Preparing for the Apocalypse

I’m pretty relaxed about the whole thing and since I have socially self isolated now for nigh on 30 years, I’m not too bothered about keeping myself to myself. And if the writing is on the wall, so be it.

My wife is scurrying around in London looking after elderly parents and I have been ordered to stay put down here in sunny East Kent. I have been forbidden to go to evensong at Canterbury Cathedral and told I’m not allowed to have coffee “down Deal” as I am accustomed to do.

But as long as I can walk the fields and beaches and hedgerows, I’m perfectly content. I very much hope we do not get a state of emergency here, with police and the army forcing you to stay indoors at gun point. That would be grim indeed.

Of course there is a serious side to all this and I feel wholeheartedly for those who have lost or will lose their lives in the months to come. I feel equally concerned by the number of businesses which will go bust and suggested a young nephew of mine considers calling force majeure on the lease of his pub. How can businesses big or small honor their obligations when their customer base has disappeared?

Panic reigns at all the local supermarkets down here. As elsewhere I gather. Herd mentality is so undignified and pointless. I suppose you can live on very little food intake and as long as you have water, all will be well. I had better plant some vegetables in the garden.

It is a total mystery to me why people would panic buy lavatory paper or alcohol. If push comes to shove you would have thought they could do without.

In the interim, I decided to go very old school and buy a large bag of grain. Not being the agricultural type I didn’t realize grain bought other than off a supermarket shelf came with chaff, husks, hulls. Cooking it did not prove a huge success so I started looking up what to do about it.

I spent my afternoon sorting the wheat from the chaff and it was one of the most satisfying hours or so I have ever spent. Basic, natural, ancient skills and ones I have never before needed to practice.

I think I’m getting a message here of sorts, somewhere along the line. Like my old chum Candide said, you need to cultivate your garden.

Oops, got to dash the doorbell has just rung. I can see four odd blokes outside on horse back, dressed in strange biblical garb. One of the rude fellows has just painted three sixes on my front door in bright yellow paint.

12 Comments

  1. This made me smile. I’m comforted and disturbed to hear the story is the same across the pond. There’s probably something very relaxing about the whole sifting of wheat bit. I mean, how many of our ancestors sat in quiet contemplation doing exactly that? Clearly this isn’t the first time we’ve felt the impending doom of armageddon is upon us. I’d imagine it is quite like a time machine in a way. Great stuff though.

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    1. Thank you. I have thought often recently how the world might be a better place if we concentrated on producing the necessary to feed, house and look after people’s health. Business as we know it seems so wasteful and brash. Yes, there was something very therapeutic about my simple afternoon yesterday.

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  2. For me, one of the more interesting aspects of all the madness and chaos so far has been the range of extremes that prevail amongst both those well-informed and those woefully uninformed. Even knowing as you do, that we must take every possible and reasonable step to minimize the crisis, which requires us to sacrifice some of the more satisfying and familiar activities, your tale of discovering other activities which are, in some way, compensatory to those withheld or avoided, shows just how much we take our normal routines and pleasures for granted, but also how expanding the range and variety of activities we participate in could provide satisfaction even when there IS no crisis.

    The four horseman of the apocalypse must be having a terrible time deciding where to show up these days, with nearly every country around the globe reeling from the emerging virus and its effects, but I somehow get the notion that their appearance at your doorstep was more of a courtesy call to express their admiration for your novel approach and your measured response given the severity of the crisis.

    Once all this insanity and the struggle with the illness subsides, and the world experiences a recovery of what we once described as a degree of normality, ( and travel to other countries becomes possible and safe to do again) I would very much like to investigate the possibility of visiting “sunny East Kent.” It sounds like a wonderful and magical place to those of us unfamiliar with its charms, except through your thoughtful and richly personal descriptions.

    We need many more such worldviews to be shared more broadly, now more than ever.

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  3. Yes John, I think society might learn some lessons from this crisis. In particular my ascetic practices yesterday afternoon made me wonder, not for the first time, how as a race we can waste our lives and our resources in the pursuit of the trivial. With some adjustment to our society and our economic model so much of what we waste could feed the starving billions. House and shelter them.

    I guess so many of us have managed to avoid the four horsemen in the years since the end of the second world war. They have always, since those dark days, roamed elsewhere. Cambodia under Pol Pot, China under Mao Tse Tung, Central Africa. To name but a few spots.

