Monday, May 14, 2007


I am not enjoying life without electricity, but somehow at night it is different. With no switches to turn on, I come back to darkness which soon becomes sprinkled with small light drops. As the candles light one by one, it feels much quieter, as if a new silence has taken over the house. I don't think any sounds are actually missing: the AA-battery-run clock still ticks loudly in the kitchen, as are the drops of water from the bathroom, the neighbours arguing upstairs. But still I feel some mental quiet descending. I find it soothing and comforting, and it is even not so difficult to see. Surprisingly three candles are enough to feel at home, although telling fennels seeds from cummin seeds is not very easy.

Another thing I like about candles is that they involve a different relationship with the night. The binary dichotomy of electricity - ON/OFF - gives way to a spectrum of shades, in which light and darkness are no longer hostile opposites but members of the same family, their relationship continuous and ever stretching. I think electrical light has made us fear the night much more: people who are used to the dark it do not see monsters hiding behind it. In Vauxhall, there was nothing I liked better than going to the toilet in the middle of the night. Still deep in slumber but with an instinctive knowledge of my path, I would navigate by touch the half stairway, the door, the coolness of the toilet seat under my body, where I would dream some more of dragons spitting water. Blu used to say that if burglars ever broke into the house at night, they would be much more scared from the dark than us.

The dark morning is sad and offers no such comforts. Yesterday you dreamt that the scaffolding was taken off: through your bedroom window you saw the sky brighter than ever. You did not know if this was temporary, and should you savour on the blue freedom, or was it gone for good. There was no one around to ask. You woke up to find yourself once again in a London cave.

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