Does the phone number 105 mean anything to you? Well, I suggest it should!
I came in from a few hours work in the garden to find my husband still deep in his armchair and his Sunday papers. I went into the kitchen to make a warming coffee only to find all electrical power gone. 'How long has this been off?' He simply hadn't noticed, but he was beginning to feel chilly. We have had a recent history of power cuts, at least four complete 'outages' in the past 18 months. So, first check – look out of the window. Are the street lights out? Too early for them to be on. Crane my neck – bad news, the traffic lights are working.
Our last series of big outages involved everyone in the neighbourhood, including the street and traffic lights, and the upmarket housing estate across the road now known as Playfair at Donaldson's. Clearly, if you have paid a little short of a million for your latest modern pad, you don't appreciate digging out the candles on a regular basis. So not only did we get an update from Scottish Power on the cause of the problem and what they proposed to do about it – but a follow up letter declaring all was now well and giving us all an effusive apology.
However, we have been subject recently to a series of very short, barely noticeable cuts, where the only lasting indicators are the flashing lights on the cooker controls and the bedside electrical clock, signalling a brief break in power. So my second port of call was my nearest neighbour with whom we share a driveway and most of the water and power crises. Bad news – 'no cuts at all!' That meant it was only us.
We had a new fuse box installed recently, unfortunately at an impossible height in our high ceilinged hallway. Out came the stepladder and my husband's shoogly ascent, torch in hand, to report that all was well up there, all switches in the right position, nothing blown. Hardly good news if you don't know what to do next. It was Sunday, the possibility of getting anyone at Scottish Power seemed remote. 'Have we paid the bill?' asked my husband, casting round desperately for some explanation of our plight.
At the back of my mind, I had a memory of a notice coming through the door on what to do in case of a gas leak. I found it in the pile of discarded leaflets at the back of the big jars in the kitchen. Surely if I dug deeper through the pile of old receipts, out of date notices about bin days, leaflets on carry outs, gutter cleaners, hedge cutters, painters... found it! A bright yellow leaflet on what to do in the event of a power cut. Call 105. It seemed deceptively simple, and I could not at first, skimming through the leaflet, decide whether we needed to be subscribers to the services of the 'SP Energy Networks'. I guessed not.
Inevitably, I found myself talking to a computer and trying to modify my Doric accent to ensure our postal code registered correctly. An authoritative voice informed me that work had been going on in our postal code area, but this was now complete, and all should be well. If problems continued to exist, please press one and I would be connected to an operator who would endeavour to assist. I pressed, expecting to be left in the company of Vivaldi for the next half hour. Instead, Spring had barely sprung when a pleasant and efficient young woman (when you are nearing 80 almost everyone else seems young) came on the line. She quizzed me on all the details and assured me it was perfectly possible our premises could be 'out' while all around were back on the grid: 'Switch off all major appliances, especially your boiler, and we will have an engineer out before five o'clock'.
But at just after four o'clock all power was restored. We then had a text with an explanation for our problem, a blown fuse at our local substation. And within the hour we had a call from another pleasant young woman just checking all was now well with us, and putting us, as 'golden oldies', on their priority services list.
An excellent service, among all our typical experiences of delays and frustrating lack of communication in so many other service areas. So, in the face of possible future blackouts and their potential complications in the coming winter months, chalk it up on your kitchen notice board just by your emergency torch, just in case: power cut: Call 105.
Don't be left in the dark.
While Keith Aitken's
latest piece adds a degree of realism to the notion that all is sweetness and light in the EU whereas Britain is doomed, it doesn't explain why some are paying a fortune and risking life and limb to escape across the Channel in a northerly rather than a southerly direction. Can he (or anyone else) answer that riddle?
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