Sunday, 10 February 2013

by candlelight

we had a power cut last night. It started early evening, when the rugby was on, and people had come in from whatever they were doing and had started cooking and generally using power. It is a shortage of capacity at peak times, not the first time it has happened - you switch something on, the trip goes and then there is no power until - well, until it comes back. Which, this morning, it has. Last time, also on a very cold day as yesterday was (and today is too) we got candles, and put them where they could easily be found. I even (which I had forgotten I had done) put in with the candles a little cigarette lighter I had found on the tram. How organised is that? Anyway, we had some marinated magret de canard, which at least did not have to be cooked, but it was a very modest dinner indeed. I had thought, as we had both done so well with our weight loss, we could permit ourselves a baked potato each, but no chance. I can remember the power cuts of the early 1970s, and we had candles then, and I think an oil lamp. I was a student then, and lived in a hall of residence which had its own generator, so did not notice much. Also, all that happened back then was that the telly went off. These days we depend much more on electricity. Sig other and I were both greatly concerned that, in the brief interludes when power was back, our phones should charge. He was following the football on his phone, and I was looking at Facebook. For a while I read a physical book by candlelight, which was OK. But we could not, much, go on line, and both felt a bit bereft. Home wifi of course disappears quite quickly once the router box has no power, so you are dependent on your phone for access to the world. While your phone still has battery life. And I have an iPhone 3 (yes I know, how charmingly retro of me) whose battery life is quite frankly shite. I have to take the charger to work with me and keep the phone charging under my desk, or it will not last the day.

France has nuclear power, and depends on it quite a lot, but less than it did. Our local power station, Fessenheim in Alsace, is set for closure at some point, though the government, which included closure in its election campaign, is rowing back on that, as well it might. Because reduction of dependence on nuclear means lack of capacity. We already buy electricity from Germany, in this part of France, and France as a whole sells electricity to the UK. I support nuclear power, but as part of a package of power sources, including wind and wave as well as solar in the sunnier places. Cyprus hardly has a roof without a solar panel on it. Here in Alsace, where the sun hardly ever shines, there would be less point. When we bought our place here it was inspected as part of the compulsory environmental impact assessment, and we were told that it scored quite low, because the long rather cold winters in Alsace mean that carbon consumption is always going to be quite high. We are always warm, because unlike in the UK the windows actually fit and do not let the wind blow in. We have building heating, so all ten apartments in our building have the same heating source, which is fuel oil. It comes on in late September and goes off usually in early May.

Last night we wanted to check and see if there were many power cuts locally - but how to do that? Computer not working, TV not working, radio not working, phones only kind of working. In the 1970s we waited until the next morning and bought the newspaper. On paper. Oh, but here they are currently on strike. Newsstands empty. Ah well.

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