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Monday, December 28, 2015

What Happened When the Lights Went Out

Today we had to go to Sainsbury's to do some very basic shopping. We had to order my repeat prescription at the pharmacy. We weren't in there that long.

When we got home we had to put the shopping away and go on-line as we had bought a magazine, Photo Plus, which is a specific magazine for Canon digital camera users. We wanted to sign up so we could have a subscription which meant we got a camera case as part of an offer. All set up with a Direct Debit and well worth the cost, meaning that each magazine arrives in the post each month along with the reporter bag (worth £130 apparently.) I already have B.B.C. History Magazine as part of a subscription and as a result each monthly copy is considerably cheaper than the cost if you buy in a shop. The same for  Photo Plus. You also get access to their website as well as videos and other learning materials.

Then we began to have some strange things happening around the house. First, the smoke alarm kept going off. I think the battery was running low, and every now and then the thing made this noise, which meant it really needed a new battery, so I have taken the battery out to stop the horrible noise and will buy a new battery in the next couple of days. Then the kitchen light began to flicker when I put the electric kettle on (this has been happening regularly for some time now.)The microwave kept making 'pinging' noises, the sound you get to tell you it has reached the end of it' cooking cycle. But how it did this I can't think when the power was off.  Then I coudn't get onto the internet. As we had only just finished our on-line setting-up of the magazine subscription this seemed very odd. Then Carol noticed that the fridge/freezer wasn't working, such as the light didn't come on when the door was opened and it wasn't making it's usual humming sound. We tried the kitchen lights and they didn't come on and then noticed that the meter whch we use with a top-up key wasn't lit up on it's digital display. We had only recently topped up with £10 so we couldn't see that it could be used up after only a couple of days. And if it was about to run out you get a 'peep' sound to warn you there is around £1 left so you can either top up with fresh credit or put the key in without credit and get £5 emergency credit which gives you enough time to get to a shop to put credit on the key and then put on the meter. We also checked the gas meter in the meter cupboard but that wasn't lit up so we knew it wasn't anything in the house as well as checking the fuse box in the kitchen (more like the switches that get thrown automatically if there is a problem with the power.)

I then recalled the fridge magnet we'd been sent from the distribution company, Western Power Distribution, who apparently are responsible for the electric cable coming into the house (not the company we pay our electric bills to.) So I rang the number on the fridge magnet, which said 'Power Cut.' I had been to the houses either side of our house to check to see if the power was off further along the street, but nobody had been cut off. So, the only solution was to ring this emergency telephone number. Having given details of what had happened to the operator, house number and telephone number (I had to use my mobile because our cordless telephone needs electricity to work the charging station the handset sits in.) and within around 20 minutes a very friendly and chatty man turned up and had a quick look at our wiring etc etc and in partcular the point where the power cable comes into the house in the meter cupboard which is at the front of the house. He was somewhat surprised by the poor quality of the work that had been done (I'm not surprised, as our landlord is in the habit of getting cowboy engineers, window installers etc etc to do work in the house. How long have we been waiting to have the garden fence repaired? Several years at least, and counting. The general maintenence of the property takes a lot to be desired, including the fact that the gas boiler has caused problems and hasn't been serviced in all the time we've lived in the house and should be gas certified for safety on a yearly basis and hasn't since we went over from renting through an agency to the landlord being responsible for such matters.)

Anyway, the gentleman who came out to fix the power supply told us that he could fix the problem. I'm not exactly sure what the problem was, but the two cables, negative and positive, were fused together which was why the power was off and it would require some part freshly installed which he could do on his own, but, because of health and safety, he wasn't allowed to do on his own, so he would require a second engineer to come out and help do the work. So, he rang and got through to this gentleman who came from Bletchley and after about 45 minutes they had managed to restore the power and we were extremely grateful because if they hadn't managed to fix the problem we wouldn't have been able to have any lighting in the house, hot water, the fridge/freezer would have begun to defrost it's contents and we wouldn't have been able to use the oven to cook our evening meal. But, fortunately, none of that happened. Over the years I've lived in quite a few houses, but I've never experienced this happening with the electrical supply. I've know a few black-outs, the electricity being cut off for whatever reason, but nothing like what happened here with this.
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