It was a beautiful summer’s day and we were enjoying a cocktail atop Gin and Tonic hill, the spot in our garden where we levelled the top of a small mound, placed a garden bench and trimmed a few tree branches to enhance our view. We did this in 2017 and since that time, I’ve planted primroses and daffodil bulbs, letting this particular bit of garden do its own thing. Roger had made a curve of stone steps up to the top, creating a grander approach to our perch, perfect for watching the dogs play and reflecting on the day.
Late afternoon, our farmer neighbour was cutting and bailing the meadow across the valley. The sun was warm on our faces and there was a rich smell of meadow grass in the air. Millie and Brock were running around in a mad game of chase and wrestle. The rules known only to them. The inside jokes of siblings. In the background was the hum of insects singing and our old lister generator chugging along.
I was home for a few weeks from my travel back and forth to the USA during the summer of 2018 when my Dad had fallen ill. Roger and I were enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon when suddenly a loud bang came from the direction of the generator. Roger ran off to investigate and after about 20 minutes returned looking miserable. “Is the generator okay?” I ask with a hopeful tone. “No. It’s fucked.” That summed it up rather neatly.
With the heat of the day, the plastic fan on the alternator had snapped. As we were to learn shortly after our emergency call to the generator experts, this fan was the one part in the Lister’s entire assembly which could not be replaced. Our Lister, a work horse for over 30 years, having been maintained, repaired and loved, had configured itself for the role of standby and used parts stock-list. No longer would it power Crockern. Instead it would become part of the world parts provider. Reincarnation.
Before we could come to terms with this sad and costly fact, we had to address the immediate situation: Our remaining power left to run Crockern was stored in our batteries until we could sort this. We had about 36 hours.
Thankfully, our call to the generator experts managed an emergency back-up generator to arrive the following morning, suppling us with electricity until we could replace the Lister with something rebuilt or new.
If only it were that simple:
The temporary generator arrived on wheels and we moved it into the barn. The temporary generator needed to be started manually every day to maintain a supply of electricity. We did not directly link it to our fuel storage. Roger now regularly needed to siphon fuel from our tanks, lugging 20 litres canisters across the yard to sustain the backup generator. Making matters worse, this loaner generator had been poorly maintained by the previous set of desperate people, and now required frequent fuel filter changes. Another task. We could manage this, except we were heading to the USA for a long planned family wedding and visit with friends.
Enter Mark, Yvonne and Lorenzo who had arranged to stay at Crockern while we were away. Their planned holiday – no doubt filled with thoughts of long walks, pub lunches, and lazy afternoons — now had a tethering. Each day, they must manually start the generator. They must keep it fuelled. They must change filters. Welcome to your holiday! And in the only way friends can save you, they did. Without complaint, they attacked this situation making it part of their holiday adventures. They are no strangers to Crockern, helping in the past to plaster ceilings or lay concrete. But, shouldn’t we be here to lead the charge? Thankfully, Mark and Yvonne are troopers. We felt at ease leaving them with this situation.
Meanwhile, Roger and I toured the North East of the USA vising friends and family. We stopped by the Baseball Hall of Fame. We ate lobster in Maine. We enjoyed my nephew’s wedding. Ten days of fun and relaxation, a much needed break from the drama of my Dad’s illness. But, shortly after Roger and I touched down at Heathrow, I turned on my phone to receive a text from my sister. Our Dad had died.
I quickly returned to the USA to join my sister Carol as we emptied our Dad’s house, planned the funeral, and dealt with a host of challenges created by his wife. Roger remained at Crockern for the next two weeks keeping the generator situation alive. Before flying to join me for Dad’s funeral, Roger supervised the arrival of our new snazzy generator. We went large: a new 12 KVA Kohler generator. It is quiet. It handles the weather, which is good because we need to address the roof above it. Mostly, it works.
My Dad and our Lister both died in the summer of 2018. An essential part in each of them gave up, unable to be repaired. Our new generator is fantastic but we miss our Lister’s hearty chugging sounds filling the air. So too, we miss Dad, but the memories fill our hearts.