Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Candlelight - Power Cuts

That’s Wimbledon over and a hope for two British champions in the same tournament is on hold.

There’s something romantic about candlelight. A warm glow that softens complexion and reflects a gentle flicker on the wine glasses in the relaxed atmosphere of a gathering of friends. If only I could travel back in time, my chosen gathering would include my dear Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, Burns and the Brownings; and if only I could hear their poetry from their own voices instead of mine.

It was my voice reciting their poetry in the candle-lit evenings of early 1974 from ‘The Penguin Book of Love Poetry’ which I had just added to my bookshelf.  Power cuts meant we sat together in our dining-room, the one room that still had an open fire-place suitable for a coal fire (go easy on the coal, shortages). The room was large enough to have a three piece suite round the fire and a dining table and chairs set out further back. Our family lived in here and our bedrooms for the duration of the crisis.  For safety reasons we used torches everywhere except the dining room and kitchen. My father, still a licensee, had an off-licence as well as his brewery work and we lived in a house instead of a pub. The silence of a private detached house was eerie after noisy pubs all of my life and now it was even creepier in the dark, but our candle-lit dining room had a cosy feel. We listened to the battery powered radio, played board games and had enough light to read to ourselves or to each other. No one seemed to miss the television. I hated being unable to play my records. Luckily, we had a gas cooker. I can’t remember how long the power cuts lasted. I know we were given the times that we would have electricity and how long it would be on. I wonder how we would manage these days.

Thinking of candlelight reminds me of the wonderful ‘Carols by Candlelight’ services we had at Raikes Parade Methodist Church when I was a Sunday School teacher. I looked after the infant age group which included one of my children. She wasn’t the most trustworthy to carefully carry a tea-light in a jar to the front of the church but filled with a sense of occasion and doing something important, she did it perfectly as did the others, and all singing ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ at the top of their voices.

My husband and I are having a weekend away soon for our wedding anniversary. It might include a romantic candle-lit dinner and a Scottish sunset.

One of my favourite poems, first encountered in 1974. I’d spent years amongst the Brontes and it was time to extend my interests.
Sonnet XLIII, from the Portuguese.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, - I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

                   Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Thanks for reading, Pam x 


Adele said...

This is a lovely blog.

I remember the power cuts - we had coal fires, hand beer pumps and oil lanterns. The atmosphere was so good that the pub was packed every night. The radio

It is a wonderful choice of poem too Pam.