Structural Collapse

The radio sparked into life, “General Broadcast, General Broadcast – are there any crews able to deal with a ceiling collapse on a mother and her two year old child?”

It sounded like an interesting job, so we asked for it to be sent down to us.  I was driving but despite this we were soon at the house.  From the outside everything looked normal.

However, inside the house it was pure chaos.

There were seven children running around the house, all of them under the age of twelve.  A single mother was clutching her two year old to her chest.  At first glance they looked unharmed.  The mother seemed more frightened and angry than injured.

We soon got the full story, the mother and her child were having a nap in the bedroom when the ceiling had fallen on them.  We entered the bedroom expecting a few scraps of plaster.  Instead we were met with the sight of a 1 1/2” ‘plaster and lathe’ ceiling, a huge chunk of this had fallen six foot onto the bed.

This is the hole in the ceiling – it was about five foot in diameter.

Hole in the ceiling

This was the rubble left on the floor.

Rubble on the bedroom floor

Rather understandably the woman was a bit upset – the pieces of plaster that had dropped on her were about the size of my hand and were over an inch thick.  I couldn’t estimate the total weight of the plaster, but each lump was very heavy.

It was now the headache I’d thought I’d gotten rid of earlier in the evening started to return.

As a single parent who had just moved into the area she had no other relatives to help look after the children – so she was refusing to go to hospital.  My crewmate took her and the toddler into the ambulance so that he could examine her more fully.  If he found nothing too serious then we could leave her at home to look after her children.

So off they went to the ambulance…

Which left me looking after six anklebiters.

I don’t like children.

While he was in the ambulance my crewmate phoned the patient’s GP and arranged for them to come and visit the patient.  He then arranged for the police to turn up and give the patient some legal advice.  Rather obviously the patient was a trifle annoyed at the landlord who had assured her that the house was fit to be lived in.

Meanwhile I was doing my best to entertain the children.  My best wasn’t enough.

I was relieved when the childrens older brother arrived with some takeaway chicken meals.  Yes – there was now eight children in the house of this 36 year old woman.  This older brother was more like a father to the children and he soon had these apparently feral children under control.

Luckily for the woman and her child our initial guess was correct – neither her nor her child were seriously injured.


My crewmate and I escaped from the scene as soon as the police arrived.

14 thoughts on “Structural Collapse”

  1. A busy woman indeed and obviously not concerned with the fact that children are expensive. Bless her, how does she manage to support her sprawling family? Oh, wait, it is US supporting them.

  2. Takes me back….. about 25 years to (dare I say) a male ward at St Albans city Hospital…There we all were, waiting for the lunch trolly, when the bog ceiling fell down!!! No one hurt, just piles of dust everywhere!!!!

    Nodoubt, these days, there would be loads of enquiries, then, we black bagged the mess, dished up dinner & dumped the bags in a skip, the following day.

  3. It is true that Galton estimated the odds of two fingerprints being identical at 64 billion to one: however, the number of points of reference that courts accept as being conclusive imply much lower odds than that. Indeed, there has been much debate about the number of points of reference that ought to be accepted as conclusive – suggestions made in double-blind refereed journals range from as few as six to as many as fifteen.I'm not aware that anyone has “made like they are superior”.

  4. steady on.yes, it's entirely possible that your assumptions are correct, that this woman AND her partner or partners have been producing kid after kid on the basis that the tax payer will look after the expenses, or alternatively they are too stupid to understand how condoms work.

    It's also possible that the woman and her husband planned on a big family and then he died and she was left to cope with a brood of kids and her grief. Maybe that's why she moved away. Perhaps he didn't die, perhaps he left her because he couldn't deal with working and looking after that many kids after all.

    Maybe the father(s) of the kids pay maintenance, takes them off her hands of a weekend, whatever. Maybe he doesn't/they don't.

    But you don't know, so before you go getting judgemental about someone where you don't know the full story, think about how you would cope if your life suddenly went tits-up and there wasn't a benefits system in place to at least keep you mostly fed, clothed and housed until you could get back on your feet.

