Things I learned about why you should just ask a neighbour for help in the first place

1. When a smoke alarm's battery has gone, and it starts to beep loudly at intervals of 23 seconds, while you are nicely settled in front of the TV, there is no point hoping that it will stop.  It will not.  This is the point.  You are supposed to change the battery immediately because, if you don't, it will be that night that an inferno begins in your wardrobe.  (Don't ask ME why.  But it MIGHT.)

2.  A sans-battery smoke alarm beeps surprisingly loudly, considering.

3. Common sense tells you that the beeps can't possibly be getting louder and louder and louder and louder and louder, so there's really no point getting irritated.  But stuff common sense.

4. A smoke alarm's favourite time to run out of battery is precisely one hour after the person who is tall and brave enough to reach it has left the house for a Northern city.

5. There is no point wishing that smoke alarms were positioned conveniently half-way up a wall so that you could change its battery more easily.  This may suit you, if you're short, but being short is not an inconvenience compared to being a pile of ash, which is not very tall either.

6. Taking instructions from the tall and brave one about where the batteries are, how to use the ladder, and how to change the smoke alarm's battery, is not easy over a dodgy mobile phone connection when the tall and brave one is standing on a railway station and the man on the tannoy announcing the imminent arrival of the 3.49 to Manchester appears to be intimately involved in your phone call.

7. Retrieving a ladder from a downstairs cupboard, carrying it through the house and up the stairs, when the ladder is two feet taller than you are, burns off 13,092 calories and requires a stronger anti-perspirant than the one you're using.

8. The sticker saying, 'The safety lock must be engaged before you climb the ladder' probably means that it's best to find out how to engage the safety lock.  THIS is when you go for the neighbour, not at point 13.

9.  A career as a writer will end very quickly if you climb a ladder a) without finding out how to engage the safety lock; b) with your fingers in a position where they will be cut off by a sharp edge if the ladder collapses.

10. On a collapsing ladder with your fingers trapped is not nearly as nice a place to be as Tenby beach.

11. It is at the point at which your fingers are about to be separated from the rest of your body that you need to find a way to stop this happening.  This is because typing with your ears is not easy.  The book signings are also going to be awkward.  And if your writing career tends to rest on pointing at people and laughing, you are going to have to switch genre.

12. The moments immediately after you rescue your fingers and jump off a ladder are good moments.  Tenby beach doesn't even come near.  And, suddenly, you don't notice the beeps.

13. Feeling your own heart, trying to escape from its cavity, is a bit like having a private Oasis concert going on in your chest.

14. It's best to wait for your breathing and heart rate to settle before landing on the neighbour's doorstep to ask for help.  He may be confused by your sudden deterioration in communication skills, when you were perfectly lucid over the Christmas mince pies just a few months ago.

15. If you have writer's bottom, let the neighbour go up the stairs first.

16. The fact that a neighbour can set up a ladder, climb up it, take out an old battery and change it for a new one in precisely thirteen seconds without collapsing the ladder, losing his fingers or having to jump off the ladder from a height in an emergency should not be a matter for shame, but strangely, it is.

17. If you have a strange kink in your hair at the back, let the neighbour go down the stairs first.

18. The realisation that you still have fingers may make you want to hold something, just to prove that you still can.  A wine glass, in this situation, is the ideal shape.


  1. Is there some way in which huge and irreparable blame can be attached to the tall and brave one for leaving the house at this time of imminent crisis, without having first changing all the batteries in all the smoke alarms, just in case?

  2. Ah but think how much more humiliated you'd feel if you'd burnt to death...

  3. Rip the bloody thing off the wall and end it. Forget the ladder. Use a broom handle. Then take the broom and sweep up the minor mess this will make. Then - and this is the most important step - place your hands firmly around that beautiful wine glass and drink.

  4. Mise, I agree with you. SO inconsiderate of him.

    Steve - you're right. It would have been so much more difficult to write the blog post, too.

    Mark - You've done this before, you've done this before.

  5. Definitely the Tall Person's fault, I'd say.

    But you are SO wrong about those calories. They do not obey the laws of reason. Carrying a ladder up Everest might burn about 500 calories; doing what you did probably added some to your daily count.

    Glad you enjoyed 'This Boy's Life' - so did I, very much.

  6. Hahahaha yes, a pile of ash is certainly not tall either. How do you reach stuff in tall shelves?

  7. My alarm did the same. Best way is to twat it with a spade. Worked a treat.

  8. Miss, you ought to have a never-ending supply of school boys awaiting your every cry for assistance. Tell them, or else, seeing that you're in charge and in perfect position for blackmail.
    My smoke alarm always goes off when I cook the Sunday lunch time steak, I like my pan to be nice and hot, with smoking fat, but the alarm sees this as a personal insult and is rather keen to let me know.

