Saturday, 30 January 2010

They have their exits...or not!

For some reason, the other night I caught myself thinking about the books I used to read as a child. I was thinking particularly about this one that was a collection of excepts from escape stories, conveniently collated by the good nice people of St Michael if I remember correctly. It was all boyish ripping-yarn stuff, well apart from the bits that were true stories – as the title of this post implies. But they were exciting too.


This morning we were back running uni hockey training is a local school gym we hire. The equipment is of the same vintage as the old gym we had in the school I was at over twenty years ago. But that gym was glass on two sides with those old metal fire doors that were slightly warped with age, making them awkward to close if accidentally opened. The gym here in Mostar has probably fifteen foot of wall before you reach the windows and just one door; the one linking it to the school. No fire exits.


So it was that between watching the practise I started concocting an escape plan should the school catch fire and our only obvious exit be blocked. It wouldn't be easy and successful flight would probably best be achieved by suddenly developing the ability to fly. Then I remembered attending a gig in a student venue in Sarajevo that was clearly over capacity – if such a concept exists. It was at the uncomfortable-standing-room-only point when we and our host decided that we would wouldn't miss much if we walked out on the underwhelming band and their slightly repetitive rhythms. We might have been the only three people not smoking in the venue and we were a good fifty foot of densely packed bodies from the entrance. It was then that I clocked the incredible fire risk and complete lack of emergency exits.


But back to the gym. We finished our session without incident and headed up to the front doors to leave the school premises. They were locked. This in itself was not unusually. We often let in by clearers who then go about their duties only to reappear when it's time for us to leave. But this morning no amounta of shouting, banging or unauthorised ringing of the school bell could raise any attention. A hunt around revealed that not only was no one else on sit but that the gym was not alone in being completely devoid of fire exits.


Fortunately, there were windows only four foot off the ground, through which a couple of our young people climbed to go and get help. Reflecting on this almost adventure I cannot recall ever seeing a fire exit in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I must have, but I couldn't say when or where. Clearly my challenge now is too track one down and photograph the evidence.

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