01 March 2013 by Graham Ellicott, Previous FIA CEO

Being a person of mature years I just about remember rationing and the rejoicing that occurred when rosehip syrup was easily available again – hell we were easily pleased in those days. Growing up in the 1950’s we ate all sorts of stuff that people these days either cringe at or assume it’s something off Heston Blumenthal’s menu at the Fat Duck.

Did you oldies out there eat stuffed hearts, tripe and onions, suet puddings or goats head soup? Just kid(ding) this was a 1973 Rolling Stones album that featured the track Angie and the great unsung Stones guitar player- Mick Taylor. Come to think of it, Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer also came out in 1973 so there’s another thing you could have eaten if you had a craving for vinyl - but I digress…

One of the things I never did eat though was Lion’s Mouth Curry and until recently I thought I never would; if only because lions are probably on the CITES protected species list along with old fat fire blokes like me. If we aren’t - we should be as we are easily distinguishable and thus easily hunted slow moving creatures.

Recently I had the chance to experience this Leo based culinary delicacy courtesy of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), who were holding one of their ‘safaris’ at a game lodge close to Nottingham. The event had the snappy title of “Prevention, Protection and Road Safety (PPRS) Conference” and my invite came from Dave Curry (the PPRS ‘Lead’ for CFOA) and putting one’s head into the CFOA Lion’s Mouth looked like too tempting a mouth-watering delicacy to miss.

Dave suggested that I metaphorically poke the natives with a sharp stick loaded with ‘Who are the FIA’ and ‘What can we do to work together’. Blimey I thought, that’s going to be mind-blowingly fascinating. Having thought about this for a while I went back to Dave and said I’d take the risk of being eaten alive but that my fate could be made more palatable for all involved if I had a suitable warm-up act speak just ahead of me.

Dave said he’d do his best and on the day of the ‘safari’ he was as good as his word - I went on after Neil Gibbins -that old big game hunter from Devon and Somerset (not many lions now left on Dartmoor because of Neil!). Between Neil and myself we have close to 100 years’ experience in the business and as I’ve only been in it since 1981, you can see what a wily old big game hunter this Gibbins bloke is! Mind you, he nearly blew it with a joke that mentioned horse burgers and the withdrawal of oak flooring because it was contaminated with lam….in.…ate but the audience laughed albeit after an explanation was forthcoming.

Thirty five PowerPoint slides from me is normally enough to put any old animals to sleep but these CFOA types are tough and they politely stayed awake and asked several questions about the FIA and where we can all work together. I particularly liked the one that began ‘Graham, now I know that you disagree with……but’ - it’s nice to have one’s views acknowledged; it shows that somebody reads the blog and the tweets!

But why have I written this blog? Well, during the course of the 35 slide sojourn I mentioned that the FIA relies heavily on Social Media to get its message across and that I could write a blog about being at the CFOA event to which one of the more awake in the audience said ‘Dare You’. At this point Neil Gibbins dropped his big game rifle and put his head in his hands as I guess that he could see what sort of drivel might be written!

In all seriousness, there was a time when CFOA would not have wanted a presentation at any of their conferences from the trade. Those days have gone and even though there are some items on which they and the FIA disagree, there are far more items on which we share the same common ground. Indeed it’s likely that my venture into the lion’s den will lead to some specific false alarms problems being solved by both parties along with other fire stakeholders – so a tangible outcome. I’d like to thank Dave Curry for the invite to speak.

Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog although this old fat fire bloke did hurt his knees running for the buffet during the Safari’s lunchtime – too slow though as all of the ‘Goats Head Soup’ had gone by the time I got there and I had to achieve ‘ Satisfaction’ from what was left at the ‘Beggars Banquet’ - mainly ‘Brown Sugar’ sprinkled over a ’Little red Rooster’.