I rang my wife from the car – hands free in a layby on the A340 – and told her I had bought an owl. There was a sharp intake of breath as the news of another impulse purchase sank in. I was told I couldn’t bring it into the house and asked if it would eat the ducklings. I began to explain, but was interrupted to be asked what I was doing at the Hawk Conservancy, when my diary showed that I was visiting 2 Save Energy in Sherborne St John.
This column does not normally promote commercial products, but one of my duties as the local MP is to support local wealth-creation and employment. Hence the visit to 2 Save Energy and the purchase of an Owl – an instrument that displays one's consumption of electricity – from the place where it is hatched.
It was easy to instal. I opened up the meter shed and attached a transmitter to the umbilical cord that feeds our household with energy. The transmitter converses with a display unit, which lives in the kitchen. I programmed the transmitter with information about my tariff, gleaned from my last bill, and switched the currency from euros to pound sterling. (The owl can fly abroad). It lives in the kitchen because the owl has told me that this is the place that consumes the electricity. It sits on the kitchen table indicating how much money is draining out of my bank account hourly into that of Scottish and Southern, and it blinks every two seconds with the latest news of the activity of our many appliances.
The first task of the owl is to earn its keep by reducing my electricity bill by its purchase price. Slow progress is being made in this direction by unplugging appliances that are rarely used – which has cause some initial domestic tension.
Indeed, its presence has not been wholly welcomed by other members of the household, who see it as a threat to their quality of life and their wish to cook food thoroughly before it is consumed. The owl is fitted with an alarm, activated if consumption goes over a pre-determined norm. I have deemed it not politic to activate this feature for the time being, so we have yet to hear it hoot when the immersion heater is switched on.
It has some incidental advantages. If I take the owl into my study, I can tell when my wife has turned the kettle on for a mid-morning cup of tea. Not only that; I can tell when the kettle has boiled, so enabling me to delaying my departure to the kitchen until the optimum moment.
I can inform readers that this article, produced on a laptop, has cost 1.15p (in electricity; my own time is priceless), and it has created .025 of a kilogram of greenhouse gases. I will atone by cycling to my Advice Bureau in Andover tomorrow instead of taking the car.