It's now the third time I've done it, and as before, the first week is about the toughest, simply through sheer force of habit -- on one occasion I even found myself half way down a pint of Guinness before I remembered I wasn't supposed to be drinking. It does restrict your social life, too, since there's a limit on how mucb orange-and-lemonade you can stomach drinking in an evening (and it's a lot less than the beer limit!), while all around you get steadily more slurred. I have thus been making steady progress with 'Grand Theft Auto' and the video backlog.
I can't say I'll be sorry when it's over, though there is something strange about coming home from a night out, with absolute clarity of thought. I miss the fuzziness round the edges somehow, cocooning you from the harsh idiocy of reality. And certainly, reading things like "Fire brigades ordered to end culture of sexism and racism" in the papers today are almost enough to drive one to drink. Stop me if I'm wrong here, but I thought the main job of a Fire Brigade was to put out fires, not to act as some Benetton-advert representation of society as a whole? And even the Home Office report praised the high standard of work in the service.
I've little doubt that the Fire Brigade is a deeply macho institution, but I wouldn't want it any other way, since dealing with raging infernos in general is also pretty macho: you ain't gonna talk a firestorm out (well, Tony Blair could probably give it a good shot, simply by sucking up all the available oxygen). Firefighters in Hollywood are the likes of Kurt Russell and John Wayne, not Rupert Everett and Divine. Even its name - fire brigade - is military, and this ethos runs through it like a stick of rock: uniforms, ranks, drills. And for good reason too: following orders isn't an optional extra when you're staring serious injury and death in the face on an everyday basis.
So it's first the army, then the police, now the fire brigade. It's probably no coincidence that the areas where discipline are most essentual, are those regularly found, to shrieks of horror from liberals, to be "institutionally ___ist" (insert favourite "-ism" here). In some cases, this may be a bad thing: a racist police force, for example. But I have nowhere seen even the slightest suggestion that fire brigades are any slower in responding to calls from ethnic minorities, or any other group. Their allegedly unacceptable behaviour is limited to within their own ranks, and it's a bloody difficult and dangerous job to boot. So as far as I'm concerned, what firemen do in private is entirely their own business -- up to (and probably including) the sacrifice of small children.
In the end, does anyone really give a damn whether their burning house is extinguished by heterosexuals or not? "It is time the Fire Service began to understand that society is changing and it is time it began changing too," said Home Office minister, Mike O'Brien. So, the next time you roast to death because your disabled lesbian fireperson of colour can't get her wheelchair through the door of your blazing home, you know who to blame.