- Listen to an album of your choice at least twice a day for a fortnight. 4-6 weeks is better. Studies have shown that this is most effective when the album is a new release.
- Avoid all contact with photographs and film from the time, as those will dilute or overwrite any images in your head with theirs.
- After at least a decade, listen to the album again. If too intense, it may be possible to acclimatise with the Greatest Hits album. Occasionally, it may have fermented into regret or bitterness, so it is advisable to repeat step 1 little and often.
- The listening process cannot be skipped by the purchase of mint in box. This sterile environment will not marinate your emotions successfully. Reunion tours whereby an album is played in its entirity are also poor substitutes.
- Side effects can include but are not limited to: sadness at lost youth, ill behaviour, memory lucidity, increased motivation, crying, strains from dancing, anger at acoustic cover versions, the booking of concert tickets or purchase of band t shirts. Very rare side effects include a haircut, the purchase of a guitar or a camper van.
- Please enjoy nostalgia in moderation.
*This post contains descriptions of killing animals for food.
I am the child of a pair of post-war natural preppers. Survivalists. Hunters, farmers, make-do-and-menders, be grateful for what you have got, eat it or go without. Keep calm and carry on is their outlook on life.
My mother grew up on a farm and went to an agricultural school. She can raise, kill, cook animals. Nose to tail. Nothing is wasted. Seasonal vegetables, preserves, chutney, quilts, saved string, hand knitted jumpers, mended clothes. Honey and beeswax. Bread and yoghurt. Smoked meat and bulk meals. It’s where I get my maker’s streak from.
One time when I was a child, I remember saying I didn’t want to collect the eggs because there was a particular goose that kept trying to get me. My aunt reassured me that it wouldn’t be pecking me anymore. We had goose for that evening meal, but it never occurred to me that it was the same one…
My father grew up dirt poor and often went hungry. Last one up didn’t get shoes that day. Everyone who was in the house at meal times got fed, whether you were in that family or not. If you missed the meal, you could have bread and apples. Grammar school wasn’t an option. The uniform was too expensive.
He can make anything out of bits of wood. Tell the time by the sun. Dig and plant the garden, long after others have given up with fatigue. I’ve seen him ride horses bareback, herd sheep, feed baby rabbits with an eye dropper of milk and swim half a length underwater without coming up for breath.
The sense of community, compassion and sharing culture featured strongly in his upbringing, which I am grateful to have inherited. Job options were to go down the pit or join the army.
Going for a walk whilst camping, we would collect everything we needed for a feast. Foraged greens, nettles or pine needles for a hot drink, watercress, tiny crayfish, mushrooms, elderflowers, dandelion leaves and petals. I’ve eaten grubby maggots and zingy citrus ants.
Later in the summer, free, brown-limbed, in that very particular golden afternoon light, came the real treats of scrumped apples, plums, cherries, cobnuts, chestnuts and blackberries. Then the weird and wonderful pumpkins, that always looked better than they tasted.
My attempts at trying to grind tiny amounts of grain from grasses always failed. I think I was trying to make some sort of cracker or biscuit. Whilst I was trying not to lose my efforts to the wind, I failed to notice the creation of a rope from the plaited grass stalks, miraculously strong enough to take a person’s weight. Dad’s hands red and sore from twisting.
The humanity of dispatching a rabbit kindly with a few moves was not lost on me. Dangle the rabbit and hold its back legs, push the head back. Pull. Two minutes later, a clean pelt in a single piece with perfectly butchered, jointed game ready for the pot. Innards used as fish bait. Prepare your meal during the day so you’ve got time to cook it properly, bury the pot under the fire, so animals don’t dig it up. Rub an upside-down can on a rock until you see bubbles of liquid. The top levers right off.
We did once find a small stash of canned food with a knife and a little tobacco tin of interesting bits and bobs (fish hooks, half a candle, beef stock cubes, nylon thread, a piece of flint, matches, needles, aspirin, and a single cigarette) wrapped in a tarpaulin in the woods. We left it, because it wasn’t ours, but if this was the real deal, then we would have definitely taken it. I’d like to hope that we would have left them something, but then who knows until you’re actually in the survivalist mindset? When there’s no law, what do you do? What would other people do?
My parents have incredible stories from the early eighties, when the threat of a nuclear war was very real. Preparing for the possibility. Protocol and structure. Systems organised. Plans made. We tried inventing our own 24-hour ration packs as the official ones were pretty disgusting.
I read a book written by a family friend, about how to track people, whilst staying hidden yourself. The fascinating descriptive consequences on his body of living off the same foodstuffs for too long. Competitive games of being holed up in pitch black darkness for days, with no way of knowing the time except through hunger, with the winner being the one who timed their stay to the closest predicted minute.
Resilience. Getting through this. Mind over matter. Positive attitude. Grit. Dry socks. Hot drink. Sleep. Repeat. I’m still not sure if dowsing for water works.
These things have definitely influenced my life. I’ve sometimes trudged though snow in my Sorel boots and Fjällräven parka to work on days when other colleagues ring in saying they can’t get in because of the weather. I buy food for homeless people. No-one who visits my house ever goes home hungry.
As a child I never realised that the end was not definitely nigh and it’s left me with constant low-level anxiety and a continuing obsession with the apocalypse. Many years of rumination followed, but once I had rationalised that I would probably die early on, I felt strangely relieved.
Odd as it may seem to spend hours locked in enthusiastic debate with one’s parents about recent films and TV shows depicting the aftermath, it is something we all enjoy doing as a family, so will continue to baffle others with our tales of conspiracy theories. Just saying the words, “What would Sarah Connor do?” can spark a whole afternoon’s conversation.
The boyfriend loves raw peas, and I try to grow some for him every year. Sometimes, there’s enough for a feast; in other years there is just one pod per day to savour.
He buys loose peas but I think their flavour is muted compared to frozen peas. However, he will never know of this superior taste because he won’t eat cooked peas.
As a child, it was a privilege to be asked to pick these gloriously english peas from the garden and sit around lazily shelling them into a bowl. Nothing compares to the juicy sweetness of freshly-picked peas. Stuffing tumbling handfuls into our mouths, not wanting to make a second trip into the garden for more, in case we missed some gossip from the Sunday lunch visitors lingering in the kitchen. Those were the days where lettuce was either round or iceberg and never came in a packet. It would never have occurred to us to use the pea shoots in salads or as a garnish, but now it is as ubiquitous as parsley or coriander are these days. Such simple memories of washing freshly dug potatoes and carrots from the garden, knowing that in an hour, two families would be squashed round a table, on different sized chairs, eating juicy chicken with fresh garden vegetables.