Civilisation

Always good to have a reminder of what a cosseted life we live in modernity.

At the weekend, after the powerstation was demolished, 49,000 people lost electricity.

And now, to add to its growing reputation as the ‘Town of a Thousand Surprises’ a great many of the same have lost water. The problem was noticed at 6:45am today according to the water board and at 14:30 was still offline.

If I didn’t know better I’d say the town was fighting back, old prosperous Didcot is refusing to go quietly, and the powerstation chimney is making its displeasure felt. After all, if it can be seen for miles, certainly from the next county, it means that it can see for miles, and may be unhappy with what it sees…

Apparently, Didcot is the most average town in England. Perhaps loss of amenities is simply a rehearsal for what’s to come?

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Welcome to Didcot!

Welcome to Didcot, town of a thousand surprises!

Now you see it…

20190818_065307

… And now you don’t!

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But no one reckoned on the second explosion…

 

DidcotPowerStation2019-2ndExplosionCrop

… Or the power loss to 49,000 people and the entire local grid network.

DidcotPowerStation2019-powercutCrop

We twigged there might be a problem as we drove away and found that every house was dark and every set of traffic lights was blank. The modern powerstation supplying Didcot is on the same site as the old one being demolished, so the vibration and dust are likely to have upset it. The official line was “they’re not related!” then changed to, “Well, they might be…” as more footage emerged showing the explosions happened within seconds.

Here’s some moving footage:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-49375917

What sound recording didn’t pick up clearly was the reaction from people in the fields. People who didn’t understand what the powerstation had meant were cheering. People who remembered the powerstation being built 51 years ago, who remembered the job creation, the prosperity, the improvement in living conditions, the new housing, the new amenities, how happy they had been to be born, raised, live, work and retire in Didcot were in silent tears.

The chimney has been a beacon for decades, lit up as one of the tallest structures in the UK. To many its sighting means, “home.” Driving directions include, “then you’ll feel like you’re in the opening credits of the Simpsons.” But there’s no plan to replace it with anything as momentous.

I think there should be a spinnaker tower style replacement, so not only can it be seen from afar but there’s a wonderful view off the top. You could get the whole of Oxford.

 

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Summer holidays

I hate Summer. There, I’ve said it.

I’ve said it before. The reason is that it sneaks up before I’m ready for it, then it’s over just while I’m enjoying it.

It’s the light more than the warmth that I miss, when it’s possible to see more things or get more things done than it is in winter. There’s the mundane domestic, such as drying clothes quickly, but also the spark of excitement about planning and travelling further.

The household, with a lot of forward planning, got time off All At The Same Time. We couldn’t plan what to do with it in advance, Brexit and all that, so we were stuck with fitting everyone’s requirements around enforced spontaneity or nothing. After we planned a last jaunt through Europe,  we realised that we’d spend more time lost than actually seeing what we intended. So we went into the holiday shop and asked for something reasonable, leaving tomorrow. Which we got. With extra archaeology and snorkelling (not always at the same time). I’m still bouncing about it.

The irony of this wasn’t lost on us. I should be attending three conferences this year but haven’t. To attend any means planning up to a year in advance, but each is just beyond a Brexit deadline, with the official guidance being that passports, insurance, tickets and anything car related will be immediately invalid the morning after. It’s possible to book and travel tomorrow, but not if planning a fixed date months away. We saw the effect of this on holiday – tourism was 40% down overall as usually people book next year’s holiday when freshly back from this year’s, the demographic was shifting (I would usually be an anomaly) and the newly written signs were in Polish – the growing market.

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Professional hint

Sometimes nature gives you a hint.

This time it said not to return professionally to my former profession.

I put on my work boots and walked across the backgarden to get on with laying a patio.

Here’s what they did – the soles disintegrated:

IMG-20190626-WA0000

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Escape artist

If I were a free-range guinea pig in Cambridge right now I’d be worried:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-48824915

Ours have escaped once each, both through our own stupidity.

He was being fed in an open-topped tub and looked off-colour so we concentrated on her. Looked again, tub was empty except for a mound of snake-poo. He was eventually found wrapped round the warm TV cables, looking happier and moving much faster, and extracted back into the vivarium.

The vivarium sliding doors can be left open a fraction for air. Madam snuck out and hid under the cupboard it rests on. I have a favourite photo of just her head poking out, looking up at someone crouching down to speak to her. Furniture was moved and madam was enticed back with a warm wet flannel in a closed tub.

Snakes can only eat 1.5x the width of their head, so this escaped one is harmless to humans for another few years – I’d be more worried about the snake being harmed. If ours escaped again, he’d curl up and hide which means it would take an age to find him, she’d be anyone’s for a mouse so could go anywhere. The neighbours have met and handled them, so our main concern would be them meeting a poisoned rat or red kite.

My guess would be that the python’s snake-sitter won’t be invited to again…

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Affection

For the first time ever, I have finished one jar and opened a new one. All previous jars have scampered off in the night to new homes whenever I moved house.

So now I am able to show readers from foreign climes who have ever wondered how British people show affection to one another – they gift each other this:20190606_092203 (2):

 

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Fulfilling mandate

Lord Reith stated that the BBC should ‘Educate, inform and entertain’.

So here’s an example showing that it does just that.

(It’s the subtitles!)

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