When the Lights Went Out

There I was on Saturday, fresh from the shower and looking forward to a day of recreation. Then the lights went out. And it wasn’t just the lights. The house was silent. No chugging fridge or whirring SkyPlus box. Nothing. And, judging by the twitching curtains down the road, the rest of the street was in the same boat.
It turned out that Pylons-R-Us, or whoever controls our electricity supplies these days, had decided to switch off the power without so much as a by your leave, a card through the letterbox or a polite knock on the door. This was not particularly helpful, especially to the neighbour who had been enjoying a leisurely shower when the deed was done.
Meanwhile, I had my own mini crisis because, towel wrapped around my head, I had been about to blow-dry my hair. OK, to most people having soaking wet hair might not rate very high on the scale of human suffering, but if you’d ever been unfortunate enough to see my hair without the aid of volumising blow-drying and ceramic straighteners, you’d think otherwise.
And, the thing is, until all the power goes out, you don’t realise just how hamstrung you are without electricity. And I don’t just mean the discovery that nowhere in the house do we have a mirror placed near any natural light source, hampering my attempts to put in emergency Velcro-rollers. You soon discover it’s very near impossible to do anything in a modern house without the aid of electricity.
Now I’ve experienced plenty of power cuts. Back in the 1970s, when I was very little, power cuts were a regular occurrence. In fact, thanks to a long and drawn-out power worker’s dispute, we had regular, even scheduled, power cuts. You’d look in that day’s paper to find out at what time, and for how long, yours would be. And then you just got on with it.
You lit a few candles and played Ludo – it really wasn’t that much of a hardship and was quite an adventure for a toddler. But we’ve come a long way since then and we rely on electricity for practically everything. Back in the 70s, you might have only had heating on one floor but it was a gas fire lit by a match and unaffected by power cuts.
So, on a Saturday morning in the 21st Century, not only do we find ourselves with no lighting and – heaven help us – no television, we also have no heating. There’s no chance of a cheering cuppa because we have no way to boil a kettle. Even the hob needs electricity to light. Although the laptop is charged, there is little point in switching it on; no power means no Internet. And with every minute that passes, you can just hear your frozen food thawing out.
As it turned out, the power was out for less than an hour so I didn’t have to break out the Trevor Bayliss wind-up radio/torch/beacon/siren combination we had bought “in case of emergencies”. Quite what this emergency might be I’m not sure – perhaps an 8.3 earthquake hitting Mickleover? But, with the first-aid box, tins of soup and bottles of water stashed in the pantry, it constitutes our emergency kit as suggested by that government booklet sent out a couple of years ago. Of course it didn’t suggest just how we are supposed to heat said soup. But then I am beginning to suspect that the real point of the leaflet was to give us something to do rather than actually help us.
What I really needed on Saturday was a leaflet entitled: “20 Ways To Style Your Hair When the Power’s Off.” Or, better still, a wind-up blow-dryer.
I might just drop Mr Bayliss a line about that one.