October

There was a rush of preparation shopping in the supermarket next door. By the time I got there the eggs were gone and all the bread. Understandable, but who can explain a run on molasses? Only six jars left on the shelves. 

Likewise tomatoes – all gone. Fresh fish – down to a few sad Tilapia. Tins of corn – wiped out. 

But coffee – still plenty. Likewise tea and herbal tea, condiments of all kinds.

Molasses? We buy the strangest things under pressure.

How thin the line between First World convenience and the Stone Age. We filled the tub with water, and pots and pans too, not really believing that we’d have to use it. It was fun to live by candlelight for a night or two, but it was less fun to flush the loo with dwindling bathwater.

Back in the 1970s I lived on a commune for a few months in the North Yorkshire Dales. The property was a hunting lodge, built by Queen Victoria in the style of the Tyrol to make Prince Albert’s cousins feel at home. We lived in a house powered by a fuel stove, and ate soup made from fresh vegetables, grown in the kitchen garden. The house was on a high slope a mile from the nearest village, and in the winter it was cold – bitingly, penetratingly cold. The wind came off the heights whining continually. Wind was the only theme some days.

At that time there was a network of such places up and down Britain. The famous community at Findhorn still flourishes, and a few years later I would visit a community on Iona. Our place was  directly inspired by the work of J. G. Bennet, his compelling life story told in his book ‘Witness’. Bennet foresaw a sequence of urban collapse, privation, and social failure on a massive scale. He encouraged his followers to set up communes and communities to preserve craft knowledge. His vision was inspiring if perhaps a little off in the timing.

Because, what happened? The largest, most enduring commercial and technological expansion since written history began.

Ah … but that didn’t last long, and as soon as the Internet goes down, and the one-eyed monster in the corner or in plasma on the wall is silent, and when the water in the tub is all used up, and when a tin of molasses is changing hands at dollars on the penny … what happens then?

Be all that as it may, the biggest news in our lives, bigger for us even than the hurricane, is that Trish has become a grandmother. Baby Jeremy Daniel arrived fully formed and perfectly beautiful.  Emily and Jonathan adopted him as a newborn. No one could wish for better care.

And the story of the hurricane and the story of being new grand-parents converge, because here we are staying with the new baby and his new parents up in Westchester while the power is out in Lower Manhattan. With amazing good luck their house was untouched by falling trees, and they still have electricity.

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