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For the past four weeks I have been confined to barracks, recuperating from surgery. I’m not soliciting sympathy, just creating some context.
My face is mostly bandaged and my left eye is partially obscured, which has prevented me from reading or using my computer. Nonetheless I’ve used my recovery time constructively and taught myself to crochet – a classic heritage skill. Interestingly, I can crochet although having just one operational eye. In fact, as anyone who’s ever had a hook-wielding nan can tell you, once you’ve got your rhythm you barely need to look at your needle.
From being a complete novice, I can now generate about two dozen ‘granny squares’ a day, stitching away relentlessly like Madame Defarge at the guillotine. And I’ve concluded that crochet will be an essential skill once the zombie apocalypse comes, as we’ll all need blankets. Or possibly shrouds.
The zombie apocalypse may be a trope of popular fiction, but it’s also an interesting way of finding out who to have on your team when society finally breaks down – a surprisingly regular topic of conversation among my pals.
I have a chum who can make fire; another who can forge horn-handled knives. As in any rural community, I know a man who can skin a rabbit. I have a contact who has fantastic horticultural skills honed on his abundant allotment in Seaview, plus I know an ecologist who can identify edible fungus from the toxic varieties, so hopefully us survivors won’t starve.
As well as farming, hunting and gathering skills, we’ll need a stronghold. I have a friend who’s convinced that Needles Battery would be easy to defend, set as it is on a vertical chalk cliff with just a narrow drawbridge as entry point – although we won’t be cultivating many vegetables on that arid and windswept parade ground.
Carisbrooke Castle might be the best bet, after all it was designed to be impenetrable. Plus it has a supply of fresh water; to draw it we could harness zombies to operate the donkey wheel.
Even so, we might need to defend the castle. I’d be rubbish at fighting; as I said, I’m on crocheted shroud detail. However, at this February’s hedgelaying competition, I saw plenty of skilled craftsfolk who knew how to wield billhook and chainsaw. Plus I have a friend who won a medal for archery at the Island Games. She suggested she could probably take out a zombie as long as it stood still at an exact range of 50m while she sets up her bow sights. Perhaps not entirely spontaneous, but it would have a certain pleasing symmetry with the castle’s archers of yore.
So, we’ve got a fortress, food, weapons and crocheting sorted. What heritage skills will YOU bring to this dystopian future? I asked this question of a young friend of mine, who has obliterated plenty of zombies in his virtual computer games world. “How will you survive the zombie apocalypse, Bill?” “Easy,” he replied, insouciantly, “I’ll become a zombie.”
This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 1 June 2018.