from the publisher of reinsurance and fac magazines

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Smoking chilli peppers, Batman

Dear friend,

It seems we at Reinsurance magazine are cursed.

At our last office it was terrorist car bombs parked outside that spoilt our day.

Then we moved to new offices in London’s trendy Soho and, apart from all the drug addicts, prostitutes and ghastly media industry caricatures prowling the streets, we thought we were relatively safe.

How wrong we were. The other day I left for home by the back entrance of our offices, which are on a dead-end street, to be met by a fireman in full regalia.

He was merrily blocking off my exit at the end of the road, with that ‘police line do not cross’ tape you always see on action thrillers on TV.

“You can’t go out this way, you’ll have to go round another way,” he sneered, adopting the surly tone so beloved of low-ranking public servants when they are temporarily in a position of authority.

“Well, there is no other way — it’s a dead-end.” I replied

Stunned, embarrassed silence from London’s finest.

“You don’t you really want me to stay here, do you?” I said, trying persuasion “otherwise why would you be you be cordoning the street off?”

Poor man was a bit deflated.

“Okay, you can go out that way,” he sighed begrudgingly. Then he paused as I crossed the line, “But remember the barrier is there for a reason,” he said, unable to resist a final attempt at justifying detaining me further.

“What reason?” I muttered to myself, instantly hoping he hadn’t heard me, lest he change his mind and force me back into my dead-end prison.

Once free, people I spoke to said it was a suspected serious ‘chemical spillage incident’.

Then the next day the BBC published the real story.

At first it makes you laugh, then it makes you wonder.

What sort of chance do we have when we are protected by people who block off dead-end streets?

And in a country dominated by spicy oriental restaurants of all nationalities, isn’t this chilli fumes problem rather a common one?

Maybe it is something the emergency call operators could filter out by asking a simple question like “Is your office above a Thai restaurant, by any chance?”

It is often only when you experience something at close hand that you see how far it can depart from the lofty ideal it is supposed to be.

Firemen are supposed to be helpful and competent. Unfortunately not all of the ones you get to meet possess either of those qualities. It’s just luck.

The front line in our battle against fire and terror losses cannot always be relied upon.

The lesson for today, as ever, is you must always rely upon yourself.

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