In Answer to Your Question, Murdo....

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

It seems planning, buying and cooking my next meal has taken precedent over everything else in my life, recently. Feeding myself seems to have become something of an obsession and other stuff is suffering as a result.

Take training, for instance; I can't face any of that fasted cardio nonsense in the morning. I've got to load up on breakfast before I consider ever raising my heart rate. Then the gap between breakfast going down and lunch prep beginning leaves little time for the gym, regardless of the attraction of the mid-morning MILFs that proliferate David Lloyd Epsom at that time of the day. The afternoon is probably the time most likely to see me pull on a pair of trainers but a post lunch snooze always seems more appealing than a beasting on the treadmill.

I realise all of this kinda suggests I don't work but nothing could be further from the truth. Regular readers of this blog will know my paid employment is as a fire-fighter in the sunny streets of Battersea, South London. But that's a feast or famine type of job (interesting description given my reference to food....maybe it is an obsession). Being a fire-fighter involves four days of blue, flashing lights; hot, red flames and black, choking smoke followed by four days of stand down that ought to result in the perfect time for exercise. 

Alas not.

In an attempt to kick start my training I decided to buy a road bike. I imagined myself streaking along the roads of Surrey, heading for the nearby zig-zag route up Box Hill that inspired so many two-wheeled lunatics during the Olympics. I acquired said bike but in actual fact it now sits in my lounge performing the role of an ineffective clothes horse.

'Why is this?' I hear you ask.

'Because you're a lazy, food-gobbling, shiny arsed twat!' I hear you reply.

Well, yeah...partly that, but also because I'm fucking terrified every time I go on the road and bastard lorries thunder past me. Also, because you get numpty fucking drivers with 50% of their attention fixed to the text message they're sending as they bear down on a totally inept cyclist wobbling along the road like a baby giraffe taking its first steps.

There's a reason for my road-bound terror but I'm not sure the statute of limitation on relating operational incidents I've attended involving dead cyclists would yet allow me. Not that you need to hear this stuff anyway.

But that statute of limitation....I'm not sure it applies to incidents involving animals, does it? I'll let you be the judge of that.

So I received a Facebook message from Murdo The Magnificent today asking me what the Fire Service's current approach to incidents involving cats in trees was (his cat had obviously taken refuge from Murdo's terrible singing in a high, leafy canopy).

I sent what I believed to be a detailed reply and mentioned my personal belief in the appropriateness of the emergency service's deployment to acts of animal welfare.

Murdo's cat decided that the lure of Kit-e-Kat was enough to tolerate his master's strangled rendition of 'Flower of Scotland' and lured him from the branches of his leafy retreat, so my advice was not required, but it got me thinking of the Bronze Medal for Animal Life Saving that I was awarded by the RSPCA some years ago.

You might think that an RSPCA Bronze Medal for Animal Life Saving is pretty inconsequential, right? I'll admit that it doesn't exactly sit as proudly on the chest alongside campaign gongs and medals for gallantry that one might see at a Remembrance Day service, but it once got me out of the shit when I flashed it to an RSPCA officer after being accused of kicking my neighbour's dog.

Anyway, back to my awarding of this medal: We were called to a house fire in Battersea and arrived to discover a two up-two down terraced house with flame and smoke punching out of the windows on the ground floor. At the time I was a foot soldier in the fire brigade and as such received instruction that it was believed a resident was in the property. My task was to enter the burning house with a colleague and a charged hose and search for the individual concerned.

After starting my breathing apparatus set and checking my mucker was ready to go we entered the house and began our search. I would like to say that we charged in and rapidly cleared each room like you might imagine a black clad SAS seek and destroy team might as they hunt some soon-to-be-extinct terrorist cell. But the fact is that a Victorian house affected by fire becomes something of a death trap, with holes in the wooden floor and stairs that might collapse at any moment, so we move through the house without the luxury of vision and with our weight on our back foot, sweeping and stamping with our front foot as we proceed.

After discovering and extinguishing the fire in the downstairs lounge we completed our search of the house, sweeping and stamping every room, hall and landing, content that no human resident was present. You should appreciate that at this time not only was the house still full of black smoke, it was also heavily affected by steam resulting from our successful extinction of the blaze. All of this results in zero visibility....hold that thought.

