So we had a power cut. No – we didn’t have a power cut, we had a power failure. A power cut is what happens when there isn’t enough power to go round. A power cut is what used to happen when there was a shortage of coal. A power cut is what used to happen when the President for Life of a trade union decided to go to the war with the government. A power cut is what might happen if we don’t get our act together on fuel security. But for the time being, we have a reliable power supply with the occasional outage when something goes wrong.
Actually, the last power cut was caused by a criminal gang taking out an entire sub-station in order to cut the security lights at the local car plant. The whole eastern sector of the city was without electricity for the best part of a day.
Anyway no criminal gangs this time – just a power failure. The lights went out at about half past midnight, flickered on and off for a bit and then died. It seemed to affect the whole street, including the street lights and there was a new moon, so it was very dark indeed.
Having located a wind-up LED lamp, I went in search of the emergency phone number. Being fairly organised, I found the file with the utility bills (this is where non-paperless billing comes into its own), but could I find the emergency number? No. I found the gas number, but not the electricity one. So, cursing whoever designed the bills, I went to bed, figuring that somebody would phone the problem in or that it would be detected automatically. No such luck. By 6:30 am, the power was still decidedly off.
I checked again and realised my mistake. Because I’m on dual fuel, the gas and electricity bills are filed together and, what with it being rather late and rather dark, I’d selected the first bill I came across which, despite having “Southern Electric” blazened across it, was actually the gas bill. Realizing my error, I found an electricity bill and phoned the emergency number. And, yes, nobody had reported the problem.
To their credit, Southern Electric had an engineer on site by 7:15 and phoned at regular intervals with updates. It turned out to be rather more complicated than a simple fuse and, although we got the power back by 10:00, it kept flickering on and off throughout the day. When the lights started flickering again at 8:00 pm, I did start to wonder whether they should stop looking for a faulty cable and start looking into the possibility that there might be a mad scientist holed up in the Old Manor House (there is one), draining the grid to fuel evil and unnatural experiments. Or perhaps a retired union leader plotting a dramatic comeback. Just a thought.