Most emergencies you’re likely to encounter are simple domestic ones. If you lock yourself out, you’ll need a locksmith. Here’s some simple precautions to take, and a few things to try first.
Sometimes things may get more serious. Suppose you’re snowed in and can’t get to work? Take a look at this guide to your legal position – as both an employee and an employer. Is your area at risk from flooding? What should you do?
Do you know how to turn your utilities off safely? You can protect your home better if you understand these basic principles.
If your area is hit by an emergency, you will either be evacuated or isolated from one or more mains services. There’s a whole section in the Resilience Handbook about coping with both situations, but here’s some quick tips:-
Keep a camping stove and a portable heater; if you don’t have room for the latter, some hot water bottles at least. A large flask is also useful. Have a store of food and water – its size depends on how much suitable space you have.
In the UK, the National Health Service and the Government websites will be used for emergency announcements; you could bookmark them. Announcements can also be made on local radio – it’s a challenge to list all the local radio stations in the UK, but Wikipedia have had a go!
If you’re evacuated, you’ll need a grab bag; keep this ready packed and check it once every few months. American preppers are always good for practical survival tips; here’s instructions for assembling a first aid kit.
On the subject of medicines – always take your medications and a copy of the prescription with you in an evacuation! You may expect to be gone for only a couple of hours, but these situations have a habit of escalating; pack for at least one night away.
There are many ways you can contribute to forming a resilient society, but keeping a grab bag ready is only a small chore. There may not be much time to escape a flood, so people who are ready to go are really helpful. If you’ve packed some useful things to share – a deck of cards, some sweets, a spare torch – things can go much better during the long wait at the evacuation centre.
And, if there’s never an emergency….take your grab bag out on a camping adventure and see how it works for real!
It’s starting to look like a late Spring here in a thawed, but still shocked, Somerset. Plants are cautiously emerging, but the buds on the trees remain resolutely closed. As their roots are still dormant, you’ve a little time left to plant out saplings. This should be done before late March.
Apples are such a staple food that it’s good to have a tree in your garden. Our estate was built on an old orchard, and a few of the original trees are left. My neighbour has one, left to grow to its full size over several decades.
You don’t necessarily want one that large. Techniques for growing smaller trees have been developed over the centuries since the sweet Chinese apple came over the Silk Road to Europe. Our native crabapple was bitter, but adapted to the climate. The sciences of grafting, pruning and cross breeding were known to ancient cultures.
Today, a vigorous rootstock is grown, then the top part of this tree replaced with a branch from a ‘fruitstock’. The resultant apple tree takes on the shape of the root variety, yet provides fruit from the graft type. You can buy dwarf trees, bearing your favourite apple but staying quite small.
These aren’t cheap, and will be something of a fixture; it can be several years before you get any fruit at all. It’s worth going to a short course with an expert to learn the basics of orchard management and how to apply these to your garden. Knowledge of this kind is a community asset, as described in the Handbook, so I went on a refresher course.
Anthony Ward, our tutor, is the keeper of the Chalice Well orchard in Glastonbury. We were planting some trees in a new field at Brook End Farm, situated where the Levels rise into hillier ground to the east.
You can see the knobbly bit on the trunk from the graft. If you have a pot-bound tree like this, dig your hole square so the roots can spread out easier.
The stake is driven in after the tree is planted. Modern ties allow more movement, as the action of the wind strengthens the roots. The grass is kept away from the trunk with a mulch; a precaution ignored with less valuable trees. For the first few weeks, make sure the sapling neither dries out nor sits in a puddle. Then forget about it till it needs pruning, which is a whole other story.
This is the apple tree in the Resilience Garden. It grew from an apple core hidden in a plant pot by my daughter. Although it produces good red eating apples, it clearly wants to be a very large tree. It’s an example of very bad pruning; I tried to make a ‘goblet’ shape without taking into account the shading from the fence behind. After that, I appreciated the courses more.
The mulch to the right of the tree is the filling from a defunct futon mattress, which I’m covering with a thick layer of leaf mould. I have access to a large pile of this; otherwise I’d use soil exported from the raised beds. The green shoots are wild garlic; they’ll be ready to harvest soon.
