Blowing a gale

The middle section of our roof was taken off yesterday as the wind whipped round the house.  By the time I went out to work in the late afternoon the visquene which is keeping us watertight was thrumming in a near gale.  The trees around the house strained at their roots, the yews heaving and twisting, the sycamore lashing, suddenly leafless, in the wind.  The event I was attending was in a church now used for public meetings sometimes and all evening the wind roared above the vaulted roof.  I hoped my roof would still be there when I got home.

When I came out the wind threw itself at me and bundled me down the steps.  I battled along the street to the carpark, the breath pummelled out of my chest, and fell into the car.  It was quiet and still with the door shut, disturbed only by an occasional rocking as the wind buffetted the side of the car. 

I drove home through the whirling dark and was nearly at the bottom of our hill when I rounded a bend to find blue lights flashing.  A big tree had been brought down right across the road and the police were turning people back.  I rang Ian to explain and was told that he was just arriving home and that we had no power.
Much later after a long detour I drove slowly down our drive, the headlights cutting through pitch blackness.  From our house you look out across the valley and you can see five tiny houses scattered along the other side, one directly opposite and the others tucked into the curves of the hillside or in sheltering belts of trees.  You only notice that  there are spots of light from these far neighbours at night when the light disappears: last night there was nothing to be seen against the unseen black hill, just blackness heaving up against the lesser blackness of the sky.

From outside a window was glowing with light. Inside it was too dark to do much.

When you use candles for atmosphere with other light you forget how small the pool of light is that surrounds them.  When candles are the only light it is deeply gloomy.  This isn't enough light to read by or to work by, only enough to sit and talk by.  Turn away from the candles and the room is dark.  Even the stove only glows a dim red.

You can see why people years ago would go to bed early in winter.  In order to make enough light to work by you would need numerous candles, expensive things to the farmers who would have lived here.  I wondered, sitting in the gloom, how many you would need to produce enough to read by and what kind of income you would have needed a couple of hundred years ago to have any chance of affording a well lit house.  There was nothing to do but have a couple of glasses of wine and go to bed with a tiny nightlight in a lantern.  No blogs, no internet, no television.

I would admit to being relieved when the power came back to life in the morning.

It does look beautiful though doesn't it?


  1. Beautiful yes, but disconcerting! Hope your weather is calmer for tonight. :)

  2. Oh no! Hadn't realised the gales were so bad your way. We always fear them here having been on the brunt of both the 1987 and 1991 storms that devastated the south.

    The first time the power was off for 10 days, the second 6 - but we soon seemed to get used to it, and I really enjoyed the community spirit it fostered, whereby those of us with gas, or generators, helped out those with no power with hot food and the like. Some people along the lane had no water either as the pressure is so low, its pumped, and obviously the pumps don't work when the electric is off.

    I was similary thrilled when we had the fuel strikes around here, the roads were empty, and people were out walking/cyclin/riding and connecting far more than when we all hurtle around in our wheeled boxes.

    Again, last winter, with the snow, having to walk through 4 foot of it to the village (2 miles) to get basics as the roads were impassable, it seemed to foster a much more caring and community minded spirit locally.

    I am very keen on the idea of Slow living, and when we do have power cuts we play many old games like dominos and cribbage, chat endlessly, and just spend time together shut up in the sitting room with a roaring open fire, and a few candles - it has a magical quality and makes me think of gentler times.

    Hope you get the cottage fixed soon - so sorry to hear that your beautiful home is damaged


  3. Goodness, yes, I read about the gales in your part of the country! Candles are beautiful when it comes to relaxing, but I agree with you on their lack in an emergency.
    91 miles an hour winds in Snowdonia and peripheries I heard in work today. We got a belting last night too, and it's not normally so bad here in Flintshire.

  4. What a great description. I love being inside, hearing the storm all about. I do have a clip-on, battery powered, book reading light that I wouldn't want to be without. I take it with me when I travel too,so I can read without disturbing others.

  5. Beautiful but not very practical! We once lost power for 3 days, the novelty of candlelight and trying to "cook" on the log burner soon wore off. Glad your power came back on, hope the roof repairs finish without further adventure!


  6. Hi Jinksy - weather is calmer now although just as I finished this post we had a short power cut again!
    Zoe - the roof job is not damage thankfully! we are having the front elevation reroofed and have started a bit late in the season maybe. I agree with you about the way life slows down with a loss of our usual amenities and I like it too when I get into my stride. We are lucky to live in a house and in a way that makes life without electricity actually feasible, if dim!
    Dan - we are Flintshire! on the Clwydian hills. You can't be far away.
    English Rider - I love the idea of the portable light. I would have used one last night for sure!

  7. Oh my goodness, what a night! Yes, I often think what it must have been like without light....very diffrent. Were thankfully very spoiled!

  8. You end on such a gentle note, but really, this is quite a frightening story. I can't bear wind . . . even though compared to what you've had, we've only had a blustery day.

    No wonder that people used to get so much more sleep! No light, no internet. :)

  9. That was good post. I liked the reflection at the end - gentle but bright; like a candle.

  10. Oh I do so hope everything is OK and not too much damage. You describe it so beautifully; yet i know just what these natural disasters are like. Six months before the disastrous gales of 1987, we suffered our own Cotswold phenomena: our factory roof blew off - and the insurance company said we could not claim compensation because the building was facing the wrong way !!! And driving from Surrey to the Cotswolds on the night of 'the storms' (1987), we were for ever making diversions due to power lines down, and police cars everywhere. Young children in the car and we wondering how we would ever reach home. But I think the image that resonates with me most from your post is of candlelight. Not just of last winter when it was -9 for weeks on end, but back in my teenage years (mid-1950s) in Yorkshire, and I tries to study by the light of a single candle, and every morning my satchel was encrusted with candle-wax.