Upon our exit of the property a neighbour is busy telling the officer in charge that the resident of the house is at the pub but her two dogs and two cats are definitely inside the building.

'Lads, get back in there...there's four animals need rescuing,' instructs our governor. So we do as instructed and head back into the smoky darkness looking for a couple of pooches and a pair of cats. 

It doesn't take long before we discover two small dogs and a wee kitty hiding in a corner of the kitchen. We sweep them up in our arms and rush outside with them. They're placed in the footwell of an ambulance and oxygen is administered by the paramedics present. Luckily, because they're low to the ground, the animals made the most of the diminishing oxygen in the property and their natural instinct to move away from fire kept them safe. But, fuck me, we searched high and low for that final cat. In the dark and smoke we swept and stamped that whole fucking house to no avail.

When we came out we agreed that Tonto the tabby had probably escaped through a window so we packed up and went back to the fire station for a cup of tea. Of course, work still needed doing at the property, but we handed that over to a relieving crew from Tooting fire station. We'd done the heroic stuff, that was later recognised by the RSPCA, and happily left the shitty clearing up to Tooting.

Next day my governor received a phone call. 

It went something like this:

'Hello ****, this is ******* from Tooting. Just to let you know that, last night, after the smoke cleared at that house, we found Tonto the tabby.'

'Ah, that's great. Really glad he's the householder happy?' replied my Guv.

'Not really, ****, we found Tonto on the upper floor where he'd been stamped flat into the carpet. We peeled him off and could have posted him in a large envelope.'

So this statute of limitation I mentioned.....

Laters (from a holder of the RSPCA Bronze Medal for Animal Life Saving)

A Subversive View on Scottish Independence

Saturday, 13 September 2014

With less than a week to go before we discover whether a union that, at times has been slightly strained, but one which usually sees us rubbing along together OK, will be broken up for ever more.

No I'm not talking about marriage number three.....I keep asking Mrs Mac to tie the knot but she tells me she's got some shopping to do or has to paint her toe nails or something....I'm talking about the rather longer lasting union of the United Kingdom.

Yep, in six days time the Scots go to the polls to decide on the little matter of independence and I have quite firm ideas on this.

I'm definitely and solidly in the No camp.

Why? You might ask.

Well, I've thought long and hard about this but I'm not sure I want to get into a rambling piece about the unity of the working class and how Alex Salmond's plans for unbelievably low corporation tax will benefit large companies but won't ever be passed on to the working man and woman. I think I'd rather consider my affection for a country and a peoples that pretty much dictate where I spend my money, where I go on holiday and what I do while making untold journeys on Virgin Train's wonderful Pendolinos. But I will tell you of my attempt to engage with the debate and put how I attempted to put my opinion on independence to the test.

So I decided the only way to do this would be to come up to this strange land where men wear skirts and women have a hierarchical system based upon the number of their remaining teeth, and get amongst it. I decided that I ought to immerse myself in the debate, in the desire for yes or no, in the singing of Flower of Scotland, in the bagpipes. And in the longer opening hours and relaxed attitude to falling over at the bar. I was also travelling up to see Mrs Mac (who was on a week long course at Stirling University) to get another knock-back when proposing the change of her surname but that's not as poetic and doesn't translate as well into a suggestion that I'm actively involved in the referendum.

Long suffering readers of this blog will know that I'm often in Scotland and it's a place I love. I love it for its scenery, its history, its culture and its quirkiness. I mean, where else in the world can you go for a spot of lunch, order a steak pie and chips (for some reason I'm still yet to discover it's called a 'supper' regardless of the time of day it's consumed) to be asked 'would you like your pie fried or just blasted in the microwave?'

Where else in the world can you go out for dinner, pay the bill with a number of bank notes to be asked 'do you want your change?' Now, I consider myself quite a generous fellow and generally tip waiters and waitresses regardless of the level of customer service but to assume I don't want my change because I'm gonna give it to you anyway is a little rich (excuse the pun). By the way, if you are a waiter/waitress and happen to be reading this, shit customer service will get you a tip. But good customer service and some direction to the higher percentage ABV wines on the list will get you a ridiculously generous tip from someone who doesn't actually earn a great deal.....particularly if Mrs Mac is paying. As she was when this particular incident occurred on Thursday night.

