just some random old woman?
Well he hadn’t seen her before.

2.    comets
That Rosetta probe’s landing on a comet sometime soon.
– What comet?
Not one anyone’s heard of. Apparently it looks like a duck.
– What are comets? What are they made of?
I think basically what they are is a loose bunch of gas, rock and ice
– How can you land on that?
It’s difficult. That’s why everyone’s so excited about it
– If the comet’s just a bunch of gas and ice, how come it’s stayed together all this time? How come it doesn’t fly apart?
– How does that work?
Gravity? No-one knows
– And how come something loose like a comet has got enough gravity to keep it together? Why not the whole universe? Why’s that still expanding?
– Is it? I don’t know
But the probe’s landing on this comet sometime soon you say?
– Apparently. Oh, and it’s shaped like a duck.

3.    dragons
I’m going to set up my own business and make a million.
– That’s a good idea
Go on Dragon’s Den
– Yep
All you’ve got to do is ask yourself: what’s the one thing everyone needs?
– Okay.
Go on then.
– All right. A sense of purpose.
– Health and well-being.
– Food and water. Security. I don’t know. A bike.
–  Go on then. I give up.
Personalised underwear.

4.    granddad
My granddad went all through the first world war without a scratch.
– That was lucky.
Once, he was in the trenches and he came to this junction, and he thought Do I go right or left? And he heard this voice in his head saying Go left! Go left! So he went left, and the very next thing, a shell lands in the trench to his right. Killed everyone in it.
– His guardian angel.
Yeah. And then a few months later he was fighting in the ruins of this chateau, and he suddenly realised it was his mum’s family home. She’d eloped with the gardener, and they disinherited her.
–  The gardener, your great-grandad?
Yeah. They cut her off and she never went back. And all those years later, there was granddad, fighting in the ruins.
– If he’d never been back, how’d he know it was his mum’s old house?
I don’t know. How’d he know to turn left and not right?
– A bit psychic, was he?
Yeah. And the weird thing was, he went all through the war, the Somme, you name it, not a scratch. Guess what killed him in the end?
– I don’t know. A whale?
No. Angina.

5.    klutz
Have you ever fallen over in front of a crowd of people?
– Yep. At school, having my photo taken.
What happened?
– The photographer was set-up on stage in the assembly hall. They had this system. Each class was called up in turn, you went on stage, sat down, had your picture taken, and then walked off down the stairs at the back, where everyone was hanging round in the corridor. I hate having my picture taken anyway. I was convinced I couldn’t smile properly, so I always ended up tilting my head on the side and smiling with my lips pressed tightly over my teeth. Like a serial killer, basically. And to make things worse, there was a girl I wanted to impress who’d just had her picture taken before me and I knew she’d be waiting at the bottom of the steps in the corridor with everyone else. So anyway – as soon as the camera flashed and the photographer shouted next, I got up, went to the head of the stairs, and I gave a little skip that was supposed to show everyone what a cool and crazy kid I was – except I didn’t take into account the fact that the stairs had a concrete lintel above them. I cracked my head on that, went all the way down the stairs on my arse and landed flat out in the corridor with everyone standing over me and laughing.
Did you ask her out?
– Eventually.
Did she say yes?
–  She said she was washing her hair.
What about later?
– Well, no. Apparently she was washing her hair all week.

