THERE was a puff of wind over Tup Fell the other day and a great silence fell over the Dale. There's been nowt like it since the good old days of the 1970s, when Ted Heath took on the miners and lost. TV screens went blank. The lights went out. The jungle drums stopped in teenagers' bedrooms. Best of all, the telephone went quiet. This was a double strike: the breeze had taken down the power lines and the telephone wires too.

Now this has happened quite a lot just lately. Mrs C, who was doing her laundry chores at the time, sighed, lit a couple of oil lamps, ferreted out the old flat irons and dumped them on the Aga.

Within minutes, Curmudgeon Corner was full of that smell that brought childhood memories flooding back, the aroma of hot iron on crisp linen. "It's worth it just for that smell," she sighed wistfully.

This was my excuse to pop down to the Beggars', where, sure enough, the lamps were lit, the candles were glowing, and we drank mainly by the warm red glow from the log fire. "It's just like the Three Day Week," smiled the Innkeeper in the gloom.

When the miners went on strike in the Seventies, power cuts were ten a penny. And the Innkeeper did roaring trade because all the drinking men from over the tops in Crookedale were forced to hire a mini-bus and, for a few weeks at least, drop their traditional animosity towards us Beggarsdaleians.

You see, their pub, the Crooked Man, had just been taken over by an offcumden who was keen on showing us country folk how things should be done. So he had ripped out all his old beer engines and put in electric pumps instead, pumps which dispensed an exact pint of gnat's water called keg beer.

They had not been in for a week when the power cuts started and, shock horror, he discovered that he could not get his beer up from the cellar. For Crookedalians, it was a choice of bottled beer or coming over the tops. Guess which won?

Fun, that, but it didn't last long: the new landlord only stayed a year and his replacement immediately put the old pumps back. So this week's blackout failed to get the Beggars' till ringing.

There was, however, a spirited debate about why a puff of wind caused so much trouble these days: the last power cuts the old folk could remember, pre miners' strike, were back in 1947...and that really was a winter.

The general consensus was, therefore, privatisation. When the fat cats were given their gold-lined sinecures by Maggie and her mates, they immediately began to sack men and women in their thousands. After all, someone had to pay for the directors' multi-million-pound bonuses.

Many of those thrown on the dole were the maintenance teams, the poor so-and-sos who had to turn out day and night, rain, shine or snow, to keep the power flowing and the phones ringing. "They spend most of their time idling about until there is an emergency," said the bosses. "Get rid."

So now it takes a month of Sundays to get the power back on. But they should beware: people might realise we can live without them. We did so last week. And it was sheer bliss!

The Curmudgeon is a satirical column based on a fictitious character in a mythical village.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.