Tag Archives: maintenance

Blog update, and a fortnight in London …

Some time in the last three weeks, this web address was taken over by scammers. Since my last post on here at the end of January, I’d been focussing on digging the remaining brambles out of the garden, and on planning a kitchen renovation (first ever! Exciting but time consuming). Plus the cat sitting which is the subject of the post itself. And the blog fell by the wayside a little bit. In mid March, I started updating, but then there was a problem with a kitchen supplier, and it went by the wayside again. So when I was ready to finally update, it was too late, it had been taken over, and I’ve been working on it for the last four days, on and off. I should have paid more attention to what I wrote here. And I can tell that the links still don’t work properly. More work needed on that.

That leads me to the final update: thank you to the membership on here, for actively supporting me behind the scenes, it’s meant a great deal to me.

On with the blog post.

I’ve just finished up a fortnight’s catsitting gig in London right now, for a set of relatives gone travelling. It’s been interesting from a preparedness viewpoint, particularly being in London with the Brexit countdown reaching it’s final days (maybe).

Food and Water Preps

Everything was very quiet when I arrived (and was the entire time) so the normal preps took precedence. If there was a water main problem, I’m sure bowsers would be set up pretty soon by the local council, but I don’t know the area, I have no proof I’m staying here, and I don’t have my normal range of containers to hold any water I would be able to collect.

Water was first, therefore. I filled a 5 litre pan with water, first thing: after all, a broken water main isn’t exactly unknown in London, and as well as me, I have two shy rescue cats to consider.

Food is tricky: I can’t bring or buy the stocks I usually have at home, life doesn’t work that way. But within a day, I had enough dried foods – sachets of microwave rice, tins of potatoes, baked beans and butter beans, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, and a few kilos of frozen veg – to last a fortnight. All the kind of things I eat anyway, though I’ve been slower in getting my usual sauces and condiments – pesto, tomato puree, soy sauce and honey.

Shelter As Prepping

Shelter is 90% sorted, of course, I’m staying in the flat where the cats were re-homed. There are vulnerabilities, however:

  • A new routine for where you keep the house keys is tricky to set up. You can’t keep them in the door! If there’s a house fire, you need them right away, you can’t take the time to search for them without risking your life. In the end, I decided to keep them, my own house keys, and my train ticket home, in the partially-zipped inner pocket of the fleece that I kept right by my bed.
  • Because the immediate area was so quiet, I don’t think I was in trouble here if there was any sudden rioting, whether about Brexit or about something else. There’s a shopping centre and library two roads over, at a typically busy London junction, with a high street crossing it – I’m sure that’s a much more likely location. I might well get overspill here, and I’d stay alert, but I’m as sure as I can be, that there wouldn’t be any trouble (though see below).
  • Severe weather plus power cut? I haven’t brought a camping stove with me, not even my little hexi stove, which folds down to a ridiculously tiny size. That’s something to think about. But as to what I’d do for today, if this happened: I’d get me and the cats into one room, and one room only. I’d get their food, their fresh litter, the litter trays, the bin for the used stuff, and lots of plastic bags. I’d get water in here, in as many containers as I could find. I’d get all the store cupboard food in here, and I’d scout out the local supermarket to see if I felt okay about going in to buy more. I’d bring in all the duvets and blankets I could find, of course, and my own pack, so I had access to it. It wouldn’t be as liveable as my own place, but I think it would be liveable. There are a lot of candles scattered around the flat, and I have a couple of slimline torches, the sort that run off one AA battery. And my trusty wind up radio.
  • Security. Obviously, I’m not going to parade somebody else’s security all over the web, even though it’s anonymous. But the quality and number of the locks on the doors and windows are good. There’s a metal fence at the boundary of the property that reaches head height. And the flat I’m staying in is on the first floor, not the ground floor. It’s pretty good, as far as these things go.

