‘Twas five days before Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 22:19 | Filed in Life, The Pickards

and all throughout the house, Jack was wandering about, banging his shins off everything and swearing under his breath.

Why, you may very well ask.

Because all the bloody lights had gone off at 10:30pm, that’s why. Lacking a handy torch, or indeed anything to light a candle with, my first task is to inspect the fuse box, carefully situated in the kitchen cupboard, behind the pots and pans, behind a wooden screen and of course in the dark.

This of course makes it a bit trickier to find the darn thing, let alone check whether or not any of the switches have tripped. So, what could I use to make light? No means of ignition, no torches. The answer is of course reminiscent of those adverts you see at the cinemas these days. Yes, that’s right. My mobile phone. Open it up and the light off the screen was sufficient to peer into the cupboard and determine that all the fuses were indeed on.

So far, so bad…

The next step was to look out of the window. Many of the houses nearby had lights on, which was making me think that there was something wrong with just our supply, until I noticed that our neighbours didn’t have any lights on, and more tellingly the streetlights directly in front of our house weren’t on. Aha, a power cut methinks.

This is of course the down side of living in Whickham, compared to Low Fell. For those of you not au fait with the geography of Gateshead, Low Fell is right in the middle of the built up area and is never affected by this sort of thing. Whickham is on the edge of the built up and rural parts of Gateshead and we seem to have power cuts two or three times a year. But on the other hand, it’s a nice area, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of drive-by hoodies or whatever they call it these days.

So, what do you do in a power cut? Well my first thoughts are that this pretty much scuppers any chance of watching the telly, and the same goes for updating my blog. Second thoughts are that I should maybe report that we’re having a power cut. So out comes the mobile phone again and I start to shine it on the Yellow Pages to find the local electicity cuts number.

At this point, I should maybe point out that we have high-tech cordless answerphones with different base units dotted around the house — which of course work when they have electricity connected. Fortunately, I’ve still got one of the old hand-cranked jobbies (well, actually it’s a push button touch tone phone, but it feels old) in the study and so off I go to ring the electricity people.

Their automated service tells me to push 5, for some reason, and then starts telling me that owing to some problem with a power line being down, various parts of Dunston and Whickham are experiencing power cuts. Fine, at least they know about it and are going to do something about it. The power should be back on by… 1 am apparently.

1 am? Ow. Two small children, nappies to change, bottles to warm, milk to keep cold, and that’s before you even consider the four tons of frozen food we’ve got in to tide us over Christmas. I’m thinking that with the fire on, we’ll have some light in the front room, the cooker’s gas, so I can maybe warm a bottle of milk in a pan of hot water, and if the electric is back on for 1am, stuff in the freezer shouldn’t have defrosted.

But what if it’s not back on by 1am? It’s going to be a nightmare repeating all the food shopping this week. That’s why we did it earlier and bunged the lot in the freezer. Okay, maybe my mam has some space in her freezer. Not likely, but worth asking. So I phone her up with my wonderful low-tech phone, but she’s out. Darn.

Anyway, back to more pressing matters. I need to do the let there be light thing as my shins can’t take much more punishment. So by this time we’ve found candles and I’m scrabbling around in the kitchen drawers because I’m sure there’s a lighter in there somewhere. No luck. My good lady wife is going to have a go at lighting the candles from the gas fire.

Not ideal, in the dark, really. But fortunately the lights have come back on so it’s a bit easier to see things when it comes to looking for a lighter or trying to light the candles or… hang on a minute, the lights have come back on. And more importantly so has the telly. Fantastic. I’ll just shove everything back in the kitchen drawers again, then.

And that was it, really. Well, keeps you busy, don’t it?

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