This time last year I was doing the cooking in the dark. Not for just one day, oh, no, for six whole weeks. You see, this is what happens in a Vicarage. Let me explain. . .
Our kitchen has two very long (abnormally so for a domestic setting) fluorescent tube lights running across the ceiling. Early November last year I switched them on, they gave a little flicker and died. So I cooked in the dark (this being London that actually means in the faint orange glow from streetlights). It is amazing what you can do when you have to. We did not get food poisoning – so clearly sorting out the lighting was not a priority! Obviously the tubes needed replacing (although I was a touch suspicious that they had both gone at the same time). I needed my husband to get up a ladder, remove a tube, drive to an electrician, buy replacements, get back up the ladder and fit them. This took a full month (yes, genuinely, not exaggerating – he was appallingly busy and we needed to do this in daylight which posed a major problem). I moved a bedside lamp into the kitchen which worked OK, ’twas a bit twilight-ish but quite manageable really. We hosted a parish party like this. I was the butt of innumerable jokes about Scottish penny-pinching. But I managed, even got quite used to it. At the end of a month my patience was wearing a little thin and I compelled my husband up the ladder on his day off (I’d even taken to keeping the ladder in the kitchen in case he got any sudden urges to sort out the situation). We spent most of the rest of the day off trying to find a shop that stocked the right size fluorscent tube. Apparently no normal home has this size. We hit lucky at the fourth place. Finally, armed with the tubes that stretched the entire length of the inside of the car, we went home, fitted them . . . and, still no light. Maybe a starter motor? I waited another week as an electrician was due to call for the church and we decided to ask his advice. He came in due course, and confirmed that there was nothing we could do, that he didn’t know precisely what the problem was but that it was something to do with the wiring going in, and that we needed a professional electrician. We couldn’t hire him, because he was hired for the church and the house is owned by the diocese, which means that all repairs etc on the house have to be sorted out by the diocesan office and workmen hired by them. It also means you are only allowed to have problems during strict office hours. (Is your head swimming yet?) We were now in the week immediately before Christmas so I didn’t hold out much hope for a speedy resolution, but a very sympathetic lady at the office did send us out an electrician. The electrician was very nice (even with my father-in-law who kept hanging around him saying “I think the problem is at the switch” – it wasn’t), speedily discovered that we had some major wiring problems and got busy removing flooring upstairs to find and sort out the problem. I started to have visions of a variety of workmen from various fields having to come in to fix a never-ending spiral of incidental damage and problems. Eventually, after several hours’ hard work, our upstairs was more or less restored to normal, our wiring was actually safe (there was a lot we were glad we hadn’t known about), and behold there was light! (And my did that kitchen floor look dirty!)
When I was at university there was a craze for lightbulb jokes. You know the ones – “How many x does it take to change a lighbulb?” A Roman Catholic friend of mine, now a Dominican priest (we actually had neighbouring rooms for a year and frequently used to end the day with cocoa and prayers together), used to tease me with:
“How many Protestants does it take to change a lightbulb?”
Answer: “Protestants live in the dark.”