With just a bare light to guide us

By: John Smyth

Jan 08 2009

Category: "john smyth", electricity, esb, galway, ireland, knocknacarra, light, power cut, stars

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The planet Venus is the bright ’star’ hanging low in the sky over the street where I live. A power cut knocked out the electricity to both the houses and the streetlights, but a half-moon (on camera left, out of picture) gave enough light to walk about outside. The lights in the windows are from candles – it’s a 20 secound exposure – luckily, most houses had a few left over from Christmas.
On one of the coldest nights of the winter, the lights went out over Knocknacarra and Barna in the west of Galway City. The power went out last night at around 6.30 and by seven, places like the Clybaun Hotel ( which had a generator) and Lohan’s in Salthill (who were unaffected) were full of ‘refugees’ from the darkness. By 10pm, the power had been restored to most of Knocknacarra, but the recorded message on the ESB’s hotline mentioned further outages in Oranmore (to the east) and Barna. It must be a real bummer sitting a house in Barna that cost a million,with just a candle for warmth. For parents, losing the power at teatime & bedtime added its own complications (the lobby of the Clybaun had a few kids wandering about in pajamas). In my part of Knocknacarra, the power disappeared again at 11pm – long enough for the electric blanket to heat the bed.

Modern houses in Ireland have almost a total reliance on electricity – not just for light and cooking but also to power the burner on the oil-fired central heating systems. When I lived in an apartment in the harbour, the power disabled the garage doors (so one couldn’t drive in or out) and also the front door (the door wouldn’t open from the outsideand then wouldn’t close once opened from the inside).

On the plus side, the moon was bright and I did get a great view of a brilliantly starry sky with nary a streetlight to block the view.

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