    I just hope you are OK and the damage is not too much - the barometer was almost as low as it has ever been. (952 evidently 'up north', not wuite that here).

  11. I love to hear the wind, but it does make me worry about the damage it may be causing, especially bringing down trees. It's been pretty wild round Derbyshire too, but not as bad as for you I suspect.

  12. It was a pretty wild night. I got candles out thinking the power would certainly go down before the night was out. It didn't though and perhaps that is a good thing. No trees down either.

    Candle light and no power (and the silence that the lack of electricity brings) by choice is lovely but remembering the '3 day week' it can be pretty grim long term.

  13. My parents previous house was on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border on the side of the hill with overhead power cables. They frequently had power cuts in the autumn/winter and so there was a plentiful supply of candles but it was still very dark. The only solution was to go to bed with extra blankets. They also had a small generator but only ran it as and when due to the cost.

    I remember watching Cranford and sister to the Judi Dench character wouldnt let her read in the evening due to the cost of the candles. We do take a lot for granted these days dont we!

  14. It's easy to romanticise power cuts but they were a regular part of life when I was a child and I miss them. Everything has to change in an instant and for those of us who suffer from street lights - we suddenly see stars!

    Reading your post set me thinking of a painting I saw . . . in a book? . . . on television . . . ? of women sewing by candle-light with a glass of water being used to magnify it.

    Hope you don't have to put up with too many of the down-sides of no electricity while it is cold and windy.


    P.S. I've used all my allocation for photos at Pictures Just Pictures so I've moved to Message in a Milk Bottle - and am continuing there.

  15. Su - I think we would really struggle to cook on the woodburner! I have been watching the Edwardian Farm programme and know that our house used to have a large range like that one. Might have been able to do something on that!
    Linda - we are spoiled and we do take it very much for granted don't we?
    Bee - maybe it sounds frightening but it really didn't feel it. I was more apprehensive when I wasn't here and imagining what might be happening than when I was. And yes, I'd get more sleep with no internet!

  16. We were lucky, no power failure yet. No damage to the house either, just a few more branches off the sick horse chestnut.

    Candlelight is fine when you can fall back on electricity; too many evenings are spent with an apprehensive look at the flickering lights when the weather turns to wind and rain.
    Thank God for Agas, at least we have warmth and a stove for cooking.

  17. The best time is when the storm is over . I think we had the same storm in Maine. Thousands were witout power. I am a lucky one, the whole house is on an automatic generator. That didn't stop the up rooted trees. Sorry about your roof. This is a bad time of year to have that happen. Glad you are safe.


  18. I love candle light, oil lamps, etc. But not so much when their use is forced upon me; which, out here in the French back-woods, is quite often!

  19. Poor you - but its why we moved to Wales - oh the romance of it all - candle light is lovely but as you say it must have ben dreadful years ago when that was all you had. Hope things go well with the roof.

  20. A very atmospheric post. The romance of candles is very apparent in it! I often wonder too how people managed with only candles. Early to bed indeed. But they usually got up with the lark, too, didn't they, so they'd have had to. No blog! Imagine!

  21. Don't forget that people had oil lamps as a rule and they give more light than candles. It does sound awfully cozy, but just to do sometimes. Not permanently.

  22. I loved your description of the wind and rain , and then of the darkness at home. That's just what it's like here in the winter. Sometimes I feel as though I'll be picked up and bowled along if I'm not careful of how I pick up one foot and put the other down. We've all got lamps that strap around our head - great for walking dogs at night or navigating the house in a power failure.

  23. Mark - thank you. I liked your candle simile!
    Wsc - love the image of your satchel encrusted with candle wax too. And yes, thank you, we are fine.
    H - calmed down a lot now and was a beautiful sunny day today. All the trees are suddenly bare though!
    Mountainear - I think you have hit the nail on the head about candlelight being lovely by choice.
    Helen - we have a generator that we sometimes use to keep the freezer going in the utility if we have a prolonged power cut which is rare. Not much use for light though!
    Lucy - I hadn't heard of the glass of water by the candle but I am intrigued by it. Might have to go away and have a go!

  24. Hmm. Maybe that's why we don't live in the country.... I remember power cuts during the Winter of Discontent and it was indeed dark.

    On the other hand, your area looks so beautiful.

  25. Golly, it makes our losing a branch or two off the Scots pines seem very small beer. How scary.
    Do hope it has died down by now.

  26. Sorry you hade such rough journey back. It was pretty wild, and up with us the trees make it sound even worse. When it's stormy I always have flashbacks to when we were in a rocking caravan. Nicer to look back than to go through it again!

  27. You described the weather so well! Yes, without the electricity, one may as well go to bed. I keep a supply of candles in the basement, but if I ever had to use them, I would hope it would not be for too long. Electricity has spoiled us all... I wouldn't want to live without it.

  28. Friko - the Aga is a great answer for warmth and cooking! We don't do too badly here with a power cut because of the woodburner and the gas hobs but Agas are better on the cooking front!
    Yvonne - we have a generator but not an automatic one and tend to use it for the outbuilding which houses the freezer.
    Cro - I am just the same. Love the light but much more when I can choose to have it!

    Paulene - I find the romance is strong for a couple of hours and then it fades a bit!
    Fran - life must have had a quite different shape then, with more sleep!

  29. You write beautifully ~ I was sorry the post came to an end... it was rather like reading a great novel set in the Welsh hills... It looks and sounds very picturesque there ~ despite the wind. Great Blog! :))
    I hope you let the handsome cat stay...

  30. Hugely evocative, and very lovely to read about - glad it wasn't what I came home to though! Easy to focus on the romance of candles when you don't rely on them for working light.


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