Jo Elgarf does not look like you're imagining a prepper. She is not a Libertarian, camouflaged and armed to the eyeballs that crawl through the forest in Montana, skinning a squirrel for breakfast and refueling for the Apocalypse. She lives with her husband and three young children in a sleepy suburb in southwest London.
Elgarf, however, likes to call himself a prepper. She is a member and moderator of a growing number of social media prepper groups. Their – a Brexit-targeted Facebook group called 48% Preppers – receives between 100 and 200 requests per day. Everyone wants to be ready for a no-deal Brexit.
Stocking is not too extreme in Elgarf's case. it just means that the kitchen cabinets are filled with pasta, sauces, rice, cans, milk powder and washing powder. There are a few things she would not normally get – eg. Vegetable preserves – that can go to a food bank when they are not needed. Otherwise, it is just a little more than usual. Elgarf says they have enough to keep the family from one month to six weeks.
The group is not about being scared, she says. On the contrary – it is about calming like-minded people and promoting a long-standing Larder mentality. "Look in your closet. If you were snowed in for a month, could you cope with it? We do not predict that you will not get anything. What we say is: You can go to a store and not find rice. Do you have something at home to replace it?
"In Switzerland, people say, I think, two weeks stuff, I think," she says. People are vulnerable there, not only because they are snowed in, but also because they have a hard line. Elgarf's degree was in European studies. And she worked in the food industry. She knows how it works just-in-time. Chris Grayling's little truck exercise did not reassure her. Also, the chairman of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry does not say that a no-deal Brexit "should be avoided at all costs".
Because it's not just about food for Elgarf and her family. One of her four-year-old twins, Nora, who sat happily on her mother's lap during our conversation, has a rare brain disorder called polymicrogyria. She has many recipes, but without two of them-Epilim and Keppra-she has seizures every day for her epilepsy. "She can not do without her," says Elgarf. Both Epilim and Keppra are imported.
If she could store these medicines, she would do that. However, they are controlled and they can only get supplies for a month. "It should be all right," she was told by doctors and pharmacists. But when it comes to your daughter's life, "all right" is not good enough.
Many of the people who join the Facebook group are worried about medicines, says Elgarf. Among them, there are many diabetics and celiacs. What they need is some reassurance. "We have to be sure that they have a plan for everyone who needs medication." She has heard rumors that the most critical medicines may need to be picked up from central hubs stocked on the basis of lists provided by general practitioners. It is clearly something she has been thinking of.
Elgarf also knows why she talks to me. "So come in April and there is no epilim in the country, I say," Where is this Guardian man? "And you guys will be interested because this little kid you saw in January has no medication." Nora has fallen asleep to her mother.
And so to another unlikely prepper and member of the same group in Cardiff. "I do not identify myself as a prepper, but I'm preparing," says Helena, who does not want to publish her last name. "I always thought preppers were a bit crazy and I'm pretty surprised I'm in that position."
Helena, who has a degree in political science and works for a charity, does not seem so crazy. None of the people I talk to. Informed: Please tick. Careful: Please tick. Organized: Please tick. Very well organized, in Helena's case: she has – and gives me a spreadsheet, color-coded according to what she's bought (eg canned tomatoes and toilet paper as well as an indication that the average person consumes 110 rolls a year) – shopping ( eg cereal), waiting time (coconut powder) or upcoming tests (dried falafel mixture). Falafel! I go straight to Helena. She also has schnapps and cookies. Brexit party in Cardiff on Friday, March 29, all together. And she made herself up! We will look good as the good ship Britannia goes down.
Helena is not just preparing for herself. She does it for her dog too, Charlie. And while she has stockpiles for herself for about three months, she looks more like a year to the dog, as she does not see that pet food will be a priority. "I do not really trust the government to take care of me. At least I do not dare to take care of my dog, "she says. In addition to dog food, there are treats and toys on the table. Charlie will enjoy a hard Brexit.
Helena sees it as insurance. "If there is not a lot of panic buying, I do not think there's anything on Asda's shelves," she says. "But I think there is a very good chance that the selection will be limited."
Helena's father agrees. He says he should do the same, but he has not got it yet. Her mother – who is "almost as enthusiastic about Brexit as Nigel Farage" – has accused her of credulity, ignorance and the spread of fear. "I do not think it's scary to protect your family, and because people do this sooner, that means we'll have more leftover on March 29 for people who have not yet prepared and the supply chains will be Doing so have had the chance to catch up. "
She hopes she is over-cautious. "I do not want to be right. I would be very happy if I sit here in a year and think: "Damn it, I still have cans on the shelf." I hope my mother is right and that Brexit is a fantastic success … The land of milk and honey. "
Unlike the land of milk powder and the "golden syrup," she says. Actually, there is honey and golden syrup on the table.
