“doomsday prepping”

Wasabi*!!! It has been a somewhat anxiety-inducing few months, hasn’t it?

In Australia especially – we have gone from unprecedented bush fires, to extreme storms and floods – and now this: Coronavirus. Coming soon to a city near you! Well, it’s in Sydney now but hopefully not about in the community as such – yet…

In the meantime, we are all already affected by the feeling of collectively held breath… and, yes: PANIC BUYING! This week, as the virus became more real to Australians, supermarket shelves were being stripped bare of particular items, ahem, like toilet rolls!? 

Isn’t it odd – and what an essay I could write about what this says about us – when we panic, apparently toilet paper is the go-to for stockpiling and “doomsday preppping”!? Hilarious – “First, bogroll. We can risk running out of food, but don’t let’s EVER run out of bogroll!!!!!” (what I call toilet paper)

Today, I partially succumbed to this panic buying – but didn’t get far!!! I made a list of food to “stockpile”, then realised I didn’t actually have enough money to buy all that at once (basically doubling everything we would usually buy, which of course meant doubling the cost, and I simply don’t have any room to spare in our weekly budget)!!

SO many others must be in the same boat, so to speak (our wooden boat has actually come up in previous doomsday scenario planning- in case of floods cutting us off from shops)!! Ayayayayay…!!

Feeling a bit at a loss for constructive actions to redirect this anxiety I am trying not to give in to, I then still tootled off to the health shop to buy: high dose vitamin C, the only effective weapon against viruses; and natural hand sanitiser, which I never ordinarily use, as I don’t believe in over-sanitising, it actually weakens your immune system…

“plague” essentials!

At the health shop, they were laughing about the run on hand sanitiser the previous day: “people were buying stacks of them at a time – they said the supermarkets have already run out!”

I sheepishly asked if they had any left for me, too, and stared at the handful of little spray bottles left on the shelf – torn between wanting to forget the whole idea, and wondering whether I should buy, say, five…?

Having only secured a limited time parking space, I then had to ask husband to stop in after work to chase up the organic long life milk I needed to stock up on – from the only shop I know of that sells them! He arrived to find just one left on the shelf. “Good grief,” I said, “grab it!!!”

These are the strange times we are living in…

smoke Palmie
Palm beach, November 2019- the beginning..

Backtrack a bit, and let me try to describe what November to January was like – the terrifying and tragic bush fire season like no other I have experienced in decades in this country. We were not directly affected, but thousands of families lost their homes and most of the country felt the loss, the angst of wondering who would be next, and the rage at our inept government, who did so little, so late…

Actually, there are still fires blazing in Victoria and spot fires pop up on my “fires near me” app daily… I am so grateful for all the rain, but still not entirely at ease, and nursing a strong desire to run away before the next Australian Summer (where?! the whole world is coming apart at the seams in one way or another, I feel)!

I mean, this was the first time I actually packed our emergency bags, collected some of our most precious bits in a “fire box”, went through old photos, photographed all my bookshelves (like gold to me), and planned our escape route/ steps/ destination…

smoke beach
Clareville, December 2019- fires across bay, central coast

As the “mega fire” drew ever closer, up to about 15km away at one point, I was checking the “fires near me” app many times a day and waking up frequently to do so in the night too.

Every time I left the house, I took my dogs with, as I didn’t want them trapped by fire (my cat would not have taken kindly to being hauled along in the car everywhere, so she stayed and I worried about her!) – this severely limited what we could do for the last few months! Yes, I know how mad all this sounds, but…

In the end, it was the smoke that affected us much, much more than anyone had anticipated… Many days were so bad we couldn’t see across the small bay we live on, or even to our neighbours’ houses! On those days, I kept my children inside and we luckily rent a very big old house – so cabin fever was not too much of a problem… but it was so stifling- all the windows shut, no aircon or ceiling fans in this house… in soaring temperatures, breaking all the records!

smoke yard
our backyard, end December- mega fires surrounding Sydney..

I decided it was imperative that we buy an air filter machine, as the smoke was seeping into the old house anyway – and some of us struggle with allergies and asthma at the best of times… and then had to use some of our “holiday spending money” to do so. It wasn’t much of a “Summer holiday” anyway, for any of us in Australia.

Next came reports of the possible water contamination that would result from runoff from the recently burnt areas – algal blooms and even toxic substances, e.g. flame retardant used in fire fighting… Back to the shops, to buy a family-sized clay/ ceramic water filter jug this time!

Really getting into the “doomsday prepping” mode, I then ordered a wind up/ solar/ rechargeable battery radio, torch and phone charger on eBay.

my new survivalist toy- so tiny, so clever!

