When he hears that fire alarm, Sam is always cool and calm. If you’re stuck, give him a shout. He’ll be there to help you out. So move aside make way, for Fireman Sam. ‘Cause he’s gonna save the day, Fireman Sam! If you are a parent of a young child, the chances are you will currently be crooning the above tune. But while singing the lyrics to Fireman Sam’s theme tune 29 or 30 times a night for the past few weeks has firmly tattooed them on my cranium, it has not helped me uncover the answer to the any questions I have about the programme itself.
These queries, which will seem pointless or irrational to many, have been occupying my valuable brain space pretty much ever since my son started demanding to watch the antics of Fireman Sam, Norman, Elvis and Co on a daily basis. And so, with nothing remotely serious to write about this week, I’ve decided to publish a piece on Pontypandy for three reasons. First, I hope some other mums and dads may be able to fill in my knowledge gaps. Second, parents who are in a similar situation to mine may enjoy the rant (and make no mistake, this is a rant). Third, despite all my protestations, I love the show and really wanted to come up with an excuse to write about it.
Thus, without further ado, I bring you my midweek list of 11 questions parents ask when watching Fireman Sam…
1. Let’s start with a biggie. Why does everyone always say, “I better call Fireman Sam”?
For starters, they always call the station rather than his mobile. And then there’s the fact that Sam isn’t even the fire station’s boss. Surely it would be more accurate to say “I better call 999”, “I better call Station Officer Steele” or “I better call the fire station”?
2. Is Station Master Steele colour blind?
I ask, not because him confusing red for blue or pink for green is a regular storyline. But because I cannot for the life of me work out why he could not tell the difference between Elvis Cridlington and his cousin Jerry-Lee Cridlington. Sure, they looked vaguely alike when they had their helmets on. But when they were off?! One has dark hair and the other one blonde.
3. How did Elvis pass his fire service exams?
Don’t get me wrong. I like Elvis. He’s a good singer and a decent cook, he makes some impressive rescues and his battles with the Radar, the fire station dog, are entertaining enough. But, come on. I mean, his parents must have known someone at head office, right?
4. What is the relationship between Fireman Sam, Grandad Gareth, Bronwyn and Charlie?
I’m not asking the producers to turn an upcoming episode into an animated version of Who Do You Think You Are? But I would like a little insight into the various Pontypandy family trees. For example, why do James and Sarah call Gareth “grandad” and Fireman Sam “Uncle Sam”, when Fireman Sam appears to have no family ties to the train driver? Actually, hold on. I’ve Googled this and it seems that Sam is Charlie’s brother, and Gareth is Bronwyn’s father. Thus, by process of elimination, the kids are Sam’s niece and nephew, Bronwyn is Fireman Sam’s sister-in-law and Fireman Sam and Gareth are not related to each other.
5. Is there meant to be sexual tension between Ben and Penny?
I may just have imagined this. No, scratch that. I know what I’ve seen, and in one episode Pontypandy Penny and the coastguard Ben definitely make lingering eye contact, while praising each other over their use of lights. Mark my words. There’s a wedding coming in season 14.
6. Are Trevor and Dilys an item?
While I’m on the subject of sexual tension, are the coach driver and shop owner Pontypandy’s hottest middle-aged couple or not? In some episodes, the writers seem to suggest the lust is mutual (e.g. when they were getting steamy in the Winter Wonderland igloo). In others, they seem to suggest that Trevor is just not that into her. It’s a confusing situation that leaves me totes emosh and totes confused. Are they together or not? Answers on a Bronwyn’s Fish Cafe postcard, please.
7. Why is Norman Price not in jail?
It’s a fair question. The little reprobate, who despite having no natural ability or common sense believes he is better than everyone else at everything, does after all start more spectac-ular fires and cause more emergency call outs than all of the other residents of Pontypandy combined. Yes, including Mandy Flood. I know, The Unmumsy Mum has aired a theory about him being Fireman Sam’s illegitimate son, but, while the red hair would back this up, I’m going to ignore this in favour of putting it down to a mixture of his age, the fact no-one ever gets hurt as a result of his actions and the town seemingly not having a police officer.
8. How did Tom and Moose end up in Pontypandy?
You’d think a talented, handsome and extremely well-built Australian helicopter pilot, and a rugged Canadian mountain instructor might be able to find employment in a more glamorous locale than rural Wales. So what brought them here? Given this is a cartoon aimed at pre-school children, we’ll probably never know, but the spin-off I’m working up in my head features dark pasts, bitter break-ups, broken dreams and – duh, duh, duh – a need to enter the witness protection programme.
9. Given all the fires, how can anyone in Pontypandy afford home insurance?
My best guess is they can’t, and they just get Mike Flood to rebuild everything at an extremely low price.
10. Where does Joe Sparkes get the cash and materials to make his inventions and why does no-one tell him to stop?
Cash-wise, I believe he’s the town’s mechanic, so am going to put it down to servicing Trevor’s bus and vastly overpriced M.O.Ts. In terms of where he sources the materials to build his jet packs and submarines, I have no idea, but am pretty sure he must be on the MI5 watch list. And when it comes to the question of why no-one has broken the news that his gadgets and gizmos are total liabilities that regularly put his friends and family in danger, I can only assume that they feel sorry for him. Well, it’s either that, or he’s managed to procure some naughty pictures from the fire station Christmas party.
11. Is this actually a good show for my kid to watch?
It’s a yes from me. Obviously, there are many elements of Norman’s character that I’d prefer my son not to copy, but his naughty actions always lead to clearly negative situations and he always apologises in the end. Over and above these behavioural lessons, the show also provides some great fire safety info (always turn off the electricity, use sticky foam instead of water, don’t take the batteries out of the smoke alarm etc.) and steers clear of the lazy ‘boy are stronger than girls’ and ‘men are stupid’ stereotypes you’ll find in other cartoons. Plus, it looks good, it features trains, fire engines, boats and helicopters, and the theme tune occasionally sends my kid to sleep. So long live Pontypandy. Long live Fireman Sam. Long live my son’s first TV obsession.