6.    araƱas
What are you like with spiders?
–  Me? Pretty good. I think. Depends on the spider.
I used to be terrible. Mind you, it’s not surprising, the childhood I had. Whenever Mum found a spider in the bath it was like that scene in Psycho.
–  It’s not so bad in this country, though, is it? At least you know there aren’t any really badass spiders. Not like Australia, where you get killed just putting the washing out. Although I did read somewhere those gangly leg ones you see in the garden here have got more venom pound for pound than a cobra. It’s just they’re so small you don’t notice.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to cure myself of the spider thing. I know they have their uses, and you shouldn’t just whack them with a slipper. So I’ve been gradually working up in size, picking them up in my hands, throwing them out the window. It’s not too bad. But we were over in Spain a few weeks ago...
–  How was that?
Great – except for this one thing that happened. We were back in the villa. I was cooking in the kitchen when all the girls started screaming. And I mean, screaming! It made my hairs stand up. Hannah came running down the hall shouting It’s the biggest spider in the world, Dad! Get rid of it! Spider? What spider? I said, trying to be brave, but I must admit all that screaming put the wind up me. I wasn’t sure about Spain. Do they have poisonous spiders? It’s warm enough. I thought I’d better play it safe, so I tipped the cheese out of a Tupperware box and went down the hall to sort it out. Well. I have to say, I almost screamed when I saw it. It wasn’t a spider, though. It was a cockroach, bold as you like, sitting right in the middle of the tiles like it owned the place. And it was huge. I mean, bigger than huge. It was so big, you could’ve thrown a saddle over it and ridden into town. It didn’t even seem that bothered it was causing all this fuss. One of its front legs was crooked up, like this, just like it was on the phone or something. So anyway, I moved a bit closer, got the Tupperware box in position – when it gave a little twitch and started forwards. Everyone screamed, including me. I panicked and dropped the box. Luckily it still landed on top of it, right way up. There was a pause whilst we all got our breath and wondered what to do next, maybe get a gun or something. We were all staring down at the box, when suddenly – it began to move! And it was the weirdest thing, watching a Tupperware box leave the room and slide off down the corridor.
–  So then what did you do?
I was tempted just to open the front door and let it go. But then I thought that wasn’t neighbourly, and anyway it was a shame to lose a good box. What would we put the cheese in? So I grabbed a laminate sheet of instructions from the kitchen, slid that underneath, then carried the whole thing out to the yard. When I took the sheet away the cockroach dropped out and immediately came running my way. I had to jump up in the air to get over it. And you know what? Not a word of a lie. It was like jumping over a Volkswagen.

7.    first names
I had a girlfriend whose first name was Princess.
– Princess! That’s pretty weird. You have to wonder about the parents.
Her dad was the worst. He’d served time for handling stolen property and had a lock-up in the back garden. He had these big, staring eyes, and long fingers. Like a bush baby.
– So what happened with Princess?
She never used her first name. Except on official papers and things. One time I went with her to the dole office. We were sitting in the waiting room when a voice came over the tannoy: Princess Michaels? Princess Michaels to cubicle one, please. Of course, everyone looks round. You could see they were all thinking the same thing. Blimey – times ARE hard.

8.    random noises
I had to drive my dad to the hospital the other day. Nothing too serious, thank god. Anyway, for one reason or another I haven’t had him in the front seat of the car with me in about five years. It was nice to spend some time with him. Anyway, we were driving along, chatted for a bit but then it went quiet. Which I didn’t mind, you know. Companionable silences and all that. I know he was anxious about his appointment. That’s when I became aware of this tick, tick, tick noise. And I thought, great! I’d only just got the car back from the garage. Cam belt and clutch. About a million pounds – and still not right! So I pulled over, got out, put the bonnet up, got Dad to rev the engine. Nothing. It all sounded nice and sweet. So I thought, maybe it was just a passing glitch and I won’t hear anything more. I get back in, we’re making up the time, and there it was again: TICK, TICK, TICK. Louder this time. So I pull over again. Get the bonnet up. And I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what’s wrong when Dad gets out to have a look himself. And it’s when he’s leaning over the engine next to me I find out where the noise is coming from.
– Where?
Him! It was Dad, sucking his top plate because he was anxious about missing the appointment! I didn’t mind though. At least it wasn’t the car. At least I didn’t have to go back to that garage. I mean, I don’t know about overalls; what they really need is hats, guns and horses.

9.    buzz
We had to have our eldest dog Buzz put down over the weekend.
–  I’m sorry to hear that.
Yeah, well. He was getting pretty old and knackered. He was fifteen and he’d been good up until last year. Then his back legs started to go, and on the Sunday he collapsed and started to be incontinent. The emergency vet said he reckoned it was a spinal lesion.
–  At least he didn’t suffer much.
No. It was all pretty quick. We buried him in the garden.
–  Wasn’t he a bit of an escape artist?
Buzz? He was amazing. I never knew a dog that had such a good head for heights, enclosed spaces, storms – you name it. Good swimmer, too. Terrible with other dogs for a while, but that’s another story. He had a real talent for disappearing. Hundreds of times. Once for a couple of days. We called the dog pound, the RSPCA, everyone we could think of, but nothing, no trace. He’ll turn up the warden said, but I wasn’t so sure. Next thing you know, though, there he was at the front door, covered in soil. He’d been stuck down some badger set somewhere. That was the thing with Buzz. He was a master of escapes, but then he was a master of getting back home, too. Often we wouldn’t know he’d gone until the neighbours brought him back. Or one time, there was a knock at the door and it was the bin men. Here’s Buzz they said. We knew where he lived, so after he helped us finish the round we gave him a ride back in the cab.


