Fire Damage

About ten years ago, the Parrot family holidayed in Crete. I’m blowed if I can remember the name of the resort, but then Mrs P likes to embarrass me with the tale of the time we turfed up at MIA only for me to ask, “Where is it we’re going again?”

It was okay though, a small collection of apartments on the outskirts of wherever it was we were. Unusually for Greece, at least in our experience, our accommodation consisted of four rooms: a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms. Quite commodious in fact.

There was a pool we could laze beside while the young Parrots frolicked and we made conversation with our neighbours.

One couple became close acquaintances which is about as good as it gets on holiday. They were from Yorkshire. He was retired policeman and both were great with the kids, like surrogate grandparents — very tolerant and indulgent. Great people.

The conversation was generally light and funny with the gentle rib-digging you find between folk from the Red and White Rose Counties. Until one evening when it became deeper and darker.

The kids were asleep and we were enjoying a Metaxa outdoor moment. (It wasn’t a balcony as we were on the ground floor.) The retired bobby appeared and asked whether he could join us. His wife was asleep and he needed the company. And he had brought his own bottle of whiskey.

As the drinks were drunk, so he became more and more maudlin. And his story came out.

It turned out that had been the superintendent in charge on the night of the fire at Bradford City, 20 years ago yesterday. If I remember correctly, the stadium had just changed hands in policing area parlance and this was his first game in charge, having had an introduction the week previously.

His version of events was horrific. A fire that spread faster than people could walk and killed more than 50 people. Horrible in itself, but worse for those singed by the flames. It destroyed him and his career. He couldn’t ‘walk away’ or ‘move on.’ It stayed with him.

They tried putting him on desk jobs, he told us, but eventually it meant early retirement. And presumably bottles of whiskey with sympathetic people willing to listen.

It was a sad, sad story and an example of how public service can also lead to public execution. I’ve no idea what he is doing now, but I hope he’s well. He was a decent man.

Now my shame. I could not remember his name. Given my absent-mindedness with holiday resorts, that might be excused, but not even his first name?

I now know that it was Barry. Even sadder is the lack acknowledgement of what he went through at the time. The Guardian was all I could find. That’s what must hurt. Being disremebered.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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