Mini, the little shining red car is parked in the curb outside the boy’s house; willing Felix and Hector to appear with its owner their great grandfather; Mini is anxious to be off on another adventure.
Where will we travel to this time? Will we see knights and Kings pirates or dinosaurs? Wondered the smiling mini.
The front door slammed shut, rattling the brass letterbox.
“Come on Innis ” shouted Felix to his friend next door, we’re leaving.
“Coming” replied the excited girl, brushing her blond hair away from her bright happy face.
The four piled into the car, followed by Holly, the boys’ black Scottie dog.
“Og og inim og ” go go mini go backwards, they all chanted as Hector pressed the gold button on the dashboard, a panel of numbers whizzed backwards, mist enveloped the car and a whizzing buzzing sound cut through the air, shafts of bright lights swirled around, the mini shook alarmingly.
Then as suddenly as it had started, the shaking and sounds stopped and the mist cleared, but where were they?
How many hundreds of years had they fallen through dropping down and down to what and where?
“What year do you think we have found?” asked their great grandfather who was standing in front, blocking their sight of the display date panel.
“Well,” said Felix, “I think we were falling through time for about eight minutes so we could be in the 1600s allowing two minutes for every hundred years
“Very good Felix ” said their grandfather, revealing the date to be 1666.
“Do you know what happened in 1666?”
“I do said Hector before Felix could reply “It was The Great Fire of London it started in Pudding Lane.”
They all clapped and Holly wagged her tail.
“Will we get burned?” asked Innis fearfully.
“Absolutely not” replied Gramps the name the children called the old man.
“Can’t wait to see what I’m going to wear today” cried Innis as she flung the creaking whicker hamper lid back exposing a pile of clothes.
Innis loved her long blue frock and white bonnet, Felix and Hector were not so keen on their neck ruffles, short skirts and leggings, but Gramps loved his outfit, particularly his dashing large black hat.
The dark narrow street they found themselves in was quiet, it seemed everyone must be in bed and asleep. Mini disappeared as usual and they quietly took in their surroundings.
The simple small wooden houses on either side overhung the narrow cobbled street. There was a strange amber glow in the sky that seemed to be increasing at an alarming rate, turning night into day.
They then heard the thudding of frightened feet belonging to a distraught man shouting and banging on the doors and windows screaming “fire fire London is burning run for your lives.”
They could now hear the crackle of wood burning and smell hungry flames devouring everything in the way, causing waves of heat intensifying with every moment. They could hear in the distance a woman’s hysterical screams: however, an annoyed voice from a casement above them shouted down,
“Go away and let us sleep London is always burning, candles and wood are too friendly and always catching each other on fire, you must know this; this is just another fire, go away.” shouted the disturbed angry man from the upstairs bedroom.
“No this is very serious, King Charles will order houses to be blown up to stop the spread.” insisted Gramps, who was now also shouting at the top of his voice.
Automatically the children with Gramps were running too, banging on doors and shouting, begging people to leave their homes with only their most precious possessions and run to the river.
“Save yourselves and run” they cried. The once calm quiet street was soon to turn into chaos, then into a burning inferno.
Families poured into the street avoiding the stinking open sewers. They carried hastily prepared bundles, some on horseback others in wagons piled high with household items, the wheels rumbling and sparking, as the metal rim of a wheel struck the stone cobbles, dogs were barking, and babies crying.
A horse reared up throwing a woman carrying her baby in front of Gramps, who miraculously caught the baby and clutched at the horse’s reins taking control of the swaying cart.
People were covering their mouths and noses, others choking and coughing as the smoke struck their lungs. The hot air was thick with smoke and tiny burning floating embers were trying to take hold.
Round the corner at the end of the street waited a rather dusty mini, the family holding hands squeezed past the frantic mob, Mini opened her doors and they all slid safely inside.
Smoke engulfed them. Surprisingly they then felt the car bobbing up and down, alarmingly.
The smokey windows cleared, they could see they were floating in the Thames.
Looming up before them was a magnificent barge,
“Its the King’s barge I know it is” exclaimed Gramps ” five rowers on each side and look at the bow, that’s him!”
At the bow stood the king all six foot two inches of him, the king’s magnificent barge was now too close; overseeing the royal orders, saving London, which Gramps told them burnt for four days.
“Watch out we’re going to collide with the King.” cried Innis.
Mini lurched sideways avoiding the hull of the vessel that sped on, leaving heavy waves in its wake, which Mini managed to avoid.
Their gaze returned to the bank of the river.
Some people were flinging themselves into the water, others into boats.
“I wonder if Sir Christopher Wren is in the barge with his majesty, look, you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral on fire. It
will be rebuilt together with fifty-one other city churches, by Sir Christopher.” said Gramps.
They were now well clear of the king’s vessel, the river calm and dark as ink, where they floated.
After they had changed into their normal clothes and recovered from their flight from the fire and near collision with the royal barge and had swallowed a long cool drink, Hector asked; “What happened, were many houses burned down were people killed?”
“Considering the huge number of houses destroyed, few people were lost to the flames.
People listened and they did leave their homes, thankfully few were fatally hurt.
The flea-infested rats that a year ago caused the great plague perished.
London was cleansed of open sewers and the houses rebuilt with brick.”
Better get back now, your parents may be wondering where we are, shall we say the words altogether?”
” Go go mini go” they all chanted happily.
As if in a blink of an eye, the mini came to rest outside the children’s house, the front door flew open and Mrs Peters ushered the children in for a scrumptious tea that they all thoroughly deserved.
“Tell me” said Mr Peters, during tea, ” where have you been?”
“We were in the fire of London and we saw King Charles the 2nd on his barge” informed Felix. “How amazing,” said their father.
“That barge is on display in the National Museum of The Royal Navy we could have a closer look at it sometime” suggested Gramps. ” Must get going, things to do; see you soon.” they all left the table to see the old man off; with a wave of his hand and a chuckle he stepped into Mini and was gone.
It took thirty-five years to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral, which was seriously threatened by the fire in The Blitz of London in 1940, World War 2.