In Britain in the late 1970s, there was a strike by the firemen. The country could not be left without protection against fire and accident and the army were drafted in to provide emergency response. Unwilling to become embroiled in a political dispute, the army used fire appliances that had been mothballed a quarter of a century previously, the so called Green Goddesses. When industrial action was pursued again in the early 2000s, the army made it clear that they were not trained to use modern fire fighting equipment and, anyway, were not going to be accused of being politically partisan, so the fifty year old vehicles were rolled out again. What happens next time is unclear, presumably there are contingency plans in place for such occurrences.
The idea of the Green Goddesses has been an appealing one since teenage years, having a strategic store of things that might never be needed, but are there, nevertheless. Perhaps it is an attitude inculcated from early years, my grandmother was the embodiment of frugality, in the summer of 1981 my sister went to stay with her. Sixteen years old at the time, my sister was already the organised and systematic person she remains, my sister decided to assist my grandmother in a substantial “spring clean” of her house. A cupboard upstairs was found to contain food tins that had lost their labels and had begun to rust. Opening one tin, my sister found it contained peaches. My grandmother admitted that the tinned food had been stored since the end of the war, that it had been kept because one never knew when it might be needed.
Buying a batch of new clothes today, there was the realisation that there was no longer space in either drawers and wardrobes. Frayed and torn garments that had gone beyond the point of repair were sorted into a pile to go for recycling, but there were other things that might do another turn. There was an old Donegal tweed jacket that had been bought for €5 at a parish fete in 2003; its lining had become so torn that four years ago it had been relined, but it never recovered from a slightly tired look, a certain shapelessness that even dry cleaning does not alter. What does one do with such things? The answer was obviously to create a strategic reserve, a large bag filled with things that have seen better days, but might be used again. Should questions arise, the Green Goddesses will be cited.