In the dark


Hygiene standards have improved considerably in modern times so much so that ear wax is going out of fashion. Which leads us nicely to the also nearly extinct item: the humble candle. In olden times all homes were stocked with candles as they were a necessity. You never knew when the next power cut was coming.

Those old power failures, while a boon for adults, were a source of great happiness for the young. With everything on the blink the parents cursed their luck as the TV show they were watching disappeared from the screen. Of course, no catch-up TV was available and the half-missed episode was gone forever until it was repeated on UK Gold thirty years later. I don’t remember that one, would say mum and I’d say we probably had a power cut at the time.

The youngsters, though, cared not a jot for television. We liked the skulking about in the dark. While slightly afraid of the thick darkness there was still a thrill in the air as we basked in the excitement of the gloom. And then the hunt for the candles began. All played under the blanket of pitch black. Then the treasure was found. We had the candles. Oh no, where’s the matches? Striking it lucky, dad would have matches in his pockets. Where they always were.

The wax would be melted onto a saucer to give a foundation for the candle to be stuck onto -These saucers would be used for food at a future date but nobody was looking that far ahead all we wanted was light. And then there was light. We could see our spooky faces hanging over the candlelight. What fun.


There was someone knocking at the door. Much arguing ensued over who was to answer the call. As the males in the house, dad was pressured into going with me at his back. We walked the hall with the glow of the candle casting shadows that formed the shapes of ghouls. We didn’t have a spy hole so we opened the door blindly to the stranger that called.


It was next door’s neighbour asking if we had any spare candles. What a let down. We were expecting an axe murderer. We never get what we want.

The power cut has gone the way of the dodo or has it? I got one the other night. BOOF. Everything conked off. How strange? Using a torch (this is the 21st century after all) I went to the electricity box in the cupboard and flicked the power switch back on. We had suffered a power surge safety cut-off because of the amount of appliances that were on.

TV, computer, laptop, lights, cooker, fridge (that power eater is always on), washing machine, two X-box consoles, CD player, air freshener plugs (it’s a long story about football boots) and phone chargers.

With all that wattage in use it’s a wonder we didn’t blow the power in the whole street. Then the neighbours would come knocking as they do when these things happen. Not for candles, they’d be outside with burning torches and pitchforks.

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15 Comments on “In the dark”

  1. Terrifying stuff! When we moved into our last house on the edge of a village, the power used to go most evenings. We had to venture to the black screech-filled Outside, then down the rickety steps to the scary old cellar with the enthusiastic fuse box in the Very far corner. If George was away, I'd spend the rest of the evening huddled round one light bulb for fear of repeat over-load.

    BUT, in a previous village when the power went, everyone would quickly gather at the Inn, where candles, mulled wine & merriment abounded. And no pitchforks.

  2. Expat Says:

    We were actually in better shape to deal with power cuts in ye olde days because we had coal fires so there was heat and a bit of light and you could boil the kettle. If we lose power for any length of time -fortunately very rare- we're up the creek because we need the pilot light (which depends on electricity) to keep the central heating going. And since we abandoned log fires a few years ago, we don't have that fall back.

    My son and his wife live out in the sticks and have well water. The pump is, of course, electrically driven. They get power cuts every winter that could be for hours and hours. No well, no water. No water, no loo flushing. But they are prepared. First sign if a storm, it's all hands on deck to fill the bath and every avaibale pot and pan.

    They can't complain, though. When Sandy came through, friends in New Jersey were without power for 10 days!

  3. Wow JW, you’ve reminded me of the frequent power cuts in my street when I was a kid – and of other blackouts, like the great London smog of 1952, and the three day working week of 1974.

    The smog was awful. I couldn’t see my outstretched hands and the only way to get to school and back was to feel my way along the fences and walls along the side of the pavement. I lived at number 182 in my street, and I couldn’t see the houses from the pavement! My solution was to feel my way past 90 front garden gates from the beginning of the street, and the 91st was where I lived. Handy that (the maths)…

    And in 1974 we were only allowed to work for three days each week to conserve electricity. But there were some random power outages in the designated working days. I remember visiting a wire drawing factory in Manchester and being shown how heavy metal bars were being lifted by crane from a rail transporter across a marshalling yard and then deposited in front of the wire drawing furnaces. We watched a heavy load swinging high over us when a colleague suddenly exclaimed “Crikey! Thats a crane that uses electro-magnetic lift!”

