Most of us have constraints on where we live – how much we can afford, how far we want to travel to get to work, what’s available in the area. Not many people have the opportunity or the inclination to do what I did a few years back, which was to quit my job, sell my property, use the money to clear all my debts and move to a new location.
The reasons for this fairly drastic step were varied but mostly related to being unsatisfied with where I was. I didn’t particularly enjoy the job, I’d hit the ceiling in terms of promotion, pay and responsibilities within a year of getting it and faced sitting there doing the same old, same old every day until I retired or getting out. I didn’t feel comfortable with the location I was living in, which was a sink estate in the city of Aberdeen; there were too many drug addicts and alcoholics in the neighbourhood, theft was rampant – I even had to chain my doormat down or it would be stolen! – and if anything bad had happened, I didn’t feel it would be a safe place to be for more than about ten minutes. So, in the interests of improving my work life balance, I quit being employed and went self-employed, which I don’t regret for a moment. I also put the third-floor inner-city flat on the market and moved out to a small village thirty miles away, where I feel my chances of survival are much improved.
We’re in a very odd position in the UK at the moment – and to some extent, a lot of the rest of the world is in that position too. Until very recently, the majority of the population lived in the country, was engaged in agriculture or agriculture-related work, and thus lived close to the important natural resources – food and water. Now, the majority of the population live in a city, where they’re dependent on a very small proportion of the population growing food and shipping it to them, or pumping water in from a distance. Many of those who still live in the country commute to a job in a city every day.
The consequences of this have been thrown into pretty sharp focus in the past few weeks here. The extensive flooding in the south of England due to very high rainfall and a series of strong Atlantic storms hitting the country mean that villages are cut off and have to have food and drinking water brought to them, or have been evacuated. Much of the flooding along the River Thames has hit commuter-belt country, which means people can’t get to work because their cars are parked under metres of water, or the roads are blocked. If they were at work when the flooding began, they then couldn’t get back to their homes. There was plenty of warning of the likelihood of flooding – to give them their due, the Environment Agency and the Met Office have called the rainfall, the winds and the rising rivers very accurately this winter, and a great deal of valuable preparation time was granted to the victims of the flooding as a result – time to fill sandbags, move furniture upstairs, evacuate the kids and pets in an orderly manner and move the car to high ground. Yet still there are people cut off in flooded houses,cars submerged, emergency services having to risk their necks looking after people who didn’t look after themselves.
I’m not going to discuss why some people don’t prep when they’re told of an oncoming problem. There will probably always be some humans who still step in front of a speeding train just to be awkward, or because they’re too dumb to listen to advice. Hopefully a lot of people who simply didn’t realise what flooding was like will now be looking around and trying to learn how to avoid it in the future, or mitigate the effects if they can’t avoid the water!
Shelter’s one of the most important things we can have. A roof over our heads keeps the weather off, four good walls provides security and protection for our families and possessions. We can’t always pick the ideal property, or move easily from a bad place to a better one, but we can always find ways to improve the situation we’re in – ways to adapt to change, such as by rewiring houses to lift electrical circuits above flood-levels, or to mitigate the effects, for instance taking note of advanced warnings and moving the furniture upstairs, or lifting carpets and piling them out of the way (or just don’t fit carpets downstairs to begin with!) and thus ways to enhance our chances of surviving the challenge with minimal ill effects.
Under certain circumstances I am prepared to admit that I’m probably a third-generation (or more) born-and-bred prepper, but I and the the rest of my family often don’t think of it as ‘survivalism’ or ‘prepping’; to us it’s always been normal, sensible behaviour to think ahead, consider the risks and take steps to mitigate their effects. The house I currently live in was carefully chosen for its location – in a smallish village yet with local shops, school, doctor, post office, fire station and bus route, but also well above sea level, too far inland to catch the worst weather or an incoming tsunami (yes, the UK has suffered large tsunami in the past – and could do so in the future!) but also close enough to the coast to avoid the harsh winter weather that the hills and mountains further inland get. We’re well above the local river, we’re surrounded by farmland and the house has a big back garden, in which we currently keep a small flock of laying hens and grow a wide variety of vegetables. We’re in a small back street within the village, out of the immediate path of any incoming people-trouble, though I recently visited some friends in the Orkney Islands and envy them their huge security buffer in the 6-mile-wide Pentland Firth – fully 99.6% of the UK population would be unable to get to the Orkneys to spread disease in a pandemic, or to loot if supplies run out! I’m only 30 miles from a city of quarter of a million potentially starving refugees in search of supplies – that’s one long day’s walk for someone with decent footwear, which is still a little too close for my peace of mind, though better than living in the city and being one of those refugees!
There are still things to do here to improve the situation (short of convincing my family to up-sticks and move to Orkney…) and in future posts I’ll be discussing some of them.