We had a power cut today – only for an hour and a half, but apart from getting cold because the central heating had gone off (bearing in mind it was only 1-degree Celsius outside), I found the greatest inconvenience was not being able to get on the internet. I instantly felt lost and out of touch with the world without it, and given the choice between having my access to the web or having the heating back; I think I would have willingly pulled on an extra layer or two and opted for my laptop.
This incident reminded me of a time, three or so years ago when we experienced a violent storm that brought down the power lines, consequentially blowing up the local electricity substation. Fortunately, the weather wasn’t quite as cold as it was today. But, amazingly, (in this day and age), we had no power for nearly three days! Extra jumpers, thick socks, wooly hats, warm gloves, blankets and such were all dug out of the depths of wardrobes and were the order of the day (or three days in this instance).
I live in a cul-de-sac and all the houses there were affected. After the initial panic, the ritual of striking matches smelling of sulphur, to light the candles took place. A variety of wax pillars were found with difficulty, bearing in mind, we were searching at the back of dusty cupboards by torchlight. I then thought to Google the Electricity Company’s telephone number to ask when the power would be back on. I won’t say ‘a light went on in my head’ as there weren’t any lights but it then dawned on me that no electricity equals no technology, therefore, no Google. There we were, back in the dark ages (pardon the pun) and I started to rummage for the telephone directory, not realising then that the phone lines were down too.
It was then apparent that social media had come to an abrupt halt which was a shock to the system at first. Gradually Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr all became redundant. If we wanted some company, instead of Facebook, we had to go and knock on a neighbour’s door and talk to them face to face. The term ‘Like’ meant the appreciation of a kindness done or fondness of someone. ‘Friending’ and ‘Unfriending’ became hanging out with our mates (or not). If someone had ‘Blocked’ you, they had, perhaps, parked their car at the bottom of your driveway, and the term ‘Sharing’ no longer referred to reposting an article from one FB page to another; sharing returned to meaning to have a cup of tea with a neighbour; lending your last box of matches out; distributing a pot of tea around the family, made from boiling water on a gas hob (at least, we had gas), .
Twitter had been replaced by the chatter of children and adults alike and gossip that was only heard on the grapevine. Instagram and Pinterest were impossible – if we wanted to look at pictures we had a resort to a book, magazine or get a bus to the art gallery on the far side of town. I missed emailing. Somehow, writing a letter, sticking a stamp on the envelope to post it in the mailbox and then waiting two days for it to arrive at its destination lacked the spontaneity of reeling off a quick email.
Computer games were naturally out of the question and we resorted to either playing Gin Rummy or Bridge with a pack of cards or digging out the old, well-worn Snakes and Ladders board and a dice. In my case, I managed to find the family Ludo board which was my mother’s before it was mine! But, I never was much good at card games but I could play a mean game of Monopoly. Just as I’d passed Mayfair and Park Lane and was about to collect £200 for passing go … the power came back on only to be greeted by a mixture of delighted “hoorays” and equally rather sad “awws”. All the nostalgia flew out of the window almost as fast as we all flew off back to our own little spaces to get a fix of Facebook or Twitter having suffered severe withdrawal symptoms over the past three days. I have to say, it left me wondering whether I would turn back the hands of time if I could.