Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Electricity.

What with both Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, we have had some small power cuts recently. Watching TV last night, there were occasional ‘flickers’ of the sort that usually herald a disruption in electrical power, but they came to nothing. I woke up today wondering if we would still have power, after a night of high winds that kept me awake for most of it. Luckily, we did.

I have written before about experiencing power cuts since living in Norfolk. They have ranged from twenty minutes to as long as seven hours, and definitely make you think about what life might have been like before the dependence on electricity for so much of our existence in this modern world.

In London, power cuts were rare. But here in Norfolk, most electricity is still carried on overhead cables into small local sub-stations. Those wires and cables can be badly affected by high winds, tree branches, and many other factors, even local subsidence of masts and support poles. Even after eight years here, little has changed in that respect, and as soon as severe weather hits, we are always aware of the chance of losing power.

Provisions have been made, to some degree. We have a wood-burning stove to provide heat, and candles and wind-up torches to give us some light. In the shed there is a small camping stove, powered by gas bottles, so we could make a hot drink, or warm up some food. But there would be nothing by way of entertainment as we have come to expect it now. No TV, computers, tablets or e-books, once the batteries had run out. Even the mobile phones are boosted by a signal generator that requires electricity, so there would likely be no signal for those to work either.

Never mind, we could read real books by candlelight, and perhaps even have a conversation, before retiring to bed early once boredom had well and truly set in.

But there is the freezer and fridge to consider. How long before the fresh stuff starts to go off, and the freezer starts to thaw? Washing clothes isn’t going to happen, and as soon as all the hot water has been used from the tank, there is no power to heat any more.

Walking with Ollie today in driving cold rain and strong winds, I met up with a couple who I know well from dog-walking. They live across the main road, in the very desirable address called Mill Lane. They told me that they had not had power since Thursday night, and that they regularly lose power for up to two weeks at a time. It seems that the few very nice houses in that road are powered by a tiny sub-station that supplies only them, and when the line is broken the sub-station shorts out, and has to be repaired by the power company.

They are used to it, and quite resilient. They have camping stoves and lamps, wood burners for heating, and they use the time to bond with their two small children. But when it really drags on, they have to move out and live with their parents, so as to be able to use a washing machine, and take regular baths and showers. They have lived in their house for more than twenty years since being married, and assured me that back then, they had bad weather power cuts all the time in the winter, up to twice a week.

That made me think more about the difference between people from cities and rural districts. For us, twenty minutes with no power is an irritation and great inconvenience. For them, it is a relief that it is so short a time, and almost goes unnoticed.

I wonder if I will live here long enough to develop that attitude?

