Monday 21 October 2013

Nice little learner

  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I've changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people might find offensive.

Ambulance post 9)

I’d been in the job a few weeks now, and although I was still a bit jumpy when the phone rang, I was starting to get used to the station and the ways of my colleagues. Nowadays all I did was to momentarily twitch - if I had a cup of tea in my hand at the time, then at least I had a spare pair of trousers in the locker.

I was working a late shift, a three to eleven. My colleague was on overtime as my regular crewmate was on leave. It was Denny, the old hand, who could be relied upon not to turn a hair at any incident, however serious.

I was out in the kitchen making tea as we had just come back from picking up an old lady who had fallen out of bed and couldn’t get up. It was a pretty quick job. Turn up, open door with the key hanging on a piece of string through the letter box, walk in, take a deep breath (had been there before and the place stunk) pick old lady up, clean the urine of our hands, and hurry back to station. Job done.

The kettle was boiling nicely and I had flung the teabags in the cups when the phone rang again. Denny picked it up as he was the attendant for the shift.

‘Come on Clive, we got a job,’ he shouted, as the phone rattled back down. ‘Collapse in a restaurant in town.’

It was about eight thirty in the evening, cold, wet, dark and miserable. I pulled the ambulance from out of the bay and as soon as Denny jumped on we headed off, blue lights reflecting off the rain which was now coming down in torrents.  Fortunately we hadn’t got far to go, just up the road to the high street, turn a right and then over the traffic lights. A couple of hundred yards later we saw someone standing with an umbrella trying to wave us down.

Denny picked up the radio and told control we were there. ‘731 in attendance red.’ And then he slammed the handset back down onto its cradle.

We both stood at the side of the road while the manager of the restaurant decided to tell us all about it. Water was dripping off us both and Denny, who was normally as patient as a saint, decided that he’d already had enough of getting soaked and walked off into the restaurant. The manager took one look at me, looked down his nose, and then hurried after Denny who was at that moment trying to shake the wet off his uniform. The people sitting at nearby tables were getting an impromptu shower, but then it got worse as I came through the door and did the same.

‘What’s the problem?’ asked Denny, getting things back on track. ‘Where’s the patient?’

The manager pointed to the back of the room where a few diners were standing up and looking down on something lying on the floor. Denny shouldered the response bag and led the way over while I scurried behind with the oxygen.

Most of the diners had had their appetite momentarily curtailed as the drama at the back continued to unfurl, though a few diehards were ignoring everything and continued to eat as if nothing was going on.

‘Hello mate,’ shouted Denny can you hear me?’

I craned my head around and saw a fifty-something year old man lying in the recovery position. He was wearing a tired looking suit and had greasy dark hair. Fortunately he appeared to be breathing normally.

The manager told us that the gentleman had just finished eating when he suddenly groaned and collapsed to the floor. He appeared to have a fit of some description and then went still.

 Denny nodded sagely as the story was told and then bent down and began to examine our patient. The manager turned to me and started to repeat everything again, whether it was for my benefit or for the patrons in the restaurant, I didn’t know, but he was evidently enjoying being centre stage.

Suddenly the door opened and in walked Reg, the police officer who spent more time at the ambulance station than we did. He was always there cadging tea, and once, when he didn’t answer his radio, a police vehicle was sent down to us in order to find him. ‘Hello boys,’ he said. ‘You alright? Saw the motor outside and thought I’d see what’s going on.’

Denny turned his head and grinned. He finished his examination and then stood up. ‘Hello Reg,’ he replied. ‘This could be one for you; I reckon it’s just up your street.’

‘Oh? Why’s that then?’

Denny turned to the manager. ‘Has he paid?’ he asked with a resigned sigh.

The manager shook his head. ‘No, he’d only just finished the meal. I hope it isn’t something he’s eaten.’

‘Could be,’ replied Denny mischievously. ‘Or it could be that he hasn’t got any money.’ He turned to look down at the patient. ‘Ain’t that right my son,’ he yelled.’ If you don’t get up I’m going to have to check your reaction to pain. Your choice.’

