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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hello darkness not our friend

"Don't forget. We got a notice that the power was going to go off from 8.30 am tomorrow."

   That was the last thing Tracey said to me before bed last night.

   "I must remember that," I said.

   Naturally, I didn't, so when I was writing one of my stories for the blog, it happened. I had written a paragraph of prose that Steele Rudd would have been proud of, concerning Dad, the bung and the oranges. Bright sunny day though it was, darkness of the electrical type fell in an instant, with a faint bleep of protest from both computers, the router, the scanner, two phones, and the microwave oven in the kitchen.

   And, of course, I hadn't saved the paragraph, so it's gone forever, and you will never know just how good it was. Posterity's loss.

   We went to the loungeroom. There's no use crying over spilt words, is there?

   "What do we do now?"

   "Well, I just boiled the jug, so we can have coffee. And I also took the precaution of filling a thermos flask with boiling water for later."

   Tracey's brilliant at these things. I'd wondered what the thermos flask had been doing out on the bench earlier, but I didn't put two and two together. Not even one and one. It's not my fault that these drugs have addled my brain.

   But the question remained. We had no power. What do we do?

   "There's an hour or so's worth of battery in the laptop. I can continue with my story – except for the brilliant paragraph I lost."

   "And I have my phone," she said, la belle dame ignoring sans merci the sad bit about the paragraph, "and it's on a phone plan, so I don't have to depend on the wi-fi, even for email."

   "And I have the Kindle," I said, "which has four long articles and a hundred books on it that I am reading (mostly at once). It's fully charged, so I'm more-or-less set up for a while."

   Christian will be bereft with no computer. No, come to think of it, he won't. Either he'll go for a run, or walk to the park down the road to do chin-up thingies on the kids' swing frame, together with other forms of sado-masochism; or he'll read one of the four library books he's taken out of the Town Library on Chemistry.

   No, he won't do the exercise-in-the-sun bit. It's too hot outside for that.

   He's very methodical about his study now no-one's forcing him to do it. He reads up all about an element and then gives me a fearful earbashing on it, together with diagrams drawn in a Spirax notebook, featuring atomic shells with multiple electrons circling like vultures around a nucleus that looks like a grape with silkworm eggs all over it. I thank the Spirit of the Expanding Universe that I did Chemistry all through high school, so some of it makes sense to me, and I can wing the rest.

   We hear the train whistle – well, horn, to be more precise – blaring out at the Markham St crossing.

   "It's twenty minutes late." 

   It usually starts out for Sydney on the dot of nine. It's true – you could nearly set your clock by it most days. After all, Armidale is the northern inland terminus, so how can you get late when you are the starting point?

   "Well – it is an electric train after all," I said. "I guess they're stymied now the power's off. Ha ha."

   "You're laughing at your own jokes again."

   "Someone has to, or it gets depressing. Or maybe they have to wind the engine up. It would have a helluva big key."

   "When did you last see anything you can wind up? Everything has batteries."

   "It's going to take quite a few Size C ones to get that moving, even though it has only three carriages today. I guess someone had to run down to Clint's Crazy Bargains and buy a pallet-load," I muse.

   "Now you're just being silly. Again."

   "It happens when I don't have electricity. It's been thirty-seven minutes now."

   "Yeah yeah. Not that you're counting and all that."

   "I wasn't going to say that," I denied vigorously.

   I was going to, actually. She knows me too well. I must be so pathetically predictable.

   "It's windy. I couldn't sleep last night worrying about that wind, and the fires, and this rickety house...."

   I, on the other hand, slept like a log. "Forget it. This is Armidale. It can't happen here."

   "I'll bet they said that in Canberra four years ago."

   She's right, but I'm not admitting it. No point in alarming her further by agreeing with her.

   "What do we do now?"

   She draws her feet up under her on the lounge. "We could sit and talk to each other."

   "Now it's you being silly."

   "I'm going to have a sleep then," she says, stretching out. "If only there was a point in turning on the fan."

   "OK." Heck, I'm down to half power on the laptop already. I've been writing this, you see, as we philosophise together. This is, therefore, a complete and accurate record of our exchange of views in the absence of genuine 240 volts AC.

   But we have survived an hour and twelve minutes without electricity. Not that I'm count....

   God is with us. Checkmate, atheists. (Do I have to explain that to you? Youtube it.)

POSTSCRIPT: I went to bed and slept till two minutes after noon. I dreamed that I had written the complete blog entry about Dad, the oranges and the bung, and then in the dream scenario, with the power off, I couldn't post it to the blog, so I lost it all. It was very dispiriting because, once again, it was utterly brilliant. I returned to the lounge room feeling much out of sorts, and Tracey suggested we watch a Dexter episode to fill in the time.

This is, as we say in Studies in Religion, a True Fact. Ask her. Ask her also how we were going to watch Dexter without electricity.

The power came back on at 13:42 hours. Why did I feel a little pang of regret?


  1. I have just read this as a goodnight story out loud to Dave. I thought it might help to lull us to sleep. But...NO! We have been laughing and giggling so much, (mostly due to the utter familiarity of the interchange and genre of humour) that we are now wide awake! Thank you Denis and Tracey ....I think...

    PS Not going to let you off the hook, none-the-less. Looking forward to the imminent story about your Dad, the oranges and the bung. What on earth could that be about?

    1. Thanks, Ros. If you two were laughing at the similarities, then I think counselling will be the only hope of sanity for you.

      Counselling by your chooks, I mean. I don't trust the others. Maybe I took Six Feet Under too seriously.

    2. The Dad incident will be related in the fullness of time. Probably shortly, but, because of the sad circumstances I related in the footnote above, it will be the inferior version, obviously.

  2. I seem to remember hearing Judith Wright (didn't she come from your part of the world?) say in an interview that she kept thinking of wonderful poems just as she was slipping off to sleep but they were always lost by morning. So she decided to keep a notebook and pencil beside her bed. The first morning after she'd noted down whatever she would otherwise have forgotten, she discovered it was complete rubbish. Not that I'm suggesting ... actually forget I spoke.

    1. Aunty Judy, you mean? [I'm lying – we're not related AFAIK but we know the Wright family of which she is a member quite well. Yes, they do come from this neck of the woods.]

      There's no point in the pencil-and-paper thing by the bed for anything genuinely creative. It may be very useful for adding items to shopping lists, but I have one of those notes in front of me, printed quite legibly [illegibility being another major translating problem in the cold light of day several hours after]. I made this note following a dream which I thought was going to make a Jungian blog piece and, no kidding, this is what it says:

      BLDG OVERPAINTED MY NAME CORNER BLOCK GREEN PAINTBRUSH COCONUT SHY NOT ABLE THROW COPING WITH [illegible] MY MINDER SINK BRUSH CLEAN SHOES SPOT OF PAINT and another word that I think is actually a password for some unknown program.

      I will never forget you spoke. The truth, you see, is rather devastating. Aunty Judy and you were all too right. It's utter gibberish.

      So don't bother trying it, unless you need toothpaste and a dozen eggs.

    2. I think there's a wonderfully surreal piece of fiction in that lot - with a strong whiff of the original Avengers or that thing with Patrick McGuhan (spelling?) that I think was called The Prisoner and was filmed in Portmeirion.

    3. McGoohan [I thought it was but double-checked]. Thinking about those words later, they were keywords after all, and I did recall a surprising amount of the dream after a while as a result of them. So it does work to some extent. Yes, it was surreal. If I try writing it down now I'd probably inject imagination into it as well, newly created 'memory' – so I won't. No point in my writing fantasy [unless clearly identifiable as such].


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