2020 Goes Out with a Bang

Twasn’t the night before Christmas, twas the day before New Year’s Eve and we’re having a very lazy lunch. A nice bowl of Mexican fish soup has brought us as far as mid-afternoon and next up will be a dish of pasta with smoked salmon & porcini.

Instead there’s a bang, the music stops and half the lights go out. Doesn’t take long to work out that nothing connected to the ring main is working – freezer, fridges, computers, all the audio/visual kit.

Anytime this has happened before it’s been one of the lighting circuits; a bulb has shorted or something and a switch on the consumer box has tripped. You just pop upstairs, push up the switch and everything’s back to normal. But this time all the switches are set correctly upward (ignoring the two spares) except for the big important looking one on the left, which not only is pointing down, but insists on staying that way.

This first forray has exhausted my knowledge of electrics.

The speed with which these cold winter afternoons get dark is becoming apparent; I realise the number of non-functioning vital bits of kit is increasing – the phones, the modem, rechargers …

We are self-isolating, so no one is allowed in the house, it’s the middle of the holiday period so who to turn to for help?

Before all this Covid business began we had a couple of electrical problems. We have two ovens, a cheapo Hotpoint domestic and a larger Blue Seal commercial – in bread baking terms that’s four large loaves plus six large loaves = ten large loaves, my hourly capacity. So the humble Hotpoint has its importance. First off the top element burnt out. Asked around and a baking friend gave me the name of the head electrician at a large local industrial project. I hate approaching skilled people I do not know and negotiating an agreement and price but this guy was very easy. I think he was a bit amused that someone would be worried about taking their oven to pieces.

Job done, cash changed hands, everyone happy.

Next up, the Blue Seal. Although you can run it off a 240v, 3 pin plug, the wall socket can get pretty warm and two have burned out on me over a dozen years. So he connected it to a dedicated fuse box and now it’s super cool. Plus he put in an extra bright kitchen light so I can see when I’m cutting my fingers.

Back to mid afternoon 30 December. So this electrician is the only person I can think of and I know I can trust him. But I don’t really know him well enough to ask for favours in the middle of his holiday. So I tentatively text him, apologise and explain the situation. Several text messages later, in the midst of which he offers to come over and take a look, he says the only way to find out where the fault is, is to switch off and disconnect everything connected to the ring main, push the big blue switch up, and then to reconnect all the sockets, one by one, until one trips the switch again and that connection is your fault. Don’t you just love simple, uncomplicated logic?

But I had no idea how many items we had plugged into that main – must have taken us half and hour just disconnecting. This included crawling round with a torch in the dark and dust underneath my desk in the workroom where there’s a spaghetti junction of extension leads that have accumulated for the work fridge, the laptop, modem, phone, printer, back-up hard drive, lights, chargers, radio, shreader, and maybe more.

Finally push up the big blue switch and it stays there! Start reconnecting leaving the workroom til last because the sockets there have long been in need of a more logiclal arrangement. Get back down on my hands and knees amongst the cobwebs and discarded paper clips, groping around with my torch when I put my hand on a set of sockets that are positively sticky going on wet. Rapid reverse crawl into the light with the brain starting to sift through possibilities.

THE CAT!!! THE FUCKING CAT HAS PISSED ON MY ELECTRICS!!!


The electrician was much amused and wouldn’t consider payment in cash or whisky which is why I have Campagne & Brioche proving for him as I write this sad tale.

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