We have spent the best part of this week unexpectedly camping in our lakeside retreat. A ‘super storm’, with winds of up to 135 km/h, hit NSW with a vengeance. It toppled trees, hurled branches through the air and caused water levels to rise alarmingly quickly. Around 230,000 homes were left without power. For days.
Ours went in the early hours of Tuesday morning. At first, we treated the situation like your average power outage: we tried not to open the fridge and freezer to keep things cool; we heated water and cooked simple food on a camping gas stove (you know, one of those little ones you can pop in a backpack for adventures in the wilderness). Come 5 pm when the light started to fade, we rummaged around for our motley collection of candles. And us girls went without a bath or shower, although Daddy Ickle braved the cold water.
But, as time without electricity continued, our approach had to step up a gear. We wheeled our trusty gas-fired barbie to the side of the house, where it would be sheltered from the elements; our neighbour lent us an ancient Primus stove, wrapped in yellowing newsprint, which hadn’t seen action for years. Wanna know what the headline was on 11 August 1978? “Union Bans Shut TAB Agencies.” Nope, I didn’t think so. But it worked like a dream. They don’t make things like they used to.
Our fridge became a cupboard as we migrated perishables to the rapidly-defrosting freezer to keep them chilled a little longer. And we invested in a few more chunky candles to light our way in the inky-black evenings. The car doubled up as a phone and iPad charger, although by this stage reception was patchy and Internet non-existent. And Mr Primus hooked up his generator so the girls could enjoy a warm bath.
The house was turning into a bomb site, with strange growths in the carpet and laundry heaped in every corner. And, much as I love camping, my enjoyment of our holiday at home was starting to wear a bit thin.
Finally, on the evening of Day 3, lights started to appear in homes along our street. Not ours, alas. We had to sit tight until 3.30 pm the next day before our power came back on. That’s 108 long hours without it. And, as I write this, Mr Primus, along with thousands of others, is still waiting for his current to be connected. A tree took out his mains cable; a giant gum split in half like a matchstick by nature’s frenzy.