Yesterday afternoon I was thrown out of the cinema. Friend and I had gone to see our favourite film before it went off. Quarter of an hour into the familiar dialogue, chuckling at the jokes we’d laughed at before, the film disappeared and a weak little light appeared at the top of the stairs. We waited for them to fix the tape, but instead a girl appeared and said it was a power cut. Great gnashing of teeth. I was thankful for the feeble light by the stairs, imagining what it would have been like to have been plunged into total darkness, and a stampede for the only exit at the bottom of the stairs.
Sitting around outside, they finally told us to go home. Couldn’t give us a refund, because the till wouldn’t open without electricity. So they gave us another ticket.
Before going home, I said I’d just get some tomatoes for my husband’s supper – cold – since I was going to Tai Chi. The grocery was in flat panic. Dark, with no lights, blinds down over the open chilled shelves. I asked to give them some money for the tomatoes, but they had to go to the back and find the key to manually open the till. Then they didn’t know how much they were, because the price would have come up on the till… so off they went to the office to find the list of stock prices, and finally I managed to buy the tomatoes. Thank heavens I didn’t need any petrol. The whole little town was buzzing in despair and panic, no-one could even go to the loo.
Back home, I thought about The Great Storm of four years ago. Most of the country had been blacked out, but power was restored over a few days. In our neck of the woods however, where concrete power poles had been crumbled all over the road like biscuit crumbs, and a tree had come down over the generator across the road from us, we were powerless for five days.
A different world opens up. We catch rainwater on the roof, store it in a huge tank, and pump it into the house. But no electricity equals no pump, equals no water. No water for drinking, washing, washing clothes, washing dishes, flushing the loo. No power meant no cooking, no lighting, and no TV or stereo. Luckily we could open our garage manually, but some friends had no other way of getting into their garages, and were marooned with their car behind the immoveable garage door.
So I boiled water on a camp fire and on the wood burning heater, fried eggs and bacon, and boiled soup. Didn’t dare open the deep freeze for fear of losing the still frozen contents, and resented opening the fridge for butter, milk and the like. The village store was in darkness, their fridges going on a generator, the garage was closed. No help at the fish and chip shop. Unwashed dishes piled up. Unwashed clothes accumulated. We had to get used to unwashed bodies. Some people cooked on their barbecues, some people had no form of heating except electricity, and froze.
After a couple of days we began to gingerly adjust. I drove to a nearby town which had the power on, and bought water and lots of extra pairs of underpants and panties. My husband thought of using buckets of water from the swimming pool next door – my daughter’s holiday home – to flush the loo. I never got used to not having my electric blanket, but at least we had a hot water bottle. Candles made the house look and feel beautiful, but the light wasn’t good enough to read by at night. Some neighbours used miners’ lamps, clipping them round their heads to go to bed and read. It worked apart from the large circle in the middle of their foreheads from the pressure.
I read today that the Blessed Bill Gates has offered a prize for a loo that works without water, electricity or a septic tank – all components of our system here – a loo that costs only five cents a day to run, preferably captures energy, and discharges no pollutants. A number of brilliant solutions have been invented. And the idea is to provide safe sanitation for the 2.5 billion people around the world who don’t have it.
I think we should all be able to buy these loos. Our over-crowded world desperately needs sustainable solutions like these for everything. We need alternatives to electricity, oil and coal … we need a dozen more Bill Gates’s to find solutions that involve the sun’s sustainable energy, the wind, the waves. For a few days, we in our village experienced a few temporary discomforts when power was unavailable, but were able to get outside help from places that did have power.
But there will surely come a time when there won’t be enough of anything. The world’s population is estimated to grow to between nine and ten billion within forty years – the lifetime of our grand-children. Two hundred years ago the population of England and Wales was eight million, compared with 56 million now, and it’s the same sort of increase all over the world. So we urgently need more solutions like Bill Gates’s loos.
This is not cause for despair, for all is not lost. Mankind is brilliant at creating marvellous inventions, and resolving problems when it wants to. I’m reading a book called ‘The Great Disruption’ by Paul Gilding about how you and I can do something to help resolve these problems. Watch this space – I’ll let you know!
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
Having had lunch with a friend in her bay window overlooking a long, white, empty beach nearby, and then afternoon tea with a couple of friends to swap books, I hadn’t really thought about what to feed us in the evening. Something quick was wanted, so I fell back on my old standby, my un-orthodox version of kedgeree, made with a tin of salmon – cheap too.
A cup of long grain rice on the boil, two eggs on the boil, half a cup each of sultanas and frozen peas soaking in boiling water, and I was ready to begin. After gently frying a chopped onion in oil until soft, I added a couple of cloves of garlic and a chopped up knob of fresh ginger (you can always use powdered, but fresh is nicer).
When the garlic is soft, sprinkle a teaspoon of powdered cumin, turmeric and a bit less of coriander into the pan, and let them cook gently. I sometimes also use some made up curry powder as well, and vary the amounts of the spices depending on how hot I want it. Better to start with less, and increase it, than find it’s burning the roof off your mouth (I have been known to add some brown sugar to take the edge off a too hot curry).
