In my early days of caving with Croydon, we decided to pay a visit to Goat Church to see if it really was as awfull as had been made out. My suspicions were slightly aroused by the odd ball collection of people preparing to go down the cave, eg. 3 year old kids, 90 year old grannies and a group of Hells Angels etc. Inside the chamber my suspicions were definitely confirmed when I came face to face with a terrier dog fully equipped with an Oldham lamp strapped to its back, a 'helmet' with mounted lamp and a wet suit body warmer!
As we penetrated deeper into the depths of the cave we left behind most of the tourist cavers encountering only a few of the bolder scouts. Determined to extract every last bit of caving out of Goat Church we had resolved to leave no passage unvisited and as I squirmed my way down a rather tight muddy passage following behind a rather younger than now B...... C..........., I began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of our determination as there seemed to be a sudden and serious deterioration in the air quality in this area. In fact there was a horrible sickly stench of burning plastic which grew worse and worse. Eventually I emerged into a reasonable size chamber which was brightly lit by an eery flickering light. Extracting myself from the crawl and standing up I was flabergasted to see B...... sitting on a rock with his helmet blazing like a bonfire.
"B......", I said, "your helmet is on fire." "What?", said B....... I repeated my previous comment. "What?" came the reply. This conversation continued for some time. Damn, I thought, if only I had brought my theosaurus I could maybe find another phrase for 'you are on fire'.
The problem was of course that the source of the fire was shielded from his view by the peak of the helmet and as he was using a carbide lamp anyway a flickering flame is what you are used to. Anyway after a while the helmet began to melt seriously and gobs of flaming plastic began to drip off the rim of the helmet. Shortly after this the carbide lamp fell off the helmet altogether!
By now B...... had realised that there could be something wrong with his helmet and was fortunately removing it. As there was no cable involved I grabbed the hat and shoved it into a pool of water where it hissed and spluttered. What had happened was that the helmet had a plastic lamp bracket and the carbide lamp was leaking at the base which had set light to the bracket.