The patient didn’t move, but Reg did. He looked at Denny, looked at the man on the floor, and then looked back at Denny. He too then grinned. ‘Well I never, if it isn’t Thomas. Hello Thomas. You up to your old tricks again?’ Reg turned to the manager. ‘This particular gentleman will not be going to hospital. Where he will be going, unless he pulls out his wallet, is a nice comfy cell at the station.’

The patient stirred. ‘Wha..? Where am I? What’s going on?’ He opened his eyes and looked around and then tried to get up, making a remarkable instant recovery.

Reg leant forward to help, grabbing him around the arm and yanking him to his feet. ‘Don’t take the piss Thomas,’ he hissed into his ear. ‘You got any money?’

Thomas looked at Reg as if weighing up his options but then realised that he was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was either going to have to pay up or spend another night in the police cells. He really didn’t have a choice. Reluctantly, he paid up, the angry diners and restaurant staff ready to wring his neck.

The manager was furious, but he was only a long line of restaurant managers who had fallen for the trick. Thomas had outstayed his welcome in the eateries of Hemel as he’d been plying the ruse regularly there over the last few weeks. Concluding that it might be a good move to have a break, he decided to move over to Berko to try his luck there. The idea was to eat the dinner and then fake a collapse and hope that the staff would conveniently forget the bill as he would ask to be taken outside for some air. He had also fooled an ambulance crew, who took him to hospital only to have him do a runner as soon as they pulled up outside the A & E. Denny wasn’t fooled and knew that Thomas was trying it on, something that I would have to learn pretty quickly.

Reg had come across him a couple of weeks before when doing a shift in Hemel, one reason why Thomas decided to move towns. It was poetic that Reg followed us in just then!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Review of White Gold by Rachel Amphlett

White Gold is a fast paced action thriller which speeds across the globe.

Dan Taylor, a bomb disposal expert, finds that a lecture tour by his old friend has a dramatic effect on his future. He has a message which catapults him in to conflict with large conglomerates that are not as law abiding as they profess to be. 

An alternative energy supply is discovered which could have a far reaching impact and Dan struggles to sort out the tangled webs of intrigue.

The writing is crisp and the plot believable. The characters are well drawn and develop further as the narrative progresses. The style is reflective of the thrillers of Robert Ludlum as the main protagonist unearths the truth behind the conspiracies. 

A good modern old-fashioned heart-pumping page-turning thriller. 


Monday 30 September 2013

First job.

  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I've changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people might find offensive.

The year is 1981

One thing about working on an ambulance at Berkhampstead in the early eighties was that it couldn’t be said to be busy. My first morning in my new job saw me drinking tea, smoking and pacing around the station, ostensibly to find my way around. However, Berko was a small station, so it didn’t take very long. On a Sunday there was just one crew on, and we were it, the seven to three crew.

 We worked a three shift pattern; seven in the morning until three in the afternoon, then three until eleven at night, and then the night shift, which was from eleven to seven in the morning, doing each eight hour shift for seven days in a row.

Matt spent most of the morning asleep, while I was still too twitchy to even think about closing my eyes. There was no morning telly in those days, so the box sat idle in the corner. I picked up my book, read a little and then put it back down again. Stupidly I left my lunch box at home as I was thinking about what my day would entail and walked out forgetting to pick it up. I was hungry but had nothing to eat.

Matt continued to snore until a sharp piercing ring rang through the station. I jumped. It was the red phone! I leapt up and went through to the office as Matt was still groggy from sleep. Normally the attendant answered the phone while the driver made the tea, but he sort of waved a floppy arm and mumbled that I should answer it.

‘Hello, Berko,’ I said tremulously.

‘ ‘allo Berko, is that Clive?’


‘Not done a lot this morning, ‘ave you?’


‘Never mind. Seeing that you’ve ‘ad a good sleep, you may as well ‘ave a dinner as well. Time for break.’
‘Oh, right. Thanks.’

I put the phone down and went back to the crew room. Matt looked up with a questioning eyebrow.

‘They said it’s time for break.’

‘Oh good,’ came the reply.

Immediately he began to rummage in his bag and brought out a box of sandwiches. I looked on slightly enviously as mine were still sitting on the table back home. It was only another three hours, so I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to wait a little longer.

