Sunday, January 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: Be Prepared!

A light dusting before the blizzard
Winter hit hard here before Christmas, with a blizzard. We're surrounded by woodland, and the sound of boughs snapping under the weight of snow echoed around our valley like gunfire.  A particularly loud bang gave us all a 4am start, as some power lines came down. They snaked around in the darkness in a shower of sparks until the supply was shut off. After that, we were without electricity for eighteen hours. 
Disasters can strike in town as well as country, so before something unexpected happens in your neck of the woods, here's my top tips for managing when modern life unravels...

HEAT: The pump for our gas central heating runs on electricity, so a log burner provides extra warmth. Dancing flames lift the spirits, too. Curling up in front of the fire with a good book when the various screens and devices aren't working makes the past seem very close. While we have an electric oven, our hob is gas. In the event of a power cut we can light that manually, to boil a kettle for tea and coffee, fill hot water bottles or make meals that don’t need an oven.  We have carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms, and check their battery levels regularly. We also keep a fire blanket handy!

Come home to a real fire...
LIGHT: I use a head torch for cooking, or checking round outside. It leaves my hands free, which is always a good thing. Unlike ordinary torches, LED lights die suddenly instead of fading away like a traditional torch. Make sure you’ve got plenty of spare batteries. 
Cold candles burn for longer than those stored at room temperature.  Make sure you secure them in a jam jar or saucer before lighting. Keep them well away from anything that might catch fire. Keep a supply of matches or a lighter in a dry place, and make sure everyone in the house knows where they are. 

SAFETY: Make sure you've got a basic first aid kit with over-the-counter remedies, plasters, dressings and bandages. Keep paths clear and spread rock salt to keep them safe. Make a list of emergency numbers, and personal contact details. Print out and laminate several copies. Keep one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom and one in your car. 
Get the right tools for the job. Proper snow shovels are much lighter and easier to use than garden spades when you have snow to shift. Keep one in your car (and it's a good idea if that has winter tyres fitted).

SUPPLIES: Each autumn we make up a winter box, filled with things like toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, tea, coffee, dried milk, tinned goods and dried food like pasta. While researching Women’s Lives in Bristol, I discovered the story of an emergency box just like ours, which came to the rescue of people trapped in a church during the great air-raid the city suffered in November 1940. 
Severe weather rarely cuts anywhere in England off for more than a few days, so we'd rather sit it out in the warm than risk an accident. I had one of those in snow a few years ago, and I don't want another one! Stocking up with the basics means we don't run out if we're snowed in. It's all stored in a cool, dry place. We don’t rely on being able to use frozen or chilled foods. In a power cut, we keep the freezer shut and avoid opening the fridge. Milk and other dairy products live outside the back door, in a big insulated box.

COMMUNICATION: Mobile signals aren't good round here, so we’ve kept our landline. Wherever you live, a mobile's no good if it’s flat. Make sure all your devices are fully charged while you have power. Keep a good supply of batteries for radios. If you're going on a journey, make sure your car is serviced, and the fuel tank is filled. Blankets, a torch, first aid kit and cereal bars don’t take up much room on the back seat, and could make all the difference during a long cold wait for roadside assistance. 

If you'd like to keep up with my writing life, and the goings-on here at Tottering Towers (Gloucestershire's least stately home), just drop me a line at christinahollis(at)hotmail(dot) with "newsletter" in the subject line—and putting an @ and a dot instead of the words in my email address, of course!

Christina Hollis has been writing all her life. With many magazine articles, six historical novels and eighteen contemporary novels to her credit, she has sold nearly three million books and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, gardening, or walking her dog. Her next book, Women’s Lives in Bristol, 1850-1950 is part of Pen and Sword Books’ major 2018 series Struggle and Suffrage commemorating the vote being given to the first women in England. Follow Christina on Facebook at for more details.


dstoutholcomb said...

great advice for winter


Christina Hollis said...

Thanks, Denise! I hope you had a good (and warm) weekend.