Fire! Fire! Â '“Â Steve Canavan
I was going to write about Christmas and its true meaning: visiting relatives you're not particularly fond of. But then something happenedÂ I feel duty-bound to report.
My day job is lecturer at a university. This is hard to believe I know; after all I still can't change channel on the TV because I haven't worked out how to use the remote control.Â
I share my university office with a man who, though a very nice person, has for his dinner every single day a microwave meal such as seafood risotto or prawn curry.
The problem with this is that it makes our office smell horrific and so, to combat the issue, I purchased some scented candles that emit the gentle aroma of elderflower or cranberry and other such slightly pretentious smells.
I've been lighting these things for the last couple of weeks without incident and it's worked a treat.
But then, on Tuesday, one of the candles burnt itself out and the result was that a surprisingly thick plume of smoke wafted into the air.
I remarked to my colleague about the amount of smoke produced and then moments later the woman in the adjoining office popped her head in to say she could smell burning.
As she said the word '˜burning', a loud siren suddenly sounded. It was the fire alarm.
Now let me paint the scene here: I work in a four-storey building, which houses approximately 300 staff and has dozens of teaching rooms, so there were hundreds of students in lessons at that very moment.
Feeling a sharp sense of panic, I traipsed out of the building and into the car park and stood among, at a rough estimate, 1,000 other furious people in freezing rain who were saying things like, '˜which clown has set off the fire alarm?'
I shifted slightly uncomfortably and decidedÂ that I should do the right, grown-up thing and own up.
I approached a woman in a hi-vis vest with FIRE OFFICER written dramatically on the back and said, '˜erm, excuse me, I'm awfully sorry about this but it was me who set off the fire alarm.'
'˜You did what?' she barked back. '˜Why did you do that?'Â
'˜Well, I was in my office and a lit a candle'¦'
'˜CANDLE? You lit a candle in your office? Have you any idea what a fire hazard that is?'
I suddenly realised for the first time that, yes, it probably is quite dangerous to light a candle in a four-storey building.
'˜But in my defence my work colleague had just eaten a really smelly chicken tikka masala.'
Angrily pointing at a man in an even more important-looking luminous jacket on the far side of the car park, she said, '˜you'd better go and tell Derek. Immediately.'
As I approached Derek, I could see he was exactly the type of man who would volunteer to be a work fire warden '“ he was in his late 50s, had a moustache, wore a brown suit, and no doubt owned a static caravanÂ in Rhyl.
I then went through the same routine I had moments before, confessing to Derek that I was the reason some 1,000 university staff and students were huddled, shivering and soaking wet, in a car park.
He began to verbally dress me down when he suddenly halted and said, '˜hang on, did you say your office was on the second floor?'Â I told him it was.
'˜Oh, well the fire alarm that went off was on the ground floor so it wasn't you.'
If Derek hadn't been so ugly and had his breath not had the slight aroma of stale coffee and flapjack, I'd have kissed him there and then.
It wasn't me. I was in the clear. I felt like a new man.Â
On the downside I received an email later the same day telling me if I used candles again I would face disciplinary action.
Swings and roundabouts.'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