Wild Garlic Pesto
2 rounded tablespoons of crushed nuts (50 grams; 2 ounces)
2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves, washed and shaken dry (100 grams; 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese – vegans can substitute yeast flakes
a dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt to taste
Blend everything together and serve with pasta!
I couldn’t resist adding that recipe, from ‘Recipes for Resilience‘…..wild garlic does make a lovely pesto and it has quite a short season. I grow a lot of it under bushes and in the wild areas, as very reliable spring greens. The nettles are coming up too – vitamins arriving at just the right time!
I’ve been asked to talk about resilience at the Earth Hour event in Chard, Somerset on the 24th March; I’ll be signing Resilience Handbooks too. The daytime events are free, so drop in if you’re in the area!
It was a cold morning in Beijing, below zero before dawn. We packed our lunch and were off on the coach at 8 o’clock for the Great Wall, some 45 km away. The Wall originally stretched for over 6000 miles, from the sea in the east to the Gobi desert in the west. The best preserved section is at Badaling.
The Great Wall isn’t one continuous structure, nor was it all built at once. Many Chinese empires and states constructed such fortifications along their northern borders, to protect themselves from the fierce nomads who lived on the wild steppes. As these depended on horses to make their raids, a wall was a useful deterrent.
The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, who we have already met – it was his terracotta army – unified many of these state walls, so is often credited with building the Great Wall. Very little of his actual work survives though; the upgrades carried out by the Ming dynasty (1368 -1664) are what we see today.
We disembarked on a plaza surrounded by little shops and found ourselves barely prepared for the bitter cold, worsened by the thin, icy wind. This bit deeper as we ventured out along the Wall itself, which is naturally on the highest ground.
The first part of the ascent was steps, then rather steep ridged cobbles. These could have been difficult in wet weather. Although you could walk quite a long way along this section, we only made it to the third guard tower before the cold got the better of us. At least there weren’t the crowds we’d been warned about.
We could see that it would be a splendid place for a hike in the spring, following the dragon-like curves away into the hills. There are hotels in Badaling, as well as day tours from Beijing, but it may not be either safe or permitted to take off on your own for any length of time. A number of guided walking holidays are available. It’s a good policy to check reviews before booking.
The surfaces of the walls are covered in graffiti marks scratched into the stone, possibly by the hundreds of soldiers standing guard in this cold and lonely outpost over the centuries. This custom explains the baffling ‘No Scratching’ notices we’d seen around other important monuments!
Most of us returned to the Hotel Cafe quite soon. The staff gave us bottles of hot water to hold as we ordered coffee!
Tired and cold, Linda and I rebelled against the walk in the park and the Ming tombs. We stayed on our tour bus and enjoyed the peace of the country. The bus driver chatted to the persimmon seller at her roadside stall; it was nice to just be there, in an ordinary place.
By the time we arrived at the tea garden, we were fairly awake again, and a few sips of refreshing samples were welcome. I bought some Puer tea, which improves with age unlike the other herb teas languishing on my shelf. More elaborate brews unfolded into flowers in your cup!
We were offered some optional extra tours – a rickshaw ride, viewing the night lights – but none of these involved going back to the hotel for a rest first. ‘Maybe later’ we all said and grumbled so much we got taken back in time for dinner. Nobody wanted to miss the final day by being too tired!
Written Chinese is 1900 years old. There are 8 – 10 thousand characters to remember. About 2.5 thousand are learned in primary school. 3,000 to 4,000 are enough for everyday life; 5,000 for a writer. Over that, you are counted as an expert.
Over the centuries, the complicated characters became very difficult to understand, such that literacy was only possible for the leisured classes. After the formation of the People’s Republic, written Chinese was simplified in various important ways, and now nearly everyone can read.
Next week – The Forbidden City and the Dragon Throne
We left the Grand Dynasty Culture Hotel and drove through the choking smog of the morning rush hour to Xi’an airport. We had a lot of turbulence on the flight to Beijing, but landed safely and were whisked off for more sightseeing.
