Hells Bells

I was typing up class lists in the office yesterday and enjoying the peace and quiet, after the workmen outside had ceased their drilling operations for the day. I pondered that they must be at least half way to the Earth’s core by now. Just as my mind wandered to what I was going to have for dinner, my gastronomic fantasies were interrupted by an alarm going off somewhere. Can’t be the fire alarm, I thought, the fire alarm is painfully loud and nobody had said there was going to be a fire drill. I went out to the studio to investigate, only to discover forty bemused students standing looking at each other with their fingers in their ears. Oops, looks like it must be the fire alarm after all. After clearing them all out and, my god, students move slower than snails even when they think they’re in a burning building, I joined the shuffling crocodile of bodies on the stairs. Almost everyone had their fingers in their ears, except for me and the various individuals who’ve clearly blown their youthful cochleas right out of their heads with their i-Pods.

I ought to have been concerned by the smell of burning and the sound of the fire engines, but my heart was sinking rather fast at the cold realisation that I, too, had needed to have my fingers in my ears the last time we had a fire drill. I desperately racked my brains to remember how long ago that was. Was it only a year, no, it must be at least two… no, forgot about Harry Flanders sitting a computer keyboard on top of a 5KW photography spotlight last year before going off for a teabreak…no, the alarm didn’t go off that time, it was the toxic fumes that forced us all to evacuate.

By the time I got outside, my heart had sunk right through my feet and fallen down the workmen’s borehole to the Earth’s core. I could feel my eyes welling up. Fortunately, I was  saved yet again from public lacrimosity, by the timely distraction of a very loud crunching noise resonating in my switched back on left ear. As usual, in my monaural state, I turned to look erroneously in the complete opposite direction to the source of the sound, before finally locating a white Ford Transit van impatiently trying to squeeze past the fire engines. It had mounted the pavement and was slowly flattening a whole row of the workmen’s traffic cones in the process.

The fire, which turned out to have been a minor incident in the basement, was swiftly dealt with and we all shuffled slowly inside again. Back in the empty studio, everything was just as it had been left, but to me, it all felt rather different.

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