Life in Lockdown with Bex

Life in Lockdown with Bex

I hope you’re enjoying these little insights of the guys in lockdown because next up is Bex from Team LAFA. As always, social media links below;

Lockdown has been pretty busy for Bex!

She has spent a lot of it training, and been lucky enough to continue her weights training at the gym at work. At home she trained in the garden with Kirsty, her partner, which was great fun for both of them as they don’t often get to train together. They did a lot of circuits using all kinds of things from the garden shed!

And where would we be without some tyre dragging? Bex has been doing the tyre dragging regularly and made it to 10km. The Epsom Downs near where she was living were perfect for it with the different terrains and of course the view really helped!

Having a dog has been great company for them and also meant they got out walking. Poor George has never been walked so much! Take a look at him being carried by Bex in this picture.

“Work was quite strange over lockdown, driving around central London seemed like something from a zombie apocalypse film, it was eerily quiet. I also got put through an emergency driving course at work, which I passed, so I am now a qualified driver at work!” We are super proud of Bex for that achievement, I bet there are a lot of us reading this who would want to drive a fire engine?!

And as if all of that wasn’t enough Bex and Kirsty, and of course George, also moved house. The whole process was a slightly different feeling to normal during lockdown due to social distancing, but it still went pretty smoothly for them all.

Add in Bex and Kirsty doing a food bank collection at the start of lockdown in their village, VE day celebrations and a birthday it’s been a busy time. Check out the picture of Kirsty in their trusty van with the food ready to go.

The birthday I mentioned was Bex; “I had my birthday during lockdown which was actually lovely, I had a nice walk and then takeaway and Prosecco in the garden!” What more could you want from a lockdown birthday?

And of course, Bex joined in with the rest of us in celebrating VE Day “which was a great and fun day; socially distancing on the drive with the neighbours drinking Pimms and eating afternoon tea.” I don’t know about you but I think Bex has had a busy time in lockdown but also managed to have some lovely moments, given the crazy circumstances we find ourselves in.

Life in Lockdown with Nikki

Now you’ve all caught up with George and her lockdown life, next up is Nikki from the LAFA’s. I’ve put her social media links below so be sure you’re following her;

For Nikki her biggest worry at the beginning of lockdown (aside from not being able to go to the gym) was how bored she was going to get. “I can’t bear being bored; it turns me into a different person, like the less I do the less I want to do and I hate it. Its a horrible restlessness and I just stare at the walls not knowing what to do with myself!”. To prevent this Nikki puts measures in place early on, she was armed with puzzles, paint by numbers and colouring books and of course good old Harry Potter on her kindle. The irony is that actually the Antarctic training and admin has kept her so busy enough that her paint by numbers is lying only half finished in my spare room! Check it out below, I think that is pretty good progress so far.

Since lockdown has eased slightly Nikki has been visiting (all 4 of) her parents and sister to have BBQs in the garden. She of course takes her own crockery and everything to limit contact; it has been super lovely for her to see them even if she can’t have a hug just yet!

Nikki feels she has really thrived at work and genuinely cherished being able to go to the fire station. Not only does it mean that she only has to spend a maximum of 3.5 days in her flat in a row but it also means she gets to interact with human beings again whilst still feeling like she is contributing to society during the most uncertain of times. A very small victory for Nikki is that her flat is so sunny she can actually sunbathe in the lounge without going outside!

She also recently went to visit her colleague’s family farm, Nikki’s favourite part were the baby pigmy goats and in her own words “this was literally so so good for the soul”. A big thank you to Emily for letting Nikki visit, and yes, all social distancing rules were met, although not with the goats as you can see by the picture!

“Surprisingly my motivation for training hasn’t really wavered (aside from a couple of days here or there). I’ve realised just how much I use exercise for my mental health – when I train in the morning it shapes my day; makes me feel great and gives me more motivation to get productive and smash through my to-do list. It’s because of this I’ve probably been over-training and not giving my body sufficient rest, but I see it as looking after my head!”

