What to do when the lights go out

28 02 2012

Thursday afternoon
“Sorry, can’t wait” says Helen. “Got a horse struck by lightning”.
“So what’s the rush?” I ask as she pauses at the gate.
“It’s my sister’s horse!” she replies.
I wonder how you give CPR to a horse but I guess if it’s your sister’s horse you have to do something.

As I expect the power is off at work but the storm is still on its way. I recount the horse story to Rory and there is a flash and a bang as the lightning strikes a tree just across the road. I resign myself to a quiet, dark evening as I am sure the power will not be back by morning. I am on a grid that supplies two military installations so power cuts are rare but faults are another matter altogether. They are seldom dealt with quickly.

Thursday evening
Supper – biscuits and cheese. I cannot be bothered to cook at the best of times and cooking by candlelight does not rank as romantic, just annoying. I am bored and the LED lanterns are running flat. It looks like an early night. A luke warm shower (at least there is still water – often when the power goes off the water does too but there must be enough in the tank to gravity feed).

I sit on the bed and watch the storm move off to the west. It is an extraordinary display. The thunder is continuous and the lightning spectacular. Every few seconds a bolt slams into the countryside – just as well it’s summer and the bush is green otherwise there would be fires everywhere. We very rarely have electric storms in the middle of summer, they usually occur at the beginning. It does try to rain a bit but there is no enthusiasm to it and it soon peters out. I watch the lightning stumble and stagger across the countryside until I can no longer hear the thunder and turn in.

Friday
At least the power was on a work today. It’s still off at home so the fault must be on the farm where I live. It doesn’t look good for getting fixed over the weekend.

Friday evening
I am a bit more organized and have mince and some noodles left over from a packet of the 2 minute variety. I doze off in my chair and feed the mosquitoes for a while. I am thinking that it’s another early night and take a look out the back window. The night is clear and the stars look good. Maybe some stargazing is in order. I lie on my back on the verandah and take in the night sky. We have some very clear nights in summer after the rains and I am lucky enough to live just out of town so there is not too much light pollution.

Orion is hight in the western sky. Betelgeuse glows a malevolent red. I shift the binoculars down to Orion’s belt and the Orion Nebula. My binoculars are Nikon 10×50 and good for stargazing but heavy to hold steady. I find that by leaning on one elbow I can stabilize them and they are reasonably steady. A star nursery, the Orion Nebula is churning them out and will be when we are all long gone. We are just so…. transient! Down a bit to Aldebaran in Taurus. Another red super giant. Sirius in Canis Major is directly overhead and blue-white hot. I must dig out my Greenwich guide to stargazing tomorrow. I am about to turn in and notice what I take to be Mars becoming visible over the roof of the house. Yes, it’s Mars alright, no mistaking that colour. Will I still be around when astronauts get there?

Saturday
The power is still off when I get back in from flying models at the microlight club. The fridge is warm and Karma’s stew stinks. That bothers her not one little bit but I cook the remains on the gas so I don’t have to put up with it in the morning. I finish off the remains of the mince with some maccaroni and hope that the weevils have not got into it. I shine a torch into the pot and don’t notice any. This cooking by candlelight sucks! i spend the rest of the evening fiddling with a model that I broke some time ago. The LED lantern is nearly useless and I give up before I make a real mess of what I am doing.

Sunday morning
A cold shower. Amazingly the water is colder than the air temperature. I don’t dither.

There are more flies in the fridge than outside but at least they look like fruit flies. The remains of the pineapple I had earlier in the week smells distinctly fermented. I dig around to see what I can cook and find a jar of garlic in olive oil from at least 2 years ago. It should be well matured by now. What’s this? A sprouting carrot? I didn’t know they could do that so I plant it into the pot with the parsley outside the back door – I will be interested to see if it actually grows any further. All the bacon goes into the pan, the courgettes are added and a healthy dab of garlic in oil. The remains of some peeled tomatoes in a tin are added and I burn some toast under the gas grill. The eggs both break going into the pan. Is it my technique or are they just BAD EGGS? I have heard that only the infirm, very young and elderly are at risk for salmonella but give them a bit of extra heat just in case.

It all tastes pretty good so I lick the plate. Kharma eyes me without lifting her head. Unconcerned, she has her sights on a bigger prize – the frying pan. She’s right about that, I don’t lick frying pans even in extremis.

I spend the rest of the day doing things without electricity. Mending models, gardening. Fortunately I have and MP3 player but it still needs to be charged but the Landcruiser battery can handle that. Other than that it is eerily quiet – even the ART Farm tractor that has been grumbling away through the night running a generator to pump water for the pigs is silent. Gas. Gas is good when I need to boil water for tea. Zimbabwe even has substantial natural gas deposits in the Zambezi Valley but so far nothing has been done to utilize it. It’s much easier to make money out of diamonds and rare earth minerals that also abound. But my gas comes out of a gas bottle and the gas is imported, like so many other things, from South Africa.

Sunday afternoon
Kharma is dogging me for a walk so we go for a short walk around the houses. It’s the first time I’ve done that since I got my new knee last year. I still find the rough ground difficult. My neighbour to the west has been putting up a wall in the meantime. Well, it’s brick pillars and iron railings. It’s a big property and there will be more bricks used in the wall than in a medium-sized house. I think it’s a monumental waste of money but this sort of thing is common in Harare so it must be a status symbol. This wall and railing won’t even be seen by anyone. The grass at the bottom of my property effectively hides it. Fortunately.

18h24 and some seconds.
I am in the kitchen pondering supper. It’s easier to eat cheese and biscuits so I have taken some cheese out the freezer which is still chilly thanks to the 20 litre plastic container of ice placed in it for just these circumstances. Flicker. Flicker again then the kitchen light, which has always flickered when turned on, lights up. JOY! OH YES, POWER AT LAST. I will even forgive the internet for not working. Time to celebrate and get out the wine and light a mosquito coil because I’ll be damned if I am going to feed them again tonight!

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2 responses

29 02 2012
Big Blister

What about the horse? Did he/she make it?

29 02 2012
gonexc

Don’t know, will find out on Thursday when I collect my milk.

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