The first evening in our new house didn’t turn out as we had expected - we spent it in a hotel! After a long, arduous, and chilly day moving, we were all looking forward to hot showers, but discovered that we had neither heat nor hot water. The gas supply had been disconnected! On a Friday night you can only reach the gas company’s emergency line. This was no emergency, they assured us. It was only going down to the freezing point that night. Have to wash in cold water? Think of it as camping. Nothing could be done until the business office opened on Monday morning. So by snuggling under warm duvets and showering at the gym, we did camp out in our house after that first night.
Our lawyer - my oldest friend - had done everything required to arrange for the transfer of services, but the gas company denied receiving the instructions. On Monday they told us we might have gas by Friday! After a heated discussion and a talk with the manager, we were finally told we might be reconnected on Tuesday. And were by late afternoon - a job that took only a matter of minutes.
None of the service providers, except for hydro, delivered on time. The phone company made a mistake - which they at least acknowledged - so, although we were supposed to have been connected on Friday, we finally had phone service on Sunday, but no Internet until Thursday. The cable company was also 2 days late, not that we had time to watch TV in any case.
Ironically, we had a card delivered this week from hydro stating that we would be disconnected if we didn’t call their office to set up an account! When I spoke with them, they said that they could no longer take instructions from lawyers because of the Privacy Act, so clients had to call directly to transfer their services. Someone could have informed us of that new policy.
My lawyer and I had a laugh when she told me that the utility providers in her jurisdiction (my old home town, only 2 hours away) refused to take direction from one of her clients, saying that the lawyer had to do it! Surely there should be some consistency in these services, even across municipalities.
Of course none of this has diminished our delight in our new house. But it did make us realize how easy and comfortable our lives usually are, with light, heat (or air conditioning) available with the flick of a switch, and hot running water with the turn of a tap.
My first novel, A Place To Call Home, was set in pioneer Ontario. I marvelled at how those intrepid people had survived harsh Canadian winters in draughty log cabins, so cold that water froze in pitchers set next to the fireplace. One “gentlewoman” wrote in her letters home to England that the temperature in her bedroom was only 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 C), and she had frost on her blankets in the mornings. (Is it any wonder people didn’t bathe often in those days?) Blistering summers, especially for women imprisoned in corsets and those encompassing Victorian gowns, could be just as challenging.
But we don’t need history to tell us how lucky we are. We need only look at other, less “developed” parts of the world to realize that.