Alan said...

Congrats Spence!

Every one of them worth reading too.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, Alan! And for all your comments over the years. (This sounds more & more like a farewell gig...)

Sabine said...

Congratulations and keep them coming!

cogidubnus said...

I very much hope not...


tpals said...

You saved up some good ones for your milestone post. :)

On to the next 900!

TomVee said...

Congrats Spence! That's quite an achievement. And I can only hope that your feelings of farewell don't come true; who else will supply us with this little highlight every other day? You are currently the most prolific and regular ambulance blogger that I know of -. so here"s to the next 900!

Wayne Conrad said...

These vignettes are great!

Congrats on your 900th, and thanks for writing for us.

Spencer said...

Congratulations. I've been enjoying your writing from across the pond for a long time.

jacksofbuxton said...

Congratulations Spence on reaching 900 not out.

Spence Kennedy said...

Sabine, Dave, Tpals, TomVee, Wayne, Spencer, Jack - A huge thank you for reading & commenting all this time.

Can't say's I'll make 1000 posts (although if I up my output a little, I might squeeze through sometime mid-2015...)

Still - what's in a number? The fact is, it's been great having you all read the blog. I've been very bad at keeping to routines & finishing things in the past; having this commitment to write has been so helpful. Thanks again! :)

Mary said...

Late to the party, but I have no problem with it taking a year or so to get to 1000. I like that you don't post a blog every day - it means that every time there is one, it's a nice surprise!

Blair Ivey said...

Apropos the bug post:. Walked in to my house in Florida; saw a cockroach flying (they have wings for a reason) around the light. This was a species known colloquialy as a 'Palmetto Bug'; you could saddle it, and it looked like a Cessna. Blasted it with bug spray, and it made a 'thump' when it hit the floor.

I've enjoyed your blog, and look forward to many more posts.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, Mary. That 1000 mark is a bit of a cheat anyway - at least 8 of those are 'Going on holiday - not posting for a while' :)

Spence Kennedy said...

I actually quite like bugs, Blair - so long as they don't get in my face (like some do). We've got one here that comes out the end of May for a few days (called the May Bug, funnily enough - proper name Cockchafer, which sounds plain wrong). That's pretty big, too - like a bumblebee on steroids. It spends most of its life as a grub underground, so I suppose you can forgive the poor flight control.

Did you ever read that short story by Edgar Allan Poe - The Gold-Bug
Amazing. My favourite.

Blair Ivey said...

I have read 'The Gold Bug'; Poe has been a favorite from childhood.

While stationed at West Point, we learned a story, perhaps apocryphal, that as a student there Poe was required to draw a bridge. He included two children fishing off the bridge, and as the Army frowns on whimsy, he was told to get rid of the children. His revised drawing had two gravestones next to the bridge.


Jane said...

Roll on the next 900! I love reading your writing - brightens up this sleepy Devon corner no end. Thanks for sharing them with us!

Spence Kennedy said...

Great story about EAP, Blair! I wonder why he was required to draw a bridge? Maybe for planning / strategic studies. Fantastic that he put in the gravestones. No wonder he flunked college. (Best outcome for the world of words, though...) :/

Cheers Jane! Thanks for all your support over the years. Hope all's good with you. x

petrolhead said...

Congrats! I absolutely love your blog, please never stop!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks PH! I really appreciate you reading & commenting & sticking with the blog all this time! :)

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Nine hundred posts, Spence, that's an amazing number; Congratulations !~! You have one of the best blogs on the web; thanks for sharing all these stories.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, Lynda! I'm like Wall-E, stacking up the posts over the years.

I'm so glad I've managed to keep it going. It really feels like as honest a record I could make of the people I've met and the experiences I've had on the ambulance since 2006. And it's helped me get into a regular habit of writing, too.

Thanks for your support throughout, Lynda! x