Hit & Run: The survivalist shopping list

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The Independent Online

If your blithe assessment of the recession runs to a couple of years of belt-tightening and the sacrifice of your favoured pancetta in favour of bacon bits, Gene Lange has news for you. You're screwed, and you're probably going to get trampled to death in the street.

Not Gene, though. Gene's going to be fine. Gene works at a hedge fund in New York and, made wary by the increasingly erratic behaviour of his colleagues as the credit crunch has worn on, he is battening down the hatches. He's stacked his basement with canned food, bottled water, and a decent supply of washable nappies for his baby. He's fixing his car up so it'll run off-road – presumably, massed ranks of crazed bankrupts will have taken to the motorways – and he's taking good care of his collection of guns.

Gene's not saying a rabble of crazy stockbrokers is absolutely definitely going to come round to his house and try to bludgeon him to death with his own wind-up torch so they can get at his baked beans. He's just saying, "I don't think it necessarily makes a guy crazy to prepare for the potential worst-case scenario." That's why he plans to purchase an inflatable speedboat. Everyone needs an escape plan.

Well, that's just crazy Americans, right? But over here, the crunch is making people a little bit tense, too. Consider Michelle Fitzsimmons, "a businesswoman from near Cardiff", who has planted a hazelnut tree in her garden. "They are a low-maintenance, highly productive source of protein that is much cheaper than meat," she explains, and thus great in a financial squeeze. Fitzsimmons is also considering the purchase of a pig.

Porcine survivalism is likely to remain a niche interest, but there are signs that the instinct to retreat is gaining a grip across society. Ask Russ Reader, managing director of Leigh Safes, who reports a 25 per cent increase in sales in just one month. Ask survivalist blogger and author of How to Live Off-Grid Nick Rosen, who says that traffic to his website has increased by 30 to 40 per cent, and predicts a surge in shed-building by those looking to secure a mortgage-proof way of life.

Or take a leaf out of 56-year-old retired croupier David Somers' book by selling your house and sinking the lot into gold. That way, when the rest of us are using sterling as toilet paper, you'll be able to barter your ingots for the occasional barrel of oil for the portable stove. If only Gordon Brown had done the same.

So you've got your boat, your pig, your hazelnut tree, your home vault, your off-road vehicle, your imperishable groceries, your gold bars, your illicit weapons, and you're living in a shed. Truly, this is post-consumer bliss. One more piece of advice, though, from former Russian oligarch German Sterligov, who gave up his New York penthouse and Burgundian castle in favour of a log cabin a few years back, and who has hired a tutor to teach his children hand-to-hand combat. It is, Sterligov says, "not just for my oligarch friends but for everyone in this crisis – buy flour and salt and sugar. All of you. You will need them." Archie Bland

Grease is the word

Remember the story about the LA plastic surgeon who was caught using the post-op human fat to fuel his car? This is a more palatable tale on the same theme. In 2004, another Californian, Marshall Dostall, had a notion to run his Mercedes on glycerine extracted from leftover restaurant grease. Somewhere along the way Dostall realised that this pizza-and-chips flavoured glycerine could make a fine liquid hand soap, and now he's begun selling the fatty-yet-foamy potion – scented not with fried onions but bergamot – in trendy LA boutique Fred Segal and through his site furthersoap.com. And it's all yours for the slightly less-than-tasty price of $18.50 a bottle. Susie Rushton

Prawn to do it

Tonight's FA Cup third-round replay between Southend United and Chelsea will be one of the biggest days of 17-year-old Daniel Duncan's life. You would be forgiven for not having heard of this mild-mannered teenager. He is not, say, one of the Blues' recent multimillion-pound signings. Neither does he play for the League One Essex boys. But the economics student will nonetheless be on the pitch... dressed as a nine-foot shrimp.

A Southend fan for as long as he can remember, Daniel represents the third generation of Duncans to take the guise of Sammy the Shrimp. He spends three to four hours a week in costume, opening supermarkets and entertaining at fetes. Facing the abuse of Chelsea fans is a relatively minor part of his duties. Is abuse nonetheless an element of Duncan's duties? "Oh, yeah," he says. Like what? "People try and pull my gloves off the whole time." And has he prepared a dazzling routine to wow tomorrow's crowds at Roots Hall? "Elvis the Eel and I will lark around quite a lot." Elvis the Eel? "He's my sidekick." This slippery customer, it turns out, is played by Duncan's 21-year-old brother, Andrew.

But despite the taunts it is undoubtedly an honour to represent the club. Daniel's father also wore the hallowed shrimp costume, and at his funeral, the Manchester City mascot was there to pay his respects. As for the suit's current incumbent, the prestige is highly valued, but there are also perks. Especially tonight. "Before the match, I'll get to be in tunnel with all of the big names," Daniel explains. "And some of them will even say hi as they run past." Rob Sharp

Txt challenge 4 Billy no m8s

All hail the nimble fingers of Californian communications queen Reina Hardesty, 13, who sends 14,528 text messages a month (about one every two minutes) and who has consequently received a 440-page phone bill. In an attempt to better her dexterity, I whipped out my mobile and flexed my digits. In a 10-minute stretch I sent a not-too-shabby six messages. Then I ran out of people to contact and things to say. And none of the six lucky recipients replied before the time ran out. And that's the real mystery of Hardesty's texts. How on earth did she think of so much to write about? Rebecca Armstrong