    Yes, people abuse it, but you can't assume everyone does.

  5. (re batsgirl) Not only that, but statistically the number of people who abuse the system amounts to a small amount of money, Call that “x” as we scientists like to do. Compare that to the waste of money on corporate welfare, which is about 10,000x. If you're actually worried about the waste of *money*, welfare mothers are not the problem.

  6. My kitchen ceiling collapsed in my old flat – just exactly as you describe. Chunks of plaster an inch thick and the size of my (not exactly small) hands. It demolished my microwave – the top was dented so badly that the door wouldn't shut and the waveguide was knocked through the top of the oven bit itself. I'd just done a load of dishes, which were on the draining board – all broken, and the stainless steel draining board had dents in it. It probably (from my neighbour's description) happened ten minutes after I left, just after I'd been washing the dishes…

  7. Hear, Hear, Batsgirl and Quixote.Well done Tom at dealing with the 'anklebiters,' I don't 'do' children either!


  8. No, it is not a statement of fact. It is a statement of assumption, and therefore a judgement. We do not know, from the information provided, what “their” means of support actually is, and cannot blindly assume that it is “us.”

  9. no, it's not a statement of fact. It's an assumption.The father or fathers of the kids could be paying maintenance, in which case that is offset against any state benefits they receive from the taxpayer. There could be a trust fund or an inheritance paying out a certain amount each month. The woman could, although it's unlikely, be a lottery winner, living in rented accomodation while she waits for the purchase of her new mansion to go through. We *don't know*.

    Whereas RandomKitten's statement has assumed that the woman and her children are living entirely off state benefits.

    Furthermore, Randomkitten also stated that the woman was “obviously not concerned with the fact that children are expensive”. This is the bit that is most judgmental, the way I read it. The woman may have been in completely different circumstances when she was getting pregnant.

    The only “facts” we can extrapolate from what Reynolds has told us is that she is *currently* a single 36 year old woman with eight kids who has just moved to the area and is living in a rented house.

    We can't guess why she has that many kids, or why she moved house, or what's happened to the children's father or fathers, or by what means the family is supported. We certainly can't declare our guesses to be statements of fact.

  10. Our lounge ceiling did that a few years ago. Our problem is we own the flat though so we had to pay for the repair. Which still isn't complete 2 years on!And, assumptions aside, one thing we do know is fact is that our world is vastly over populated *shrugs*

  11. There comes a point at which even circumstantial evidence becomes so overwhelming that it is accepted as conclusive, e.g. few would dispute fingerprint evidence. No doubt different people differ on when that point is reached: I'm convinced that a 36 year-old mother of eight “apparently feral” children living in unsafe, rented accommodation is in receipt of state benefits, whereas, apparently, others consider it just as likely that she is, for example, the beneficiary of a trust fund.Occam's Razor – ever heard of it?

  12. yes, I have heard of Occam's Razor.I don't recall any part of it that gives others the right to make like they are superior for having different life circumstances.

    Any group of children will act up when, in addition to moving away from their school and their friends and their familiar surroundings and the members of their family other than their mum and siblings, the damn ceiling falls down and mum is shaken up and the littlest one is crying and then an ambulance with blue flashing lights turns up and mum gets in it…

    There's also a couple of people posting further down who've had ceilings fall down. Are you assuming anything about them? When I moved into my rented flat in a “professional adults only, no dss” etc flat block a couple of years ago it had just had a full refit, because the bathroom ceiling had fallen down. It happens.

    While I accept that it is *more likely* that, at this point in their life, the family is supported by state benefits or a combination of state benefits and child maintenance, it's by no means the only explanation possible and a long way from being an established fact. I feel that it is wrong to leap to a conclusion and then make value judgements about this woman. I'd hate it if someone did that to me.

    (You mention “fingerprint evidence”. The odds of two fingerprints being the same are estimated to be one in 64 billion. Even my wacky lotto theory is better odds than that.)

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