The blue tits have found the bird feeder in the garden and the squirrels eye them enviously from afar. The rain from the day before has left a sheen on the leaves and grass. It is Saturday morning and I have time for a quick cup of tea before setting off to pick Lakshmi from her dance class. Storm Alex has been battering the southern counties and the deluge has now turned into a drizzle. I reach for the kettle. The light bulb dies and the house goes quiet. The gentle humming of the central heating pipe ceases. The silence is unnerving. I check out our neighbourhood. Their porch lights are on. Seems like we are the only ones affected. We need to report the fault.
By evening the fault has still not been fixed. An outside cable is damaged. The team comes up with alternative plans to help us. They can get us a generator or if that fails, put us up in a hotel. I come back to a cold house with Lakshmi. “There is no electricity, no lights, no hot water, no heating, no TV, just darkness”, she tells her parents before she leaves her home. “Lavinia is afraid of the dark”, Lakshmi’s excuse for why Lavinia didn’t want to come with us. Lavinia is actually not afraid of anything. It is Lakshmi who is frightened of the dark and who cannot sleep without a night light on. I light some candles. One of them a Christmas present from bygone years. The heady smell of cinnamon fills the room. Lakshmi puts on her adult responsible voice and plays with her toys. Tonight she is running a restaurant and seems busy serving her guests. The generator arrives but they don’t know when it will be connected. Plan C is put into place. They are putting us up in the local Travellodge for the night. We need to pack an overnight bag. I gather things and make some porridge and hot chocolate for Lakshmi. The milk in the fridge needs to be used up. The rest of the food is at Kavitha’s place and the freezer food will have to be thrown away at some point. Lakshmi is excited and shines the torch for me as I gather the necessary. In between I forget some of Lakshmi’s things. She reminds me to pack her clothes and adds Danielle, her mother’s childhood doll, for company.
At the hotel they provide us with breakfast packs for the next morning. Lakshmi spots the ‘pain au chocolat’ and orange juice, and polishes off her portion. It is too late to go out for dinner and Murali gets some takeaway as we get ready for bed. Lakshmi’s stomach looks as if it is about to burst but the spicy chips tastes too good to pass. She eats and drinks till she can consume no more and falls asleep hugging Danielle. It is Lakshmi’s first blackout experience and it looks like she enjoyed the adventure.
I can still remember my first power cut experience. I wasn’t much older than Lakshmi. The darkness which engulfed me combined with the thunderstorm and lightning adding to the theatrics somehow still brings up vivid memories. The bright images in the path of the torchlight beam that day took on a slightly unearthly appearance. I don’t particularly remember being scared but I was a timid child who got scared easily. Years later when power cuts became the norm, a nuisance we had to endure regularly, the novelty wore off. Once in a while, however, it is still good to be reminded that we can live without technology, albeit for short periods.