Last night we had a power cut. Living in the centre of Newcastle for 5 years, I got relatively used to power cuts, but apparently the people of Le Spa are less accustomed to such inconvenience. Within minutes people were out on the streets, the words “It’s not just mine then?” half drowned in the wailing of multiple house alarms as we all bonded over that quintessential Bristish staple: the complaint. How could the power company do this to us – our dinners were half cooked in the oven! On the hottest day of the year so far too, and right after the weekend shop – our fridge freezer stock would be ruined! The community shook their communal fist at the powers that be.
The funny thing was that for all the complaining, there was almost a sense of excitement, a party atmosphere in the air. People who might usually nod in passing were chatting like old friends, and it wasn’t a forced friendliness, but almost a relief to finally have something to break the proverbial ice. We were all grasping at the chance to bond over something – I sometimes think we have it so easy these days, we need a little community crisis to bring us together.
This all ties in neatly with research in the news today that tells us we’re becoming lonelier. The combination of isolation and loss of community with breakdown of the family unit and a tendency towards starting a family later in life leaves more of us than ever living alone. The number of single person households has doubled since the 70s, and the divorce rate has almost doubled in the last half century. Add to this that we’re living longer and moving further from the family home for work opportunities, and it adds up to a loss of links to traditional ties. (Read more about this research here…)
After the initial excitement, and once the power company had given us an estimated recovery time, people returned to their homes to wait out the failure. I took to my windowsill with a cushion and my book and made the most of the dwindling light while I could. Just as I lit a candle with thoughts of retiring, normality was restored with a general burst of light and noise. (This is when you can really tell who is and who isn’t used to power cuts. The first thing I do when the power goes down is turn off every light and appliance that I know was previously on. The uninitiated enjoy the general shock of all the lights, the oven, the fridge and the TV bursting back into life at the exact same moment – it can be quite noisy!)
Feeling very slightly perkier today, although the cough and husky/broken voice remain. Here’s hoping this is the beginning of the end of this thing…