Powercut Verbatim

In 1998, my family at home in Carrantanlass, County Galway, experienced our second Christmas in a row without electricity due to storms. We had Christmas dinner  by candlelight at my cousins next door. For about four days, we otherwise congregated in the kitchen, where my Dad had oil lamps lighting. The smoke from the lamps blackened everything so badly that the enormous Pyrenees Mountain dog had to be washed in the bath and my Mam had to repaint the kitchen ceiling when the power eventually came back.

On Stephen’s day, darkness ushered in once again and I sat at the kitchen table with an open copy book and a pen left in front of me. I decided to take them and write down the dialogue going around me, unbeknownst to everyone until they finally caught me out in the end. This was just another symptom of my compulsion to record. Today, while I am at home again in Carrantanlass, I wondered if I had any photographs from that powercut and was tickled to find a  photograph of my  Mam reading by oil lamp at the kitchen table, the very copy that I used to write the dialogue  just visible in the corner of the image. I still have the copybook, too. My handwriting is surprisingly neat, considering I was transcribing so fast; I can’t handwrite that well nowadays, now that all my writing is via phone or laptop.

I love reading back over it now – an entire, still-recognisable family dynamic reeks from the short conversations, including the cats and dogs who inhabited the house as equal as the humans. Thirty new books arrived in the household that Christmas, as gifts: most of us were avid book readers. I’d like to say we still are, but I know smartphone technology has changed how we read –speaking for myself, certainly; we’re more likely to be found with our noses in iPhones as books now. Marx Brothers references abound. My aunt brings the local news, the better of any professional roving reporter: still to this day, my parents need never leave the house to know what’s going on beyond.

These are the unwitting players.

Mother                Catherine
Father                  Aidan
Carmel                 Aunt
Adrienne             Me                         (19)        transcribing the following dialogue
Alan                      Brother                 (18)
Alicia                    Sister                     (16)
Aaron                   Brother                 (13)
Padraic                Cousin                  (12)
Tomás                  Cousin                  (11)
Extremely large dog
Éanna, cat (4)
Eire, kitten

Alicia and I sit on benches on either side of the kitchen table. Carmel sits at the head of the table. Aidan sits beside the oil range, which isn’t working due to the powercut. A gas heater is lighting on his other side. Mother is making supper at the gas cooker. Alan, Aaron, and Tomás are in the spare room down the hall. Padraic has just gone home to next door.

