Thursday, 29 March 2018

Exactly One Year To Brexit!

It is now 11.00pm on the 29th March 2018. In exactly a year from now, we walk out of the European Union, not on the terms that we would like, and the aftermath will be pretty messy, but we will walk out.

Brexit, sadly, is not going to be an event, instead, it will be a process that has only just begun. We need to start arguing for the type of Britain that we want after March 2019, otherwise, our former allies on the political right will make all the running.

We voted for many economic things in 2016 and many of them are already starting to come true. When I wrote Brexit: For a New Country over a weekend in May 2016 I included this appeal to ordinary people:
Forget changing the law to restrict the entry of scab labour, forget rebuilding the unions that we once had or the Labour Party that we once had to speak for us.

Forget all that for the moment and concentrate on the notion that if foreign labour ceases to flood into the country, then almost by definition your wages will start to rise. If there is no longer a reserve army of unemployed and underemployed people then management scum will have to start offering decent wages to you and to people like you. They may hate you as much as you hate them, but they are not stupid and they need someone to actually do the bastard work that creates the wealth which they then skim off and enjoy. That someone could be you, with for the first time in your life, a decent bloody wage packet burning a hole in your pocket. 
Who can deny that this is now happening? Wages are rising and conditions are improving precisely because scab labourers no longer feel welcome in our country. That is why my 17-year-old son has more work than he can handle flipping burgers at a McDonald's and why he eagerly anticipates his 18th birthday in a month's time when he will get another pay rise and can then work the night shift which pays even more money. 

People like us understand that bastard fucking work is the price we pay for our money and companies like McDonald's know that they have to increase the wages to keep the workers now that Britain is a cold land for immigrants.

Those of us who are on the left, the real left, the left that believes in economic matters and has no interest in cultural ones, argued that case for years. It was one of the roots of our opposition to the whole EU experiment.  We were told that the economy would collapse after a Brexit vote, but two years later the economy, our economy that is, booms as it has not done for years.

Looking ahead, Labour needs to accept that position as dictated by us. If it wants our votes, then it must revert to its old, protectionist, state-support for industry base, otherwise, it will stay out of office no matter what Jeremy Corbyn says or thinks.

That is for the future. For the here and now, let us take a deep breath and look forward to the next year as we head inexorably towards the exit from the European Union.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

A Sensible Prepping Guide, Available Free Now!

A Sensible Prepping Guide is now available as an ebook from Amazon and it is completely free right up to Friday, 23rd March at 7.00am. So you have five full days to download it.

The file is not DRM encoded so you can make a free copy if you wish. I would rather you didn't, but what the hell, encoding a book file just makes the pirates more determined to break it and then gloat about their triumph all over the web. 

This e-pamphlet consists of last week's postings, with some extra material added in. I hope you enjoy having it as one file for easy reference.

Amazon UK                   Amazon USA

All I ask is that having read the book, you leave a review on Amazon.

If you do not have a Kindle reader, then you can get a free Kindle for computer or mobile app by clicking this link.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

My Ruskin College, Oxford, Posts

Late last year I was invited to write a series of posts for the Ruskin College, Oxford, website. I submitted five and the college has published the first four, with the spiked fifth post appearing here at my own blog.

To be honest, I don't blame the college for spiking the final post, since it is a depressing read as you will see in a moment. If you are trying to convince people that higher education is the road to a brighter tomorrow, then the stories of old lags like me who bought into that myth in the 1980s doesn't really help you to talk people into forking out good money to go to Oxford. At least in my day, the state paid us to study, rather than the other way around.

Here is the fifth post:

Life for a Ruskin Man After University

More than one person told me before I went to Ruskin in 1983 that if I could get a diploma from the college I would be guaranteed a job in the Labour Movement. I was also told that if I did an honours degree after Ruskin I would have my pick of jobs. Given that most union officers, researchers and an awful lot of Labour MPs were Ruskin men in those days that struck me at the time as sensible bits of advice to follow.

Unfortunately, Thatcherism turned out to be more than a passing fancy, with the result that many of us ended up with a degree and no jobs at all at the end of our student lives, so let me look back at what happened to my generation.

A few former Ruskinites ended up doing very well for themselves indeed. I can think of one man who is now a happy professor with the Open University and living in Italy. Another is a well-fed barrister and a third is a City of London solicitor who works for a major firm.

What those people had in common was that they all tended to be at the lower end of the Ruskin age-range. They also tended to be from vaguely middle-class backgrounds and something had prevented them from going to university in their late teen years, so they went to Ruskin in their very early twenties. In other words, by and large, they were people who already had the cultural norms that allowed them to fit into upper-middle-class employment patterns, coupled with a determination to do exactly that.

At the other end of the scale were people who were well into middle age when they arrived at Ruskin. Many were industrial workers who had given a lifetime to their unions and were being rewarded with a word in the right ear and a scholarship to Ruskin. They had been told that a union job or seat in the Commons would be theirs, but those promises turned out to be unfulfilled when the great industrial unions vanished along with their industries.

Sadly, after university, many of those people spent the remaining decade or so of their working lives signing on the dole until their state pensions kicked in.

However, the bulk of the eighty or so people who took their diplomas in the mid-1980s falling between those two stools, with my experience as a graduate in his early thirties being fairly typical.
After graduating in 1988 I went back to doing the last job that I had held before it all began in 1983 which involved throwing drunks out of nightclubs. A Ruskin friend of mine who had stayed at Oxford to do a degree had then gone on to take a Certificate in Further Education which qualified him to teach in the Further Education sector so at his recommendation I did the same thing at the same London college that had taken him.

My first job interview with my newly printed certificate turned out to be at a college where all the tutors were on strike, so the job that was being advertised actually belonged to someone who was stood on the picket line that was being mounted outside the main entrance. Instead of going in I stood outside with the strikers, drinking hot, sweet tea, smoking cigarettes and moaning about life in Britain.

