Information for UK Readers

In case you don’t already know, everyone in Britain should submit an electricity reading to their energy supplier on or before the first of October.

Prices go up next week, and if you do not submit a current reading, they will ‘estimate’your usage and your new bill may be much higher than it needs to be.

This can be done online with most suppliers, or on the telephone by calling customer services. It might save you a lot of money!

(We don’t have mains gas in Beetley, but I am sure this also applies to customers of gas companies.)

I hope this information helps someone. I have submitted my reading, and received an online confirmation that it is on their records.

The Wider Cost Of A War

Companies supplying fuel are jumping on the news of war in Ukraine and the current oil price increase to justify eye-watering price increases passed on to consumers. Despite BP profits in excess of £80 BILLION pounds last year, petrol at the pumps is forecast to hit £8.50 a gallon soon. ($11.20)

Although British Gas profits and share prices have never been higher, they are imposing increases in excess of 50% immediately, with the prospect of another 20% to follow at the end of April. Electricity companies have followed suit, with some predicting rises of 100% on current monthly payments.

We use heating oil in Beetley to run our central heating and hot water system. In December, 500 litres cost around £310. Today’s quote is £621, rising daily.

Salaries and pensions are not increasing much at all. In most cases, there are no increases whatsoever.

The Futures Market is making people obscenely rich overnight, as they rush to cash in on what everyone accepts is a real crisis in Ukraine. But are we just being bamboozled by the huge corporations and multinationals? I for one think we are. Both Britain and the USA are significant producers of oil. Both countries invested heavily in oil production, and both have claimed in the past to be self-sufficient in oil. Some time ago, Britain claimed to have invested so much in Green alternative energy, that it now supplied 43% of our requirements.

And that figure was published in 2014.

So how is it that the tragic war in Ukraine in 2022 can be used to justify such a hike in costs to ordinary people?

Profit and greed, pure and simple. In parliament today, Boris Johnson was laughing when asked about the increases.

Laughing at ordinary people wondering how they will heat their homes.

(It is still worth remembering that even when we are struggling to pay our bills, stay warm, and put fuel in our cars so we can drive to work or to the supermarket, we are better off than a refugee family from Ukraine living in a UNHCR tent in a foreign country. )

Monday: A Late Message

Beetley was hit by an unexpected power cut today. From 14:56 until 21:38, we had no electricity at all.

So it was a cold sandwich for my dinner, and an exceptionally boring evening with no computer, Tablet, or TV.

I will do my best to get to all your posts and comments sometime tomorrow.

So much for modern living! Power cables ‘affected by trees’. The trees were there decades before power cables, so you think the power company might have known. 🙂

Country living!

Best wishes to everyone, Pete.

Ambulance stories (11)

Another old EMT post, from 2012. Hardly anyone has seen this one, and it is not as gory as some of the others. 🙂


One under

As anyone who commutes around the London Underground Railway network will tell you, delays caused by someone jumping under a train, are commonplace events. In London, this network is commonly called the Tube, not the Subway, which for the edification of American readers, is a passage underneath a busy road junction. I say jumping under a train, because people rarely fall under them, though they are sometimes pushed, or hit by trains as they attempt to cross tracks.

To simplify this for the various Emergency Services, this type of call is given out as a ‘One Under’. After all, for our purposes, it is irrelevant how they got there in the first place. During one particular rush-hour morning, we received such a call, to a busy Central London Tube Station. The prospect of attending these calls requires a lot of preparation prior to descending into the depths, where…

View original post 1,222 more words

A Beetley Power Cut

On Tuesday the 16th, we have been informed of a ‘Planned Power Cut’ that will affect Beetley. If it goes ahead, we will have no electricity from 9 am, for the rest of the day. (Duration unknown) With this in mind, I am planning on getting out for the day, and eating out too, somewhere that still has electricity. We will have no heating or cooking facilities, no landline phone or Internet of course, and if it is as dark as it is today, the only option would be to read by torchlight, huddled under a blanket. I could take the rare opportunity to spend the entire day in bed, but I have a feeling that Ollie will not be happy if he doesn’t go out.

