10 August 2008

Courant coupé ? Pas grave !

Power failures don't phase us any more. We have a gas stove!

I don't want to give the impression that our electricity outages are frequent. Most that we've had over the past five years have been caused by bad weather: strong thunderstorms or high winds. They haven't been caused by strikes, as they used to be in Paris when I lived there in the 1970s.

The vines in August, with clouds

A few days ago we were awakened by lightning and thunder in the night. At first, the flashes of lightning were off in the distance and we couldn't even hear thunder. By about 4:00 a.m. the storm was upon us. There were several sharp bolts of lightning with loud claps of thunder following immediately. When that happens, it of course means that you are very close to the action.

Electricity or not, the grapes are ripening.

By 5:00 in the morning the current had gone off. I can always tell because the digital clock in the bedroom radio goes dark. I got up at 6:30 to see what time it was and there was still no current. I went downstairs to check our circuit breaker panel and all looked normal down there. The outage wasn't simply chez nous, it was a neighborhood or village problem.

So what did I do? I put the kettle on one of our gas burners, lit the fire with a long fireplace match, and made tea pretty much as usual. That was nice, and makes us even happier that we got the new stove.

Apples falling close to the tree out back

Later I called a neighbor to make sure we weren't the only house in the hamlet without power. Once, a year or two ago, we spent three or four hours without electricity only to discover that the only reason was that our own main breaker had been tripped by a surge. We'd been sitting in the dark for a while needlessly — all we had to do was flip the main switch.

This time, it was more widespread. Bernard the neighbor said he had called in and the Electricité de France switchboard was saying nobody knew when our current would come back on. They were overwhelmed with emergency calls because of the early-morning thunderstorm.

The road from the vineyard to the hamlet, August 2008

We didn't get current back until about 2:00 p.m. By then, we had cooked a satisfactory lunch on the gas stove, being careful not to open the refrigerator or freezers very much. We had also sat around for most of the morning, just looking at each other blankly, realizing how much we depend on the Internet and our blogs for our daily entertainment.

Luckily I have a battery-powered radio so we weren't completely cut off from the rest of the world. It was raining on and off, so we couldn't even get out and work in the garden.


  1. I think the power cut must have been pretty widespread, as a friend in Indre emailed me to say the storm there had caused a blackout a few days ago.

  2. I wanted to add a comment about the ferme-auberge, but I wasn't sure if comments on your older blog entries would come to your attention, so this is a little off today's topic.

    I am compiling a see-if-possible list for our September trip and when I went to add the ferme-auberge to the list I found it was already listed, along with your local boulangerie; my note said "rec by blogger from Saint-Aignan." I guess this is back when I first encountered your blog on a travel website a year ago. Now we are daily readers and I speak to my husband of "Ken and Walt" as though we're on a first-name basis.

  3. Hi Louise, we are glad to have you as a reader. By the way, I get an e-mail anytime anybody leaves a comment on any of my blog posts, current or past.

    The best boulangerie, IMHO, is the Chêne du Renard, which is just a few hundred meters up the road from the ferme-auberge La Lionnière, on what is known in Saint-Aignan as the Route de Céré-la-Ronde. The Chêne du Renard has a wood-fired oven in which breads, fougasses, croissants, and other boulangerie specialties are baked.

    Susan, some parts of our village got their current turned back on by 9:00 a.m. Our neighborhood and two others had outages that lasted a lot longer. I don't know why. I think it was all pretty localized.

  4. Hi Ken, I've just noticed that I'm the 80.000 visitor of your blog since January 2006! Do I win a price? :))LOL. Keep on blogging ... Martine

  5. Our stove/oven is only electric. I envy your new purchase as we lose power fairly often here too!
    Maybe someday....

  6. Loulou, we hesitated back five years ago, when we arrived, about getting a gas stove, since our village doesn't have piped-in gas. We thought having a bottle of butane would be too much trouble. But now we are happy to have made the change. Getting a new bottle of gas from time to time is a small price to pay for having a hot gas flame to cook on, and having a way to cook when the electricity goes off.


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