By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
Yesterday we learnt that it costs £70 extra per week per household to live in the countryside. It does, however cost a little more than that in the sheer determination and effort it takes to keep living out here. I will give you an example of an instance that took place here only recently.
In this idyllic and beautiful area of Dartmoor, where we live in a conservation area, our buildings are listed and planning is restrictive. You need permission to take down an unattractive tree for example. In this place and from my ancient front door I can see a collection of 9 wires attached to four telegraph poles. One of the wires is our electricity supply. For all the world it looks like a miniature version of any such collection in a third world state. This lack of beauty does not signify!
One recent Sunday, I was thinking of a cup of tea to drink in the hot weather. I came into our utility room and found that the machines weren’t working. I checked the light and the electricity was off. I rustled through my parish mag. and found the number to ring. I was assured that there was nothing wrong in the area. I thought that if this was so it could have serious implications for the Photographer, who was still recuperating from illness and had at last found peace in his beloved vegetable patch. It soon emerged that our neighbour had no electricity and some people had the electric and some had not.
Of course, as I explained recently, most of us had electric pumps that worked our bore hole. No electricity meant no water. I had no idea where I had put our emergency gallon, but eventually found it deep in a dark cupboard. Bore holes can be seriously damaged if you pull water without the pump.
It was humid now and the day wore on. Those with electric had it turned off to further aid repair. If you wanted a wee, it was better to go behind a bush in the garden. We all had water butts so had water to fill an emergency bucket. The photographer rang the centre as various promised deadlines passed. Evening arrived. I was pleased that we had had a big brunch for breakfast, but there were sighs over meat elsewhere. Eventually, the Photographer decided to wander up to the junction box to see what was happening. Here, a lone warrior was wearily tackling the problem. The Photographer sent up his sympathies and asked if there was any way in which we could assist. An imperial nut was rusted up and would not move. The photographer offered to fetch his much prized imperial socket set when as if by a miracle, the part moved and very soon after, having reached twilight, we turned the lights on.This was, after all, just about replacing a fuse!
This is just one episode in rural life, where we pay a great deal for very little service. How many town people would put up with an eight to nine hour power cut for a fuse repair! We pay more for less it seems in all sorts of ways. Let’s not talk about winter, and that, we have virtually no snow clearance, even when 4 x 4s have been unable to get out, even though we pay the council tax that funds it for the towns.
Today is the solstice, a time to look forward to log collecting, food hoarding and generally preparing for a siege. An extra £70 a week needs seriously looking at in view of some profits which are filling some people’s pockets. Would we leave for the town? Increasingly, some people have to.Two years ago our daughter reluctantly moved to Exeter. She had endured two winters here and could no longer safely get to work. She had tried working from home in bad weather, but the internet connection was not good enough. It kept breaking down. She now has friends and a new easier life in town. We don’t expect to see her return and we know that she is not the only young person lost because the roads aren’t cleared sufficiently in winter, and there are no houses for them to live in. When nearly everyone has left, who is going to get through the wilderness for that lovely Devon holiday?