George Johnson viewed himself at the
cutting edge of innovative DIY. Not for him standard approaches
and materials - groundbreaking experimentation was his driving
Who, before George, would have envisaged
the potential of recycled cardboard for structural beams? Who
could have recognised the unsurpassed thermal properties of
firelighters as cavity wall insulation?
A lesser man might have lost heart after
the tragic death of his wife in the white heat of the
conflagration that followed the collapse of the new extension.
George, however, submerged his grief, striving for originality in
his newfound field of household electrics.
Soon, unusual conducting materials, non-standard
routing of current and control systems undreamt of by the
Institute of Electrical Engineers led to the master control room
which had once been his kitchen. He pulled a master switch -
fashioned from an old clothes drying rack and baked bean tins -
Aside from a slight crackling in the air
and his hair standing upright under electrostatic charge nothing
appeared to happen. Had he been standing across the street,
however, he would have noted the blue, pulsing, incandescent glow
which enveloped his home and brought an undulating humming and
unearthly illumination to the neighbourhood on that silent,
This aura grew in size and intensity until,
with a blinding flash and a crack like the sound of thunder, it
rippled away in all directions into the darkness.
Before that night, George had believed,
incorrectly, that he could illuminate his home and power the TV.
Scientists had believed, also incorrectly, that an
electromagnetic pulse of this intensity would require the
detonation of a modest hydrogen bomb.
Fortunately the intense pulse of energy was
harmless to people. All computer microchips within a fifteen mile
radius were, however, rendered inoperable.
Living next door to George, I first noticed
a problem when cleaning my teeth on the following morning. It
seemed that my electric toothbrush required a microchip to manage
its forty-nine programmable oral hygiene routines. Further
difficulties occurred at breakfast. No household appliance
operated. In retrospect, I might have guessed that the eighteen
water boiling modes on the kettle were controlled by a microchip.
It was disappointing, however, that my electromulticut
tin opener was also useless. It was with some relief that I
discovered that cornflake packets and milk cartons could be
opened and closed without the requirement of sophisticated
By the time I left for work, Georges
house was already surrounded by anti-terrorist officers who had
cycled or jogged to the scene as soon as the source of the pulse
had been isolated - their vehicles having been immobilised. Bows
and arrows were trained on the property as a senior officer
rolled a newspaper into the shape of a megaphone and demanded
that George emerge with his hands above his head.
The magistrate banned George from further
electrical experimentation and sentenced him to one hundred hours
community service on a major water engineering project. George
was stoical. At least this provided an opportunity to test his
new ideas on flood alleviation...