My next interview was with a woman who told me that Ruskin was a “workerist institution,” and she doubted that I would be able to fully empathise with the “multicultural leaner experience.” It was at that point that I rather spoiled her nonsense by bursting out into mocking, raucous laughter, and then getting up and going to the nearest pub.

Many Ruskin people had already decided to go abroad. One went to Hungary just as the Cold War ended and became an English teacher.  Another, a former projectionist like me, married a South African Zulu who was also at Ruskin, and they moved to that country as soon as they could.

I ended up in Mexico, where I learned Spanish and did a variety of things both academic and otherwise. I fathered three Anglo-Mexican sons and learned to understand that poverty is far better in a warm climate than a cold one.

Had I not gone to Ruskin all those years ago I am sure that I would have spent my life in Manchester and unemployed for most of it. As it was, Ruskin gave me the skills that I have used to write my books, especially the political pamphlets that helped in some tiny way to get Britain out of the European Union. It acted as a gateway to the University of Manchester and from there to Garnett College, London. Six fat years with full grants and age addition supplements, coupled with the ability to sign on during the vacations, amounted in income terms to far more than I could have ever hope to earn as a casual, short-term worker, interspersed with long periods on the social, which was the life most working people were reduced to in those days.

That said, it did not lead to the life that I had been told would be mine before I went to Ruskin in the first place.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Sensible Prepping

Let's conclude this series of postings about prepping by summarising the themes that have emerged over the past week.

The first and most important to my mind is the notion that being prepared for a crisis that may occur is not an eccentric attitude to have. It is how the generations who lived in this country before us used to behave, and it is how many millions of people all across the planet behave to this day. The idea that things are never so bad that they can't get a bloody sight worse is a dictum that we should all take to heart and try to learn lessons from.

The second lesson is the thought that trusting the state and its agents to take over the role that for centuries was provided by robust individuals, their families and their communities is a mistake of the first order these days. The fact that a bit of snow and cold weather that lasted for about three days in late February 2018 led to a near system collapse is something that should trouble all of us. If three days led to such chaos, then imagine what three months would bring!

We have to start taking responsibility for our own well-being and stop pretending that the state or the collective incompetence of today's private businesses will do it for us. 

It is against this background that I believe that people need to make sensible preparations for future events. I have constantly used the word sensible as I honestly do not believe that even if the shit does hit the fan, then the end of civilisation will necessarily follow.

The creaking, incompetent, state machine will provide the water and rations needed to keep a population in distress alive, but it will do it badly and in its own good time. We, as rational adults have a duty to recognise that fact, and take our own precautions.

I have advised people to keep a stock of cash on hand at all times. That can be in the bank, but in an account that can be accessed at a moment's notice. People who worry about the long-term stability of sterling might wish to keep some of their savings in American dollars since the greenback is today the world's reserve currency.

Supplies of food and water should be kept in the house, with thirty days worth being my suggestion for food. I argued that some supplies would get through, anyway, so your stocks are a supplement to that, not a total replacement.

Those of you who work may think about leaving a bag at work with some basic supplies in it such as a change of clothes, sturdy walking shoes and some food bars. Motorists should never let their car's petrol tank fall below half-full and I suggest that they keep a bag or box in the boot with a blanket, water bottle and supply of cereal bars in it. Finally, learn to keep at least some cash in your wallet or purse as a matter of course. Stop relying on plastic at all times and remember my newly minted dictum that cash is king and plastic is only for plonkers. 

Finally, be sensible about all this and don't go overboard about anything. I reckon that the most that I have spent for items that were bought just to put into storage comes to roughly £100. That includes my solid fuel stove, a gas camping stove and camping heater, some gas canisters for them both, a large water container, a camping shower, a rechargeable lantern and some candles.

The rest is food that was not purchased especially for storage, it is just canned versions of the things that I eat on a regular basis. I built up the stockpile by buying a few extra cans every week until I had my complete stash and now I take items from that stash and then buy replacements as part of my weekly shopping. 

So I hope to get by, and I hope you do as well. At the end of the day that is just about all that any of us can hope to do.

Good luck to you all.

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?

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Everyday Carrying Items

If you have decided to keep a bag at work in case of emergencies then you will probably not be adverse to the idea of having items about your person, or in your everyday briefcase or handbag, to use when a crisis occurs.

What you carry is up to you, based on your assessment of what could conceivably happen as part of your daily commute. Please note, that I did write conceivably in the last sentence, so let's forget about EMP strikes, foreign invaders parachuting onto our shores or people turning into zombies. That said, looking at most commuters these days I often wonder how many of them are already zombies.

Some years ago I watched a television report about a train wreck on the outskirts of London. A man was interviewed who carried a hammer in his briefcase and had used it to break the windows in his carriage to get himself and others out of the train.

The interviewer was fascinated by this suited commuter with an office worker's briefcase who carried a hammer in it. The fellow then explained that a few years earlier he had been in another train crash and had found that the hammers provided in carriages to break the windows in case of an emergency were little better than children's toys, so he started carrying a real hammer that could be used to break real train windows.

Back in 2010, I was living in Putney, London, for a few months. One fine day I was having a drink in a pub - the Spotted Horse, Putney High Street, if you must know - and I fell to chatting with a woman of about my own age, so born in the mid-1950s, who had survived the 7/7 bombings. She had been on one of the underground trains, although luckily so far away from the bomb that she and the other passengers in her carriage had no idea that they had suffered a terrorist attack. The general consensus at first was that the train had been involved in a collision.

However, all the lights went out, and people had to sit in darkness for quite some time. In those days not all mobile phones had built-in torches so there was only the light provided by cigarette lighters and the odd torch that someone had.

The passengers were eventually led out of the train and as the realisation dawned on people what had happened her nervousness led to a great thirst, which she was not able to quench as the people who had got off the train earlier had grabbed all the bottled water that had been available in the nearest shop.

