Saturday, 6 September 2008
A generation that doesn't know
A few years ago you could have looked in any understairs cupboard and found a box of candles. Every kitchen cupboard had a small store of stand-bys. Every teenage girl knew how to make a simple soup or cheap vegetable stew with a few pence worth of veg and some cupboard stocks such as split peas, pearl barley or lentils. Boys knew how to build a fire or extemporise a garden bread-oven. Now there's a generation who would starve if the microwave didn't work; cooking means heating a frozen pizza, or grilling fish fingers and oven chips. And what's more dangerous, they rely wholly on the television to tell them what to do. In the event of a power outage, they'd be as helpless as babes.
Boaty folk are if anything over-provided in the stand-by stakes. Paraffin lamps, calor gas, alcohol stoves, baking bread in a saucepan over a pressure stove, always having a full tank of drinking water and tins of emergency food in the bilges (believe me, it's a rule that every manky auld boat must have at least five illegible rusty flat tins in the bilge that contain perfectly edible Fray Bentos steak pies), we're also used to using our radios, co-ordinating ourselves, keeping dry, warm, fed and ready to deal with medical emergencies. I suppose the bulk of the population, those who haven't had military training at least, lies somewhere between the two.
So I was chuffed today when I not only remembered how to light the pressure lamp but when it fired up first time. With a wind-up radio, and a vodafone £15 a month broadband dongle thing for the lappy, I'm almost ready for a winter of power and service disruption. The store cupboards are full and I've brought the spare cooker back from the boat. Just half a ton of coal next week to come.