Living without electricity…

We are increasingly utterly dependent on what comes to us through cables. I know this to be a fact, as I have spent most of today coping with the consequences of what happens when the cables stop delivering.

Since the big storm on Tuesday, parts of Argyll have had no electricity. Other parts have had an intermittent supply. It has  taken a whole army of blokes spending three days and nights in the hills and forests tracing fallen lines, disentangling them from trees, reinstating the masts that were blown down and the transformers that burnt out.

The consequences of this are obvious- or at least is seems so at first. The lights will go off. And the TV- oh, and the computer of course.

But then you start to remember other things- the telephone system, even if the supply that keeps the line is live, probably will not work as your telephone will require power, as we expect it to do lots of things other than just being a telephone. You will get cold as the heating system will be controlled and pumped by electricity.

Slowly you start to realise that everything is controlled by computers. And computers are great, but get very sulky if you remove their supply of amps. They are very greedy for amps. So (as we found out) trying to set up an emergency kitchen, as the gas supply was still working, was futile as all the appliances need electricity too- even the gas hob, which shuts itself down without the extractor hood working.

I also heard that the phone lines on Bute stopped working as the emergency generator was kept behind a door controlled by- electricity. Oops.

Then, the longer the electricity is off, the more serious things start to get. You can not buy food, as no one pays with money any more- we all pay by computer. Also, all the chilled food in the supermarket goes off immediately.

Finally, there is the fact that even the care that we provide to many people is dependent on technology. Increasingly we care for our frail elderly by computer. It is cheaper. We use door alarms, pressure mats, intercom systems, and all sorts of other sensors and switches.

The effect of this on our communities has been interesting- in some it brought out the best. Neighbours who went the extra mile, supermarkets who opened their doors, people sharing warm firesides and warm soup. But then there were those who would ring the council and demand to know why we had not visited them or someone else to make things OK in some way- as if we had endless resources, and perfect knowledge.

The lessons for us as individuals are sobering- the weather seems to be changing here, and we can probably expect more of the same. Simplify your life from some of the gadgets. Keep some candles and cans in the cupboards. Make a note who which of your neighbours might need a bit of extra help, and knock on the door to have a conversation (you remember those- from before Facebook and MSN.)

And in cases of extremis, decide which one is going to get eaten first.

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