Article from The Times

This week I felt as if I was a participant in the popular TV reality
programme, Survivor.

Rather than being dispatched to an exotic island in the Pacific with
lush surroundings, unspoiled beaches and crystal clear water — I was
dumped in the rain- soaked northern suburbs of Johannesburg; the
challenge being to endure a working week without the comfort of a
dependable source of electricity or water.

Monday was trouble free, but the pressure began to mount on Tuesday
afternoon when Waverley suffered its first power outage.

To Sasfin's credit they had the foresight to instal generators some time
ago, but demand linked to the bank's growth and a minor technical
problem confined the energy supply to critical functions only, such as
computer applications. Our lights and air-conditioning were deemed

I'm fortunate enough to have an office with windows, but it's south
facing. By late afternoon the sunlight had faded making it impossible to
read anything clearly.

With two radio reports to file I faced a dilemma.

Unruffled I deployed a practice that I had picked up from Alec, the
London investment banker whose adventures are documented daily in a
cartoon strip in Business Day — I used my BlackBerry to project light on
my notes.

On Wednesday morning I returned sweaty from my morning run to find that
our water had been cut off.

It is a common occurrence in my suburb. For the past six months we have
experienced regular problems with decaying pipes in the area, the
consequence of years of neglect and poor maintenance by the relevant

Last year I was forced to book into the Melrose Arch and Wanderers
Protea Hotels a few times, at great expense, to shave and shower to be
in time for important meetings.

I have since discovered that it is more economical to take out an annual
membership at the Virgin Active Gym in Melrose Arch and use their
bathroom facilities in case of an emergency .

Under pressure to reach the office by 8am on Wednesday morning, though,
I changed tack. I bathed in my swimming pool and used hot water from an
Aquazania dispenser to shave and sponge down.

Not ideal, yet without the need to pack a bag, sign in and out of the
hotel, I was able to keep my appointment.

Though we experienced no further power cuts on Wednesday and Thursday,
problems in other areas, notably Rosebank, began to disrupt our work flow.

Load shedding interfered with the normal functioning of a number of
servers supporting vital applications, such as e-mail, the Internet and
our accounting system.

When power was cut on Friday afternoon in Waverley, the small problem
with our generator had been repaired, enabling the restoration of all
functions in our applications other than the air conditioning plant,
which is a huge consumer of kilowatts. The only inconvenience suffered
was that with windows open the raucous din emitted by the diesel-driven
generators made it gruelling to communicate by phone.

By Friday evening I felt I was on top of the game. I had navigated my
way through the worst of the storm without having to delay a meeting,
miss a deadline or cancel a transaction.

Believing that Eskom would only "load shed" on the weekend if the
situation turned critical, I was confident that I would complete my
first week of Survivor as one of the frontrunners. But it was a bizarre
incident that set me back, though the consequences would have been more
costly had it been a working day.

I had made an arrangement to meet a friend for breakfast at 9.30am on
Saturday . Without warning, my home power was cut at 9am.

Fortunately my electric gates operate on limited battery power to cover
emergencies, but not my garage doors, which have to be set to manual by
disengaging the mechanical gears.

Unfortunately when I pulled the lever to release the mechanism the rope
snapped making it impossible to open the door until the power was
restored. With my car trapped in the garage I was forced to cancel my

Next week my generator arrives. It's a small machine driven by diesel
that will provide enough power to boil a kettle, run an electric plate,
watch TV (including satellite) and light a room or two.

I've stored five 50-litre drums of water in my garage for drinking and
bathing, and I have the swimming pool to fill the toilet cisterns.

I am all set to face the future, which, by all accounts, remains ominous.


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