Now I know this is of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, but I thought I would let you know. If the power cut doesn’t happen, then it will be ‘normal trading’ on my blog. But in the event that they go ahead with it, then I will not be able to comment on any of your posts, reply to those on mine, or check emails. I could use the Internet on my mobile of course, but give the size of the screen, that’s not going to happen.

So if I disappear tomorrow, just be aware that I am not dead. (Well I hope not)

Power Hungry

Just before 5:30 yesterday evening, the power went off here. We are lucky not to get that many power cuts, but that also means that when we do, they are all the more unexpected, and irritating. I usually expect the electricity to come back on within half an hour or so, but after about twenty minutes, I received a text message from the power company. It was an ‘unplanned outage’, and I could find out more by following a website link attached to the message.

I was unable to do that using my ‘smart’ phone, as the phone signal wasn’t strong enough to download the information. We have a signal booster to cure this localised issue, but of course that requires power to work. Back to the old Catch 22 of an online life. No electricity equals no Internet. Although it wasn’t unduly cold, it was a dull and dank evening, so the room soon became dark. Candles were an option, but we thought we might save them for later, just in case. Besides, we were planning to go out yesterday, to social function; musical entertainment and a barbecue, organised by the local British Legion. We had bought the tickets earlier this week, and thought it might make a change.

Trouble was, Julie could not have a shower, then dry her hair. The shower is powered by electricity, to make sure it works with good pressure. She could have had a bath, using a jug to wash her hair, but it would then take ages to dry, and would be harder to style. Nothing to do but wait for the power to return. At 7:20, a neighbour called round. She told us that she had been able to contact the power company using an old style phone, and they told her the line was down to this area, and would not be back on until 9:30 at the earliest. So, the idea of going to the barbecue was scrapped, as for all we knew they had no power there, and Julie wasn’t happy to go with ‘mad hair’ anyway.

What to do for dinner then? The cooker is all-electric, so that was out of the question. The toaster is electric, so we couldn’t even have toast. I keep microwave meals for a speedy dinner solution, but the microwave is also electric, so no joy there. We have a portable camping gas stove for emergencies, but best to keep that in reserve for a harsh winter. I decided to drive out in the car, and see what was open to provide a take-away meal from a restaurant. A mile up the road, the local Thai was ablaze with light, so I went in. They were surprised to hear about the power cut, which must have been extremely local to just one side of one road. Our side of our road, unfortunately. I bought a meal, and took it home. We were very happy to demolish the food, as it was well over an hour past our usual dinner time.

As it was now almost dark, a few candles were alight, and we wondered what to do with the rest of the evening. Reading by using a torch or candle is not an option with my eyesight, and with no TV or computer, it was actually quite pleasant to just sit quietly for a while. I had the brainwave of using one of Julie’s tablets to read a Kindle book. None of them had enough power left to operate, but even if they had, I would have needed the wi-fi to be working, to be able to log on. Then I remembered the laptop, tucked away for computing emergencies. We could watch a DVD film on that, to while away the last couple of hours of power cut time. No chance though, as it hadn’t been fully charged, so wouldn’t stay on.

As promised, the power returned at 9:30. Lights came on, the TV restarted, and Julie began to plug all her devices into the assorted chargers around the room.

Life had returned to the 21st century, once again reminding us that without electricity, we are as good as helpless.

27 Minutes in the 18th Century

Tonight in Beetley, even without the need for a time machine, we were cast back into another age. To a time when electricity and gas power were both unknown, when candles were the only illumination, and night meant dark.

I had just finished preparing our evening meal. It was a traditional Sunday repast, of roasted meat and vegetables, in this case, a plump chicken, with all the trimmings. As we prefer to eat in the evenings, it was around 7.25pm when I called Julie to the dining table. We seasoned our meal, and both pronounced how appetising it looked. Ollie was lying quietly in the living room, as he is not allowed around us, when we are eating. No sooner had I plunged fork into potato, and our time travel began. The lights went out.

