Fire! A hot reflection

Sometime back I “reported” on a fire we witnessed at Rome. Again, on the subject of fire, the 1 July 2015 was the hottest July day on record in the UK -so far- with a maximum temperature of 36.7°C![1] We happened to be in Edinburgh at the time, departing to Newcastle by train. Why Newcastle? you would rightly ask. Because of the beauty of buying cheap plane tickets on line! There was a substantial diference flying from Newcastle to Paris than from Edinburgh. Paris was our stopover on our way to Johannesburg and eventually Harare.

Most people were feeling hot and bothered that day. We were quite comfortable with the first summer day we had encountered since our arrival in Scotland a few days earlier. I even managed to remove my thin polartec jumper and go about in a shirt for a couple of hours, until the sun got weaker and I needed it back again!

We arrived at Edinburgh Waverley Train station in mid morning, clearly too early for our 13:10 train to Newcastle. As we travel loaded with suitcases, we prefer to wait than to rush! Surrounded by lots of red-faced and sweaty people we found a quiet corner and prepared for the longish wait. I walked the station up and down to familiarize myself with its platforms, particularly ours. After that we talked -mostly about our son’s graduation, the suitability of our plane seats and our eagerness to arrive to Harare as soon as possible- until the time come to walk to platform 11, the right place according to the information board. Despite carrying large suitcases and hand luggage for our flight, our progress was good and we got there in good time.

The train arrived on time and people disembarked so we waited politely until the intructions to board came. We did not take two steps towards our coach before we got stunned rather than heard a really overwhelmingly loud siren followed by the announcement that there was an emergency and that the station needed to be immediately evacuated. I suddenly understood the sinking heart feeling! I had a last longing look at our train, the vanishing link with Harare, and started walking with our luggage uphill towards the exit. We were part of a multitude moving in a very orderly fashion with no apparent panic.

While walking my brain tried to come to grips with the situation. Missing the train meant missing all the flights for reasons not related to any of the airlines involved so they were under no obligation of putting us on a other flight! Even if they agreed to do this, would the right flights be available? I recalled the difficulties I have had earlier to get better seats for our long journeys, even at a cost and I new then that it was going to be expensive and difficult and asking for a refund did not event come to mind at the time!

While pondering on the vulnerability of present day plane travel, with every step towards the exit my desperation augmented as I could see no easy way out of it! Then, luckily and as fast as the crisis started, it ended! Railway employees came running to inform us that those passengers leaving within the next 30 minutes were allowed to turn back and board their respective trains as soon as possible as the alert had been cancelled!

Probably the intense heat triggered some fire alarm that brought about the evacuation order that, on further checking, was lifted. This was the fastest turn around I remember doing with heavy suitcases and I am sure that we went down towards the train at record speed although, unlike the temperature, no one recorded our movement! Luckily our train was still there and we did a boarding worth of a good pirate!

This post would have ended here except that four days later, on the 5 July there was another scare of a fire at Edinburgh Waverley that mobilized three fire engines to control it. This time the scare was caused by the passing of the Tornado steam locomotive[2] through the station![3] It seems that Edinburgh Waverley is rather jittery when it comes to fires so I made a mental note to avoid it in future.


[1] See:

[2] See:

[3] See:

Caput Mundi – Romeing

Although we have visited Rome several times and lived there during 1993-1997 and 2006-2010 we are never bored when we are here as it is the city of exploration and discovery as well as surprise! The advantage of both having time and knowing the city quite well enable us to get lost in it with pleasure.

This visit was no exception and we walked in the general direction of the historical centre, with a quick detour at FAO to address pending minor administrative issues. As usual a number of monuments were being restored and were therefore totally or partially covered and invisible to the normal visitor. Seeing them reminded me of the difficulties the Roman authorities must face in order to preserve the city as well as the costs this incurs!

This time a section of the Colosseum was being repaired but we could still enjoy part of it.

The Colosseum never fails to amaze.

The Colosseum never fails to amaze.

What about a

What about a “selfie” with a “Colosseum background”? Even if it means stopping on the busy road…

As the weather was very pleasant, our walk continued and took us to the great views of the Roman Forum. Although we have entered it before, we realized that in order to appreciate it as a whole, the best place to see it is from above. Not being archeologists, our interest in ruins goes as far as admiring their present beauty while trying to imagine what the place must have looked like a couple of thousand years before (an impossible task unless they are whole!).

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Anyway, in front of our eyes were the Temples of Saturn, Vespasian and Titus, Cesar, Castor and Pollux as well as the Temple of Vesta; the Arch of Septimius Severus and other remarkable surviving ruins of what once was the centre of Roman public life.

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Our contemplation over, our walk continued downwards until we reached the Trajan forum, built in 106 by, not surprisingly, Trajan! The spoils of the conquest of Dacia, with which the forum was built in 106 must have been lean as it is built in bricks (maybe the marble had run out…). Trajan’s Column is next but it was built later (113), quite new for Roman standards!

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The flag of the Order of Malta adds a touch of colour.

The flag of the Order of Malta adds a touch of colour.

Once we reached the end of our legs’ strength (there was still an infinite Rome waiting!) we decided to return to base for a well earned shower and rest. We chose a short walk down “memory lane” that followed my first-ever walk in Rome: from Via Capo D’Africa, 47[1] to FAO via the church San Gregorio Magno al Celio. Little did we know that a final Roman act waited us!

The FAO Headquarters.

The FAO Headquarters.

The smell of acrid smoke hit us near the church and we saw a small leaf mound on fire, probably the result of the work of a Roma City Council gardener. We did not think much of it and walked past noting a flock of police (women and men) nearby chatting animatedly. Nothing wrong there either. Suddenly though, we heard a siren and, lo and behold, a fire engine came rushing in to control the on-going conflagration!

Italy is the cradle of Opera and clearly Rome’s inhabitants have a flair for drama, even when dealing with really mundane occurences!

[1] The Hotel Penzione Lancelot (now Hotel Lancelot, still under Mrs. Khan’s management) is located there.