76 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. Interesting. I’m off to Bulgaria for 3 months later in the year and I have been warned that the house I will be staying in can sometimes be without power for several days at a time. I have been making plans for coping.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In South Africa the government has failed to maintain the power infrastructure so it is not able to cope with the demand of an ever expanding population. This means “loadshedding” is a common occurrence. Every local municipality issues the schedule for their area and the power is turned off at the scheduled time. Mostly it comes back on time… sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s off for a few days. Depending on where you live you get more or less loadshedding. My dad lives near Cape Town in a major tourist area in a rich province. They have limited loadshedding. My mum lives in a small town in a very poor province. Their local authority also embezzled the money the residents paid towards their utility bills and didn’t pay the central government. They have a lot of loadshedding. They also turn off the water regularly for days on end. Everyone is just kind of resigned to it. Although my dad often complains about not seeing the end of the cricket.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is the second comment about the problems in SA, Abbi. I count myself lucky that things are nowhere near as bad as that here. But if the demand keeps increasing at the current rate, who knows what might happen in time?
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. We have gone without power weeks at a time due to hurricanes-Believe me, you will develop a procedure and most of us have a cupboard with supplies. We go without water often, as well. The last time this happened, many neighbors(younger ones) cried without their tech stuff- You can’t travel the roads-and if you did, the town was closed anyway. Christian and I read, wrote poetry and played music. We cooked on the grill-everything, took showers outside in the rose garden and washed clothes to hang on a line . . and lived to tell about it. When the lights come on -it will make you cry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are made of sterner stuff than me, Michele.
      I cannot remember the last time the water was cut off. Mind you, it rains so much here, we could just collect it in buckets. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the biggest challenge these days are all the devices that need to be recharged. The last time we had an extended(over a week)outage the police station opened up for people to charge their phones.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Electricity is one of many things, albeit one of the most important ones, that most of us take for granted, and struggle to manage without. I get my television from Sky, and at my previous address [about 3 miles away from my current location] I would frequently lose the signal in bad weather; even heavy rain could do it; but now, touch wood, I haven’t lost the signal in the recent high winds. Modern life, eh? Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Perhaps they’ve improved its reliability in some way, over the last couple of years? I’m no fan of Murdoch [even though I know he’s not ostensibly in control of the company] but I’m notoriously change-resistant πŸ˜‰ and I definitely wouldn’t use Virgin! Cheers, Jon.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. My husband was saying a similar thing about power cuts this weekend. They were far and few between for him, living in Stoke on Trent, and usually associated to planned power outages. I grew up in North Devon though, and we often had power failures! We live in the sticks, so for me its home from home, but for him a real shock! Last weekend, we were without power for most of Sunday. We also have a log burner, so we stayed (very) warm, and I could keep a steady flow of coffee going! Just before the power went out though, my husband had left to get our regular few months supply of meat from the abattoir. On the way back, a tree came down on the lane to the farm (Dead end) so he was stuck there for a considerable time, with the meat, and then when he got home, we had the powercut so I was a little worried about what we would do, as I didn’t want to let out any of the cold and affect ambient temperature! First world issues eh?! Anyway, a quick google said that a deep, filled freezer could hold temperature for 2 days – it was a bit shorter the less you had in the freezer! And something like a couple of hours for the fridge…there was a whole list of things that would survive and things you’d be better throwing out (we kept everything, no ones died yet)…

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    1. I shouldn’t really have posted this, as it came back to haunt me. We didn’t get the power cut, but woke up to discover the central heating boiler had packed up! Luckily, we have an immersion heater, so we had hot water. Then I got the wood burner going, and it’s hot enough in here to wear shorts!
      Someone on the way to look at the boiler now. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I hope the situation stabilizes soon, Pete. I’m not sure I’d be as patient as the couple you mention. I guess they must truly like it there. Having read my fair share of post-apocalyptic novels, although I’ve not gone through excessively long periods without power (some, but not very long, although I remember a few years back when there were the bad floods in Sheffield, some of the staff members who lived close to the hospital were left with no power for a couple of weeks), I can bring to mind plenty of scenarios and tough situations. Perhaps not the best genre to read in those circumstances. By the way, at least in theory, home insurance including contents also covers the contents of the freezer if they are ruined due to a power cut. And reading sounds like a great option in any case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, freezer food is usually covered by home insurance. But in our case, because the freezers are in an ‘outbuilding’, they will not cover them.
      Thanks, Olga.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  8. I think I have mentioned before that we have a generator left over from the house build and this gets fired up if we have an extended power cut, although the company tends to be quick off the mark around here so whilst power cuts are fairly frequent they are normally fixed in good time (3-4 hours)
    I have also rigged up a few battery backup systems using old car batteries and computer UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supplies) systems bought off ebay. This keeps the furnace going in the winter or the solar water panels going in the summer, both of which could be damaged without a power supply when in operation. I recently added one to the wireless router as well, so I can keep the internet going πŸ™‚
    I was told once by the electricity company (back in the UK) that your freezer should be good for 24 hours without power as long as you dont open it!

