25 December 1998

Electrical emergency was four years late

There is no nice way to be woken up at 4am but at least this was quick. A loud crack was soon followed by an acrid smell and from the bedroom window we saw a plume of brown smoke rising from the direction of our

transformer.

Ours is an isolated farm and electricity is brought across the fields at a high voltage and reduced to the standard 240V by a little grey box on a pole at the edge of the farmyard. It was this box that had exploded for no apparent reason, very early one fine June morning.

Two engineers in a well equipped Land Rover were soon on the scene. "It was a pigeon," said one of them when they had inspected the damage. Not wishing to question his ornithological knowledge, I just nodded as I studied the charred lump in his hand.

"How long before we have the power back?"

"An hour at the most," he replied. "You need a new transformer but we can patch this one up for now."

Soon the old transformer was delivering the 240V needed to run the farm and life continued as before. That was in 1994.

About 12 months later I inquired when the new transformer was coming. "You are on the list, there is a better type we will be fitting in future. You will get one of those."

I naively believed them.

The old transformer kept on working, quietly reducing the voltage with no complaints. There were thunderstorms that brought other lines down. There were icicles which shorted other supplies. There was even a goose which flew into the wires the other side of the village but our patched up system kept going.

Then one day a team came round checking the poles. "You need a new transformer," they said and went away again.

On the following Friday morning an engineer in a car came round. "You need a new transformer," he said and went away again.

On the following Friday morning an engineer in a car came round. "You need a new transformer," was all he said. At 4pm a maintenance crew in a small truck and an engineer in a car arrived and studied the poles and the transformer. Then another crew in a bigger lorry arrived with a more senior engineer in a bigger car.

"We shall have to turn the supply off to install your new transformer," said the senior engineer, "Take about an hour, is that all right?"

My husband had just started the milking, so it was not all right. "Its been like that for four years," I replied. "Cant it wait till Monday?"

"Sorry, it has been scheduled as an emergency. It must be done today." The senior man showed me his job sheet: "Transformer in a dangerous condition, immediate replacement required."

I tried again, "Its Friday night and my husband wont finish milking for another two hours. Its been

like this for four years, another day or two wont

matter."

"Dont worry, we dont mind waiting. Well get

ready, then when hes finished well just switch off

to change them over. Must be done today, its an emergency you see."

With that, they drove to the poles, put up their

ladders and prepared to replace the transformer.

We now have a new grey box providing electricity

in just the same way as the old one did. The

only problem is the weathermen have forecast

thunder and lightning. We shall see, or

maybe we will be plunged into

darkness. Who knows?

Janet Ormond