Thursday 13 February 2014

Thought Picnic: Powerless in darkness

Rich and busy
Not too far down the road from me, though longer that a brisk walk, you will find some of the most expensive real estate, the residences of young and odiously rich footballers.
During the week, I am ensconced in what is left of the country pile of a squire, a farm house which mostly survives as a week day bed and breakfast concern.
The main hall or mansion, if you care is now the technological information technology nerve centre of a major bank with other buildings as offices housing up to 4,000 employees on a busy day.
In fact, I have found that major global conglomerates seek out a remote and cheap (affordable) location to host their information technology teams. For instance, when I worked for Unilever, we were in North Wales, a place called Ewloe.
Power lost
This discovery comes with its issues, like I have been here just 4 weeks and in that time I have experienced rarities, things I am quite unfamiliar with.
In the first instance, it was men-at-work upgrading a power substation, with that came a power cut that lasted a good few hours, that was understandable.
Last night, the whole of North West England was buffeted by stormy hurricane winds with speeds of up to 100 miles/hour (160 km/hour), there were recordings on the news whilst it was on of much higher speeds in other places.
I retired only to wake up around 18:30 to realise that we had suffered a power cut with no inkling as to when it would be restored.
Managing power sources
One of the safety features of buildings like where I am staying is they are equipped with emergency lighting, but the loss of power also meant the security system was constantly beeping.
This power cut scenario presented some challenging situations because it meant we could not use the microwave oven, my laptops only had battery life that lasted so long and if I had to use my mobile phone, I had to be conscious of the need to remain contactable or rather have the means of contacting others.
Contingency arrangements
Now, in Nigeria where I lived up to the end of the 1980s, if I were in a hotel, it is possible that the contingency to frequent power cuts would have involved switching on a power generator. In fact, when I was in India, the power cuts at both the hotel and the training centre did not last 5 minutes before the power generating set was turned on.
This was not the case, so it was cereal for supper and the luck of one of guests giving me a spare LED torchlight that he had.
To get online, I used my mobile phone that was charged through the USB port of my laptop, later I only had to power up the other laptop without logging on to keep my phone charged through the night. This eventually drained the battery charge of the laptop, but at least I could still use it.
Electricity really matters
I doubt I can survive another night without power and much as I can fully commiserate with those who have been victims of severe weather issues in the UK this winter, with floods causing immeasurable damage, it is not a situation I can get too accustomed to.
You begin to appreciate better the role that electricity has in our daily lives for literally everything, lighting, cooking, cooling, heating, freezing, domestic appliances, communication, entertainment or just a sense of wellbeing. First world problems you might say, but when you get used to something, its absence would probably be felt more than if it was something that was in short supply.
Knutsford is that place and no, I have not been meeting up with WAGs of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool or Everton premiership football clubs.

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