Electricity

Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to make you appreciate the simpler things in life. For me this week, that simple thing was electricity, lost as a result of snow.

A snow-white day

A snow-white day

It began to fall and throughout my neighbourhood the excitement was infectious. All the children were absolutely delighted, running outside at every given opportunity to check the snow was still falling. As well they might. The place was covered in a white blanket on Tuesday morning and it kept right on snowing throughout the day. I cancelled all my plans and proceeded to spend the day in my kitchen, with a cup of tea, my laptop and the latest instalment of Gossip Girl, watching the snow whirl down outside the window. It was great fun- until the power cut.

I didn’t realise the extent of the problem until I went to make my 2pm cup of tea. Then reality hit home. I was not getting that cup of tea. And in my previously warm house, it was getting very cold.

Life without power was an eye opener. I was at a total loss on how to keep warm. I’m sure my mother would have cringed with disappointment if she could have seen how useless I was at that moment.

Unimaginatively, I opted to dress in every item of clothing that I could find. By the time my parents got home from work, I resembled the Michelin Man. Thankfully, they were more resourceful than me. Fires were lit, turf was brought in from outside. Hot water bottles were rooted out from their long-lost home under the sink, and my mother even produced a gas stove that I had not even realised we owned. Candles and torches appeared from nowhere, and we were quickly set up for the night.

Our over-reliance on power in this day and age quickly became stunningly clear. As a 23-year-old student, I was rapidly out of options on what to do. After solving the initial problems of heat and light, we suddenly were faced with an unprecedented one: boredom.

We couldn’t settle in with a DVD. Television was obviously out of the question, and nobody owned a battery-powered radio. The flickering candlelight was too unsettling to read by, though we did try for a while. Mum brought out a jigsaw, but soon her eyes couldn’t handle it: the next morning, she ended up redoing much of it, as she had stuck pieces in all the wrong places.

While I am all for new technology (I am in love with my gadgets: the smartphone is an unreal gizmo that I now cannot live without, and honestly, if it was possible to marry my pretty, pretty iPad, I would), have we gone a little too far in how reliant on electricity we now are? After all, Ireland only became fully electrified in 1978, the last spot being a place called the Black Valley in Killarney. Why is it that without our respective gadgetry (the phones and my iPad batteries were quick to die) we were at a complete loss? And isn’t it surprising what we missed the most? I had anticipated, and so readily accepted, the loss of the TV. Admittedly the broadband was a blow. But I hadn’t realised the impact the loss of the kettle would have. Equally, my mother mourned the loss of the freezer, and we ate its rejected contents for the next few days (a good excuse, admittedly, to tuck into the spring rolls and garlic bread).

Thankfully the power did come back, at 5pm the next day. While I had enjoyed our trip back in time, I was grateful. Not least for the water pressure, which had become a nuisance, but also for the return of hot water, light and heat. It really was incredible to find out how much we rely on electricity, and how little we can do without it, especially at night, when it is dark and cold. The whole experience made me think about this reliance of ours, and what we can do to conserve energy, which is so clearly an extremely valuable resource.

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