Balnacra Arts by Vicky Stonebridge

3 night power cut.

Day 3 of the hurricane bawbag power cut.
Thursday the 8th a bad storm raged across Scotland, the north west didn’t suffer as much damage as other places but the storm reached hurricane levels in some parts with gusts of 165mph. The lights had flashed on and off so I made sure and backed up my computer work, cooked a big pan of risotto, gathered candles , lighter & torch, then sat back and enjoyed the news reports and humours internet banter all day. The scots labled the hurricane bawbag, which is scots slang. Twitter was full of couthy scots humour, a video of a trampoline rolling down a street went viral “ oh my gawd oh my gawd trampoline ! “.
locally the road to the south which goes to skye and south was shut, the railway line is still closed as a landslide when across the line. The only other road to Skye from the east was closed when a lorry blew off it. Most of the mobile phone networks went down.

Then at 6pm the power finally failed. Its been a few years since we’ve had a big long power cut. My 18yr old daughter doesn’t remember anything like this before.  I get very frustrated that we are so reliant on main utilities like electricity, Our home heating system is terrible and an on-going issue as I have been in communication with my housing association landlords for years to do something about  the poor repair of the house and old unaffordable heating system. We generally use a calor gas heater anyway and need to sit in blankets in the evening, so no change there.

Evening 1, we sat and chatted by candle light, I had enough torch batteries to sit and rag weave while we chatted, I’d also done some machine sewing of some crafty things earlier so I could do some candlelight hand finishing if needed. I’m not very good at sitting idle, especially when a tonne of work awaits me on the computer. But evening 1 wasn’t too frustrating, quite pleasant really, we cooked supper of toast on the gas fire and went to cold bedrooms early. The wind had died down and a big full moon was shedding some light into the night.

 I was woken from weird dreams at 1.15am by Ish in s state of terror as she’d been lying awake by candle light and heard something big moving on the roof and against her window. Confused and shaking off dreams I fumbled in the moonlight to grab torch and pull boots on over my pyjamas and wondered about in the snowy moonlight looking for the monster. You know in those stupid horror films when the female goes alone into the dark to investigate & you shout at the screen ‘ don’t be stupid ! ‘ , well i did just that, except i don’t watch horror films & reality isn’t like that. Ish stood in the kitchen with a big knife. It was pretty freaky though as Ishies terror had passed onto me, that is a mum’s duty. I didn’t find a monster, but instead a cat, a blown over bush and weird wind gusts making things creak and groan. I lay awake with Ish in the cold & dark on a listening brief for endless hours of darkness guarding the place. The dog helped out, his ears pricking at each strange creak of the timber house.

Friday- Rich went to work later that usual once it got light, the storm had calmed the east road was clear. I got organised, built a wee stove outside out of my Raku kiln gas burned and some kiln shelves & fire bricks. Boiled water to wash dishes. made a campfire place by the house back door to cook on, hand swept the floors. Sat & did crafts and work while the daylight lasted. by about 2.30pm I needed candles to see clearly indoors to work. The only firewood we have is soggy rotting sticks from trimmed trees in the garden. We used the gas burner as a flame thrower to get the fire going. Ish got busy & cooked up fishcakes from the defrosting freezer, baked potatoes & fried up rice- we had no tin foil so we used foil pie dishes out of my recycling cuboard. It was all a bit cremated but great. we sat around in the moonlight & enjoyed the silence, ignoring the hail & snow flurries.

But the nights were so long.
I thought i’d have social networking and work withdrawal symptoms, i didn’t. I normally can’t sit still, especially not in silence, but when forced to it was fine, nice even. Ish was really fed up with it, but we sat & played ridiculous verbal games to pass the time. One candle went rogue and as i jumped out from the tight blanket cocoon to put the flames out I cricked my shoulder. At that point I was getting fed up with it, a wee dram would have helped numb the pain, cold and campfire smoke sore lungs, but with all those candles, generators and dodgy camp stoves in use around the village i figured i better say on call & stay very sober. Of course the power outage also meant that the Fire station radio & comms system had run out of power, but nothing we could do about that until the power re booted.

Saturday Morning. one half of the villages power was back on, the place was buzzing with Hydro electric vehicles working like mad to put it all back together. I managed to briefly get on line via my phone before the signal went down again. It was disappointing to see that there was nothing exciting happening out there, a few nice messages of support and a plethora of e-mails as usual adding to my task list, Vicky can you do this, Vicky can you do that. Well for once, no I couldn’t. It was a bit of an eye opener.

What was nice was how folks were out on the street talking to each other, checking up on neighbours, children out playing football. We were offered cooking facilities from someone who’s power was back on. I loved that there were no street lights, the sky at night was beautiful. I loved the idea of all that energy NOT being consumed. But we would only be a day or so from things getting very difficult. It was a real worry for the elderly folks. It reminded me of living in our last house, how the constant battle to stay warm damaged health, fingers and toes. It was also, like everything else- a money thing, those with money could rush out & buy gas stoves, lanterns and gadgets, run generators etc. Those without couldn’t. I was having to start rationing car diesel as the local fuel pumps wouldn’t work & my tank was empty, i didn’t have enough to drive to anywhere with a garage where the power was on. I had enough for about 3 or so more runs up and down the village only.

Luckily by Saturday the Fire station power was back on, so i headed down there to reboot the systems and charge things up. We all had hot showers, and microwave porridge there, I felt remarkably cheered up after a bit of hot food & a wash!

Again at home the new routine of sweeping and boiling water outside, keeping busy to keep warm. enjoying being active instead of slave to the computer desk. I scraped as much snow together as i could to fill the melting freezer. Then settling into sew again in the gloom & candle light. My parents power was back on so we headed over there in the evening, all going red, chilblained and blotchy in the unfamiliar heat! and then at 7pm we got the messages via facebook that the power was back on all over. hurrah!

It was an interesting shift in perspective & reminder of what is important. I hate that we rely on utilities like electricity and fuel. It are only a few days away from suffering and chaos if one or more of those go, or the roads get blocked again. Our whole society is unsustainable, unpractical and teeters on a set of vulnerable consumer assumptions. I wish i had engineering skills and could build and invent just we need out of junk. We joke about the zombie Apocalypse, but its not the zombies that will get us when things go wrong, it’s the cold, the dark and injustice. We need stronger more resilient communities, communities where people muck in together and help each other, communities which use local resources and can adapt to whatever the climate, weather, parliaments or economy throw at us.

a useful lesson.

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2 comments on “3 night power cut.

  1. Rob
    December 14, 2011

    Funny what a difference an hour or so's drive makes…we hardly felt a blip here really. Although i did get the candles and food ready just in case(whenever i do stuff like that Hol says i'm going for the Zombie-Rations!?)
    I kind of like the idea of being without the internet or TV but i think that's about it!

  2. Tom Gold
    January 19, 2012

    Sounds like you coped a lot better than us! Our power was only out for one night. Guess you need to be a bit more resourceful where you are.

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2011 by in Blog and tagged , , , , .

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