For Nikki it’s all about having a plan to follow so she has been planning her week out and sticking to it, even working out in her lounge which she would never usually do but it seems to be working out for her!

Life in Lockdown with George

Over the coming weeks each blog post will be a little update from each Antarctic Fire Angel all about what they have been up to over the last few months in lockdown. I don’t just mean the relentless training hours that these guys are putting in but also a little insight in to what else they’ve been up to.

First up is co-founder of the team and leader of the WAFA’s George. Don’t forget to follow her on social media, links below…click, click!

“Initially during the first stages of lockdown, the main concern was staying as safe as possible in work which in turn meant keeping my partner safe, who thankfully works from home the majority of the time anyway. It was a very uncertain time in work, no one has ever had to deal with anything like this before so decision making was dynamic to say the least. As long as I did everything I could before coming home after each shift I was happy (ish!).”

Once home, lockdown looked very different for George. She is lucky enough to live in the country and have fields and footpaths at the bottom of her garden, this meant that she was one of the few people able to keep doing normal activities during these uncertain times. Whilst adhering to the social distancing rules she managed to walk the dogs, pull her tyres, go for runs and also have room to exercise in the garden. Even though we were only allowed out once a day George made the most of it; walking the dogs and pulling the tyres became the norm and when people saw her without them they often asked where the tyres were! If you see her around don’t forget to say hello, from the correct social distance of course.

Although George has a very close family they are also very independent from each other so not seeing or speaking to them for a while is completely normal, meaning this hasn’t been such a huge change for her on top of the very bizarre world we find ourselves in at the moment.

As we know, because we all follow the team on social media right?, they are training harder than ever at the moment and taking advantage of extra time when they have it. George also managed to sell her bikes which has allowed her to buy a Garmin Fenix 5x watch, according to George this watch is a “game changer!” so she is super happy with that purchase. Training has gone very well during lockdown, lots of energy is now focused on keeping fit and less around going to meetings and schools for presentations etc. Naturally with more Zoom meetings and not so much travel time involved it means that the days have naturally become more efficient for George, as she says; “That’s me though, if I had children, that would obviously be a very different story.”

But as lockdown slowly eases there are big questions about going back to some sort of normality and how this will change up the routine each and every one of us has become used to. “One fear I have now is less focus on training and diverting that energy to other things as before, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had to totally focus on me, rather selfishly really but, we must divert some of that now to fundraising otherwise, what’s the point right?!”

This video from Caryn L Cox, an NHS consultant, was super early on in this journey and every now and then George watches it and reminds herself that even during the early stages the team were reaching people far and wide.

This is an adventure of a lifetime and it the teams message will reach far and wide.

Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (4)

Q1. Although it’s not the end of your expedition, when you get to the South Pole, how will you celebrate?

George – Moonwalking in my skis…just kidding!! Thinking idealistically, I’d like to pop open a hip flask of port and toast everyone who’s made it there through adversity. Realistically, touch it, get resupplied, make sure everyone is ok, quick rest stop then leave.

Alison – I think we’ll all have a little hip flask for monumental moments like this. In mine I will have some aptly names ‘Snow Queen Vodka’. It’s so smooth it can be drunk neat! I would also like to be able to ring my husband and tell him we made it to the South Pole. And as we will be resupplying I would hope for some cake. 

Nikki – Firstly, I’ll be bopping around the South Pole itself taking hundreds of selfies with it – my memory is shocking and I want as much photographic evidence of our achievements as possible! Secondly its got to be some sort of booze – I’d love to say a Baileys hot chocolate although this might be a stretch!

Nakita – Snacks, definitely snacks and a team picture…then off we go!!

Bex – A few swigs of brandy, some snow angels and a dance!

