The power went out around lunchtime yesterday. After much trip and fuse checking (there are three switchboards in different parts of the house), I phoned the supply company, EDF Energy. They said they had no reports of problems elsewhere, but would send someone out. 'This is a free service, but charges may be made if there is no one at the house, or if the fault turns out to be within the premises, etc.'
In the shade the frost had remained all day, and when the sun went down it began to get very cold indeed. We rang again at about 6 pm.
EDF: 'We sorted out a problem at a nearby property and thought that this had put yours right. We'll re-enter your problem.'
The outside temperature fell to minus 4.5 F, in what must have been the coldest night of the winter so far. By now most of the house was uninhabitable. We spent a convivial evening round oil lamps in the kitchen, which (thanks to the coal-fired range) was the only warm place in the house, and went to bed hugging hot water bottles and watching our breath condense.
Sometime after midnight we were woken by the shrieking of sirens, as the power finally came on and the alarm systems woke up, and I blundered about sorting them out.
After a little investigation it turns out that everything EDF had told us varied between economical with the truth and complete bollocks. The neighbours, half a mile up the hill, had reported the problem some time before me; it had not yet been repaired by evening; and the problem had originated in the first place as a result of the company messing about with a substation. So much for customer care.