Signing up my nuclear family for the Ray Mears School of Wilderness Bushcraft

YOU don’t necessarily need a slinky sports car in order to salve a mid-life crisis; a couple of kitchen doors will do. Humour me and allow me to elucidate . . .

I’m afraid I have to blame a recent EADT article on old nuclear bunkers. Like most teenagers in the 1970s and ’80s I never gave much thought to the possibility that the West and the Soviets could have blown us all to kingdom-come had one of them got jumpy, stupid, mistaken or crazy. But this article on underground command centres had me thinking about today’s world. Not very stable, is it? If terrorists don’t get you, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes or amoral bankers will give it a good go. It’s enough to make someone who sailed through the cold war feel like a very insecure middle-aged man. So . . .

“You want to do what?” trumpets Jane, incredulous. Well, if Britain were over-run by the Ebola virus, or a solar flare knocked out our energy system, if fuel became totally unaffordable or Come Fly With Me were re-commissioned (made that one up, to lighten the mood) I’d be a fat load of good. I can’t build a bivouac, pluck fish from a stream or snare and skin a rabbit. The ability to weigh the best word for a sentence – stroll or saunter, for instance – won’t light a fire when I have no matches.

“So you want to go on” – she pauses for emphasis – “a Ray Mears School of Wilderness Bushcraft course?” Precisely. It will boost my sense of self-reliance and self-confidence. I’ll learn how to collect and purify water, hunt out plants for food and medicine, and use cutting tools. “Well, if you really want to. Don’t forget the plasters . . . and perhaps Ray will shoo the spiders from your tent.”

Later, happily nursing Crocodile Dundee daydreams, I Google a Home Office pamphlet from the 1980s called Domestic Nuclear Shelters – just in case I ever have to protect the old homestead from Iran or [insert unpredictable and hostile foreign power of your choice]. The booklet shows how to make a shelter from a DIY kit (though there would inevitably be a key bolt missing, I’d wager), throw together an improvised garden structure using doors – “fittings such as handles should be removed” – or install a permanent one, though this “may affect the rateable value of your home” and planning permission might be required. Frankly, if things had got so tense that I needed to rip up the flowerbeds to build nuclear hidey-holes, I’d be happy to take my chances in court later with the district valuer and building regulations inspector.

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