Matt was munching through his sandwiches and chatting at the same time, I began to learn a little bit more about the station and the service as a whole when the phone rang again. Matt sort of gave a yelp of delight and jumped up to answer. The delight was because if you got a spoiled meal break, you got money for having the break interrupted. I could hear a few yes’s and righteo’s and then I heard the phone hit the cradle.

‘We got a red call,’ he called out, and then came through clutching a piece of paper. ‘Collapse, sudden illness. Not too far, just around the corner really.’

My heart began to race and already I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my system. I hoped I would get used to all this as if this happened every time the phone rang I would be knackered by the end of the day.
I jumped into the driver’s seat while Matt pulled the appliance room door open. I drove out and waited as he closed it. He then jumped in and gave me the address.

‘Er...Where’s that?’

Matt was very patient. ‘Do a right down Castle Street, I’ll guide you the rest of the way.’

I switched the headlights on and pulled the switch to turn on the blue lights. I put the motor into gear, released the clutch and then we sort of kangerooed across the yard. The clutch was a bit fierce. I jumped on the brake and brought the vehicle to a stop. I grinned an apology and then tried again, this time managing to drive the bloody thing properly.

We had the address, but details of the job were scant. Just a collapse/sudden illness, which in reality could mean anything. Matt guided me through the streets to a very well-to-do road with big modern detached houses. He checked the address and we pulled up outside. We got out and started to walk to the front door. Matt turned around and looked at the vehicle.

‘I think it might be a good idea to turn them off.’ He pointed to the roof where the blue lights were still revolving; I’d forgotten to turn them off. ‘I don’t think we’re going to need them here.’

Sheepishly I turned around and went back, switched the blue lights off, and then the headlights, as I had left them on as well, and hurried back just as the front door opened.

A well dressed middle aged woman stood there looking worried and upset.

‘Oh God, I’m glad you’re here. He’s in the front room.’

‘What’s the problem?’ asked Matt.

‘It’s my husband. He’s a diabetic.’

She showed us into the front room and there was a smart middle aged man sitting on the sofa. He was twitchy and looked up at us.

‘I think he needs some sugar,’ said the woman.

Matt nodded. ‘Have you tried a strip?’ he asked.

There were only a few glucometers around in those days, though patients did have impregnated strips which turned colour when blood was applied. You then matched the colour against a card to determine whether the patient was hypoglycaemic.  Nowadays, all crews have glucometers and are able to either inject with Glucagon or are able to put up glucose drips, but then.....nothing!

She shook her head. ‘No, I tried but he wouldn’t let me.’

‘Ok, let us try,’ said Matt. ‘Have you got the stuff there?’

She nodded and then handed over the kit she had. He turned his attention to the patient. ‘Hello sir, we’re here to help. We just want a little pinprick of blood.’ He went to grab hold of his hand but the patient pulled it away.

‘Fuck off!’ he yelled, flailing an arm at Matt.

Matt ducked and tried to grab the arm as it whizzed past his ear. ‘Grab hold of the other arm Clive,’ he said to me.

I did as was told and grabbed hold, pinning his arm to his side. The patient turned to look at me. ‘Fuck off!’ he yelled into my face, and then the arm that Matt was trying to catch came flying towards me. I tried to duck and move out of the way, but I was too slow. The fist came round and smacked me in the side of the head.

I saw stars for a few seconds. ‘What the ....?’ I went to yell, as a kind of reflex; then I remembered where I was and what I was meant to be doing.

‘Now, now. There’s no need for that sir,’ says Matt calmly. ‘You alright Clive?’ he added to me, a little smirk playing at his lips.

‘Yes,’ I said, my ear still ringing from the punch.

‘I think we are just going to have to get some sugar in him,’ he turned to the woman. ‘Have you got some jam, not diabetic jam though?’

‘Yes,’ says the woman and she rushed off to the kitchen while Matt and I struggled to keep hold of the patient. He was strong and extremely aggressive. The language became courser and he continued to try to hit and kick out, when that failed he started to spit at us. It wasn’t the patients fault, hypoglycaemia can do that to people, but it felt like we were on the wrong end of a serious assault. The patient fought harder and I received another punch, but this time in the chest. Somehow Matt had avoided being hit, but I had copped it twice so far!

