Editor’s Comment October 2015

...if a sparrow farts in a tree, the power goes off.

...if a sparrow farts in a tree, the power goes off. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cotswold Life’s Editor, Mike Lowe, discusses the technical difficulties that come with living in the bucolic countryside of the Cotswolds.

I wouldn’t swap where I live for anywhere else, but this rural idyll does have its drawbacks – the provision of basic services for a start.

The creaking, limited infrastructure means that if there’s a leak in a water main five miles away, whole swathes of villages are cut off while it’s fixed. The electricity supply is flaky, to say the least. If there’s a light drizzle, the power goes off; if there’s a light breeze, the power goes off; if a sparrow farts in a tree, the power goes off. All credit to Western Power for its recent policy of phoning us up to explain what the problem is, but unfortunately they can’t get through because the landline is plugged into the mains where there is... no power.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if there was a mobile signal. Ha! I obviously live in one of the many black holes across the Cotswolds when it comes to mobile phone reception. My expensive, app-laden phone just sits there on the windowsill, staring blankly into space like a three o’clock schoolboy. I’m convinced that if it suddenly got a burst of 3G zapped into its idle brain it would faint clean away with shock.

And then there’s broadband. Or rather, there isn’t. I recently tried to download a feature film from my Sky tellybox thing. I didn’t expect it to be instantaneous, but neither did I expect it to take 27 hours. Twenty-seven hours! Waiting more than a day to watch some animated bits of Lego trade one-liners isn’t actually my idea of fun.

But wait! What’s this? We suddenly have super-fast fibre broadband coming down the lane. Hurrah! Except that this brings with it a whole new set of problems. To take advantage of this, I now need a new broadband provider. Now I am not an uneducated man, but the plethora of deals out there is quite bewildering. The situation is further complicated by the scattering of stupidly expensive television sports rights across the sector. Whatever happens, it appears that I will be paying at least £20 a month extra for nothing in particular. Still, at least Premiership footballers won’t be going hungry.

(A rather average footballer playing for a rather average club recently advertised for a personal assistant. One of this person’s many tasks was to ‘liaise with the gardener’, presumably on the grounds that the player could not bring himself to speak to the gardener himself. Perhaps the role will soon be extended to include ‘liaising with the garden’, so the player doesn’t actually have to smell the flowers, listen to the birdsong or kick piles of leaves himself either.)

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A cheery chappy appears on the telly pushing the friendly benefits of Plus.net, but that service comes from Yorkshire so it will constantly be telling me how brilliant it is even when it’s broken. That leaves Sky, my current TV provider, or BT, which has European Cup football and the rights to the next Ashes tour to Australia. In the end I plump for BT, which doesn’t bode well as they’ve been unable to change the address of my house to the correct one for the past 11 years, but we’ll see.

And please don’t think that this is just another First World Problem on my part. Over 14% of the working population - one million people - now work from home offices, back bedrooms and garden sheds. This ability of people to work effectively from home is an essential component of the Cotswolds’ future commercial well-being. That requires a reliable supply of basic services and not the coin-in-the-meter mentality we have to put up with at the moment.

I would go on, but I’m sure I just heard a sparrow fart...