Financial issues

I’m really thinking of things like a cyber attack on a bank, or the railways or shops. I have food to last me (and the cats), I have plenty of cash I brought with me – again, not as much as I have at home, but that’s a calculated risk – my return ticket home is already paid for and printed, it should be fine. What I haven’t done is bring a lot of change with me: it’s so heavy, it just wasn’t a high enough priority. If there’s problems, I’ll use the notes and be damned.

Leaving the city

But what if there was the sort of trouble that meant I had to leave? I have options: I could take the cats to a local shelter set up by the council, maybe, and tough it out there till my relatives got home from their trip and I could buzz off home? If it was near to the time of their return, I could take my chances and buzz off home anyway, they’ve said to me already that in emergencies I could leave the cats alone, if well set up, for 36 hours or so. And they have local friends who might still be able to step in in an emergency.

I have contacts in London too: a friend who lives only walking distance away from the flat. She’s in the emergency services, however, as well as local government, and I’m sure she’d be out in the thick of whatever it was, helping out.

I also have two other nephews who now live in London: but they both have wives and babies, very young babies, and I’m really not planning to dump myself on them, unless it was something as minimal as “please fill up my water bottle with fresh water before I do the next bit of the trip home”. And I certainly wouldn’t want to impose two problematic cats on them.

My preferred option, in reality, would be to stay in the flat as long as possible, in the hope that things would get sorted out, or that at least my relatives would get home and take care of their own cats. In that scenario, I’d be getting a train back to my own town. In the very worst case scenario, I’d be walking back; I might have to walk the whole way, or there might be buses laid on to get people out, or a relative who lives near my own home might be able to come and fetch me from wherever I’d temporarily landed up. Scouting out the necessary route back, until it joins up with a “bug home” route I’ve already established, is important. And in any of those situations, a good mobile phone and a fully charged power bank would be godsends. I happen to have just bought a power bank, from Anker!

Really, all of this is just a simple thought experiment. There’s an ethical issue underlying some of the above, however. What if I abandon these cats, that have been entrusted to my care? What if they die because of that? What if the situation is resolved just after I abandon them and they still suffer because I didn’t tough it out for them? What would that do to my family relationships in the future, for example? It’s not useful to go through those issues and their permutations here, because that’s totally about the personalities of the people involved, but they’re certainly the kinds of things that need mulling over, to be fully prepared.

Were there any prepping fails? As a matter of fact, yes, two of which happened when I got home:

  • I was so focussed on prepping, I forgot to do the normal things. Like, pack a comb. And I have long hair, so that was a mistake …
  • When I got back home, I did well in getting unpacked and everything put away. By about 6pm, I was ready to put the heat on and sit down. Except I couldn’t, because the battery that runs the wireless thermostat had run down. I had to find a new one so that the heating would even start up. That was an eye opener, and something I’ve been meaning to fix for a long time, having a regimen of battery charging. More on that another time.
  • my cash stash was still in my fleece when I washed it! Luckily, the security pocket is so small, the notes didn’t get tumbled about, and just came out a bit damp. A couple of days draped over a radiator sorted that.

In the meantime, life goes on. As well as ordinary days out, I’ve had some interesting trips of a prepping nature – a city farm based in disused tube tunnels, an exhibition about how to grow more food within the city, checking out a crafting superstore and even emergency water sources. The latter was totally an excuse to walk along the banks of a well-kept river, and very pleasant it was too. The weather showed me it could throw a fit sometimes too, as dustbin lids were being blown down the street. As I say, life goes on.

Maintenance: physical and digital

Where you live is just the beginning.

It’s just what we have to do to look after our homes, isn’t it?” Or maybe your landlord does it, and you don’t have to plan for it? Getting the boiler serviced, bleeding the radiators, a new rug when the tatty old one in the kitchen gets stained?

Mortar cut away and renewed

No, it’s not just that stuff – there’s a genuine prepping element to a lot of maintenance.

