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Hell-Dunkel January 9, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings (in Berlin, unless the world is linked in more intricate ways than I realised), did anyone else have their power cut yesterday? I was sitting playing on my laptop and all of a sudden its screen went dimmer and all the lights went out – you get that with power-cuts – but I didn’t think it was anything unusual and just assumed the Russian had turned the electricity off because he felt like drilling a random hole in the wall. But then I heard inquisitive and mystified fiddling with the fuse-box and then I could hear the shuffling indignation of the whole street with the smacking of lips and sighing of sighs.

And it was, initially, lovely. When I was a slip of a thing in London, we had power-cuts all the time. I can’t remember if it was anything to do with the miners’ strike, my parents not paying the bill or just England being the third world. And it was bliss. And we never had any candles. Or a torch. So I can’t remember what we used to do. Peer at each other a lot and tell stories, no doubt. But that was in the days before the candle revolution, and now surely no good home is ever to be found without at least 4000 spare candles (or at least those little tea-lights) and the Russian was soon depositing candles at vantage points around our powerless abode.

Our street was beautifully quiet. It was the closest I’ve got to the Sahara. I remembered a conversation I’d had with an American gent in Paris who’d travelled to all sorts of queer places – I think it was Honduras. Or maybe Portugal – where there was no electricity in the evening and it was all darkness and peace (apart from the blood-curdling screams of people being murdered left, right and centre. But APART from that…). I went out to enjoy the silence on the balcony but then had to hurry back in as all the neighbours had had the same idea and I was worried I might have to engage with one or more of them in conversation. “Well, what a thing!” I thought to myself. “Isn’t this lovely! Who needs electricity after all!” And then I quite fancied surfing the net, but couldn’t. And fancied a cup of tea. But couldn’t. And then I worried that the chicken and the beef in the fridge would go off if this lasted much longer. And then worried that life must have been awfully dark and unhealthy whenever it was that electricity hadn’t been invented by – 1963, I think – and was grateful for mankind’s recent resourcefulness.

“Hm, so what to do now?” I wondered, the novelty having worn off after about seven minutes. By rights I probably ought to have tried to negotiate a bit of the other with the Russian. But then my body tricked me into thinking it was the middle of the night with all the darkness and silence – admittedly our street is normally dark and silent by about 8pm anyway – so I curled up with my duvet for the night. I jolted awake when all the things whirred back into life at some point later. And sleepily turned them back off when I realised it had the cheek to be after 10.

Naturally I fished out the typewriter and have typed my Reklamation-letter ready for the first post this morning.



1. MountPenguin - January 9, 2007

Here on the ‘Berg (that’s the “Mount” in MountPenguin btw) the electrons were flowing all evening. I suspect either the dastardly Belarussians had something to do with it, as they’ve been cutting (or threatening to cut) all sorts of energy supplies recently, or it’s the fault of all that Ökostrom, which is 15% wind energy, 19% decomposing unsold cheesecake and pretzels, and 66% little fieldmice working their tiny feet off on little treadmills, which is the cause of chaff and other fragments of vegetable matter entering the electricity system. This accumulates in the nooks and corners of substations, and tends to catch fire every now and again, shorting out the supply.

2. pleite - January 9, 2007

Aber what’s the Penguin, or is that top secret? Or is Prenzlauer German for penguin without me realising?

Of course I wondered whether it might have anything to do with the Russia-Belarus thing. But then reports are claiming there’s plenty of spare whatever-it-is-that’s-been-turned-off in stock for months ahead. Was there an important-to-Germany TV programme on yesterday and did all Pankowers go and turn their kettles on simultaneously during the half-hour ad-break?

3. Daggi's got a whistling kettle on the gas (which doesn't whistle) - January 9, 2007

I think the turning-on-the-kettles-after-the-Queen’s-speech/ during-the-half-time-in-the-world-cup-final/
after-Dirty-Den-gets-shot-and-thrown-into-the-canal-thing is very British. Unless there are more “English by tea” language schoolettes in Pankow than we know about.

4. bowleserised - January 9, 2007

Maybe it was this.

5. Daggi's got a whistling kettle on the gas (which doesn't whistle) - January 9, 2007

Half of that has vanished: note – no German-style long words in wordpress please.

6. Daggi - January 9, 2007

Ah, you’ve fixed it with some clever spaces. Well done.

7. pleite - January 9, 2007

Daggi, nothing a bit of fiddling around by me afterwards can’t cure. But, yes, I don’t know why wordpress eats half of long words. Anyway, hopefully I’ll catch some neighbours being indignant about what a Schande and how inconvenient it all was on the stairs and the mystery will be solved.

B., I must admit I did rather brazenly have the TV on in the background even though I was utterly consumed with – no doubt – blogging at the time, so maybe I overloaded something or other and plunged the whole street into darkness. Maybe I will get to go to German prison – and thus learn the language – after all…

8. pleite - January 9, 2007

Daggi, we overlap! Yes, but you think wordpress would have just dropped half onto the next line rather than hiding it. Maybe I’ll jam their switchboard.

9. MountPenguin - January 9, 2007

The very-long-Daggi-words were hiding beneath the right-hand menu, more a layout problem than the fault of WordPress (which probably doesn’t know how much screen space it will be outputting in).

I believe there is some CSS trickery (“overflow” or something like that) which can force them out of hiding, but it is probably more trouble than it is worth.

