Electrickery.
You Just Can’t Trust It!

12th June 2016

In Greek Mythology, Electra is the daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra, and thus is Princess of Argos. This seems extremely unlikely to us, as we’re pretty sure that Sainsbury’s now owns Argos, which makes it much more likely that Electra is, in fact, the God of Electricity. Whatever the truth of the situation, it’s clear that whoever the God of Electricity is, they’re not too happy with The Laurels at present.
Unfortunately, Electra’s unhappiness has revealed itself in a couple of ways recently.

The first occasion was during breakfast service. Our usually ultra-reliable Dualit 6 slice toaster was doing its thing when a small ‘pop’ was heard. We weren’t exactly sure where this sound had come from, but it soon became apparent that the toaster was taking longer than normal to turn the bread into nice, warm, crispy toast and both the hob and cookers were no longer working either.
Using all my 25 years engineering experience I immediately diagnosed the problem as a lack of electricity to the relevant equipment. (I’m clever like that). Peering at the consumer unit revealed a tripped circuit breaker, confirming my initial diagnosis. Now, in theory, it’s sensible to ascertain what actually tripped the breaker in the first place before resetting it, but this was in the middle of breakfast service, so sensible thinking generally takes a back seat to getting our guests’ breakfast out as soon as possible. With this in mind, I reset the breaker, hoping that it wouldn’t immediately trip again, leaving us without our essential cooking tools.
This was probably my first mistake but, as luck would have it the breaker stayed reset, so I returned to the toaster and switched it back on. This was almost certainly my second mistake, as the moment the toaster burst into life I was greeted by a very loud bang, a small blue flash and a little plume of smoke. Having recovered from this somewhat alarming occurrence I again drew on my years of electrical experience, to conclude that the toaster was somewhat unwell. As we’ve mentioned before, all electrical devices work on the smoke and mirrors principle, meaning that once the smoke leaks out, the electrical device is rendered useless.

Being ex-corporate individuals we’re both used to the requirements of Contingency Management. You know, that ‘what do we do if x happens?’ or, ‘what’s our response if y happens?’. That kind of thing.
Luckily we didn’t have to refer to the Contingency Management Process Manual in this case, as it seemed pretty sensible to reach for the backup toaster. Our backup toaster is a lovely looking thing. In fact, it’s everything our main Dualit isn’t. It’s pretty, it’s funky, it’s nice to look at – but boy is it slow!

Toaster
Clearly, when the Italian De’Longhi family designed the Brillante CTJ toaster they were keen to ensure the users were given plenty of time to admire its pure white, diamond-shaped-thingy casing whilst it gently warmed the bread, before finally popping up what you really wanted all along. Some toast.
Still, Mr Good Lookin’ got us to the end of service without any further dramas, albeit all in its own good time.
One of the beauties of the Dualit is that it’s designed to be taken apart and fixed, unlike most of today’s consumer electronics which are designed to be thrown in the bin if they stop working.This gave me a chance to don my electrical hat once again, so I disassembled the little bugger to see what had caused the smoke to escape and render it inoperative. The cause soon became clear. One of the live supply wires had chafed on the metal toast crumb tray, causing 240 wiggly volts to travel to earth in a high amperage, blue sparky, smoke-producing kind of way.
Still, having repaired the damaged wire and rerouted it to prevent a reoccurrence, Mr Dualit was successfully returned to service.

Toaster
The second occasion Princess Electra decided to mess with us was just this morning.
In general, whilst we prep for breakfast we pop the TV on in the kitchen. This allows us to catch up on the news and watch the weather forecast, so we can update our guests on the likelihood of them getting soaked or sunburnt. Unfortunately, this morning’s request to view the BBC News was greeted with a black screen proclaiming ‘No Signal’. This is a weeny bit annoying for us, but is also an issue for our guests, as most of them like to stick the TV on in the morning too whilst they ready themselves for our tasty breakfast.
Having ascertained this issue was affecting all our TVs and our neighbours, it seemed highly likely that the local transmitter was at fault, although a search of the infernal interweb showed our transmitter as officially having ‘no faults’.Some 50 minutes later, in the middle of providing breakfast for 16 guests, the cause of our non-operating transmitter became all too obvious, as the power to the whole village dropped off. This is somewhat inconvenient as it killed all the lights, stopped the extractor fan, left us without our ovens, a toaster, a hot water urn and four out of our eight cooking hob rings.

Luckily this is where our Contingency Planning experience came in again. The first thing that’s absolutely essential in these circumstances, is to run round in small circles shouting “What the *@&$ hell do we do now?!” at increasingly higher levels of hysteria.
Once we’d done that we calmly went back to our guests in the Dining Room, who were by now sitting in the gloom, illuminated only by our emergency exit lights, wondering what the hell was going on. Amazingly, as seems to be the case with these sorts of things, our guests were completely understanding and seemed to accept it as all part of the experience.
The next thing we did, was to decide what we could and couldn’t do. As a result, we decided that we didn’t have space on the remaining gas hob to do poached eggs as well as fried and scrambled, in conjunction with ensuring the bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash browns stayed hot. We also had to boil water on the hob so we could continue to serve tea and coffee. Boil water on the hob? When was the last time anyone had to boil water on a hob?!
Lastly, we also had to do our toast on our main gas grill, rather than in our freshly repaired, none sparky, 6 slice Dualit. Unfortunately, our gas grill is a massive commercial thing that’s designed to cook 40 slices of bacon in the blink of an eye. Cooking a few slices of toast on it was fraught with danger. Firstly, there’s an exclusion zone around the grill, within which the temperature is normally just below that of the surface of the Sun. With our extractor system also now out of action, the ambient temperature in the kitchen had already risen by 20 degrees, and the temperature within toast-turning range of the grill was at a point that would challenge even Red Adair.

In amongst all this heat and swearing, Helen managed to ring our electricity supplier and ascertain that we’d only be without power for about an hour. “Oh that’s all right then!” we thought.
Still, given our background and vast experience we were soon on top of the situation, juggling too many pots and pans, burnt fingers (but not toast) placating confused guests and trying to pour boiling water from a large pan into a small cafetiere.
It was at this point that our fire alarm system, which had been running on backup battery for quite some time now, decided it was time to stop protecting us from any impending fiery conflagration. The trouble with this, of course, is that our fire system wants us to know that it’s now unable to protect us – and the only way it knows to do this, is by setting off the fire alarm.

So there we are, in the middle of a busy breakfast service, with no electricity, hardly and cooking ability, surrounded by hungry guests and the bloody fire alarm goes off!
Now we do try not to run The Laurels that’s in any way akin to Fawlty Towers, but it was at this point that we were reminded of the episode where Manuel sets fire to the kitchen and Basil dashes out shouting “Fire!, F F F F Fire!”

It was tempting 🙂