A Weekend in Hell: Boredom and Blackouts

Fallen Pylon

Scotland bore the brunt of the vile Siberian weather sweeping off the steppes this weekend.  Power went out mid-afternoon on Friday, and I blithely thought they would get it get all sorted out in a few hours.. So, as my lovely heat escaped, and it became unbearable to stay awake, I decided to hibernate. Woke up on Saturday, expecting a cheerful red light on the bedside radio. No such luck, but I got up anyway, wrapped in all the layers of clothing I had, and walked up, down, and around the flat in an effort to stop the blood congealing in my veins. Back to bed not long after, since that was the only practical way of keeping warm. Woke up on Sunday – ditto – except that instead of walking about indoors, I walked into town to see what was happening. Surprisingly, Tesco had power and was open, so I dived in for warmth and something to eat. The place was packed with panic buyers, stocking up as if the end of the world was imminent. My flat was positively balmy after the wind chill outside, enough to rip your face off, and I stayed comfortable enough to read for a while before retreating back to bed. Then, about 5:30, that beautiful red light on the bedside radio!

A horrible experience. I had enough to eat, but no way of making hot food or drink, and I fantasised about wrapping my hands round a steaming mug of strong tea.

Thing is, you can only sleep so much, and then it becomes like a fever dream of tossing and turning, interspersed with actual vivid dreams. Too cold to read, difficult to think because the cold numbs your mind as well as your body, so no consolation in mental distraction. That and the equally mind-numbing boredom.  “Know thyself,” the philosophers say, well I’ve about had it up to here with me.

It used to be that we had the skills and technology to get through extreme weather like this. Most people had proper fireplaces, you could chop wood to keep warm, cook a hot meal, brew up some tea, stay warm. Now we’re so addicted to centralised technology that we’ve become infantilised. Who now has a working fireplace? We can only hope they will somehow fix things so we can keep on living. That adds up to a lot of power in the hands of those who deal in energy and infrastructure, and while we lead better lives, the hidden cost is independence.  I’m grateful to them in weather like this, but the deal looks a bit dodgy from this perspective.

Zen and the Art of Recycling

I’m all in favour of recycling as much stuff as possible. I’m also lazy. Given that the nearest recycling bins are behind Tesco, five minutes walk from the flat, this means I recycle assiduously but none of it gets turned back into useful materials.

As part of my Yuletide present to the world…no, that’s not true. Because someone is coming over tomorrow to look at my leaky shower, and the rotting boards beneath, I decided to have a purge of the accumulated recycling, which covered almost half the floorspace in the bedroom.

I’m brilliant at making plans, scheduling things, making charts and timetables. Think of me as Arnold Rimmer, with his revision plan for the astronavigation exam. My plan involved getting up 6:00 am, taking all the recycling out in the morning, and having a thorough clean-up of the flat in the afternoon.

It did not turn out that way.

I slept late, faffed away the morning, and didn’t get out with the first load until early afternoon. Six loads later – 28 plastic bags full of tin cans and milk jugs, plus a little paper and glass – and the afternoon gone. Still most of the paper left.

You know, I learned something today, in my best Stan Marsh voice. It’s not what you do, but how you do it that matters. First trip out was horrible, gale force gusts of wind from the loch, so the milk jug bags were like sails holding me back – three men overboard and I didn’t go back to rescue them. I chose a different route next time. Even so, I was sliding into a fetid mood. But a startling thought occurred to me – why not try to enjoy this?

Which meant not rushing, walking at a steady pace, paying attention to my surroundings, and being one with moment. Well, no, didn’t manage the last bit, but I did focus on the act, and listened to the clank of the cans and crash of the glass. I tried to be there, rather than furiously thinking of something else in the hope that the present task would magically go away. Sometimes it worked.

And then it got dark. In Tesco afterwards, there was a child singing Jingle Bells on a loop, which gave me a warm feeling, while at the same time being glad I wasn’t her dad.

I’ll put the remaining paper in the trash.

For no other reason than I like it, here’s the Arnold Rimmer song.