Beci – Knowing me I’ll probably happy cry. I think it’ll be a bit daunting to know my pulk is about to get heavy again…but we’ll be in a place only a tiny number of humans have stood. It will be a real mixture of emotions. Secretly hope they’ll let us shower there. A shower and clean knickers…heaven!! 

 Q2. Antarctica is a very special place that few get the chance to experience. Have you Guys appointed a team medic or all taken some extra med training for your exped?

Team – We all have basic trauma training but we will all be making sure our skills are current before we leave for the expedition. There is no doubt that some members of the team will be naturally drawn to that role better than others but any big decisions will be taken out of our control by the base camp doctor such as the decision to evacuate someone or the whole team. We have a few friends of the team that have first hand experience of being a medic in this environment and look forward to working with them. 

Q3. If you could take one imaginary item with you regardless of weight what would it be?

George – Can I have 3? My dogs, Pippa, Poppy and Luis.

Alison – Definitely my bed. I always miss that when I am away. 

Nikki – Probably my shower! I hate the idea of accumulating layers of grossness day after day! It’d be amazing to have a hot shower and a fluffy towel at the end of the day to reset and feel ready for the next one! Although I probably wouldn’t want to get out.

Nakita – Too many possibilities here!

Bex – George my dog, great hot water bottle and all round comfort and fun.

Beci – A bathroom.

Q4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Beci – Working towards a big promotion at work. Two kids doing well. I’d like to start a degree. Delivering training/talks post expedition and maybe do some mountains too.

Bex – Enjoying life in wales with my family. 

Nakita – Having completed the expedition and using my experience to help others move forward with their own fund raising challenges to get their message out there. 

Nikki – Ooo I’ve actually no idea! I can see myself experiencing a void when I no longer have the Antarctic to focus on, so I’d imagine I’ll seek to fill that somehow, whether that be another physical challenge or something a little more family orientated! I don’t imagine I’d shut up about the incredible expedition I’d been on too, and if I can continue to help women realise their own possibilities I’ll be so happy.

Alison – I will be retired from the Fire Service then. So I would like to be helping other women to take on challenges and give them some leadership and coaching skills. I would like to lead a few outdoor type courses if my body is still in good order. I would love to have a place in France that my husband and I could spend a lot of time. Would love to have another dog but hopefully that won’t take 5 years! Who knows I could be looking for another challenge to take on. 

George – I see myself sitting in a beautiful holiday cottage with the dogs and my partner planning the next Expedition and probably my retirement! I also aim to be leading expeditions for people who never considered themselves capable of doing anything like this. 

Q5. Coffee or tea?

George – Tea when I wake up. Coffee mid morning with a biscuit.

Alison – Oh I am a massive coffee drinker. No brainier, this question. 

Nikki – Tea, tea tea!! Don’t tell anyone but I can’t bear coffee!

Nakita – Coffee!

Bex – I like both, tea first thing and coffee throughout the day! 

Beci – Decaf coffee.

Q6. Describe yourself in three words:

George – Only 3?! Ermmmm – prompt, focussed, sentimental. 

Alison – Determined, logical , impatient.

Nikki – Independent, Enthusiastic, & Stubborn (It’s personal growth to admit this one – my mother has been telling me this for years!)

Nakita – Unable to simplify! In all seriousness – Determined, passionate and loyal.

Bex – Resilient, dedicated and loyal.

Beci – Contradictory. Talkative. Hungry.

As always we have some lovely little videos for you to watch, click on the pictures to go there. Beci talks about her mental health and how she is coping with lockdown.

Nakita opens up about her reasons for starting the Antarctic Fire Angels. What it means to her personally and as a team…it’s an emotional one so get the tissues ready!

Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (3)

Q1. Who came up with the name ‘Antarctic Fire Angels’?

George – Ok so officially, Beci’s children came up with the name – when asked they said “Well my mam is a firefighter and an angel” so that’s where it stayed and turned into the Antarctic Fire Angels! 

