“OH, just a few tins and the like,” said an old neighbour, “in case of the worst.” He smiled apologetically as he confessed that he and his wife had begun to gather rations to see them through the potentially lean days and weeks following Brexit. Recently, when I was unwell, friends offered to bring soup – “from our Brexit store”, they laughed.

People might joke, or talk shamefacedly about buying one or two extra provisions, but as I go around the supermarket, it certainly seems that trolleys are piled higher than usual. Am I simply imagining it, or is the nation starting to lay down supplies, preparing for siege conditions to begin at one minute past midnight on March 29?

Raised in Dunbar, I am well aware that it’s possible to withstand outside pressure on the fridge and pantry for longer than you’d think. Black Agnes held off the English who surrounded Dunbar Castle for months by eating frugally and arranging for food to be smuggled in by boat. The 14th-century equivalent of a Tesco delivery, it slipped under the noses of the English in the dead of night.

The perils that face us as a no-deal Brexit looms are historic in quite another way. When Britain opted to leave it was a vote, we were told, for that nebulous but comfortingly empowering idea of “taking back control”. Now, as the military has been put on standby to impose curfews, requisition buildings, impose travel bans and crush any sign of unrest or revolt, we could not be further from the conceit of taking things into our own hands. Quite the reverse: almost everything is beyond our control, from the fast-rising cost of imported goods and materials, to the foods available to buy, to the terms and conditions on which our new relationship with Europe will depend.

The threat to medicine supplies is alarming enough. When food shortages are also widely anticipated then the entire scenario begins to look like the summer of 1939, as the country battened down the hatches, built Anderson shelters, printed ration books, and dug in for the long and gruelling haul. With the Cold War evacuation plan for the Queen being repurposed for our times – doubtless a meandering cruise around the outer isles on a yacht, fresh fish daily on the menu – it makes you question the wisdom of blind faith (indeed any faith at all) in those who run the country.

After watching the BBC documentary about David Cameron’s appalling European miscalculation that has led directly to this pass – rarely have I felt more angry at the arrogance, incompetence and ignorance of our political leaders – I begin to think the days of national government in the best interests of all are long since over. Pandering to a narrow clique of troublemaking dinosaurs, all of them cushioned by wealth and power and privilege, is the reason why we are facing destabilising – maybe even crippling – social and economic uncertainty. What Winston Churchill would say about our present predicament probably couldn’t be printed.

I have not yet bought so much as an extra jar of coffee, though there was such a terrific deal on loo-roll in one shop the other weekend that we staggered home carrying enough bags to face down an outbreak of dysentery. We’re safe on that front for a while. To be honest, it feels a bit over-anxious to listen to scaremongering about emptying shelves, like waving a white flag long before all hope of relief has faded. Yet it is probably sensible to be prepared, even though stockpiling has a bad reputation, suggesting panic rather than a strategic emergency plan.

Lettuces, apparently, are going to be like gold dust, but of all the problems Brexit promises, this surely is the least worrying. Some in these parts survived without salad their entire lives and lived to be 100. Now, however, is the day to rue a garden filled with mosses, clematis and jasmine, rather than with drills of potatoes, leeks and root veg, with a henhouse near the door.

Just how empty will the shops become? Around where I live, there are so many farms I doubt we’ll go long without milk, eggs, potatoes or meat. There is more likelihood of cholesterol overload than starvation.

But I might be wrong. So what should go into the Brexit bunker? I’ll start by buying logs and oil, followed by a few days’ worth of tins, jars and vacuum-packs. Oatcakes by the kilo, plus ground coffee, tea, wine – obviously – and the sort of butter that only comes from France, which is as good as cheese.

On a visit to Umbria, my husband met a man with an allotment who showed him shelves stacked with bottles of home-pressed olive oil and tomato sugo, ready for autumn. He poured a hearty red wine from his vineyard, while overhead, blackening hams hung from nails. It’s hard to think of anything more comforting than to have your own grocery store within a few feet of the kitchen table. To my mind it’s the very definition of taking back control.

Read more: May must abandon her Brexit kamikaze mission