Bright spark is shocked to be in the right
Published at 09:09, Monday, 23 July 2012
I HAVE always had an irrational fear of electricity.
It’s probably down to my father, who when I was a child took great delight in sending what seemed to be millions of volts coursing through my body at regular intervals.
He made me hold live wires when fiddling with his ancient motor bike to establish whether the magneto was working, and also made me grab hold of electric fences.
Despite his devotion to electrocuting his second-born, the pater had a deep and passionate hatred of electric fires, and would not countenance having one in the house.
“You might as well have a pile of pound notes burning in the grate than switching one of those damn things on,” he would say, as his offspring tried to scrape the ice off the bedroom windows.
He also had something of a devil-may-care attitude to the domestic supply at Hextol Towers, where he eschewed plugs in favour of thrusting bare wires into the wall sockets and holding them in place with matchsticks.
How he managed not to burn the house down is something of a miracle, especially as at the time he was a member of the Cheshire County Fire Brigade.
The only time there was a minor conflagration was when I had taken my reel to reel tape recorder to a posh friend’s house to play illicit recordings from Radio Caroline.
The cable had snapped at one point, and my father had repaired it with a little ingenuity and half a reel of insulating tape.
It was halfway through a rendition of Baby Please Don’t Go by Them that we became aware of an acrid pong, and spotted the cable was on fire.
My friend’s father came in just as the merry blaze was getting going, and making a sooty black mark on the Axminster
With a supreme display of self control, he went to get a toolbox the size of a Mini, and repaired the cable with proper connectors.
I was then invited to leave, and to take my tape recorder with me, and for some reason, was never invited to return.
As a child of the 50s, I grew up with gas, not only for cooking, but also for street lighting.
Indeed, my maternal grandmother never had electricity in her little millworker’s cottage, spending her entire life living by the glow of the gas mantle.
She had a supply of silver shillings for feeding into the maw of the glowering gas meter in the front room cupboard, and it was a great treat to be allowed to feed one in and turn the handle.
She had no television or radio, and disdainfully treated the television at our house as a rude and unwelcome visitor when she came calling.
A large part of the town was dominated by the gasworks, an irredeemably smelly institution of ramshackle, corrugated iron buildings, where people bought large bags of coke – for their fires, rather than their noses – and took unwanted dogs to be done to death.
People arranged to meet “around the gas lamp” long after its cheery flicker had been replaced by the brash glare of sodium or mercury lighting.
I mention electricity because a couple of weeks ago, the man from the electric board came to read the meter.
He is, it must be said, an infrequent visitor, and Mrs Hextol was less than pleased, for his arrival means major furniture removals to access the cupboard wherein the device resides.
When he eventually gained access he was somewhat nonplussed – for the machine had stopped racking up the megawatts.
He gave it a hopeful tap, but the meter was deader than a can of Spam.
How long it had hors de combat I had no idea, but it will be interesting to see what manner of bill the electricity company eventually comes up with for its inevitable estimated account.
For I warned them a couple of years ago that the meter had taken a potentially fatal blow in a massive power surge which engulfed Hextol Towers.
You may recall that the surge caused light bulbs to explode, televisions to smoke and most electrical devices to expire.
We turned the electricity off at the mains, but the red light on the meter continued to glow fiercely for many minutes, illuminating the entire kitchen.
I suggested to the men from the electricity company that it would require replacing, but they said it would be fine.
Seems I was right!
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk