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Friday, February 04, 2005

The calm after the storm

We had a storm on Wednesday night. A low pressure system sat over Melbourne for 24 hours without budging, raining on us. This is great, as we need rain. But not quite that much all at once, perhaps, as it flooded everything. And the strong winds did horrible things to trees and power lines. We were without electricity from first thing yesterday morning until after lunch today. We still had hot water (gas) but nothing else - the central heating is gas but needs electricity to turn it on and off. (And yes, it is February, normally the hottest month of the year in Melbourne, but it was bitterly cold for a couple of days, the coldest February day on record I believe).

It made me realise just how much we rely on utilities. And how the utility companies have us over a barrel. The current (pun sort of intended!) arrangements are that we pay an electricity retailer for our power, and they in turn buy it from a distributor. In circumstances like these recent ones, it is the distributor who is responsible for fixing things up. As they are not directly in receipt of the customers' monies, they have no real fiscal interest in serving our needs. They certainly worked very hard to restore power supplies - at least the actual men on the ground did. The phone room employees obviously have no vested interest in any of this (they are probably paid peanuts) and by this morning they were not even pretending to help callers. We don't know when your power will be restored, we aren't allowed to give any information out, we don't really care, and we'll be as rude as we want to because it's none of our business and we have power at home, anyway. I have been simmering, no, boiling over with irritation about this.

But power was finally restored approximately 31 hours after it went out (we don't know exactly when it happened during the night, it could be several hours longer than that).

I fully realise that it was a difficult situation and that there were thousands of people with similar problems. Many of them had their power back 24 hours earlier than us, but maybe that's jusst bad luck on our part. But what really makes me mad is the lack of information that was supplied all the way through, and the treating of the customer with complete contempt.

Enough already. Yesterday was quite hard because Wombat was still unwell and, being a modern child, doesn't know how to spend a day sick without watching TV! And I wasn't feeling well either, so wasn't up to doing nice 'olden days' things with him (as he put it). He went back to school today and I spent the morning listening to the (battery powered) radio and knitting my pink and white poncho - completely mindless knitting that I found quite soothing.

We went out to dinner last night - I am getting a gas hob when we replace the kitchen but at the moment all my cooking facilities are electric. We went to the local Vietnamese restaurant, which is one of our favorites, and had a lovely night. They are very welcoming to children, and the children always behave immaculately there - hey, maybe there's a connnection!! After an ample meal of prawn crackers, spring rolls, satay chicken, sesame beef and a few other goodies, washed down by a bottle of Chardonnay and followed by indulgent pineapple fritters, we felt slightly happier with the world!!

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