Thursday, June 20, 2013


Continuing with the ever quickening pace of science affecting our simple lives, looking at the angle poise lamp on my desk in which there is one of the new neon type energy saving bulbs I think back to holidays in Port Elizabeth and visits to the home of my Uncle Vincent, Aunt Sally and my cousin Tony. The house was located a fair distance outside the city and was not connected to electricity so was lit by candle, paraffin and carbide lamps; hurricane lamps for outdoors. I can still remember the smell of paraffin and the brilliant white light the carbide lamp gave off. I seem to remember it had a small wire mesh fitting that when heated produced the light. You can still get carbide lamps evidently, used by miners and cavers. When I first arrived in England, 1953, I remember, together with my cousin Bert, visiting a family in Hampshire I think it was and they still were not connected to the grid. Until there is an outage (I think that is an Americanism. Can’t use B…kout any more, politically incorrect) we don’t realise just how reliant we are on electricity, not just for lighting of course but cooking and heating, the central heating might be oil-fired but it can’t work without electricity, the computer, ironing, television so, as far as lighting is concerned, we revert of course to oil lamps and candles and one feels just a little put out at the frustration of not being able to watch TV or use the computer. It’s like having mild withdrawal symptoms. Suddenly, as the lights go, the screen goes dead amid howls of anguish. Well, if not anguish, irritation anyway. Looking at night photographs from space one can’t help but be slightly awestruck at the amount of light emanating from cities like London, New York, etcetera, cities with major conurbations.
Like the new television needed because of going digital, I believe the old fashioned filament light bulb, bayonet or Edison screw, is now out and will no longer be manufactured; its place being taken by the new energy savers. All well and good but it means the replacement of fittings. In this room alone I count nine; who is going to pay for it? Up to now we’ve been buying bulbs wherever and whenever we see them but the supply won’t last for ever. The sad fact is there are some who simply will not be able to afford the change over. What happens to them when they can no longer get the old bulbs? They go back to oil lamps? It’s not only the cost of the fittings but the cost of an electrician that has to be considered.
Then there is LED (‘Light emitting diode’ I believe) and among other uses a little round torch no more than a couple of inches in diameter can do the work or outshine one of those foot long four heavy batteries old Scout Master torches and  no need to suddenly have to change bulbs or batteries.
There have of course also been amazing advances in medical science. The pace-maker is a good example and had it been available in 1960 when my father died I am sure his life would have been extended, as I am sure mine has. In 1960 it would be another seven years before Doctor Barnard performed the first heart transplant in Cape Town, never mind a procedure like a triple by-pass.

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