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Fighting Zombies

(Published in The Malay Mail 1 August 2013)

Why go and watch the movie? I could have saved the £11 it cost me this week to see World War Z given those trance like beings depicted in Max Brook’s film, bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, can be witnessed right here, right now, under my very own roof.

Hidden upstairs under lumpy duvets, in the shadowy back garden, behind locked bathroom doors, they lurk, for hours on end. I know they are there. No signature zombie ‘moaning’—the telltale signs are more subtle: the blue luminescence of monitors through sheets and keyholes, the faintly discernible chatter of the Disney Channel.

Technology has a spellbinding effect on most children. Stick an iPad in front of mine and its effect is immediate: it sends them into some kind of transcendental realm, all faculties grinding to a halt along the way. Sometimes, the need to eat, breathe even, is lost in the mists of the iCloud.

While the earth mother in me has ensured we remain a Wii, PlayStation, Nintendo DS free household, for a family of six, our techie tally is still cringeworthy: six iPods, two iPads, one iPhone, one Blackberry, iMac computer and MacBook Air.

And our pint-sized zombies have gone truly viral now the summer holidays are full swing.

Monopoly games, beach walks, knitting, digging for worms only cut it for so long before my four are lured back to their half-dead iPad-induced stupor. Parenting controls—time-limits, squirreling away devices to obscure places—fail. Then clichéd words you hoped you never be reduced to articulating, are said: “When I was a kid…my parents never even allowed a TV in the house, mobile phones didn’t exist.” Blah, blah, explains my husband, who was, of course, deliriously happy despite the said deprivation.

Time to launch our very own World War Z, I think.

Not being one for half-measures, this is my extreme ‘fighting the zombie in your child survival guide’:

Step 1: Prepare for a real zombie invasion:

I enlisted the services of local bushcraft expert Andrew Price of Dryad Bushcraft. Skilled in the art of survival in the wild, he led my ragtags away onto the fern blanketed hills at the crack of dawn last Tuesday, each labouring under a camouflaged rucksack twice their size.

His pep talk went something like this: “The zombies have now reached our village of Llangennith, they have an incurable virus, and if they catch you they will eat your brains and zombify your flesh. We have to get away from civilization, houses, people.”

Did this scare the living daylights out of them? Or elicit a healthy degree of cynicism and doubt? The answer is academic: they were driven to spend the night under the stars and among gorse bushes in any event.

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A sure way of beating the zombie in tech-obsessed children: pack them off with your local bushcraft expert to learn the art of survival in the wild.

Step 2: Make and sleep in your own Debris Hut:

Armed with mini saws and alarmingly sharp knifes, which my sons dutifully secured around their waists with string, branches of hazel tree were cut, ferns and foxgloves gathered, and two igloo shaped huts were erected three hours later.


Debris huts are the way to go, warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They are surprising comfortable and have a woodsy scent to them.

Step 3: Hunting, gathering and making fire:

Ordinance Survey map in hand, the troops, with zombie-radar on full alert, navigated themselves to the beach where Price showed them how to spin for mackerel, collect rock limpets and forage for several kinds of edible plants featuring crunchy sea samphire and salty sea spinach. The only obvious signs of rebellion were over the inclusion of bitter sea scurvy and slimy green seaweed. Fair enough.

Supper took place well after the tangerine sun went down over Rhossili Bay, around a blackened billy can of fish casserole and foraged shore flora. It bubbled happily over a fire made from dried grass tinder and a flint striker; back-to-basics fire starting is every child’s utter nirvana.

Step 4: If all of the above fails — throw them over a cliff:

While the going can get tough over the never-ending nine week summer, resulting, perhaps, in parents themselves wanting to jump off a cliff as a one way exit from their near-feral brood, this type of zombie-beating activity does involve a rope and a qualified abseiling expert.


If all else fails…take a 50ft ocean drop and a bundle of ropes. Tames even the wildest zombie-in-training.

Trust me: stepping backwards from a cliff top into thin air, waves crashing onto the rocks 50ft below, is guaranteed to inject a healthy dose of reality into any human. And, for two wholesome tech-free days, the zombie-side of my children was kept firmly at bay.


Adrenalin sports beat iPad fetishes any day.

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