Friday, 23 December 2011


Last night we were sat in Sainsburys cafe and just about to tuck into a rather tasty fish and chip supper, when all the lights went out!
The whole retail park and adjoining streets were totally in darkness, and after a moment of uncertainty  (when I couldn't quite locate my last chip) the supermarket's  dim emergency lighting kicked in and suddenly a few hundred shoppers all acted as though they had survived a terrorist attack.....
The powercut continued, but we were allowed to shop in the gloom as the tills re booted.....and as we did our shop in the muted hysteria people indulge in  when faced with a collective "threat", I had a seriously worrying "think" about just how we, as a nation would cope without the all singing , all giving God Electricity......
Not very well...I suspect.......
People today have no reserves when it comes to disaster have they? . People just don't have proper larders anymore, they have no stockpiles of food,fuel, water and other vital items. We rely on these monolithic supermarkets for food that would empty within hours if not refilled by fuel guzzling lorries and we rely on electricity  for almost everything else......electricity  that can disappear literally at the "flick of a switch"

Yes I thought about all this as we filled our basket with tasty stuffing and Christmas baubles..........
and before we left.... I made sure several packets of store cupboard candles were placed into the trolley.


  1. We have had some MAJOR outages here that covered parts of Canada and the USA. The last one was during the summer thank goodness. It was wonderful for us city dwellers because we sat outside at night and star gazed listening to our solar powered emergency radio. The power outage lasted a couple of days and there were no worries about food etc as I have tons stocked up for emergencies. Our winters can get very bad and we often get snowed in for a couple of days at a time so we have to be prepared:)

  2. We do get power cuts here sometimes John so I have a handy supply of candles and several battery-powered lanterns. The farmer can remember when there was no electricity on the farm here

    Also I have to keep a good store cupboard as it is quite remote where we live and if we are snowed in we need those reserves (I suppose in a real emergency we could always kill a cow!!!))

  3. Oh dear! Not prepared, are we?

    But yes, I agree - biggest threat to a western society is to be deprived of the electricty grid as that power not only runs appliances it also drives the water and sewage pumping system!

    I have a 1.8 megawatt solar panel array on my north roof face that we can easilly divert around the meter and feed the house supply - OK, only good during the day but it keeps the freezer and frige chilled up and the radio and TV running during the day - we also have mains gas on supply for heating, cooking and hot water supply in addition to our 240 volt mains electricity. There are three full rainwater tanks of 1,500 gallon capacity. And Yes! Rhonda keeps a full larder of non-perishable groceries and a stock of kerosene (coal oil) for the kero lamps and a large supply of candles. There's alway the gas BBQ to cook on as well.

    There is a mobile (cell) phone 'break through' system that texts warning messages to ALL mobile phones within a disaster alert area. It's had a couple of applications - one practice drill and one real emergency - and the 'bugs' have mostly been ironed out of it! All mobile phones can be shut down to outgoing calls and only 000 calls can be made as outgoing calls.

    Our LG LEMP provides for a catastrophic disaster where electricity is deprived for a period in excess of 48 hours and all children, frail aged and the ill and infirm are to be evacuated to larger regional centres immediately and access to the 'town proper' shut down by road blockades. Our LEMP has every road marked with detour, blockade and diversion points and stipulates what local authority will man those points.

    Police assume immediate command of the LEMP. There is an undisclosed system of vehicle permits and all bulk fuel supplies are immediately impounded and placed under guard.

    Since 9/11 Australia has been developing these LG LEMP's in addition to Dam (water storage) Safetry Management Plans (water is our second priority).

    Health services have developed their own LEMP as part of the LG LEMP.

    The LEMP Committee has its own 'command bunker' and is made up of police, Fire, Ambulance, LG, SES, Health and Power Utility representatives and from that 'bunker' all the different operating radio frequencies can be standardised. It's like a 'War room' and these are scattered throughout the State.

  4. They're called power failures you know. You only get a power 'cut' if you haven't paid your bill! But that aside..... we often lose our electricity supply here. I have no idea why. But I always have candles handy and a wind-up torch. I've even got the camping stove tucked behind a chair in the dining room - just in case!

  5. I've often thought that, John. Who needs nuclear warheads? Just find some way to disable the electric grid, and we're all cooked!

    I got in the habit of stocking up my larder at my last location, as we lost power every third storm. Had a propane (gas) stove, so i could always cook. We had a well rather than town water, so we had to have water on hand, and always had at least 10 gallons stored. Usually more, and we had two rain barrels, too, which contents could be used to flush toilets and wash things at the least. I also kept bleach on hand so could disinfect the water as needed, as i'm not sure it would be entirely potable.