The woman returned with a jar and a spoon and handed it over. 

Matt held dug the spoon into the jam and then held it up to the patient’s lips. ‘Eat this,’ he ordered.

To my surprise the man did as was asked and opened his mouth. The man swallowed and Matt dug the spoon into the jam once more. As he ate the patient began to relax, the sugar beginning to get into his system.

Eventually we let go of him and his wife produced a Mars bar. The patient ate it greedily, and as he did so his demeanour changed dramatically. Jam was everywhere; on the patient, on us, on the sofa, on the carpet. I even saw some on the curtain. I took a quick glance at my watch; we had been inside the house for over half an hour.

‘Did I go hypo?’ he asked apologetically.

Matt nodded. ‘Yes sir, but you’re alright now.’

‘Did I hurt anyone?’

‘Not at all,’ replied Matt, giving me a quick look. ‘Not at all.’

The patient looked at me. ‘Are you sure?’

‘No problem,’ I said, knowing I was going to have a few bruises come out later. ‘You were no trouble at all.’

Wednesday 25 September 2013

A French fancy - a review of One Summer in France by Bev Spicer

Bev and Carol are off to France. A break from their student days takes them across the water to inflict their own personality on our gallic neighbours. One Summer in France is a delightful memoir full of charm and humour. The writing reminds me very much of Spike Milligan (not that she was in a war, but we are talking about France here.) insomuch as the narrative paints a vivid picture and is full of well timed punchlines and one-liners. A lovely little romp which deserves a good deal more exposure - rather like Bev and Carol’s foray to the nudist beach!

Suggest best read with a chilled bottle of Chablis and a bag of chips wrapped in newspaper.

One Summer in France (prequel to 'Bunny on a Bike')

Tuesday 24 September 2013

It begins

  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I've changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Emergency workers swear. I have used, and will use, some words that some people might find offensive.


Regional school ended in a flurry of exams and a party. Everyone passed, so everyone got hammered. It was a fitting end to six weeks of study.

Around the corner reality would bite into some of us pretty deep, as however true to life the school tried to make the various mock situations, it was no substitution for the real thing. Nice sterile conditions with plenty of fake blood and plastic bones, together with a patient who was trying their best not to burst out laughing were not how things would be once we were let loose on an unsuspecting public.

Sunday morning, 0700 hrs, my first shift begins.

It was dark, cold and drizzly as I walked up tentatively to the front door. Juggling my kit I pulled it open and stepped inside, I had crossed the threshold and there was no turning back now. It was warm inside with the heating going full blast. There were three people sitting on old arm-chairs with four steaming mugs of tea placed on the table. With a jolt of comprehension I realised that one of them was for me.

‘You decided to turn up then,’ said Maurice, grinning broadly. ‘We were wondering if you’d changed your mind.’

‘No, I’m not late am I?’ I replied. Worried that I had misread the time I should be starting. I gave the clock on the wall a quick glance, five to seven, five minutes early.

‘Not exactly late, but we all try and get in fifteen minutes before the shift begins, just in case a late job comes in.’

‘Oh, sorry.’

‘Never mind, you’ll know for tomorrow now, won’t you. That’s if you decide to come back of course. Tea’s on the table.’

I nodded and smiled nervously. ‘Er, yes. Um, thanks.’

I wasn’t sure I liked the “If you decide to come back” comment, what did that bode? And fifteen minutes? How many hours of overtime would that work out to over the years? Overtime that I wouldn’t get paid - ever.
I knew the name of my crewmate, but I hadn’t met him before. Matt held out a hand and then indicated a seat; he was in his forties with a thick mane of greying hair. ‘Don’t worry; it’ll take a bit of time to get used to the ways of the station. We all try and help each other out.’

‘Well, some of us do,’ interjected Maurice, enigmatically.

Matt smiled. ‘Well, yes. Alright, most of us try to help each other.’

Maurice seemed pleased with that response, so I could only assume that someone on the station wasn’t quite so keen to help out. Neither of them enlightened me, so I would have to find out for myself to whom they were alluding to.

The clocked ticked over and the big hand hit seven. Straight away Maurice and Denny stood up and went through to the vehicle to take their gear off. This meant that it was now my turn to play at being an ambulanceman.

