Thursday 18 November 2010

Thank God for Brick

Well, I actually have many many things to write about, it's been a very busy few weeks, but I'll put the majority of them into a separate entry. I think last night deserves its own. For once, we got to bed at a reasonable hour - thought maybe today I wouldn't be wandering around as a sleep deprived zombie. Wrong.

About 230am, I woke quite suddenly. I could hear what sounded like furniture being moved around and shoved into walls, also unusual popping sounds. My first assumption was that the neighbours were just being annoying, as they have occasionally woken us during the night, but something told me I should look behind the blinds and out the bedroom window. We live on the third (British second!) floor of a brick rowhouse, and the bedroom faces the back yard. There is an attached house to our left as we face back, where the noises were coming from. Anyway, I looked out the back window and was confronted with flames shooting out the back of the house on the left, right up to rooftop level, and a huge plume of black smoke. There was a faint hint of smoke in our bedroom, but not enough to set the alarm off. I woke David, who is a much sounder sleeper than me, and we ran around to grab passports (don't want to lose those in a foreign country) and the hard drive containing the past 11 years' worth of photos. Robin is in Amsterdam at the moment, so he missed it all. As we're running around grabbing our things, throwing on jackets, shoes, etc, someone is ringing the buzzer incessantly, then pounding on the door. I run down to get it, to let the neighbour know we are awake and leaving. A cop rushes up the stairs to tell us we need to leave immediately. So, everyone ends up down on the street - eight people from our building, three (I think) from the one on fire, and two from the one adjoining it on the other side. There's black smoke pouring out the front of the house.

I count, on our very small street, five fire engines, a cop car, an ambulance, several fire support vehicles, and at least a dozen fire fighters. They get the main bit of the fire out within about half an hour (they were there pretty quickly - traffic must not have been very bad), and it takes about another half hour before we're told we can go back in the building. They're in there until about 530 or so, ripping out walls and throwing them into the back yard - they've got a generator set up in the road out front and God only knows what's going on next door.

David and I sat around for quite a while - had some camomile tea and something to eat and eventually went back to bed. The bedroom smelled terrible, though I've managed to get rid of most of the smell today running the fan all day with the front windows open. Took me ages to fall back to sleep, and I've just had this horrible, leaden feeling all day today. It's funny - both Jonathan and I were exposed to all sorts of things burning down, growing up in CA. He has managed to, in a way, embrace fire, to tame it, possibly even vanquish it, whereas I am completely repelled by it - find it the most horrible thing in the world (though, I suppose, strangely fascinating). When I get really stressed out I have a recurring dream about fire (I have other recurring dreams as well, but when I have a fire one I know I'm really stressed). The only other time I've felt this same awful feeling was when Avi's flat burned down - a friend of his flatmate died in there, or, to be more accurate, died shortly after being in there. Passed out from GHB while holding a cigarette. The bed smoldered, turned the room into a kiln. It never flashed to an actual fire, but it was hot enough to melt the TV, and coat everything in the entire flat with greasy ash. I helped Avi move his stuff out of the flat shortly after it happened (Avi, fortunately, was not at home when this occurred). I stood in the other bedroom and looked at the mangled bed springs - where the guy lay there unconscious and cooked. I didn't see him. Didn't know him, and, I think, had never met him. But that was still, I think, probably one of the worst things I've ever seen. I used to think it was the post 9/11 barbecued flesh smell of the World Trade Center that was the worst, but, in a way, that was so mind-numbingly huge that it was overpowered by this single, and amazingly stupid bedroom tragedy. Anyway, thankfully, no one was injured last night, but I have exactly the same awful feeling again today.

So, we slept, rather badly, until about 10 this morning, and then headed towards work. I made it a whole 1.3 miles before one of my gear cables snapped. Fanfuckingtastic - really what I wanted to have happen today. Just about at the end of my coping capabilities, I walked the bike 1.5 miles to the bike store, and booked it in tomorrow to get the shifters replaced. But no, they don't have the shifters - it will be 5-7 working days. I walk down the street to the next bike store and buy the shifters myself. Walk them back to first bike store. There you are - shifters. Install please. Had lunch with David. Booked ourselves in for a 'floating spa' appointment on Sunday (sounds relaxing - I think we need it), then headed home to 'work from home', which means I actually managed to do about 5 minutes of work today, if that.

Yeah, it's been a really super cool day.

But, on the plus side, at least our flat is still together, and hopefully it will stay that way. I do feel quite badly though for the neighbours, and very much hope they have insurance.

This is the view out of the back of the flat, from Robin's bedroom (next to ours, which would be towards the right, away from the flames).

Front door of the house - ours is out of view on the right.

This is the alleyway between houses - it scorched the backyard on the left, but, fortunately didn't jump the alleyway.

That's the state of the ground floor flat - not much left.

This is from the back of the building - we are on the left, with the curly stairs - the burned building is on the right.

Oh, and just to make things weirder, David just got home, and his gear cable snapped in the same way as mine (fortunately, just after ghetto-trash tried to steal his bike and he was able to get away).

Yeah, all fun and games round these parts today!

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