It was much colder here; the ‘maybe later’ marketeers sold fur-lined Mao hats and warm gloves. Tired from the flight, it was difficult to properly appreciate the beautiful Summer Palace.
The Dragon Boats were moored for the winter; in the summer season, these rowed out on the lake. Once, the entire court used to sail between the Palace and the Forbidden City.
Although our own camera batteries were nearly done, we did feature in a lot of photos. Despite the crowds, there were very few Westerners here, and we were a centre of covert attention every time we stopped.
We crossed the Palace grounds at a brisk walk from East Gate to North Gate along painted cloisters (restored after the Opium Wars of 1860) used by the Empress Cixi. She was the widow of the Emperor, and ruled for 48 years until her death in 1906 at the age of 73. Her son predeceased her.
The sun set behind hills on our way to the hotel. Autumn had been and gone here, the leaves already fallen; it seems quite abrupt.
We were in a Mercure hotel, out on the fifth ring road of seven. Security was high; there was great confusion in the lifts before everyone realised you had to swipe your room card before you could select a floor!
The next day was to be a long trip to the Great Wall, which was apparently even colder than the city. Linda needed a hat and gloves; we were both out of camera batteries. There was rumoured to be a supermarket just opposite the hotel; we were highly motivated to go out and look for it.
Careful to pick up a ‘please take me home’ card from the hotel reception, and take a photo of the entrance, we set off. There was nothing but a large empty courtyard behind the buildings directly opposite; we headed for the road and turned left, away from the hotel.
Most of the high rise surrounding us were decorated with coloured lights, so it was quite easy to identify landmarks. At the next intersection, we risked another perilous crossing – you have to watch out for cars turning into your road, even when pedestrian lights show green. The cycles and scooters are in a world of their own when it comes to traffic control, but they travel quite slowly.
Spotting a Pizza Hut in the distance, we made for that, and found a large shopping mall tucked away behind it. Our quest for a cheap hat led us deep inside, past the designer outlets, right to the far end. Here, we found a Carrefour sign and an escalator down to the strangest supermarket I’ve ever seen!
Camera batteries and gloves secured, we turned our attention to food. The mystery vegetables served at dinner were displayed in heaps; so much fresh meat was out that it was a wonder what they did with it at closing time. Bread and a profusion of little cakes were supplied by an in-store bakery; there was a selection of chocolate and biscuits, some of which were actually familiar.
Back at the hotel bar, we heard the tales from our fellow adventurers. Some people had found the supermarket; many had missed it and found other places; nobody got entirely lost!
In China, the culture is to buy rather than rent. A boy’s family must be able to purchase a property and pay for the wedding, or no girl will marry him. The families like to plant trees for their children in order to make furniture for their new home. Although Ikea is an important source, one or two pieces should be traditionally crafted to ensure a long marriage.
The relaxation of the one-child policy, dating from 1979, allows only children to have a second child without the usual massive fine. This is to help with elderly care, though youngsters employed by private companies are reluctant to take it up as they fear losing their jobs. Generally both parents must work, but childcare and schools are good.
Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, is the nearest city to this famous exhibit. Goods used to arrive here from the Silk Road, while porcelain, silk and paper were exported. The city controlled these lucrative trading routes.
It’s colder than Chongqing, so keep warm clothes handy on a winter visit. Those large courtyards are chilly. The coal fired power stations – we were a long way from the Three Gorges Dam by then – had just been activated to provide winter heating, and the air pollution was really quite bad again.
The Grand Dynasty Culture Hotel was lovely though. There was no time to explore the feature room with the huge sculptures of the Qin Emperor and his staff, nor even to linger over the excellent breakfast….
…off we went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. This is an active Buddhist temple, containing a spectacular mural of Buddha’s life done entirely in various colours of jade. It was a beautifully peaceful place. Unusual birds feasted on red berries in the tree branches; they had an uncanny ability to fly away just before you took a picture.
We hastened back to the bus, past a row of lovely stalls and many lifesize bronze tableaux on the pedestrian way. The ‘maybe later’ market here had rubber band birds that really flew and run-along bee toys.
I’ve read a lot of reviews since I returned which complain of being pestered by vendors and touts. We never had that experience; it might be worth joining a day tour rather than exploring as a solo traveller, to put yourself inside the invisible boundaries.
