Well, just thought you'd care to know I nearly burned to death ten minutes after I posted my last blog entry.

What happened is, I went away, called a writer acquaintance to ask what all those doodly pencil marks on the revision copy of 'Stations meant, went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea before starting work, walked back into the hall, smelled smoke.

This also happened perhaps two months ago. I live in a tenement building, with six flats sharing a common entry, three floors. The next door down (or 'close' as we call it in Glasgow) went up in flames back then. There is now a large wooden thing over the entrance of that particular close with a padlock, clearly currently not safe for human habitation. Fortunately there's a fire station about two blocks away. I smelled smoke then because it must have been drifting through the shared attic space. Took ages to get rid of the smell.

This time, I smelled smoke, opened my front door - I'm a floor up - and was confronted with a wall of smoke. Intense, but not impassable. Quick glance down the stairwell, flames belching up from the basement. Where, I remembered, some idiot had cleverly dumped a bunch of old aged furniture some weeks before because the effort of calling the Council to come and take it away was clearly too great.

Shut door, dial 999, gabble down phone. Put down phone after delivering message, open front door again, even bigger wall of smoke, now giving me a 'go on - just try running through me and see how far you get' kind of look.

Go to another room, grab defenceless gerbils (girlfriend's pets), stuff them into a small carry case while they try to figure out what the fuck is going on, go through to the bedroom which looks out over the street, yank window open. See engines walloping up the road, rapidly followed by an ambulance and a police car. Firemen take one look, slap on breathing gear and go in. Fire out in perhaps fifteen minutes - while I stay put - watching from above, gerbils by my side, thinking it's not so far down - one comes to my door, checks I'm okay, tells me to stay put.

Not fun, let me tell you. The close itself looked seriously shafted. Wires hanging down, steps and floor covered in burnt plaster, walls black and blistered from the heat. It's only been a couple of days - everyone's internet/cable tv/phone was down due to melted cables, but all is back again. Very rattled. Went out for drink. Mmm, drink. Still rattled, but fortunately not on fire.

For a bit there, I really thought somebody had committed arson. It is a remarkable coincidence, after all, that the flats next door would nearly burn down just a few weeks before. However, according to the police they don't think it was deliberate. If there's any problem, it's idiot landlords renting property out who just dump their old furniture at the bottom of the stairs. It also happened to coincide with somebody having the fun idea of booting in the security lock on the door to our close - what can I say, it's that kind of town. However, none of the flats got damaged; everything is fine, and the building is getting back to normal.

There is also no more furniture at the bottom of the stairs .. because it all got burnt. And we have a new, good quality security lock on our door now. Were people hurt? Yes, three, so I hear. One girl's apparent reaction upon realising there was a fire in the close was to immediately jump from a window into the back garden, injuring a vertebrae in her back. Now, okay, the building was on fire, but calling the emergency services and waiting a minute or two would have seemed to be the sensible option. And I took one look at that smoke and thought no way was I going through it. Apparently two people disagreed ... and I believe were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation. Here's a tip, kids, next time there's a fire, use your brain and consider your options for at least a second or two before doing something which might turn out to be seriously risky to your life. Then jump out the window.

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