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 may 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.’

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