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  9. I follow someone else who is going through that same storm. Maybe you live near each other, I’m not sure. But, anyhow, We really have become so dependent on electricity but also on β€œbeing entertained” by that electricity. I feel so anxious when I can’t log on and find out what is going on during a storm or when faced with the prospect of not having power. At least at first. Later I start to get excited at the chance to read (if my kindle is charged) or have actually conversations with my family, play games and disconnect from the rest of the world. I’m glad you don’t get power outages often!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unusually, this storm has affected the entire country, Lisa. In fact, this eastern county has fared better than most. In the centre of the country, and to the west, there is terrible flooding.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the blogger I was following was experiencing the flooding around him. I’m sorry to hear this. I have been taking a news break but even if I hadn’t, over here they only talk about our politics and never tell us what is going on anywhere else. I had to go to BBC news when I wanted to find out what happened to Brexit and your elections.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I hope the weather is okay now Pete. Having power cut-off is definitely annoying, we feel helpless without electricity. Here, we still have summer to look forward to before the rainy season sets in.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I recall back in the late 70s when the Winn Telephone Company buried its phone lines. It was quite a simple process in the rural area that the Winn Telephone Company serviced. As I recall it seemed like it took less than a week. It was odd, then, to have phone service when the power went out. I loved thee for 22 years and never got “that” used to the power outages. Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We have had some power outages last year in our area of Colorado
    One outage lasted for 10 hours, it was quite inconvenient but not that big of a deal but I know if it lasted for days it would be very difficult.
    I remember it was on a very hot day and the house got very hot without the air-conditioning.
    I hope you do not lose your power.
    Reading ‘real books ‘ is one of my most favorite things to do
    πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  13. We often get power outages here, sometimes the mere heat can do it so when I read “retiring to bed early once boredom had well and truly set in.” I started cracking up – how true!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. For me I am use to it with hurricanes and all…..I have a good grill that uses both charcoal or gas or wood…..so I will always be able to cook…..and several oil lamps and wind up lights as well….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

  15. HiPete. We lose power here mostly during thunder storm and hurricane season.. There is always a risk of being without power in the event of a close call with a hurricane, even if its not a direct hit. Last hurricane close to me knocked out power for probably 24 hours – but I was staying with my nephew. When I returned the following day there was no electricity but it came back on several hours after I returned home. We here do prepare – for example I put bags of ice in my fridge and freezer. If the power goes out it will help maintain foodstuffs for a longer period of time. I also stock up on things on can cook on a gas barbecue or food I don’t have to cook at all. Folks in Florida do have their own generators. I don’t. The biggest problem with losing power is losing air conditioning! Besties

    Liked by 1 person

  16. We’ve not had a major power cut for a while – I’m touching wood as I write that! It would be the lack of heating which bother me most as we have central heating and no wood burning stove. I’d have to live under the duvet until the power came back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had the wood-burner installed after the first power cut. It looks rather strange, as we have no fireplace, so it just rests on a glass plate, with the chimney going up through the ceiling and out through the loft. But on a very cold day, you can’t beat the cosy feeling of a real fire.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Power outages are very inconvenient, Pete, so I sympathise with you. We have regular and on-going power outages, as do most African countries. We have an automatic generator that kicks in within 30 seconds of the power going off and switches off when it comes back on. Expensive to run but worth it in our situation. I hope your worry is mainly unfounded.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Power has always fluctuated where we have lived, Pete. We once referred to our power company in Florida as β€˜Florida Flicker and Flash’. Here in the foothills, the trees are usually the culprits of our power loss as the majority of power lines are still delivered through the mountains in that way. It is not unusual for us to lose electricity, WiFi and cell service as we only have one cell tower that services our area. Thankfully we have a generator and after years of dodging hurricanes in Florida, we have learned the tricks to surviving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The 1970s power cuts were because of the various disputes with coal miners and unions, including the ‘three-day week’. There were also fuel shortages caused by the wars in the Middle East. They were deliberate and planned cuts, in order to save power.
      Here in Norfolk, they still depend so heavily on overhead power lines, the weather is always a factor.
      Thanks, Sarada.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

          1. Brilliant! I’m sure the larger cities here do it as well but where I live isn’t important to our government. They won’t even provide money for broadband internet because they see as just a bunch of dumb country folk – even though we are the ones who provide their food through our farms, do their dirty work, drive their trucks, clean up their poop, and deliver the coffee for their fancy lattes. 😜

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