Earlier this week my son and his wife had a walk in the Lake District and found a remote cottage which can be rented by the week. The remoteness is wonderful, as is the view of the surrounding lakes and peaks. But there are snags. It is not on mains electricity - the lighting in the house comes from batteries and if they fail, from a generator which kicks in. There is no water laid on in the house - that comes from a bore hole a little way away.
This set me thinking about the way we take such utilities forgranted these days. When I was a child there was no water laid on to our house; there was a stand-pipe in the street for all the houses there. On wash days I used to carry water for my mother, two buckets at a time, before I went off to school. When we finally had water laid on, it only produced cold water, there was no means of heating it until my father bought an electric thing which fitted over the sink and produced instant hot water for washing up - magic to us at the time.
We did have electricity and were rather proud of it. There was no gas in the village and I presume that electricity had only come fairly recently before I was born. My mother didn't cook by electricity, she had a 'side oven' by the open fire. One side was a boiler which she kept full of water so that she could have instant hot water when the fire was lit. But the water was always rusty and only useful for scrubbing the floors. The other side of the fire was an oven in which she cooked all our meals, did all our baking, made her own bread, cooked the Christmas dinner - when the oven got a ''bit slow" she would soak an old rag in paraffin and poke it under the oven with the poker to clean out the flues.
Down the lane where I now live the farmer can well remember when there was no electricity, when every room was lit by calor gas lamps - some of the fittings still remain (or rather remnants of them). When electricity finally came it was quite exciting to be able to get instant light at the flick of a switch. We still heated our central heating with calor gas until last year.
To finish on an amusing story about this. My late father in law, who would have been over 100 had he still been alive, was quite excited when he was able to buy his first electric fence for the farm. The farm opposite was owned by his great friend, Ambrose, who also bought an electric fence at the same time. On the day Ammy put his fence up the farmer's dad went over to help him and Ammy suggested that he would stand at the far end away from the switch and would hold the wire so that when the farmer's dad put the switch down he could see how long it took the electric current to get round to the other side of the field! Need I say any more?
I expect in the future somebody will do a blog saying that it was amazing that there was once a time when some houses didn't have a computer in them.