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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Power cuts

We had a brief blip in the power connection around lunch time so I was frantically backing up data onto memory-sticks in case I needed to be portable and find another computer with battery power to work on. Fortunately it seemed a temporary blip with no damage.

But it did cause me some confusion as my toaster had just burned the toast and I was trying to get to the smoke detector before the smoke set it off when everything stopped. I assumed somehow the toaster had fused everything but then all the electrics came back on so I heaved a sigh of relief. It was only later I learned it was an island wide power cut. No idea what the cause was though.

In the eight years I’ve lived on the island there have been only a few power outages and none have lasted more than a few hours. Our electricity reaches the island through a sub-sea cable, but then gets transferred around the island through overhead power lines. I do get slightly nervous in high winds or heavy snow as it would be some time before repair men came out to fix anything. However I keep a plentiful supply of batteries for torches and I have a rechargeable lantern, plus battery radios and calor gas heater and hob so I would manage for a while. When the house was renovated I did consider double wiring it so that a generator could be used, but in the end decided the cost probably was disproportionate to the risk, and as I say in eight years I haven’t had a problem, so it seems to have been a good decision.

While the house was being renovated I rented a house on the island of Hoy for a few months and in the Spring the electricity was regularly going off. The first time I phoned the emergency number to report the power loss the chap asked me to go outside and check that no crows were nesting on the post with the electric transformer on it. Apparently this is common in Spring on Hoy as there aren’t many trees at the South end of the island – the crows make their nests atop the electricity poles on the transformers and the nesting material bridges a circuit and “bang” – electricity goes off. I’m not sure of the fate of the hapless crow! Anyway I learned to check the electricity poles for crows before I phoned to report power failures!


  1. I loved the story about crows. Around here, it's squirrels getting fried in the "local" (about 8 houses) transformer.

    BTW, I think I understand what a "calor gas heater" heater is, but what is a "hob"? Forgive this ignorant Yank.

  2. I remember a few summers back, watching TV with the windows open. I saw a flash of light, and a loud bang, and whoosh, no power!

    Yes, we have the exploding squirrels here in New Jersey.

  3. Exploding squirrels - oh poor wee things! We have no squirrels in Orkney but I remember them well from when I lived in the South of England. Friends had them in their loft once and they were a nightmare to remove.

    As for a "hob" mary - oooh what do you call it?? A Hob is the top bit of a cooker with the rings on which you put saucepans etc. They can either be part of the cooker or separate built into the kitchen worktop. I have five gas burners on my "hob". In the UK you can get them powered by gas, or electric.

  4. sian, I guess that's what we'd call a "hot plate" or maybe a "camp stove". A hot plate would probably be electric - just 1-2 rings separate from a stove (range). John had a camp stove, just a couple of burners, fired up by propane gas. Maybe that's more what you mean.

    I love finding new words to describe or name things.

  5. Mary, no not a hot plate or a camp stove. A "hob" is what a friend in Vermont tells me is a "cook top" with "burners" on the top of your stove. In the US seemingly you usually have stoves as one unit, whereas in the UK it is quite common to have the cook-top separate from the oven. However my stove is a range type with five gas burners on the top (which we in the UK refer to as the hob). I too love the differences in our language. It gives me and my US friends hours of amusement :-)

  6. Thanks for the further clarification, sian. Sometimes here kitchens will have separate stove top (hob) and oven. I've had that once, but more often I've had the all-in-one.