While at the hardware store a few days ago, Mr. S mentioned that he had been meaning for a while now to buy a generator. I confess I stared at him blankly for a few seconds while trying to come up with possible reasons as to why we, living just north-west of London and reliably powered by the National Grid, might need a device for generating electricity. The only reason I could come up with, implausible as it seemed, was that Mr. S wanted us to embrace The Good Life. I actually tried the whole self-sufficiency thing once; a summer spent diligently tending my little vegetable patch provided enough potatoes for Christmas dinner; ditto peas. And winter trips to the compost bin quickly got old when they involved cold, mushy, windblown apples squishing through my toes as I felt my way carefully through the dark to the compost bin beyond the apple tree.
Fortunately, before my brain had a chance to go into meltdown trying to picture creature-comfort-loving Mr. S volunteering to live The Good Life, he pointed out that, should we have a really bad snowstorm during winter and loose power for three days, a generator would enable us to survive in some degree of comfort. Now, I had no problem with his reasoning and applauded his foresight. However, I did have a problem with his definition of ‘survive’. You see, generators come in different sizes ranging from small, use-your-power-tools-outside models to the large, light-up-a-small-borough-of-New-York-City versions. So when Mr. S said we needed one to survive the hypothetical, power-outing snowstorm I was naturally leaning towards one of the smaller models. After all, if one is trying to survive being snowed in for three days with no power what exactly are one’s needs?
The survival picture I painted for Mr. S was very Little-House-on-the-Prairie-esque. After closing off most of the house we would camp out in the living room with our duvets, blankets and pillows. A crackling fire in the fireplace, augmented by my plentiful supply of scented candles, would provide both light and heat. We would toast slices of bread, cook sausages and melt marshmallows over the fire while reading books and playing board games. Cosy yet quaint.
Looking slightly aghast at the charmingly romantic scene I had painted, Mr. S then proceeded to list – with detailed, explanatory footnotes (he had obviously given the matter some thought) – the items he considered necessary for a three-day, survive-in-your-own-home jamboree.
- power his (1) computer and (2) modem together with the (3) TV, (4) DVD player and (5) satellite box (the fact that we lose satellite signal in heavy snowstorms didn’t seem to register)
- keep all the gadgets attached to his marine fish tank ticking over
- charge our iPads and iPhones
- maintain heating and lighting in the whole house and be able to cook normal meals
- power the hot water tank so that on-tap, hot water would be available 24/7.
Apparently Mr. S and I are not on the same page when it comes to ‘surviving’.
I was about to argue the point with him when the last school holidays flashed before my eyes with chilling clarity. When she wasn’t proclaiming – in an overly dramatic fashion – that she was bored, Miss S was either glued to the TV watching never-ending episodes of SpongeBob or her Alvin and the Chipmunks DVD (will I ever get those annoyingly high-pitched chipmunk voices out of my head?) or playing games on my iPad. Ditto Mr. S,, although in his case it was a How I Met Your Mother marathon, all six Star Wars DVDs and the online-version of World of Warcraft.
Now picture being snowed in with the two of them for three days and no electricity…
Forget Little House on the Prairie. If I’m going to be snowed in with Mr. and Miss S for three days I need every single mod-con known to man or be driven insane.
Which is why we now have in the garage, a generator capable of lighting a small borough of New York City and I am looking forward, with some enthusiasm, to the first real snowstorm of winter and the hypothetical, three-day power outage. However, Mr. S and I agreed to compromise; just because we can light up the whole house like a Christmas tree doesn’t mean we should (read: don’t want to be invaded by the neighbours). Instead, we decided to limit ourselves to five electrical appliances that we consider essential to survival, bearing in mind that we already have a gas cooker, portable gas heaters and plenty of scented candles so cooking, heating and lighting the house will already be taken care of. Some hardy types might argue that those are the only items really needed for a three-day survival stint but then they have obviously not thought through the repercussions of being holed up with confirmed techno-junkies and no power. So here is the list of electrical appliances our generator will be powering during the hypothetical power-outage:
- Hot water tank
The first two are essential so that Mr. S can keep himself entertained playing computer games and watching TV programmes and movies. The iPad is so that Miss S can watch TV programmes, movies and play games, and once she has gone to bed I can use it to listen to music and update this blog while relaxing in a steaming bath. And the dishwasher? Well, if I need to explain its inclusion on the list you obviously don’t own one.
So while the neighbours huddle together in one room, eating cold baked beans by candlelight and resisting the urge to strangle their offspring for reiterating that they are indeed bored, I’ll be relaxing in a steaming bath, while Miss S watches endless episodes of SpongeBob on my iPad, Mr. S saves the world from computer-generated monsters and the dishwasher murmurs soothingly in the background. Can’t wait!