We called at the terracotta workshop to see how replica models of the soldiers were made, using moulds and pressed clay. These were fired in a traditional kiln; they supplied all sizes from a few inches tall to lifesize with your own features. The price wasn’t unreasonable, with shipping and insurance thrown in, though you’d probably need to inform yourself about customs taxes at each end.
Driving on, we passed local farmers selling persimmons and pomegranates from roadside stalls, and the actual tomb of the Emperor. This was just a large grassed mound; it’s been left undisturbed. Inside, a model landscape of China is said to exist, using liquid mercury to represent rivers. The fumes from this may have deterred tomb robbers. Further exploration awaits the development of better techniques for preserving such fragile items as may be found there.
We arrived at the Terracotta Army site at last – you need stamina with RSD tours! Our splendid local guide, Jerry, told us the story before we were released to explore free range for a few hours.
“Upon ascending the throne at 12 years old, around 246 BCE, Qin Shi Huang set about building his mausoleum at once. The army of over 8,000 lifesize terracotta warriors, complete with weapons, 150 chariots and 700 horses, took 700,000 workers 38 years to nearly complete.
“The Emperor died unexpectedly while visiting the Great Wall – which he also built, as well as creating extensive canal and road systems. The son travelling with him concealed the death for a month until they returned to the capital, whereupon he announced that his father had changed his will. This son was to be Emperor, and executed all his siblings to prove it.
“At his father’s funeral, he murdered all the generals who disagreed with him. Upon this, those who had wisely stayed in the provinces rose up in revolt. Within three years, the palaces were burned and the dynasty extinguished.”
The mausoleum was probably regarded as unlucky after that. It became forgotten, buried in silt, until some local farmers drilled a well and reported their finds of pottery. Excavations began in 1979. Many areas are left buried. The paint disintegrates as soon as it is uncovered, and methods to preserve it are being explored.
As advised, we began with the smallest hall – number three – and worked our way up. This hall had chariots, the second displayed examples of each piece. There were generals, mounted archers complete with horses, ordinary warriors, officers and so on. Detailed information boards in both Chinese and English accompanied the displays.
Hall number one covered the army standing where it was found, and was colossal. Rows of warriors stood four abreast in long corridors, well below current ground level. They stood on paved floors, and the roofs were made of heavy mats supported by wooden beams, covered with earth.
Layers of silt buried the army ever deeper over the centuries. The pavement slabs were heaved up through soil movements, toppling the figures to smash into piles of fragments, momentarily shattering the silence of the echoing corridors, empty of life.
Some of the roofs were removed to reveal these jumbled heaps. The figures on display were plain clay, but originally the figures were brightly painted in lifelike colours. Every face is different; often the heads were added later.
The wavy roofs of the unexcavated areas occupied the same huge pit; you could see the weave of the mats. A team of archaeologists was patiently sifting through a layer of debris as we watched. Further on, the statues were being pieced together out of baskets of fragments, like three-dimensional jigsaw puzzles. Special slings supported partly completed ones.
Chilly and tired now, we joined the group in the coffee house, which sold Western style sandwiches, and headed for the bus, hastening past many tempting stalls. Perhaps it’s the determined pace set by our young tour guides as they head off into the distance with their tiny flag – our lifeline to the warmth of the bus – that discourages the sharks!
To be fair, our permanent guide Kevin was very keen on group cohesion and enlisted our help in a roll call system. People didn’t wander off and get lost very often. As we gained in confidence, the constraints of the tour agenda became a little galling, but we appreciated that this is what we’d signed up for.
However, towards the end of the fortnight, the ‘optional extra’ excursions, though interesting enough, were discarded in favour of an expedition to find the local supermarket. We found that quite enough of an adventure!
On the second day, there was a trip to one of the water villages around Shanghai. The city is built on the delta of the Yangtze River; the surrounding countryside is crossed by many small rivers. To the west of the urban area, there are several ancient towns which preserve much original culture. We were going to Zhujiajiao, about 50 km from the city.