All this time, I was also trawling the gumtree ads for an affordable old trailer – so that if we did, in fact, have to leave in a hurry, we could at least pack a reasonable amount of clothing and bedding and so on. Our dogs would fill much of the boot, remember, with the girls and the cat taking up the whole back seat – not much packing space left! But I still haven’t actually bought one of these though – we just don’t have the extra cash…

I remember reading about people in the US, many years ago, who were warned to leave because Hurricane Katrina was coming – but many couldn’t, because they didn’t even have enough money to fill the petrol tank for a long drive! Yikes! I could not identify with that at the time – it shocked me. Then again, I never had a car then! Nor a family! Catch a bus or train, I thought… Hmm, it’s just not that simple! (So I kept an eye on that petrol tank. All. The. Time)

smoke sun
Pittwater, January 2020

We are really okay financially – nothing like the poverty of those stuck in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina (what hell!) – but cash flow from week to week is rather tight, most of the time. As for many others – paying for the girls two activities per term each, and living in Sydney, one of the most expensive cities in the world…

We are also a one-income family, as I have made the unpopular decision to home educate our girls… But I really don’t think most other families in Australia have a lot of room to move in their budgets either!

No “emergency” savings either, for many of us – although we all know this would be the wise way to live! So, most of us have no extra money sitting around waiting to, for example, pay for a hotel if we suddenly needed to evacuate.

Or suddenly stockpile a few weeks worth of groceries, if, as it turns out, some virus/ pandemic/ panic straight out of a Sci-Fi movie, arrives to pull our focus away from the aftermath of the bushfires… Just when it seemed we might be turning a corner… 

Let alone the storms and floods that came inbetween! We live on a hill, so I felt we should be okay – but checked the garage for signs of leaking anyway (some stuff still stored down there that I just haven’t been bothered to unpack yet- at least this way I may be partly ready when the next inevitable move comes along, sigh! If you wonder why we don’t have savings, well, moving, moving, moving – that’s why!)

At the same time, I eyed our wooden rowboat and the box of lifejackets for the whole family… Check. You just never know…

Added a “roads & traffic” app (to check for flooded roads) to my growing menagerie of apocalyptic apps – “fires near me”; “air quality warnings”; and my old friend, the “BOM” (Bureau of Meteorology, for weather/ warnings)…

This was closely followed by another app- “water pollution readings Sydney” – because in the aftermath of the crazy storms and floods, we have been unable to swim for weeks due to contamination from stormwater runoff. “Happy Summer”…

first rains – catch every drop!!

All this to say, it has truly been one thing after another here of late, and although I feel genuinely grateful for all the much-needed rain, and deeply relieved that the fires are almost done too (?) … this coronavirus pandemic is just too –Wasabi*- much, don’t you think??

The problem with PANIC is that the resulting over-reactions are almost more to be feared than the virus itself: the draconian measures by governments that violate any conceivable notion of human rights; stock markets fainting like Victorian ladies in corsets, for lack of simply being able to take a few measured breaths; and now the stockpiling that is emptying our supermarket shelves of essentials…..

The worldwide panic is something that could affect us ALL, even if the virus doesn’t …! We could all end up having to panic-buy, for example, even though we had no intention of losing our “keep calm and take vitamin C”… because if we don’t… ??

Many weeks ago, when the virus (whose official new name cannot even be easily spoken or remembered anyway) had not yet left China, people had already rushed out to buy masks – where, I know not – so they have already mostly run out, I believe.

Despite being told repeatedly in the media that they are ineffective protection against the virus – and anyway it is not “at large” in the community here yet! Again, I have been torn between wanting to search for masks online; and the overriding need to carry on with life as usual, because I have such strong aversion to fear-mongering!!

Our beautiful sunrises now- haze is from mist/ rain!

Time will tell whether all this panic and stockpiling was justified… but in the meantime, I have started a different sort of “stockpiling” of my own today – a few poetry books and “chick flicks” from the library, to mix it up a bit with my audiobook crime series (Australian: the gorgeous 1920s sleuth, Miss Fisher!)…

Ahh, yes, that’s what we all really need right now, I think: some escapism, distraction, soul food … anything that would keep us from endlessly scrolling through the (hyped) news, social media and that charming array of disaster apps…!! I don’t know about you, but my heart needs more calm, not more “apocalypse now” – especially when there is Wasabi*-all I can do about it!!


(Please excuse the elephant in the room for not shouting its name when its presence is so obvious throughout this description of Australia’s Summer – we request that you simply whisper to yourself instead: “Climate Change, Climate Change, Climate Change”… in so doing, you will avoid arguments with those among us who simply WILL NOT SEE what is already stomping on their foot, slurping their tea while their eyes are averted..and may soon sit on their heads – although, possibly not, since they are firmly tucked into holes in the ground – close to the coal they so worship and adore…NO, this Summer has been completely NORMAL…)


*In an effort to remove swearing from my list of (many) bad habits, I am adopting this expression. I love wasabi, but it certainly can kick butt – so.

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