Written & Published to raise funds for the UK’s FIRE FIGHTERS’ CHARITY.
There have been many occasions when I have had to rub my eyes in disbelief whilst staring at the ‘tip-out’ sheet, having been alerted to attend my local fire station in the dead of night, run into the Watch Room to tear off the print-out and hurriedly read its content before handing it over to the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the first ‘pump’!
‘Back in the day’, the print on the sheet would be indelibly marked on a sort-of cheap-looking, off-coloured cream paper which, at first glance, looked as though it had been recycled at least three times! The text itself was relatively small and always difficult to read off the light of a dim bulb in a station that was never especially well-lit in the first place (!) and always had an air of having been used in one of the older episodes of Dad’s Army! And, of course, this was long before the days of computer screens on appliances and highly-organised Control Centres using state-of-the-art technology to mobilise ‘pumps’ which, in terms of strategy, are now seen as transferable ‘assets’.
In fact, back then, we tended to rely heavily on our own local knowledge in order to find a target address, and, if we couldn’t, then we’d quickly thumb through a creased-up, dog-eared A-Z Map of the Area, which was always located in a folder next to the OIC’s seat on the front passenger side of the ‘pump’. This type of ad hoc method in finding addresses did create confusion at times, as new streets would suddenly emerge without any of us having much of a clue as to where they were! And, as a result, debates would ensue – sometimes quite heated! But, between the six of us, we’d usually work out the quickest route and how to get there safely!…
So, when the news came for us to attend a call-out relating to a ‘beached whale’ that had washed up near our ‘patch’, we all had a good idea of where that would be without having to refer to any local maps. In fact, I well remember my first instinct being to think back to my student days and having long discussions about one of its leading characters, the notorious, Captain Ahab, in what was and remains one of my favourite novels, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) – a cautionary tale, if ever there was one! (Full story available for 99p using PayPal)