0630. Oh God that’s painful. I’m ‘out-duty’ at one of our sister stations today, so that means getting up at an ungodly hour and catching a bus. Still, it’s a beautiful morning and the coffee is beginning to kick in.
Although mostly standardised throughout the country, there are certain things that can throw you when working at a station that isn’t your own. The lay out for one thing – where IS everything? Where’s the manning board? What am I doing? And more importantly; where is the Gents as I need to powder my hands or whatever it is we gents do. The personnel for another – are you on my watch? Are you leaving? Am I your relief? Who ARE you? Should I know your name?
After the initial looking like an idiot, some kind person whom you vaguely recognise will help out and point you in the right direction. I am in luck today as I know two on this watch quite well, and a third who seems to know me (and your name is? Tony? Mark? Iain? Ok, the loud one is called IAIN – note to self).
This is a smaller station to my own (like I OWN it!) with only one fire appliance, and a Watch minimum of 5, so the way they do things is slightly different. For example the usual pre-Parade cup of tea is actually a VERY welcome mug of freshly ground coffee, breakfast seems to be a PRIORITY and (rather confusingly) there is a large pump of Baylis & Harding Sweet Mandarin & Grapefruit Indulgent Moisturising Hand Lotion (with vitamin A, B, and C extract) in the Gents toilet/Shower area. Each to their own.
0800: Parade. And once again we are informed of our duties for the day, which we all knew 20 minutes earlier when we put our gear on the appliance and checked the BA equipment. The only other information of note is that we are off this afternoon to a community event aimed at 16/17 year old High School kids who are just learning or have just passed their driving test.
In attendance are the Police; with an array of equipment; breathalisers, photos of accidents, tyre tread meters, ‘beer goggles’, alcohol tests, a stinger (which we weren’t allowed to test out), videos and advice for young drivers. The AA; with leaflets on ‘How to pass your test’, ‘How to be a courteous driver’, keyrings, pens, DVD’s etc. The Blood Transfusion Service on the importance of giving blood. A joyless woman with no sense of humour at a stand showing the effect and strength of various alcoholic drinks, even the morning after (plus a chart on their calorific content that she clearly hasn’t looked at. And FYI on comparison, Gin is practically a diet drink. Who knew?) A woman from a Brain Trauma charity with a ‘brain’ made out of jelly to show how fragile it is. AND (last but by no means least) The Fire Service; with two bits of cutting equipment and a video screen playing the most harrowing ‘Don’t drink and Drive’ films I have ever seen. (So grim in fact that after ten minutes, I could have really done with a drink). Needless to say, we weren’t a popular stall – aside from the boys who periodically came up in groups of 6, to show off to each other by being unable to lift the cutting equipment. I know I shouldn’t have laughed, but…
After three hours of actively saving the community (though clearly not from boredom), and indulging in a cold coffee and stale biscuit we packed up and returned to the station.
Not long thereafter the oncoming shift began to arrive, and after packing away my gear and scheduling it to be delivered to my home station I decided to enjoy the evening by walking the four miles along to the coast road to get home. Needless to say, after 10 minutes I got the bus.
Now before any of you ask; we did get one shout that morning. This was to a ‘local’ sheltered housing accommodation who’s automatic alarms system had activated. Like the coiled springs we are, we were turned back to the station before we even got there, as it was a false alarm. Even still, and even after all these years, every time the alarm bells go off I still hear the theme to ‘Thunderbirds’ in my head.