Current uncertainties in Britain are causing otherwise stingy shoppers to ‘do Brexits’ to the delight of supermarkets. The New Statesman half wondered what would happen if supplies started running low. Would the government start to ration food again, as they did 77 years ago when the country was in survival mode?
When Hoarding Was Last a Crime in Britain
One Elsie Carter was nicked for being in possession of too much food in 1942, and fined £2,000 for her troubles. The Bank of England figures that converts to £92,566 using shopping basket theory.
Her grisly crime was hoarding “34kg of preserves, 196 tins of fish, 82 tins of milk, 81 tins of meat, and 98 tins of fruit under her stairs” which she claimed had “slipped her memory”.
Wartime rationing continued in Britain until July 1954 when meat and bacon became freely available to those with money again. Author Richmal Crompton immortalised those days in her series of ‘Just William’ books. As the unruly boy steals sweets from shops he mutters “crim’nal, this hoarding”.
How Serious Could this Hoarding Become?
The New Statesman’s grab sample includes an ‘apparently rational’ individual who filled the freezer ‘just in case’, and another one who ‘bought all the wine’ whatever that may mean. Even a government emergency specialist purchased ‘two weeks of sensible supplies’ including tinned pulses, fruit and veg, bags of rice and so on’.
We wonder what happens after that. A full fridge empties in a week. Perhaps it makes sense to hoard because we would be way down on Oxfam’s list of deserving causes presumably, especially on behalf of dogs and cats that demand tasty treats.
Are the British a Nation of Closet Hoarders Then?
Go into a spare bedroom in any UK home and you’ll likely to find the cupboards piled high with clutter. So high in fact you’ll be hard pressed to fathom the lowest layers. Ask the alpha person in the house and you may get a high pitched laugh with a throwaway ‘I’ll have to sort this out someday when I have the time”.
The website Emergency Food Storage UK is certainly on the bandwagon. Their offerings include;
# An 18 month ‘Full Range’ Emergency Food Pack £2,450
# A 12 month ‘Full Range’ Emergency Food Pack £1,650
If this sounds a bit steep how about their ‘Deluxe Brexit Box at £595? This has a shelf life of ‘up to 25 years’. If Brexit turns out soft you could always leave it to your favourite grandchild just in case.
At those prices people are unlikely to throw the remainder away after Brexit doesn’t, or happens nicely. They will soon become bored with the identical cans and return to their Tesco’s in hordes. What will archaeologists say when they discover these hoards in a millennium’s time.
Were they gifts to the gods, or sustenance after they died while they travelled to their heaven? Or will they say “That’s the British, unable to throw anything away” because global warming was threatening their food chain.