In Cambridge Diane says she also has supplies, though she does not want to go into too much detail. "I'm a bit cautious when I'm presented as an idiot who has a closet full of stuff," she says. She's okay with using her surname: she's Diane Coyle, OBE, FACSS, the economist, Bennett professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge, former Treasury adviser, vice chairman of the BBC Trust, member of the Competition Commission , Winner of the Indigo Award … in short, really not an idiot.
"The point in supply chains," she explains, "is that the things you buy today at the grocery store were on the road last night. Supermarkets now have no warehouse full of things. If we have no agreement and the delays even increase by 12 hours – although I see that there is a new report that says it will be much more, then things will not be on the shelves anymore. They will go out. And it's not just something we buy from the EU, and it's not just fresh products – there are quite a few things. "
Coyle knows she can not get along without a cuppa and does not want to have tea bags or coffee anymore because she did not get any before a no-deal exit. "These are things that are important to me, that we import, and it's a bit of insurance."
The same thing made them cash before the financial crisis. Interest rates on loans were out of line. "The message was that banks do not trust their money overnight, so why spend money on them overnight?" She took out some cash and kept it just in case. In the end, she did not need it, but it turned out later that the ATMs are close to work.
Does she really expect empty shelves this time? "I do not know – it is completely uncertain. There are serious people who say that the chances of a no-deal exit are significant. And even if they are only 10% and we have 90%, we have a deal, why should not you have that extra insurance? It is absolutely reasonable. "
Coyle fears that many people are not dealing with the supply chain and the modern economy. "And of course, we do not just shop in supermarkets, but all things companies use to make things, all the imported components they use. It's a just-in-time economy. This has been a source of efficiency gains and productivity gains since the 1980s. This means people are no longer holding supplies. So you are very vulnerable to delays in importing into the country. "
Surely the government recognizes that? "Well, I'm sure the officials appreciate it, and I'm sure some of the ministers appreciate it, but I do not think it's all that way, at least not what they say in public."
In North Cornwall, Nevine Mann believes that we will leave the EU without a deal, and she is preparing for that. "We expect it to be pretty awful for at least a couple of months, hopefully settle down and become less dreadful over time," says the former midwife. "In the long term, we expect what is available to be more expensive and different."
She and her family (five in all) are as ready as anyone else. "We did it early and slowly, so it does not have much of an impact on what's available to others. We are almost done. I have a very short list of the items that I want to add. "
They have supplies for four to six months, which are stored under the stairs, in the attic and in the garage. Food for her and for the cat ("The cat is so fussy that she can starve if she does not get what she wants") and paracetamol and ibuprofen for children and adults. And vitamin tablets in case vegetables are missing.
And man has been trying to top up a prescription antihistamine that her younger son takes because of his allergy to grass pollen. "I had my prescriptions every two months anyway anyway, so I only order them early and gradually build up a supply."
So far, they were only worth a few weeks. It is less of a concern than Nora's Epilim and Keppra, but still, without her, he can not go outside between March and October.
The Manns are not just about storing food and some medicine. They are probably the best preparations I'm talking to. They planned to install solar panels on the roof anyway, but with the threat of no agreement, they did this earlier and tried to set up a system that stores energy in a large battery. You have a 1,100 liter water tank in the garden. And they hope not to need these vitamin tablets because they have their own fresh vegetables. They are not experts ("Actually, I have a reputation for killing everything," Mann says), but they have vegetable beds in the garden, and they try to breed wintering varieties.
The results are mixed so far. Snails and snails had most of the purple sprouts broccoli, winter salad and chard. The men, however, were more successful with beans, mangetout, shallots and garlic. I think the garlic can go with the snails, with a mangetout side … but maybe that's one thing that lies further down.
Husband and family also have some mature fruit trees and shrubs and try to learn what to do with them. They choose the heads of friends with greener fingers, they have bought some idiot guides, they hope that they have something more. "We plan to create some small Brexit boxes for friends and family that we know can not prepare for themselves, so they have at least something," says Mann.
United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union membership referendum boxes! Is not that nice? Who says it's about hatred, division and polarization? And could this be the beginning of what might one day be known as the Brexit Spirit?
Finally, briefly to Dollis Hill, a sleepy suburb in northwest London. Vicky, a curious teacher, takes a draft of her friend's article about stocking Brexit from the printer. It's all so damn stupid, she says, and she thinks it has come to that – a wartime mentality in the alleged peacetime, not that people are damming. "I'll do something," she announces. "But where should we lie down? And we definitely have dried falafel mix. "