We’re taught from a young age to try to always be prepared for anything that life throws at us. Obviously, this isn’t always possible in when it comes to big things like a life-changing medical crisis or a costly repair on the house, but for the little things, we should all be able to have the means to mitigate just how much it affects us. 
It’s something to important that the Girl Guides have “Be Prepared” as its motto ang scores of girls have traversed through their ranks and learnt vital skills along the way. Within the organisation, girls learn about the world around them and how they each uniquely fit in and through activities and trips, learn things like how to survive in the outdoors and basic first aid. It’s pretty amazing just how well these things stay with you through life and help a person to think outside the box when it comes to a tricky situation. 
When we were in school, Mum always made sure that we had a few essentials tucked away in our blazers for an emergency. There were plasters and strip of paracetamol kept in the inner zip pocket so that a headache or hangnail could be dealt with quickly. We got our first phones with a £10 top-up in the summer before starting big school because we were leaving the quiet village primary school to move to the schools in the big scary town. Home was now more than a five-minute walk from home and involved getting on a bus and navigating the unspoken politics of who should sit where. And of course, there were a few coins tucked away in our blazers just in case. 
Now, it did admittedly take me a while to understand what actually constituted an emergency because apparently adding extra to my dinner money for a spare dessert wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. I’d been allocated a place on the yellow education bus to transport me to and from school but that made one journey a day and one journey only. There wasn’t anything in place for when I wanted to stay over for choir or to go around the town for an hour or two with my friends. Nor was there any real lee-way in the time that it left and there would often be times when I’d come out the school gates after going to my locker and see the bus disappearing around the corner. 
It was never the most convenient system of transport so in these cases, I’d have to pay to get the Ulsterbus home instead. That, according to my mother, was more important than the flavoured fizzy water that came out of the school vending machine if only you sacrificed a pound. After missing the bus for the first time, I was completely in line with her way of thinking because getting home was the most important thing, no matter how refreshing that water may be.
So, after all these years of preparation, I didn’t find myself too fazed by Visa when it went down on Friday night. I’d have thought it would just be a minor inconvenience to those affected but instead half of Europe seemed to go into meltdown. People were left unable to pay for their Friday night treat. For the first hour or two, the populous were wandering around in total bewilderment, muttering to themselves that payment should have gone through because they knew they had money in their account. As word spread that it wasn’t an isolated issue, many felt vindicated in that it wasn’t actually their fault, but satisfaction did little to allay the real problem: they couldn’t pay for anything. 
I didn’t get it. Didn’t these people keep cash in the house in case something like this ever happens? It can’t have been too much of a surprise given that hackers are working overtime these days and managed to shut down the NHS last year and we all know that systems are prone to only go down at the most inconvenient of times. My laptop, for example, loves to play up on a Monday night as I write this piece. Are we actually so reliant on technology that we simply cannot cope when things go wrong? From the looks of things on Friday night, that certainly appears to be the case.
For six hours, thousands were left unable to use their Visa cards due to a systems failure that stopped cards from registering any transactions. This meant that both chip and pin and contactless services were rendered unusable so the only alternative was to use another type of card or cash. Unfortunately, more than 95 per cent of debit cards in the UK use the Visa network so that was easier said than done. Thankfully however, ATM transactions were unaffected so there was at least some hope although it did mean standing in ever growing queues and hoping that the ATM didn’t run out of cash before everyone had what they needed.
Shops had staff members outside holding signs that declared that they were only accepting cash. Other places frantically hunted in the designated cupboard for junk and things kept ‘just in case’ and those of a certain age had to bring their younger colleagues up to speed with how to use imprint and signature machines to process card payments. A lucky few found cheque books in the bottom of their bags and managed to pay that way. Some businesses took a more novel approach to things with Mourne Seafood asking patrons to bring either cash, Mastercard or a pair of washing up gloves if they were planning to dine with them that night.
For a few hours, things pretty much hit a standstill for many and I think it made many realise just how scuppered we are when we rely too heavily on something and it goes wrong. You could have millions in the bank, but if your card isn’t working and you aren’t carrying cash then you won’t even be able to afford a penny chew. 
Nowadays, so many people are exclusively paying for things with their cards. When you’re buying online, I can totally get it – it’s not very efficient or safe to send cash through the postal service because Sod’s Law would make sure that that’s the one letter that gets lost along the way. But for physical day-to-day purchases, cash is just so much easier. It means you’ve always got coins for parking and won’t get caught out if you’re in one of the ever-decreasing places that don’t accept card payments for totals under a fiver. 
Your cash isn’t going to crash. Perhaps it’s time to get back in the habit of keeping a spare tenner folded into the back of your handbag or purse, just in case. It doesn’t hurt to always be prepared.