I can't remember when it was that we actually got onto the power grid, down on the farm in the old days. I was probably still quite a little kid but I do have clear memories of the days before that when power came from the generator in the shed, and if something went wrong with the generator then it was back to kerosene lamps and candles. (And, if it was winter, open fires in the bedrooms and hot-water bottles in the beds, though I think we had those anyway.) Traditionally when the generator went cattywumpus we all sat round the kitchen table in the soft lamplight and played board games.
Given that the farmhouse was three miles from the township and a mile from the next farmhouse, we were a little island of light in a sea of darkness, unless of course there was a moon, or someone drove up the road past our gate and we watched as the headlights approached and then receded. My folks could usually tell who the driver was by the sound of the engine, the direction the car was travelling in, and the time of night. And I now know from experience that you internalise that kind of early security and carry it with you for the rest of your life.
What is it that has me musing on these bygone idylls? Why, the fact that Adelaide broke two more heat records over the last 24 hours, including Hottest March Night On Record (it didn't get below 30 degrees last night) and the power supply is being tested to its limits. There was a stressed-looking woman on the teeve tonight (though everyone in Adelaide is stressed-looking at the moment, so perhaps that's not relevant) from ETSA saying she thought that although the power supplies have held up amazingly so far, sooner or later all the aircon being left on all night -- few Adelaide houses are currently habitable without doing this -- was going to blow up something important and the power outages would start.
So I hope my fellow Adelaideans all know where the torches and the candles are and can find them in the dark when the lights go out. Last time I lost power here I set up five or six candles at different heights on the lounge-room table and sat there reading by candlelight. It was eerie and beautiful, with its interlocking circles of soft silver-gilt light, and most of all it was astonishingly peaceful and restful. I'm almost looking forward to a power cut so I can sit in the candlelight again, think of my late lamented Ma, and feel as though I'm pushing back the dark.