This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Not to prang you out or anything, but every time I close my eyes and think of Brexit all I can hear, hark over yonder, is the chaotic stampeding of feet.
Is this not you as well? My eyes grey out to black, my mental wall shoots back a foot away from my cortex and I hear that sound – a sort of scurrying, like a thousand people getting off the Tube at once, the background hum of the Mufasa x wildebeest scene in The Lion King – clumping away. Panic itself hasn’t set in, but a quiet eerie drum of pre-panic, and what I am saying is: there are people out there, in Britain, as Brexit approaches, stockpiling food. Is that deranged? Or is the insane response to not stack up on tins of broad beans? Impossible to know.
Still won't stop a list happening, though, will it? Still won't stop a fun little list. Here’s what your Brexit stockpile says about you:
PRANG OF PANIC WHILE ON THE PHONE TO YOUR MUM WHEN SHE IDLY SAYS SHE HAD TO CONVERT A BIT OF YOUR OLD BEDROOM INTO 'THE STOCKPILE' AND THAT MEANS NOT ONLY HAS SHE THROWN OUT THAT BOOK YOU WROTE ALL THOSE SONG LYRICS IN, BUT ALSO YOU ARE FULLY BEHIND THE TIMES WHEN IT COMES TO, FOR INSTANCE, PREPARING FOR APOCALYPSE, STOCKPILING FOOD ETC.
The earliest stage of stockpile fear (or if you want: "canxiety"), this: realising your mum is already five months and eight ASDA big shops into her post-Brexit plans, which means she’s filled up that tarpaulin bit of the garage and the special cupboard she has under the stairs, which means she now must move in and, like an army plodding across the continent, annexe your room.
It already stopped feeling like yours the Christmas you came back from university and she’d hoovered it 20 days in a row and set up her sewing chair in there. It felt less like yours when they moved the exercise bike and spare suitcases in and took down all your emo posters. Now you’re 25 and don’t know the wifi password and your bedroom’s full of sweetcorn. You are no longer welcome here. Panic sleeps in this room instead.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: -5 percent
YOU BOUGHT EXACTLY ONE MORE CAN OF KIDNEY BEANS LAST TIME YOU DID SOMETHING CLOSE TO A BIG SHOP
Big Shops don’t really happen as an adult, do they? Think once you hit the fat wedge of aimless adulthood (see: you, right now) you tend to shop in these three vague ways:
– Relentless small shops that happen once every two days and always seem to end up costing £16 because you get carried away and buy "treats";
– Eerily militaristic biweekly Ocado shop that is always more-or-less the same thing and you just click to reorder the same mass of toilet roll, bagels, Quorn mince and fresh vegetables you never eat;
– Just sort of buying one noodle block at a time from a corner shop and gnawing the package open with your teeth, not even waiting for the water to boil to cook it in, occasionally fully just emptying a flavour packet into your mouth like sherbet;
Because you never do a big Big Shop like your mum used to do, do you? There is no need: those Big Shops were the finest Saturdays of your young life, your mum with her massive handbag dangling down from that hook bit of the trolley, with her envelope list and her little bookie’s pen, and then buying eight bottles of orange juice, and the multipack crisps, and all that bread "for the freezer". Doing the Big Shop with your mum – in that special mum-coat she used to wear for it, huge and padded and dangling just barely off her shoulders – was an experience, an event. Plus, if you helped get all the bags in from the car you got first dibs on the treat foods, the 24-pack Babybels, the name-brand chocolate digestives. No need to do that now it’s just you eating pasta and cheese on a sofa, alone.
