A new book, How to predict the weather with a cup of coffee: And other techniques for surviving the 9-5 jungle, takes the survival tips of Tom Brown and Bear Grylls and adapts them for where most of us live – the urban environment.
You’ll never look at a hotel trouser press in the same way again . .
COOK A MEAL IN YOUR DISHWASHER
If your oven is broken, you can cook a meal in your dishwasher. For a tasty dinner which will be ready in just over an hour, season four salmon steaks and wrap them with dill and lemon in a foil parcel with tightly crimped edges.
Place on the dishwasher’s top shelf and set it to its longest, highest setting. A 2-3cm thick steak will cook perfectly on a 70-minute hot cycle.
BE A HOTEL ROOM CHEF
When the hotel restaurant is closed, remember that all around you are gadgets which, with a little foresight, can be turned into makeshift ovens. you just need some ingredients from the local corner shop and a roll of foil.
Iron-Pressed Toasties: Make a cheese sandwich and wrap it in foil. Next look for an iron, and set it to a high temperature. Press down on each side for a few minutes for the perfect snack. grilled aubergine: slice some aubergine, cover it with a glug of olive oil and then wrap it tightly in foil. Clamp in a trouser press for a 45-minute cycle.
WHAT IF YOU CAN’T WASH?
Here’s a neat way to counteract body odour when the deodorant’s out of reach – a packet of fizzy sweets. Just slipping crushed Love Hearts under your armpits averts a crisis for you (and anyone sitting nearby).
It works because the main ingredient of fizzy sweets and sherbet is bicarbonate of soda, a crystalline grain that’s mildly alkaline and neutralisesthe armpit’s acidic scent molecules.
MAKE A COFFEE BAROMETER
If you’ve dashed into a coffee shop to shelter from the rain, this will help you decide whether to run for the bus before it gets worse, or relax and order another drink until the skies clear.
Take a cup of black coffee made from beans and drop a lump of sugar into the cup. Without stirring, observe where the tiny air bubbles released by the dissolving sugar gather at the surface.
Bubbles collected in the middle indicate high air pressure which is pushing down on the centre of the coffee’s surface and causing the bubbles to gather there. expect fair weather.
Bubbles around the rim are caused by low air pressure which acts like a vacuum, pulling up the centre of the surface so the bubbles are forced out to the edges. expect rain or snow.
The behaviour of the bubbles is caused by surface tension resulting from the slight oiliness of the beans, so it won’t work with instant coffee or tea.
EMPLOY SLUGS AS YOUR SKIVVIES
When your dishwasher can’t shift burned-on food, pop your pans in the garden overnight and let the slugs go to work. Sounds disgusting, but it works.
These slimy scullery-maids have 27,000 tiny teeth spaced along a rasping tongue-like appendage called a radula. It’s custom-made to get into small gaps and crevices and scrape off caked-on gunk.
Slugs follow habitual trails, so find a ‘slime line’ and place your pots on it upside down, leaving a gap for slug access. Wash before re-use.
USE A CAR AS A BOTTLE OPENER
Ever driven into the countryside for a picnic and realised you’ve got no way of opening those bottles of cold beer?
Most car-door mechanisms have a handy built-in bottle-opener on the door frame. Look for the D-shaped loop of metal that keeps the door shut.
SCREEN CALLS WITH A MICROWAVE
When your mobile phone rings and you suspect it’s someone you’d rather avoid, here’s what to do.
1. edge towards your microwave (which should be switched off). open its door.
2. Answer brightly: ‘hello . . .’
3. Gradually move your phone in and out of the microwave and watch the signal fall and rise. The appliance is fitted with something called a faraday cage, a fine mesh which stops the microwaves that heat your dinner from escaping.
Happily, the faraday cage will also block the microwaves on which your phone depends for its reception.
Place the phone inside, close the door and then dial your mobile number from your landline.
Your call should go straight to voicemail because the microwaves can’t reach the phone. If it rings you have a problem, because if the waves can get in, they can get out, too.
The SAS’ anti-interrogation techniques can help you telephone a customer services call centre
PICK THE CLEANEST LOO
Psychological studies suggest that people tend to choose the cubicle farthest from the door when entering a public lavatory.
This means the cubicle nearest the door is usually the cleanest and least used, so head for that one.
BREAK A LOCK WITH A SOCK
If you’ve forgotten the combination number of a lock, pass a sock through the horseshoe-shaped part, grab one end in each hand and give both a sharp tug, away from the lock barrel. The lock should give way.
A less brutal alternative to this is to crack the combination, which is usually pretty easy on a cheap lock.
To do this, you just have to pull up the horseshoe bar as far as it will go, and turn each number in turn until you feel a small click on the bar, or until the wheel becomes harder to turn.
The satisfaction you feel will ease your shame at having relied on such an easily cracked lock in the first place.
NAVIGATE BY SAT- DISH
Navigators of old used the stars to steer a course but, in modern cities, a convenient and reliable indicator of direction is the sky TV satellite dish.
Wherever you go, you’re sure to spot one and all you need to know is that all sky dishes point at a spot some 29 degrees east of due south.
If you imagine the compass as a clock face with north at 12 o’clock, that is pointing to approximately 5 o’clock. Due south is, of course, at six o’clock.
MEASURE TIME BY A NAIL’S PACE
Our thumbnails are the fastest growing nails on our bodies. A thumbnail’s daily growth rate is a constant 0.123mm with no seasonal variation.
The predictability of this growth enables us to use our thumbnails as a reminder of approaching events.
If your tax return is due in eight weeks (or 56 days), that’s equivalent to 6.88 mm of growth (56 x 0.123). scratch a line across your nail 6.88mm from the top and, when it reaches the tip, it’s time to panic.
LIGHT A FIRE WITH A SOAP PAD
Forget firelighters and matches. All you need for effortless fire lighting is a pre-impregnated soap pad, a toilet roll and a 9v battery.
Hold the pad at one end and dab the other onto the battery’s terminals. this completes the circuit between them and the electricity flowing through the tiny strands of wire wool makes them start to burn.
Now touch a few sheets of loo roll onto the pad and blow to encourage the flames.
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