Monday, 9 January 2012

Spirit of 79


Power cuts make me nostalgic because I can remember the so called ‘Winter of Discontent’ when widespread industrial action resulted in regular blackouts  up and down the country.
When this happened my father would always shout ‘Bloody Hell!’ before making his way to the kitchen where we kept a torch, candles, matches and a battery powered transistor radio in a box on top of the fridge.
My dad would tell us that because there was not enough electricity for everyone it was just the turn of our village to go without, an explanation which always made me think of one of those huge Dr Frankenstein style switches, with the name of our village stencilled underneath, being pulled into the down position by an anonymous hand.
When the power went off the other night I was completely wrong footed especially when I discovered that my old friend the Challenge 1100 rechargeable worklamp  (water-resistant and shockproof) had long since been bumped from its socket in favour of the breadmaker and was completely useless.
Eventually, by the light of my mobile phone, I  made my way out to the garage where I felt certain there had to be at least a couple of torches amongst packing cases, as yet unopened from our move in the summer.
Sure enough, there was a box containing the boys old toys which proved to be a treasure trove and, after groping my way back to the house I laid out my finds on the kitchen worktop. There was the Fireman Sam torch, the Spiderman torch and the Toy Story Lantern plus the Fisher Price keyboard, Bob the Builder ‘activity driver’ and Tonka Helicopter.
Like a soldier doing a weapons assembly test by candlelight I stripped the keyboard, activity driver and helicopter of their batteries then reloaded them into the torches. I was very pleased, they all worked albeit with uncertain endurance.
Shona had lit candles in the front room and later that night, as we sat down to baked beans and bread by candlelight I felt as if we were coping, coming up the other side, the old Dunkirk spirit kicking in. Just the same old torch candles and tinned beans we had in the Winter of Discontent all those years ago. It goes to show you can still do it with these simple household items.
But it makes me shudder  to think that as a child, my family and millions just like us were advised to keep them in the event of an even darker set of circumstances, one we knew collectively as ‘The Bomb’.
Even the procedure we were supposed to follow was pretty much the same, it simply involved sitting in the darkness and waiting for it all to be over.
It was a relief when the power came back on, it made me realise how dependant we are on it. We live in the Trossochs National Park, only a few miles from the home of Rob Roy McGregor a man who endured hardships I cannot imagine in winters far colder than this, not only that, he also faced the almost constant prospect of capture and imprisonment.
But he never had to face the prospect of nuclear Armageddon armed only with a transistor radio and cheap white candles. Given the choice I’d have taken my chances in the heather.

I'm going to try and add a few alternative slants to my posts so here is one from Vicky who is an artist, firefighter and blogger.

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