Anyway, last time you went to a reasonably-sized Tesco and zoned out and lost half an hour staring at washing powder you picked up one can of beans (chilli night!) and then thought, 'Fuck it, Brexit,' and bought another can of beans. This now sits in your cupboard next to the can of beans you’d already bought and forgot you had.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: 1 percent
YOU’VE GENUINELY CLEARED A SHELF IN THE KITCHEN FOR LONG-LIFE PRODUCE, BUT HAVEN'T GOTTEN AROUND TO ACTUALLY BUYING THE LONG-LIFE PRODUCE
Weird thing about cleaning your kitchen cupboard out is that there is always – no matter how careful you are, no matter how little of it you buy, no matter when you moved in or how long since you cleaned it – there is always, for some reason, a slowly-seeping puddle of syrup, up there, high on a shelf you have to stand on a chair to get at, and it is never a case of just cleaning the syrup with a sponge (already difficult!) because, secretly, the syrup has moved and grown and spread and enveloped other food, and so now one old bottle of HP sauce, half a bag of crisps you clipped closed in August and for some reason three entire tubs of baking powder (why????) are glued rigid to the bottom of the shelf, and you have to clear it all out and stand there scrubbing, then when you go to put everything back up there you realise in the interim period a jar of honey has somehow got to the bottom of every jar, bag and can you’re about to put up there, so you clean those all off in the sink while your flatmates try to make dinner around you (you are now 45 minutes into this fun and breezy chore), and long story short the shelf is clear but you absolutely can’t be arsed to fill it right now so you sit and watch half of Russian Doll and forget it ever happened. This was three weeks ago.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: 2 percent
GOT SLIGHTLY WEIRD AND BOUGHT A BIG PAIR OF BOOTS 'FOR THE STOMPING' AND A HEAD-MOUNTED FLASHLIGHT PLUS SLIGHTLY TOO MUCH RICE
Your dad always for some reason buys you a toolkit for Christmas ("Good toolkit, that," your dad says, nodding at it. "Every proper grown-up needs a toolkit," forgetting he’s already bought you three), but this year he changed it up and gave you: uhh, 24 packs of Kendal Mint Cake and a pair of goggles? "Going begging in Blacks," he said (he likes to go into Blacks). "Thought they could come in useful when, you know—" he looks around "— panic reigns."
How, exactly, does he see Brexit going? Armed police officers stomping in formation down dusty cul-de-sacs? Warpaint choppers careening through the air above the golf course? It doesn’t matter: the stark belief that society will collapse as soon as Big Lovely Ben bongs us out of Europe has infected you, too. You keep looking at survival gear on Amazon. You bought a pair of "sturdy boots". For some reason you are obsessed with how many candles can be fitted into a torch – a million candles? A billion candles? – and you’ve tried looking on Depop for galoshes. Tried doing a rainwater butt thing but realised you live in a third-floor flat so just taped a big empty Volvic bottle to the wall on the balcony next to where your flatmates smoke. Keep buying firelights on sale at the petrol station. Your bedroom’s starting to look like a murderer lives there.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: 15 percent
YOU KEEP BUYING LENTILS EVEN THOUGH YOU DON’T PRECISELY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH LENTILS
Lentils, you are pretty sure, never go off, and also lentils, you are pretty much convinced, can be cooked in water and eaten as a sort of rough paste, so even though every attempt at dhal you’ve ever made has gone terrifically wrong – "Like baby food but for baby prisoners," your housemate said, chewing, "as if they had committed baby-crimes and ended up in a special baby-prison, and were being punished via paste" – so you keep buying errant bags of them – green, yellow, orange, split, you bought barley one time because they were adjacent on the shelf – and now… what? You just have a load of lentils and some BBC Food tabs open. You don’t even have any ginger in the fridge. In the post-Brexit carnage, at this point, it’s looking preferable to just die.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: 6 percent
YOU HAVE ACTUALLY STOCKPILED ENOUGH DRY FOOD AND SHOWER GEL TO LAST YOU SAY FOUR WEEKS IF, FOR WHATEVER REASON, EVERY SHOP IN THE COUNTRY CLOSES AT ONCE
Mmm, yeah, good, there’s a weird little bit in your wardrobe behind some folded-over coats – you are, as you should be, quite cripplingly embarrassed about the stockpile, and you are doing your best to hide it from both your flatmates and yourself – but in there are some essentials that toe the line between "Christmas Shoe Box appeal" and "day after payday hangover": wet wipes but also Nik Naks; miniature toothbrushes and four tubes of paste; an eight-pack of kitchen roll, more kitchen roll than you’ve used in a year; sardines, a yo-yo, a multipack of Picnics; a bag of flour, a bag of sugar, a tube of salt. Squinting at it, you can’t actually think what meal you could prepare with all this – pancakes with sardines? A wet wipe folded into a scone? – but you feel prepared, somehow, more rigid, more robust. You walk out into the wind and rain and feel galvanised and strong.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: 50 percent
