2,300 students plus 100 or so staff, 8 minutes 59 seconds: not bad, given the size of the school grounds. The Fire Department should be happy with today's drill stats. Timed for just before lunch, it was calculated to cause as little disruption to the day as possible - but that wasn't allowing for the effect of having the All Black training squad doing sprints out on the all-weather field during period 4. Apparently it's hard to concentrate on irregular French verbs when there's a wave of testosterone washing round your ankles, and a helicopter hovering overhead. I didn't bother getting close for a photo, they're only rugby players and apparently they weren't even the famous ones. "Bench-warmers," scoffed the Japanese teacher.
Instead I was remembering Canberra, which is the only place outside school where I've had to obey the summons of a fire alarm. It was in what felt like the middle of the night, when I was so deeply asleep that I spent the first few minutes bouncing on the hotel bed trying to turn off the smoke alarm, before I realised what was going on. Then I trooped off down the stairs with everyone else and sat for the best part of an hour on a kerb outside in my nightie, thankful it was a warm night, and wondering why I hadn't grabbed my passport, just in case.
It was a false alarm, and we were allowed back to bed. I came to suspect in the days that followed that that was probably about as exciting as Canberra nightlife gets - artificial city, national capital, and so on - though it's a pleasant, spacious, green sort of a place, and what it lacks in personality makes up for in convenience. No, that's not much of a recommendation, I agree. But you can have good times there - the War Memorial Museum is truly a star, and hot-air ballooning over Lake Burley Griffin and the striking Parliament House was certainly memorable. Best bit for me though was the zoo with its liger (lion x tiger) and its bears, one of which licked creamed corn off my palm. Much more thrilling than watching a bunch of sweaty rugby players running back and forth.