10. pleite - January 9, 2007

Penguin, oh gosh, I might not dare get involved in fiddling with anything whose name is letters. Although I’m glad the right-hand menu took Daggi’s words under their wing, rather than destroying them altogether, and they yielded to my coaxing without a hint of protest. All’s well that ends well.

(Just got some spam which made it through. Livid. And hoping I won’t have to resort to whatever the wordpress equivalent of word verification is.)

11. Geoff - January 9, 2007

Powercuts can be lovely. I was in Ibiza a couple of years ago in a little bar high up in old walled city, and the power went out across the whole island at about midnight – from where we should have been able to see half way across the island but instead the only lights were the boats in the harbour.

So we sat by the walls enjoying the silence by the light of a candle, drinking lots of free beer (the english owners couldn’t open the till with the power off, so they decided not to charge us) and then staggered home in the pitch black through the confusing and winding lanes of the old town. We should have more power cuts. Darkness and silence are undervalued.

12. BiB - January 9, 2007

Hm, Geoff, doesn’t work so well in Berlin in January where the only lights were my mobile phone and the ever-dimmer laptop screen. I see now with blinding clarity that I can’t move to the coast soon enough. Is there nothing the coast can’t improve?

13. wyndham - January 9, 2007

Over here we’ve been warned to look forward to more regular power cuts in the summer thanks to glabal warming and an apparent overheating of circuits or somesuch. Last summer I had the first taste of it when we were turfed out of a rather nice pub in Fitzrovia at about 5.50 – PM, I might add – because the power failed and the beer will have instantly turned into poison because of the lack of electricity keeping it cold. I told the landlord that warm beer was a characteristic of the green and pleasant land we live in but, despite a brief tussle over the pumps, it was no good – we were told to go home.

14. Blonde at Heart - January 9, 2007

I like powercuts. It is always an experience. Last time it happened I just moved to the dorms. It was a very interesting experience, I can tell you.

15. pleite - January 10, 2007

BaH, gosh, being welcomed to your new home in darkness is a bad omen. It was all planned to remind you that university is going to be more work than play!

Wynders, thrown out of a pub! At 5.50pm! The shame of it. Although I’m glad it at least came to tussles, though not fisticuffs. Presumably the landlord was Australian if he was unwilling to serve you tea-temperature beer. Honestly, I do wish immigrants would integrate. Germans can hardly tell I’m a foreigner. I’m always dripping in beer and sausage.

16. Marsha Klein - January 10, 2007

There was a power cut in some parts of Edinburgh last night (not with us but a friend of my daughter’s rang to see if we still had power as her street was out).
I fear the Klein family would not last long without electricity, although the gas cooker would allow my husband to continue to produce the gallons of tea on which he apparently runs, as the children would have no TV/internet/audio access and murder would probably result. You’re right about candles though – if the girls and I lit all the candles we variously possess, the house would be visible from space. Probably.

17. pleite - January 10, 2007

Marsha, thank you. I have audibly laughed. (I can’t write ‘laughed out loud’ – OK, I just have – in case you mistake me for a 9-year-old.) Presumably you and your daughters have also just received another 700 candles and candle-holders for Christmas too, so you could cook on those if push really came to shove.

Life without the internet is hardly worth living. The internet actually IS my life. And I am known to go on murdeorus rampages, laying waste to whole regions of Germany, the moment I am without it. Thankfully, lack of internet is always seen as a mitigating circumstance in German courts of law. I get off with a slap on the wrists each time.

18. Marsha Klein - January 10, 2007

Gald to have made you laugh. Your blog has often cheered me up and made me laugh, so I’m pleased to be able to return the favour. Candles have become the new unremarkable but inoffensive gift of our times (a bit like soap-on-a-rope in the 1970s). I remember getting multiple tins of talcum powder in my teenage years (from relatives obviously unsure about what was an appropriate present for a teenage girl). Nowadays, the same girl would get candles. Our own Christmas was mercifully candle-light (ha, ha – did you see what I did there?)

I completely concur with your sentiments about the internet and its importance to life. If I couldn’t get access to the internet at work, I think I’d be forced to resign. I’d far rather spend my day “chatting” on the various blogs I read regularly, than doing my boring admin. job. There, I’ve said it. I do worry though, that my devotion to the internet, and the blogosphere in particular, makes me an unworthy waste of space. Oh well, what the hell. At least it controls my murderous impulses.

19. pleite - January 10, 2007

Marsha, I was thinking about those soap-gifts recently. Yes, candles have completely supplanted them, haven’t they? In my youth, we used to give our teachers – almost all female – soap and the other children a million bars of chocolate stuffed into a seethrough stocking-shaped thing.

I don’t think I was ever such a TV addict as I am an internet addict. And when I am bollocked for it – by the Russian, mainly – I always point out that at least it’s more interactive and doey than TV. Anyway, I need to be online for work. Not that I’m working this instant, but how can I INSTANTLY take up my next work-offer if I’m not sitting here (blog-surfing) waiting for when it comes through?

…and aren’t you working for your hubby at the moment? He should be happy to have you there and pay you for that alone. My sister (in Scotland – is this a Scottish tradition?) was working for her husband and then the company started having money troubles and she wasn’t even getting paid. At least it was one boss she wasn’t scared to tell where to stick it!

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