Since that horrible event, she had carried first a torch and then a set of lightsticks, the long, plastic tubes that have chemicals inside and when bent allow those chemicals to mix to create light. Some can last for several hours, and others are only good for about 30 minutes. She went for the latter type since they give off a very bright light that will illuminate a whole room or underground train carriage.  She concluded, rather sadly I thought, that she had used the lightsticks on several occasions.

The lessons from those two stories are that British infrastucture really is so atrocious as to be a national embarrassment and that people have to be prepared to take care of their own immediate needs. It is not an individual's fault that the infrastructure is only held together by duct tape, epoxy resin glue and a prayer, but we are responsible for our own lives. So we need to analyse our daily situation and decide what we should carry on the off chance that things will go wrong as part of the day.

Now, not everyone will feel the need to carry a hammer to break out of a wrecked train, or lightsticks to illuminate a darkened carriage, as it may be that those items are regarded by most people as excessive. However, a fully charged mobile phone, with a small power pack carried in a pocket or handbag, also fully charged, strikes me as fairly basic. That the handset should also have a built-in torch goes without saying. A reasonable amount of cash to cover times when the plastic is no good for whatever reason is also a matter of common sense to me.

Above all else, is the realisation that the state machinery is now creaking at best and that we are now as responsible for our own immediate needs as our ancestors in the years before the welfare state was created.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Get Home Bags

If any reasonably sane person starts to investigate get-home bags they will be stunned to see the recommendations that are put forward by the so-called experts in the preparation field. Bags that seem to include guns, large amounts of ammunition and seriously dangerous knives are all opened up and photographed by people who seem to think that the contents really will be of any use to anyone. Either that, or it is their idea of pornography.

That said, even though I have no real use for a get-home bag I will recommend that you keep one at work, if possible. I have no use for such a bag on account of the fact that I am retired, but for those who work away from home,  a get-home bag, kept at work, could very well turn out to be very useful indeed.

Just take it seriously, be British about it, and don't go off the wall by stocking everything in it. You are not trying to get home from the other side of the world since the vast majority of British people work within ten miles of their home. So you really don't need any of the junk that you will be recommended to have if you do a Google search for get-home bags.

On the 7th July 2005, London was subjected to a set of vicious terrorist attacks that left 52 people dead and a transport system that closed down completely whilst the state figured out just what exactly had hit the city. The buses outside the centre started to operate in the late afternoon, with some of the underground system starting up again the next morning.

In Edinburgh, during the mid-evening of the 28th February 2018, the snowstorm stopped all the buses and most of the taxis, with the bus service not restarting until the late morning of the 2nd March.

In both cities people found themselves stuck with no means of getting home, although it must be said that it was less of a problem in Edinburgh as the storm hit after most people had finished work and headed for home. In London, since the attacks came in the morning rush hour, tens of thousands of people found themselves trapped at work with no means of getting anywhere. 

Some walked, others took a hotel for the night, with very many other bedding themselves down in their offices until the chaos outside had calmed down.  It is for people in that situation that the idea of a get-home bag with three days supplies in it was thought up.

Do you really expect to be stuck for three days? Realistically, no, so the reason why you should have three days worth of supplies in the bag is that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Besides, you may end up helping out your less prepared workmates.

If you think that you may one day have to sleep at work then remember that any idiot can be uncomfortable, so try and plan to be as comfortable as possible. A sleeping mat does not cost very much and takes up hardly any space rolled up. A sleeping bag may be seen as an unnecessary expense, but cheap, summerweight bags can be had for a very reasonable price and they hardly take up any room in a bag. Given that you will be sleeping in a building, not out in the wilds, such a sleeping bag would be fine all year round.

If you are going to have to march ten miles home then a decent pair of walking shoes are just essential, as is comfortable clothing that you can walk in. Ladies, you may look great in your Armani suit with a pair of killer heels on your feet, but do you really want to be pounding the pavements like that?

If the crisis hits in the winter then you will probably be wearing outerwear for the elements, but for the summer months, a raincoat might be an idea for your bag. It may have been bright sunshine when you left the house, with the long-range forecast predicting weather like that all week, but this is the UK and we all know that weather forecasts are a work of fiction so tomorrow you could find yourself walking home in torrential rain.

Underwear, T-shirts, socks, that's where your three-day supplies start. The weight is minimal, but the need could very well turn out to be great.

Food should also be in the bag. Go for the energy and breakfast bars that you can find in any supermarket. Stick a load in the bag, along with anything else that is easy to transport and needs no cooking. Realistically, there will be plenty of cafes open, unless it is an unexpected snowstorm that hits you, in which case they probably won't be, so stock up and be sure of being safe rather than ever being sorry.

Water is a must, or rather a couple of plastic bottles that you can refill. We may only get scorching hot summers once in a while, but Sod's Law dictates that you will have to go on your long march on a day when the thermometer is in the 90s.

A mobile phone charger, because again Sod's Law will ensure that your mobile telephone runs out of juice, along with the power pack that you carry in your pocket at all times. You do carry such a power pack, don't you? Of course you do...

A few quid in small denomination notes and change will come in handy if the terminals stop working or you find yourself in a cash-only shop. The change means that you can use a payphone on the street if you can find one these days. In the hours after the 7/7 atrocities, pretty much all the mobile phone signals were out of action because everyone was trying to call home at the same time. The sensible thing would have been to send boring old texts which did get through, but people wanted to hear voices, or they didn't think, either way, the mobile network was swamped.

You might even want to keep a very cheap, very simple mobile phone that is only good for calls and texts in your bag. It might be an idea to have one that works on another network to your usual handset. That way if one network is swamped you have at least the chance of the other being free.

Finally, a small notebook with all your important people and their contact details written in it. Yes, I know that nobody remembers phone numbers these days and we all have them stored in the mobile's memory, so what happens if you lose the damned handset? I accept that this is unlikely to happen, but for the sake of a small amount of space, where's the harm in keeping those important details written down on paper?

