Sunday, November 11, 2012

power crazy...

Being with no electricity for a week, forces you to go through enough fuel for the generator that’d bring the Americans to the table. I’m not so sure that I have nothing to do with the fuel shortage in Kisongo.

No. It must be the government. 

As you fire up “the genni” (as the generator is fondly referred to) you’re really envious of people who were sensible and invested in an inverter. Like the Bells and the Bakers.  A quiet, clever, ecologically sound, technologically appropriate (powered by solar panels,) little power box, it simply clicks on the moment the power goes off, as naturally as you blink your eyes. You wouldn’t even know the switch over had happened. It’s that efficient. It’s such a superior choice - more expensive in the short term, precociously cheaper in the long term. Why wouldn’t you?  Quite.

You’ve just stepped into the shower, soaped up your face, when BOEM. Power failure. “Fuggitfuggitfuggitfuckintanzania,” you roar, with soap in your eyes as you grope for the taps. Then grope like a blind person to find a towel. Continue groping your way around the house trying desperately to remember where you left your Nokia phone, not called a katochi for nothing, trying to hang onto The Right Frame Of Mine by telling yourself to be thankful for your sight because this is what it feels like to be blind. All the time.

At this precise moment, you imagine this would be the moment where you step on a scorpion in the film. Life’s just like that. They are crawling out the cracks in the floor after all the rain. I have killed three in the last two days. And one centipede. A big fat one with a sea glass blue sting and pincers of sci-fi stature. You find your katochi after stubbing toe on corner of dining table. You yell at first born to “Switch off the bloody computer box please!” as it bleeps mournfully into a powerless night. “I can’t see ma!” “No shit Sherlock. fuggitfuggitfuggit.Stay where you are kids! Scorpions, remember? Jesus effing christ…” The world is eerily illuminated by your katochi.  You ignore the beeping (and obviously the imminent threat of a scorpion sting) and step out into the courtyard, unlock the padlock by vague moonlight forgetting star gazing, a thing of the past,  hold the Katochi in your mouth because you need two hands for this operation (which goes qwreqwjfhaowiuer0w8uer0uwkjdnfowiue because your teeth are biting on the keyboard. You just hope you’re not dialing Hong Kong by mistake). You twiddle all the knobs and switches and pull the genni into life. You can do this with your eyes closed. You feel like a totally tough and capable cowgirl who could run a 500 000 acre ranch on the Rio Grande single handedly. A total Camel man, in fact. You feel satisfactorily wide in the shoulders. It’s quite another thing if you have to also refuel the goddamn thing in the dark. You could write a manual on How To Start A Petrol Fountain. There’s more effing and blinding, cursing the government and god and the dogs, just for good measure, as you spill petrol everwhere because you can’t see the fuel tank or the gauge in the dark. By this time, you’ve been connected to the Egyptian president ever since and you no longer have any credit. You are not impressed when first born says “Jeez ma. Calm down. I think you have an anger management problem.” Honestly? Can you frikken believe it? And you’re still in your towel with wet hair and your phone in your mouth.

That’s why, when you see the neighbour’s pretty little inverter twinkling silent lights across the dark thorn filigreed valley as you stand in the courtyard (still with the phone in your mouth wondering whether you truly are the worst most angry insane mother in the world), listening to the throb of your generator, you cannot help feeling foolish for not investing in an inverter.
But at least you have lights.
For a while.

A distant  generator thumping is something else – a childhood music, that far away comforting heart beat sound of light that chases you to bed, because you know it’s going off at ten.  You lie in bed watching a spluttering paraffin lamp and a persistent suicidal moth, so utterly decided on its death. If bashing itself time after time on the glass, like a kamakazi pilot, doesn’t work, we do the “lets fly through the flame of death, then. A few times why not” The candle flickers nonchalantly in the moth's wing torn wake, steadying itself for the next onslaught, perhaps from a Christmas beetle.

When silence settles, night music takes over - crickets tinkling and the sound of wind through the whistling thorns. Which isn’t like you think it is. It’s a very faint hush sound, like someone learning to whistle in a whisper. A generator humming far away takes me to the smell of gun oil, a smoky fire crackling, and the firelight outlining your father’s profile, his eyes distant, as he stares down the barrels this way and that, probably dreaming of hunting days gone by: dust in eyes, white hot days and dried blood on thatch. Or old lovers. I don’t know. I don’t know my father’s dreams. I know he loves dogs. And children. And red wine and Famous Grouse. I know he is kind. More importantly, I think I know he has enough grace not to bind you to him through emotion. Instead it glimmers like light between you.  And never becomes words. Or chains.

Filipo, the electrician fundi extraordinaire who initially laid our underground cable, was called in. He looks like Mr T from the original A Team. But with more chains and much more panache. He’s an electrician for godsakes. He didn't even use divining rods to find the place of error. He walked along the line, which is covered in bush and roads and driveways with cement ramps to help cars up the hill. He stopped here. Cocked his head to the side, hand on chin, eyes narrowed. “Hmmm,” he thought, sunlight twinkling on his gold chains. “Let’s check here.” And so it came to pass that he discovered the road workers had chopped through the protective covering of the cable, and then it rained, and then water got into the wires, backfired into the “power house” (where everyone has their meters) and literally blew all sorts of switches and boxes up with a death laden 440 volts. It also blew up the Baker’s inverter which cost a cool US$ 1,500, which luckily didn’t burn their house down. Isn’t Filipo a whizz? Anyway – the cable has been repaired. With a steel cover, all 10m of it. And power is restored. It’s mostly on now, than off.

We really should invest in an inverter though.

Next time.

Aren’t those stars so pretty? And how the swallows trace and fly and dive after the rain...

Kitchen Board: 11 November 2012

tootdely toot, y'all. bisous. X.X.X. high voltage, electric ones. yeah. x j


Miranda said...

Yes but if you have an inverter and no genni you have to put your meat in your neighbour's fridge coz inverters can't run fridges....

beatifully written as ever chicka

Mud said...

Writing this in a dark house, due to the fact that the 'Vietnamese are moving the powerlines' meaning we have no power from 6am to 6pm for the next month. And only erratic electricity at other times - I FEEL YOUR PAIN!

Bought a genni for the office this morning, but on candles and headtorches at home. And why is it that the power ALWAYS goes out the moment I step into the shower and lather up? It is a conspiracy.

Janelle said...

ah thanks moelie miranda...howz the power today hey? NOTHING. NADA. TWO HOURS PRECISELY. what an absolute bore...x love j

Mud! I tell ya, it sounds like tanzania. we've had no power all came on around seven..and popped off again at nine..what IS the bloody point? and there are no "power lines" being moved any bloody so tedious. lovely to hear from you though! x love j

JoeinVegas said...

Bit if you had an inverter it might have blown like the Bakers.

Reluctant Memsahib said...

the shitty business of powercuts and generator start ups in dead of night so eloquently, and amusingly, detailed. loved it. x

Alex said...

brilliant as usual. particularly love the bit about your Dad...beautifully written.

and I don't miss things like scorpions coming out of walls and dropping from thatch. no sirreee...X

Family Affairs said...

THANK GOD you can still get blog posts out to the rest of the world that are so gorgeously descriptive that we are there with you.....Lx