But this is supposed to be a treatise on Scottish independence, not just a few recent observations from eating establishments. So allow me to continue.

So I boarded the train at Euston station for my journey north to engage with the independence debate. For anyone unfamiliar with it, Euston station is a pretty soulless place. It's pretty bland and utilitarian with scant concern for appearing attractive. Travellers tend to stand around on the concourse with their necks craned and heads looking up at the departures board waiting for notification of which platform their train's departing from which acts as a trigger for them to unceremoniously rush to their train in the hope of bagging a table seat.

Once on the train after unceremoniously rushing for it in the hope of bagging a table seat...and failing, I sat watching the minutes tick by to get us past midday. You see I have this rule that alcohol consumption should only ever begin after 20:00. Unless I'm on a plane or train in which case there's a generous time reduction to midday.

At precisely 12:00:01 I cracked open the small bottle of cider I had in my rucksack and began celebrating my journey to Scotland and my engagement and involvement in the Scottish independence referendum. The plan was to pay the extortionate sum of £8.00 for access to the onboard WiFi and research all there was into independence arriving in Glasgow an informed and enlightened man. I also planned to make use of the facilities in the bog to wash, shave and clean my teeth as none of those things had yet taken place due to an overly relaxed approach to journey preparation.

Probably unsurprisingly my plan gradually dissolved as the celebrations gathered apace and the onboard bar got a hammering. My iPad was used for listening to music and looking at Facebook rather than my important research into the potential fracturing of the United Kingdom and my planned visit to the loo to conduct my ablutions was forgotten in a wave of 13.5% red wine.

Having arrived at Glasgow Central I skipped through the streets with my Staffordshire Bull Terrier on his lead and my rucksack on my back toward Queen Street station. At least in my mind's eye I was skipping. To the skirt wearing, partly toothed locals who invariably wore pin badges proclaiming 'YES' or 'NAW' skipped probably translated better as 'lurched ungainly'.

A quick pint in the boozer before boarding the train to Bridge of Allan gave me time to log my iPad onto the free WiFi in an attempt to get a feel for which way Scotland was leaning in the forthcoming referendum. From the online edition of the Daily Record I discovered that Tatiana Williams, a 'voluptuous' transgender woman had spent £60,000.00 to achieve a sixty inch bum and that some Glaswegian police officers so adore a particular sandwich shop that they're willing to transgress parking regulations to get their roll and square sausage.

As I drank my Guinness and marvelled at Tatiana's massive arse I completely missed the opportunity to use the facilities to change my appearance from slightly drunk homeless man to slightly drunk fella that's used a pub toilet to wash and shave.

The second train journey of the day was unlike the first in that there was no onboard bar and therefore no celebrations. Neither was there any WiFi so my iPad once again become a tool for music appreciation rather than a portal into the raging debate over Scottish independence.

On arrival at Bridge of Allan I phoned Mrs Mac who informed me that I was to wait at the station where she would pick me up in 20 minutes. Great, I thought....time to wash and shave. So I dragged my washing bag from my rucksack, placed my iPad on a bin and used its front facing camera as a mirror to shave and wash my face with a few Wet Wipes.

After transforming myself from an unshaven, unclean, wine stained hobo to man on a mission to engage in the independence debate Mrs Mac arrives in her car and I throw my washing bag into my rucksack and we're off to a campsite which would be my accommodation for the next few days. The suggestion that she smuggles me and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier into her University dormitory meets with hilarious laughter and the directions to the Witches Craig campsite.

Now if you've ever been camping you'll know that a successful and comfortable experience depends upon the amount of kit you have and the time spent establishing your pitch. 

Tent erection, sleeping station preparation, table setting, cooker building all takes time. Add in a trip to the local chip shop for dinner and a journey round the supermarket for provisions and we're talking four hours.

Witches Craig campsite. Not a bad spot.

Back at the campsite Mrs Mac and I are chilling out in the warm, early evening air before her planned departure back to Stirling University. A perfect opportunity to log on to the campsite WiFi and start this research into the independence debate thinks Yours Truly.