The above are just suggestions, so obviously you can add or delete whatever you wish from your own bag, according to your own needs and priorities as you assess them to be.

What I would say is don't go overboard on this. Statistically, you only have to walk ten miles at most to get home. There will be plenty of people with you, all making the same journey and whenever a crisis hits people cooperate with each other. For instance, when my car got stuck in a snowdrift in early 2018, a man galloped off to his house to grab his snow shovel to help dig the car out of the drift so I could get on my way. The drivers of the other cars that were blocked in by my vehicle sat patiently until my car was freed and then when I managed to park up on the main road, they slowed down to check that I was alright.

So don't worry, as you are with your own people in your own country, and you can help each other.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Power Outage Backups

I have the bad fortune to live in a house that is all-electric, so I do not have the option of switching from mains gas to mains electric, or vice-versa, in the case of an emergency. That being so I have had to go down the camping gas route as my main power outage backup.

The single burner camping stove pictured above is available under many different names, which are probably all made by the same factory in China. It costs less than £20 and uses the CP250 gas canisters that are available at most camping and motoring shops. It comes with its own plastic case and along with half a dozen gas canisters, space has been found for this cooking backup in my emergency pantry.

Small camping heaters that also use the CP250 gas canisters are also readily available for about the same price as the stove, and one of them is on my list to purchase before the end of 2018. We had no power outages this year, but a lot of people did, so items like this strike me as essential elements of a getting by strategy.

Let's be honest, at my age and in my lousy health, any time spent cooking with this stove and getting what heat I can from that heater is going to be a very miserable time indeed. That said, I will be able to heat some hot food and keep one room slightly above freezing, at least until the last gas canister runs out.

My backup for the backup, as it were, is an Esbit solid fuel stove, the simplest version of which retails for under £10.00. This gadget has been standard British army issue for very many years now and it is not much bigger than a packet of cigarettes. It opens up to create legs for the stove to stand on and a holder for a pan to rest. Solid fuel tablets are placed in the unit's base and lit with a match. If it works for the British army then it should work for the likes of me in a real, dire emergency.

Lighting will come from a rechargeable lantern until its charge dies, and then candles, of which I have a goodly stock.

Traditionally, my family kept paraffin in the house since my father was a keen gardener and had a paraffin heater in his greenhouse. When Britain had the power outages in the early to mid-1970s my mother dug out the oil lamp that she had in storage along with the heads of a few more that she had stuck in a drawer when the lamps had got broken. She then washed out some old jam jars to use as reservoirs. I was asked to go to the local ironmonger's on my way home from work to see if he still had any glass chimneys in stock and I remember coming home with half a dozen of them.

By the time the first power cut hit, our house could be illuminated as if we still had electricity, all thanks to my dad's love of gardening and my mother's refusal to throw anything out. Meanwhile, neighbours were reduced to hunting further and further afield for candles, which quickly sold out in the few shops that stocked them.

Today I do not have a garden and I do not feel that I can justify a gallon or so of paraffin in my house on the off-chance that it will be needed to light the property one day. If I could afford it I would install solar panels that connected to a set of marine batteries that would then give out 240 volts via a power inverter, but I cannot afford that expense, either.

Like most responsible people I cut my cloth according to my purse, and my purse can run to enough candles to keep some light in the house until the power is restored.

My mobile 'phone can be charged with a large power bank, with the bank and the lantern then being recharged in the car, using the mobile 'phone charger that I have in the vehicle which plugs into the cigarette lighter socket.  This assumes that I can get to the car, of course, and if the crisis involves large amounts of snow that may not be an option for someone who can barely walk at the best of times. That said, given that the mobile 'phone towers need electricity to work and that the backup generators need refuelling, a fully charged mobile 'phone may not be top of my agenda in a major blackout.

Luckily, even though today's landline telephones need electricity to work, I have a simple, old-fashioned telephone that only needs to be plugged in to make and receive calls. It sits in a box as part of my emergency stash, patiently waiting its turn to be used should the need arise.

The sad thing about all of this is that much of it is so very avoidable. Big cities in the UK rarely have power outages, but given that Britain only has a twenty days reserve of natural gas and many of the power stations are fueled by gas that may not be the case in the future. By way of contrast, the USA has a six-month supply of gas in its strategic reserve, but the British seem to think that twenty days is enough.

Of course, the country still has some coal-fired power stations and there are millions of tons of coal beneath our feet, but the European Union insists on countries ceasing to use coal-fired stations and even after we are free of that body it is unlikely that coal will restart this side of a major national catastrophe that leaves the country in darkness for quite some time.

So, we plan for future events based on the situation as it exists at the moment, not on how we would wish the country to be. Indeed, part of the reason why we make preparations for a potential crisis is that the country is not run as we want it to be and that fact frightens us a great deal.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Feeding Yourself

"There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy," said  Alfred Henry Lewis in 1906. Food is more important in the popular mind than water, even though we can last far longer with an empty stomach than a dry mouth. If food supplies are disrupted for more than three or so days then governments fear that a panic-stricken populace will start to attack the supermarkets that still have stock, and then riot if they find them empty.

If you talk about prepping to people they will often think about a cellar full of enough canned foods to last a decade. I tend to the view that a thirty-day stockpile is enough for most conceivable emergencies and my cupboard is stocked with that in mind. If you think about it rationally, even in the direst of circumstances, enough food gets through to keep a population from starving, especially in the civilised world, although it has been touch and go at times.

A good example of this would be Berlin in April 1945 as the Soviet artillery began to pound the city prior to the final assault. On the 22 April, the city authorities handed out what they called "advance rations" that were to be consumed during the coming battle when the normal daily ration could not be maintained. The diarist Marta Hiller queued for two hours in the rain to collect "250 grams of course-ground grain, 250 grams of oatmeal, 2 pounds of sugar, 100 grams of coffee substitute and a can of kohlrabi." She noted in the diary that was later published anonymously as A Woman in Berlin that the meat and sausage that should have formed part of that advance ration was not supplied at her distribution point, but it was something.

