Friday 10 July 2009

Not to be read if you get upset

Too different a subject, so you've got three posts today. This is more of a pouring out, so I suggest you go to the first of the day and appreciate Jaywalker instead.

I was just leafing through the day's papers when I came upon a report that a woman, a mother of two small children, had died because the wiring in the rented home her family had just moved in to was incorrectly wired. She was having a bath, turned the tap for more hot water and was electrocuted. Her husband, at the inquest, said that steps should be taken to ensure that standards are met.

But steps are - or they should be. I've a few charges, such as the energy efficiency survey, that I resent paying for at my two London flats, but the ones I don't mind at all relate to the annual check on the electricity and gas. It's worth a few hundred pounds a year to know that I'm not going to be responsible for someone's death. Five or six years ago, two young men died over Christmas in Yagnub at an over-shop flat they were living in because the gas wasn't properly ventilated and they were overcome with fumes and died in their sleep. I was terribly upset, though I didn't know them, because it just shouldn't have happened. There are rules that are not made to be broken.

But that's only part of the reason I was upset by today's report. When I was a child, we had a car accident. We were on the way to my mother's godson's christening - it must have been 1962, so I was 8 or 9, depending on when at the end of the summer it was. We were hardly out of Lowestoft, driving along the A12 towards Kessingland, when my father pulled out to overtake a Morris Minor pootling along. We were in plenty of time, so we weren't going that fast ourselves and, for some unknown reason, the driver behind us tried to overtake us too. There wasn't room - he hit us, we hit the M M, spun round and went on the verge. If that had been clear, we might have got away with it, but there was a telegraph pole and we hit that and ended up in the ditch.

I remember sitting there, wondering if I was hurt, deciding I wasn't, looking at my parents, deciding they were still alive and moving, feeling relieved and then looking across to my sister and seeing all the blood. It wasn't as bad as it looked at that moment - is it lucky or unlucky to get cut by glass at the side and above your eye, when you could have been blinded? My father also had been cut in a minor way and my mother had whiplash, but I was unscathed. I always was. It's not just marrying the Sage that has brought me luck; I've always had it.

We were just outside a little pre-fab house and the family came out to help. My sister had to go to hospital, so when the people offered to take me and look after me until they got back, the offer was gratefully received. I don't remember much. The mother asked if I was all right, I said yes. She was looking at my hands and I looked down and they were trembling and shaking. When I knew they were, I could stop it, but I hadn't known. We had lunch, boiled salt beef and carrots. It was delicious, but I doubt I ate much. Afterwards, we played a board game. The girl nearest my age (there were several children) was particularly kind and friendly. I don't remember her name now, but I remembered it when I saw it in the paper a year or so later.

Her father and a friend had rewired the house. Something wasn't quite right. One evening, the girl went upstairs for a bath. While she was in the bath, a kitchen appliance was turned on. She reached for the tap for more water. Wires touched and she was electrocuted.

I'm still awfully scared of electricity. I take no chances. If I'm doing more than changing a light bulb, I turn off at the mains. How that poor kind father must have felt still haunts me, when I think about it.


badgerdaddy said...

It's odd, how we are so relaxed about electricity now. Almost like we've 'mastered' it.

Two people I know have been through terrible experiences with electricity. Awful, disgusting, horrifying ones. Yet most of us don't think twice about sticking a knife into a toaster.

People are strange.

Dave said...

Interesting. Living in a church house, as a tenant (but not actually renting it) they had an annual gas survey, but nothing for the electrics.

Now I do actually rent a house, I shall watch with interest what happens.

Sarah said...

Hmmm quite so Z....I have a holiday cottage and yup the gas is anualy checked but no electrical safety net, though all the electrics were re done before renting started....scary thought tho...worried now!
Though I expect the reality of doing a yearly check on the wiring might be quite difficult as you cant see if it leaks !!

lom said...

We own our house, (well we will in about 6 years), we have our electic checked every 5 years along with all our electrcal gadgets.

Z said...

I unplug a toaster before sticking a knife into it.

I'll check my letting details (not today, it's a busy weekend) but I'm quite sure the electricity check should be an annual one - although I take your point Sarah. The damn silly energy efficiency check, which was brought in for new tenancies from January without any publicity at all, lasts for 10 years. I don't see why that would be a requirement for a holiday cottage though, or who would check on you if you let it yourself rather than through an agency.

Z said...

I've googled the regulations - there isn't a legal requirement for an annual electricity test, but the owner is liable for the safety of any electrical equipment.

Dave said...

My landlords did arrange, when they bought the house, for a complete check of the electrical system (and carried out some repairs subsequently, when it was revealed that some of the fittings etc (in an 8 year old house!) didn't match current regulations. There's no indication that they plan to do this every year.

Z said...

A housing trust such as yours wouldn't get it wrong, Dave. It's not a legal requirement.

Regulations do change, er, regularly. I was told that the 9 year old gas boiler wouldn't be allowed to be installed now, not because it's unsafe but because it's not as energy efficient as new ones are.

Zig said...

yes that was upsetting, but I'm glad I read it. Part of being lucky is believing your glass to be half full, you do that wonderfully.

Wink said...

I think that on the whole I was lucky but it's damned hard going through your teenage years with a facial scar even though it fades in time.

Z said...

The car driver was certainly lucky because the police wanted to prosecute, but Daddy said he reckoned he'd learned his lesson.

Dandelion said...

I think it's ok to say you were unlucky, Wink. That things could have been a lot worse is, you could say, a small consolation.

But speaking of which, a cousin of mine when she was a teenager was in a car with her parents and both siblings when they were in an accident. Everyone in their car was killed but her, and she was left paralysed for the rest of her life.

So... Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

How do we know said...

wow.. this is the day of not so good news.. and this is really sad..