    At my new location, the house is an old one, and the original hand dug well still works. I have town water here, so no worries when the lights go out, and i can draw water from the well to use for flushing and washing. I've not tested it for potability, although there's a spring at the top of the hill where many fill water jugs.

    The house came with a generator, but the petrol tank sprung a leak, so that needs to be fixed.

    We do get some extreme weather in the winter, so i always make sure i have something on hand to make do and try to have at least several weeks' worth of cat food at all times.


  6. We get cuts...usually at the end of the rainy season when the sodden ground descends in landslips...and the odd ones for a few hours at a time in the rest of the I know where the candles are...and the matches....and if the freezers were to go out for days at a time I suppose I'd just have to brine and smoke the contents...

  7. Anonymous8:44 pm

    Doomed, doomed I tell you. We rely so heavily on our hydro/gas/sewer/water systems. We wouldn't know what to do without them. I think my nervous system would be in revolt at the thoughts of no internet service, I'd probably pass away from that long before I starved or froze to death.

  8. Thanks, John. I've just checked my supply of candles and matches. I should survive!

  9. We used to get a lot of power cuts in Bucks, but since moving to Glastonbury we have been fully powered, must be something to do with the leylines :-D

  10. ...but did you get your twinkly lights?
    Jane x

  11. I sit here reading your post and all the comments, John, with my generator thumping away in the garden. I live in a country floating on oil and gas and they can't even keep the lights on and you have to queue for ages at the petrol station.

    We get power maybe 20% of the time and then only during the incredibly useful hours between 02.00 and 06.00. I guess I burn about 20 litres of diesel a day to keep the place powered up. I try not to dwell too much on the figures but that works out at around six hundred litres a month.

    When I move down to the Barra de Kwanza, there will be no town power whatsoever so I would be interested to learn about JohnD's solar set up.

    But, to go back to the topic of your post, John, if there is a power cut here, no one bats an eyelid. It is when the power comes on that you get a reaction. Everyone, especially the kids all run round shouting at the tops of their voices, 'Luz! Luz!' as if Santa had just popped up in their midst.

    The only affect a power outage has on me is sore shins and a few bruises. We do not have a sewage system here, we have sceptic tanks and Water comes in by tanker. But, in the sudden darkness, I realise that Alex has nicked the torch off my desk and I invariably trip over one of his toys stumbling around blindly looking for it!

  12. Couldn't agree more.
    Our boiler packed up last Saturday and it was back to boiling kettles and saucepans for hot water.
    Got us thinking to the time when we were young and there was no central heating and no hot water on tap. The bath was tin and hung on the garden wall outside only to be got in once a week for bath night.
    How lucky we all are now...

  13. jane
    yes!!!!!!!!!!!! Nigella kitchen is all up and running x

  14. It's only a matter of time before you realise the importance of antique candlesticks, John.

  15. never in a month of sundays my old friend

  16. See what I mean?

    1.34 in the morning and the power has just come on. It's like I am living in a completely different time zone.

    So, now that I am on town power and don't need to feel guilty about the diesel the generator burns, I will sit here all night typing another chapter of my book poisonong my liver with whisky on the way, collapse into bed at dawn and Marcia will hate me because I can't get up in time for breakfast.

  17. Oh for heaven's there'd have been a riot followed by looting..

  18. A few years back we had a power cut late on Christmas Eve due to an underground fire. Apart from the threat of having to be evacuated (we weren't) it turned out to be the best Christmas Eve - sitting in the candlelight telling stories instead of being deafened by Slade. The kids still get misty-eyed when they remember it.

  19. I'm a little too prepared for a power cut. Last time we had one in the day time, I lit loads of tea lights, cooked on the stove using a match and wax tapers instead of the electric ignition, boiling water for tea with our camping kettle. Then settled down to read a book.

    The power had been back for an hour before I noticed.

  20. We were tested last year to see how we would cope when Brisbane eddured the terrible floods. Five days with out stores open and electricity plus being marooned by floodwaters showed how families could cope. Lack of refrigeration was our biggest problem as food quickly spoils here in the heat. Modern families with scant pantries soon were in trouble but we older folk could have gone for considerably longer and given our pantries a good clean out at the same time while trying out some clever ways with canned food and pasta. Peaches and spaghetti, baked beans and asparagas ... as long as we had gas for a cuppa and a bit of cooking we were fine!

  21. They've commercialized society so much that people don't remember (and often can't) do anything without power.

    Not that I miss the out house... ;)

    The cafe definitely should have had candles at the ready!

    All good reminders of things that people should do though, John, as you never know when a natural disaster will hit.


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