“The car park seems very empty!” We looked about us. It was true. There should definitely be more cars, given the numbers due on the course. McColleague and I had wisely taken the back roads to our destination and were now disconcerted at being among the first to arrive. “Damn. We look keen now”.
Apparently there’d been a big pile-up on the motorway, which was the way the majority of attendees were travelling. McColleague and I duly dropped off our neatly labelled kit bags in the allocated gazebo and made our way inside. We then had to drink insane amounts of tea to pass the time until the course actually started, as several “key” people were stuck in traffic and we couldn’t begin without them.
“My attention span has already gone” bemoaned McColleague.
“Yes,” I agreed, “my optimum learning time is between 9 and 10am, so it’s all downhill from now on.”
Finally, at about 10.20am we were called through to begin the training day. Rows and rows of chairs laid out before us, a projector screen and laptop at the front – I could sense an imminent Powerpoint presentation brewing. Bugger. “Where do you want to sit, McColleague?”
“At the back. So we can text”.
Ah, sensible McColleague. Text saves many a dull meeting or presentation. Press press press - “I R Bored” – send.
The Powerpoint presentations were just as arse numbingly dull as anticipated. Shame really. I mean the subject matter should be gripping – Fire! Flood! Emergency Situations! But no. In reality, after the nth slide of something on fire (of which you can only see the top left hand corner anyway, due to the sea of heads in front of you) interest levels had slumped. And people who put up slides full of tiny text and then read it out to you make me want to do bad things to them. Very bad things. Good job I drank all that tea, really. It gave me reasons to leave the room before I did something unspeakable with a biro.
Still, it wasn’t all sitting around being talked at and texting. We did have lots of interesting workshops on various salvaging methods for various materials – like stone, ceramics, textiles, paintings and so on. Then, best of all, we had a full blown emergency exercise, complete with fire engines and flashing lights and men in uniform. When the alarm sounded we all had to exit the building and make our way to the gazebo where we had left our kit bags earlier. We then had to put on said kit, outside, in the dark and the rain. I looked at my many colleagues, hopping about on one leg, trying to get their clumpy protective boots on, or attempting to fasten their tyvek overalls.
I turned to McColleague. “Why don’t we take our stuff to the toilets, and put it on in the warm and dry? With the light on?”
Five minutes later McColleague was laughing at my NHS-glasses-style headlamp.
“The problem is, “I explained, “that there are no clips with it, so the elastic band slides off the helmet and the lamp is catapulted a fair distance, if you’re not careful.”
McColleague was not careful. Her headlamp catapulted itself to the toilet floor with a satisfying clatter of plastic and batteries. We then both managed to overtighten the headstraps in our helmets.
“Ow! I can't wear this. It’s giving me a headache!”
“Let’s just carry the helmets for now”.
Eventually we did manage to get all component parts of the kit to function and fit adequately. We salvaged items and packed them in bubble wrap, in crates. I had to do it in the style of a finishing school graduate, of the book-balanced-on-head-for-excellent posture variety, as every time I bent forward my helmet would fall off. Our team leader had a task for me.
"Now, I want you to pack up the items on the mantelpiece. But not the clock. That candlestick, those ornaments, not the clock and the other candlestick. Don't touch the clock."
"So, basically, you're saying everything except the clock".
"Yes. Not the clock".
"Right oh!" I exclaimed, cheerfully. "So, that's everything on the mantelpiece and especially the clock."
Not everyone shares the same sense of humour in an emergency situation.
Still, we were obviously the most organised and efficient, as our team was the first to finish. “Good work, McColleague,” I said as we stuffed our kit back in the bags. “Now let’s get out of here. I need to get home and salvage my wine stash.”