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.