I reach into my rucksack to retrieve my iPad. I find my washing bag and pull that out. I fish around inside feeling socks, shirts, the odd running shoe.....but no iPad. An alarm bell rings in my head. I turn my rucksack upside down and spill its contents onto the ground. No iPad. Mrs Mac looks at me and I look at her.

'Fuck,' I say. 'I left my iPad at the fuckin' train station.'

'You idiot,' replies Mrs Mac. 'C'mon, let's go and report it as being lost at the Police Station.'

'What for?' I ask. 'Someone will be at home with a free iPad looking at my internet history and my research into transgendered birds with huge arses.'

'If you want to claim on your insurance you'll at least need a Police reference number,' she says.

Despite my complete lack of confidence in the policing of the ridiculously idiotic misplacing of property and a preference for drowning my sorrows in Buckfast, I climb into Mrs Mac's car and we zoom off to the police station. The fucking things not insured anyway but her ideas usually better mine in most instances. 

En route to the police station we pass Bridge of Allan train station and as we do so my eyes widen and my mouth is agape. 

There, on the bin, four hours after leaving it, sits my iPad.

I retrieve it to a repeated chorus of 'you lucky, lucky bastard' from Mrs Mac.

And that, Dear Reader is my engagement in the independence debate and my arriving at a decision on my preference for self governance:

For leaving a £500 iPad in situ for its dozy, idiotic owner to return to retrieve it, the Scottish people can have anything they want, and they can have it with a cherry in top, without any comment from me.


Waiting for the Bus

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Like many of those that might read this blog post (oh for the days when I recorded 300 hits a day) I was nominated by a number of friends and family to conduct the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

While I applaud the efforts normal people go to in order to raise charitable donations for deserving causes I can't help but think for some it's an opportunity to make a spectacle of themselves then dress it up as an exercise in courage and compassion.

So while being someone who likes to refuse to follow a trend I also explained that to accept a nomination for 'David and his entire fire crew' to use fire brigade equipment to soak ourselves on duty, in fire brigade time and then post it on YouTube or Facebook might result in me and my colleagues tapping the boards in a smart outfit to collect our P45s.

And that close involvement of my employer in any comment made regarding activities done in their name is one of the reasons why this blog became somewhat redundant (the fact that it was always supposed to be about running and I've run as many steps as Vanessa Feltz and Alex Salmond put together...a comment about Scottish independence on its of course another).

But here I am, dipping my toe into the water of workplace story telling, because having conducted a robust risk assessment, believe I can get away with this, here goes:

So there we were, 04:55hrs on a random night duty at Battersea Fire Station. Now you have to be aware that due to the dynamic nature of our job we're allowed to 'rest' during the night time in order top be physically and mentally prepared to deal with any given situation. So it's fair to say we were 'resting.'

Rest is disturbed by the trumpeting of the alarm indicating that someone, somewhere is in trouble.

I jump up from my resting platform (you might no this by it's more common name of a bed), chuck on my trousers and shoes and make my way down three flights of stairs to the fire engine. There is a traditional pole to transport the user from the upper floors to ground in a matter of seconds but I find the stair descent provides time to engage ones brain and consider the information regarding the incident that's sent to my pager.

We're on the fire engine and out the doors in a flash of light and sound, barrelling through the streets of SW11 en route to a fire alarm in an old folks' home. The guys in the back of the fire engine are preparing breathing apparatus, the driver is negotiating his way through the virtually empty roads and I'm considering the various scenario permutations that we might encounter.

We arrive at the address to discover an old folks' home in darkness and silence with no apparent distressing occurrence unfolding. Of course that doesn't mean it isn't so a full on approach is adopted ie crashing through the security door armed with breathing apparatus, breaking in gear and mean intentions.

Once inside we stand there, wide-eyed, dressed in the latest personal protective equipment, armed with enough gear to extinguish the fires of hell to be met by a silent alarm panel and a little old lady sitting on a chair. She's dressed in an overcoat, carrying an umbrella and has a rolled up shopping bag in her hand.

'Who are you?' she asks. 'Have you brought the mobility shopping bus?'

