Category Archives: Resilience Handbook

A Resilience Adventure

One of the adventure challenges in the Resilience Handbook is ‘Visit a Repair Cafe and have a cup of tea.’ My budget didn’t stretch to a trip to Amsterdam or Germany, so I looked online and found the nearest one, in Bristol. This is held on the first Saturday morning of every month in All Saints’ Church, Fishponds.

I set off on the bus – I try not to take the car into cities – and navigated to the venue with the aid of my trusty A-Z map book. It took longer than I thought, and most of the actual repairing was finished before I arrived. There was tea though, and cake, courtesy of the church volunteers. I had a good chat with the organiser, Kate, and presented her project with a copy of the Handbook. It’s a pity there isn’t a branch of Repair Cafe nearer home!

Repair cafe banner

The networking potential of these meeting places was quickly demonstrated. Hearing me talk about resilience inspired a young lady to take me to the Feed Bristol Harvest Fair, a short walk away.

This event was so fabulous it was almost surreal! I felt as if I’d been transported into a Transition vision of a post-oil resilient community!

The Welcome gazebo was surrounded by tables of the most intriguing plants for sale – I couldn’t resist the Vietnamese Fish Mint – beyond which stretched polytunnels and plots under cultivation. Further in, excited children raced around tiny woodland paths, played in the sandpit, made paintings using mud and colourful flowers. Adults strolled more sedately, exploring the roundhouse, the herbal gardens, the tree plantings.

One could sip Fair Trade tea in the open marquee while listening to a string quartet playing in the autumn sunshine. It was a glorious day!

feed bristol harvest fair

The growing area – due to restrictions on images of children, I can’t show the actual fete, but there’s plenty of pictures on the websites

vietnamese fish mint

Vietnamese fish mint is not a mint, but does taste of fish!  And it’s very pretty.

At the Harvest Fair, I spoke with soap makers, food cooperative organisers, gardeners and teachers. The project is run by Avon Wildlife Trust; the remit is to create an edible yet wildlife friendly landscape, and it works very well. As I listened to the people who worked there, I began to realise that this project utilised the same core concepts as a Resilience Garden!

  • for use by the surrounding community
  • an emphasis on education, demonstration and experimentation
  • the abillity to produce large amounts of seed and spare plants to fast track other growing spaces in a crisis
  • creation of an edible landscape which supports a positive relationship with local wildlife, especially friendly insects and birds

Although defining a Resilience Garden is a struggle, I know one when I see it!

Areas like this should be a key feature in every housing development.

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A Note to the Readers who’d like more References

There aren’t many references, footnotes and the like in the Resilience Handbook. I wanted it to be small and light enough to fit in your grab bag for a start. Write your emergency numbers and useful notes in the back, and you’ve got a resource worth carrying!

A few days ago, I watched a film called ‘Pandora’s Promise’ a shameless piece of propaganda for the nuclear power industry. I’ve tried to create an workable emergency plan for civilians caught up in a nuclear plant disaster, so I don’t think the benefits even begin to justify the risk assessment. Besides, the advances in renewables technology and research into the use of thorium make the old style paradigms look so last century.

The film was an exercise in how carefully selected interviews can be mixed with colourful factoids and film clips to present an argument. ‘Scientists talked to me till I changed my mind’. Which scientists? What did they say? Where are the peer reviewed papers to back their opinions up? Were you tied to a chair until you agreed with them? Where are the references?

The Resilience Handbook was mainly written by talking to people. People in the bus queue, on the train, in pubs and cafes. Farmers and vegans, pacifists and soldiers, plumbers, teachers, politicians, cheese-makers. Children, parents, grandparents. And of course, our hundreds of splendid event volunteers who gave us feedback on the original booklet.

merry event volunteers

Over the years, certain books have stood out for me as being especially helpful to understanding the wider concepts of resilience. These are listed in the Handbook. When you read these, see which publications they recommend. Follow the knowledge.

It’s the same, only much faster, researching on the Internet. One website leads to another, and before you know it you’ve written an article on breadmaking! I must have visited fifty sites or more for that one. It’s impossible to refer to them all. Some were rather dodgy – dancing adverts, suspiciously long time to load and the like – so I came out of them. Some only had one key piece of information, or repeated stuff from another site.

