I do not want to say that we have become a nation of whingers. But watch out. We are getting very close.

In the “olden days” (I am 76) we were not tougher, we were not faster, we were not as knowledgeable, but when the going got tough we made do. If it was a simple matter, I really think we whinged less.

This is exemplified in the current fuss about “blackouts”. In this I am excluding the business sector. I am talking about home life.  There seems to be an assumption, even at this time of threatening climate change, that access to cheap power 24 hours a day is tantamount to an inalianable human right.

There are not many people left in Sydney who would remember the blackouts at peak hours that we had there in the late 40s and early 50s before the Snowy Mountains Scheme got underway. They occurred almost every night. They were a nuisance but we made do. And people became very inventive. Mothers would be saying to their children “Do your homework whilst it is still light. You know how slow it is to do it by candle light!”

People got inventive with food that did not need cooking. Fridges stayed firmly shut when the lights went out so as to minimise loss of cold. Even children put on or took off clothes in the cold or heat. And once the lights went out we played word games, made up jokes, went to bed early and got up at sunrise. This was on the Australian coastline in Sydney where temperatures, both hot and cold, remain manageable all year round. My comments do not extend to some Australian inland areas although I have also “survived” and occasionally enjoyed blackouts in Broken Hill.

In recent years I have experienced the occasional blackout. These have occurred because of power line outages. The longest was five days. The others were all more than a few hours and went overnights. But they were easier to manage these days. I boiled water for the unmissable early morning beverages on the barbecue. We cooked on the barbecue. We used candles and a daughter in law showed me how to make a display with tea light candles that far outdid any electric light in style! The grandchildren even enjoyed the blackout, despite the fact their devices ran out of charge. I managed to keep my phone charged by keeping it only for phone calls for the duration and the local shopping complex provided some charging points.

Currently the talk seems to be around air conditioning. To me it seems logical that at times when power is low these absolute luxuries should be turned off unless there are exemptions for the very needy. And these are few and far between in our climate. We are neither on the Sahara nor in Iceland. It is not hard to get under a blanket – or even better under a doona – not yet invented in the 40s.

I will admit that living alone, as I now do, it is less pleasant not to have access to a device, a TV or even a book for leisure or entertainment, but the battery operated radio (of which one of my grandchildren asked “is that called a relic”) is a good companion. It is, like a battery operated torch, a good thing to have handy in a house for an emergency such as bush fire danger or the need for blackout information or mere amusement.

I am not saying that blackouts are not a problem for businesses, for transport, for hospitals and for emergency services, some of which have their own emergency generators.

But peak hour blackouts in the average family home, whilst annoying, are not the end of the world.

There is a lot of discussion about our poor children and how much they should be “banned” from their devices in case they get addicted to them or are not engaging in other activities as did children before IT.

I suggest adults apply the same logic to blackouts!


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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