Paddy once reassured me that every new situation is a challenge to be relished not an obstacle to be feared. He is a fountain of wisdom so I would never disagree with him. On the other hand, three new situations have arisen in the last three days and I can’t say I’ve relished them.
On Tuesday evening, I was just settling down to watch the England v Hungary World Cup Qualifier when there was a loud bang followed by a power cut throughout the house. When I phoned U.K. Power, a very pleasant person told me that there had been no other reports of power cuts in the area. As she took my details, I went out to the front of the house to see if any other houses were affected. I came across a cable which was dangling from the top of the house, across the roof of our shower room and lying on the pavement. It became apparent that the overhead power cable from the telegraph pole on the other side of the road had been snapped into two, almost certainly by a tall vehicle thundering down the A273. The bang I heard must have been from the impact between the vehicle and the cable. I was told me not to touch the cable but it transpired that this was unnecessary advice. Here’s a picture that I took a couple of years ago showing how the cable normally looks.
The cable is in the top left hand part of the picture. Looking at this now, it’s surprising that this is the first time this has happened in the 25 years that we have lived here. Apparently, any cable must be at least 5.8 metres above the road but I guess that, over time, the cable has sagged a little in the middle and this was an accident waiting to happen.
U.K. Power alerted the police and two vehicles came fairly quickly. They blocked off the pavement to prevent people touching a live cable. While they waited for the technical support from U.K. Power to arrive, I offered the guys a cup of tea which, thankfully, they declined. Thankfully, because we don’t have a gas cooker so all I could have offered them was a cold cup of tea. When I told Roo that I had done this, her face lit up in the dark as she realised that this wasn’t a wasted evening for her, after all. For the rest of our lives, she would be able to remind me and anybody else she met that I had offered to boil a kettle for two police officers during a power cut.
Two guys arrived from U.K. Power and took a couple of hours to reconnect a cable. A few of our neighbours from the other side of the road came out to look, oblivious to the problems because they had power. What they didn’t realise and what the Police didn’t realise that they were in danger from a live cable. The cable on our side of the road wasn’t connected to the grid but the dangling cable on the other side of the road was.
The logistics of climbing up a telegraph pole on one side of the road to connect a cable to the top of our house on the other side of the road were complex. The police had to close one lane of traffic whilst the support guys went up on cherry pickers. When the cable was stretched across the road, both lanes had to be closed. All in all, it took three hours to restore power. All we have to do now is pay for some brickwork to be repaired and some guttering, which was knocked down by the cable, to be replaced.
On Wednesday evening, I did a shift at Samaritans. It was a very thought provoking shift as I found, for the second shift running, that I was really enjoying a long conversation. It doesn’t seem right, somehow, that I should be enjoying talking to someone who has felt so unhappy that they have phoned a listening service but I did. The caller on Wednesday night was very articulate and had an interesting story to tell. I found myself asking them questions because I was genuinely interested to find out more about them and not just because that is what I was supposed to do. After about an hour, the caller started to talk about a slightly different area of concern for them but the call suddenly ended in the middle of the their sentence. I was startled by this and actually shouted “bollocks”, much to the surprise of my fellow volunteer. The call may have ended for a number of reasons. It might have been a technical fault from the Samaritans’ office; it might have been that the caller’s phone ran out of battery; it might have been that I said something so terrible that the caller hung up. I’ll never know. I can’t phone them back. I’m going to tell myself that it was a technical fault but I’m left wondering what the caller made of it. Maybe they felt that I had hung up because of something they said. It’s very disappointing. This situation can’t be repaired in the same way that a low hanging power cable can be.
After every shift, each Samaritan debriefs to a leader. My shift finished at 2 a.m. so my debrief was on Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. I had a good talk with my leader about all of the above but also, the issue of how I responded to the caller. Were the things that I said meant to support the caller or were they to quench my thirst for more information, because the call was so absorbing? Are Samaritans allowed to enjoy talking to callers or should it all be hard work and unpleasant? Clearly, the answer is it’s okay if my enjoyment of the call is a byproduct of the conversation but the main focus of the call has to be the caller and their feelings. It’s disconcerting and thought provoking.
The power cut was pretty shit. The call ending suddenly was pretty shit. The scene awaiting Roo and I this morning when we got up was not pretty but it was shit. Literally. Bruno had decided to take a dump before being let out. This will teach us to have a lie in. Normally, one of us is up by 7:00 a.m. but a recent change to a warmer duvet has resulted in us sleeping in a bit longer and the poor little chap couldn’t wait. Not a huge problem, you would have thought….
In January this year, when we weren’t going out, Rob sent me a picture of his robot vacuum cleaner which looked brilliant. We bought one ourselves, which we called Simon, and we set it to clean the house every morning. It’s a really brilliant little machine, although it is a little noisy. Because I was getting a little irritated to have Simon’s noise every morning at 8:00 while I was eating breakfast, I moved his scheduled start time to 7:30. Mistake. This morning, Simon and Bruno were left to their own devices for half an hour and Simon, very helpfully, decided that he (it!) would attempt to clean up Bruno’s poo for us. This meant that every part of the machine was gummed up with poo. I spent an hour cleaning every part of the machine while Roo spent an hour cleaning the rug where Simon had smeared Bruno’s deposit.
As always, the saving grace is music and The Maccabees’ beautiful third album has restored a sense of equilibrium and calm. As with any intelligent lyrics, there are some phrases that seem relevant. “With It all before you how could it ever go wrong?” and “In each and every tide things are lost” from “Glimmer” helps me put things in perspective. “And it’s alright you can lean on me” from “Unknow” describes how I would like to appear when taking a call at Samaritans. “One thing’s for sure is that we’re all getting older” from “Pelican” encourages me to follow Paddy’s advice and embrace every new difficulty with a positive frame of mind.
The lyrics are good but more germane to my mood is the sound of the album, which is a wonderful combination of indie-rock and shoe gaze. “Feel To Follow” has the lovely relaxed melody of Fleet Foxes. “Unknow” sounds like Lost Girls backed by “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. “Ayla” has a tinkling piano riff that Paul McCartney would envy. The whole album is layered with guitars and keyboards that bring The War Of Drugs to mind. Watching another episode of the unbearably twee remake of “All Creatures Great And Small” last night, I quoted a line from “Brideshead Revisited” – “The fortnight at Venice passed quickly and sweetly– perhaps too sweetly; I was drowning in honey, stingless.” That’s how I feel listening to this remarkable album. It’s like drowning in honey or eating cake. Brilliant to restore my mood but not something I would do all the time.
“Grew Up At Midnight” is a beautiful song.
“Pelican” is the most accessible song but not particularly typical of the “drowning in honey” mood of the rest of the album.
“Unknow” is my favourite track today. Tomorrow it will be “Child” or “Glimmer” or one of the others.