So it’s difficult to include internet references in a book. Also, they tend to be ephemeral, sliding off into the Dark Net without warning. I thought I’d be on safe ground mentioning Transport Direct, an excellent website run by the government, which let you map a course from here to there using any available means of transport. However, funding was cut and it vanished – fortunately before the final print edit of the Resilience Handbook.

For those of you who like to ask questions – try a search engine – I’m retrieving and putting up the links I found most useful here. It’s taking a while, as quite a few have gone, so I have to trawl through the web for a suitable equivalent. If you let me know when one of these breaks, it’d be helpful.

The Resilience Handbook – out now!

Finally the Resilience Wheel is rolling!!

I’m waiting  for my first order to arrive so I can send copies out to all you good people who have been following its progress – too excited to write, so I’ll let publishers Magic Oxygen explain more.  You can read some of the book with their ‘lookinthebook’ gizmo, and order from them to maximise the benefit to local economies.

Why is that important?  The book explains it all!

Normal blogging will be resumed in due course 🙂

 

Diary May 2015

This month was something of a landmark as I finally parted with the Leyland Pilot post office van which served me as a mobile HQ during my event organiser days. I gave it to a young crew member, who will have ample opportunity to learn welding on it.

The nucleus of crafters formed during the Free Craft Workshops project are determined to continue some form of meeting. Instead of competing for custom, crafters should unite to reclaim the market for basic household goods. Supporting local businesses needs to become a much larger factor in consumer choices.

Remember, the more local materials are in place, the more resilient an area is.

Following a Resilience Plan isn’t all knitting and gardening. It sends you on adventures too. This month, I went on a day sail on a tall ship as my challenge for Water. The Handbook explains these things in more detail.

The Lord Nelson is part of the Jubilee Sailing Trust, who offer adventure holidays for the disabled. I was very impressed with the adaptations – even a wheelchair lift! – and the excellent crew. Not many people could cross the Atlantic in a three masted sailing ship, yet display such patience and consideration for novices.

I chickened out of climbing the rigging, even though the little old lady volunteer helper assured me it wasn’t as hard as it looked. Steering was more my thing, and I successfully navigated the 400 ton vessel around a lobster pot on the way back in to harbour.

Back to work, with a trip to Hay-on-Wye, where the Book Festival was in full swing. I haven’t been there since the first one back in the late Eighties; it has changed a bit since then!  Accommodation was scarce in Hay itself but a regular shuttle bus ran from Hereford, where I stayed at the excellent Somerville House.

It was fascinating to be among hundreds of people all carrying books, reading while they drank coffee or waited in the queue to hear their favourite author give a talk. I had my eye on getting a signed copy of a Neil Gaiman or David Mitchell book, but the shelves were stripped of these by Friday morning!

I did pick up a copy of the ‘Civil Defense Manual’ from 1950, of which more later.

And so home again, back to the office and the to-do list.

Resilience Soup

Watching ‘The Island with Bear Grylls’, it appears that apathy caused by culture shock can lead seamlessly to exhaustion from lack of food calories. Part of a Resilience Plan is to keep a small store of tinned and dried supplies. I recommend keeping enough for three weeks, if you have the space.

Inspired to inspect my own collection, I found it was a bit haphazard and resolved to organise it. Counting calories and working out recipes…. I’ll have to write another book.

The stores have to be rotated as sell by dates are reached. Check through them every three months, take out anything that needs used before the next check, rearrange and restock. Never store food you don’t like. Storage conditions are often far from ideal; lofts suffer from stifling summer heat and freezing winters. You couldn’t store butter, for example.

If you ever need to rely on your stores, it’s useful to do some menu planning. Here’s one recipe..

Resilient Lentil Soup

A large pan. This recipe is easier to make in larger amounts. A tablespoon of cooking oil, some tamari (soy sauce). If you have any fresh meat or onion type vegetables to add, chop them up and lightly fry them.