'No, my love,' I reply. 'We're from the London Fire Brigade and we're here to respond to a fire.'

'There's no fire here,' I'm told'. 'I'm waiting for my bus. I've got some shopping to do.'

Once I've ascertained the old burd is right, there is no fire, I stand my guys down and continue our discussion.

'So this mobility shopping's picking you up here, at this time?' I ask.

'Yes,' the old girl replies. 'I've been waiting an hour.'

'What time is it due to arrive, love?' I ask.

'Ten, ten,' she replies.

'Ten past ten!' I exclaim. 'But it's only ten past five! You've got another five hours to wait!'

'Really?' the old burd asks.

'Really' I reply.

'Well fuck that, I'm going back to bed.' she says, and shuffles off down the corridor.

And this event demonstrates the joy of human interaction that my job provides.

We get back on the fire engine a little bit disappointed there was no opportunity to throw loads of wet stuff at hot stuff, a little bit glad that the lack of hot stuff means an absence of sorrow, but laughing our socks off at the Anglo Saxon comment demonstrated by the old burd before hot footing it back to her bed.

One day all of these stories will appear in a book. It'll make me rich and famous and I'll but you all a drink. But only if you comment below :-)

Cold Showers and Abstinence

Friday, 28 March 2014

During my nine-year dalliance with ultra running I often heard fellow athletes discussing their optimum race weight. They would argue that achieving anything but a physical comparison with Skeletor might cost them two minutes and 35 seconds in a 100 mile race. In fact it's a good thing that race registration at the West Highland Way is over in a matter of a few hours or some local Samaritan might establish a soup kitchen in Milngavie car park to feed the poor, malnourished souls that gather there one night every June.

To me, all this talk of limiting ones calorific intake in a running context was anathema because when I trained properly I could scoff like Vanessa Feltz at an eat-all-you-can Chinese buffet. Regardless of how much I ate I wouldn't put an ounce of weight on. In fact, it was all I could do to keep the escaped POW look at bay and Mrs Mac would say that after a long ultra the weight loss could be detected in my face. Indeed, there are a few photos of me knocking about with a race medal round my neck and Cruella De Ville cheekbones jutting from my skull.

As I write this I'm eating a bag of Sharwood's prawn crackers and a big plate of stir fry so you can get a feeling for my approach to 'optimum race weight,' and to be fair it's never been any different when discussing the pastime of quickly putting one foot in front of the other. This, however, is in sharp contrast to a sport I formerly competed in where optimum weight did indeed exist. In fact the weight requirements for that sport were cast in stone and Lord help you if you didn't make it. I remember attempting to boil down to 10 stone, which was the light-welterweight limit, and starving myself of food for two days and going without water for hours before the weigh in for a fight. Standing on those scales in nothing but a pair of pants, watching the metal block being moved along the arm of one of those old-fashioned, upright contraptions, and then being told to go and skip another half a pound off, was torturous. All that was on my mind was a pint of water and a big bag of chips. I made the ten stone limit that day, then went off and put three or four pounds on in a matter of minutes as I hoovered up whatever food was placed in front of me.

Anyway, these days I'm more concerned about Mason (dog)'s weight than my own. He's a healthy 25kg and self manages his calorific intake: if he's exercised regularly he'll wolf his food down; if he's injured and being rested he might pick at what's put in front of him. Plenty of muffin- topped Batterssa Belles could learn a lesson or two from him. But I've had occasion recently to concern myself with the weight of three other individuals. Addi, Mark and Omar, three young men from my boxing club are due to engage in their first contest of pugilism tomorrow night.

It was Monday that Mark, the young, 18 year old man shown on the right of the picture above, arrived at the gym an hour late.

'Sorry, coach I though we were starting at seven tonight, ' he said.

'No Mark,' I replied. 'It's always six in a Monday. Never mind, I can check weigh you for Saturday's bout, come over here and jump on these scales.'

So Mark wanders over to the set of bathroom scales that I keep in the gear cupboard and kicks his trainers off.

'Take that body warmer off, too,' I instruct him. 'That's gonna weigh a few pounds.'

Mark complies with my request and stands on the scales. The needle shoots round the dial and past the Chinagraphed arrow that indicates 76kg, the middleweight limit and target for Saturday.

