|Written by David Brunnen|
|Monday, 23 February 2009 10:22|
Amongst the many benefits for those who choose (or just happen) to live away from urban centres must surely be those moments of surprise that townies never notice.
Our Sunday morning breakfast, for example, was enlivened by the disappearance of electricity. We didn’t rush to complain – it’s usually restored within an hour or so.
Physical exercise provides its own warmth and strolling down the lane to the garage to collect newspapers provided an opportunity to check the lines to see if there was an obvious local problem.
Oddly the garage was operating at full power, the hotel wasn’t running its standby generator, our nearest neighbour’s boiler was clearly working and the substation transformer had a healthy hum. Closer inspection of the overhead cable showed that a connector had fallen apart.
A call to the electricity board seemed timely. Of course, the 0800 number isn’t free when calling by mobile – and calling by mobile is the only option when you cannot remember where you stowed the old-fashioned phone that works off the telephone exchange’s battery.
The trouble with having your very own power failure is that no-one else has reported it. This is a problem. If the high voltage side of the local transformer (the part of the network they can check remotely) seems OK, and if no-one else is complaining, they send an engineer to work out if there really is a problem. Never mind that both of the external feeds to home and the separate office are equally lacking in energy.
About an hour later we were visited by an engineer without a ladder but with the power to persuade his colleagues that there was a problem. Breakfast was now long forgotten. We had logs on the fire in one room and Sunday lunch was a triumph of canned tomatoes and pasta cooked courtesy of bottled gas. Our visitors from Italy were impressed – and we thanked them for their generous gift of Grano Padano.
The A team arrived in style with two yellow ladders atop a lime green van. Having not been informed of the exact nature of their problem they appreciated being shown which pole to climb. They also quite liked the idea that we had isolated the load in both properties so that reconnection of the live cables could happen without sparks flying.
The burnt and broken bits of old connectors helped explain why we’ve been suffering with variable volts. The line engineers marvelled at the heat damaged insulation that had welded the wrong wires together. And there were two bits of good news. The damaged earth cable running down the pole (from that time when the farmer’s hedge trimmer felt it needed reshaping) was insufficient to cause the entire village to trip out, and, in mending the electricity cables this time they avoided knocking out the telephone lines on the same pole. Helpfully they also pruned the trees that threatened further problems come Springtime.
All of which reminded me of the cartoon circulating at the recent FTTH Council in Copenhagen. The point was to try and explain the difference between narrowband and broadband in terms of an obviously unthinkable power supply comparison.
Hereabouts we do not worry about not having mains gas – bottled will suffice for the hob along with oil for heating – although even this needs electricity for pumping. We do not worry about not having mains drainage. A pavement on the main road into the village would be welcome given that most drivers don’t understand those little circles with number 30 on them. We have not yet succumbed to buying a standby electricity generator. The search for alternative energy sources is, however, like the search for true next generation broadband, on the agenda – not least because our computers are relatively useless without either.
Sadly narrowband electricity, like low calorie slim-line broadband, is not unknown in remote areas of the UK such as our countryside location 12 miles from Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester – but our overseas visitors are impressed with the view and we see new opportunities for tourism by welcoming those who wish to explore the wilder reaches of narrowband Britain.
Cartoon courtesy of Martin Vidberg - L'Actu en Patates