Just a little bit (enough to justify the purchase of three lovely, old wooden sledges for instance). We’re ready and waiting. My kids are watching the special weather forecasts like hawks, we live in approximately the right bit of the country (over in the next county they’re snowed in) and we have a stack of warm clothes, carrots, pieces of coal and so on ready at the back door. Come on!
We live quite close to the big fire at Buncefield fuel depot (from the top of our village you can see the flames). Like everyone, I’m amazed that so few people were hurt but I find myself thinking about the poor sods who were right there, on site, at 6 O’Clock on Sunday morning. Britain’s most ignored group of workers: the security guards. Dozens of men working twelve hour shifts, men who work alone, watching assets that aren’t theirs and never will be and for minimum wage or thereabouts.
Security guards have been so thoroughly outsourced they’re practically invisible, disowned by the people whose premises they look after and ignored by everyone else. I think it’s a crime to have so alienated such a basic (and often directly customer-facing) business resource as the people who guard your shop or office by essentially dumping them on low-quality employers. I’d like to start a campaign to bring security guards back into the fold and make proper use of the resilience and resourcefulness on show before dawn on Sunday.
Local politics round my way is getting more interesting daily. An exciting and incendiary public meeting in the village tonight was about the nastiest and noisiest assembly I’ve seen since Heseltine swung the mace. The County Council is using a risk-based statistical method (provided by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) to trim fire stations from the county’s capacity. Our own mini West Lothian Question means the closure of our little part-time fire station has been approved by dozens of county councillors who’ll never visit, let alone represent, Radlett.
Although we’re now in what the local authority calls a ‘consultation period’ the whole thing smells like a done deal. The statistics are in and the council’s decision has already been made. I have a feeling that the only hope now is for a lot more of tonight’s deliberate and bloody-minded street politics.
Since the only way I got into the over-crowded hall was by pretending to be a photographer, I felt obliged to take a few pics.
There’s something about a big fire in a big field. In Britain we retain an atavistic taste for making a pile of wood and setting light to it. On Friday night in Radlett the parish council lit just such a big fire and fifty or sixty people came along to watch it burn. We were marking Trafalgar Day but we were also, if you ask me, quietly honouring fire itself… Practically a Pagan rite (and comfortably inside the M25 too).
More pics of the big fire here.
Radlett, the nice Hertfordshire suburb in which I live, is famous for many things – swinging, prostitution and credit card theft, for instance – but it also has a fire station and rather wonderful one too. It was built in 1907, paid for by a local subscription, and it’s staffed, to this day, by a band of retained (part-time) fire fighters who can often be seen sprinting from their homes or their day jobs to the station to attend a fire.
My kids visit the station for open days, the cubs and brownies try out the hose in the yard and the descendants of the station’s founders still live here. This is a profoundly important community resource with psychological as well as practical value. Naturally enough, the local authority now wants to close Radlett fire station and the community has risen against them.
I suspect that the local Fire & Civil Defense Authority has picked the wrong prosperous, connected and media literate suburb, though: the web site is up, the PR agency appointed and the village festooned with nicely printed banners and posters. I think we’ll be keeping that fire station.