On Saturday 31 March is Earth Hour Day this year. This is what happened to a family last year.
The car stopped in the driveway. The two children, Joshua and Bridget, loosened their seat belt, opened the door quickly and jumped out of it running towards their grandparents, who were waiting on the porch.
“Pop, Nan,” they screamed in unison and in a few steps were on the porch and hanging on their grandparents neck, showering them with kisses.
“Oh may, oh may, you are excited,” Granddad said patting them on their heads. In the meantime the kid’s parents had reached the porch too and the young mother said,
“Sorry, Mum to lump you with the kids on short notice but it could be to our advantage to go to the meeting tonight.”
“That’s quite all right, Larissa, we enjoy the children and always have a good time with them. And on top of that, Pop planed something special for tonight.”
“What, what Pop?” they asked almost screaming.
“We are going back in time,” Granddad said with a smirk on his face.
“Can we go to the Middle Ages, to King Arthur’s court,” Joshua asked.
“No, no, not that far,” Granddad said, “but it might seem to you that far.”
The young parents were in a hurry and left without hanging around or even entering the house. While Grandma prepared a drink for the children Granddad sat down in his favourite armchair and the children on one arm rest each.
“Can I watch ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ tonight,” Bridget asked.
“I’m afraid not,’ Pop said, “but I tell you what, I got the DVD out for you and we start watching it any time before or after our ‘time travel’. You know of course what special day it is today?”
“Nooo,” the children said, “ but what is it?”
“It is ‘Earth Hour‘ day. At 8.30 tonight we have to switch off all lights and sit in the dark. That is when we will go on our time travel.”
“You’re are making it up, Granddad,” Bridget said.
“No, no,” he said, waiving his finger in the air, “the people have decided, we all should switch off our electric lights in order to make us aware not to waste electricity ”
“That is awesome, Pop,” said Josh, “will we play ghost, can we?”
“No,” Granddad said,“ as I told you before, we will use the opportunity to travel in time. You will be surprised were we will end up!”
“Where, where?” both children demanded to know.
“You always wanted to know how it was when I was a little boy, roughly the same age as you are now. So tonight you will see how it was. We won’t have the usual tea tonight. I want you to be hungry when we get to Berlin in nine-teen-forty-eight. We will be eating there.”
The children were quite for a while, musing how Granddad would manage the time travel. Did he have a time machine, they asking themselves.
“Granddad?” Bridget asked, “where is your time machine?”
“We don’t need any, we will be teleporting,” Granddad answered and smiled happy with himself that he knew all the answers to his curious grand children’s questions. Grandma was in the kitchen and prepared something, but the children did not take any notice. The clock was ticking relentlessly towards eight-thirty. The children started to paint some pictures at the table, forgetting all about Alice in Wonderland. Just before eight-thirty Grandma joined them in the living room.
“It is time, kids,” Granddad said, “we are doing a countdown now and at zero we will be in nine-teen-forty-eight. Here we go ten, nine …..” They grabbed each others hand and the children felt a shiver going down their spine. They failed to notice that Grandma was standing near the light switch.
“…three, two, one, zero!” With that the lights went off and the house was in complete darkness. Bridget screamed and Joshua said, “I hope there aren’t any ghosts.”
Suddenly Grandma lit a match and with it several candles that were placed around the living room. It was a soft light and the room looked different to the children, calmer, more comely.
“Blasted!” they heard Grandma saying, “just when I wanted to do the ironing, they had to turn off the electricity . An hour of electricity a day is never enough to do anything.”
“You should have got used to it by now, Gisela,” Pop said. “The government does what they can. The Amis and the Poms fly in as much coal as they can to supply the power station.”
“What is happening?’ Joshua wanted to know. “Why are they flying in the coal? Here, in Australia, I see coal coming by rail.”
“The Russians have closed off all rail and road traffic to Berlin. We have only one hour of electricity in twenty four hours. It is very cold. It is not like you have in Australia one hour off a year.”
“But Grandpa,” Bridget said, “we can’t finish our painting now or watch the DVD you promised. But I’m happy you are here with us and I sort of – like it.”
“Listen,” Grandpa interrupted just as a plane crossed their house, “that’s a Dakota or Skymaster bringing supplies so we can go shopping tomorrow. It is called the Airlift.”
“Yes,” Grandma joined in, “I heard there will be powdered milk and powered eggs tomorrow. We will have mashed potatoes with scrambled eggs, all made from powered ingredients, on Sunday.” The children were surprised that Nana was helping spinning the yarn with Pop.
“Yuck, Grandma, how can you eat that?” Joshua wanted to know.
“Sundays we will have our one hour electricity during the day, as the industry shuts down.” Grandma said. “Tonight I have another special treat for you. I’m making you a soup from old bread. Last week we had a ration of white bread, made from Canadian wheat, and I saved it up just for today. There are some sultanas left over from last Christmas and with powered milk added, we will have a hot meal that we like. You will see.” With that she went out to the kitchen and could be heard handling a pot.
“Children,” Granddad said, “I have to confess, I cheated a bit and brought a camping stove along. We can’t have a wooden fire any more as we used to have. But you get the idea how bad it is without electricity. The radio did not work and we had go to designated places in the city where they read the news from the back of a truck.”
In no time the water was boiling and Grandma added pieces of white bread to it. She throw in the sultanas and stirred the mix. After the soup boiled for a few minutes she turned the flame down, made a paste from the dried mild and added it to the soup.
“Bingo, it is all ready,” Grandma said with a smile. “And in the light of a candle it will not look so bad after all. Go sit at the table and you can add some sugar the same way as some people do with their corn flakes.”
The children did not look very happy. Usually they liked Grandma’s cooking but at this occasion it looked like baby food. They probed with their spoon and dipped their tongue into it, then added some sugar and Joshua even some cinnamon.
“You better start eating,” Granddad said, “MacDonald and pizza delivery have not been invented yet. If you don’t eat this, there is nothing else.” The children did just that and soon they said, it wasn’t that bad and they spooned it into their mouths like it was the best food they had ever had.
“You see,” Grandma said, “it was not too bad. We survived a whole winter on food like that. Some times we only had bread toasted on a hot plate.” and Granddad added, “and when we get back to the future we will appreciate our food more.”
Suddenly the hour was up and after another count down Grandma switched on the lights.
“Ah,” they all said and the children blinked their eyes to get used to the bright lights. Their parents came soon and the children told them their adventure of their time travel and that they had soup made from old bread and it taste not too bad , but, they said,
“We don’t want to have it again. Pop made us starve before they dished it out to us.” They all laughed.
“I know the story,” Clarissa said, “count your blessings that you did not have to eat the soup made from shredded potatoes. It is like glue. All right you guys, we are going home and you can tell us all about it in the car.. If you don’t fall asleep first”.