Blackout

“Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said. “We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied.”

RIP 38 lives lost in the US Chinook crash
Saturday 7th August 2011.

I had a gypsies warning that the news was going to break. I knew before the news was released. I knew it wasn’t Hagar. I didn’t have to reconcile the information and establish the facts so I was calm. Then at 10am the electrical power in my house cut out completely.

You see when you are alone, and carrying the burden of responsibility of two people, you can pretty much guarantee that you will have to face some form of calamity, with varying degrees of severity. This particular calamity had been building progressively since just before Hagar departed. The newly installed electric shower on/off button slowly ceased to function, so the only way that you could switch the shower on and off was at the wall. Then, one press too many -‘bang’ the fuse box popped and the power in certain rooms was gone. ‘Ah,’ I think, ‘yes, the shower is f*cked’.

Many men come and officially diagnose it’s f*ckedness, concurring that it is verily f*cked, but not able to rectify the problem until much later than is ideal.

In the no mans land of officially f*cked shower and living in house, the Grenade one night, on the landing, heading for a late night pee, accidentally switches the shower on instead of the loo light. In an instance the house is catapulted into an inky, pitch blackness, where you actually can’t even see the outline of your hand. (I live in a place where the is no cultural lighting – it gets proper dark.) The Grenade starts screeching like an injured wild animal because he is terrified of the dark. I scramble from the downstairs to the upstairs at a great pace to connect with him in the darkness. He promptly jumps on my head like a freaked out cat and engulfs me with vice like grip. Aunty Pat comes out of her room onto the landing and I have to negotiate even more stairs in the blackness to handover The Grenade to her so that I can seek out the torch; which is downstairs in the kitchen, to then resolve the power failure. I go down the stairs on my arse and feel my way into the kitchen, where I find the biggest, heaviest, most phallic torch in the world, which I would never buy but I am now eternally grateful that Hagar did, and then there is light.

A few days later our friends arrive, and Mrs Ladyfriend makes the same mistake, but in the hours of daylight and how we laugh at the chaos of the f*cked shower. We then head off to the pub, get verily, merrily inebriated and the next day I get the gypsies warning about the cab going down.

At 10am the power dies. Everybody runs crazily around the house, shouting ‘powercut, powercut’ accusing Mrs Ladyfriend (who is actually in the same bathroom as the shower, trying to have a hungover poo) of switching on the f*cked shower again. The Menace (aged 3) bangs angrily on the door and provides a tirade of three year old abuse.
“Did you do that to the shower again? Did you do that so that it is not working? What did you do? You turn on the shower again?” she shrieked.

I follow a few minutes later, with a similar but more articulate line of questioning, and Mrs Ladyfriend explains in no uncertain terms that she did not switch the f*cking shower on and could we please leave her to her ablutions.

This poses many dilemmas. Not in the least because we have no power; but all of the fuses are in the on position, which means that this power cut could extend beyond my own property and not be a result of the f*cked shower. I then ring the neighbours and discover they have power. Next, I ring the electricity board and explain to them that we have a power cut and could they please send an engineer out as electricity is our only source of energy. (This means we have no gas! Just in case you weren’t clear.) However, due to the quirks of the residence I need them to send a special engineer because I have a special unit – it’s a CT unit or something like that! And it requires a specialist. The electricity board duly note this and an engineer is raised. This will take an hour.

The hangover is beginning to take hold and we all need hot beverages and breakfast. I remember that we have a gas BBQ and so we get Mr Blokefriend (husband of Mrs Ladyfriend) to boil a kettle (I have a kettle that can be boiled on an Oz pig) make scramble eggs and toast on the BBQ. (BBQ is long way from house, it’s raining and it has nettles growing out from underneath it. Note to self – move BBQ nearer kitchen for future usage). It turns out Mr Blokefriend has never made scramble eggs before and says in Welsh (he is actually Welsh and not just speaking in a Welsh accent for comedy, egg making purposes), lyrical tones, “what do I do with this then? Do I just stir it?”
“Yes,” is my somewhat curt reply, married with a ‘what are you a talking about you crazy fool?’ look.

BBQ toast is very crunchy with charred bits on. The eggs were great. I discovered, under a metal flap that our BBQ has this little gas side ring on it, which I was able to use to boil the milk for the coffee. It was very handy. Later, in the day we were also able to use it for more kettle boiling. We found boiling the kettle on the griddle took ages and then I lifted the flap and there was the gas ring. Would you Adam and Eve it??!!

In the meantime, the children, 2 x theirs, and 2 x mine run around the house slowly discovering which entertainment devices are powered by electricity. It’s a revelation for them but eventually they resort to more Lord of the Flies, feral behaviour and run crazily around the garden like little mentalists.

