Today’s UK news was full of the idea that, come January and February, the UK could have planned blackouts, when electricity supplies are cut to certain areas to preserve the available gas. Understandably, this sounds like a scary prospect until you sit and think about it.
I think people who are into hygge are ahead of the curve on being able to handle the blackouts. We are, after all, the people who enjoy the close, dark evenings, who appreciate candlelight and who know that all one needs for absolute happiness is a family, a book, a board game and a warm drink.
If the blackouts do come to be, or even if they don’t, spending 3 hours without electricity is not that hard as long as you’re ready. Indeed, it may well be something we as a family decide to get used to now. A gadget-free evening once or twice a month, especially if you have younger children who might be disconcerted at a surprise blackout, can be a good way to test out your emergency measures without having the worry that it really is an emergency.
Being prepared is key. (I used to be a Cub Scout leader: Be Prepared is an excellent motto, and one I try to live by). Read a couple of articles with advice on what to do, and have a mental plan in place at least. Me? I’ve got a page in my planner with a list of tips ready to use. In a case of the Real Deal, unplug all delicate electrical items (computer, TV, microwave) in case there’s a power surge on return, but leave a light on so that you know when it does come back.
With advance notice, make sure all your electrical devices that can be charged have been: have a portable phone bank in case you forget (I’m making sure all my family have at least one of these for Christmas) and charge your tablet or laptop regularly, although if there’s no wifi you will need to decide how much use the laptop will be.
I’m also making sure that every bedroom has a wind-up and solar chargeable torch in it, tucked behind the curtains and in the sun’s path. That way, the inhabitants can take themselves off to bathrooms and bed by themselves without the risk of candle flames in the bedroom.
If blackouts do happen, we’re all probably going to gather in the living room. Having wraps, throws or the uber-fashionable Oodies in a nearby basket means that, even if the heating goes off, you can snuggle down and get warm. I was a child in the 1970s when the UK had 3 day weeks and blackouts happened, and I remember having candles all over the place. You may want to have a good supply of tea lights and a decent holder, but if you have children or pets that are liable to race around with excitement and be a fire risk, then a wind up lamp may be a better option. I like either the old-fashioned flickering lights of this battery-operated lantern, or the three power options of this camping lamp.
And, of course, entertainment will need to be thought through. Although it is possible to download films and shows from Amazon Prime to a phone or tablet, you will need the Amazon app to be able to watch them without wifi and, besides, isn’t it a waste of a power-free night to seek right away to be back in the 21st Century?
Storytelling is a traditional fireside activity. Either learn some by heart, or let someone read from a book and everyone else listen. Fairystories with forests and scary sounds outside the window are ideal for young teenagers, although you may prefer to go for a less frightening read with children. It may be that reading old local tales, such as the Welsh tales contained in this book, would prove useful as a link between present and past. And if nobody in the house is confident enough to read, let the phone take the strain, with a good Audible book.
Keep everything for the evening in a box or basket nearby, so that if you get caught out by a blackout it won’t take major effort to be set up. You may want to add an emergency first aid kit and a couple of bottles of water so people don’t have to move when they’re comfortable, but check them regularly and swap for newer ones.
Although gas hobs and ovens may be working, anything that relies on electricity for power in the kitchen won’t be. Keep fridges and freezers shut, if possible, to preserve the temperature, and a short blackout of 3 to 4 hours will do no harm. The kettle won’t be working, of course, so either settle down with a cuppa before the scheduled blackout or invest in a thermos jug. We had a red thermos jug 30 years ago, when we were first married, but a large 2 litre one like this is on my wishlist for Christmas, especially since we could boil the kettle full once every morning or afternoon and enjoy warm drinks without needing to boil the kettle again for a while. Since it costs 7p every time you boil the kettle, this isn’t absolutely a money-saving trick, but it does save energy.
The proposed times of any UK blackouts are 4 to 7pm. Peak energy usage time. It strikes me that that will make some cooking difficult or impossible: any electrical oven or hob will be out, and the microwave is a no-no. You may need to plan ahead: perhaps on an outage night you can cook a soup or stew in the slow cooker. Some stews are adaptable enough to use pasta, barley or cous cous instead of potato, so play around until you find one you all like. And if you’re worried the food will cool before everyone is back in the house, then unplug the cooker and wrap firmly with towels or an old duvet to insulate it and it should retain the heat for a few hours. Or plan fast cook food for after the Return. A 20 minute pasta dish or quick stir fry should be good. Keep a list of possible meals in your planner.
And have an emergency protocol for the foreseeable. Never let your car go below half full, if you can, and have a small stash of cash in case cut outs do happen mid-Deliveroo. Don’t worry about blackouts: be prepared and roll with them. We are still, whatever happens, a long way ahead of our Grandparents in terms of life quality. Treat them as a challenge, or a life experience, and embrace them as a gift. Not every generation gets to know what life was like in the past. And if you mak ethem memorable enough, in 60 years time your children and grandchildren will be telling their descendants about the Time The Lights Went Out and how close it made them feel.
My final tip? Get a load of marshmallows in, and learn to toast them using a candle (unscented, please). With digestives and a square of chocolate, you have s’mores and a reason to look forward to the next planned Blackout. Win/win all round.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human. And it’s always the little things.
And if you, like me, like to plan ahead, then my Christmas books are always available: Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is the basic, all round Christmas hygge book, Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas is about taking time to look after yourself at the busiest season of all and is only available in ebook, while Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was my answer to Christmas in Lockdowns in 2020 but might (sadly) prove useful for a few more years to come. I’m itching to write a new Christmas book, on simplicity, frugality, minimalism and making the meaning of your Christmas more significant, but time, time, time…
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
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The photo between post and promotions is by Elena Kloppenburg on Unsplash . It’s Autumn still, for another month, and I loved the colour of leaves against the cream background. I have plans for an autumn stripe blanket…… And the header is a photo by Faizan on Unsplash. I chose it because the candles shining together to break the darkness of the night is what I think winter hygge is all about: hearts shining together in warmth.