You don’t know what real darkness is like till you’ve had a power outage in the country. It falls not so much like a curtain as like a brick on your head. One minute you’re sitting there, toasting rural life with friends. The next minute you might as well be in a coma, for all you can see.
Picture this. Turnip and her guest cozily ensconced in the rustic living room of her solar-powered country cottage, watching a movie (Sideways). It’s nearly done – we’re just waiting for the hero to decide whether to go after the girl (who is way out of his class, as usual) or stick with his pathetic life as a divorced wine-buff who nicks cash off his mum when…
The lights go out. EVERYTHING goes out. In a cartoon, there would be little blinking circles representing our eyes in the dark – but in reality, we might as well have had a sack dropped over us.
I get up, grope for a match and a candle. Movie night is done. The solar batteries have done their best, struggling on for three hours after sunset, but now they’ve had it.
This didn’t happen when we first bought the place. Then, there was light, and it was free. No electricity bills, ever. We gloated, a lot.
I now recall that there is no such thing is free. We ring up a solar electrician, only to find he’s booked out for a month. If we have to buy new batteries, we’re up for thousands. My ever-resourceful guest resorts to scrubbing the solar panels with a dishcloth – which, for a midget on a wobbly ladder, is pretty brave.
The Solar Guy does come, eventually. He blames the vacuum cleaner. This is not good news…and yet, and yet.
And yet, look on the bright side! Now I have a good reason never to do the vacuuming. Plus candlelight in the stillness of a rural night is an enchanting ambience. Granted, you can’t use it to watch tv, read or play death metal. But you can speak softly of intimate things, and gaze at the flame, and drink wine and kisses in its gentle flicker. Actually I don’t think a country house without candlelight IS really a country house – it’s just an urban legend.
And you can always watch the end of the movie next morning.