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Making Plans for Nigel…

COVID and the present fuel debacle should have taught society a simple lesson – Plan Ahead and Be Prepared.

Governments have to prepare Contingencies, as do business and industry, but they don’t have to be huge affairs – we can plan too.

I wonder how many folk keep a few spare batteries in their homes..?  A wind up torch..?  Some spare tins of food in their cupboards..?  DIY materials..?  Spare light bulbs..?  Do you buy offers and store the extra at home..?  It’s not hard work, until people strip shelves of bread, pasta and toilet roll, because they panic.  Sadly we also strip the shelves of fresh produce and then waste a huge amount as a society.

I even keep spare stamps (I am a member of the Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society), and still get asked if someone can borrow one as they’ve run short.

I’ve not had to rush at all over the pandemic, because I’ve been prepared.  I’m also happy to do without.  If there’s no bread, I’m not going to starve.  And if anyone asks about toilet paper – a lifetime on expedition has taught me well..!

For years I worked 24hr standby in the Electricity Industry.  We were called day and night in any weather to get the lights back on.  Initially my life revolved around a Transit Van and what I could carry.  I needed everything required to repair faults to hand, and as soon as materials were used up, I restocked the van.  I was known for my cleanliness and organisation (and at times a bit OCD), but I knew that I could put my hands on almost anything in the dark.  There were no LED head torches then and lighting was quite rudimentary.  I felt a pride in being prepared and getting the lights on as quick as I could to help people.  I was surprised (and I still am), how many families cannot warm a babies milk or have medical issues which they cannot cope with when the electricity fails.  The 2015 flooding in Lancaster brought a great many questions forward regarding lack of transport, communications and Medical Facilities.

When I became a field engineer, I lived out of a car.  I still carried what an Engineer needed and the car became my home on many a dark, snowy night.  You soon learn than when you’re on call, you start with a full tank of fuel and to this day, I never let my gauge get below half full.  My car was my shelter, office and source of warmth.  This has stayed with me as now I care for my Mum and the phone could ring at any moment in an emergency.  You don’t want to be heading to the garage as you’re taking someone to hospital or rushing to care for them.

The last few days has shown what unpreparedness, panic and greed can do.  The supply chain might have already have been stretched, but seeing people openly filling up cans when they know others are short is a disgrace.  A friend of mine challenged a driver who had ten cans (yes ten..!) before him and had abuse hurled back as a response (the law states that you can only store two cans).  A charity in Birmingham has seen its minibuses attacked and fuel stolen.  There have been awful pictures of fights, petrol in carrier bags and long queues, all because of poor preparation and the media storm.  You can’t plan for everything and I realise that many folk need fuel in large quantities due to the distances they have to travel, but there is another issue here – The ‘I’ society.  So many people speak in the ‘I’, not the ‘We’ and we’re all in this together.  Just like the many who still have a hundred toilet rolls and half a ton of pasta in their garages..!  Greed has brought the bow wave and now many sit in its wake, hoping for salvation.  The media have also whipped up a storm and kept it running, but people then responded to it.  It’s time to make your own decisions.  Sadly we are creating a society which needs to be told what to do because they can’t think for themselves.

I remember being scowled at during the tanker strike of 2000 because I was allowed to draw fuel as I’m an electricity worker.  I only took what I needed and no more, as did a district nurse I met on the forecourt, who was praised.  There’s no doubt we need medical care, but society would look damn silly in the dark (See Lancaster article above). As a sector we’ve quietly worked right through COVID and have adapted hugely to the pandemics demands, and unlike some Taxi Drivers in 2000, we don’t fill wheelie bins with petrol.

During an interview in 1973 John Kenneth Galbraith commented that Americans would do every underhand trick in the book to get fuel.  This was not in response to the 1970’s fuel crisis, but the rationing in WW2.  It seems little changes…

When we’re out on the hills and mountains we should be prepared., particularly as winter is coming  I wonder how many of you carry a head torch and spare batteries..?  Have your phone fully charged..?  Spare clothing..?  Spare food..?  An emergency shelter..?  1st Aid Kit..?  A map and compass (and the skills to use them..?)  Here’s a great video from my friend Rob at Buxton Mountain Rescue Team which highlights some excellent points.

How many of you have reproofed your outdoor clothing ready for the autumn rains and winter snows..? 

I wonder how many folk keep a warm coat or blanket/sleeping bag in their cars during winter..?  Warm boots and a shovel..?  Torch and spare batteries..?  Again and again an inch of snow reduces this country to a laughing stock.  Why..?  Because were not prepared…

A friend of mine loved wandering up Snowdon in the summer, but always complained that when he returned to his car, he was parched a drink would be nice. I advised he put some bottles in the car, but he replied that they got too hot in the day.  He’d obviously never heard of a vacuum flask or a cool box..!

A number of industries work on ‘just in time’ contracts with their suppliers.  I once worked at a large car manufacturer who prided themselves upon this method, which works well, until a slight failure in the chain.  Suddenly they were shouting and procrastinating about other peoples failures, in a system they built too tight.  Everything needs a little slack.

A simple lesson – when the wave comes, be ahead of it.  Don’t let it get in front of you and then pick up the pieces in its wake.  It’s destructive and very time consuming, in a world which seems to revolve around time – or the lack of it.  A world which feels it is entitled to whatever it wants, now, on-time, and is quick to blame it on every one else’s failures.  And as I’ve said time and time again, shouting about problems won’t solve them.  Diligence, work and preparation will…

I’m far from perfect, but I have a system that works for me.

Do you have one that works for you..?

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