'Fuck,' I think (because I clearly never use bad language in front of these young people). 'You're bloody 80kg!'

I look at Mark's face in an attempt to detect the evidence of an over amorous encounter with the biscuit tin. He still looks himself in that department, slim and healthy.

I look at his body in an attempt to detect the evidence of an overstayed welcome in the burger bar. Although he appears himself in this department too I notice an extra hood attached to his hoodie. Hang's not attached, it's under the one he's wearing.

'Mark, how many hoodies are you wearing?' I enquire.

'Two, Coach. It's cold out there you know,' he answers.

'Take them both off, you lemon,' I reply.

With the hoodies removed a sweatshirt sits atop Mark's torso with......yep, I'm not seeing things.....a man-bag strapped around his chest.

'Take your bag off too,' I say in an exasperated voice. 'And while you're at it take your tracksuit bottoms off.'

The man-bag gets laid down on the floor and the tracksuit bottoms come down to reveal....another pair of tracksuit bottoms underneath.

'Mark, I ain't trying to be funny, but you've either been on a shoplifting mission in Debenhams or you've been running naked through TK Maxx covered in glue.'

'Coach!' Mark pleads. 'I really feel the cold and I need my bag for my phone and keys.'

Eventually, a rather large pile of clothes topped by a faux Gucci man-bag sit by the set of scales and Mark climbs back on them to watch the needle sweep around the dial and settle nicely at 76kg. He's walking around at his fighting weight and can comfortably continue to eat and drink normally in the run up to Saturday. No starving or dehydrating for him even though he's wearing enough clobber to clothe a small family.

'Good lad,' I tell him. 'Keep doing what you're doing.'

There's an old adage in boxing that I don't believe exists in other sports and I've certainly never heard it in relation to running. I actually believe it to be a myth but it goes something like: 'In the run up to a fight, sex will make you weak so cold showers and abstinence are the order of the day.'

If I were to believe that to be true I've got no worries where Mark's concerned because if he were to find himself in an amorous encounter with his girlfriend by the time he'd stripped that little lot off she would have got fed up and gone to sleep.


Never Judge a Book

Monday, 24 March 2014

As you may be aware this blog was supposed to be about running. Admittedly it was supposed to be a foil to the time and distance obsessed blogs you might encounter, but I intended it to include something of the sport of quickly putting one foot in front of the other.

I suppose my absence from the blogosphere, and the distinct lack of running related material, both indicate something of a divorce from the sport. But let's be honest here, I was never much of a runner anyway and it's unlikely the sport will mourn my absence.

I suppose I could gain succour from the fact that my love affair with stumbling and tripping around the Scottish countryside lasted significantly longer than any romantic involvement Katie Price has ever indulged in. And I never subjected myself to nights alone with the Lego rocket scientist, Peter Andre. 

But my real and long-lasting love has always been with the sport of boxing. It began in 1975 when my old man got so fucked off with me asking him to play football with me on our balcony during the summer holidays that he shipped me off to the Brixton and District Amateur Boxing Club (by the way, a balcony in this context is something that was provided by Southwark Council to accommodate a coal bunker in their social housing stock rather than a viewpoint with French doors that overlooks a pool. But I'm kinda thinking you realised that).

Anyway, after a few years of mixed pugilistic success I walked away from the sport to indulge my captaincy of the regimental drinking team. I returned some years later to be dealt a very short and violent welcome back but began coaching at the boxing club near where I work. Now, I should admit that my initial thought, when invited to engage with the wild young things of Battersea, was: 

'I spend enough time during my working day having television sets launched at me from the twelfth floor of the Winstanley estate by the little bastards to want to spend my evenings in their company too (an 'estate' in this context is a dastardly grouping of council housing blocks, designed by Lucifer himself, to enable the discreet sale of narcotics and the casual murder of its residents rather than a rolling country pile....but I'm thinking you realised that too).'

But engage I did and the fruits if that engagement were told within he pages of the Firefighter magazine.

Now, in my four years of working with young boys (and on occasion girls) at the Battersea Caius Amateur Boxing Club I've been waiting to experience the youths I imagined might walk through those doors. You know the ones I mean: trousers round their arse, tattoos on their necks, and knives in their waistbands. So far I'm still waiting.

