Salamander Day 1 2015 Nicky’s Blog

After a year of immense change for us today feels like we have finally come home. We have moved house both literally and figuratively but it’s the feeling of being home, of belonging and being back in your comfort zone that has made the difference. There may have been lows as well as the most amazing high points today (some very proud mummy moments too!!) There may have been irritations, frustrations and niggles but the overwhelming feeling today was one of home. The young people have returned as if they were here yesterday and everyone has just slotted back into place and got on with the busy-ness of the day.

The “proud mummy” moments you have to share with us all as that is one of the driving passions for this course seeing not only great achievements, the conquering of fears and the success in challenge but also the kind, friendly, endearing and thoughtful moments that are just warm and fluffy feelings. I’m going to make you wait till the end for the “proud mummy” moments from today and give you all the routine of the day first, so be patient.

Red Team
Luke, Sophie, Frazer, and Ryan
Abi – SW Ambulance Service, David – Senior Crew
Nev – Firefighter

White Team
Nicole, Josiah, Callum and Charlie
(Confession time – sorry about the white but you may notice that Jo and I have boys in all the other team colours so it had to be this team in white. Hope you got lots of stain remover in!)
Jules – Police Service, Charlotte – Senior Crew
James – Firefighter

Blue Team
Michael, Lane, Oliver and Myles
Phil – SW Ambulance Service, Chris – Senior Crew
Sean – Firefighter

Green Team
Zachary, Seamus, Stephen and Sam
Tariq – Police Service, Charley – Senior Crew
Steve – Firefighter

Floaters, camera crew and general dogsbodies – you choose
Fraser – Firefighter, Jo – Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group, Nicky – Salamander assistant
Salamander Commander

The day started with breakfast. The Full English as they have all come to expect and appreciate beyond measure but no Sheila. Sheila retired last year so the most wonderful Denise came in at dawn to cook the breakfast before returning to her desk at the station. I would like to say ably assisted by myself but it was more ineptly assisted by me. That kitchen takes on sauna like qualities within minutes but with the wonderful aroma of roadside burger van rather than Cedar. The meal was consumed with vigour and tables cleared and cleaned before heading downstairs for the station tour and reminders about safety. Everyone was so attentive or just so full that they were not going to move too far too fast.

Time now to change into kit. My son has the whole week worked out in minute detail and expects each course to follow exactly the same pattern so herein lies his first challenge. The fire engine won’t start so as it is parked in the garage that houses their lockers they must get their fire kit on in the other garage. They are definitely speedier this year but it is still a challenge for some on the first day. Parade follows and Lane’s dulcet tones can be heard across the whole of Swindon.

Team building – the same challenges as every year but it is one of the activities that show how much they have grown, matured and developed over the year – communication, team work, motor skills and attentiveness are all challenged here.

• Shark infested custard – getting their team and a casualty – teddy bear – to the other end of the yard using a tray and a ladder and not touching the yard.

• Blindfolds – negotiating a trail of cones wearing blindfolds with only the leader able to see.

• Bench swap – the whole team stand on the bench and have to reposition themselves according to given criteria i.e. youngest to oldest.
(Had a “proud mummy” moment or two here)

Next came the hoses for white and blue team and ladders for green and red. The activities were familiar and they remembered what they needed to do and the commands that needed to be given but was no less fun and more proud moments emerged.
Then lunch-time and Mark returned to his pre-firefighter career and cooked a delicious Pasta Bolognaise served with French bread. It never ceases to amaze me how much they can pack away. Far too full now to use the stairs so it’s pole drop time. Yes, everyone single one of them went down the pole – first day.

This afternoon the groups swapped activities with green and red on hoses and white and blue on ladders and then a free-for-all in the smokehouse – sorry, a very structured session on casualty rescue on the ground floor of the smokehouse using the tunnel as an exit and entry route.

Aaah, fire engine is working, for now, so the last 20 minutes is spent sorting their kit and lockers before finding their very weary way back to the classroom for the end of day debrief and then home.

Okay. Time for the “proud mummy” moments. I will just follow my list from the top and tell you why I have been so proud of each and every one of them today and for so many different reasons.

Luke – when I wasn’t there – yes, it happens to me too – he shouted (a Luke sized shout) for someone to foot the ladder and climbed to the very top but when I was there he again smiled the biggest smile as he confidently climbed up the ladder again.

Sophie – for saying she would go through four rooms in the smokehouse even though she was terrified and then did!

Frazer – for getting competitive with Zachary in the smokehouse and racing to save the teddy.

Ryan – persevered on the Shark Infested Custard activity when he had to walk along the strings of the ladder. It is so hard to keep your balance especially with the team jostling around you and your legs don’t do what you want them to do but by the end could do it without any support.

Nicole – did the pole drop!!!!

Josiah – remembered the ladder commands without prompting.

Callum – kept his team moving and motivated in the team building exercises.

Charlie – did the pole drop – twice!!!

Michael – collected almost everyone’s plate at lunchtime and took them to the kitchen without being asked.

Lane – for looking after Steve who was playing the casualty in the smokehouse. After he had helped him out Steve told him he had left his baby in there. Lane asked him exactly where the baby was so that he could go back in and rescue him but also asked why he wasn’t more upset that his baby was still inside the house. Steve started to cry and wail and Lane just told him to “Calm Down!!!”

Oliver – came to the kitchen to collect a cloth to clean the tables after lunch without prompting.

Myles – really good leading the blindfold exercise and brilliant with rights and lefts even when the Senior Crew got it wrong!

Zachary – Found the teddy casualty about 8 times – Mark obviously needs some help with his parenting skills as it was him that kept losing the casualty.

Seamus – for just looking out for his team. He led in the shark infested custard and as soon as he reached the next safe place he turned and put out his hand to help the next one across and the next and the next.

Stephen – cleaned all the tables after breakfast without being asked and without help.

Sam – gave out all the cups and cutlery at lunchtime.

See? Aren’t they all just fab. Aren’t you proud of them? That’s just an example of one thing they each did today and the whole day is made up of them.

See you all in the morning and sleep well as a very busy day awaits tomorrow.