On Saturday, December 21 the girls and Blake and I went to a Christmas
carolling party at a friend’s house. We sang lots of old-fashioned Christmas
carols (the ones they don’t sing at school because there’s too much Christmas
in them) and drank wine and talked about the coming storm. “Charge your
phones,” I said, “make sure you have milk and bread!”
“Is it going to be all that bad?” My friends moved here from England just over
a year ago — they weren’t here for the ice storm in Ottawa and Quebec
back in 1998.
“It could be nothing, or it could be a few days without power,”
By the time we left it was raining, cold hard rain which was starting to
freeze on the ground. Blake walked us home and went out again to meet some
friends at a pub. I plugged my phone in, made sure my computer was
charged, tucked the girls in and headed to bed with The Sea-Captain’s
Sunday, December 22
When we woke up the power was out but the house was still warm. I lit some
candles and boiled a saucepan of water for tea. I shuffled to the gym and
back, and the power came back on around 10:30. Easy!
The city was covered in ice, part of the subway was shut down and people were being advised not
to go out if they didn’t need to, but Delphine and I had tickets for the
Sing-Along Messiah. When we heard at around 11:00 that Massey Hall was open and
the Sing-Along Messiah was on, we still weren't sure whether to go or not.
My friends who were going to come with us decided not to go --- they told a
very long story about a branch in their driveway and ice on their car and the
subway might not be running and it would be hard and they’d rather just not
bother. That was disappointing and we thought about staying home too, but we
decided that an adventure of any kind would be preferable to staying cooped up
at home being sullen.
Waiting for the bus, a lady shuffled towards us with unkemped hair and flushed
skin, sprinkling rock salt from a gallon jug on the sidewalk ahead of her. “The
subway isn’t running from Eglinton to Bloor,” she said. “No trains! They’re
running shuttle buses!” Again we thought about giving up, but decided to forge
At Yonge Street three shuttle buses drove past, each too crammed to pick anyone
up. A small CBC TV crew was shooting some B-roll of people giving up; Delphine
wanted to be interviewed for TV but they found someone less hopeful.
Finally I decided to work around the Yonge Street problem altogether by
catching the number 14 bus over to the University-Spadina line. The number 14
was diverting from its usual route because of branches on the roads, too, but
it was only a twenty minute ride to Glencairn
The subway train we caught at Glencairn was the Hobbit train, which pretty much
made the whole trip worthwhile. We got to Dundas station ten minutes before
show time and didn’t miss a single note. Dame Emma Kirkby sang. (I wonder how
she enjoyed it.) There might have been a bit of a trainwreck in the Amen fugue,
but we pulled it together with lots of help from Ivars. Delphine had a good
time and she’s starting to learn the choruses and sing along. All in all,
going was absolutely the right choice.
After the sing-along we wandered the mall with Janet, who had joined us for
Messiah, and then met Blake and Cordelia for dinner. We ate at Mr Greenjeans,
our favourite mall restaurant. After a lot of food we went home and
noticed that it was very dark on our block; the power had just gone off again.
Monday, December 23
The lights were still out Monday morning. I was supposed to go grocery shopping
for Christmas dinner ingredients, but the grocery store was closed. I’m
actually not sure what we did all day; cooking and washing dishes, tending to
candles. I wrapped Blake’s Christmas gifts in the basement by the light of a
single candle. I spent a lot of time checking the @TorontoHydro Twitter
account. The girls and Blake decorated their gingerbread houses, which they had
cleverly baked the day before the power went out.
At 8:45 pm on Monday, after the power had been out for over 24 hours, it was
16.3° Celsius in the house. People kept inviting us over to their house
to warm up, and I didn’t realize why until later when I heard that
other houses cooled down to 10 degrees and lower within a day. I
don’t think there’s any one thing which made our house stay so warm; it’s a
combination of factors:
- really small house (about 1200 square foot)
- a layer of rigid foam insulation on the inside of every outside wall
(making the house even smaller)
- semi-detached, so one wall of the house
is insulated by an entire other house
- protected on the north side by another house which is about three feet away
- newish, small windows
- honeycomb blinds
And finally, we have a gas water heater and a gas stove, so we were able to
warm the place up with hot showers and cooking. I'm feeling pretty good about
our little house these days.
Tuesday, December 24
On Christmas Eve morning it was 13.4°C when we woke up; it went up to
15.3°C by the end of breakfast. We went out for lunch and to see The
Hobbit; when we got home the temperature had gone down to 11.4°C. We lit
some candles and made pasta for dinner, and managed to drag the temperature up
to 13°C before bed. Blake and I had to stay up later than the girls
because of Christmas, but I lit lots of
candles and we managed.
When we woke up on Christmas Day it was 9.3ºC, which is perhaps too cold
for comfort. But Christmas, like the show, must go on, so we made tea and
breakfast and lit a bunch of candles and opened presents. Lots of books, lots
of chocolate and lots of Lego, so satisfactory all ‘round. Oh, and the girls
got rubber swords, which they immediately fought over. Of course.
After opening presents we went over to Baba’s house to warm up, do
the cryptic, read (me), knit (Delphine), and watch TV (Cordelia). I kept checking Twitter for news about the power, and at around 3:30 I got a text message from a neighbour to say we were back on. Hooray — we could sleep at home!
The biggest conundrum of the no-power Christmas was where, and if, Christmas
dinner would happen. Normally I host, and I was thinking about cancelling
dinner, but my sister-in-law is the best ever and offered to have it at her
place rather than cancel or postpone. So I brought Christmas pudding and
cookies, and made Yorkshire puddings to go with the roast beef, and it was
delicious and perfect. And the evening ended very satisfactorily, in our own cozy little house.