Two minutes past seven the phone rang. My heart missed a beat and I froze in putting my kit on the vehicle. The ringing was cut off and I could hear Matt on the end of the phone, there was an extension in the appliance room, he laughed, and then he spoke quietly so I couldn’t hear. Matt turned and saw my face. I can only imagine that the colour had drained completely out of it.

‘They’re just checking we’re here, it’s not a job. What do you want to do, drive or attend?’

I sort of shrugged non-committedly as I took a deep breath and felt my heart began to work properly again.

‘You can drive in that case. Don’t panic, I’ll break you in gently.’

Thursday 5 September 2013

Regional school

  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I've changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Emergency workers swear. I have used, and will use, some words that some people might find offensive.


Regional training school came around rapidly and soon I was trundling off to Surrey. I shared my car with one of my colleagues and we were swopping stories as we drove down. It turned out that he had a little bit more to do during his riding out week, but he was at a main station whereas I was at a satellite. The difference was that where I was still optimistic, he looked a bit like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. The reality was that there was going to be more to this lark than either of us realised.

We were billeted in the nurses home of the local cottage hospital. It was somewhat run down, but it did have the advantage of having a canteen where we could buy cheap food. The training school itself was a couple of miles away and, after the first day, transport was arranged so that we didn’t all block up the car park.

There were twenty eight of us, all from differing counties.

The format was similar to the induction course that we had all just negotiated, the difference being now that it was much more involved in the emergency side of things. The instructors were seasoned and experienced and all of us quickly gelled as a group.

Alcohol played not a small part in this. We quickly came to the conclusion that sitting in a tiny little room of an evening and reading course books was perhaps not ideally suited to rest and relaxation. The pub pretty quickly became an extended part of the training school.

Mock situations came thick and fast throughout our time there. We all had a good grounding in the theory side from the induction course, so it was just a matter now of hammering it all home and to prepare us for what we might encounter out on the road. It was quite hectic.

At one point we all piled into mini-buses and travelled down to an airport. There was a plane used by airport staff for training purposes and now it was our turn. We took it in turns to arrange and supervise evacuations from every part of the plane. I can remember standing on the wing in the freezing cold and thinking ‘How did I get into this?’ as I stood looking down at the ground. It turned out that the hardest place to get someone out of in an aeroplane was the pilot’s seat, the cramped space and hundreds of dials and switches kept getting in the way and proved a real pain in the proverbial. But it was fun nevertheless and if it taught us one thing, it taught us never to become pilots.

Another time a road traffic accident was mocked up, cars were piled into each other with one turned over. A group of us students were picked out to be the patients and scattered in and out of the cars in a random fashion. A lone crew was at first dispatched and had to “arrive at scene and report”. They had to triage and then sort the casualties out in order of priority. This was all done in real time, so once they had done their initial reporting they had to wait for back-up.

I had been ejected from a car and was suffering from a head injury. Pinned to my jacket were my signs and symptoms, as were all the “unconscious and deceased patients”. One of my colleagues was stuffed into the back of the upturned car, supposedly dead. Unfortunately, for him, he was a low priority and as things got into swing he was largely forgotten by the “crews” around, although a few of us close by kept up a bit of conversation. After a while it became apparent that Chris had gone very quiet - too quiet.
My sense of smell is not one of the best, but one of the other “casualties” had a pretty good sense of smell.

‘Do you smell petrol?’ she asked. ‘Only it seems quite strong now.’

We all sniffed.

‘Oh yes, that’s definitely petrol,’ said the broken leg to my left. ‘Where’s it coming from?’

‘Chris, can you smell it?’ I asked.

No reply.

We looked into the car and there was Chris laying on the roof in the back and not moving.

‘Oh fuck!’ cried the instructor, and ran towards the car.

The exercise has now taken on a new dimension as Chris was laying comatosed in the back of the upturned car. Petrol has leaked out and the fumes in the cramped and airless conditions had rendered him unconscious.

The door was wrenched open and all of us “casualties” leapt up to help, all of us instantly cured. Chris was dragged out of the car and an oxygen cylinder was rushed over, quickly the mask was strapped to his face and the cylinder turned on. We waited while a stretcher was brought over and a vehicle readied for the real emergency, the mock incident now all but forgotten. 

