Look At It This Way _ January 30, 2015

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I was reading this newspaper last year and one news item halted me in my tracks. I meant to write about it then but got engulfed by a tidal wave of other matters.

Until now.

The story highlighted the fact that very few people who are rescued by the RNLI say thank you. They must, I presume, splutter thanks in the lifeboat , or once revived.

The gratitude must be evident for crews to see, but they get very few formal hero-grams. And let’s remember that heroines are involved too.

On the very rare occasions when I’ve come to another human being’s aid in a more challenging situation than , say, picking them up after they have tripped, I’ve noticed the prevailing response, once the initial relief has passed, is one of slight embarrassment at having put themselves, or been placed, in the position of being indebted to another.

Remember the mad dash for cockles some years ago – when some first timers were visiting the cockle beds in dinghies purchased on eBay?

We Brits – and others – don’t ‘do’ having to be rescued by another very graciously.

The lack of thanks to the RNLI only came out in the context of one chap who – having been saved by a local crew – took the trouble to say thank you and visit the station.

The impact on morale was considerable. Now I know lifeboat men and women don’t do it for the thanks or the perceived glory.

But I can’t say I really know why they do it all.

I can’t say – and stick with me through this wave of double negatives – that I know why a voluntary force has been placed in this position.

For they, in turn, are beholden to the public, the goodwill of others, the thanks expressed by those who simply appreciate the service and donate to keep it going – even if they haven’t put so much as a toe in the water themselves.

Now I’ll never really know what makes a man or woman become a fire officer, a police officer, paramedic, join the armed forces or work in A&E.

They get paid to do it – but it still needs that inner core of commitment and courage and sense of social responsibility. A truly moral compass.

I’ve spent enough time with frontline emergency services to realise my own limitations and the extent of their commitment.

Journalists dip into people’s lives at the best and worst of times. We don’t haul them out of the sea, cut them out of a vehicle, or save them from a burning house.

We don’t – generally – put our lives on the line each time we go out on a news beat. Not unless we’re working where we’re really not wanted.

And what makes the RNLI so exceptional is the fact they volunteer to serve… rather like the Mountain Rescue service. They have jobs of their own. They give up their own time for others. To be on call. They are not paid. And more often than not, as surprised me last year, they do so without thanks.

And I, for one, don’t doubt that years of successive cutbacks in other, allied, services, be it beach patrol or HM Coastguard, is likely to pile even further pressure upon them.

The call out rate, along this stretch of coastline, is astonishing.

Blackpool Lifeboat Station has just been declared – yet again – the busiest in Britain. More than 90 call outs last year.

It is one of only two lifeboat stations that has three inshore lifeboats – the splendid Atlantic 75, the powercraft of the waves, and two D class lifeboats.

Crews there have notched up 11 awards for gallantry during the base’s 141 year history. A few years ago Fleetwood RNLI overtook Blackpool for call outs. I turned up at the station one night and found myself press ganged into joining them. The few hours I spent in their company, Wyre Light looming ahead as I took the helm, proved one of the most memorable of my journalistic career. It was exhilarating, wildly so, but could I do it, day after day, night after night, never knowing what I might find, or what the conditions could be like?

No. I’m all at sea when it comes to tapping into the depths of that sort of bravery.

They should bottle it – in the best sense of the term – and sell it at RNLI gift shops.

The RNLI is one of the greatest gifts of all. Thank you.

Aquifer issues need resolving

Noise and traffic problems.

That’s the least of it, surely, when it comes to concerns with regard to fracking?

I was surprised when some anti-frack campaigners initially claimed a victory of sorts when County Hall’s planning officers recommended refusal for two bids by Cuadrilla Resources to drill and test for shale gas on farm fields in rural Fylde hamlets – on those grounds.

It was such a hollow victory.

My grounds for concern run far deeper, into the aquifers, what lies beneath and the impact upon the environment.

Resolve those and I’ll be as pleased as the next shale gas engineer if the promised jobs boom and economic regeneration amounts to more than polemic.

Noise and traffic problems can easily be reduced.

Small wonder Cuadrilla sought a deferment in the decision.

Those who wait and worry can be forgiven for fearing they know which way the wind blows – and won’t be running up any flags to celebrate.