07 November 2013 by David Smith, FIA, FIRESA Secretary

How different life would be if it were it a film. It depends what sort of film, of course…some genres are likely to be a bumpy ride as is anything with Steve Buscemi in it although perhaps a rom com would be more amenable, if filled with potentially disastrous situations that inevitably result in hilarious consequences. In order to retain some semblance of normality, my own choice might well be a British-made film with perhaps a dose of Mike Leigh/Ken Loach-style gritty realism but with a more positive outcome. What is true of all British films is that until his death in 2011, Pete Postlethwaite was in all of them and that since that time, Jim Broadbent is now in all of them. What would also be true in a filmic life is that I could escape from any situation by letting off a fire extinguisher and that a single match would not only illuminate the most cavernous dark room but that I could use the tiny flame without moving from the spot to set off every sprinkler in the building. With luck, I wouldn’t be stuck in a Bela Tarr art-house epic like his recent and much-loved Turin Horse otherwise I’d be sitting in a dimly-lit room for nearly three hours eating my way through a number of unfeasibly large boiled potatoes while absolutely nothing happened save the occasional tending of said horse.

The reason I speak of films is that the FIA Export Council has produced its own promotional DVD [not available on VHS, Betamax or Super8] which espouses the many virtues of the UK fire protection and fire fighting industries.

Ilustration of director filming movie

The pre-production phase as we newly-anointed aficionados call it was quite lengthy and not unlike many Hollywood movies in that there were funding issues to surmount or not as the case may be. To cut a long story short, £15,000 of expected funding vanished, came back again and then finally disappeared for good, not unlike the scene from Carry On Camping when Barbara Windsor’s bra falls off and the eagle-eyed may notice that Hattie Jacques blue hat appears and disappears between shots. It’s on YouTube if you want to have a look.

Such was the enthusiasm for the project that there was a palpable sense of disappointment that it may not proceed and so Export Council member Ray Puttock of EMS gamely suggested that we attempt a zero budget version, a sort of alternative universe option diametrically opposed to the Pirates of the Caribbean series in terms both of cost and hopefully lucidity of storyline. Surely the Pirates films are beaten for incomprehensibility only by David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive; I once read an article that explained that if you split it into 15 or so bits and then reimagine it in chronological order, it all makes sense. I tried it and it didn’t.

With a cameo role discounted and my tragically un-started Hollywood career still mouldering on the back burner, my own initial involvement comprised preparing the script. Seeking an artist’s garret somewhere in la rive gauche of Paris, I quickly found that my FIA travel budget was unlikely to stretch to such extremes of authenticity and this left me with the loft or the shed at home [or sheds if I count the one on the allotment]. The sheds were discounted owing to the profusion of insects which would make the writing process something akin to William S Burroughs’ Naked Lunch as well as the lack of space owing to the usual detritus that builds up when everything removed from the house is ‘temporarily’ placed there for the trips to the local dump that never happen. The loft held greater appeal but suffers from the same sorts of problems, being home to unwanted sink units, stacks of Exchange and Mart, stuff the previous owners left, squirrels etc. And so the more conventional approach held sway…typing it up at my desk with the occasional Twix break.

I write this the day before the FIA Annual General Meeting where the first cut of our promotional video will be premiered. It’s no better time, therefore, to pay tribute to Ray Puttock for his vision and quite outstanding commitment to the project and, not least, to his ICT and Media Designer, Steve Caira, who spent countless hours putting the whole thing together. It’s easy to say that, apart from the voice-over, we did the video for nothing but that would disguise the fact that Ray and Steve have given a great deal of their time to this at no charge and I thank them both for doing something very special for all of our FIA Export Council members.

The final cut of the video will be issued shortly.

So that’s all [folks]. I’m now going to hotwire the first car I see, drive it away maintaining a straight line despite turning the steering wheel dramatically from side to side and then be able to park it right outside an airport terminal building before running inside to prevent someone from getting a flight to some far-flung destination. Let’s just hope I don’t end up careering down an especially narrow passage where I’ll inevitably encounter a fruit stall, sending oranges tumbling across the street, nor that I crash into another car whereupon both vehicles will explode violently into balls of flame.