A quick check outside confirmed that it was not just us. The whole of the street was in darkness. As there are no street lights anyway, that means proper darkness. Luckily, it wasn’t too long past sunset, so not inky dark, but it was certainly night-time, and too dark to see our meal, which was fast growing cold. Julie quickly found some large scented candles, bought for completely different occasions, and not intended for power cuts. They did the job though, and illuminated our table, just enough for us to be able to tell parsnip from carrot. It struck me then, that all meals were once taken in this half-light, which when you are trying to eat a long-awaited feast, is far from romantic in feel.

As we struggled with our dinner, we wondered how long it might continue. No TV later, no hard drive recorder, and no Internet. Even the walk-about phones will not work, as they are dependent on power. With appalling signal and service on our mobiles, chatting on the phone was ruled out also. With no gas, a hot drink was not possible, and it was lucky that we had both had baths, as hot water would not be available, with no electric pump in operation. The washing up would have to be left until Monday, and any clothes we wanted to wear, would have to be put on without the benefit of ironing. We would have to retire to the sofa, and read a book. It would have to be a real one, as the electronic ones would soon lose charge, though it could be a magazine, or sales catalogue perhaps. I doubted that there would be enough light to write letters by, and wondered how the great writers of the 1700’s managed, with flickering candles of spitting tallow. I also realised that my failing eyesight, requiring spectacles for reading, was undoubtedly unable to cope with candle illumination. Perhaps I would just spend the rest of the evening thinking. Even the tradition of a family singing around the piano was not possible, as we have no piano, and neither of us can play one if we did. OK, we had the advantages of running water, and a flush toilet, but it still felt very primitive in the gloom.

I speculated further about life in the evenings of darkness. They must have used an enormous amount of candles, in order to live even a half-decent existence. But they probably went to bed a lot earlier as well, to cut down on boredom, or sleep off the tiredness of a day labouring in factory or field. Unlike us, they could not have decided to drive somewhere away from this localised power cut, in order to avail ourselves of light, and entertainment, should the need arise. Their life was always like this, ruled by the elements that we have since conquered. At least until tonight.

Twenty-seven minutes later, as I had almost finished eating, the lights came back on. Timers were flashing, electric clocks showing the wrong time, and Ollie walked into the dining room, confused at the comings and goings of darkness and light. We snuffed out the candles, seamlessly returning to the 21st century, without another thought. Moving through to the living room, we sat in front of the TV that had just come back on, and decided what to watch. I said that I would put the kettle on, during the adverts.

How lucky we are, and how seldom we realise it.

Ambulance stories (11)

One under

As anyone who commutes around the London Underground Railway network will tell you, delays caused by someone jumping under a train, are commonplace events. In London, this network is commonly called the Tube, not the Subway, which for the edification of American readers, is a passage underneath a busy road junction. I say jumping under a train, because people rarely fall under them, though they are sometimes pushed, or hit by trains as they attempt to cross tracks.

To simplify this for the various Emergency Services, this type of call is given out as a ‘One Under’. After all, for our purposes, it is irrelevant how they got there in the first place. During one particular rush-hour morning, we received such a call, to a busy Central London Tube Station. The prospect of attending these calls requires a lot of preparation prior to descending into the depths, where most tracks are situated. London has one of the deepest systems in the World, with very few stations having any tracks at ground level. Any equipment that you think you may need, has to be taken with you at the outset, or long delays will be caused later.

On arrival at the station, Tube staff will meet you, and give you a fair assessment of what you will have to face below. As a rule, Fire Brigade appliances will also attend to assist, and there is a dedicated Heavy Recovery Unit, provided by London Transport, which is sometimes already there, or at least on the way. Laden with various stretchers, aid boxes, oxygen, blankets, and splints, you and your colleague make your way down the seemingly endless escalators and steps, until arriving at the track in question. The scene is usually surreal;the normally bustling and noisy area is cleared of all bystanders, the train quiet and empty.

