Alex Lo
SCMP Columnist
My Take
by Alex Lo
My Take
by Alex Lo

A case of British ‘efficiency’ worthy of Monty Python

  • BN(O) readers take note; an expat relates an extraordinary tale of how electricity was restored to a household somewhere in Britain involving no less than 10 work teams in less than a week

George Orwell is usually considered the most important British writer to warn against future political dystopia. But, given the current dysfunctional state and society of “Great” Britain, I find Monty Python to have been far more prescient. The following may serve as a cautionary tale to BN(O) passport holders from Hong Kong ready to move to what they consider to be their “home country”.

So, to continue with what a regular hate-fan has called my “disgraceful slandering” of the United Kingdom, let me relate the experience of a friendly reader who recently visited close relatives in the affluent town of Epsom in Surrey. You may actually consider the following story praise of sorts, given the work units involved in the repairs promised a completion date of August 2 when they finished the job by July 31. It is perhaps British high “efficiency” or what the reader called “‘the extremely fast progress’ made in this project”.

Now, let’s hear from our reader, whose experience – I am not joking – sounds like a comic skit straight out of Monty Python’s Flying Circus or John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers.

It all started on the dark and stormy night of July 25 when the electrical supply to their house was interrupted by what officials called “a major rainfall”, somewhat akin to a typhoon signal No 3 or No 8 in Hong Kong.

People waving goodbye at Hong Kong international airport in July. Thousands of Hongkongers have been leaving the city to settle in the United Kingdom. Photo: Getty Images

“A person came the same day/night to inspect the interruption of the electrical supply – of course nothing could be done by this ‘team’ consisting of an ‘engineer and a driver’,” the reader said.

“Next day a team arrived to install a small generator to allow the fridge and freezer to operate. Later a team arrived to install a larger generator sufficient to supply electricity to the whole house. Then came a team to install signs warning against the ‘ongoing repair works in this vicinity’.”

Enough work teams to deal with? Not at all. There were more to come.

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Our reader continued: “Next a team arrived to dig up the cable from the house to the external supply point. Next a team arrived to drill a hole into the house … to allow the installation of a new cable from the external supply point to the house.

“Then came an engineering team to inspect the cable from the external supply point to the house. They confirmed that the cable from the external supply point to the house needed to be replaced – this decision was then executed.

“The newly installed cable was subsequently left in the open hole which filled up with new rainwater thus eroding the soil on the sides of the hole. Next a team came to fill up the hole – with ‘new and apparently better soil’ thus with the ‘old soil’ being taken away.”

Work done, finally? Not yet. “Obviously, the skills of this ‘soil team’ did not encompass the skill of laying the bricks so next arrived a ‘brick laying team’,” the reader added.

Finally, finally, he wrote: “The final team that showed up was the team with the skill to take away the warning signs – job completed.

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“Conclusion: although difficult to keep track it appears that in all 10 teams were required to carry out this ‘super comprehensive job’ which was completed on Saturday July 31 – two days faster than the August 2 job completion date indicated on the ‘warning signs’.”

Job done? Yes, but the story is not quite over.

Subsequently, the relatives were informed, our reader continued, “that the disruption of the electrical supply was actually caused by a failure somewhere in the supply chain up to the connection point outside the house. The company supplying the electricity to this house was kind enough to offer their apologies and sent a cheque of STG 75 to cover the inconvenience caused.”

Since the reader STG (swore to God), I accept their story as true. Make of it what you will.