Wyn Drabble: Power cut a salutary lesson

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Wyn Drabble

By Wyn Drabble

I did what I normally do when the power goes off.

I sat down and waited for it to come back on. I told the dog it would be half an hour to an hour.

An hour of sitting in the darkness got the better of me so I decided to light some candles.

I fumbled my way to the matches then looked for candles which my logic would have placed next to or at least near the matches.

But Mrs D has a way of finding better places for things so I had to wait until she came home and showed me the better place.

We then sat in the flickering light of three candles and waited.

And waited.

Sometimes to relieve the tedium of just sitting, I got up and milled around a little.

When milling became tiresome, I returned to sitting.

Milling, sitting, milling, sitting.

At least we knew what the problem was.

Mrs D had tried three ways home but all were blocked by large trees across the road and across power lines.

She was a pretty big job.

Perhaps we would need to hunker down.

We'd heard people on TV news stories say hunker down but we didn't actually know how to do it.

Could you do it by candlelight?

Could you do it from a sedentary position or did you need to crouch?

Did you need to board up the windows?

We knew we were already too late to buy in emergency water supplies.

You see, we were also without water because our supply depends on a pump and that pump depends on ... you guessed it ... electricity.

This was going to be a night (and another full day, as it turned out) without electricity and without water.

That was plenty to make us aware of how much we take these things for granted.

We'll have a nice cup of tea, I thought. Duh!

We'll just settle back and watch some television, I thought. Duh!

We could get news updates on the computer. Duh!

The candlelight wasn't even enough to read a book or newspaper by.

When the sun came up the next day we found ourselves still faced with the outage.

But nothing was going to prevent my having a morning coffee fix.

There was just enough mineral water in the fridge so I boiled it up on the gas barbecue.

I boiled up some milk too and had a sort of emergency latte.

Perhaps this was hunkering down. Perhaps we were already doing it.

We had plenty of food to eat during the daylight hours.

Just the day before, Mrs D had stocked up both freezers for Easter and beyond. Now it was all thawed and had to be used.

During the daylight and without power and water we needed to eat up steak, sausages, mincemeat, patties, fish, peas, mixed green vegetables, croissants, hot-cross buns, mixed-grain bread (toast slice), mixed-grain bread (sandwich slice), sourdough rolls and a family-sized apricot Danish (cooking that on the gas barbecue would take some skill).

So what did we learn from the experience?

We learned to appreciate the services we take for granted.

We reaffirmed that you just need to get through these things without grumbling.

We knew already that plenty were worse off - take all the people of Edgecumbe, for example.

We certainly learned of the tireless work of those who were trying to put everything right through the night.

And the joy of seeing that Unison truck with the spotlight coming up our dark drive to turn us back on nearly 24 hours later.

And we learned that we're still not very good at hunkering down.

* Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

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4 Comments

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- Australia
06:58 pm Monday 24 April 2017
Try Adelaide's power. The reliance on solar and wind 'green' energy is resulting in statewide 24 hour plus blackouts.
The unit rate for consumers is now 37 cents per KWh.
Businesses are buying diesel generators.

of The old sage

- New Zealand
06:57 pm Monday 24 April 2017
The mere fact that far to many high voltage transmission lines are those wires you see draped haphazardly on poles, many of which are not plum but leaning over with cross arms of rotting wood attached. This and the presence of trees that love to flop over the fragile lines at the drop of a zephyr and 'viola' you have yet another power cut. No matter you are being extorted first world power prices you gets yours on a third world infrastructure. Do not look for improvements any time soon, gummit and share holders take most of the cake. Whats left the CEO gets.

Steve CA

-
06:57 pm Monday 24 April 2017
You don't realize how much you depend on things like the grid.
Even here in the States power can be unreliable. Expat Napier, I live about 40 miles north of Philadelphia, hardly in the waps. Yet the power goes out basically once a month or two now. Not usually for more than a 4 hours but it has gone out for days. And like the writer we're on a well and loose water and heat - bit of problem when it's well below freezing.
I wired in a transfer switch to the main board and ran a 240v line and plug to the garage. I managed to get a deal on a 9800 Watt generator, but 5K would have been more than sufficient, with electric start. All I do now is wheel the gen about 6 feet out the garage door, plug in the 240v line and start it up. Throw the transfer switch and we have all the main stuff running. Sump and water pumps, heat, refrigerators etc... You can stagger the time, not running it constantly to save fuel. It takes maybe 5 minutes to set and pull down.
It's worth setting it up and being prepared. Loosing a freezer full of stuff will pay for the gen.

Onya Byke

- Waikato
06:57 pm Monday 24 April 2017
I have a generator. A cheap but useful investment for days such as this.

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