    Boy, did we run…

  4. Expat Says:

    JW, you do have a way of jogging the memory…..

    My son and his then fiancee decided they wanted to get married in our garden in Pittsburgh, which was huge. It was all arranged – the date, the officiant, the marquees, the caterer, the dance floor, the DJ. Everything was perfect. Even the late May weather cooperated. The ceremony was splendid, the food was lovely, the DJ was great. People were dancing. Yes, perfect. Then the caterer plugged the three catering size coffee pots in and…immediate overload. Musical silence descended. The DJ was dead in the water. The coffee pots had blown the circuits, not that we (in our cups by now) realized the culprit immediately. We blithely ran the cable to the neighbor's exterior socket (he was out) and plugged in. No dice, but we found out the next day that we blew his circuits, too. Dodgy wiring. So the brawny guests hauled the ancient and loud generator out of the garage and set it up and we were back in business. Well, until the police came and shut the DJ down because some miserable git down the road complained about the noise.

    I know now that even household coffee pots draw an awful lot of juice. So, JW, maybe if was the Blue Mountain that tipped you over the edge?

  5. JW10 Says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments about those dark experiences from your memory banks. As far as I can remember we had about 3 or 4 power cuts in olden times. Have fond thoughts of my gran (she stayed with us for all of her lifetime) warning me to keep back from the flame of the candle.

    Expat, how dare you? Blue Mountain coffee? I’m a tea drinker, born and bred.

    Not be long to Christmas. I love Christmas, I really do. Our family is very close and we have a great time. Some folk do go overboard though…
    I’m talking about the lighting decorations. I’ve seen house walls and gardens lit up like Disneyland with all the seasonal accompaniments. How on earth the power doesn’t shut off, I don’t know. It also strikes me as being pretty dangerous. I hope those responsible for the fancy light show have ensured they have a good earth connection.

  6. What a wondrous unforgettable wedding, Expat! (and how are all the neighbours these days)?

    'the great London smog of 1952', CI – surely the inspiration for Stephen King's terrifying story 'The Mist'… and the film with its whack-in-the-guts ending. (I google this was not King's ending, yet he very much approved).
    One can imagine a disparate group stranded in a supermarket by fearsome creatures of the London smog, and very soon allowing their Inner evils to emerge. (Tesco was ever thus).

    Yes, roll on Christmas, JW. George's cake and my pud are festering drunkenly under the stairs. And we've bought a Black tree this year (not diseased, just flutteringly plastic) with LED twinklings. We Like it! Bet it's dead trendy too…

  7. All this talk about Christmas, and it is only 19th November! By my spot-on calculations, that means we have only 39 days to go.

    39 days!!!

    There was a time, long ago, when I would have thought about subtracting the 3 from the 9 to give 6.

    And without the 3, we have 9.

    Even though I rarely mention these things nowdays, the answer is always 69.

  8. And just suppose we had only 36 days to go…

    36 days!!!

    There was a time, long ago, when I would have done the maths in a slightly different way. Which is why I rarely mention these things nowdays.

    But the answer is always 69.

  9. Good god, CI, what a merry tangled web you weave – is there no End to your lunacy?!

  10. Oh dear, Dolores…
    I was hoping nobody would notice that I had miscounted the number of days until Christmas…

  11. Curses!!! 😦
    I've been found out!!!

  12. Expat Says:

    If you include December 19, the day you posted, and exclude December 25, it's 36 to midnight on Christmas Eve.

    And you did say “36 days to go,” the “until” being implied.

    You're off the hook. Consider this my Christmas pressie to you.

  13. JW10 Says:

    Sniff, sniff. I wasn't in at the beginning of the 69 number game. Consider me in a huff with you lot for the now. 96.

  14. Aaaarrrgggghhh – NOT 96!

    Can there have been a Time Before you, JW? It's just too painful to contemplate

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