06 September 2013 by Graham Ellicott,

My annual blues are here. They come out every year around this time and are generated by that feeling that hits me when that well known airline (the one that sells you scratchcards, plays an annoying jingle to pronounce upon some meaningless statistics and generally won’t allow you to sleep as they may be missing a sales opportunity) deposits me back at Stansted Airport and the annual holiday is over. It’s back to the grind!

For me, the holiday consists of sleeping, reading endless books, cooking and eating, swimming and riding my bike – the latter is believe it or not relaxing, even though this year I covered about 400km including the category 1 Tour de France climb of the Col de Jau. This climb was a metaphor for me for the fire world as towards the top I felt like Sisyphus, who in Greek mythology rolled an immense boulder to the top of a hill and then watched it roll back down again and was then endlessly compelled to repeat the process as a punishment! Fortunately I only had to climb and descend CdJ once and that was punishment enough!

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But why is it a metaphor? Well, the closer you get to the top, the harder it is to get over the summit as you are tired, the road often becomes steeper and then a car comes by and tries to encourage you to pedal faster whereas the actual effect is to knock you out of your rhythm so that you end up in the gutter cursing that bloke Sisyphus, while that bloody airline jingle rolls around your mind like some infernal brainwashing torture! In the fire world the equivalent of the car is the encouraging noises that you get from all stakeholders which leads you to believe that all things are possible whereas the resources that you have to employ are only finite and thus you are tempted to bite off more than you can chew!

Currently we are entering interesting times for the fire world as we await the fallout that been ‘provoked’ by Sir Ken Knight’s ‘Facing the Future’ report. The closing date for ideas and comments concerning the report has just closed and that, coupled with an impending firefighter strike, could lead to some interesting changes to the English services in the way that they operate, are managed and are held to account. It will be interesting to see what DCLG’s response is to the Knight report and whether they try and climb the mountain and possibly bite off more than they can chew or whether they play safe! Time will tell and with an election looming the temptation may be to go for the latter option especially as larger political issues may intervene.

I can still hear that annoying statistically profound jingle – I guess by the time I can’t I won’t remember the holiday at all – It’s Great to be Back...!