Here you will find Tales Of The Day from a Small Town
Arwen Breezes In
A few weeks back, it was in late November if memory serves me right, Arwen breezed into our small town – literally!
Now, there are some folks who follow the tales of Tolkien and will know Arwen as one of the half-elven who lived during the Third Age. Then, there are others who know Arwen more formally as Arwen Colles, which, as we are aware, is an area of hills on Titan, the largest moon of the planet Saturn. And yet, there are even more folks who will recognise Arwen as the name of Track 10 on the album entitled ‘Crown Electric’ released by the amazing English singer Kathryn Williams in 2013.
Me? I recognise Arwen as the humdinger of a storm which hit Grange, and other parts of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France, during the night of 26/27 November 2021 and for a fair few hours thereafter.
Now, do not get me wrong, I am the sort of person who enjoys a good storm – especially if there are abundant instances of thunder and lightning added to the mix. But I was not expecting Arwen, definitely not, no way! I knew she was planning to visit; my understanding was that Arwen was scheduled to sweep into the northeast and visit our friends in towns and cities over in Aberdeenshire and down to the Tees. Inwardly, I was disappointed at the prospect of missing out!
I was surprised, therefore, to wake up on the morning of 26 November to find my bedside clock staring at me blankly, and a distinct chill to the room. Well, I think my clock was staring blankly (do clocks stare blankly from time to time, I’m sure mine does?), but what I do know is it wasn’t telling me the time as it tends to usually. The room was also cooler than I would like it to be in late Autumn.
I am not an early riser – I’m a night owl, truth be told. It was light and I peered through the curtains and took in the vista of the upper High Street of our small town. Something was ‘odd’ I thought, not quite right in fact. The normally bright and welcoming lights of Higginsons of Grange were conspicuously absent, as were the seasonal festive lights I knew to be strung across Main Street from Costa Coffee towards St. Paul’s Church. Again, ‘odd’ I thought. I’m apt to have multiple thoughts of the same thing – it’s to do with my attunement with the order Strigiformes, but more of that another time.
Venturing further, I prowled the house, checking light switches along the way. Nothing worked. I was tempted to have a further thought of ‘odd,’ but I’d had two of those already and perhaps that was enough for one day. It occurred to me that something had tripped the electrical circuit, so I checked the breakers – all were intact. Blast, I said. Well, it wasn’t ‘blast,’ that I said, but you get my drift.
It was clear then that there was a local power outage and that, as has been the case with previous outages, it wouldn’t be long before the electricity was restored and all would, once more, be well in the world.
Time For Tea
I did what most English people do in times of crisis – I brewed a cup of tea. It’s a good job the kitchen hob is hooked into the gas supply!
Normally I take standard ‘builder’s tea’ – fancy dan teas such as Earl Grey are not for me. That said, in times of disaster, I do turn to my emergency stash of Yorkshire Tea, because as Sean Bean rightly says ‘…it brings warmth to your soul….’ As a resident of Cumbria, I shouldn’t really promote Yorkshire products, but I do like their tea (and their cheese, and their ale!), but it’s a secret so don’t tell anyone.
Taking A Walk
During a power outage there’s not a lot you can do, except wait for it to be restored or, better still, go for a walk and wait for it to be restored. It also helps if you are of a curious nature (I hesitate to say ‘nosy’), so, taking a minute or two to pick up my camera, I set out to investigate the extent of the power outage.
Ambling the length of Main Street, it became apparent the outage was extensive. There was a strong breeze in the air too. It was by the Community Orchard, at Yewbarrow Gardens, I first saw evidence of Storm Arwen. Strewn across the footpath were branches and foliage which had been stripped from the tree canopy overhead. ‘Odd’ I thought once more (Ha! – managed to get another in!), ‘looks like we have had a storm!’ (I can be quick on the uptake when faced by the blindingly obvious!)
I mooched along some more and found myself sauntering along Windermere Road or, if you prefer, the B5271. I like road and street names, for they give you the feel of a place, a sense of history and echoes of the footsteps of those gone before. Road numbers – As and Bs? No thank you – they’re too impersonal and do not give you much idea of where you are!
The Sad Demise Of ‘Tree’
It was a quarter of a mile or so along Windermere Road I came across the fallen tree. A once mighty occupant of the lower reaches of Brown Robin lay broken, twisted, and forlorn. My eyes watered with emotion at the pitiful sight – any nemophilist would similarly weep.