YOU’VE GONE FULL 'VOUCHER NUTTER IN THE DAILY MAIL POSING WITH THEIR FAMILY’S STOCKPILE CAREFULLY ARRANGED IN A PILE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR', WHICH ALWAYS FOR SOME REASON INVOLVES MINIMUM ONE BOX OF STUFFING
I think one thing about stockpiling (and the sick quiet thrill of walking around supermarkets as a whole) is that neatly stacked unopened boxes of sheer things remind us impulsively of Christmases and birthdays – when you would burst into the front room as an excited child, balloons or tinsel abound, and there would be a neat shiny pile of presents, all for you – only instead of like a guitar or a peddle bike or a NERF gun, now you – the deranged stockpiler – have like four tubs of Bisto and a really large bag of dishwasher tablets. "I'm ready!" you tell the local newspapers, hand on chin on elbow on barbecue briquettes (ten kilogram bag). "I’m prepared for anything Brexit throws at me!" Apart from the mob of neighbours down your road who, as soon as the electricity flutters on the 1st of April and the shop down the road runs out of Warburtons, storms your garage and takes all the big jugs of drinking water you boasted about in the Gazette, as well as tying you to their car and dragging you out in the streets until you die.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 95 percent AND 0 percent
STOCKPILED BUT ATE IT
You had a bit of money left over thanks to Dry January and you decided that the sensible thing, the adult thing, the thing you know you always should be doing but the intricate compulsions within your own ego refrain from letting you do, was: to put £35 into an Ocado delivery exclusively made up of boring, multi-buy, canned and long-life essentials. And here it turns up, in so many purple bags, on a Tuesday evening you left work early especially to wait home for: a bag of onions, meat for the fridge, tins of coconut milk, sweetcorn and mushrooms; jarred pulses, tomato paste, far too much toilet paper for anyone to ever use. "Ah," you say, tidying it all away into a special emergency cupboard. "This will see me through the worst waving panic of Brexit."
Only… February was a bit long, wasn’t it. And you had that hangover you woke up on and you simply had to break open the 96-pack of Shredded Wheat and eat it with that litre of long-life milk. That bag of onions you got was shredded into that gravy you burnt when you did the big house roast. That big four-kilo box of laundry detergent you got has multiple scoops taken out of it and now has wet clumps of powder around the gaping maw of the box. How long did the cereal bars last you? Be honest. Was it— was it two weeks? Did you eat more than one cereal bar a day for a period of two weeks? Be honest. You did, didn’t you. You’re actively worse off now than when you started preparing for Brexit. A tiny analogy for the country as a whole.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: -4 percent
KEEP SOBBING AND DRINKING CANS OF NURISHMENT WHILE SITTING CROSS-LEGGED ON THE FLOOR
"Big Mood", undoubtedly, but do me a favour and text some of your friends back, they’re worried about you.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR NON-BREXIT LIFE, LET ALONE BREXIT LIFE
GENUINE CONVERTED-THE-BASEMENT, TANKS OF PETROL, TACTICAL TUNIC W/ SUN-GLARE ORANGE LENS SHADES, STOCKPILED ENOUGH FOOD THAT YOU GOT BORED AND GENUINELY STARTED STOCKPILING, LIKE, SEEDS, YOU HAVE ACTUALLY LOOKED INTO BUYING NEARBY FARMLAND AND GRAZING SOME SHEEP
One thing about doomsday preppers (you, insane) is that they are sort of right, and when the country plunges into a sort of violence-and-trade Mad Max-style free-for-all they will be the Kings and Queens, because they were the only ones who had the foresight to – for example – fill a bath with drinking water, and they will charge by the fucking kilo for you to sup from it. And that sort of makes me uneasy, because, though the idea of crushing government down like an old car and sandblasting the grinding gears of society away and having a bottom-up change in the system does sound appealing, I’m not quite so sure the idea of wrestling power from "anyone who did PPE at Oxford and now the only clothes they own are suits, does not know how to take even one single elegant selfie" and instead giving it to "anyone who can operate a bait catapult" is exactly a good one.
"Oh, don’t like Theresa May, do you? We replaced her with the only six men in England who own crossbows. Enjoy your government, dickhead." No. I’m glad your prep is going well, but. I fear the iron fist of your power.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: 100 percent
YOU BOUGHT A GUN?????
Come on, mate, it’s only Brexit. It’s only a bit of Brexit. "Ah, it’s for hunting—" put the gun down, mate. It’s bad but it’s only Brexit. Stop trying to shoot people, it’s just Brexit.
BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: PLEASE STOP TRYING TO HUNT PEOPLE IT’S ONLY BREXIT
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.