The Berlin authorities continued to supply the normal rations to the people until each distribution point was overrun by the Soviet troops. The city had fallen by the end of April and by the end of May the Soviet occupiers had begun to distribute their ration cards to the people, and by June the shops were starting to reopen with the authoress noting that even a ladies' hairdresser had established his operation, provided his customers could bring their own hot water for a wash and set.

So, a thirty-day supply of basic foodstuffs strikes me a sensible approach to take for most possible emergencies. I might add that this is a policy that I have followed for many years now, probably since before the whole idea of survivalism or being a prepper was even thought up. It's just the way that people used to behave in the old days and the way that they still do in the more backward parts of the world today.

 As I have said elsewhere, my mother was a proto-prepper with her drawer full of items that might come in handy in an emergency, and my years in Mexico reinforced the cultural values that I inherited from her. It is not that Mexico is really down at the bottom of the international heap, but things don't work as well as they did in the Great Britain that I knew, so supplies did not always get through due to basic national incompetence. The fact that Great Britain now does not work as well as it did, and has adopted some of the traits of national incompetence that were formerly only found in the third world only serves to encourage me to keep a full larder well stocked with non-perishable foodstuffs.

I stocked my emergency pantry by buying an extra can or two of everything that was on my weekly shopping list, anyway. I reasoned that if I don't like eating something on a day to day basis I was hardly going to become a fan because by being forced to eat it if normal supplies became interrupted. So buying things especially for the stockpile makes no sense to me.

The cans of baby potatoes that I keep in storage are the main exception to that rule. Being the good Northerner that I am, no meal is complete without spuds on the plate, but since fresh potatoes cannot be kept long term I did stock up on the canned variety just to keep in. I use mashed potatoes a lot, so packets of instant mash were bought on the same basis as the canned goods when it came to the initial stocking of the emergency 30-day pantry.

Bread is another item that just cannot be stored for long, unless it is kept in a freezer. For a man living alone like me that is less of a problem than it is for a family, since a housewife will obviously need every inch of freezer space available for other things. That being the case a stock of good bread flour and packets of yeast might be kept in the kitchen. Alternatively, ready made mixes can be bought and kept in the emergency pantry.

Many preppers keep powdered milk in their emergency stockpile, but I don't. In fact, there is no milk at all in that pantry because what I use on a day to day basis is UHT milk which comes in a carton that lasts for months without refrigeration. I buy two or even three boxes of the milk and use it as part of my normal life. When I am down to the last box of 12 cartons, I go and buy another one or two boxes. That policy has nothing to do with being prepared for emergencies, and everything to do with being the way I am. I have always liked to have on hand a large stock of the items that I use every day and then I go through them until the stock is reduced by about half and then more is bought. For the life of me, I will never understand the people who only buy a small box of about 40 teabags when giant ones of 360 are available.

You should remember that you will almost certainly have fresh foods in your refrigerator, and probably quite a few cans and fresh vegetables in your normal pantry. Obviously, when word reaches you of the looming crisis you will go to your local supermarket and buy in extra supplies, and if you are reading this piece then you are probably the type of person who keeps an eye on both the news and the weather reports, so you should be able to buy extra supplies before most people wake up to the fact that supplies are about to be disrupted.

Thus, you will actually have far more than a basic thirty-day ration in your house on the day that the storm breaks or the zombies arrive.

So relax and stock up now with sensible amounts of canned foods and you will be fine for most emergencies.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Why Cash Is Always the King

As the snow stopped falling over Edinburgh in early March 2018 I decided to go to my local supermarket to buy some bread. It was all I needed, but to justify the journey I added breakfast in the supermarket's cafe to my list.

There was only one man behind the counter and he was taking the orders and preparing the food since he was the only member of the cafe's staff that had managed to get into work since the buses were still not running. The hero of the hour took my order and then said quite casually that the cafe was only taking cash since the machine that processed card payments had stopped working. Perhaps needless to say, no technician could get in to fix it because of the weather.

I replied that this was fine and I intended to pay in cash, anyway, and I went on to say that I disliked plastic at the best of times.

Both the counterman and the security guard who was stood at the counter eating a sandwich both then told me that they never carry cash because plastic is so much easier these days.

As I took my seat, food and coffee in hand, I reflected that had they been punters like me and not staff then they would not have found the plastic so convenient that day. 

So cash is king for anyone who wants to make sensible preparations for life's eventualities. Not only that, but the type of cash is also very important, which is why many people keep a stock of both their local currency and American dollars to hand in a safe location.

In the days when I lived in Mexico, keeping dollars in the house was something I just did as a matter of course, since nobody in that country ever has any faith whatsoever in the Mexican peso.

A friend of mine is a regular traveller to the Far-East. The last trip he made in 2017 involved him taking a couple of hundred pounds and his debit card to Manila, the capital of the Philippines, where he had to change aircraft to go to his final destination in the far south of that country.

You can probably guess what happened at Manila Airport: none of the ATMs was working and in the finest traditions of the third world, nobody knew anything about when they would be back in operation. 

However, he had £200 in sterling, which should have been more than enough. Unfortunately, he had taken that money out of an ATM in Edinburgh and almost all that amount was in Scottish notes. Needless to say, the staff at all the money change shops refused to swap them for pesos. 

As luck would have it he had one Bank of England £20 note in his wallet and that, exchanged for pesos had to last him for the next 24 hours until he reached his final destination. 

The point here is that the American dollar is the world's reserve currency. It is the stash that people keep under their beds and the dollar is freely exchangeable just about anywhere. Had my friend kept a wad of dollars for his trips abroad he would not have had the problems that he did. On the other hand, we his friends would not have had such amusing anecdotes about how he survived 24 hours in Manila with just twenty quid in his pocket.  So, keeping a supply of dollars to hand strikes me as just simple common sense for the regular traveller or for anyone who is worried about the future of the local currency. In that case the dollar provides its holders with plenty of day to day reassurance.

