Sunday, 11 March 2018

Sundry Preparations

Let's imagine that we have another killer winter like the one of 1962/63 when the whole country was snowbound from late December to early March. Let's also imagine that as the thaw sets in the pipes start to bust so water becomes a premium commodity.

You, being the responsible soul that you are, have a plentiful supply of canned goods in the house, and you may even have the means to cook if the power goes out. You have stocked up on drinking water and there is a river or canal nearby where you can get water for washing if necessary.

Now then, did you remember to get the sundry items that are needed? So, you have canned foods, but can you wash the pots that you cook them in or have you suddenly realised that you don't have any washing up liquid?  You decide to go to the lavatory and find that the toilet paper is about to run out. You are running out of clean clothes, so tell me how the stock of laundry soap is doing. Come to think of it, is your soap powder designed for a machine or can it also be used for washing clothes by hand? Had you ever thought about investing in a bar of laundry soap, or have you no idea what a bar of laundry soap even is?

You see how it works? You stock up on the big things and the smaller, sundry items get forgotten about. 

Of course, you can stock up on sundries in your emergency cupboard, but that strikes me as a waste of space and money. What I do is always have these items on hand and then go through them so as one gets used, another is purchased to take its place.

Let's take washing up liquid as an example. I live alone so don't need very much, but I still always buy the extra large bottles of the stuff. I always have one bottle in reserve and when the one in use is empty I start using the reserve and then buy another reserve when I next go to the shops.

The same is true of toilet paper. Many people who live solitary lives only buy a pack of two or four rolls, as they think that is all that they need for the month. I take the view that life is simpler if you have goodly supplies of things so I buy a 24 or 36 roll pack and when it becomes half empty I get another one to have in reserve.

What is true of washing up liquid and toilet rolls applies to just about everything that I use in the house, with the result that supplies are almost always in hand. 

Partly this attitude is to do with memories passed down to me of wartime shortages. Partly also to do with my own age since I can remember life before the massive supermarkets when corner shops were the only game in town and sometimes they did run out of supplies. However, I suspect that the main reason is to be found in all those years in Mexico where shortages are a fact of life. The corner shop across the street would run out of soap powder and unlike Britain where shops go to a wholesaler to purchase new supplies, the Mexican ones wait for a truck to make its weekly deliveries. If the delivery is not due for another week, then they would never think to go to the wholesaler themselves, they just sit behind the counter with a look of indifference on their faces. Sorry, we have no soap powder until next week.

So I got into the habit of bypassing the local shops pretty much entirely and driving to a supermarket. Alas, Mexico being what it is, sometimes they had run out of what I wanted and the staff had no idea when the next supplies would arrive. To get around that problem I just began to buy massive quantities of everything for myself and the family. Luckily, we had a very large house, so storage space was not a problem.

Back in the UK, it is obvious to me that a sophisticated, computer run, just in time system of distribution will break down because it is run by idiots and will break down at the first sign of bad weather or the like. So I live as I have always lived and keep a thirty day supply of sundries in the house. The difference between the sundries and the emergency store is that the sundries tend to be rotated through on a regular basis.

The exception to that are my backup supplies. I always keep two spare can openers in the house and my can openers are always manually operated, and of very good quality. Both were rather expensive and neither has ever been used, but I will be damned if I will be reduced to opening cans by banging a large screwdriver through the lids with a hammer.

I keep a pack of non-automatic washing powder in the emergency stash. Yes, you can hand wash with automatic powder or liquid, but it is not easy so why bother? The washing powder was cheap and can sit there forever, if necessary. I hope it is never used, but if it is needed, there it is.

Taking up far too much space in the house is a plastic tub that serves no useful purpose whatsoever, but will be needed if the power ever goes out and I need to wash clothes by hand.

By the way, have you figured out what laundry soap bars are yet? You hardly see them in this country, but they are still used in most of the rest of the world. They consist of a bar of very hard soap, about half a pound in weight, and are ideal for camping and the like since they save the need to carry powder. I bought one in Mexico and brought it home with me for my stash, but then lent it to a Guatemalan lady who begged it from me. Needless to say, women being women, she has never replaced it, so Maria Teresa if you are reading this, when can I expect my replacement bar of laundry soap?

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