On this occasion, I am met by a member of the Fire Brigade. He tells me that a cursory examination under the train, reveals an adult female, who appears to be still alive, despite significant contact with the train. There is nothing for it, but for me to crawl under the train, and try to assess her injuries, and decide how to get her out. This is an unpleasant job at any time. The accumulated filth of grease, litter, fluff, and dirt under the tracks, combines with oil from the train workings, to make an indescribable goo. Added to this, there was substantial blood loss from the patient,  already congealing like some sort of unspeakable jelly. At this time, Ambulance Crews still wore the two-piece ‘smart’ uniform, jacket and trousers in light grey, blue shirt, and tie. I removed the jacket and tie, and donned a ‘hi-vis’ jacket, not so much as to be seen easily, more to reduce contact with all the unpleasant substances. It was very hot of course, as it normally is in Tube stations. This was made worse by not having trains running, so no air was being pushed through onto the platforms.

My main concern was the electricity. The notorious third rail, through which the massive current runs, could kill me on contact, and I had a healthy fear of it. Before I would go under the train, I wanted complete assurance that the power was off in that section. A brief consultation with the Tube staff did not satisfy me. They were not sure, they told me, so they had sent for an engineer with a ‘tommy bar’. This was a long piece of metal, that when placed across the tracks, effectively shorted out the supply, rendering the third rail harmless; this was the name the arriving engineer gave it anyway, so it may well be a nickname for the device. He fixed it across, and called up to me that it was OK to proceed. I was still unsure, and approached gingerly, asking for further assurance that the power was disconnected. Losing patience with me, he leaned across to the third rail, and placed his tongue directly on it! “Happy now?” He yelled at me.

I could dally no longer, and began to crawl under the train, waving a torch around, so to see better ahead of me. I found the female towards the rear of the first carriage. She was breathing loudly, and muttering incoherently at the same time. The train had run over her at one side, causing massive injuries to her left leg, hip, and left arm. Most of the flesh on her left thigh had been detached, and her arm on the same side, was almost severed. With little room, and minimal head clearance, I managed to dress and secure her wounds as best as I could, and administer oxygen as I did so. My colleague was talking to me from the track above, and I was updating him on my progress. By the time I had dressed the wounds, I was completely covered in the aforementioned grease and blood, which was all over my face and hands, making it difficult to work properly. I was so hot, that it was difficult to concentrate, and on top of this, the patient was regaining her wits, and becoming increasingly agitated. And I still had to get her out.

There are only ever two options in this situation. The first is to jack up the train carriage, to make sufficient space to remove the victim; the second, to restore power, and move the train off the patient, back into the tunnel, leaving the track area clear. I preferred the first option, as the safest for all concerned. However, she was in a bad position for this, as she was not near enough to either end of the carriage, making jacking almost impossible. There was nothing for it but to make the situation as secure as I could, and move the train. I managed to get her as centrally located between the tracks as was possible. I then tied her legs and feet together with bandages, and did the same with both arms. This was to stop her moving, and putting us in more danger. When these preparations were completed, I got the lady to look me in the eye, and asked her if she could understand me. She nodded, wide-eyed, confused, and distressed. I was not at all sure that she understood what I told her next, but had to take that chance. I advised her that the power was going back on, and that the train would be moving slowly backwards. She should not wriggle around, and try to move (as she had been), or she may well kill us both, by either contact with the moving train, or the electric rail.

I eased myself into position slightly across her body, to restrain her further, and gave the signal to those on the platform to get on with it. The sound of the power being restored is not something I would recommend that you ever want to hear. There is a low hum, increasing in intensity, until you are certain that you can feel the physical presence of the electricity around you. The connectors give off sparks and light as the train moves, and the few feet of travel required to get the train off you, seems to take an eternity. Once the train had moved, everyone else was able to get onto the tracks to assist. The patient was placed into a Neil-Robertson evacuation stretcher, and finally moved off the tracks. Fire Brigade staff, and some colleagues from the Ambulance Service, carried her for the long journey up to the street, and into the vehicle.  I was left to stagger up the escalators, covered in grime, carrying my uniform. I got into the back with the patient, and we left for the short journey to the nearby hospital, where we handed her over to the Trauma Team.

After completing the necessary paperwork, I advised Ambulance Control that I would have to return to my base, to shower and change. We had been there for less than five minutes, when the emergency phone rang. They wanted to know how soon I would be ready, as they were busy, and holding more calls. Just another day…