We began our explorations in the Kezhi Gardens. Our guide led us through the living areas, now displaying various examples of the crafts once practised there, to a large room which housed a model of the original design.
I was stunned – it was an exact depiction of the imaginary ‘resilience village’ which I’d described in ‘Recipes for Resilience’! The establishment used to house not only an extended family, but also students learning about plants. The ethic was that the whole community would work on the fields and vegetable gardens, as well as studying, in order to have a balanced life.
Although the place had undergone changes – at one point it was a junior school, and is now an exhibition – the small craft workshops still housed skilled artisans. You can watch paper-cutting, calligraphy and embroidery; pick up some pretty souvenirs.
Some of the extensive fields survive as a demonstration area on the other side of the lovely formal gardens. I saw rice ready for harvest for the first time; it certainly seems to give a good yield of grain.
The garden itself was lovely. There was more space here than in the Yu Yuan; the water features were more intricate and the pavillions grander, with higher levels. You can see more pictures here, and read a brief history.
Too soon we had to continue our tour, emerging to take a walk along the riverfront and down the narrow colourful alleyways. These were lined with small stalls – the weather is quite warm here, even in November – selling all manner of enticing articles. Often the craftspeople themselves would be there, working on their next piece as they waited for customers.
We paused for roll call by the famous Fang Sheng bridge, and were let off to explore. Across the bridge was an area of new development; modern apartments and shops, with the ubiquitous Starbucks. Part of the old bank was artificially preserved to ensure the survival of the old culture; the rest seemed to have managed it unaided.
Zhujiajiao water village is one of the closest to Shanghai. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get there by public transport. Most city hotels provide small bilingual cards at Reception, instructing taxi drivers on returning wandering guests to the right address; make sure you pick one up if you’re going exploring without a guide.
Even here in Somerset, land of marshes and muddy festivals, there’s been no proper rain for weeks, only an occasional condensation like a wet mist. It’s been relentlessly dry, and now a chilly breeze batters the valiant peas clinging to their frames.
The soil of our resilience allotment, overused and drained of nutrients by the last gardeners, has turned to rubble where we’ve dug it; concrete elsewhere. We’re holding the rest of our seedlings at home still, where they can have more water, but they’ll have to go out soon. The dark line to the right in the picture below is a compost-filled trench ready to receive peas.
The leaf mould mulch has run out now; we don’t want to use straw in case it combines with the clay to make bricks! We’re building temporary raised beds, using the wood from the neighbour’s old shed. These are getting filled with free manure and topped with a thin layer of bought compost. In the winter, when the soil is soft again, we’ll dismantle the beds and dig this in; now, we’ll raise a catch crop in them.
I don’t see much hope for the remaining seed potatoes, though. I’ll probably put them out in the lower quarter to break up the soil there, but I doubt we’ll get much from them. We’re relying on courgettes and squashes to fill in the bare patches.
The allotment is hard work, but so was the resilience garden until it was established.
The techniques we are exploring in the allotment can be adapted to reclaim post-industrial landscapes. I’m impressed with the mulching properties of packaging card. Once the rainwater distribution system – which we can top up from the communal water trough – is in place, and the perennial weeds conquered, we’ll have the basis of a low-maintenance, high yield system.
Just in time, as the next project is on the horizon – the Resilience Field!
Above is the hedge…there wasn’t time to weed the ground first, so the deep rooted perennials, able to access buried moisture, threaten to overwhelm the thin young trees. This is the worst section, being weeded by hand. Once it’s clear, we’ll lay a cardboard sheet mulch around the saplings and cover this with soil, now easily accessible as the field has been ploughed. The trees will be able to defend themselves in a few years, especially if we import wild garlic as ground cover.
Writing ‘Recipes for Resilience’, I learned how crucial grains were for survival in the seasonal North. The dry weather isn’t doing British grain farmers any favours; does anyone else worry about poor harvests? Everyone eats bread, cakes, pies…how many of you bother to find out where the flour comes from?
It’ll take you ten minutes to vote in June. Instead of banging on about it, use the time to write yourself a shopping list. Can you order any of it online from suppliers who buy British? Is there a farm shop nearby, a food market? Put Facebook down for a few minutes and have a look around. Read the Hemp Twine Project to see how much difference buying local can make!
