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I blog about anything that interests me - my local area, things I've seen or heard on the news, politics and human rights, gardening, arts and crafts, poetry, photographs and general advice.

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Tuesday 22 December 2009

Poem: The Fire at Alexandra Palace

I saw the Palace burning,
Burning, burning,
I saw the Palace burning
Lighting up the sky 
A smoke-grey finger swirling
Swirling, swirling
Just glimpsed between the houses
Pointing to the sky

Then crowds of people surging
Surging, surging
To see the flames go licking
Up towards the sky

And scarlet engines racing
Racing, racing
With firebells loudly ringing,
Their clanging filled the sky

Like ants appeared the firemen,
Firemen, firemen
Swarming round the building
Dark forms against the sky

And children rushing forward,
Forward, forward
While policemen barred their progress
As they looked up to the sky

And beams and ashes falling
Falling, falling
Made everyone step backwards
As they watched the darkening sky

And now the wind was blowing
Blowing, blowing
And flames and smoke now billowed
In their race to meet the sky

And fiercely sprayed the water,
Water, water
As the firemen turned their hoses
Up towards the sky

Then home we turned, exhausted,
Exhausted, exhausted
The fire raged ever fiercer
And lit the dusky sky

The blaze was like a beacon
Beacon, beacon
All London saw it burning
Till dawn suffused the sky
       Then Lloyds paid out eight million                                   £8,000,000
       Eight million, eight million
       And the Owners were so happy                                     
       Their insurance was sky high                                   

Diana Grant


Alexandra Palace Fire 10th July 1980

Who would have thought  it was nearly 30 years ago?

 My son and I were sitting on our front wall just beyond Alexandra Park Road, chatting. I looked up and noticed a small dark smoke cloud drifting up above the rooftops. I pointed it out to Charlie, and although we couldn’t see the source, we both agreed it was probably the Palace, and we ran out to see.

I had previously seen Blandford House burn down in the Palace grounds only a few years previously. Curious, we jumped into the car, and drove part of the way up the hill where it became obvious that it was indeed the Palace on Fire. We left the car a safe distance away and went the rest of the way by foot.

We were among the first to arrive even before
 the fire engines were there.

We stood on grass by the steep slope, very close to the fire, and Charlie was so excited he wanted to run right up the slope to get closer still, and I had to haul him back as I was frightened he might be hit by falling timber or hamper the firemen, who were just beginning to arrive.

We moved back and they seemed like little ants rushing about. At that stage the fire had not really taken hold and they seemed to be getting it under control.

We could see the big window at the front of the Great Hall lit up with great orange flames licking out of it. At first it was hard to distinguish the flames from the yellow-red brickwork, but the intense moving colours soon drew our eyes.

There was scaffolding round the front of the building where workmen had been renovating that area.

I knew the Palace and Park well, from going to the Panorama Bar, courting there in my youth, working, taking my children to the ice rink, and generally roaming around. I used to work in the BBC Television Newsroom in the part where the BBC Television Tower is.

During the afternoon the flames seemed to have died down a bit, but later that evening I happened to visit someone who lived high up in a flat in Shepherd’s Hill, Highgate, with a clear view of the Palace, which was again completely engulfed in flames, and I believe it burned all night.

Oh, and by the way, there had been local wrangles all the previous year about who was to take over the Palace, and who was to pay for substantial upgrading and renovation.  Then came the fire, apparently started from an electrical fault whilst the renovations were being carried out, and there was a £3million insurance pay-out.  Was that handy or what?  Every cloud has a silver lining and this was quite a large cloud. Curious nimbus.

Here is a LINK to the BBC Television News Video Report in 1980.

And here is a LINK to the fire at St Andrew's Church, Alexandra Park Road, N10 in 2009.

And a LINK to the fire at Blandford Hall, Alexandra Park  on July 17th 1971.

And a LINK to a very detailed article dated 1993 about the history of the great organ at Alexandra Palace.

                          (Acknowledgement to I Barwell for the picture on the right)

And this LINK is to my POEM "The Fire at Alexandra Palace"

Saturday 12 December 2009

Copenhagen - Candlelit Vigil Across the World


Let your candles burn tonight
The world needs our support

Let your candles shine so bright
Our leaders need support

It’s our job to spread the light
The world’s poor need support

Keep your candles glowing white
Our children need support

Add your voice to the climate fight
Our wildlife needs support

Hope and pray with all your might
The world will give support

As people round the world unite
And join in their support

Hold the ideal in your sight
Hold your intention really tight
And as our candles burn tonight
Light up the world with gentle light


Wendy Beauchamp-Ward             12 December 2009