If you are lucky, you may have some stock; otherwise add hot water and a couple of stock cubes. Add about four ounces [112g] of dried red lentils. Don’t pre-soak them.

How much liquid? Depends how many people you want to feed; this recipe is enough to fill four bowls. Remember the lentils will soak up some of it. If you have any root vegetables, put them in now. Grated carrot is nice.

Stir. Bring it to a low boil, then turn the heat right down and let it simmer. Mind it doesn’t stick; pans with thick bottoms are best for this work. Stir in four teaspoons of instant gravy mix and a quarter 130g tube of tomato puree. Keep an eye on the sticking as the soup thickens. You can add more water at any point.

Add any green leafy veg, shredded, just before the end. The soup is done when the lentils are soft, but can be kept simmering to wait for people for as long as you care to keep stirring it.

This soup really needs to be kept in a cold place to last over two meals, so it’s best made fresh and left overs eaten early the next day. Without the added fresh food, this recipe provides an unimpressive 550 calories* between four. If you’re completely unable to access any other ingredients, increase the lentils.

lentil soup calories
*all calculations are strictly back-of-the -envelope

However, what of your neighbours who don’t have stores? Remember, freezers depend on electricity. Could they help you forage to add to the meal? Bacon goes very well with this recipe; it may be available after less thoroughly preserved meats have spoiled.

A basic soup provides an expandable framework for a variety of fresh food.

Resilience.

There’s quite a lot to it.

Resilience and The Island

The Island is a TV series designed and presented by survival expert Bear Grylls. Fourteen men and fourteen women are marooned on separate Pacific islands with the minimum of training and equipment. They have to work out how to survive there for six weeks.

Watching the teams of ordinary Westerners struggle in the wilderness is a good resilience exercise. Could you have avoided their mistakes?

How much would previous learning count? Practical experience with a fire drill? Quite a lot. Trees can’t grow fast enough to let everyone become expert at forest shelter building, though.

And when would you need this skill? If you find yourself in a survival situation, it probably won’t be on a remote Pacific island. It’ll be more like a weirdly twisted version of your current comfort zone. The electricity won’t come out of the walls any more, and the taps are dry.

Attitude is everything when it comes to resilience. The people in the series weren’t fast enough to realise that they were in danger. Relentless attention to fire, water and shelter is no longer part of our lifestyle in Britain. People forget how much work it is, and that you can’t relax until it’s done.

Following a Resilience Plan increases your awarenesss of the facilities you take for granted, and highlights things you ought to work on.

Although I’m able to use a flint and steel efficiently, I’ve never tried lighting a fire with a bow drill. It could be important and it’s certainly interesting, so I’m going to target it in my plan under ‘Emergency Planning’. Then I’ll be reminded of this resolution until I actually carry it through. No matter how good you are at survival skills, there’s always something new to learn!

There’s a lot of focus on what the Island participants did wrong, but there’s one thing they all got spectacularly right. They were brave enough to have a go. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words – a TV series is a shortcut to hours of explanation.

Study the mistakes of others, realise what you ought to know, set about learning it, find a way to practise it.

Resilience is about doing as well as knowing.

International Downshifting Week

This week, April 20th – 26th, is International Downshifting Week.

“InterNational Downshifting Week is a non-profit awareness campaign designed to help you slow down your pace, lean towards the green and get a better handle on the work/life balance in favour of life.

It was founded in 2003 by contented downshifter Tracey West, who believes a little downshifting can have a powerful impact on your physical health, your mental well-being, your relationships with colleagues, family and friends; it can even improve your sex life.”

Find out more here.

 

Diary February 2015

It’s been a quietly busy winter.

I finally paid attention to completing my English teaching course before the deadline, and was awarded the certificate with its shiny hologram. The grammar section was surprisingly challenging, even for someone with an ‘old-school’ education!

Still looking for a distraction from waiting for the Resilience Handbook to work through the publishing process, I set up a series of free craft workshops. Reskilling is a vital part of resilience plannning.

So are adventures.

‘Why don’t you come to the Lyme Regis LitFest?’ said Tracey, my publisher.