Nakita – George and I had sat in a pub in Clapham Junction after a meeting with Sophie from the Ice Maidens Army Team. We knew it had to be special. Various words and phrases scribbled across the page, a work in progress. When we started recruiting the team Beci had gone home to tell her children who then came forward with the fire angel concept.

 Q2. What is your favourite food?

Nikki – A burger; not McDonalds (that’s an insult to the name burger) but like a proper pub burger with lots of fillings and sauce – yummy! I also love Greek, Thai, Italian, the list goes on!

George – On the savoury side; salmon with noodles, nice and simple. In fact I’m not that overly keen on complicated food! Sweet; Turkish delight.

Bex – I love cheese! Something I will really miss in the Antarctic!

Alison – I love seafood. Any kind of seafood but particularly prawns and mussels. I could eat them in every meal. 

Beci – I can’t chose a favourite. I love food. The only thing I can narrow down is the small group of foods I don’t like (anything aniseed / liquorice flavour).

Nakita – This is really hard for me. Over the last year I’ve had to give up a lot of favourite foods as I seem to have a reaction to certain food groups. Currently have to be gluten free and dairy free which is cruel as I love pizza and cheese!! But a roast lamb with all the veg trimmings is safe……my Mum is the best at this!!

Q3. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Alison – Engage your brain before your mouth. Think before you say something you may regret basically. 
The other one relates to work and it was from a more senior officer who said no matter what you turn up to on an incident – look calm when you arrive. Take a few minutes to assess the scene and then detail the crew to carry out actions. If you are calm they will be calm. 

Bex – Rest and recovery is as important as training so always factor it in! 

Nakita – If you worry about what other people think of you, then you will have more confidence in their opinion than you have in your own.

Beci – To question your feelings, not just accept them as they present. Ask why and try to change it. 

George – Be the person you needed when you were growing up.

Nikki – Have faith in yourself – you can do this.

Q4. What item in your wardrobe do you wear most?

Beci – My skinny jeans and selfish mother sweaters.

George – Shorts and flip flops or pyjamas.

Bex – Jeans, I love a good pair of jeans in many colours. 

Alison – Jeans. I am always in jeans black, blue, white, patterned.

Nakita – Gym leggings…..I live in them! Working out, dog walking and as casual wear. Totally addicted. Sooo comfy!!

Nikki – Gym kit! I literally live in the stuff.

Q5. Why did you decide on the Antarctic and not somewhere warmer like the Sahara? 

George – Well, that was down to Sophie from the ice maidens! But there’s no reason why an expedition to a hot place would be out of the question. 

Nakita – Completely inspired by the Ice Maidens Team. George and I could of chosen somewhere different (and warmer), but the idea of the contrast between fire and ice, going into an environment completely opposite to our role as firefighters we hope would add to our inspirational challenge.

Nikki – I think the Antarctic is fitting for firefighters – like we’re used to one extreme so how about we tackle the opposite extreme.

Q6. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Nakita – I love the idea of being a dog (completely pampered – especially in the Ross family!) but to mix it up I would say a shark! Ill explain, always had a weird fascination with them after watching Jaws. They are the best design they can be. I’ve always loved this poster I saw a while back – Do sharks need motivation? NO! They are up swimming around biting things and chasing stuff reminding everyone they’re a shark!

Nikki – Probably a dolphin – I think I make more sense in the water than I do on land! Although I definitely look more like a gangly giraffe.

George – I’d be one of my dogs. They live a life of luxury! 

Bex – A cat, you get pampered by your owner and fed but also you have independence to go and do what you want when you want! 

Alison – I would be a horse, free to run, out in a field, fed, groomed and looked after by humans. Taken out to different places on a hack, maybe exercised over a few jumps. Part of a herd. What’s not to like. 

Beci – A dog. Seriously mine has the life of luxury. Nice bed, constant tummy tickles,  food, walks and she’s always happy. 