“Farmers go bankrupt in the midst of thousands of potential customers for their produce” from ‘The Resilience Handbook – how to survive in the 21st century’.
The answer is in the subtitle – ‘How to survive in the 21st century’.
Even in a quiet little island like Britain, there are more episodes of ferocious weather now than we were used to in the last century. Flooding is a growing problem. What can you do about it?
Read the Emergency Planning section of the book, keep it handy to consult if you suddenly have to evacuate your house. It’ll tell you what to do, remind you to turn off your utilities, how to pack a grab bag.
You may not be directly affected by flooding, but the damage to the economy is shared by all. What can you do to help the long-term situation?
Rain comes from the sky, but flooding happens on land. Meetings of experts discuss useful management strategies, but the people responsible for the land have to implement them, Most of these are farmers, already struggling to make a living.
If they were able to sell to you, the consumer, without having to be routed through a supermarket chain…they’d have more money. Enough, perhaps, to consider engaging with flood relief; to invest in growing willow, in reforesting the hillsides.
The Resilience Handbook outlines a number of practical steps you can take to support community resilience at every level. It’s a call to action, not an invitation to more debate. Read through it, then keep it to hand as a reference book. Much of what it says won’t be clear to you until you begin to fulfill the set tasks.
Ignore the sneering quitters who tell you your personal buying choices mean nothing in the bigger picture. Supermarkets didn’t spring out of thin air. They evolved as a response to these choices. You can choose to return to a more resilient, locally based economy. Both processes are achieved one piece of shopping at a time.
It’s not just about food and its effect on the landscape. Every time you wash your clothes carefully, so that they last longer, you’re doing your bit for a sustainable community. Less waste means less landfill space. A culture where clothes are respected and cared for encourages a market for quality products. Well made clothes can be repaired or altered by local businesses, not thrown away.
Every little helps, as they say. With the Resilience Handbook you can keep track of your efforts, see how tiny changes lead to bigger ones, learn what really is important and know that you’re doing as much as you can to secure it.
Traditional crafts are dying out as their practitioners retire. Soon the vast knowledge base attached to them may be reduced to outlines in books.
Learning a real skill as a hobby can keep these alive. We may need them once the fossil fuel party is over. Developing a craft can provide you with continuity in a society where jobs and homes are continually shifting. Spend time with a teacher, exchange ideas, join an interest group, network with other crafters.
Take a look at your lifestyle. What do you value most – clothes, furniture, kitchenware, ornaments, the garden? In what area do you buy yourself luxuries? Explore the variety of crafts available. Attend craft demonstrations, search online, read some of John Seymour‘s iconic books.
Find one that really interests you and start to learn. Persevere for at least a year. It takes time to acquire a practical skill. Once you are involved, you’ll find other options open up. You may decide that using a potter’s wheel is not for you, but become fascinated by the art of mending bone china. I didn’t like spinning much, but found that I loved weaving!
The hobby which I developed into a personal skill was wine making. Now, people ask me for advice, and bring me useful equipment. My friends keep bees; I’m going to discuss making mead from honey.
Many years ago, my father made wine as a hobby. I was, of course, taught to knit by my grandmother. The school tried to teach me sewing, but I was too busy resenting the fact that the boys got woodwork. Again, carpentry was something my father did quite well, while my mother hated sewing.
If you’re bringing up children, having a craft of your own could inspire them much later. Although I didn’t take much interest at the time, I do wonder if just having practical skills happening around me taught me more than I realised!
Part of your personal resilience plan is to take up a craft – if you haven’t got one already – and try it out for a year. If you can’t get on with it after giving it a fair go, choose another one. You score for trying, not for producing wonderful works of art.
It’s been said that the December Solstice is the start of winter, but it’s really the middle. Winter is half over….by Imbolc, Candlemas, in February, the first green shoots of spring can be seen. No matter how you feel about Xmas, the sun has still embarked on its summer pathways now, and the daylight will increase.
This was crucial in Northern lands, where communities had to live on stored food for months. The days of feasting celebrated the coming end of winter, not its beginning!