I watch on as two brave firefighters battled to extinguish the roaring flames, their uniforms disappearing momentarily through the thick plumes of smoke.
The charred remains of shopping trollies emerge from the fire, I’m so close I can feel the intense heat of the flames as I peer in to see the skeleton of an ironing board sticking out from the embers.
Ash falls on my face as I look up to see the smoke billowing into the sky, colourful fireworks explode briefly illuminating the sky, their embers falling like drooping rose petals quickly engulfed by the smog.
It is Bonfire Night and I’m out with the fire brigade.
In the hours leading up to my night on shift with Ellesmere Port Fire Station I am snowed under at work. But as I get ready to leave the office I start to panic.
My fear? That I will be in the loo when the alarm sounds.
It might sound ridiculous, but my genuine fear was that I would slow them down, be a liability and ultimately cost valuable time that could put people’s lives at risk.
Or, what if my ostomy bag filled up and we couldn’t get back in time – then the firefighters would be dealing with a whole new type of explosion.
I soon forgot about this when I got to the station – in fact I was so preoccupied I didn’t even find out where the loos where (which is a first for me in my entire adult life).
There wasn’t a moment to breathe. For hours we jumped in and out of our boots, and scrambled into the engine, racing off into the night, all sirens and flashing lights.
My suit was so heavy and big I felt like Paddington Bear.
I went at least three hours without even checking Winnie was ok, anything could have been going on, but the drama took over as I saw fireworks thrown in the direction of police and the firefighters face unbelievable amounts of abuse for putting out unsupervised fires close to people’s homes and gardens.
Hours later, as I clambered out of my suit during a much-needed moment’s peace, I told the firewoman (there was one lady and three men) that there was no way I could have done this two years ago with my Colitis – I would simply not have been able to cope for that amount of time, or I would have had no teeth left at the end of it from all the grimacing.
She seemed surprised but was lovely and sympathetic.
It was only then I realised that for the first time since my operation I had gone more than an hour without either thinking or checking on my ostomy bag – in fact it had been hours.
I guess it means that she can behave, and, for once managed not to choose the worst moment ever to throw a wobble.
But, despite this, I refrained from eating during the brief break. They must of all thought me a little odd sat there with no food, but I just knew that one crumb of food would start everything off and that would be it – I wasn’t going to test fate that night.
It was an amazing eye-opening evening, which left me both in awe of the firefighters bravery, and feeling slightly disgusted at the behaviour I witnessed.
But I also found out just what I could cope with. Now, thanks to Winnie, I can truly manage to do the job I love.