So, everything went fine yesterday, and we've now got the beginnings of a communal electrical supply. The job was done by a couple of very traditional British municipal-style workmen from Western Power. For those of you who've not experienced traditional British workmen, this normally involves two guys just this side of retirement who have been working together for long enough to build up quite a good comedy double-act routine, who turn up at any random time outside the time their office has said they'll turn up, but then proceed to turn industrial quantities of tea into equal quantities of (a) complaints about head office and (b) surprisingly competent work.
These same guys had been doing the same job for around forty years, outliving by orders of magnitude the various government departments, private companies, outsourcing companies, renationalised departments, re-privatised companies, and outsourced outsourcing companies which had employed them to do roughly the same jobs in roughly the same area for roughly the same amount of money for all that time.
They were quite fun. I guess you have to have a reasonable sense of humour if you spend all day hanging upside down in the dark under someone else's floorboards rewiring live three-phase supplies three inches away from live gas pipes which some plumber has inconveniently run in front of your master fuseboxes, all while smoking roll-ups and drinking tea.
Anyway. Like I said, they turned my tea into fine British workmanship, and we now have a complicated-looking plastic appliance screwed to the wall in the hall which they assure me is ready to wire up to an electricity meter.
If I didn't mention it, the reason we're mucking around with the electrics here is that I live in the basement of a big house split into five flats, and at the moment the communal lighting, fire alarm and intercom system all runs off my fusebox1. That's okay by me financially, but it's not so hot for everyone when a bulb goes upstairs and all the lights in the stairwell go out, and nobody can turn them back on until I get back from work/the pub/holiday.
So, yesterday was the first step on the long and convoluted path to getting a communal electricity supply with a fusebox where everyone who lives here can flip the switches back on when necessary. Next we need to get an electrician in to put in a fusebox and get the communal stuff rewired into it, and then there's the final step of getting a supply company to fit a meter in between it and the new connection we got yesterday.
Incidentally, it turns out that the supply company, Scottish and Southern, contracts out the job of fitting their meters around here to Western Power -- so, yes, under the aegis of a completely different privatised company, the same two blokes will be back here to turn more of my tea into craftsmanship. And in fact, they do all the work for all the electricity supply companies in this area. The beauty of privatisation is choice: you really get to choose who to pay to have exactly the same work done by the same two blokes.
1Or whatever you call them these days. Mine's got some actual fuses and some circuit breakers, so it's some kind of hybrid between the old and the new...