Such is my faith in it, I blamed everything else first: my 10-year old craptop, its power cable, the trip-switch.
(As an aside, from the day you become aware of the trip-switch, “maybe it’s the tripswitch” will become one of your most-used sentences. I think if we can find the trip-switch inside our minds, we’ll fix everything.)
Eventually I realised, it was a power cut. Shops nearby closed immediately because, of course it’s Ireland. A shop without a scanner across the door would cause the Shoplifters Of the World Unite and Take Over. Also the Suers of Humanity would be in tripping over every non-orthogonal surface in sight or claiming to have got anthrax from slightly warm milk.
Do you remember when powercuts were so common you hardly remember them at all?
The power, the electric — or as we used to call it, the current — was a more fragile resource.
A card would appear through the door. “The power supply will be off next week because it’s the 80s and everything is broken or we’re on strike.” It said.
One of the final displays of the awesome power of the lack of power was in Winter 1993. Inniscarra Dramatic Society was putting on a production of… well no one is clear to this day what it was. They hired a man called Suni to teach a few local adults, teenage girls, and teenage boys like me, who thought this might be good place to get a shift, some singing and dancing for a variety show. Suni was man from Pakistan via Uganda and was probably at the time, the most spectacular looking person to hit the parish. He was our 90s Phil Lynott. He had grace and poise. He could walk. We were still stiff from picking spuds on the mid-term.
Somehow over the autumn, Suni kept his patience and transformed us golems into some vaguely humanoid shape to perform a song and dance show which had a very loose narrative of... er… no sorry it’s gone again… no idea.
All I know is, there was ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Man In the Mirror’ and we finished with a rousing finale of ‘Feed The World’ where some of us thought it hilarious to shout Feek The World instead. (see Slang, Cork)
But on the night of the first shambolic performance, Suni faced his toughest challenge: the ESB.
Powercutters gonna powercut and for some operational reason, or for a laugh, the ESB announced an interruption to supply on opening night. Outages were so common, lines of communication with the ESB were open, even if all the other lines were down.
So one of the Men Of The Hall, the kind of man that has 40 keys on a ring attached to his belt, negotiated with the Powers The Be Not, so that the powercut was timed for two slots: before the show, and again at the interval.
The first powercut allowed us teenage cast members of Whatever The Show Was to be lurking and shifting and smoking away in the dark recesses of Ballyanly Hall. We ran out of fags. Someone rolled up teabags into a rizzla. We were vaping long before all you shmucks with the Dirty Bics in your mouths.
Suni had a song/dance number to finish off the first half which he’d written himself and we had to sing the chorus. The last lyric was We Can Make It Right and then as the powercut loomed we chimed in with “dark nights are here my brother”
Fade (very suddenly) to black.
During the long dark torchlight night of the Interval, the crowd, puzzled by the first half, drifted away to 20Major, Tayto and Cidona permanently and it was a distinctly roomier hall that greeted me when I came out twirling a Roches Stores umbrella like a Yellow Pack Gene Kelly, Singing In The Scattered Shower.
But the current was back and as I held the audience bewildered/rapt and the stage light held me like a dazzled hedge-hog, I felt the power.