Father: A pain in her leg?
Carmel: Yeah – crippled with a pain in her leg.
Shure, you won’t be playing anywhere tonight Aidan?
Father: Why?
Carmel: Who’d be going out on a night like tonight?
Father: I wish it was like that.
Carmel: Endangering their lives tonight. Anyone in tonight should stay in. And that man in Maam Cross had some poor fella in the car with him … Henny’s funeral mass is tonight.
Father: Tonight?
Carmel: Yeah, the family want it tonight. Herself mustn’t be great. Sandwiches and all in the Cortoon Inn afterwards.
Father: God.
Carmel: And a bus overturned in Achill.
On the electricity. Well, it won’t be back for tonight anyway.
Father: Oh, ‘twill not.
Carmel: Them are grand candlestick holders
Father: Alan got me them for Christmas.
Enter Tomás.
Tomás: Picking up oil lamp. Can we take this?
Alicia: No, we’re using it.
Father: Go on.
Tomás: ‘kay.
Exit Tomás.
Carmel: Well wasn’t he very thoughtful.
An awful day.
Father: Shockin’.
Mother: ‘Twas promised.
Enter Aaron.
Aaron: Any more candles to spare?
Father: What are ye doing?
Aaron: Table tennis. A torch or something maybe?
Alicia: Can’t ye play it up here?
Father: Don’t go bringing my flashlight down there, I’m telling ye
Carmel: Looking towards the kitchen window. There’s traffic out as bad and all as it is.
Exit Aaron.
Carmel: Back to old times.
Alicia: Yeah.
Father: To Carmel. Have ye candles or what down there?
Carmel: Candles.
Mother: From conversation with Alicia at the frying pan: If we can keep Adrienne away from the mushrooms.
Adrienne: What?
Mother: If we can keep you away from the mushrooms.
Carmel: Better go before it starts raining again. Goes to hall door. Are ye coming? Not realising that Padraic left earlier. Shure, I’d say that’s the worst of it over now anyway. I’ll see ye. G’luck.
Exit Carmel through the back door. Long silence. Aidan messing with candlesticks. Mother frying rashers in the pan and wearing headphones. Adrienne scribbling this text. Alicia talking to kitten.
Alicia: Oooh, Eire’s first Christmas, in the dark!
Alicia: Adrienne, did you count my Sense and Sensibility book?
Adrienne: Yeah.
Alicia: Eire, do you want to go to the toilet?
Father: Let him off outside, he’ll be grand.
Huffy silence in offence to this suggestion. Exit Alicia.
Enter Alan.
Alan: Mam, would it be alright if I drove down to collect John tonight?
Mother: And how am I supposed to go to mass?
Father: Wait and see how the weather is before you go making plans.
Alan: Talk to Mam, Dad, she’ll start shouting at ya.
Mother: Over her earphones.  I heard ya!
Alan guffaws.
Enter Alicia.
Alicia: To cats. Hell-yo!
Alan: Adrienne, who is this? Stomps across kitchen in manner of Groucho Marx
Adrienne: Laughing. Groucho!
Exit Alan. He is heard laughing in the hall, probably at Aaron.
Mother: Have they gas down there or what have they?
Father: Jays, I dunno.
Father: That £30 was well spent.
Adrienne: What £30? Oh, the gas heater? Yeah.
Father: And it nearly gone on that other fella. Satisfied with himself. Good bidding.
Enter Alan.
Alan: What £30?
Alan lifts leg in imitation of Harpo Marx in Duck Soup. Mother and Alicia laugh. Someone burps loudly
Alicia: But, why does the other fella do it then too?
Adrienne: Alicia, it doesn’t matter. You just laugh at it.
Mother: Probably cos he got sick of looking at the other fella doing it.
Father: To the cat. Eiry-fairy.
Mother: Adrienne, what are you writing there?
Adrienne: Nothing.
Mother: Nothing? You have a page written there.
Exit Alan. Thumps against the door. Aaron whimpering. Nobody in kitchen reacts. Mother transfers earphones to Alicia.
Mother: To Father. Do you want rice? Will a fry suit you?
Enter Aaron.
Mother: Rounding on Aaron. What’s wrong with you?
Aaron: I dunno. My knee was sore yesterday
Mother: Weary. I dunno.
To Father. Talking to you and you not listening … shure how am I supposed to know if a fry’ll be making you belch again …
Father: I shouldn’t have had them second helpings yesterday.
Mother: Impatient. You don’t have to eat it. Goes to back door. Come on Éanna, out.Opens back door, thrusts cat out. Gust of wind blows in. Cat re-enters hurriedly. Bitcheen. Picks up cat. Notices kitten. Éire! Hell-yo, little fella! Howaya! Goes to window, opens it. Shoves cat out. Go on! Ya can come in again.
Alicia: Reading answers to puzzle game Aaron got for Christmas. “…and in the second pyramid ….”
Aaron: Alarmed. Alicia! Don’t tell me!
Alicia: “… in the second pyramid …”
Father: Alicia! Did I tell you not to be telling him! And don’t pretend you can’t hear me with them earphones on.
Alicia: What?
Father: Shut up!
Mother: To Aaron. Where’s there a lighter?
Aaron: Dunno.
Mother: Insistent. Has Alan got one?
Aaron: Dunno.
Mother: Perplexed. Well, will you go and ask him?
Aaron: Insistent. There should be one here.
Mother: Exasperated. God, will ya ever go down to him!
Exit Aaron.
Mother: Muttering. Just what I wanted to hear, trees coming down all over the place
Father laughs.
Enter Aaron.
Aaron: He doesn’t have any.
Mother: There was two there a while ago.
Father: Pensive. What did she say was wrong with Peg?
Mother: Pain in her leg.
Exit Father.
Alicia: Listening to headphones. “70,000 homes without electricity.”
Mother: Fractious. It’s the weather I want!
Alicia: Right. Enter Father.
Father: To Mother. Get one yet?
Mother: No. There was two there a while ago –
Father: Proudly. Here. Hands Mother a lighter.
Mother: Menacing. Hah!
Father: Wounded. I went down to the spare room especially for it!
Mother: Oh! Apologetic. Thanks
Extremely large dog snores.
Mother: Apoplectic. Will someone shut that pig up!
Alicia: Taking off earphones. Frost, Mam.
Enter Alan. Pulls out bench that Adrienne is sitting on to sit down. Almost tipples Adrienne off the other end. Leans over Adrienne’s shoulder to see what she is writing. Adrienne shrugs him off.
Alan: I’m not “breathing down your neck” as Mam always says!
Alicia leans over Adrienne’s other shoulder.
Alicia: Mumble mumble mumble. Thats what we do at school, it’s awful annoying. No Alan, denna denna denna denna, denna denna denna denna, Batman
Alan joins in.
Mother: Shut up, will ye!
Alicia: No, this is annoying – AdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienne
Mother: SHUT UP!
Alan: “I’ll dance with you till the cows come home. Actually, I’d rather dance with the cows than you come home.”

About Adrienne

Mother, yoga teacher aspirant, digital media enthusiast, archaeologist. Embracing countryside-living again after years of city lights. Still attempting, sporadically, to blog!
This entry was posted in Kettle Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Powercut Verbatim

  1. gamanrad says:

    That’s absolutely brilliant. It’s a Christmas play! Wow.

    • Adrienne says:

      Ha, it is isn’t it! but I can’t claim any credit for writing it, I literally transcribed every word from what was going on around me 🙂 Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed

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