    But sunny East Kent? The other day, we received a sharp reminder here of how bad things can get – more bombs were discovered on the local beaches after the fierce storms. These had been planted to deter German invasion in the 1940s.

    I suppose my attitude of relative peace is one of resignation and detachment. Not that I do not care but simply that, considering time, a catastrophe was perhaps overdue. Even in this little corner.

    A meteor destroyed the dinosaurs we are told. The Black Death did a pretty good job on humanity. Two world wars and a bunch of crazed despots wiped out many millions in the 20th Century.

    It is high time that we grew up but changing human nature is not an easy thing to do.

    I hope all goes well with you and your family in your own neighborhood. Perhaps you could try out my grain trick; it really is rather fun!

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  4. Anthony,

    I spend a lot of time “sorting the wheat from the chaff,” i.e. things valuable from the endless nonsense in life.

    For some people 666 is the symbol of tbe Antichrist (Satan). The link below has much more meaningful and helpful reasons for it:
    https://willowsoul.com/blogs/numbers/3-reasons-why-you-are-seeing-666-the-meaning-of-666

    COVID-19 could be ” Seeing 666 is a wake-up call for you to re-examine your current situation and change the direction of your thoughts.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very valuable advice. Today I walked for almost 4 hours in the sunshine and had a picnic on a bench in the countryside. Towards the end of the walk I went to my favourite village church and read 5 psalms out aloud to myself. I also did a bit more fiddling around with my grain and then I turned to the stock market.

      Reading psalms in empty village churches is quite a habit of mine. I always emerge in a good frame of mind. It is not that I believe in a creator god and certainly I have no time for Christian or any other dogma. It does however greatly calm my mind – it is, if you like, a meditation.

      I think my major concern at the moment is whether to abandon stock markets altogether. Or at least the study, writing and back testing. Probably, at my time of life I should. But old habits die hard.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment Ron.

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  5. Our financial advisor at UBS is a Sr. V.P. and daughter of one of my wife’s high school classmates. She said this is the worst stock market she has seen in her 35 years in the industry.

    During the financial crisis of 2008 our retirement account at Fidelity Investments lost almost one-third of their value. Last month our balance went down 4.4%, exactly the same as the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes. This month will be far worse.

    The financial disruption cause by COVIS-19 is affecting stock markets around the world. It also has forced closure of our favorite restaurants. Thankfully we can still get their food but delivery or pick-up. UBS will still ‘deliver’ our monthly disbursements. I just hope our stocks will eventually ‘pick up.’

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    1. You will be absolutely fine if you are widely diversified, which i am sure you are. The first stock market crash I “noticed” was in 1973 the year I left school. I made a little money speculating on gold. 1987 was was my first crash in a professional capacity – I was with what is now UBS in Hong Kong as a stockbroker. I have written a great deal about stocks and the only real magic is wide diversification. For instance in 1900 the darlings were Imperial Russia, the Kaiser’s Germany and Argentina. Narrow concentration in those hot markets would have proved disastrous. Global diversification and avoiding single stock risk is the way to go. And even then of course if the four horsemen really come to stay even that might not suffice. But it is the best you can do.

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    2. And of course, needless to say, at our sort of age, bonds (preferably top tier corporate or sovereign) should play a big role. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with fixed stock / bond allocations with regular re balancing.

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      1. We do have a widely diversified portfolio chosen for moderate risk. There is a balance between equities and fixed income. In 2019 Forbes ranked UBS as number one in wealth management firms. (Ours is hardly “wealth” except to us).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Seekers like you, and mystics, are usually self isolated anyway, so like you, this call for self isolation doesn’t affect us the same way. For years now my wife and our irrepressibly curious but educationally challenged young cleaning lady have been my only regular personal contact with humans. I do envy you your bucolic ambles though, and twinge at the pain of your enforced abstinence from coffee in somnolent Deal. However, i do think your insouciant attutude to toilet paper will undergo a massive revision when you run out of it and have recourse to remembering which hand you washed with for the rest of the day …

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    1. You have given me serious pause for thought over the lavatory paper – I may have made a terrible mistake. I remember those Japanese lavatories from my days in Tokyo – I wonder if it is too late to have one installed here or whether the price will have shot up? My son tells me he has 18 loo rolls in stock but does not intend to share with us. Such gratitude!

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