Long term readers may have noticed that when I write about the London Fire Brigade I often indulge in some slight mocking. It's an attitude that is taught to you in training school and one that is continued by the 'old hands' of the service.
When you start in the ambulance service you find yourself asking why this is so, surely it can't just be because they often get to sleep all night while we get moaned at if we find ourselves blinking for longer than necessary?
After all, when dealing with an RTA, they are instrumental in turning a car into a convertible so we can safely get a patient out. Likewise, when something is on fire they are pretty good at throwing water at it.
The less charitable amongst us might also say that they are also experts at blocking off roads with a multitude of unnecessary appliances and flooding the streets with fire-fighters who then stand around and do nothing.
Maybe it follows that there is this derision because they work less than us, get paid more than us and for some reason end up on calendars and are drooled over by otherwise sensible young ladies.
So, jealousy really.
My crewmate and I were sent to a 'fire call' in a residential street – we arrived to find that the fire had already been put out, three fire trucks and about 12 fire-fighters had successfully dealt with an electrical fire that had caught a mattress alight. Our patient had been laying on the mattress at the time.
Surprisingly, for someone with very much reduced mobility, he'd managed to get himself out of the burning bed and into another room. Relatives had then called for the fire-fighters but by the time they arrived the fire had gone out itself causing minimal damage.
Our patient was more 'shook up' than seriously ill. He was a large fellow with a number of long-standing medical problems, including lung disease and the aforementioned mobility problems. As it was a foam mattress that had burned we decided to take the patient to hospital.
Meanwhile the dozen fire-fighters milled around chatting to the extended family of the patient, or stood on the pavement taking in the sun.
Then I heard the head fire-fighter (the one wearing a white helmet) suggest to the family that they could all stand for a cup of tea. As she left to start brewing he confided in me that it 'keeps them busy, and takes their mind off the fire', which is fair enough.
We soon got to carrying our large patient to the stairs where his installed stair-lift could do some of the hard work of getting him down from the upper floor of the house. It was a real struggle – the patient was large as well as heavy, and despite having leapt from his bed before he torched himself, now seemed largely unable to move.
So we puffed and we sweated and we strained – getting him downstairs and back onto our carry chair.
Then we had to move out of the way so that one of the women of the house could carry a tray full of tea out to the heroic fire-fighters that were chatting in their garden.
We left the house with every fire-fighter having their own cup of tea – can you guess what poor bastards didn't get a cup of tea? Yes, that's right, those of us actually doing some work.
Not that we would have accepted, we were looking after a patient after all, but it would have been nice to have been offered.
As I say, pure jealousy.
It seems that whenever I'm not working I miss all the excitement. Actually, having been involved in a few riots in the past, I'm rather glad that I wasn't working – for one thing I don't think that my stab vest still fits me.