Dear Dave

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Unexpected unplugging

Dear Dave,

I spoke too soon - the snow is back. There's almost an inch this time. Another two or three days like this and Tesco could run low on supplies of bananas. I hardly dare contemplate the chaos that that will cause and, in preparation for the end of civilisation, I've nipped to the shops to stock up on canned goods, bottled water, bin-liners, candles and shotguns.

There's every chance the whole lot will have melted by tomorrow but it's best to be prepared - having grown up in the country, heavy snow is irrevocably linked in my head with power cuts. When I was a kid, the sky would turn grey, the snow would fall and the lights would go out. I don't know why.* My family was compelled to huddle around the fire and actually talk to each other until the telly came back on. It wasn't right. I had to sneak off somewhere and hide under a blanket with a torch and a book.

Having moved to the city, the scenario is unlikely to repeat itself now I have a family of my own. Which is fortunate, since we don't have a fireplace. I'd have to gather round a roaring fondue set with the kids.

When I was a teenager, I had a teacher who claimed that my class wouldn't be able to cope if the power went down. We wouldn't know what to do with ourselves without our music and TV and computer games. I was quite offended. Give me a pen and paper and I can entertain myself for hours. A power cut has to have exceptionally bad timing to throw me.

You know, like if I'm wet and naked.

Er, maybe I should explain that one... To fully set the scene, though, I'm going to have to tell you about my hall of residence at university. You see, Andrew Melville Hall is built to resemble two colliding concrete battleships.

No, really:

Andrew Melville Hall, St Andrews.

Inside, it's strangely reminiscent of a cross-channel ferry. This effect is heightened by the heating system. Originally, the building had underfloor heating but there was subsidence and one of the ships sank somewhat faster than the other, knackering the scheme. Radiators were installed, along with all the pipes to feed them. Descend to the windowless corridors of the lower decks and the place feels like a submarine.

To give you an idea of the haphazard fitting of the remedial plumbing, four pipes ran along the ceiling of the shower cupboard in the virtually subterranean section I inhabited. Two of the pipes had kinks in them above the shower-tray to move them just far enough apart to allow anyone over six feet tall to stand upright while taking a shower.

There I was, getting clean one day, my head wedged between some pipes, and a swan hit the power lines. The lights went out. Everything was suddenly pitch dark and cold in a very confined space. When I managed to feel my way out into the corridor, everything was pitch dark and cold in a slightly less confined space which had other people in it.

Not the best start to the day.

So, yes, a power cut can be inconvenient but I've never been left aimless. More recently, of course, they've become a whole new adventure:

A couple of years ago, as tea-time approached, we had a power cut while I was in the lounge with the children. It being winter in Scotland, the sun had already gone down and we were plunged into total darkness.

For added dramatic effect, I'd just uttered the words, "Marie, why are your trousers damp?"

Once the initial screams had died down, I got the kids to sit exactly where they were until I'd found flashlights that actually had batteries in them. Then we had tea by candlelight. Afterwards, I gave them a bath to pass the time, illuminated by a selection of toy light-sabres and sparkly wands. That way, although they were wet and naked, at least I knew where they all were.

It's been a while since they all fitted in the one tub, though. Not sure what I'd do these days. Then again, now they're older, they're less prone to carelessly toddling off and falling down the stairs. Marie is rather fond of playing in the dark, in fact, and she sometimes manages to persuade Lewis to join her. On a few occasions recently, I've found them lurking in our internal bathroom with the lights out, attempting a hand of UNO while holding torches. I'm sure they'd both manage to get by for an hour or two without mains electricity and possibly even find the experience exciting.

I'm not so certain about Fraser. Give him a pen and paper and he's liable to hand it to me and then insist that I find some way to entertain him. He might go and hide under a blanket with a book but, bereft of computer games, he's just as likely to want me to play Scrabble.

I can keep myself busy without power; making sure the kids are occupied is much more like effort. I should probably go charge up all the portable electronics in the house to be on the safe side.

Yours in a woman's world,


*I suspect a load of plump robins over-stressed the cables by all turning up and posing for Christmas cards at the same time. I was never able to confirm this, however...


Anonymous said...

Our power always manages to go out in every storm too. Sometimes in light showers.

I think the power people just think it's funny.

DadsDinner said...

You'll have to hook the Wii up to a treadmill and get the kids to power the house.

That's what I do...