The Opera was great. Whilst standing on the escalator getting to the tube platform, the name ‘Berlioz’ caught my eye – the composer of “The Damnation of Faust” – which also caught my eye, right next to his name. What a great idea for a night out, get some culture and some decent classical music in to me. Internet -> tickets -> London Coliseum -> what an experience. If this was an opera blog, I would write more…but it isn’t, so I won’t. I will still thoroughly recommend the performance to anybody even vaguely interested.
I got back to my hostel at a round about midnight. I was dreading having to get up early the next day; I had agreed to pop in to LAS HQ and visit @Melph, who kindly offered to show me around their call taking and dispatching facilities. His shift finished at seven, so I would have to be there at at least half past six, adding time to get there, wake up, eat, shower…ugh. I reluctantly set my alarm for 0530hrs, mildly comforted by the fact that I would be joining some of the guys from the control room at the pub after they had finished for the day (night). Questionable if I would stay awake though I think to myself as my head hits the pillow, desperate to secure as much sleep as possible in the short amount of time remaining.
Jackhammers are tearing through my ears, ripping me from my sleep. I am being bombarded by a choir of snores by the three argentinian blokes that I share the room with, one worse than the other. First they snore in subsequent lines, as if not to disturb the other, politely emphasising the individuals snore-solo with their own silence, but only to kick in once it is their turn in the arrangement. After a couple of minutes, the orchestration calls for harmonised snoring, each taking their own vocal (well, snore) range: bass snore, mid range snore and treble snore. They all have their own individual lines which fit together in perfect harmony and complement each other. The chorus hangs on a little, then slowly builds up in a crescendo to an ear bursting climax; all snores melting together in to one almighty, all frequency encompassing snore – truly breath- and sleep-taking stuff. It is followed by a bass solo, so low that it seems the window panes are reverberating. I can’t stand it any longer; I let out a lard “SSHHH”. Nothing. A second “SSHHH” to no avail. I get up and gently poke our solo artist. Nothing changes. I grab his shoulder, and rock him sideways. Still nothing, he keeps playing his bass solo, as if he was a world of his own…which he is in, really. I give up, and climb back in to bed, hoping that after the ear-shattering crescendo, I might be able to slip back in to sleep. The occasional mid range or solo snore is still heard, but the bass solo is relentless. But wait, thats more than just a brief pause…has he stopped snoring? Five seconds….ten seconds…snoring again. Then another five…ten…fifteen seconds! My hopes are slowly climbing, I might be able to grab some more sleep, since it is only, erm..my phone says 0300hrs. Bloody hell. If I weren’t so friggin’ tired, I would probably appreciate the impromptu musical performance by these south american nocturnal artists…but I am not amused, as the queen would say. There are still lengthy pauses coming from Mr Bassmann…and then it dawns on me (not literally, daybreak is yet a couple of hours away): This guy is not only stopping his snoring for a good few seconds at a time, he is actually stopping breathing for that period of time as well. Hello sleep apnoea.
Goodbye Flo. I can’t take it any longer. It may be awful o’clock, but there is no rest here to be had. Shower, pull clothes on to body in tired fashion, stumble down stairs, get dumped out on Oxford Street. It’s 0430ish, and there is still mild activity on the streets. Cleaners ridding the pavement of rubbish and other residue, some last drunks still unsteadily staggering around the streets, some climbing on the early morning bus back home. Day is slowly breaking, a beautiful morning indeed. I push my hands further in to my pockets; the day may be a looker, but she is revealing her cold side to start off with. I quicken my pace in an attempt to increase my body temperature, but also to conveniently skip past the dodgy looking fellers zig zagging on the pavement towards me. Despite the cold I feel comfortable, and am surprisingly awake after only three hours of sleep – the two years of shift work training has finally paid off for a good reason, I tell myself. Getting further towards the river, traffic picks up, but the place is devoid of pedestrians – I have the whole sidewalk to myself, and am enjoying the morning immensely. Crossing the road, I dig a banana out of my back pocket, and heartily bite its head off (yes, I did peel the skin off prior to doing this, if you must ask). Bananas have become my staple diet – 90 pence a kg in the UK, 13 AUS$ a kg in Australia this season – I was longing for the sweet yellow fruit that had been taken from me by the evil cyclones in tropical Queensland earlier this year.
