One of the characteristics of my new life in the country down in the south east of England – first amongst which was always going to be the joy of quitting “the smoke” for the quietness and ease of life in an agricultural setting – are the regular reminders, some of them significant and others almost inconsequential, of how slight and weak are the strands of the processes of human society that we all tend to take for granted.
Here I am not referring to the complications that face humanity upon a global scale – e.g. climate change and similar other existential threats such at the news emerging this week that the Ukraine, which hitherto had not been upon my radar at all as a vital “bread basket” that annually and routinely plays a vital role in feeding the world, has already amassed an involuntary stockpile of million of tons of grain that its war with Russia has preventing being shipped to its intended destinations … and this in a situation where millions of tons more is now due to be harvested and currently as I type has nowhere to be housed, still less any prospect of being distributed to the starving millions who are depending upon it to survive.
Rather I am referring to something as ordinary, mundane and simple as the internet broadband service as it reaches the depths of West Sussex.
Out here in the hinterland many homesteads boast liquid gas storage tanks somewhere on their land – supposedly always far enough away from any occupied dwellings as would render the latter safe in the event of a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) escape and/or explosion – and then also separate fuel oil tanks that – when filled to capacity – will power such as central heating systems for anything up to six to eight months.
As my beloved and I being “townies” and relatively innocent in the practicalities of real life (having had our many utilities supplied on a plate without fear of interruption for decades), we have had some hilarious incidents since arriving in the country, not least among which was first discovering that our tanks of both LPG and fuel oil had run out only when – in the depths of last winter – first our AGA and then our entire heating system ground to a halt.
It took us nearly a month to get the first re-supplied and the second a fortnight, during which periods we had to rely upon an immersion heater for hot water and our two wood-burning stoves for warmth.
These experience brought to mind the old adage that in life “one tends to learn far more (and better) from one’s mistakes than one can ever learn from a handbook/textbook”.
We had another experience of a similar nature earlier this week.
The area we live in – close to the coast but not as far inland as the South Downs – is famous for having something of a micro-climate of its own.
At any moment the Downs can be subjected to a torrential downpour when simultaneously down here we can be bathed in glorious sunshine without a cloud in the sky – or indeed vice versa.
On some days – with the prevailing south-westerly wind giving it a fair blow – to us locals it feels as though sometimes we can experience two of three different types of weather within the space of only four or five hours. One never knows what is coming next.
When you live here, you eventually get used to this inconstancy and indeed embrace it as one of the factors that makes the area so unique.
Which brings me to my purpose in posting today.
Earlier this week, on Wednesday afternoon, the weather app down at the bottom right-hand side of my computer – upon which I keep a regular beady eye – suddenly updated itself with a message “No rain for two hours” [the type of news that always gets one’s interest twitching] and then simultaneously what I’d describe as a yellow triangle announcing a “Thunderstorm Warning!”.
I immediately clicked upon the “more details” button and learned that at some point after 8.00pm a major thunderstorm would be coming through, with an animation accompaniment showing heavy rain falling between about 9.00pm to 3.00am.
As usual I went to bed about 8.30pm (no storm by then) and fell fast asleep. I was later advised that the mother and father of all storms (complete with thunder and lightning) had begun about 10.00pm.
When I arose on Thursday morning at my usual hour of about 3.00am, there was no sound of storms about – but also (I immediately noticed upon firing up my computer) no internet service available. We get ours from an independent company that supplies locals via purely by wifi. Presumably the thunderstorm had played havoc with its continuity.
As Canadian songstress Jon Mitchell once trilled “You never know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”.
All I can say is that being denied an internet service – and not being able to catch up upon world news or even compose an email – for the best part of twelve hours is a major modern catastrophe.