Tree (I’ll call the tree, ‘Tree’ for we hadn’t been introduced before that fateful day) had not fallen lightly though and made sure to completely block the road in both directions when crashing to the ground. Tree had also managed to inflict severe damage on a single deck local bus. This too was broken, twisted, and blocking the road.
I wasn’t the first to arrive. Already hard at work were a crew of tree surgeons who were painstakingly taking chainsaws to Tree. Bit by bit Tree lost branch after branch as the specialists laboured to reopen the road. To linger was painful. I said goodbye to Tree, vowing as I did so to plant another tree in tribute, and went on my way.
I shivered, whether it was the chill wind or the passing of Tree I cannot say but I reasoned the power must have been restored by now and ventured homeward. My return route took me along The Promenade where I admired, as I usually do, the well-kept flower borders facing out over the expanse of The Bay. Nods and words of greeting came and went as I passed other folk, and assorted dogs, with waggy tails and floppy ears (the dogs that is, not the folk), ambling in the opposite direction.
The pull, this time, of a steaming hot cup of coffee spurred me and I hurried along, thinking of Tree as I went.
On re-joining Main Street, I became concerned. Shops and businesses were in darkness, shuttered and devoid of activity – the power was still out! ‘Time to get in touch with Electricity North West’, I muttered to myself, so I did.
Electricity North West – Where Are You?
I telephoned. There was an automated recording suggesting that the power failure was a consequence of Storm Arwen but that repairs were underway, and power would be restored by 4pm that day. I was invited to remain on the telephone and speak to an advisor for more details. I waited and waited. After half an hour it became a tad tedious, so I took up the offer of a call back… That call has never come.
No power equates to no light, internet, central heating, television and more. Luckily, with a gas hob, wood burner, torches, and candles, I felt able to cope until 4pm.
4pm came – no power. I telephoned again; the recording was the same. Anxiety stirred – mobile phone battery was low, with no ready method of recharge. Luckily, I could hear the sound of the backup generator at the town telephone exchange so I knew the land line would still operate as it is powered externally.
By the way, do you know that land lines are to be phased out? The existing analogue PSTN system is being replaced with internet-based VoIP – has consideration been given, I wonder, to how that system will work if the power network fails?
Tomorrow I thought, tomorrow the power will be restored.
Tomorrow arrived. The power did not – neither did the promised call back from Electricity North West. The recording changed though – a couple of times that day in fact. Each time there was an apology and a deferred time for estimated restoration. ‘They’re busy’ I thought, ‘there must be a lot of damage.’ It was cold that day, with snow. The town remained in darkness; I was beginning to get fed up.
Then it was Monday. Still no power, still no promised call back from Electricity North West. The recorded message was apologetic, but no longer, if I recall correctly, gave an estimate of when electricity might return. By then, it was evident that Storm Arwen had inflicted considerable damage to the power network across the north of England, parts of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Sadly, there were fatalities too.
112,000 homes were without power in the north of England, 80,000 in Scotland and 13,000 in Wales. I was not alone. It was still cold.
Mind you, cold as it was, it wasn’t as cold as my sister is currently experiencing whilst visiting my neice and her family in northern Ontario! I heard from her yesterday – seems she was experiencing -27c (with wind chill) and not enjoying it too much!
Grange United Reformed Church To The Rescue
That morning there was a knock at the door. Two young members of Grange over Sands United Reformed Church stood there smiling and bearing a food parcel along with fresh milk and kind words. I have since learned they were very busy that day, for I was not the only beneficiary of their kindness. The gesture has already been paid forward and will be again.
Normal Service Is Resumed!
Later that day, not long after 2pm power was restored. The lights came on… I confess, I danced a jig and bounced around in giddy delight! I could feel the town stirring, slowly waking up as if from a long hibernation. The house slowly warmed as heat, once again, coursed through the rooms and the temperature increased. It was no longer cold!
In Grange we were relatively lucky. It took time but the electricity was re-instated within three days. Others were not so lucky for it was not until 7 December that power was fully restored.
It’s worth mentioning here that Electricity North West has a Guaranteed Standards of Service scheme in place. Under the scheme it is possible to claim compensation if those standards are not met.
Talking Of Dogs
Talking of dogs (see above) – my sister also sent me this photograph, taken on a dog-sledding trip. I have asked that the youngster featured be shipped to me asap! Well, I can only hope!
Goodbye Arwen – unfortunately, I cannot say it was a pleasure to see you!
Goodbye Tree – rest easy old friend!