Chris began to stir. He was pale and his breathing was rapid. We made notes. Somebody leant forward to his jacket and took the bit of paper that said “deceased” written on it. A couple of minutes later the bit of paper was pinned back, it said “Was dead, but now just nearly dead”. The instructor wasn’t amused, especially when Chris regained consciousness and vomited.

A doctor gave Chris the all clear and normality resumed. He was left with a bit of a headache, but that didn’t matter as he gave us all a nice bit of entertainment. 

The ambulance service - a kind and caring profession!

Please feel free to comment or ask a question   

Thursday 29 August 2013

Riding out

  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I've changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.


Monday morning and here I was dressed up in my shiny new uniform and pulling into the station, which, unknown to me then, was going to be a sort of a home for the next few years. I parked up in the yard and stepped nervously out.

The station was shared with the fire service, but instead of being full-time the fire service here was retained, or part-time, meaning they all had other jobs and just responded when needed, dropping whatever it was they were doing and rushing down to the station to jump on a vehicle. The ambulance side of it was around the back and this is where I parked my car.

All the appliance bay doors were closed and I looked to the side to see how to get in. I found a little door and tentatively knocked, thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t just barge in as if I owned the place. I waited and then saw someone ambling towards me through the glass doors.

‘Ah! You must be Mr Mullis. Come in my boy.’ A distinguished grey haired gentleman bid me entry. He wore an unbuttoned tunic with a clip-on tie hanging off his trouser belt; above his left breast pocket were two rows of medal ribbons. ‘Cuppa tea?’ he added, as he led me into the crew-room.

Three faces looked up at me as I entered, all of them giving off the aura of being old hands. They were seated in old battered arm chairs and leant forward a bit to get a better look at me. Cards were carelessly thrown down on the little table in front of them and each had a tea-stained mug positioned within hands reach. A couple of full ashtrays were balanced on the arms of two of the chairs and thick smoke clung in a fug just below the ceiling.

I tried a nervous smile. ‘Yes please,’ I answered to the tea question. I then looked at the three seated. ‘Er...Hello. I’m Clive and I’m er...meant to be riding out for the week.’

The gentleman who let me in turned and took a few steps towards me, offering his hand. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Maurice, and that there is Denny.’ He pointed to another late middle aged gentleman and then stabbed a finger towards the other two. ‘That’s Sam and that’s Paul. You’ll be with me and Denny for the week.’

I looked at them all, nodded and smiled nervously. ‘Er...morning all.’

‘Ignore those old sods,’ said Maurice, smiling broadly. ‘Come through here and I’ll show where to throw your stuff.’

‘And don’t forget to show him the bloody kitchen,’ laughed Sam, in a thick Northern Ireland accent as I disappeared into the corridor. Now I knew what was to be my main duty for the week. Tea making.

Maurice showed me the vehicle, which was a Bedford CF, sitting in the second bay in the appliance room. I thought I should show some willing as I asked whether I should check anything but was met with a quizzical look. ‘Don’t be daft; we’ve had a quick look so that’s all done for the week now. Let’s go get the tea.’
Both Maurice and Denny had been in the service for years, both had been through the war and there was nothing that could ever faze either of them. The other two, who were the early crew and doing a seven-to-three shift, were just as experienced and just as welcoming. Within a few minutes I was sat down in a chair with a hot cup of tea and my very own ashtray balanced on the arm.

It was explained what was to happen this day. The nine to five vehicle, which was the one I was on, had planned work allocated. This meant that there was a work list on the printer for us to do. We were taking a small list of patients to their out-patient appointments at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Aylesbury. There was also what was called a sitting-car vehicle, which was already out doing similar work and was single manned, but we had the patients who needed two people to help move them.

Straight away I discovered that neither Maurice nor Denny liked driving, and I suppose having me there made life better for both of them as I was shoe-horned into the driving seat and told that I could drive for the week - unless an emergency call came in, but they thought that was going to be unlikely. At that time there was no driving course, if you had a license and could drive a hundred yards without hitting anything, then that was good enough.

