Back in black

Electricity blackout across all of Argentina

Right then, where were we?

Seven months later – my most dramatic pause yet – and I’m still very much here. In fact, I’m so here that I find myself occasionally forgetting straightforward English words these days. To that end, an Irish friend and I played an impromptu game of charades just last Friday, in our brief mutual search for ‘locker.’ How happy we both were afterwards too.

What have I been doing during this extended intermission, exactly? Why such a long absence? Well, a few things actually. To firstly wrap up 2018, my eldest brother and his lovely new wife joined us for Christmas in the sweltering heat of a deserted Buenos Aires (everyone leaves the city for the province, the beach or Uruguay) as part of their honeymoon in Argentina. That was great, a real highlight of the year in fact, especially as we made a traditional English roast dinner on the 25th with paper party hats, festive classics and too much alcohol. Lots of new experiences all rolled into one for my novia, who had a ball.

Since the turn of the year, I did something that I’ve wanted to do for the last couple of years: start writing a novel. The 2019 goal for this one was to write 1000 words per week. For the record, today is the end of week 23 and I’m on 25,000 words – keeping pace so far therefore. Speaking of which, albeit somewhat tenuous, pace is very much the name of the game for the other chief consumer of all my spare time at the moment…

Yes, I am 2 weeks in to my 16-week plan which culminates in the Buenos Aires Marathon, on Sunday 22nd September. As always, the goal is a PB (< 3:18:07), and so I’m really having to knuckle down. Alcohol is strictly off limits until I’ve completed this first month, for example. Wednesdays are my days off. The other six involve either a visit to my gym at work or running around the various green spaces on my doorstep.

Sticking with this theme of the constant strive for self-improvement, I always like to have a favourite new word on the go. In both languages. Firstly, the English word is interrobang. Thoughts, anyone? According to a professional editor – to whom I sent a draft of the first 1000 words of my novel, for stylistic advice – interrobangs are not yet accepted in literature. Who knew?! The latter punctuation is an example of an interrobang (bonus points to me for usage, although one downside is that I’ve now completely discredited this blog entry as a result).

As for Spanish: llovizna. Meaning ‘drizzle,’ the word is a comforting reminder of home. Well, let me say, there has been plenty of llovizna of late in these parts. It doesn’t seem to have stopped since Friday in fact, and apparently has no plans of leaving before Wednesday. One caveat is that we are of course on the cusp of winter. Although to call it ‘winter’ in any conventional sense would be misleading perhaps, given that the coldest it ever drops to is about 3 degrees Celsius – oh, and it hasn’t snowed in Buenos Aires since 2007.

Anyway, yes, lots of steadily falling llovizna has led to a few complications here and there. Just this morning, I woke up at about 10am and realised that there was another power cut in the flat (the same thing happened in the middle of the night on Thursday). I assumed it was a problem localised to my block and would be resolved fairly pronto, as before.

Needing flour from the shops, to make tortas fritas, I popped out with my better half shortly afterwards. Hmmm. It wasn’t just my block that was without power, it turned out. Furthermore, as we headed towards the main road, Avenida Libertador we could see that everywhere within sight was apocalyptically unlit. Incidentally, crossing that seven-lane avenue was more fun than usual, given that none of the traffic lights were working.

Then came the Whatsapp updates. In the group I have with my work colleagues, people were updating each other firstly from within CABA and then outside of the city that they were powerless. It was obviously more wide-ranging than I had realised. And then came messages from people in other countries, like England and the US, asking me what was going on in Argentina. This was all a bit strange. Soon enough, one of my brothers sent me a link to a BBC article titled: Massive power cut hits all of Argentina (All of Argentina and Uruguay are without power, supplier says, affecting about 48m people).

OK then.

As power cuts go, this one takes some beating: the whole of Argentina (the eighth largest country in the world); the whole of Uruguay; parts of Paraguay; and apparently parts of Brazil. Not a bad effort.

This lack of electricity was aggravated by there being no running water either, from 7am local time until about 2pm for us. The detail of this second point almost had horrendous consequences for yours truly, no less.

In retrospect, I must have tried the tap during the blackout and realised that there was no running water but failed to turn the tap back off properly. There we were, in the kitchen cooking the famous tortas fritas when I noticed a light flicker on my Wi-Fi box. Excited by this apparent development, I tried a few lights and, to my delight, was immediately bestowed with glorious illumination.

Remembering that we hadn’t been able to flush the toilet from earlier, the young lady (who, incidentally, has had a birthday since I last posted – which we celebrated in Ushuaia) went into the bathroom to take care of that particularly unpleasant job. Having only been back on the grid for a matter of seconds, the sink was already filled with water from the erroneous tap, gushing out quicker than the plughole could drain. Needless to say, this could have been particularly costly, but I got lucky this time. Nothing more to say on this close call, except that it’s a lesson learnt for the future.

On the Whatsapp group, summarising the situation, one of my colleagues chimed in with a favourite office punchline of ours: ‘Estas cosas no pasan en Londres’ (‘These things don’t happen in London’). They’re certainly good sports, the Argentines. Numbed by years of calamity regarding politics, economics and other basic things that many of us take for granted, they have the resilience of champions and a fittingly dark sense of humour to match. That’s what makes life fun here. The dark moments are there to be embraced, not rejected. They almost always tend to make a good story too, if nothing else.

2 thoughts on “Back in black

  1. Can see now why your picture is just solid black – rather like a Saturday night in Scunthorpe …
    Have tried unsuccessfully to ‘like’ but the site refuses to accept either my password or my google account details, so am just indicating that I approve of the resumption of your blogs!

    Looking forward to the next instalment and a proof copy of your first novel and magnum opus in due course!


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