A Quick Exit?

Ohakune has a fire siren. I’m not sure if that’s the correct name for it but it’s a siren that sounds to call volunteer firefighters, on which rural New Zealand relies, to attend an incident. It’s been a bit busy lately, primarily grass fires in the summer heat. I learned the other day that it only stops when someone unlocks the door to the fire station and, as it rarely sounds for more than a couple of minutes, it’s astounding that someone gets their arse into gear that fast. One of our neighbours is a volunteer and when the siren sounded yesterday afternoon it was only about a minute before his car shot down the street.

I envy those who can get out of the door quickly. This morning I cycled to fetch bread. You’d think it’s as simple as getting on the bike and riding off but, no. I pull on socks and trainers, carefully double knotting the laces to make sure they won’t get in the way of gears or spokes. Then I fetch my jacket, which I’ve left in the bedroom. Helmet next, but my ponytail is too high so I need to fix that. Where are my sunglasses? In the kitchen.

Now, have I got everything? Rucksack to carry bread in. Card to pay with. Don’t forget a mask (still compulsory here and I have previous, getting to the shop and realising I haven’t picked one up before I left). We no longer have to scan Covid QR codes wherever we go so I don’t need my phone, but I’ll take it anyway in case of emergency (I did once get a puncture and had to wheel my bike home, calling Neil so he didn’t worry that I was in a ditch somewhere). Gloves. It’s not cold but what if I fall? (Again, I have previous here.) Don’t want to scrape my hands (if a single injured finger is hard enough to cope with, road-rashed palms would be a nightmare).

Right, I’m ready. Hang on – have I got tissues? Don’t need keys because Neil is here, so I can leave the door unlocked. But I can’t cycle with unprotected lips so I need lip balm. Oh, and I’m not wearing cycle pants so where’s that gel seat? Finally I can get my bike off the rack and ride away.

See what I mean? And it’s not only when I cycle. If I’m going out for a walk it takes me almost as long. I blame the Girl Guides – I have to be prepared for anything. And my mum. She drilled into me not to leave the house without a tissue, and maybe a coat in case it turns cold. And an umbrella – it might rain. (Living in New Zealand, yes, I do sometimes have an umbrella and sunglasses in my bag.)

NOT the official Ohakune fire engine!

These islands are subject to many things that may mean we have to leave the house suddenly and a general thought is that you should be able to do so with a few minutes’ notice. If that knock came on my door I’d probably just give up and lie on my back kicking legs and arms like an upturned tortoise. I should have a grab bag, I know, and I often think about organising one. But the main reason I haven’t is I can’t even begin to think about what I might need in such circumstances and if I could I’m not sure I have a bag big enough to carry it all. If I’m being honest I’d rather make like an ostrich and pretend it might not happen.

There’s no way I could ever be a volunteer firefighter. For one thing I’m nowhere near fit or strong enough to be able to carry all that kit. And by the time I got to the station either the engine would be returning from the job or whatever was burning would have done so completely and be nothing but a pile of smoking ashes.

This morning I got halfway down the road and realised I didn’t have my water bottle.      

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