9th January

The week got off to a cheerful start with a discussion on Radio 4’s start the week about Austerity and the current financial crisis. One of the participants, Anna Coote, put forward the idea that we should all work shorter hours and accept being less well off than we are now. The discussion also pointed out that what we are calling Austerity now is nothing compared to the situation in the post war years.

And of course they were correct – between the mid forties and the mid sixties times were a lot harder than they are now. People lived lives without many of the things we think of as basics nowadays and austerity often meant not knowing where your next meal was coming from rather than not being able to afford an i-pad yet! One of my Grandmother’s favourite “never had it so good/don’t know you’re born” stories was the one about how her father in law had caught one of my Grandad’s brothers throwing a crust of bread into the midden (What we would call a composting toilet nowadays) and making him get it out and eat it to teach him not to waste food. I still remember her looking at a loaf of bread that had started to go mouldy and saying “it’ll be ok I’ll cut it off and it’ll be ok for toast” – times were undoubtedly harder then.

As a family we’ve been going through the reduced circumstances since I was made redundant and then re-employed on a salary 20% lower than before a few years ago. At the end of the day things could be a lot worse then they are but we still have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and can afford a few luxuries every now and again. (I must give my wife her due here as it is thanks to her tireless pursuit of additional ways of earning cash that those aforementioned little luxuries have been possible. ) It was the relentless pursuit of money above all else by a relatively small number of people that got us into this mess in the first place and maybe we should all just be satisfied with less. Greed isn’t good especially not when it’s at the expense of others.

At the end of the day I have had to make do and I’m really proud of what I’ve managed to put together in my shed studio as almost all of it has come from Freecycle or been picked up for pennies on ebay. Yes I would like a nice shiny new DSLR camera but it probably won’t make me a better photographer, yes I’d like a Android Tablet but I have my phone which does the same thing only smaller, yes I’d like a flash new Macbook but I’ve got the e-mac I got from Freecycle that functions perfectly well and so on and so on. Barry Melton (former guitarist with Country Joe and the Fish and Woodstock veteran!) once said to me that he felt that “hippies were content with relatively little” and he was right – maybe other people should learn to live with less. The world would be a better place.

Another thing I do occasionally is repair computers for people – Sarah again! So over Christmas I picked up one from her work colleague which had just suddenly stopped working. On first inspection it looked like the power supply had gone so I took it home to have a look. When I had the chance I took out the existing power supply and sure enough I couldn’t get any life out of it. I used an old pc to try and power the machine up by upending it into a position where I could attach the cables into the motherboard and sure enough it powered up. So I looked on the internet for prices and found one for £12 but I also put an advert on Freecycle. When after a couple of days I’d not had any response I ordered the new one on-line.

Typically enough just after I got the  I then got an e-mail saying it had shipped I got another offering me a power supply! I went and picked it up anyway and when I had a minute I fitted it into the PC and……nothing it wouldn’t power up or anything. At this point I started to worry that I’d ordered the new power supply and maybe it was something else after all. So when the new power supply arrived yesterday I thought I’d better have another look. So once again I dug out the old PC and plugged the cables into the one I was repairing only this time nothing happened. At this point I started to think what else could it be? An issue with the on/off switch maybe? Or something more serious?

Then I had one of those “hang on a minute” thoughts – the power cable I was using was actually plugged in wasn’t it? I traced it back to the socket and yes it was but……and at this point a huge light bulb illuminated above my head! When I was looking at the PC a week ago I accidentally shorted out the old power supply which tripped all of the power in the shed. Could it have blown the fuse in the power cable as well? So I dug out a new cable, plugged it in and pressed the power button. Hey Presto the PC powered up. So I then plugged the Freecycle power supply back in and agin power – phew!

Actually that power outage sorted out another issue I’d been having. Ever since Virgin Media replaced the old modem I had with a router I’d been having issues with the ability to see the other computers on the network. The Power outage took all of the ones in the shed, including the server, out and when they came back up the issue had gone. The only thing I can think of is that something on the server needed to be rebooted for it all to work.

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