I walk into my local off-licence. The one conveniently located at the end of my street, one-minute and thirty-seconds walk away from my front door. I am feeling a bit twitchy.
Troll Woman behind the counter looks rather excited.
Me: [Gesturing at the shelves behind Troll Woman] Could I have that small bottle of bourbon please?
Troll Woman: Eee. Bit of excitement down your street. Someone telt us there’s Fire Engines and that.
Me: Yes. I know. Could I please have that small bottle of bourbon? Please.
TW: Du ya knaw whese hoose it was? The fire?
Me: Yes I do. Could I pretty please have that small bottle of bourbon?
TW: Aye. Whese then?
TW: Whese hoose is on fire?
Me: It’s out now. Could I please have that small bottle of bourbon? Please.
TW: Aye. You’re joking.
She notices the soot on my hands.
TW: [Wide-eyed] Everyone all reet? What aboot the bairns?
Me: Didn’t even wake. Could I please have that small bottle of bourbon?
TW: Aye. What happened?
Me: Look, could I just pleas- [sigh] I accidentally set the kitchen alight.
TW: [Suddenly strangely maternal] Ye daft bugga. [With complete lack of sympathy] Good start to the New Year. Bit of excitement for yu thun?
Me: Yes well. There was nothing on television. Look. Could I please just have that small bottle of bourbon?
One-minute and thirty-seconds later I return to my home. I notice that although the firemen had left big boot-prints on the steps up to my front door, they had had the decency to wipe them on the way in and had not tracked any dirt into the front room.
There may have been lives at stake, but good manners cost nothing.
I glance at the new smoke alarm that the fire crew fitted whilst they were here and then pour myself a large drink. I pace about in a distracted manner for a while.
After a minute or two I brace myself. I walk back into the kitchen and survey the damage. It is then that I notice the frying pan.
Clean on the draining board.
After regarding the flames shooting up the wall, after giving instructions for the emergency services to be called, after turning the electric cooker off at the power point on the wall so the situation would not worsen, after sealing the door of the kitchen with me inside so the flames would not reach the rest of my house and my sleeping children, after – stupidly - tackling the fire myself and briefly making it worse, I did this:
Amid thick black smoke and the still-glowing embers of a potentially catastrophic kitchen-fire, I calmly washed a dirty frying pan that was languishing next to the sink without even realising I was doing it. So that the soon-to-arrive fire crew would not think we were slobs.
I put the pan back in the cupboard.
I look again at the smoke damage. Tired Mam joins me. She looks around.
Tired Mam: I’d only just cleaned-up in here.