Eventually, the electricity board engineer arrives, and of course, he is not the right one because despite my brief that they needed a special one they send a normal one. Having dismantled the kitchen to access the behemoth. He then takes one look at the meter and says ‘I am not qualified on this, you need a specialist.’
I think, ‘no shit Sherlock!’

Anyhoo, turns out there is only three of them specialists in the country. Then the negotiation begins because it’s really about who is responsible for fixing the fault – them or me. Plus I need to get the power on before darkness falls because I don’t have enough illuminating devices to get The Grenade through the night without him sitting on my head like a freaked out cat, clutching me with a vice like grip. I need a contingency that means should we have no power and the darkness falls then we need to be somewhere else. (Contingency in place – we would head to Mrs Ladyfriend and Mr Blokefriend’s house an hour and half drive away should power not be restored. Not ideal but beggars can’t be choosers in a crisis.)

The non-specialist then starts phoning around to see if he can speak with one of the three specialists to get some tips to diagnose and discover who has to pay for the repair. As you can imagine these specialists are as elusive as the Scarlett Pimpernel.

In the interim, I line up an electrician to come in and take over the baton should the electricity board determine that the responsibility is mine. During this process I learn more about the functionality of an electrical meter than I ever wanted to know. This takes literally hours. Eventually, we (and I say ‘we’ because I was instrumental in the fault diagnosis) discover the fault (someone had bridged this mahoosive fuse – biggest mother f*cking fuse you have ever seen in your life) and establish the responsibility is mine. I then step up my electrician, who is going to take another hour or so to arrive.

I write on facebook status:

A Modern Military Mother is powerless

The children at this point are now beginning to experience severe electricity withdrawal and simply cannot understand why the promised swimming trip has been cancelled, the internet, the TV, the ipad, the ipod, (not to self – must be more vigilant in charging electrical devices for child entertainment in the event of future power failures. Please note it is difficult to entertain and supervise children when resolving crises especially when Aunty Pat is away shopping in nearby city and not at home during power failure) etc, is not working, despite our very calm, lucid and rational explanations. Their world quite literally is falling apart. They cannot quite fathom why the adults are not gripping this situation and resolving the problem. (By the way, Mr Blokefriend has headed off to the local pub to watch the rugby.)

Eventually, the electrician arrives and Mrs Ladyfriend’s eldest son feels that he must take matters into his own hands to get this problem fixed. As the electrician steps into the hall he is greeted by an 8 year old’s perspective on how we find ourselves without power for such a sustained length of time. I am feeling quite jaded at this point, but after 15 minutes decide that it is time to release the electrician from the 8 year old’s version of events and gently send the 8 year old back into the jungle so that he can continue the mass genocide of the stuffed animals that is occurring on the set of The Lord of the Flies.

The electrician then proceeds to be starstruck by the awesomeness of the meter and I yet again find myself engaged in further chat about the meter and it’s wonderment. Anyway, without boring you with the detail – he does a bit of jiggery pokery and moves some fuses and the power is restored!
“Hurrah!”

Mr Blokefriend returns from the pub. Wales lost to England. He says, “the story about the crash is on the news”.

Time passes…..eventually, I catch up with my facebook. Following my status is a friend sending kisses, another says “I have been thinking of you all day’ and there are kind words and thoughts from folk who know that Hagar is Afghanistan. The electrical black out meant that I had no access to the news as it rolled out.

Today my status reads;

“yesterday’s power cut was a gift – was in news black out – like a comfort blanket. RIP those tragically killed and great vigilance to those who fly in the ghostly trails of their vortex…..but the battle continues on”

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Blackout

  1. I was also in a “blackout” when the news broke.
    We went camping this weekend, which meant no internet access, no tv.
    I caught a glimpse of the news on the way home, on the cell phone when we finally entered back into the land of cell phone service. But it was only through facebook statuses and I only knew that *my* husband was ok, but that so many families were saying goodbye all too soon.

    I, too, am thankful for being in the dark. My prayers are constant, with or without breaking news. But sometimes breaking news is too hard on a military spouse’s heart. Sometimes, I’d rather just not know, because I already know. My heart knows what can happen… I don’t need some news anchor telling that it *did* happen….

  2. A wonderful post, I have to admit to not knowing about the Afghan chopper crash until I read your post, I am in self imposed news blackout most of the time these days. I find it too hard to deal with all the destruction and horror that is “news”.

    Reading posts from your perspective brings sharply into focus how it must have been for my family when I served in Northern Ireland during the hunger strikes of the late 70’s. I don’t know about Hagar, but although I knew that my family would “worry” about me, I didn’t really understand the depth of their fear until many years later.

    Keep up the amazing work you do on your blog I am sure you help many, many families of serving personnel.

    xxx

  3. I didn’t know about the helicopter crash until reading it here. I was in a news blackout at the weekend (camping) and since then the only news I am aware of is the rioting in London. Your posts really put a perspective on the lives of military families that I was, ashamedly, not completely aware of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s