Most sensible people will keep some of their savings in an account that allows for immediate access to the funds.  I am one who cannot afford to keep all that much money saved up, but I do know which banks in my locality give out English notes and in an emergency, I would go to one of them. Just as I trust the Federal Reserve more than the Bank of England, so I trust the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street more than I do the Scottish issuing banks.

English notes would be more useful in case of a major event in Britain that then puts the ATMs out of action. Dollars would be no use in this country under those circumstances, but neither would high denomination banknotes, either.  I think a mixture of fives, tens and twenties make sense, with a couple of bags of one pound and 50p coins thrown in for good measure.

At this point, you may be expecting me to start banging on about the utility of keeping gold and silver as part of your emergency stash, but I am not going to do that for the simple reason that I do not believe that there is any utility in keeping such things to hand.

In Mexico a lot of people keep silver coins, especially the one troy ounce silver round known as the Libertad, but that has more to do with the fact that Mexico is the world's leading producer of silver, coupled with folk memories of the days when the Mexican silver peso was worth more than the American silver dollar than it does with anything else. Sadly, the days when American traders had to travel to Mexico to exchange their silver dollars for silver pesos as those were the prefered coins for the China trade are long gone. Today's Chinese are quite happy to take dollars and so should you.

One lesson that Mexico can teach Britain is to be prepared for the next currency collapse. They have had many experiences of that with their own currency, and have the mental ability to switch into whatever is available at a moment's notice.

For instance, during the peso crisis of 1994 when the exchange houses refused to change money until 11.00am because Banco de Mexico could not set an exchange rate that would last the rest of the day until that time, people started using all sorts of weird and wonderful things to transact business with. Silver coins and dollars were the obvious ones, closely followed by bottles of tequila and brandy, with cartons and pack of cigarettes bringing up the rear. I remember getting my car fixed at that time by a man who wanted two rather decent bottles of tequila for his labours. I thought that was too much so he gave me a carton of Marlboro cigarettes by way of change.

Using alcohol and cigarettes as emergency currencies have a long tradition behind it. There are even preferred cigarette brands that are used when the money is no good. For instance in Romania, just about anything that a person wanted could be had for packs of Kent cigarettes during the Cold war era. Closer to home, when my mother died in 1989 I found several half and quarter bottles of whisky in a drawer, along with plenty of tea, sugar and powdered milk.

Given that both my parents were teetotal, I asked my father what the deal was with the booze and he explained that my mother had only survived the Great War by good luck, but still ended up with rickets which left her with bow legs for the rest of her life. As the Second World War approached she and her mother had stocked up on whisky to use as trade goods for hard to obtain food to make sure that they didn't go hungry again.

Luckily, the rationing in the Second World War was more efficiently run than it had been in the First War, so she didn't need to barter very much, which was why a few bottles were still in that drawer. The tea and sugar were post-war and dated back to the time when people feared a Third World War. I suppose she planned to have a final cuppa as she awaited the atomic bombs.

So, by all means, keep some trade goods on hand if you feel that such things are a good idea. The non-smokers could even bring back a few cartons of cigarettes from their next holiday abroad, assuming they go to a land where tobacco is cheap and then keep them as an emergency currency.

However, I honestly believe that for what we may call a normal crisis, having ready access to pounds sterling makes far more sense. For people who fear long-term sterling troubles, the U.S. dollar provides a perfect, easily transportable, safe-haven.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Emergency Water Matters

You can live for a long time without food, but only a day or so without water. If you are lucky enough to live in a house that still has a cold water tank then you will have up to about 50 gallons on tap and ready to use. If you don't then you will need to store water, but before we look at that, let's decide if you have a water tank or not.

Put your thumb over a tap's outlet and turn on the cold water as much as you can. If you can hold the water back with your thumb then congratulations, you are taking your water from a tank and your next task is to find the damned thing. 

In many houses, it will be in the loft. If you don't have a loft and live in a Victorian tenement then look for a hatch near the ceiling. Open the hatch up and there's your tank. If you live in a post-war build then the cold water tank is often above the hot water boiler. Usually, with those houses, the tank only feeds the taps in the upstairs bathroom, with the kitchen taking its supply directly from the mains. If you lose your mains supply you can still draw water from the tank via those upstairs taps and flush the toilet, which puts you in a far better position than the poor sods who have no cold water tanks at all.

If you live in an older property and your thumb test with all the taps shows that you are taking the supply from the mains, it is pretty certain that your house had a cold water tank in the past, but that someone has disconnected it. It might be an idea to hunt around and see if the tank is still in situ and then arrange to have it reconnected. Say what you like about the Victorians, they knew damn well how in winter the mains pipes can burst and leave people without water so they made sure that every house had its own emergency supply.

In 1999 the then Labour government decided that water from a tank was bad, so they changed the regulations, with the result that few houses built since then have cold water tanks in them. The tanks in rented properties had so many new regulations added to their use that it was easier for landlords to just disconnect the tanks from the supply.

So, if you don't have a cold water tank then you are going to have to store water in containers. You can buy bottled water from a supermarket, or get empty containers and fill them from your tap. The recommendation is a gallon of water per person per day, and since water is now sold in metric measures which hardly anyone understands, a gallon is 4.5 litres, roughly, so by getting a five-litre container you have just over a gallon. 

I have a 5.5-gallon water container that I keep filled with tap water. The nice thing about this is that it can stand upright in a cupboard out of the way, but in an emergency, it can be laid on its side next to the sink, with water then being taken from its built-in tap.  

