Tom Herbert

When is a door not a door?

‘You see all sorts of things in this job’, quipped the fireman, ‘mind you, some people I know wouldn’t mind being trapped in their bedroom’. And with that he and his three colleagues trooped down the stairs leaving us liberated, if a little embarrassed, with a broken bedroom door and a huge sense of relief.

The door in question

The door in question

It was said of feisty former footballer Dennis Wise that he could start an argument by himself in a locked room. While this may not ring true for the rest of us, when two people are in a room and one of them has just pulled the handle from the room’s only door clean off, it’s fair to say the potential for argument is dramatically increased.

As Isabel realised that the handle she was brandishing was no longer attached to the door, the look on her face underwent several changes – from surprise to shock to dreadful realisation – in a matter of moments. What dawned on both of us was that it was 11.30pm and we were trapped in our bedroom, on the first floor, with the front door bolted shut from the inside.

From the opening paragraph you’ll have probably worked out how our bedroom break-out concluded. However, it is worth noting that in the hour and a half before phoning for help we tried numerous methods of escape, including but not limited to:

  • Hacking at the broken handle mechanism with various implements found lying around, including a Co-op membership card, the port end of a USB cable and a commemorative chopstick;
  • Using a pen and a large biography of Margaret Thatcher as a makeshift hammer and chisel to try and force the lock. Unfortunately after receiving several hefty blows from Thatcher’s face the pen shattered like a bottle of school milk under the Iron Lady’s glare, and a large shard of the pen embedded itself into my finger (it’s what she would have wanted);
  • Kicking the door with bare feet;
  • Kicking the door with slippered feet after kicking with bare feet proved painful;
  • Shoulder-charging the door (conclusion: doors are harder than shoulders);
  • And finally calling a locksmith, who told us on the phone that he couldn’t force his way in and couldn’t climb a ladder (insurance reasons).


So, eventually we called 101, the non-emergency emergency line, who patiently despatched Avon Fire and Rescue’s finest. In 30 seconds flat they had forced the bolt on our front door with a souped-up crowbar, whipped up the stairs and popped open the bedroom door as well – all with the professional matter-of-factness that typifies so much of their work, and means that often less praise-worthy folk receive more of the headlines.

So thank you Avon Fire and Rescue for going above and beyond the call of duty. Without you we’d probably still be trapped, hobbling around on splintered feet eating the final chapter of the Thatcher bio.

And the answer to the riddle when is a door not a door? When you’ve pulled the handle off. Then it’s a rather flimsy wall.

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