Monday, June 09, 2008


The sister is back from Oz for six months and we had a summons back to the ancestral home of the Guerrier clan yesterday. It should only take an hour and half to get down there, but there's always something, like trains being diverted via Switzerland or the end of the world.

So we were a bit cautious. At about eight in the morning the Dr, who is better at getting up at the morning, fell into the shower and I went to answer the insistent buzzing of the doorbell.

"Are your lights working?" asked the man from next door. And they weren't.

"Eek!" added the Dr from the shower, where the water was all icy cold. The boiler and lights rely on power not being cut.

So we boiled pans of water and washed the old-skool way, then headed out to see if there might be such things as trains. People texting to tell me I had no power quickly used all my phone's battery, but not before I snapped the darkening of the sky.

Sydenham Park fire, as seen from Venner Road, SE26Later, we'd discover that Sydenham Park substation had caught fire, thieving the lights and hot water from quite a lot of South East London.

In the meantime, we traded information with strangers - yes, in London! - and as we passed his house our friend M. called down to us for what titbits we had gleaned. There were lots of people out, making the best of it and the nice weather, and lots of burglar alarms and fire engines.

"How like Survivors," I thought.

There were no trains - at least none that were stopping - so we tramped on to a bus and enjoyed the acrid stink of the previous night's vomit, all dried and steaming in the morning heat. Finally found Waterloo and narrowly missed a train to the parents as I queued for tickets. Ng.

A nice few hours with lots of family I'd not seen in ages (even L. who lives just up the road), and then we tramped back again on a train that said it stopped only at London but which stopped every moment it could. And still no trains where we live, so we had to get one sort-of near. Spent the whole journey back looking for signs of electric life: working traffic lights, the glow of people's doorbells, the signs above shops...

And, after more than seven hours travelling, we got home to find our power back on. A block away they were still going without, as we found when we thought we'd enjoy the last of the sunlight with a sly pint of beer. Schleped back across the postcode to another pub, and discovered R., who was also without power. Had a beer in the candlelit Dolphin, where the power came on just in time for last orders. It looks like everyone had their power back by the end of the day - well done everyone involved.

R. said he'd seen a two-car family making the best of it: in one car, a child had a laptop plugged into the dashboard and was watching cartoon; in the next child's parents were, with the same method, sharing a DVD.

Not the end of the world, then, but for a moment - and despite the nice weather - it did feel like a rehearsal. A timely reminder of how much we depend on the fizzing electrons in the wall. I'm rather stuck in my hackery without a working computer - yes, there's still paper and pens and notebooks and stuff, but blimey it's so much harder. And I'm already a little behind on a project or two, and was despairing of how this week might go anyway.

And, since I'm in a jolly, apocalyptic mood, how likely does the looming energy crisis mean this is just a foreshadowing of things to come a lot more?

No comments: