So do you all agree with me? Is Coate Water just not the best day? Why? Well for so many reasons but firstly, who doesn’t love swimming or just messing about in water? We’ll go back to the beginning of the day first though and breakfast. Whether it is because they have been up a little while or in the sociable atmosphere of the Salamander dining room I don’t know but they eat their way through a breakfast of 2 bacon, 2 sausage, baked beans, hash browns, egg and toast and there are not many that deviate from the “everything please”. It is good to see healthy appetites first thing though and they are then set up for a morning of intense activity. A busy morning awaits so pole drop is this afternoon. We get downstairs and the Adver vintage bus is already there and waiting for its passengers.
But first the workout for all of us as we strive to ensure that all are kitted out perfectly. Shoes are removed, pegged with their name and put in a crate to go with us. Next a onesie and then the dry suit (ha, ha, very funny – dry suit!!!)
And then shoes, pfd – personal flotation device (hope you’re impressed – I am learning the Fire Service Glossary and the Fire Service are digesting a thesaurus for the debrief sessions, only fair), gloves and helmet. Oh, it all sounds so easy doesn’t it? The rubber feet for the dry suits seem to only come in one size – super enormous – try fitting all that rubber into a size 3 shoe! Then the long rubber neck that has to fit snuggly otherwise the water trickles in but it has to go over their head first. All of them take it in good part though and we are on our way by 10.15 in a variety of vehicles again. (Beat Jo to the front of the fire engine today. She won yesterday). Once at Coate Water it is time to check that everyone still has all their kit and that zips are fastened securely, glasses and hearing aids are in their pegged shoes and a quick safety briefing given before the first activity.
Throw-lines – okay I wasn’t listening to all the info. about this as I got in the water and I am easily distracted just watching their faces and enjoying their fun. But watching from the water they each threw a bag with line attached out to a casualty – Senior Crew – in the water – supposedly trying not to hit them on the head – and then when the casualty had grabbed the rope they pulled them back in. Some of them pulled the rope so hard and fast that Charley nearly smashed into the wall. The fact that all she had to do was let go of the rope as she got close just didn’t occur to her such was her enthusiasm for her role in their education. They all excelled at this. Except Luke who had a suit that required the rubber neck be pulled from the front over his head rather than from behind and he was having none of it. Safety is paramount so he sat on the side and watched. They then all entered the water under the watchful eyes of the instructors and support staff. Tariq was especially attentive and made sure that Sam understood that the entry into the water was quite slippery and Sam got himself in safe and sound as Tariq slipped and ended up on his bottom to everyone’s amusement. Myles launched himself onto Mark submerging both of them in the murky water and challenging the water repelling effects of his suit.
Then Luke noticed the fun and was happy to have Jo and Nev’s help to finish putting his dry suit on but then he didn’t want to go in! Luke’s not silly. He had been sitting right next to the inflatable walkway. Why swim across the lake when you can sit on the walkway and be pushed around the lake whilst the others jostle and jump around you turning it into a fairground ride? A beaming smile as he sat Buddha like on the walkway as it entered the water. He did fall off several times but got himself easily back on as he watched and enjoyed the play around him.
Some swam across the lake and back before joining the others on the walkway, some played on and around the walkway pushing each other off and then pulling each other back on – several even asked to be pushed off (Seamus!) and a few swam and then sat on the walkway and were determined not to come off and fought off a firefighter in a rough and tumble of epic proportions (Josiah). The firefighter, who shall remain nameless, behaved in a dignified manner as he was wrestled and held in a vice-like grip on the floor of the walkway and capitulated to a young man driven by a desire to float around the lake on the comfort of an inflatable rather than swim in the murk.
Time was almost up but the pontoon beckoned and some more amazing firsts – Stephen jumped in along with Jules – well if he was going to hold on to her and push her in then he was going in too!! They both went right under the water and Stephen came up shocked but smiling and then proceeded to jump in twice more alone. Zachary ran and jumped in without stopping at the edge and Nicole jumped in off the pontoon.
The rest just loved their time there swimming, floating, playing and enjoying spending time together.
After the swim comes the hard part and I start to realise the edge it can take off the day – getting out of the dry suits (ha, ha, that word again “dry”), finding out who is soaked, who is dry and deciding the best way to get them back to the station so we can keep them warm and as comfortable as possible. Not one moan from them though. They are fantastic. I did moan a little. It was just the weight of a small pond in each leg that made walking difficult and on the journey back it all settled nicely around my feet, ankles and a little higher but getting out at the other end made the cold water slosh up my legs and it was ever so slightly cool!!! It’s all the fun and thrill of the Coate Water adventure though – will I stay dry or how wet will I get? After all the reminders and advice we all sensibly remembered to take a spare set of clothes so it wasn’t a problem except for one who got wet and forgot – oh no, not the young people or the Senior Crew or the ambulance staff, the PCSO’s remembered or remained dry and so did the firefighter’s except one. No, I won’t tell you who only that he should know better!
Time for lunch – baguettes, cold meats, tuna, cheese and salads. Then the pole drop before getting changed into kit. You all know the drill now – show practise has started, not that they realise it as they are all just having fun playing with water, ladders and riding in the fire engine and ambulance but no more details. It’s a secret. So many secrets this week but I can keep them or you’d better hope I can!
See you in the morning.