April 2019

Try to spot the eyesore

Look at the photo above and try to spot the eyesore. Yes, the electricity cables running across the North face of the house. Up here, SP Energy is responsible for the main electricity supply cables, although the actual contract work seems to be done by Scottish Power. The main advantage of this arrangement seems to be that it requires two teams to come and make any decisions. Anyway, shortly after we arrived a team from Scottish Power (or was it SP Energy?) arrived to tell us that our supply cables needed to be replaced. Wayne, who is something of a Rottweiler when it comes to utility companies, pointed out that the cables ought to be buried as this was a Grade “A” listed house with a protected view. The rather charming engineer said that SP Energy (or Scottish Power, whichever was not his employer) would always try and resist this on grounds of cost, but that there had been court cases and those who persisted often won on this point.

For nine months we did not hear any more on this subject, but about two months ago, we did get notification that our and our neighbours’ electricity would get cut off for 12 hours, no reason given. Just the week before this event, a different team turned up and revealed that the “outage” was to enable the supply cables in our neighbourhood to be replaced. They had come to measure the lengths of new cables needed and determine how they would be buried. However, in our case such burial was only to be across the roadway in front of the Stable Yard. Wayne and I caught them surveying and pointed out that the other lot had already been told that our cable should be buried all the way across the front of the house. In any case good luck to them trying to bury it just in front of the Stable Yard. We knew that there were drains and LPG gas lines criss-crossing that area that made the central section of the London Underground map look simple.

To cut a long story short, this team agreed that burying our new cable behind the hedge across the front of the house and taking it across to the Stable Yard where there were no LPG pipes and drains made sense; but that required the agreement of the other lot. There followed a number of consultations between the two teams before a compromise was reached, whereby we would dig the trench (as that seemed to be the main sticking point on costs) and then one of the teams would, under the supervision of the other, put the new cable in it and run it along the outside of the Stable Yard building to the Archway. This would require us to get a digger and we now had less than a week to the day we had all been informed the electricity would be off. At this point the weather struck.

Wayne was well acquainted with digger suppliers in the area as he was still hankering after purchasing one. Unfortunately, a forecast of good weather for the weekend meant all diggers for hire were out, but we could get one from the Monday, at particularly advantageous rates, if we would consider buying that or another digger from the supplier. By Monday, the weather had turned foul and we basically had two days left to dig the trench. Not only were the conditions incredibly muddy, Wayne kept running into old field drains lying at right-angles to the line of the trench. It became a race against time and on the day of the electricity being cut off, Wayne and I were out before dawn trying to finish the trench before the Scottish Power and/or SP Energy teams arrived. 

The installation went very smoothly and the electricity was put back on in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, this promptly threw the main fuse switch in the house. This switch is at one end of the basement and the individual circuit fuses on the ground floor at the opposite end of the house. By a process of trying each of the circuit fuses in turn and having someone at the other end of a mobile phone in the basement throwing the main switch back on, we did establish that half the circuits were innocent and were restored. This, however, did not include the kitchen or pantry. Fortunately, the LPG fuelled AGA requires no pump. So we could continue to cook, but had to keep fridges and freezers shut until we could get an electrician in the following day.

Wayne in the digegr

It took Hamish, the electrician, most of the day to establish that the villains were an incorrectly wired light in the downstairs lobby that was run off the kitchen lighting circuit, and a faulty plug hidden and forgotten behind a radiator in the sitting room that was run off the pantry plug circuit. Removing these two offenders allowed full electricity to be restored. However, these inconveniences were soon forgotten by Wayne at least, as the firm that rented us the digger, found him a larger one to buy second hand.

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