Low-use claimants are here to stay

19:02, Sep 30 2012
Pat Veltkamp Smith
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

Have you noticed, how could you not notice, that men appear to have become self-appointed conservators of power, wielding ruthless and unyielding control of points, switches, light bulbs, hairdriers and heaters, asks Pat Veltkamp Smith in And Another Thing.

Now very possibly this is because they are the ones paying often exorbitant power bills and this makes them anxious about power consumption.

Well, we are all anxious about that but some more than others, and the “some" take ready and arbitrary offensives against lights “burning" - a pejorative term if ever I heard one when a light is a gentle glow adding to the ambience of a room - heaters by open doorways, clothes lines holding only pegs while the dryer drones on indoors.

The list is endless once the conservator is on to it.

Conservation is like that other great modern euphemism - meeting as "in a meeting" - terms that evoke a great deal more than is delivered.

Round here the power conservation guy does his work quietly, inoffensively so that time passes before you realise what has happened. Like, when a light goes out and there's an impatient cry for a bulb replacement, that does happen. But it is a while, a long while, before you realise there is only one bulb going and it is going from room to room, replacing a defunct number here, then removed to fill another gap elsewhere. Mid-winter you can trace that bulb right round the house, early morning in the stairwell, late at night there again.


But at this time of the year - sun up an hour earlier, down an hour later - it is a little harder to detect.

It is not easy to see electricity or the absence of it in sunshine.

I remember a great clangy lift in a building on the Esk-Dee corner in town and there would be an ominous rattling of chains as it heaved itself skyward and you wondered at the power it took.

Wouldn't last long round here I thought as I read of energy company anxiety about low-use claimants.

I am sure we are in the category.

I am afraid we are set to stay in it too.

The Southland Times