There are two types of maintenance that have been consuming me this month. The first is physical: ever since I moved to this house, I’ve been repairing the bodges of an unskilled DIY-er, and it’s a painful process. But there’s a step on from this type of work, to structural elements: for me, it’s mostly been the pointing, of all things. Two years ago, the pointing failed on the most exposed wall of my house, in the middle of a wet winter. The house became damp, no matter how often I had the heating on, and mould started to grow. A cardboard box of papers underneath the stairs was ruined. And the plaster on the internal side of the exposed wall became cracked and blown. Some of it swelled and fell off, it was horrible.

Getting it repaired the next year was difficult, because the holes were so big bees had lodged in there, and the builders told me lots of stories about how insects would eventually chew through the internal wall, on the other side of the cavity, and come through into the house. A beekeeper had to be brought in to sort out the bee nests. Plus a plasterer for the internal wall – it took a whole summer to bring it all back up to scratch.

So this year, noticing that another wall was also showing signs of advanced age, I had no hesitation in booking the same builder to do the same thing – and my wall is once again immaculate. This time, no bees ejected from their homes, no failed plaster, just a solid wall that’s going to last another 30 years.

That’s what preparedness is, in this context – noticing something that needs doing, and doing it before it starts to create other problems.

There’s another form of maintenance too, for preppers, which is the art of keeping your preps up to date. Mostly, people talk about this when they’re talking about rotating food stocks, so that we eat the oldest tins or packets first, to stop them going out-of-date. And that’s important, and I do it too, but the information we take with us is also important, the information we grab when we’re evacuated because of a sinkhole, a newly discovered unexploded bomb, a house fire, a flood, whatever it is – all sorts of events can mean that we have to grab our bug-out bags and head for a hotel, a friend or relative’s house, or even a community centre.

Amd I bet your bug out bag has some relevant stuff in it, yes? Warm clothing, some snacks, hygiene equipment, extra water. And like me, I bet you have a notebook or something with a listing of the addresses of relatives and friends, with the security details of your email account, your financial accounts – current account, savings account, credit card(s), savings accounts for the kids, your premium bond holder number, the privatisation shares you never sold, the pension schemes you belong to, the mortgage details, the insurance company, your passport – all sorts of things in there, yes?

I have news for you, news that you know, but the cumulative effect can really smack you over the head when you can least cope with it. Things change: that’s my news:

  • relatives and friends move house, or change telephone numbers. They may even fade from your life altogether. Are you sure you’ve listed all the changes?
  • emails and passwords change. Sometimes a firm gets hacked and asks you to change your password. Do you make a note of the new one?
  • even financial information changes: my bank changed the account number of my current account! I opened a Regular Saver, an ISA matured, I closed a credit card. One company changed it’s name, and two of them changed the name of the product I’d purchased ten years ago.
  • when my circumstances changed, I was able to get cheaper insurance by shopping around – that’s a really important change to make sure you keep updated, as a fire or a flood will likely destroy your paperwork, of course.

I’ve always tried to keep up to date with all changes, but in the last year the pace of change has accelerated tremendously, and my little notebook has become quite a large notebook, thanks to layers of Tippex and self adhesive labels that I can write on.

So I made a change in the format: I wrote out a Word document, with addresses, phone numbers, opening times, passwords, everything I could think of that would help me in some unknowable local disaster that would leave me sitting in a B&B trying to reconstruct my life in the immediate aftermath. I printed it out, and put it in a waterproof map case that was well fit for purpose. Then I copied the document to a little flash drive, and also to a compact disc, and erased it from my computer, for safety’s sake: so much sensitive information in one place is asking for trouble, unless a lot of care is taken with it. One hack of my computer, and all my sensitive information would have been compromised.

Please check out the information you’d be relying on in this scenario: the phone numbers and addresses of the people you love, who want to know that you’re safe, as well as all the financial necessaries. You might be surprised at what you’ve left out.