Feeling Power-less?

Sunday, 4th April 2010

They say that if it weren’t for the last minute, a lot of things would not get done. I have something to add to that – if it weren’t for power failures, a lot of things would not get done, either.

I can write fairly legibly in the dark – as long as I use pencils and unlined paper. Having recently bought a battery-operated, pocket-sized radio with ear-buds, I find that a power cut has absolutely no effect on these two corners of my life. If you have a dynamo-powered radio, you don’t even have to rely on batteries.

People who have battery-operated laptop computers, and those who actually enjoy supper by lavender-scented candle-light (because they never thought to get more so soon after the recent outage) if it’s the only kind they have left, would also have taken it in their stride.

However, writing, listening and eating are not the only things one can do feasibly well in the dark – indeed, for people to whom necessity is the mother of invention, it may be just the time to do the nocturnal version of putting their house in order.

People who put off washing the floor because there are more interesting things to do throughout lit hours, may grab this opportunity – while the other members of the household put their feet up, literally.

I remember my grandma telling me that when electricity was introduced, she and her friends were worried that their eyes would be ruined by the excess luminosity… and indeed, it is this light pollution that usually prevents us from enjoying the night sky. During a power-cut, stars shine for real.

There is nothing as gratifying as hand-kneading dough to get nervous tension out of your system. Even a candle will give enough light to see the dial on the scales, although you do not even need this if you have your own favourite method for proportioning flour and fat – and the rest is easy. You can also peel cloves of garlic, crush them, and put them in honey or vinegar (never oil) for when you need a ready supply.

If you knit or crochet, you might be able to do this in the dark, if the pattern is not too difficult. You can sort your photographs and do some scrapbooking, flick a feather duster around and sort the laundry in readiness for when the power comes back on.

Unless you have a steam-punk iron, you cannot tackle the mountain of shirts and jeans that stars accusingly each time you go to the laundry room… but if you are one of those who still hand-wash certain items of clothing, you could manage to do this – with your eyes closed. Perhaps, while you’re at it, you could fix that hem and sew on some lose buttons properly.

If you keep your mobile telephone battery topped up, you can catch up on your messages, and play a couple of games. You can also make that telephone call, from your landline, as well as a couple of others. While you are at it, you can write ‘real’ letters to people, and sort out the contents of the envelope into which you’ve been placing recipe cuttings.

You can re-arrange your

CD and book library shelves, or make-up and kitchen drawers – although it may be too much to think of doing the same to a whole wardrobe.

When you really think about it, the procrastination they blame for being the thief of time is only laziness in disguise.

Under cover of candle-lit darkness, you can scour the house and make a stash of old newspapers and magazines to take to the recycling skips; you can wash your hair before it needs it; you can polish your shoes properly instead of relying on the smelly liquid that you apply with a sponge; you can wash all your combs and brushes…

You can re-fill the tea-caddy, sugar pot and coffee jar from the larger containers; and you can boil the last bits of bars of soap to make a gel with which to wash socks or lingerie…

At a pinch, you could even dig out your skipping-rope, or work up a sweat on your exercycle or walker…

However, you may also choose to disregard all of the above, and re-create one of the more enchanting moments of childhood… going to bed with a book and a torch-light.

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