I was delighted to have a bit more of the gardening job to do. One day, I mused, I will be digging my own square of land. All in all a great way to start another week in this lockdown of indeterminable length. However long it is to last we are a day nearer its end:
A big part of a fire-fighters job is checking equipment, making sure it is always at operational readiness. We do a lot of it on a weekly basis but, once a month, we test everything on the appliances. We have a long list to work off.
It includes medical supplies, car-cutting equipment, generators, lighting, chainsaws, grinders, portable pumps, pumps fixed to the back of the appliances, breathing apparatus and more.
All of it has to be inspected to the highest standard. The slightest leak or misfire means it fails and is taken “off the run.” Safety is paramount in this game. No-one wants to turn up to a job – where life is on the line – to find a piece of vital equipment doesn’t work.
As previously mentioned, new social distancing practices mean we work in pairs. Today, it was my turn. Generally, I like to arrive anywhere a few minutes early and today is no different.
Entry to the fire station has to be planned under Covid protocols. As soon as the key enters the lock the alarm is activated, leaving 30 seconds to grab the hand sanitiser, 20 seconds to rub into increasingly chapped skin and the remainder to deactivate the code. I sounded out the tune to Mission Impossible as I attempted the feat.
The main job was to don a breathing apparatus set and wear it until 50 bars of air is used from the cylinder. If there is one piece of equipment you never want to fail, this is it. The Breathing Apparatus course that all firefighters have to pass is the only qualification I have attempted where the opening paragraph of the textbook warns of “conditions incompatible with life.”
I “donned” my set and proceeded to work my way through what was left on the list of equipment to be checked. ‘Happy-baby-man’ walked past. “Are you going shopping,” he asked, with a twinkle in his eye.
The general public seem fascinated with fire engines, especially young children who love to stop and stare. Often we give them a blast of the sirens. Usually they start crying. I thought better of giving the baby a noisy demonstration.
The sunshine was glorious and it was nice to have something productive to do to whittle away the morning. In our station, our standard au revoir after training or incidents is to say – “See you in an hour.” A nod to the fact that we may be back in each other’s company in a short time. This time it was – “See you in a month.”
Things have got that quiet.
For the populace, that is obviously a good sign, but firefighters need to get paid too. No calls mean no money – and no break from the two kilometre radius that always has been and will remain a fact of life for retained firemen long after civilians have been allowed back to wherever civilians go when they are not on lockdown. I’ve almost forgotten myself. It’s a bit weird that someone’s bad day is a regular day to us. You have to enjoy your work, right?
The day continued to improve, so I was delighted to have a bit more of the gardening job to do. I could feel a mild sunburn developing as I dug a flower bed ready for planting. It’s so healing to be out in the green fields, even if it is only for a couple of hours.
I’ve always loved the soil under my fingernails. It always felt healthier not to wash it off. If it feeds nature it must be good for us. Whatever microbes and bacteria that were in the drying clay soil and mature compost I was digging into would be more than a match for any bat virus. So it seemed to me anyway.
One day, I mused, I will be digging my own square of land.
All in all a great way to start another week in this lockdown of indeterminable length. However long it is to last we are a day nearer its end. Today, thoughts of Covid and claustrophobia were far away. Today did not feel like a lockdown at all. I’m into a good boxset on Netflix, my flat is due a good clean and I’ve loads of phone calls still not made – so I’ve plenty to keep me occupied whilst the boy and dog are away. We might even get a call out. Today I’m feeling very lucky indeed.