Now open the tin of salmon and drain, and add it to the mix in the frying pan. Drain the peas and sultanas and stir them in. Add a knob of butter if it needs lubricating. Drain the rice, and add this, gently stirring with lots of chopped parsley. I always find that adding another generous knob of butter improves the taste. Pile onto the plates and chop a hardboiled egg over each helping. Usual caveat – serves two greedy people generously, and three to four well-behaved people – add an egg for each person.
Food for Thought
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.
No, not the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, but a translation from the Upanishads by Satish Kumar Born 1937. Jain monk, nuclear disarmament campaigner, founder of Schumacher College, in Devon, England which teaches green values and sustainability, and present editor of Resurgence magazine
24 responses to “I’m Crazy for Power”
Humans are brilliant at making more and inferior copies of themselves. The ‘winners’ will be the people who can the most drones while working for the least amount of money under the most squalid conditions. It’s going to be interesting on this planet in a few dozen years.
I’m sure we’ll make it. Eckhart Tolle in his book ‘A New Earth’, predicted some years ago that systems and structures would collapse so that new ways of living could evolve – I think we’re seeing that now with the economic collapses, and the people’s risings. And I think there are more ‘aware’ people than ever before on the planet… I think the hundred monkey principle will apply!!! That’s my hope, anyway!
Lovely to be in touch, Valerie
I love this post, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
Thanks Dory, good to hear from you
I learned to live without power or water, etc, while serving Humanitarian in the Bosnian War. Completely amazing what is taken for granted as well as a wonderment at what we, as people are able to endure and survive without. The creativity and endurance of Human Spirit puts me to Awe.
Love to you, Linda
Yes, human beings are wonderful when adversity strikes, they nearly always rise to the occasion don’t they?.That must have been a very rich and challenging experience being in Bosnia then, I’m in awe of you.
Hi Valerie, I hope this won’t happen again to you.
Power cuts in the USA and their social background:
Great to hear from you … it was a challenge, but not a disaster! And we can look back and laugh!
Unlike the story you enclose.
It’s been more than challenging for so many people this year….
Nothing like a power cut to expose all our dependencies and weaknesses. A modern world indeed, but we have also lost so much basic knowledge in the reliance on technology.
I do hope you get to see that film again!
Good to hear from you,. and great to connect. Yes, we’re going back tomorrow – the film – The Well Diggers Daughter – I wrote about it in Passion in Provence – a blog a few weeks ago! I’m a glutton for punishment.
We are so dependent on our electricity. I live near a large Amish community, and it is truly awesome driving by their splendid farmhouses with NO electrical wires attached. Thanks for an interesting post!
How fascinating. I’d love to see how the Amish organise their everyday lives… hard work probably, but very satisfying if there;s nothing else you want to do!
I remember very well the Big Power Outage of 2002, when a third of the country was plunged into darkness because of a failure at first Energy Corp. in Ohio. The great thing was that all our street came out, and made plans on how we could rely on each other for what we needed. We even learned how to salt meat! We also managed trips to the farm stands where the farmers had not forgotten how to add and calculate sales tax by hand.
Thanks for the memories – and the vivid writing!
Seems every time the power goes out, I tell myself that I must get more prepared. When the power comes back on, I sigh with relief and forget.
Yes, I’m much the same… make good resolutions that I never keep!
Thanks so much for your comments – It sounds as though your power cut was a beautiful experience… isn’t it a shame we don’t live with that neighbourliness all the time!
Thanks so much for your comments. It sounds as though your power drama was a beautiful experience. What a shame we can’t live with that neighbourliness all the time.
I’m not managing to get my comment by yours, so I’ll reply this way, and bore any other readers silly when they read it for the third time out of its proper place by your comment. Loved it, and thought your experience sounded a beautiful one. Shame we don’t live with that neighbourliness all the time. I read your gravatar, and thought it sounded wonderful… music, Dylan Thomas, etc but don’t know how to get to your blog from there. Can you send it to me please, so I can connect? Thanks, Valerie
This is great entertainment!! Pardon me – no offence – I do realise it’s your life!!
But getting told to move on from the theatre…. at least you did get a ticket… dare you go.
Really, it’s a Saturday night & I’m just relaxing on the net, & I have to tell you, I loved all this 🙂
Thank you so much for connecting, and glad you enjoyed the story.
There was no point in hanging around hoping for the power to come back on, because starting our film again, would have wrecked their schedules for the rest of the day.
So I went back yesterday and saw the film!
Clever and sobering post, all in one, Valerie! But your right, I think the world’s systems are disintegrating before our eyes – I’m kind of terrified and excited to see what will become of us 🙂
Thank you for the perceptive comments Alarna Rose. I know what you mean about the terror and the excitement, because things can’t go on the way they are.If you can find Paul; Gilding’s book The Great Disruption, it tells the truth, but also gives us a blue print and hope.
Can’t believe I am so behind in paying tribute to my devout followers. Love your post! It is amazing how we find ways to survive even in the hardest of times. I well remember cooking over an open fire and heading to the woods for ‘relief’! LOL:>)
I think cooking over an open fire sounds rather nice – and taking to the woods – maybe a little Stone-Age-ish????…
Thank you for finding the time to comment, lovely to know you’ve enjoyed it.