I may be some time

Being cut off from the grid for a stretch of time is inconvenient in any situation. If you are working freelance from home, it can also become quite tricky to keep your business running. As we are recently experiencing unusually harsh weather conditions in the UK, it seems a good time to become more prepared for such events.

When we had a power cut that lasted for around 51 hours following a storm last autumn, I was unable to do my normal work and quite surprised how little I actually could do at all. I made a promise to myself to be better prepared next time and to implement emergency measures as soon as we were back on the grid. So, four months later – are these measures in place? Well, let me start at the beginning.

It started in the morning. My other half was already out of the house. He’d had a hot shower and a coffee, and I was just about to make my first cup, when the lights went out. At first I thought the power cut would only last for a little while, perhaps a couple of hours. Still, I needed a coffee, so I went to get our camping stove and the gas bottle we had left from our last camping trip. Luckily there was enough gas to boil the water for that all important first cuppa in the morning.

I sat in the kitchen with my cup and read the papers, then the magazines from the professional bodies I belong to. This was great, because I usually never get round to do this thoroughly. I checked my emails on my smart phone to see if anything urgent was waiting for my attention. The battery was running low, so I had to be quick. I noticed an enquiry and texted the client to say that I would get back to them as soon as we had our power back and give them a proper quote. Then the phone went dead.

As the day went on, I realised that this situation could last a little longer than usual and that I had to do something about it. It is amazing how much we rely on electricity for almost everything we do without giving it a second thought. No electricity meant in our case (as we don’t have gas): no heating, no hot water, no stove, no kettle, no light, no phone, no internet, no nothing. Brilliant.

But there were a few things I could try:

1. Dig out the old analogue phone. Fortunately we still had the old analogue phone that we used before we switched to wireless and digital. When I plugged it in, I already felt a little less cut off. At least people could reach me now, and I could reach them.

2. Go online via mobile broadband. Or so I thought. Here’s a tip: if you do have a mobile broadband stick and haven’t used it for some time, check it before they announce bad weather on the news. Make sure it has some funds on it to buy your online time (mine had) and that it is still registered (mine wasn’t). I could not re-register my mobile broadband stick because – ta-dah! – I could not go online, so that was that.

3. Use the good old dial-up method. Remember how we used to log on to the internet before we had broadband? Unfortunately I didn’t have the right cable anymore, but even if I had, I would have needed a number to start the dial-up connection. As it was, I could not even look it up on my oh-so-smart phone because the battery was flat.

In the end, I gave up trying to access the internet and instead drove to my mum-in-law for a cuppa and a chat and a warm shower, charging up my mobile phone as well as my own batteries. Fortunately I did not lose any business during these two days, but I promised myself to be better prepared for the next time and not to fall into the same traps again. Unfortunately it is very easy to take electricity for granted, once you have it back …