Life can sometimes hang on a thread. Cut one essential service and everything gets a bit tricky.
It was minus six out in my back garden last night with freezing fog. This morning the village was covered in a thick hoar frost that resembled a blanket of snow. At ten o’clock this morning it was still minus three and the creaky old boiler was struggling to cope. But then at four minutes past ten there was a few funny clicking noises and then the internet was lost. The desk lamp went out.
The electricity was off. The power cut was pretty widespread throughout Huntingdonshire – apparently a sub-station had gone down. That meant that the gas central heating was off too, controlled electronically and the hot water pumped electrically too.
Living in a sixteenth century thatched cottage can be a primitive affair as some of the walls are made from mud and sticks, wafer thin. Within an hour the temperature in the house was plunging towards single figures and found me in the garage filling the log basket with wood.
The wood burning stove was to be my saviour but it had not been lit this year and so before I could light it I needed to warm the incredibly cold air in the chimney – or it would sit there as a huge cold plug that would hold the smoke in the cottage. An old camping stove and half a 250g gas canister did the job and sometime after midday I had a fire going. A quick check on the thermometer showed the sitting room to be at 11.5 deg C and my office upstairs at 9.3 deg C. My toes were numb with cold.
With the only heating in the house being in the sitting room and the computer as dead as a dodo, the house phone not working, there was nothing for it but to join the rest of the village in the pub. Lighting by candlelight, roaring fires and a pad of paper and a pencil acting as the till we kept a stiff upper lip. It was the Blitz Spirit.
With darkness enveloping the village I trudged through the freezing afternoon air back to the cottage. The temperature inside had climbed a few degrees to a giddy twelve or thirteen. But still no power until, magically at some time after four the lights flickered back on. Alas, the gas boiler did not.
In my freezing office, the internet was scanned for problems with boilers and heating control devices. Now I am not a practical man. Dishwashers defeat me. Washing machines are worrisome. I stare vacantly at broken Vacuum cleaners.
BUT NOT THIS TIME! I am a heating engineer extraordinaire! Pushing in the reset button on the controller and squeezing various slidey switches and clicking big red clicky buttons did the trick and a smidgeon over two hours of cussing and swearing and bruised knees on cold kitchen floor tiles meant that by 6:30 the old girl rumbled into life.
Watching Newsnight, my toes are only now coming back to life.