Double whammy this post, Co-Founder of the Antarctic Fire angels, George, and Alison from Team WAFA has done a video for us all about how they are coping with lockdown and how it feels to be a keyworker.

Click on the pictures to go to the short video clips from our two Fire Angels.

Remember, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Antarctic Fire Angels; A Question from Jenna (USA) – Team WAFA.

As you might remember the last post was Team LAFA’s response to Jenna’s question, this time it’s Team WAFA’s turn. Enjoy!

I wanted to take a moment and say how inspiring you all are. I work in EMS and am deciding whether to do nursing or fire. I am naturally petite and honestly the idea of being a female firefighter is so amazing to me but also so intimidating. Normally that would motivate me to have to do it, but for some reason I feel myself holding back. Is there any advice or knowledge about being a female FF you could give me? Appreciate all you do! Stay safe. – Jenna

George – Ok, so first things first. We are all different but all equal. As a woman in the fire service, you will be the minority, right now that’s the reality, however, consider that the world is desperate for visible role models in every aspect of life. Be confident that you will be an inspiration to a lot of people, young and old out there who are probably feeling exactly the same as you. You are most certainly not alone in the way you feel. 

I always say to people – set yourself up to succeed – do your research; meet the people you may be working with, be open minded and most of all manage your expectations. Not everyone you meet is going to be positive, there will always be those who can’t think outside their own norms but just remember that they are the ones who are missing out on the wonderful things life can show us. Someone like you smashing gender stereotypes, out there, every day,  you will be one of those pioneers pushing the boundaries every day.

You CAN be a super hero AND be vulnerable too. Follow your heart and not what other people say you should be doing.

Alison – So I joined the fire service in 1995 and was the only female in the Service at that time. Below is our course photo and I thought I had better highlight where I was because I know quite a few people have found me hard to spot! I was 26 years old and quite slight.

The below photos of me shows when I recently took non uniform members of the senior management team into our hot fire training facility so that they can appreciate the conditions we sometimes have to face. I wanted to include these as wearing breathing apparatus is one of my favourite things and I still do my breathing apparatus requalification even though the likelihood of me having to go into a fire is very slim.

I worked at Cardiff Central for 9 years and it is one of the busiest stations in the whole of Wales so I was at that time pretty much wearing breathing apparatus on a at least two or three times a tour in house fires and factory fires. In those days our breathing apparatus sets were a lot heavier as the oxygen cylinders were made of steel. Sometimes we would be wandering around very large complex buildings responding to false alarms wearing these on our backs in case there was a fire in the building.

It’s amazing though that once you go from wearing it to donning the facemask and going under air that you don’t notice the weight of the kit once you are actually working at an incident. The adrenaline makes that all go away.

Beci – I decided I was going to be a firefighter when I was 2 years old. My dad was a retained firefighter (we call it on call now) and I loved visiting the fire station.

Here in the UK we have a TV show called “Fireman Sam” (it makes me sad they haven’t updated the name of the show 33 years late) anyway, I was obsessed with it as a child and wanted to grow up to be like Firefighter Penny Morris. I never diverted from that dream. 

At 13 years old I was lucky enough to become a Fire Cadet at our local fire station. Not only did that experience cement my career goal, it gave me the confidence, guidance and role models I needed to apply when I was only 16 years old. Completing the tests and eventually station my whole time training course at 18 years old. I was 5”4’ and weighed 9st 4oz. 

The first few shifts were terrifying. I was just out of school, only just old enough to go to the pub and now I was on a watch with some extraordinary firefighters and phenomenal leaders. I didn’t know if I’d be enough. But I got there and I adore my job. I’m as excited to get up and go to work now as I was as a toddler waving to fire engines as they went past; as excited as that fire cadet learning new skills and the 18 year old on their first shift. 

The fire service is my second family. It’s allowed me more pride and happiness that I could have dreamed for. Go for it. You have nothing to lose and a lifetime of memories and friendships to gain.