Finishing up my banana, I came to Waterloo bridge, and was greeted by a spectacular view of the Thames – completely undisturbed by people, rain or wind. Maybe the early concerto (or snorecerto, to be more precise) had a good side to it after all. Doesn’t everything have a positive touch if you look at it the right way?
After a few more minutes, I arrive at the London Ambulance Services Headquarters – a big concrete block with yellow cars parked on the street next to it. Righty-o, in we go. After a short communication breakdown with the security guard, Melph picked me up from the main entrance and led me in to the beating and buzzing heart of the LAS – admittednly a little bradycardic due to the early hours, but beating steadily nonetheless. A quick guided tour followed, explaining how things work, how calls are handles, dispatches are made – the whole lot. Everyone in the control room that I spoke to was surprised that (at that stage) our service back home did not have any structured calltaking facilities in place. Ironically, while we were about to introduce AMPDS (via ProQA), the NHS was moving away from AMPDS, and implementing their own NHS Pathways protocol instead. This may warrant another blog post all together…
LAS HQ – and neighbouring ambulance station
Another surprise was myself. I was greeted with a smile by everybody, but that smile came with an additional big questionmark painted all over their faces: What the hell are you doing here at this ungodly hour? True, they were there because it is there job. I was there for the lure of the after-party. And to escape the three tenors…or should I say, tesnores.
I still remained ‘that crazy Aussie’ in most peoples mind. I’m not fussed, they’re not quite off the mark with it either 🙂
I continued poking my nose around the office a little, talking to different people, exchanging stories, listening how calls were taken, watching hows crews were dispatched, learning where some of the stations are, and thinking of the poor souls out there who had been flogged all night treating and driving sick and not so sick people around town (although I couldn’t help a little schadenfreude from creeping up when the button was pushed to wake the crews up for a job).
Relief came in nice and early, so we were off twenty minutes before schedule. It was D-watches end-of-four-night-shifts-in-a-row-let’s-beat-sleep-with-a-pint party, and I was interested how the morning would tootle along; six sleep deprived zombies in green, and myself, a sleep deprived tourist. A glass, a chat, and back to a comfortable bed, maybe.
First of all, time to get some food. Fried breakfast and a pint sounded like a plan, and transport to a pub (that was actually open at 7am) was promptly organised – I had a vague feeling these guys had done this before. As it happens as a foreigner amongst locals, I was attacked with questions from all sides, interspersed with interesting facts from the office, including a “who would you sleep with if you had to” competition between two of the blokes. I don’t know anybody in their office, but I am vaguely familiar with the baboons and the hippos and the London Zoo – and if they are your first choice, I think you might need your head checked. Or your eyesight. Or both.
The animals changed from London Zoo to Australian fauna – the sharks and snakes, wombats, echidnas, kangaroos. Then on to the sparse population of the country, and the vast distances. Then on to Australian Film and Television (nobody really knew of anything except for Crocodile Dundee and Neighbours). Then Australian Music (again, not much was known – but I was more than happy to share some good Aussie stuff with the deprived lads and lasses). By then, the venue had changed, then sun had warmed the senses, and that nice fuzzy and warm feeling had gotten hold of me – they were a great bunch of people I was out with, and I was having a good time. Maybe the fuzziness was also related to some other external liquid factors, but not once did I fall over or anything of sorts. I even managed to sink a ball on the snooker table.
Having said that, I can’t actually remember playing snooker. Well, it was nearly eight weeks ago now.
Anyway, the day continued, mine having begun abruptly at 3am, theirs having begun at 7pm the previous night. One by one we parted ways to our beloved and comfy beds, and by midnight, I too was horizontal, sound asleep. Thanks to D Watch – What a day!