Why not? It is the sort of excursion expected of a writer, and I could meet many of my fellow authors from the Magic Oxygen stable.

I stayed at nearby Monkton Wyld Court, a hostel and education centre. The peaceful community of today is a contrast to its lively decades spent as a St Trinian’s style progressive school.

Arriving early, I spent a day wandering along the Jurassic shore, admiring the delicate outlines of ancient ammonites sketched on the mudrocks, collecting driftwood and flotsam for art works. The air was cold, the stony beach quiet apart from the tapping of fossil hammers.

A literary festival turns out to be just the sort of event a writer enjoys. There were some excellent lectures and discussions, although I had to miss the weekend programme. Meeting authors and having the chance to leaf through a book is far more satisfying than buying online, or selecting from the promoted range of titles in a supermarket.

Home in time to deal with the final details of the first craft workshop session, which went very well. I had been prepared to sit there on my own if necessary, but there were over forty visitors during the afternoon, despite the problems we’d had getting publicity out.

Next craft workshop day is 1st March….next adventure may well be a day trip on a tall ship.

Diary, December 2014

The Resilience Garden glitters with frost, which should finally put a stop to the ravages of slug and snail. The September rocket sowing bolted due to the warm weather, a November replacement sprang up with enthusiasm but then settled down to wait out the winter as seedlings, and the molluscs ate most of the spinach.

Feeding the leeks has worked, though.

Waiting for a book to get published is an arduous task. I’m using the time to develop my own Resilience Plan some more.

This has involved me in adventures with an anti mould paint based on calcium hydroxide. The resilience pioneer can study the manufacture of this and other basic chemicals in The Knowledge. Use your Xmas tokens. It’s a good ‘man book’.

I’ll be appearing on The Knowledge website as a guest writer in the New Year, covering some of the amazing projects I’ve found on my travels!

Meanwhile, I’ve been designing learning modules to go with the Resilience Handbook, exploring more strange landscapes, repainting the house….

…and working with CREW HQ to organise a series of free craft workshops next year!

These will be held fortnightly on Sunday afternoons at the Red Brick Building between Glastonbury and Street, in Somerset. The first one is to be on February 15th. We’ve been part-funded by Aster Communities, and about thirty local craftspeople signed up at the Frost Fair last month.

Traditional crafts are going to be demonstrated and visitors can learn some simple techniques on the day. You can learn to fix things, get advice on your own projects, and generally network with skilled artisans. If you’d like to talk about a Repair Cafe, starting or joining a community crafts group, building a career as a craftsperson or anything like that, do come along.

I’ll be there teaching resilience. How resilient are you now? Why are practical skills important? Try out the questionnaire and design your plan.

Best Wishes for the New Year!

Diary, September 2014

Here at the house with the resilience garden, I’m in the last stages of getting the Resilience Handbook ready to publish – just the Interludes and Conclusion to do, then choosing some illustrations.

How do I persuade you how easy it is to jump on the Resilience bandwagon?

Off we go, waving hand made banners and singing, to the future that can exist! If we get a flat tyre, we’ll all pile out while it gets fixed. Some people will build shelters for the night, others cook up a meal for everyone, then away we go again in the morning! We know where we’re going and how to get there, even though it will take a while.

Sustainability with meaning. A defined goal with measurable steps.

And a Resilience Plan is fun, of course. It’s part of the core plan.

Between the hours of typing on to a screen and counting words, I’m making wine. It’s that time of year. The elderberries – which make a deep rich red – are gone now, but I may catch some blackberries. Sloes are easy to collect but the wine needs to mature for several years; then there are rosehips and apples to see me through till December.

If the weather stays nice, there’s an expedition to Carymoor eco centre on the cards. They aren’t using their blackberries, and they have willow beds. I need to make some willow fencing to go across the front of the garden. Having failed to explain to the neighbours why this would be a better replacement for their storm-downed solid panels than more of the same, perhaps I can show them instead.

And occasionally I get to have an evening in on my own listening to DVDs and working on my Turkish style rug. It’s nearly six inches long now!

Knotted rug on frame loom with resilience garden behind
Knotted rug on frame loom with resilience garden behind