The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jessie and the Fridge

One summer, while a student, I worked as a cook and housekeeper for a middle-aged couple in Edinburgh. They lived in a substantial stone house which looked like this, in fact I think it was this house:

There were two huge kitchens - one for cooking, one for washing - and an enormous walk-in pantry where we kept the food stored under mesh covers to keep the flies away. No fridge. This was Scotland, after all, and the temperature in the summer rarely got out of the 70's.

My domain was the cooking kitchen, while the other kitchen harbored an aged retainer by the name of Jessie. It was hard to know how old Jessie was, hailing as she did from an altogether bygone era, but she might easily have been in her 80's. Having spent her entire life "in service," she had nowhere else to go, and the family kept her on out of kindness. She had her own bedroom, and her sole duty was to wash up the silverware after lunch, a job she took very seriously. Once a week, on her "day off," she would don her finery, apply some pretty scary makeup, and board the bus for Princes Street where she would have lunch at Littlewoods.

Now, the family did in fact own one refrigerator - a very small one, kept for the single purpose of making ice for cocktails. As I recall, it lived in the sitting room, and on the other side of the wall where it was sat was Jessie's bedroom.

Jessie did not like this. Apparently, the fridge radiated uncomfortable and unpleasant emanations, which she could feel through the wall. I think the fridge may have eventually been relocated out of deference to Jessie's concerns. Which of course were completely batty and unfounded. Crazy old Jessie, eh?

Fast forward twenty years. I'm married, with kids, living in my own big ol' house. One day I'm pottering about in the kitchen, and I can feel it. The radiation, the emanation - coming from the refrigerator. It's so long ago now that I can't recapture what it was like - but I believe it was a slight prickly sensation.  I remembered Jessie. She wasn't daft at all.

Jessie was probably born at the end of the 19th century and grew up with very little electricity, apart from  lighting. We attributed her unease at the refrigerator to a primitive fear of unknown gadgets, but really she must have just been more sensitive than the rest of us. For some reason, for a short time twenty years later, I became similarly sensitized myself. Who knows how. But I felt pretty stupid for having dismissed Jessie's experience so readily.

All this is a long and roundabout way of saying that Bridget does not like the new water trough situation. Yesterday, when I walked over to the trough carrying a bucket to pour in, Bridget came eagerly to the fence. I poured the water in, and she sniffed at the trough but didn't drink. She then pawed the ground next to the trough in a frustrated kind of a way. I took pity on her and fetched her a bucket to drink out of.

Later, after I'd set the evening hay out, I asked Bridget if she wanted to come over to the trough with me. We walked over and again she sniffed but didn't drink. I had the Tupperware bowl, from which I'd just given Rose her medicine, and I used it to ladle some water out to offer her. She drank it down, and kept nudging the bowl to ask for more, until she'd had her fill.

So - it's not the taste of the water which is the problem. I've dipped my hand in, and although the water is oddly warm (is this unhealthy, I ask myself), I wasn't zapped or anything. This makes me wonder if the electricity is giving off a weird vibe, which Bridget is picking up.

I'm not sure if the others are drinking from the trough. Last night, after ladling out water for Bridget, I brought two buckets over and left them in the field. Bridget had more, but the others weren't interested. This morning, both buckets were empty. When I put two more buckets out, George came over and had a little, but that was it.

When the days are above freezing, I'll keep the heater turned off. Also maybe Bridget will get used to the weirdness.

I wonder what all we're missing by being so thick-skinned and unaware. It can be a drawback to be overly sensitive, but sometimes I fear I'm doing the equivalent of banging my head on a wall and not noticing because my head is already numb.

P.S. When I was growing up, "Jessie" was a name associated par excellence with the kind of character described above. When we had kids, though, we decided to rescue the name from oblivion and give it to one of our daughters. A fine Scottish name.


  1. I remember someone telling me how they got sky TV in, with all the associated channels. They were very excited as before they only had the four terrestrial channels that reach us here. This couple have a son who has some kind of learning disorder and they would say is quite sensitive. When they tuned in sky TV, he went crazy, putting his hands over his ears and shouting "off, off".

    As you say, it can be a disadvantage to be very sensitive, but I do wonder just what we are taking in, unknownst to ourselves, to our detriment.

  2. Perhaps Bridget just needs some time to get used to the strange looking "thing" in her water. At the farm where I board we have automatic waterers in most of the pastures.
    We had a new boarder at the start of the summer that moved her senior horse with us. Poor guy- it took him most of the summer to understand the "wooshing" noise wasn't the automatic waterer trying to eat him. The barn owner had to leave an extra bucket out for him during the day (he drank fine in the barn at night).
    Hopefully it's not a weird stray voltage problem or anything like that...Grrrr....
    I suspect though, if the others are drinking fine -- that she's just worried about the new heater....

  3. I saw George drinking from the trough today, so I guess there's no stray voltage. Hopefully Bridget will get the hang of it!

  4. Seems to me Bridget is sensitive to electricity. Even if there is no stray voltage, electricity always gives off a moleculair vibration. People can get headaches from overhead powerlines. When we built our house, we had the electricity cable buried at great expense and I definitely sleep better if all the sockets in our bedroom are switched off.

    Loved the story about Jessie!

  5. Sorry, Sandra, your comment was languishing in my "Comments awaiting moderation" box which I don't look at much - I usually get an email when a comment comes in.

  6. What do you feel when the sockets are switched off? We have lower voltage in the U.S. - I wonder if it makes a difference.