Occasionally the water will go off for an hour or so whilst repairs to the mains are being carried out. The last time that this affected me was in about 2015 when I found myself without the means to make a brew one morning. Since then I have always ensured that my kettle is filled after every use and I have a one-gallon bottle of water under the sink in case I want more tea.

When I lived in Mexico City I had a 10,000 litre (2,200 gallons) tank buried in the patio. That fed via a water pump to two 1,100 litres (240 gallons) tanks on the roof and those tanks then fed the house. In Mexico, where the water can be out for two or three weeks at a time, that is not an overreaction, but in the British context, I would say that three days is probably the maximum amount of time that a house in a major urban area would be without water in most conceivable emergencies. 

Hopefully, even during that period, the water bowsers would be sent out to allow people to fill their containers, but I did notice that during the March 2018 freeze, Thames Water was supplying its 20,000 homes who found themselves without water with small bottles of the precious liquid. That may be fine for drinking but is hardly useful for bathing when a bucketful of water would be needed.

That said, I have enough Mexican memories swirling around my head to ensure that when it comes to water, a five or six-gallon emergency supply is not enough. So I keep water purification tablets on hand and have a couple of buckets that can be used to ferry water from my local river to the house in a real emergency, or for bathing purposes. The tablets can leave a pretty nasty taste to the water, but beggars really cannot be choosers if the day ever dawns when they are needed.

Of course, there are water purification filters on sale which claim to make even the vilest of stagnant waters drinkable, but I tend to the view that they are probably an unnecessary expense for conceivable emergencies in the United Kingdom. Three gallons of drinking water per person should be enough to see most emergencies through and that is a minimum amount of water to have on hand.

When it comes to bathing, the situation really depends on the supply of water. If there is a standpipe on the street or a water bowser then filling buckets should not be a problem. If neither has been put in place, then the local river or canal may be your best option. Luckily, water mains tend to burst when there is a quick thaw after a deep freeze, so at least you will not be fighting your way through a blizzard to get to the riverbank.

How, then to bathe? The simplest, most traditional method is to fill a bucket with the warmest water available and stand in the bath or shower with a bowl in your hand to ladle the water over yourself. I have done that many times in Mexico when the water was out, and before I had the massive tank installed.

I would put a bucket full of water in direct sunlight, with a plastic bag over the top of the bucket to create a greenhouse for the water. Within an hour or so the water had heated to such an extent that sometimes I had to add cold water to it otherwise it was too hot to wash with.

The problem is that in Mexico City the weather in a mid-January afternoon is similar to the weather in Edinburgh in mid-July, so I don't recommend that method in a British winter.

Assuming water can be heated there are now rather simple camping showers available which consist of a shower head, six feet of tube and a water pump that sits in your bucket of warm water. The pump can be recharged by a mobile phone charger and all in all they seem very good value indeed. I have one since I only have an electric shower that will not work without the mains power supply, so it is mainly a backup for that.

To summarise, I would recommend only bathing if you have enough water on hand to allow you to do that without putting your drinking water supply in jeopardy.

Your drinking water supply should be a minimum of a gallon of water per person per day, and I suggest that three days supply is a reasonable stockpile to have in the house.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

What Lessons Can Be Learned Courtesy of the Beast From the East?

The weather front that will go down in history as The Beast from the East hit the UK on the 27th February and is now slowly losing its bestial powers. As the weekend draws to a close the temperature should start to rise and the snows will melt. Life will go on and within a month it will all be forgotten about.

People spent whole nights trapped in their cars or forced to suffer a night on a train that was stuck in the middle of nowhere with no heat, light or even information as to when their sufferings would end. As I write, many thousands of houses are without electricity, and the road and rail networks are still in a state of chaos, with many bus services across the country running skeleton services, or none at all. British Gas is just one service that collapsed almost completely with many thousands of often elderly customers frantically trying to call the company's helplines when their boilers packed up. The icing on that particular cake came on the 1 March when it looked for a time as if the country was going to run out of gas.

I am old enough to just about remember the killer winter of 1962/63 which hit the country on Boxing Day and lasted until the first week of March. Pretty much the whole of January and February saw the UK covered in a white blanket of snow, with temperatures almost constantly below freezing.

Yet the buses and trains ran so people got to work and the economy ran, albeit at sub-optimal levels. Football matches had to be canceled, which annoyed the men and boys, although probably not as much as did their women who found themselves with bored fellows getting under the feet. The housewives and their daughters could get to the shops because the councils sent teams of beefy workmen with shovels to move the snow off the pavements, thus creating vast miniature mountain ranges of the stuff at the sides of the roads. That was great for six-year-old me as my father would drag me over those peaks on my sledge when he came home from work. My father and millions like him got to his factory because the councils made damn sure that the main roads were kept open, courtesy of the muscle-power of an army of labourers with no higher technology than shovels and lorries to cart the snow away in and dump it on the nearest bombsite or patch of waste ground.

When the cold front hit at the end of February 2018, the attitude seemed to be that it was every man for himself, with bus services cancelled. That meant that the many shops could not open, and the ones that did quickly found that they were running out of supplies.

The wonderfully sophisticated system of just in time deliveries where a computer programme places an order to another computer programme so that stocks of fresh bread and the like are delivered just as the old supply runs out exacerbated the problems. The system works very well until it stops working and then there are no means to create workarounds to ensure that supplies reach their intended destinations. When a country that is unprepared for extreme weather suddenly gets rather a lot of it and when councils decide to wash their hands of the problems, expecting the delivery system to continue working is expecting rather a lot.

The lesson that the Beast from the East gave to me is that individuals and their families need to take responsibility for their own immediate needs and not expect government of whatever level to do anything other than wring its hands and call meetings to analyse the situation and then do very little to ameliorate it.

That is not to say that I expect societal collapse at any time in the future because I don't. History teaches us that states and their people can survive any amount of catastrophe and keep on working. I lived in Mexico during the peso crisis of 1994 when the currency went into a nosedive, something which happened on a far worse level almost a decade later in Argentina. Yet both Argentina and Mexico came through the crisis, just as they came through their coups, revolutions and massive earthquakes in the case of Mexico, especially.

