It was at this point that the leader of the quartet concluded that we had failed this incendiary version of the dinner party test. To the question, "What should you do if a small fire breaks out during supper?", the correct answer, he clearly felt, was "Rush out into the street weeping, and scan the road for a Sky news crew to whom you can blub about your journey and the need for post-traumatic stress counselling". That gets you an A*.
Our answer – "Put it out, make sure any children in the vicinity are unaffected, and get straight back to the food and drink" – failed to impress the board. The chief examiner, overtly irritated by the sang-froid, and possibly by our failure to greet the team as heroic saviours, sent us out into the road, where we were promptly joined by an ambulance crew of four, who seemed to agree that all of us, the baby included, were fine.
And that, you might imagine, would have been the end of it. Perhaps it might have been had the fireman not then made a series of sarcastic remarks to our hostess, hinting broadly that, because that she preferred to let the baby sleep in a warm and smokeless room rather than rush him out into the cold night air, that she, like Sue Ellen in Dallas, was a drunk, a slut and an unfit mother. Eventually, with amazing forebearance, she restricted herself to a mild: "I think you've made your point."
To this, Red Adair's tough, no-nonsense counterstrike was to summon police back-up.A story to bear in mind, next time the police, ambulance service or firemen are all a weepin' and a wailin' and a marchin' over the 'devastating cuts to their vital service, putting the public in danger', eh..?