The independent London newspaper

I’ve got to get a grip…

04 July, 2019

• YOUR piece featuring fire Commissioner Dany Cotton, who has worked hard to keep us safe, was welcome, (The fire chief and aftermath of Grenfell, June 27).

Fighting flames is never easy. The men and women acting under her are selfless, highly trained, experts risking their lives in situations of acute danger.

Gulliver’s talk with Ms Cotton sparked nightmares of a recent personal event which has caused me so much embarrassment.

I was home alone at just after 3am – I get up early quite regularly – and turned on the electric oven and hob. There was nothing amiss as far as I was concerned as I pottered about.

I had totally failed to spot a small plastic hair grip which someone had accidentally left on the stove. A shrill “bleep bleep” began as smoke gathered.

Realising the problem, I switched off the hob, opened doors and windows and sat back in the kitchen cursing whoever it was had left the grip.

Then came a voice loud and clear from the hallway giving me fire instructions and saying I should vacate. My wife had recently had an alarm installed and with it a speaking messenger, thanks to Camden Council and the NHS.

There remained that blasted bleep and “the voice”. I was getting more concerned at not being able to silence them. Would I disturb and annoy neighbours? Bleeps travel a long way in the gloom.

There was no fire, no damage, and no emergency as I saw it. I went to the front gate to determine if any adjoining windows had folks gazing from them. All was quiet except for that bleep.

As I stood outside I heard the rapidly advancing sound of the local fire brigade and pondered who it could be who had an emergency. When the engine drew up within sight it dawned that I was the culprit.

I waved in an attempt to indicate no urgency but then saw, to my horror and shame, a team of Ms Cotton’s finest and fittest operatives advancing towards me.

Five-handed and all kitted out from top to toe in uniform they checked that all was in order, back and front, inside and out, while this old B repeatedly apologised.

They were swift, efficient, professional and left no stone unturned. Speaking with kindness, concern and authority they were absolutely terrific in their approach. They deserve every penny they earn.

I’ll double check the stove in future but will my conscience ever forgive me? I need to get a grip – but not that sort.

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