Oneupmanship or, why I might never have been born.

Yesterday I told my dad about my scary torch adventure, and wouldn’t you know it, he had a better one to tell.

First off you have to understand that my dad is a 1930’s Londoner, and we all know that back then, in the dark days, things were a little different to how they are now.

But, really!

O.K. so he wasn’t exactly a Londoner, that was my mum, but he was a Dagenham boy, which is as close as maybe.

He told me that when he was 14 he started work at Samuel Williams, a dock distribution company on the River Thames, just up the road and round the corner from where we grew up.

His story was that one day he was told to get a new oxygen tank for a job he was doing. It was a big bottle, about six feet tall, so a little bigger than my 40 cubic foot bottle, and that he had to roll the empty one all the way to the storage shed to get a full one.


And there I was worrying about keeping mine upright in the car.

So I said,


And he said,

‘Straight up. I do not lie’.

And I said,

‘O.K. go on’.

So he told me that he rolled it all the way to the shed, got a new one, and then rolled that one all the way back to the workshop.

So I said,

‘Really? And they let you do that?’

And he said,

‘Well you know, back then they didn’t care as much about all this safety stuff.’

You think!

But that wasn’t the best bit.

Then he told me that at one point during his rolling the full one back he had to roll it over a railroad track. They had these tracks around the dockyard to carry coal, etc.. When he got close to the track the cylinder started to roll as the ground sloped slightly at this point.

He had to try to keep up with it and was nudging it along the way with his foot to try to keep it level!

But this wasn’t the best bit.

He went on to tell me that as he’d been kicking it, he had inadvertently opened the valve slightly and that the oxygen was escaping.

It was at this point that I called liar on him only as he’s my dad I said it a little more respectfully, like,

‘you’re pulling a fast one on me dad, it’s all porky pies’.

But he swore it was true.

But that wasn’t the best bit.

The best bit was when he told me that he managed to get the bottle over the first rung of the track, and was struggling to get it over the second when a locomotive started to come down the track.

I was like –

‘WHAT! NOOOOO! You’re making it up’.

And that he had to leave it there in-between the tracks as the locomotive and about six cars went over it.

Come ON!

This time I did call him a straight up liar.

But he swore it was true.

I said,

‘Isn’t oxygen explosive under those conditions, or at least can do the projectile missile thing?’

And he said,

‘Well, I don’t know, I don’t think so’,

And I said,

‘What about the sparks from the locomotive wheels against the track?’.

And he said,

‘Don’t know.’

‘Or if the underneath of the locomotive had caught up onto the valves?’

I could hear him shrug, so I said,

‘You’re having me on,’

But he swore it was true and went on to tell me that the bottle didn’t last very long after that as most of the oxygen had escaped.

He laughed when I said, so I might not have been born then with you blowing up and everything.

Like that wouldn’t have really ticked me off.

Even if oxygen bottles don’t explode, which I’ve read they don’t, I still can’t get over how blasé the whole thing was.

One thing’s for sure, he won’t be helping me refill my tank if he happens to be here next time it’s empty.

My dad :) God only knows how he made it into the army...
My dad 🙂 God only knows how he made it into the army…

0 thoughts on “Oneupmanship or, why I might never have been born.

  1. Kellie


  2. aagghh!!! what a story! your dad is awesome-you are a good story teller

  3. Eloise

    Briljant, thanks for making me laugh out loud.

  4. He’s holding a cup isn’t he? It took me ages to figure out it wasn’t a magnifying glass! 😉

    Great story 🙂

    I think they only do the missile thing if the entire valve comes off and all the oxygen tries to escape at once. Things that burn anyway tend to burn better with oxygen. I don’t think it burns by itself though, which makes it “safer” (a bit) than acetylene (or methane or hydrogen which is what we use). If you get fat/grease too close to too much oxygen it can spontaneously combust, hence why you’re not supposed to grease the valves, however hard they are to turn! 🙂

    Glad you both survived your journeys 🙂

    • Yes. Funny I thought the same thing, then I figured out that they were plates in his and the other men’s hands and put two and two together. Couldn’t for the life of me think why he’d be using a magnifying glass.

  5. “Back then they didn’t think about all that safety stuff.” HA! I’m still tickled that you are nervous about driving with your torch…but not afraid (like me) to blow up the house.

    Your story made me miss my dad…and uncle (who worked in a place similar to the one in that great video).

    • I know. I do occasionally expect to hear a loud bang when I’m in the house and not the studio, or come home to find a crater where the studio used to be, but on the whole it really is the car ride that freaks me out. I have many other studio freak outs that take up my time and have had to block the acetylene one out.

  6. I think your dad has a very hardworking guardian angel…great story!!

    • Fiona, Of course I’ve forgotten my google password! But I wanted to say that I love Evie 🙂

  7. Aw Thank You!

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