On Monday 29th February (Leap Year!) I started my full week's Breathing Apparatus course at the Training Centre, which I had been dreading for ages. A few weeks ago, one of the Watches had said it would be hard - harder than Firecraft Week (which I had found very gruelling). It turned out that I found this week much better! I coped with the weight of the air cylinder and harness OK, and though going under air and doing an exercise in the Operational Training Building is hard work, it's only for 25 minutes or so at a time.
We spent quite a bit of time in lectures, servicing our Breathing Apparatus (BA), and cleaning up everything afterwards. I found it quite difficult remembering all the aspects of testing your kit, as it is quite technical, and there are a lot of stages.
Donna childminded Harry.
On Tuesday we piled into two fire engines and drove to Marshall's Airport near Cambridge. I sat in the passenger seat and had a nice chat with Watch Olivier who was driving, who has a kid in the same school as mine. The guys on the course showed me some video afterwards of him cage fighting - he is lethal!!
At Marshall's, they have some metal containers, and they'd set the end of one up as a room, with wooden walls and furniture etc. We then sat down the sides of the container in BA, and watched as a small fire was started and spread, so that eventually the entire end of the container was alight, with swirling flames in the gas layer above our heads. We used Thermal Imaging Cameras to see the temperature, which was over 650 degrees! They warned us that our clothes might actually start pyrolising (decomposing due to heat), but it didn't seem too bad!
After a packed lunch, they then set another container alight, and had us go in in two's with a hose, and practice door entry, fire fighting and gas cooling techniques. It was a pretty good day.
I had a pretty emotional day on Thursday - I'd had a really sore throat all night and was tired out, plus my period started. I made silly mistakes setting up in the morning, and felt close to tears, then every time a Watch asked if I was OK, I cried!! I think I cried in front of three different Watches!
We spent the day going into the Operational Training Building (which is a huge warren of burnt, sooty rooms, with mainly metal furniture), doing search and rescue exercises with zero visibility (they smoked out the building, and even set up a large fire on one occasion). We used heavy cloth dummies as casualties which we'd try and find, and drag out the building. Then we'd sit down in our two's with a Watch for our debrief. (One hilarious point was when Sam admitted to carefully dragging an armchair cushion out, thinking it was a dummy!)
I wasn't particularly good (I'd feel totally disorientated and not have a very good mind map), but I found the debriefs really useful.
In one exercise and debrief the Watch was really cheesed off with my partner - shouting and swearing at him. I hadn't done a great job, but the Watch was fed up with my partner's attitude. After the debrief the Watch kept me back and asked if I was OK (he'd heard about me being upset earlier), which set me off again! We had a good talk - I told him my doubts about myself, but he said he'd spoken with the other Watches, and they were happy with the level I was at. He said I was an intelligent woman and he could see me being a Watch Commander myself at some point! He cheered me up enormously, and best of all I felt like I had taken the weight off myself. He said I was too hard on myself and couldn't expect to get it all perfect right now.
Also on Thursday, my friend Scott, had to leave the course. He'd had a hearing on Tuesday about a bad reference he'd received, and on Thursday, other officers made the decision to let him go. All of us including the Watches were surprised and sad.
Also on Thursday, Jack went on a trip to the Corn Exchange Theatre in Cambridge, for a poetry day. He enjoyed being out with his friends for the day, but said the poetry was pretty rubbish!
On Friday we had four assessments. We had a written test first, which was easy enough (I got 38/40), then I was first to go and do my BA wear. It went far better than any of my other wears during the week, and I was happy!
I then did a BA set description with Watch Carbis, where I had to talk through all the details of the cylinder, back plate, harness, Digital Display Unit and face mask. (I'd done a lot of revision in the evenings that week!)
I then did another BA wear as Matt Seymour's number 2, and didn't do a very good job for him, so felt bad. I asked a Watch if it would mess up his assessment result, and he said no, so I was a bit happier then.
I then had my Entry Control Officer test with Watch Carbis, which was straight forward enough. Afterwards he stayed talking with me for quite a while, about 'when' I'm a Fire Fighter, and giving me advice. I felt the shift from 'if you're lucky enough to get on your station' which the Watches have always said, to 'when you're on your station', and I began to feel for the first time that I might actually be a Fire Fighter, and that getting through my assessments next weekend was a real possibility! I'd never really let myself think about it before - it was always too stressful to think of everything I needed to do in between!
So I passed everything (everyone did), and went home delighted, but feeling rubbish with a bad cold. I couldn't get to sleep till 4.30am the next morning with it. I stayed in bed most of Saturday and Sunday, missing church.
Sunday 6th was Mothers' Day. I had lovely flowers, chocolates and cards. The headboard of my bed was a lovely eclectic mixture of stuff!
My card from Lucy.
I took Lucy for her Retinopathy test after school on Wednesday, which was ultra quick, as she managed to have the photos taken without needing eye drops.
On Thursday 10th, I took Tom to Peterborough City Hospital for an assessment of his teeth in preparation for a brace. I didn't have the satnav, and had no idea where the hospital was, so printed out some instructions and made Tom the navigator. It felt like quite a little adventure, which all went fine. The Orthodontist said he'd like to leave Tom for another couple of years before doing any work, to see how his jaw will develop. I also asked if he could take off the metal band left on one of Tom's teeth, and get the glue remnants off, which was great as that saves us a separate appointment at the Orthodonist.
I had training again on Thursday night, and we were in the yard doing ladder drills, which we'd not done in ages. Nobody else really wanted to, so I went first leading both the drill for the 9m and 13.5m ladders. I managed to remember everything, and got them both spot on, which was a good confidence boost.
I didn't do much studying during the week really. I just tried to distract myself from thinking about the upcoming final assessment weekend.
On Friday 11th, Jo invited me for lunch, for potentially my last free day before being on-call. (I won't be able to visit the farm when I'm on-call because it's too far from the fire station, and Jo is busy on my only weekday not on-call).
In the afternoon, I did a photography job for a LEAF report that Richard needs to submit. It was a nice afternoon - gorgeous light, and the countryside looked beautiful. I took pictures as evidence of different positive environmental features around the farm.
Picking up Harry from school on Friday (I still had my camera with me!) He had made a creepy mask.
Also on Friday I made some cakes for Max Coles from my course, as it was his birthday on the first day of the assessment weekend.
In the evening, I got on with studying.