I was a bit disappointed in the fact that we were basically just a taxi service. For the previous three weeks we had practiced dealing with dramatic life threatening incidents and I was hoping that I could at least see how it was all done out on the road. I learnt that the station was generally very quiet. Emergencies calls happened, but not very often.

The week went by with me driving several times to Aylesbury and back, a slow lunch at the station and then back out to Aylesbury again. The patients we had were regulars and were a lively bunch and quickly picked up on the fact that I was new. Encouraged by both Maurice and Dave I was generally the butt of all the jokes, most of them near the knuckle as the patients were mainly London women who were bombed out in the blitz, or had been moved on due to the slum clearances, or were locals where farming was the way of life. I was just getting used to the fact that this was going to be my week when half way through lunch, about three days in, the red phone rang. This elicited some strange looks between Maurice and Denny. I on the other hand felt the back of my neck begin to tingle and my heart beat quicker.

Denny answered the phone.

‘Yep, yep, yep,’ he repeated. ‘What do you mean there’s no-one else? Where’s Hemel? Where’s the other vehicle?’ These were always the questions when a call came in from another area, even today, the response will be just the same. ‘Oh, all right,’ replied Denny, with a sigh. ‘If we have to.’

Apparently we had to.

The call was to a dentist in Hemel Hempstead where someone had suffered a sudden illness, strangely enough it was my dentist, so I could understand someone being unwell having been under the ministrations of that particular dentist. Maurice jumped into the driver’s seat while Denny jumped in the back. I sat up front and tried to look as if I knew what I was doing. I picked up the radio handset.

‘732 mobile red.’ I spoke into the thing as I was told to by Maurice.

There was a pause.

‘Who’s that?’ said the confused crackly voice on the other end of the radio.

Denny leant through and grabbed the handset out of my hand. ‘His name is Clive and he’s just started with us.’

Another pause. ‘Oh yes, I can see that now, he’s on my list. Welcome Clive, and good luck. You’ll need it.’

 We trundled out of the station and then up the hill and out into the country lanes and through the villages. Once up the hill Maurice managed to get a little speed out of the vehicle and eventually we were moving along at a reasonable pace. Both my colleagues were hoping that a nearer vehicle would become available so we would get stood down, while I was hoping we would get there.

Unfortunately for my two friends, they were wrong - we got there. We pulled up outside and Denny hopped off the back with his first aid bag and a small oxygen cylinder called a portagen. I opened the cab door and followed him in. It was a very small waiting room and there were three people sitting waiting for their turn in the dreaded chair as we walked in. The receptionist looked worried as she showed us through the narrow wicker door and guided us to the patient.

The dentist was stood there with a look of shock on his face, very similar to the one I normally wore after having visited him - fortunately he didn’t recognise me.

‘Hello mate,’ said Denny to the dentist. ‘What you done ‘ere?’

The dentist looked at Denny and then at the patient. ‘Well, he just came in for a filling,’ he replied, missing entirely the inference in Denny’s question. ‘He went a bit stiff all of a sudden and then this. I think he’s had a stroke.’

The patient was sort of slumped in the chair and appeared to be snoring. He was elderly, a bit overweight and was red in the face. The left half of his face was drooping and spittle leaked from the corner of his mouth. His eyes were staring and frightened.

‘If I saw you coming towards me with a drill I might do the same,’ replied Denny with a grin. He then smiled at the patient. ‘You’ll be all right mate, don’t worry. Soon have you at the hospital.’

The man’s wife was stood in corner looking very concerned.

Denny reached forward and picked up his left arm, he held it up for a bit and then let it go. It flopped straight back down. He then lifted his right arm up and let this go too, it stayed there momentarily and then fell more slowly back to his lap. He put a mask on his face and turned on the oxygen. He stood there a moment while he took a pulse. ‘That’s bouncing about like a road drill,’ he said, presumably for my benefit. ‘Chair and two plus two.’ He said to me by way of instruction, meaning he wanted a carry-chair, two blankets and two incontinence pads.

I nodded and hurried out to tell Maurice who was still sat waiting in the driver’s seat.

‘No point in all of us going in,’ he said in explanation. ‘I already know what to do.’

