With its delinquent children, incompetent adults and profusion of flammable materials, Fireman Sam’s hometown of Pontypandy is a true health and safety nightmare. A concerned Chris Ingham has some suggestions.
Wales, my ancestral homeland, has made several valuable contributions to mankind, without which modern history would be unrecognisable: daffodils, male voice choirs, Tom Jones, heroic rugby losses, fancy cheese on toast, a great Jay-Z parody video, and a totally badass flag with a dragon on it. Wales also gave us perhaps the quintessential children’s programme about fire safety, Fireman Sam. Set in the cosmopolitan South Welsh village of Pontypandy, extremely eligible bachelor Sam and his brigade are kept surprisingly busy in a community seemingly consisting of no more than 30 individuals.
Of course, most of these emergencies can be traced back to local troublemaker and practical joke enthusiast Norman Price. But not quite all. And it’s not like you can just kick a seven year old child out of town, no matter how many houses he sets on fire. So here are five more practical steps the village of Pontypandy could take to make their community safer.
1. Tighter employment standards at the fire brigade
There are four full-time fire officers in Pontypandy. Of these, only two, Sam and Fire Officer Penny, can truly be called competent. Their leader, Station Officer Norris Steele, may have been a brave officer in his prime, but middle-aged spread has left him frankly in too poor physical shape to carry out active duty. He’s more comfortable staying back in his office and spending his day polishing his helmet; when he does go out on a mission, S.O.S (geddit?) inevitably injures his back. And his injury replacement, Fire Chief Boyce, in an attempt to somehow impress his new charges, manages to get the station fire engine stuck under a bridge ON THE WAY TO AN EMERGENCY.
However the true incompetence comes from Fireman Elvis Cridlington, who seems more interested in stringing together a song than fighting a fire. His idea of rescuing a cat from a tree involves cutting it down with the jaws of life. He fails to put out a fire in the fire station kitchen despite an extinguisher being metres away. And he bunks off from training in order to see if he can find a mythical monster, which turns out to be made up by one of Pontypandy’s delinquent children. The Pontypandy fire brigade has a fleet of state of the art rescue vehicles, presumably as a result of European Union funding. Maybe some of this funding should instead be used for intensive training of recruits such as Elvis, before it’s lost when Brexit is enacted. Or, you know, they could just hire some better staff.
2. Establish a school
It took me quite some time to realise there is actually a school teacher, Mrs Chen, in Pontypandy. This came as a surprise to me, as there doesn’t seem to be a school for her to teach at – or if there is, the parents seem to have an incredibly lackadaisical attitude to their children’s attendance. Instead of learning, the kids are off creating havoc and making more work for the fire service.
Of course, most of these emergencies are the work of Norman Price, who doesn’t seem able to stay out of trouble. Poor Norman isn’t capable of building a snowman without accidentally setting a house on fire or creating a giant snowball of doom to chase after the local plumber. But the better behaved Mandy Flood and the Jones Twins aren’t completely innocent when pursuing their more genteel middle class leisure activities: even learning to sail, or taking pictures for the local photo competition will more often than not lead to a full scale emergency. What these kids need is some supervised structure…
3. Employ more responsible Scout Leaders
What they do have is the Scout-like (as in the outdoor youth activity, not the defunct Rachel Glucina vanity disaster) Pontypandy Pioneers, led by former fire fighter Trevor Evans. How Trevor still has a passenger endorsement on his driver’s licence given how many times he has driven the local bus off the road is a complete mystery. Furthermore, one suspects he’s only taken this position in order to give him more opportunities to awkwardly sleaze on to Norman’s mother.
When hapless Trevor isn’t available, the youth group is taken over by two expats, Australian Tom Thomas and Canadian Moose Roberts. Tom flies the local rescue helicopter, named Wallaby One after the ground-bound marsupial prone to crashing haphazardly through dense trees. Apparently Moose is a world famous mountain climber, making it all the more baffling that he’s ended up living in a nation where the highest peak is 1,085m tall. Both have a fierce competitive streak, and an outing with either is likely to end with them stuck in a tree, a foxhole, or a cave blocked off by a man made avalanche. With role models like these, it’s no wonder the children lack the sense to stay out of serious danger.
4. Establish a Police Force
Look, I’m not saying that Pontypandy is a den of criminal activity, but we all know that the police are all about building safer communities together, and with all the oven fires, there are bound to be at least a few very hot pies that need blowing on. Some might say with a population of five children and just about enough adults to have begat them, the village may be a little small for a full time officer, but let’s not forget they have a whole fire brigade.
You get the feeling that a community constable may be mostly tied up with policing naughty Noman Price, and let’s face it, he gets very little in the way if parental discipline at home. Would it really be such a bad thing if he were to be picked up after scheming to steal the entire town’s confectionery supply at Halloween, and forced to spend a couple of hours in the cells thinking about what he’s done before being delivered back home to Dilys? At the very least, if indeed Pontypandy has a school, they should have a truancy officer.
5. Get some common sense
I mean, honestly. Who even thinks of drying a scarf out in the oven?
Sure, all these risk-averse alterations may well make for much less entertaining plotlines, but if we’re going to be teaching children about fire safety, wouldn’t it be worth doing it properly?
Living in the urban paradise of Palmerston North, Chris is a father of two and a husband of one. He has a more in depth knowledge of the Wiggles than he’d care to admit, and can recite Planes: Fire and Rescue from memory, yet somehow has only seen Frozen once. The vet regularly scolds him for allowing his kids to feed their dinner to the dog. He’ll be reviewing regularly at The Spinoff Parents in between reviews you can find him on his blog Netflix and Children and on Twitter.
This content is entirely funded by Flick, New Zealand’s fairest power deal. In the past year, their customers saved $358 on average, which would buy enough nappies for months… and months. Please support us by switching to them right now.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.