English power cutbacks evoke Blitz-era rationing memories

(A native of England, veteran journalist Matthew Diebel has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations.)

Yes, those gritty Brits actually enjoy power cuts

My parents, both born in London, were 11 when World War II started. At first, there was the so-called Phony War, when nothing much happened, but in 1940 Adolf Hitler unleashed his massive air force and bombed English cities in what became known as the Blitz.

My father, who had relatives in the countryside, moved to their farm to wait out the conflict. With agricultural products immediately available, he ate well.

My mother’s family, though, had no such contacts, so they stayed in the city and heard the German raids and saw their aftermath. She reported to me that it was a time of both terror and boredom, the latter engendered by many hours spent in bomb shelters.

Meanwhile, rationing of almost every kind was introduced, particularly of food, with my grandmother the keeper of a ration book that portioned out tiny amounts of meat, butter, bread and vegetables.

Were they angry? Dispirited? Woebegone? No! In fact, they actually enjoyed it (the rationing part, at least). My mother told me about using the butter wrappings to grease baking pans, a habit she maintained after the war. Nothing went to waste. Instead of moaning and groaning, they embraced the deprivation as doing their part for the war effort.

And something akin is happening now that the U.K. is facing a cold weather-induced power crisis that has led the government to encourage energy savings from households across the nation by paying them to cut back on power usage at peak times…

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