Cruising into east London for a birthday bash last weekend, I was ready for an unofficial national pastime – boozing down the pub. Arriving fashionably late, dusk had well and truly settled on the bicycle-filled, skinny jeans-littered streets of Shoreditch.
Pushing through to the darkened interior, I thought I was witnessing the beginning of a new, uber-pretentious trend: the lights were off. Candles flickered in tumblers on the tables and in alcoves, the only light visible was the green Emergency Exit sign. Navigating the standing revellers to find my friends – and a drink – was no mean feat.
It was all very atmospheric and reminded me of rampant teenage house parties when you’d turn down the lights to make your parents’ house look less like – well, your parents’ house. But in reality I hadn’t stumbled onto a deliberate attempt at cool. They’d just had a power cut.
Conveniently the tills were still connected so the pints continued to flow – but as the barman remarked while I was waiting to pay, “It must have been s**t in the old days.” Blunt but he was right.
Weirdly this is something I find myself doing often, comparing today to a vague point in the past roughly a hundred, maybe two hundred years ago, long enough for the mists of time to make life seem exotic. (Though according to my boss I’d only have to go back to the early 70s and the three day week to get a taste of darkness!).
My childhood habit of sneaking a torch under the duvet so I could read way past bedtime would have been impossible. For the drinkers amongst us, getting home after an all-nighter at the local would have been a nightmare – a bike ride down a pitch-black country lane or a stumble through dodgy streets? No thank you very much.
And transport is one area of life where we’ve reached the point we’re so reliant on electricity, a shortage or short-circuit can ruin our day to day existence. Last Wednesday we saw another power cut strike in Knightsbridge and Victoria – including Knightsbridge tube station.
The trains themselves have their own power source which was working. The problem was everything else: the ticket offices and computers had no power, there was no juice to get people down the escalators to the platforms.
What a world we live in. The slightest hitch can throw our lives out of whack. Perhaps we should brace ourselves for more of the same, if the blackout warnings from the head of Ofgem’s Alistair Buchanan and others are to be believed.
Oh well. At least if we’re in the pub when it happens, we’ll be able drown our energy sorrows in the bottom of a beer glass.