Let’s get the negative out of the way first. On Friday 8th our telephone suddenly stopped working. Jane did all the checks that British Telecom say, otherwise they threaten to charge you if the problem turns out to be to do with your equipment. (Do you remember the days of service?) Then we rang them to let them know, using a mobile of course. The usual rigmarole of pressing numbers on your key-pad. After several attempts we worked out the route to talk to someone. Well, said a lady from India, you should have be on again in two days…. Saturday came and went, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday came. “She probably meant two working days,” said Jane sagely. Sure enough, the phone rang, and a man perceptively commented, “It seems you’re back on line now, and I won’t need to come out.” Presumably he was not in India.
However, when I went to turn on my computer, there was no broadband. It seemed they’d restored the one and cut off the other. So Jane rang up the helpline again. Did the same checks. No joy. “We’ll ring you back in twenty minutes,” said a lady from India. A few hours later, we thought we’d better try again. This time a man from India came up with some different suggestions, with the same result. “We’d better send out an engineer to you. The earliest we can do is…Monday next week.” Were they sending him from India? I wondered. Jane, to give her due, did protest that we’d had the problem a long time now, and they seemed to have caused it. But that was the best they could do, they said. Never mind that the internet is my main means of communication. So we had to wait and meantime pick up emails at the admirable Cornerstone.
On Monday afternoon having waited in from 1 o’clock the BT Open Reach van duly arrived at 4.45ish. Judging from his outer London accent he obviously hadn’t just arrived from Bangalore. How nice to deal with a person face to face! Jane discussed the situation with him. He did the same checks and more – and confirmed that the problem appeared to be at the exchange. He’d go round at once and try to check what the problem was, if he could get in. We asked him whether the call centre was in India. Yes. Minutes later he rang to say he’d not been able to get access but was activating the job for the next morning (Tuesday). Apparently all calls go via India, including the engineers’, and apparently they all get stacked in a queue. Tuesday morning came – along with a phone call from India. “Were we back on line?” “No.” “Try unplugging the router and plugging it back in.” No change. “Well, we’ll be working on it.” All day we waited for the green light to come back on, and then gave up and went to Cornerstone for coffee and emails. A message was waiting for us on our return. Someone would be coming out again to do something undecipherable within the next 24 hours. They would phone to let us know. At the time of writing we’ve heard nothing. I’m generally regarded as a patient man…! (Oh yippee! They’ll send an engineer… Guess when! On Saturday….)
So it was a good thing we had the distraction of Jane’s BIG BIRTHDAY. How considerate of her mum, I thought, to have the forethought all those years ago to ensure it fell on a Friday! Which meant that we could celebrate all weekend. Which is what we did. The family descended en masse and created a banquet on Saturday. Jane was surprisingly unfazed when, after an expedition to the rec and Cornerstone with her grandchildren and parents,
|The star of the show|
|Enter the Duchess|
To be honest, it probably helped not having internet for the weekend, as there was no temptation to subside behind facebook in the evening. Or even to write my blog! We could just concentrate on enjoying each others’ company.
On Monday night I watched the Panorama programme about the San José mine rescue, and reflected what a minuscule inconvenience it was being without internet for a matter of days. There were the miners for seventeen days entirely cut off from the world, knowing nothing, not even whether anyone was looking for them, nor whether they’d ever survive to see their families again, nor whether they’d retain their sanity…. I wasn’t sure whether the programme was the start of a media debunking of euphoria about the rescue, as we were promised revelations about safety failures. It particularly concentrated on the stress on one miner and his partner – and I think in the event did a good job of showing a bit of the deep psychological impact those 69 days had and will go on having. It ended with shots of him running (as he had down the mine) on the beach with his brother.
Besides the introduction when Jeremy Vine had used the word ‘miracle’, there was no mention of the miners’ faith, in contrast to the interview with Alf Cooper on the Radio 5 Live Drive Programme last Wednesday by a distinctly sceptical Peter Allen. However that is well worth listening to: http://www.cms-uk.org/Portals/2/mp3/Alf-Cooper-mine-interview.mp3 The Rev Alfredo Cooper, as he’s rather charmingly called, recounts the wave of prayer that went on and, most strikingly, the 34 in the mine (when we all know 33 miners were rescued). The miners say Jesus was there with them. One can understand a BBC interviewer having difficulty with that! Like King Nebuchadnezzar peering into the fiery furnace! “Did we not cast three bound into the fire?…. But I see four men unbound… and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3.24,25). The miners certainly emerged into the light of day looking remarkably fit and well, thanks to good nutrition and clean clothes – and, I tend to think, the best possible Company. Maybe, when there’s no light, in the depth of human predicament, you see most clearly, if you’re prepared to open the eyes of faith.