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?