Fireman's Growl, The

A Fireman complains about the difficulties of his job.

It's not all beer and skittles this blooming job of mine, 
And it's not a bed of roses, isn't firing on the line. 
You don't get too much money, you get lots of slack(1) instead 
And they teach you how to work at night to earn your daily bread.

Just fancy being knocked up(1) in the middle of the night [Note 122.1]
With a noise enough to wake the dead, give the neighbourhood a fright.
You leave your bed with sad regret, prepare to catch your train,
Then a chap comes round to tell you, you can go to sleep again.

And when you do get to the sheds, that's when the fun begins
For someone's pinched your spanners and lamps and other things.
You know it's not quite up to Rules, still you like to do the same,
So you take someone else's and pretend you've played the game.

You often get an engine that is very shy for steam 
And it's then you start to realise that life's not quite a dream.
You get quite a fed-up feeling when the driver tells you that
We're losing time and then you lose your temper and your hat.

It's lively in the tunnels when you slip and then you stick, [Note 122.2]
And the air mixed with the language gets beautifully thick.
The smoke it nearly blinds you and with sulphur you near choke,
You turn to get a drink and find your blooming bottle's broke.

Of course it's not expected that we chaps want much to eat
But now and then we get a chance and it really is a treat.
When you've put your food upon the floor it's enough to raise your ire:
Your mate gets absent-minded like and drops it in the fire.

Well, you reach your destination neither happy, blithe, nor gay,
With just enough strength to whistle End of a perfect day. [Note 122.3]
All your hopes are fairly stranded when the turner(1) says, Book off(1)
Miles away from home you're landed, neither money, 'bacca(1), scoff(1).

They send you to a barracks built inside the station yard [Note 122.4]
Where the engines sing your lullaby and the beds are nice and hard.
Or perhaps it's private diggings(1), they're another lively hole, 
For it's ten to one the blooming fire's gone out to find some coal.

You start the homeward journey and things reach a pretty pass
When you're half-inclined to envy the cattle out at grass,
And you vow you'll chuck your job up, you swear you'll do no more.
Reach your home, come on in nine hours, and the game starts as before

It's a shame they work the drivers till of age they nearly drop,
Why can't they have a pension, like a postman or a slop(1) ?
They earn it, they deserve it, and then contented they would be.
Besides, 'twould mean promotion and there'd be a chance for me.

I often wonder if I'll ever get a driver's job
For I'm sick and tired of firing sixty hours for thirty bob¹.
Perhaps I'll fire until I die and then to heaven I'll go,
Or perhaps I will be firing still for the Old Lad(1) down below.