  9. Reading this was a most unusual experience as while I was sitting here all alone at the kitchen table in the wild Canadian West with snow clouds gathering and killing myself laughing, I was also WINCING and exclaiming O SH** out loud - this of course, when I got to #9.

    MMO, (although since it's Mother's Day over here I should probably call you MOM again) nobody has ever made me laugh quite like you do (with the exception of my children, I'm sorry).

    If I was the award-giving type, I would slap one on your sidebar, but you'll have to do without. But I do want to thank you for being You/Me/Miss 'cos I just don't know what I'd do without your funniness.

  10. Oh gosh, I hate when the smoke alarm battery dies. I seriously just want to rip it down and toss it out the window. But we can't seeing as we're in military housing. I imagine that would be frowned upon.

  11. Don't think you can get out of writing this blog by losing a few digits - there's always voice recognition software, you know.

    Glad to hear you are still in one piece.

  12. Oh this is all very true. I have come much closer to serious injury in trying to change smoke alarm batteries than I ever have from burning in a fire - but logic tells me that the worst that can happen is a broken leg or arm compared with incineration.

  13. Rachel - first you depress me with the calorie thing, then you cheer me up by liking the same book. You have pitched me into a rollercoaster of emotions and it is only Monday. Go easy.

    Loveable Homebody - how do I reach tall shelves? Stay married?

    Annie - your choice of verb as to what you do with the spade is most interesting.

    Friko - yes, no doubt there is a whole nation of people at mealtimes flapping at smoke alarms with a teatowel/recipe book/piece of pork loin ... whatever comes to hand.

    Deborah - anytime you want a free holiday in a small Warwickshire town, just call. I will wait on you hand and foot. You are a tonic.

    Whispering Writer - yes, I imagine that wouldn't go down with the commanding officer. Especially if he/she was walking past at the time and got brained.

    Chris Stovell - from what I hear of voice recognition software (I have seen my son yelling at his computer, trying to use it) I would have more joy typing with my knuckles.

    Alan - I'm really, really glad I didn't know about your near misses before I tried doing it myself.

  14. Anonymous11/5/10 04:25

    Next time you will know to go straight from number one to 18... no stopping along the way - there is something about a bottle or two of wine - it's capable of drowning out all annoying noises

  15. Oh my Lord, this would drive me absolutely mental! You are a strong, brave woman.

  16. I must print this out and stick it inside the under-the-stairs cupboard door . It will definitely come in handy one day . I might choose someone other than my immediate neighbour though , she's even shorter than me .

  17. Eternally Distracted - Why didn't I think of that?

    Talli - Not strong. Not brave. Just very silly.

    S & S - Yes, careful choosing of neighbours is key. Or get a taller ladder?

  18. Anonymous11/5/10 16:08

    Yes. Neighbour. Good thinking. The last time I attempted this I ended up hitting the smoke alarm with a broom. For the record, it didn't stop the beeping.

  19. Wooo Fran you are truly the funniest blogger on the internet and I'm distracted by this hilarious story by the almost equally hilarious book reviews on your sidebar. How did I not notice them before?

  20. Hooray for good neighbours (and for wine glasses).


  21. KarenG - please feel free to share that opinion of my blog with any passing humour publishers. And glad you enjoyed the book reviews.

    Suzanne Jones - combined, the two make for a wonderful evening, actually.

  22. Oh, poor you! I'm glad you saved your fingers, though:) And I think a glass of wine is in order!

  23. oh, God, and it says, comment will be visible after approval. Well, that's me stitched up.

  24. oh I want to meet you! it's yes yes yes to everything really. The Other Hand, The Woodlanders, Change of Climate (actually Wolf Hall is truly great, sorry), Mags F great, v understated / under-rated. Loved the Donna Tarrrttttt, that one, and t'other, the Little Friend, very swampy, very good. Couldn't face the Toniiii book, loved early Kazuo (gave up on him after the terrible Never Let Me Go), Hmmm, not keen on Mme B, Loved Jane E AND Rebecca (oh YESSS - must read Don't Look Now, too), haven't read that David L but loved Therapy and Thinks.
    Anyway, where was I?? Utterly thrown by having to read comments and book reviews and have completely forgotten about blog. But, it made me laff, which I needed as I'd had a ladder day today sorting out poxy bloody sky talk (how annoying is that cosy little naming). what it means is sky-don't-talk. Just chase through automated systems on mobile phone. Bloody sky. Only got it for the cricket. Sorry. aware am burbling.

  25. Thanks, Alexandra Croc - I take it I have your permission. Pouring it now ...

    Milla - I loved your burble very much. And, yes, I agree, 'Never Let me Go' was a real turn-off. What was he on about? Or, more likely, what was he on?

  26. Anonymous13/5/10 13:31

    Next time wave a tea towel at it. Works for me!


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