We work in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police and offer young people a physically and mentally healthy alternative to a progression through the judicial system. One such boy was referred to us; at 16 he was already guilty of something that the millionaire Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling would have him jailed for life. 

So, the boy turns up, a snarling, swaggering product of South London's sewers. He's been given the opportunity to fight as a way out of violent crime and as an alternative to being incarcerated in an institution where violence and intimidation are the highest currency. Apparently something of an irony from the rule-setters but one where he feels quite at home. Why not go for it?

After an initial introduction where it's explained that, in this establishment, no judgement is made on a past, and all that's expected is sweat and hard work, our young boy settles down and cracks on with the training. He works hard, the snarling and swaggering subside, and beneath all that is a nice, polite young boy. 

Is this someone in desperate need of a positive role model? I like to think so. Others have suggested that his demonstration of deference is merely fear at getting a right hander from his mentors but I argue that you need to take a look at this lad. If I had his skill at 16 the position of Captain of the drinking team would have been occupied by someone else other than me. The lad has inate skill and ability and can live with all of the coaches at the club.

On Saturday he'll be pitched into his first amateur contest. In the leafy environs of Dorking. The nervousness I feel in my own heart is something that's been absent for a very, very long time. I know how our young lad feels because my own memories still exist from 25 years ago. 

It's certainly something that running never brought me. Maybe that's why I was so shit.

Writing a Future

Friday, 21 March 2014

As time inexorably marches on the date of my retirement from the London Fire Brigade grows ever nearer. OK, so it's still almost five years away but if I consider how quickly the past five years have disappeared, the requirement for my attendance in the bad lands of SW11 will cease before I know it.

So thoughts have been swirling around in my brain of a replacement career. I like to brag about being pretty unemployable in any other field than fire-fighting, technical rescue or life-taking. But apart from my service with the fire brigade and army, in my 47 years on this planet I've earned a crust from building, painting and decorating, door security, body guarding and boxing coaching, so maybe not so unemployable.

You might agree that all of the employment opportunities mentioned above sit well within the practical, male dominated fields. Well, I've been thinking that there's a so far untapped cerebral well of possibility, tied up somewhere in my history degree or my willingness to sit in front of a keyboard and tap two fingered into it to produce written nonsense that no one will ever read.

So yesterday I found myself a guest of the Pegasus Luncheon Club at the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge. I was there with my very good pal, Boris, a former fire-fighter and WOII in the Parachute Regiment. The event was a lecture on the security aspects of obsession and stalking and was delivered by a bouffant haired former police officer-turned security consultant.

On our arrival the club's grandfather clock had just struck midday and the bar was empty. A discussion regarding our chosen tipple was led and decided upon by Boris, and despite my reservations, a bottle of red wine and two glasses were placed in front of us before you could say 'scene set for a mess.'

The picture below shows me and Boris, suited and booted at the beginning of the afternoon and most importantly, coherent (sober). 

Shortly after the cork was popped a fella that I've chatted to before entered the premises. Max Arthur, author of a number of military tomes and all round good guy. I think our discussion centred around what he's currently working on and when it might be published.....the same discussion I've had with him on a number of occasions mainly because the subjects of fighting and women's breasts don't seem to enter his radar too regularly.

Anyway, the lecture got underway and the lecturer did a fine job. I discovered that Michael Fagan, the popular hero who entered Her Maj's bedroom and sat on her bed actually intended to rape her; a detail that, if widespread, might remove some of his notoriety and discourage idiots like the Bollock Brothers from entertaining the fool.

I also discovered that Thomas Hamilton wrote an 'end of tether' letter to the Queen a few weeks before his wrath was loosed in Dunblane (the Royal Family seem to feature heavily in these issues). Unfortunately the Royal Household's mail protocols meant that Hamilton's letter was opened some six months after the massacre.

Anyhoo, it was as Boris, Max and I absorbed these tales (and a fuckin shit load of red wine) that an idea came to me for a novel. Spookily a similar idea came to Max and a look was exchanged between us and somehow I knew he was thinking similarly.  A hushed comment or two preceded him passing me his card and asking me to contact him outside this environ regarding our joint idea.

