Gene Lange works at a hedge fund in New York and, wary of the erratic behaviour of his colleagues as the credit crunch develops, he is battening down the hatches. He’s stacked his basement with canned food, bottled water, and a decent supply of washable nappies for his baby. He’s fixing his car up so it’ll run off-road – and he’s taking good care of his collection of guns.
Gene’s not saying a rabble of crazy stockbrokers is going to come round to his house and try to bludgeon him to death with his own wind-up torch so they can get at his baked beans. He’s just saying, “I don’t think it necessarily makes a guy crazy to prepare for the potential worst-case scenario.” That’s why he plans to purchase an inflatable speedboat.
That’s in NewYork.
Over in London, the crunch is making people a little bit tense, too. Consider businesswoman Michelle Fitzsimmons, who has planted a hazelnut tree in her garden. “They are a low-maintenance, highly productive source of protein that is much cheaper than meat,” she explains, and thus great in a financial squeeze. Fitzsimmons is also considering the purchase of a pig.
Porcine survivalism is likely to remain a niche interest, but there are signs that the instinct to retreat is gaining a grip across society. Ask Russ Reader, managing director of Leigh Safes, who reports a 25 per cent increase in sales in just one month. Ask B&Q which predicts a surge in shed-building by those looking to secure a mortgage-proof way of life.
Or take a leaf out of 56-year-old retired croupier David Somers’ book by selling your house and sinking the lot into gold. That way, when the rest of us are using sterling as toilet paper, you’ll be able to barter your ingots for the occasional barrel of oil for the portable stove. If only Gordon Brown had done the same.
So you’ve got your boat, your pig, your hazelnut tree, your home vault, your off-road vehicle, your imperishable groceries, your gold bars, your illicit weapons, and you’re living in a shed. Truly, this is post-consumer bliss.
One more piece of advice, though, from former Russian oligarch German Sterligov, who gave up his New York penthouse and Burgundian castle in favour of a log cabin a few years back, and who has hired a tutor to teach his children hand-to-hand combat. It is, Sterligov says, “not just for my oligarch friends but for everyone in this crisis – buy flour and salt and sugar. All of you. You will need them.”