I just expect things to be run in a more cack-handed way that they were in the post-war years, with a more incompetent, third world level of response to any catastrophes that occur. People vote for lower levels of taxation and accept poor state provision so there is no point in whining when things don't work as they used to. The trick is to prepare for unforeseen events at the family or individual level so that as many people as possible can get through the period when nothing works.

With that in mind, I am going to put together a short series of postings on being prepared for events. These will be based on my own experiences of trying to be prepared for life's little vicissitudes in various third world shitholes and then applying them those lessons to life in the UK. 

Don't worry, as I plan to keep things as commonsensical as possible, so you will not be expected to plough through posts about bugout bags and what to do when the shit hits the fan. People who think like that are not planning for problems they are wanking over the thought of a catastrophe occurring that will allow them to light out into the wilderness and live a neolithic life. 

Such people are as mad as the ones who make no preparation for a major event at all, but between the two groups there sit I, and I hope you do too. We are the people who think that things are bad and will probably get worse, but we don't think that the end of the world is at hand.

If we are preppers, then we are terribly British preppers.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Uncle Ken's Winter Motoring Survival Tips

As the M80 motorway finally clears of the over one thousand vehicles that had been stuck on it for up to 24 hours, I think it is time to make a few sensible points about the need to be prepared for emergencies such as this. Please note that there is a world of difference between being prepared and being a prepper. The former are sane, sensible people and the latter tend to be nutters who fantasise about the end of the world. So, what can sane and sensible people do to prepare for a crisis such as the appalling weather than we have endured in Scotland over the past few days? 

Many people stuck on that motorway were complaining that their cars were almost out of fuel so rule number one is never let your car's fuel gauge fall below the halfway mark. I tend to top up at the three-quarter line, and only let the tank fall to near the red line on a warm summer's day when I am travelling down to London from Edinburgh.

I learned that lesson from long years living in various third world places where petrol arrives or it doesn't and nobody seems to care when the stations are out of fuel. The people yesterday who got stuck on the motorway with only a small amount of petrol in their tanks and who could not turn on their engines from time to time to warm up the car have now learned that lesson as well, so let it be a warning to one and all to keep their tanks topped up.

Another thing that people stuck on the motorway complained about was the fact that their mobile 'phones were about the die on them. Quite how anyone can fail to have a mobile 'phone charger in their car that works off the cigarette lighter is beyond me. I have only ever used mine once or twice but it is in the car and ready to be used if the need arises.

As a young man back in the 1970s I always had a blanket in my car, a gaily coloured thing that I used to leave over the back seat, along with a small holdall in the boot that had an old pair of jeans, some comfortable old trainers and a couple of days supply of underwear, socks and T-shirts. Eventually, I added a small travel kettle to the holdall, along with a plastic bag that had tea, coffee, powdered milk, sugar and an unopened packet of fags in it. Not bad planning for a fellow in his very early twenties, eh?

Let me explain what was going on. In those days I was a keen shagging man who would go with anything female that was still breathing, moderately clean and wearing a skirt. For that reason, I knew where every discrete carpark was in the whole of Manchester, so if I pulled a bit of totty who didn't live in a flat of her own, I could take her to a quiet carpark to engage in a legover situation.

Don't ask me why, but the blanket helped persuade more than one tasty bit of fluff to let me separate her from her clothes in the back of my car. It was as if the act of covering us both with the blanket made everything safe in her mind. Given that the original blanket was only in the car by chance, once I realised that it allowed me to add more notches to my cock, it was swiftly replaced by the multicoloured, double blanket that stayed in whatever car I owned for donkey's years.

The clothes came about because on more than one occasion I found myself miles from home, enjoying a one night stand and hated to have to travel home in the same clothes as the night before since by then those clothes stank of my sweat and tobacco mingled with her perfume. A change of clothes made sense, as did sticking them in a holdall and then leaving everything in the boot of my car. 

I even stuck a spare toothbrush, some toothpaste and a deodorant spray in the bag as well. I don't think I packed a razor since I was quite happy with the unshaven apres shag look.

The kettle and drinks' supplies came about because I once drove a rather nice little goer over to her place in Bolton or Blackburn - I forget which - and the next morning the cheeky mare threw me out without even a cup of tea to keep me going let alone a decent breakfast, all with the feeble excuse that she was late for work! She even expected me to drive her to her place of work, something which I still think was sauce of the highest order. Anyway, being a decent soul I dropped her off sort of near to where she wanted to go since she had said that there was a cafe in that area. There wasn't, and I think that was a ploy to get a ride, so driving home with a mouth that felt like the inside of a Turkish wrestler's jockstrap, I decided there and then that nonsense like that was never going to happen ever again.

In case you are wondering, my boot also had a one-gallon plastic bottle of water in it. My cars tended to have leaky radiators so water was something I always carried. Anyway, the travel kettle, plus supplies meant that I could pull over in a layby and make myself a cup of tea to wake myself up with. The change of clothes made me feel sort of human again, and the spare packet of cigarettes prevented me from pressing the pedal to the metal in frustration. Hey, life was not only simple. it was also bloody good in those days...

The need to appease the brain between my legs may have been my motivation for being prepared, but the contents of my boot came in handy on more than one occasion as I drove along a motorway and found that there was a major pileup in front that blocked my journey. Just being able to get off the road and pull over somewhere to let the traffic-free up with a drink and whatever snacks I had in the car made my extended journey tolerable.

If the worse came to the worse, I could always wrap myself in the blanket and doss in the car. Sooner or later the road would clear and I would be able to get on my way.

So, make sure you always keep your petrol tank topped up and you have a mobile 'phone charger to hand in your car. Keep some water and warm clothes in the boot along with a thick double blanket to wrap yourself in if the need arises.
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