Fast forward a day and I have Max's card in front of me. I also have my phone and my PC. What I don't have is any recollection of my idea for a novel as it was washed away by another couple of bottles of wine. The photo below tells the story. Coherence and sobriety are clearly absent.

So what have I learned from this?

1. Expect a pukka novel from Max Arthur.
2. Don't expect a pukka novel from me.
3. Maybe seek alternative employment as a wine taster.
4. I'm a cunt.
5. Laters.

For Murdo the Magnificent

Monday, 3 March 2014

A comment was made to me recently regarding relating stories from the streets and alleys of Battersea where I'm employed as a firefighter. Once upon a time I did this regularly, then after a wee hiccup, decided against it. What I have to say is that since then there has been much bloggable material but I've refrained from putting these stories into the written form. But I have enough material for a book and, while sat on the loo at the fire station, mulled this over in my mind. If I start work on it now it could be finished by the time my 30 years pensionable service are complete (under five years to go).

This sent me to my electronic library of stuff I've written and among all the reports, memoranda and policy notes I found a few blog reports that were written and posted, then deleted some time later. I found the blog report below and after a wee bit of editing, believe it's quite safe for reposting. What I should say is that the opinions are my own and not those of my employer and remember, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

It’s been a while since I posted a report from the bad lands of SW11, home of the iconic power station and abode for abandoned dogs and cats.

That’s because the natives of Battersea have been reasonably well behaved of late and so have curtailed their blogability. This was put right in the wee hours of this morning when we were called to a fire in a nearby road. There was no precise address given but located within said road is an accommodation block for transient, rehabilitating folk with a fondness for illicit substances.

Sure enough, on arrival at the loose location for a fire, no precise address was required as the smoke issuing from the second floor of the block mentioned above indicated the location of the blaze.

So, two of Battersea’s finest and I make our way to the second floor armed with hose reel, axe and enforcer and rigged in breathing apparatus.

cursory bang on the front door precedes the inevitable transformation of the door’s status as wooden security barrier into matchwood.

But what’s this?

Before I can issue the order 'smash the door down,' a bleary-eyedKappa tracksuit-clad resident answers the door (incidentally I'm creating a guide to fire service orders that won't be found within the Fire Service Drill Book. 'Smash the door down' sits alongside another order I issued recently that went like this: 'get tooled up'.....another story).

Anyway, imagine the scene: three gear armed firefighters stand on a landing on the second floor while a blinking, unshaven resident stands in the darkened flat looking out.

‘What the fuck do you want?’ he grunts.

As I consider politely explaining that we’re in attendance to extinguish the developing fire in his kitchen, I decide to dispense with the formality. My hand, placed squarely in his chest with moderate force, reduces him to a sitting position and we charge over him into his kitchen.  

Whatever food he had decided to cook prior to heading off to the land of nod is now ablaze and threatening to engulf the whole room (KFC was obviously closed). I mentally log the requirement for me to educate Mr Kappa tracksuit in the folly of combining cooking and sleeping and set my lads the task of extinguishing the fire.

The remarkable quality of water to cool and smother the hot red stuff is demonstrated in quick time and after ensuring that the fire is out I seek out Mr Kappa tracksuit.

He’s no longer seated in the hall by the door.

He must be outside then.

Nope, not outside.

With a neighbour?


As I wander about the flat and pass the bedroom I notice a form beneath the crumpled, dirty duvet.

I enter the darkened room and click on my torch.

Sure enough Mr Kappa, still clad in his tracksuit, is curled up in his bed and sleeping like a baby.

Meanwhile two hairy-arsed firemen drag a sodden and dripping hose out of the flat, the fire alarm continues to howl like a menopausal banshee, and the acrid smell of burning lingers in the air.

I make sure the flat is free of smoke and Mr Kappa is tucked in and we leave.

There is a fear among my colleagues that as we continue to fit domestic smoke alarms in every residence in London and carry out HFSRAs (Home Fire Safety Risk Assessments) that real firefighting action will become as redundant as Cliff Richard’s penis.

Not as long as Kappa tracksuit wearing customers continue to do their best to burn London to the ground.