Decamot inspired by the following items: fire engine, atlas, chef, railway arch, robin, The Alps, swimming shorts, doorstep, bowler hat, Christmas tree
Tom Blazer was a self-styled eponymous fireman. Had he opted for a career with the Forestry Commission he might have been a trail Blazer. When researching his family tree, he even discovered an immigrant ancestor from Poland; a tailor who had Anglicised their surname from Blatzeriveritz to Blazer; a name perfectly suited to his trade.
He could have been a chef specialising in sizzling steaks or a pyromaniac, but he thought the police would put him on an identity parade and quickly find a match; a bit like asking Shane Warne to wear a bowler hat. Coming from a long line of Blazers, it is surprising he didn’t end up as chairman of the Football Association, but Tom was determined to create his own legend by becoming the best fire officer in the history of the vocation, which has its origins in ancient Rome while under the rule of Augustus in the 3rd Century.
He joined the Cleveland Fire Brigade as a 20-year-old volunteer and rose swiftly through the rank to Chief Fire Officer of the Grangetown Community Fire Station with arguably the most unprepossessing address in the country: -
Slip Road Church Lane/Trunk Road TS6 9AA
Tom Blazer first came to the public’s notice when he rescued an injured roseate tern, the UK’s rarest breeding seabird, from under a Middlesbrough railway arch by crawling along his fire engine’s extendable ladder. It probably didn’t merit the publicity it received but this particular bridge was one of the few not designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel but by his arch rival Thomas Telford.
Some little Englanders argued that public funds should not be wasted rescuing foreign birds when the humble indigenous robin was in decline. Interviewed on Tyne Tees Television, Tom Blazer reminded viewers that members of the Fire Brigades Union were pledged to a policy of inclusivity. Anything less than absolute equality was unacceptable. He would continue to rescue birds in distress irrespective of the colour of their plumage.
His second entry into public prominence came two years later after the official unveiling of the Darlington Christmas Tree, an annual present to the people of Darlington from the burghers of Bergen in Norway, with whom Darlington used to be twinned. The 1992 tree was 150 feet high and proved irresistible to one Adam Jenkins, a ten-year-old adolescent who set about climbing to the top one night as a dare wearing only a pair of luminous lime swimming shorts. Tom Blazer again used his extendable ladder to unhook the terrified boy six hours after his worried parents had reported him missing.
Interviewed on the front doorstep of his modest Redcar semi, Tom Blazer thanked the local authority for resisting Tory cuts to services as he would definitely not have been able to affect the rescue with a shorter ladder.
Thus, it was that Tom Blazer’s firefighting career was marked with unsought honours throughout, culminating in a nomination for one of the key awards at the prestigious National Fire Brigades Union Annual Awards ceremony held in the Great Room of the Grosvenor Park Hotel on Park Lane in London’s West End, a glittering black tie event attended by 1000 of the great and the good of the trade union movement with specially invited members of the government.
Guest of honour this year celebrating his seventieth birthday was HRH The Prince of Wales a fitting choice of person to present the last award of the evening – the special lifetime non-achievement award of which Tom Blazer was one of three nominees. This particular award originated in the Victorian era when the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire was formed in 1836 mainly to provide mobile escape ladders as protection of life was not the main concern of the insurance company fire brigades.
The National Fire Brigades Union had subsumed the original and made it their own believing members of all ranks should be entitled to recognition if it could be shown that they had adhered to all the rules and regulations in an unimpeachable way. The ultimate recipient had to be a person of impeccable integrity whose ultimate reward in life was to have followed the rules even if it meant not achieving anything. HRH was the perfect choice to present it from the stage which featured an opulent starry back drop reminiscent of the Alps at midnight. The menu featured an atlas with the slogan ‘the world is your oyster’.
Jo Brand hosted the event courtesy of Performing Artistes, with Roger Tilling performing the voice over introductions :
JO: And now to the final award of the evening, the Victor Ludorum for a lifetime of selfless effort presented to someone about to retire.
VOG: The nominations were:
1 - Professor Sir William Body, president of the Royal College of Surgeons who, in a career lasting 40 years, has never used his scalpel
2 - Sir Thomas Tank, General Secretary of ASLEF (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) who has never driven a train
3 - Tom Blazer, Chief Fire Officer of Grangetown Community Fire Station, part of the Cleveland Fire Brigade who is retiring after 35 years’ service having never had to put out a fire
JO: His Royal Highness has the envelope containing the winner so can I ask you, sir, to tell us who has won the Lifetime Non-Achievement Award for 2018
As Prince Charles put his hand into the brown envelope handed to him, the accompanying drum roll was interrupted by the shrieking sound of the hotel’s fire alarm. Tom Blazer, spotting flames emerging from the kitchen doors was quickest to react. He grabbed a fire extinguisher from its bracket on a nearby wall and had the burning carcasses of six roast ducks under control within seconds, thus disqualifying himself from the ceremony.
So near yet so far.