This time we both went in and now the dentist’s room was quite full. There were the three of us, the dentist, the receptionist and the patient and his wife. Room to swing a cat there was not. By shifting some stuff we managed to get the chair next to the dentist’s chair. Gloves in those days were not normally used and Denny slipped his arms beneath the patient’s arms and grabbed hold of his wrists. I was guided round by Maurice to the other side and told to slide one arm around his waist and the other beneath his knees. Maurice took the feet. This was called a top and tail, I realised my mistake straight away. Maurice just grinned, and then so did Denny. The clue had been the incontinence pads.

With my arms sodden wet and my nose a scant inch from his groin where the smell wafted nicely up my nose, we lifted. I slipped a bit and my clean elbow went straight into the puddle on the chair. Great, I thought, as I wondered whether I should go back to the job centre. A few grunts and a couple of shuffles later we managed to get the patient onto the chair and wrapped up in blankets. Denny tipped back the carry-chair onto its wheels and pulled him out. Maurice dodged in front of me and I followed up in the rear, arms dripping and giving off a wonderful aroma of ammonia. The patients in the waiting room didn’t look very happy as we dragged the unfortunate man through - if this was what a visit to the dentist entailed then they may be having second thoughts. I wasn’t too happy either.

I learnt two things that day.

One was to never get the bottom end in a lift if at all possible, and two, always have a change of clothes back at the station. For the rest of that day everyone steered well clear of me - but at least I got out of making the tea!  

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Janna Yeshanova

Today I welcome the delightful Janna Yeshanova to my blog. 

About the Author
Originally from the former Soviet Union, Janna Yeshanova escaped to
the United States when persecution became violent during the
crumbling of the Soviet state. Arriving in the United States with her
mother and daughter in tow, $126 in her pocket, and knowing not a
soul, Janna’s talent and experiences have helped her become a
high-end organizational training and development professional. Her
exodus story is included in the book.
Founder and principal of Life-Spark, LLC, Janna is a dynamic and
powerful life coach, premier trainer and motivational speaker. She
leverages her passion and engaging style to help others overcome
adversity and spark the possibilities of their lives.

Yanna's websites are:

Exert from 'Love Is Never Past Tense'

One needs to die in his mother land…

“One needs to die in his mother land,” the old man whispered, putting his legs on a stone. Back on the beach, he tied the stone with strong hempen ropes. Now he needed to attach his feet to these ropes. For this purpose, he chose a thin nylon twine that was easier to push under the hemp. The sun was rapidly setting. He needed the light of the slanting beams to handle this work, and not to do it by touch. He passed the twine under the hemp, then wound the end around his right ankle, stretched the cord, and again passed it under the rope. He did this until he tied it around his leg thirteen times. He chose the number thirteen because this number appeared in his life many times, and for him, it was lucky. It is difficult to explain why he decided to make it so. He was neither a superstitious nor a devout person. He simply decided to do so—that’s it. When the right leg was firmly attached, he started on the left. This business went more quickly because he already gained some experience. About ten minutes later, the left leg was attached to the stone. He fastened the end with a sea knot. The rest of the cord he cut off and threw out into the sea.

Janna Yeshanova (2012-10-02T04:00:00+00:00). Love Is Never Past Tense... (Kindle Locations 1588-1597). Kindle Edition.

The events described in the book occur amidst complicated changes
in the political and economic system of the former Soviet Union. In 
this period of great turmoil, for the country and the people, a period 
of many broken destinies, the book weaves its story within the 
discord of the country. Fear is growing, an animal fear. There 
remains only one way, emigration. This is the same thing as 
evacuation without bombing and without the ability to come back, 
the author writes. You cannot give a better definition. The rest you 
need to read. Because of this, the book delivers multifaceted, 
versatile content in huge volume to the reader’s range of vision. In 
some special moments, the author makes us breathless, frantic with 
worry, and hoping to relax if a satisfactory solution of the situation 
Love Is Never Past Tense... was published first in Russia and Ukraine 
in 2009, and is now available in English. It is a fascinating, 
adventurous, historical romance based on a true story.

Buy Links for Love Is Never Past Tense

Autographed copies at Love Is Never Past Tense website.

Amazon (paperback, hardcover, or Kindle

Barnes and Noble

Ebook formats available at:




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