OK, it wasn’t a zombie apocalypse. It was a power cut. But as a fan of The Walking Dead, it felt like a similar sort of thing (minus the zombies). So let’s call it the Adelaide Apocalypse.
The Adelaide Apocalypse was triggered by a storm of astonishing strength and plunged our isolated Australian country house into the medieval ages for a whole long weekend. I was the only one home.
I like to think of myself as a very un-lonely person. If I’m in the country, I can go ages with zero human contact. Only recently, I was alone in the woods of Pennsylvania for three weeks straight and I didn’t once feel lonely. Not even a tiny bit.
What I have learnt from the Adelaide Apocalypse is that I am only un-lonely so long as I have electricity. You’re not really alone, I discovered, until you have to sit in the dark with nothing for entertainment but your own thoughts.
And I’m exactly the sort of person for whom this is terrifying; mainly because my brain goes ‘harharharhar… I’ve been waiting for this’ and starts reading out my long but usually well-hidden Worry List.
Why did you do that weird thing in 2009? Why did you not do that really important other thing in 2014? How old do you reckon you’ll be when you die? You’ll probably die in your early 40s from cancer and ruin your children’s lives. But then again, you might not even have children. You might wind up a spinster. Would that be better or worse? I wonder what happened to that EgyptAir flight. Why haven’t they found the black box yet? What happens if you wake up one day and you’re suddenly shit at writing? You’ll probably have to start working in a pub. And good luck with that because you’ll never master that holding-four-plates-at-once thing. No tips for you. But then, English people are too mean to tip anyway. Are you sure you want to live in England? And so on and so forth.
Before I know it, I’m shivering, working in a pub, living in a shed, about to die young and childless.
It only took about four hours for the conveyor belt of household computers to grind to a halt as their collective batteries drained and my world got quieter and quieter.
Then it got dark. Darker and darker.
The lights were off. The fridge was off. The freezers were off. The microwave was off. The oven was off. The toaster was off. The kettle was off. The landline stopped working. My phone died. All the plug sockets were obsolete.
Hilariously, the one thing that did continue to work extremely well was the fire alarm.
There was no fire, of course. On the contrary; the sky was dark, the relentless rain was hammering hard against the glass walls, and the freezing operatic wind was hurling heavy garden furniture down the hill outside. I’ve never seen a storm like it.
Something, however, triggered the fire alarm, which wailed and screeched for hours on end until I managed to turn it off.
It was pitch black, you see, and the reset button was somewhere on the highest point of the ceiling, located nearly 10ft off the ground. I’m only 5ft 9in.
But I sort of got used to the screeching after a while. I almost preferred the noise to the silence. Less worrying about working in a pub and living in a shed.
Then came the flood.
I’d managed to anaesthetise myself into a light sleep by way of red wine, but awoke sometime around 2am to find my bedroom carpet soaked, and upon lighting several dwindling candles with the last of the matches, a little green frog hopping around, evidentially having a great time.
At this point I thought perhaps I’d gone mad.
A feathery layer of mould had already crept its way up the walls of the wooden doll’s house in the corner.
And there was a fucking frog inside! It was all starting to feel a bit Alice in Wonderland.
‘Sod all this’, I thought as I lay blinking into the ether and waiting for the sweet release of sleep, ‘I’m driving into town as soon as the sun comes up. I’ll go to Jeanie’s house.’
The sun came up, and so did the recollection that my phone was dead and thus my Google Maps. There was no way on earth I’d know how to get from here to Jeanie’s house – an hour’s drive away – without a phone or Google Maps.
And yes, I know how pathetic that is. Guilty millennial, as charged.
But at least the sun was up, somewhere under those rolling black clouds, and I was no longer taking my vision for granted.
Generally, my favourite thing to do when at a loose-end is to write, but I couldn’t do that on my laptop of course, and it’s been far too long since I’ve written pen-to-paper at length. The muscles are slack and I can’t get sentences out fast enough.
So I read bits of books from around the house and at one point got so bored (and missed music so much) that I picked up a guitar and tried to become a guitar player. No such luck.
By the end of day two, I narcissistically started worrying that other people would be worrying about my wellbeing.
So I pulled on a ski jacket and some boots and trudged down the stormy dirt road to find the nearest house. I reasoned (correctly) that other people might have generators, and thus a working phone.
As it turned out, none of my inner circle had even noticed that I’d been in a communication blackout for 48 hours, eating cereal from the box, rationing candles, a bit drunk, worrying about working in a pub and living in a shed.
But the nice-man-who-lives-down-the-road assured me that the power company had promised restoration within the next 24 hours, so I just went home and waited. And he was right.
I was sitting on the sofa alongside Mrs Perdita Shrimpton (dog) with my needle and thread doing my tapestry of a fox (in true medieval style) when wrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
The whole house churned back into action. Beep beep, went the landline. Click flash, went the lamps. Hum Hum, went the fridge.
And just like that, my life was completely normal again and I wasn’t in the least bit lonely.
So I dedicate this post to electricity.
Probably – in fact definitely – the most important materialistic thing in my life.