Category Archives: Fun stuff

2050 – A day in the life of…

It’s spring again, after yet another wet and windy winter. I’d better go out and feed the chickens,  but can’t say I feel particularly motivated to do so, not with the rain lashing against the window, sending muddy streams of water running down the hill to the already swollen river.

At least we don’t live in the village, that’ll be flooded again. I’m surprised more people haven’t moved, but I guess folks are clinging on to what they can these days. Maybe I’ll trade the last orange with the kids, as payment for doing the morning chores; we don’t see much in the way of oranges, and haven’t done for several years now, not since the new laws came in around carbon footprints. As for bananas, the children have never had one, they got wiped out by some new fungus that couldn’t be eradicated in time to save the plantations, and they’d be too far away to transport now anyway.

Still, life is pretty good, all things considered and despite the lack of exotic foodstuffs. There’s definitely more of a community spirit, and healthier lifestyles going on, both mentally and physically. Sod it, I’ll save the orange for later.

I bang on the kid’s bedroom door to wake them from their respective slumbers, and put on my boots, heading out into the rain as the sun rises behind the clouds, and the neighbours ever hopefully cockerel welcomes in the new day. The constant whirring of the wind turbine supplying power to both our house, and those of several neighbours, reminds me that I should check the solar panels soon, now that we’ve more daylight they’ll need cleaning. There’s a lot more renewable energy now, with the ban on most fossil fuel burning in place. We’ve enough power for everything we need, unless it’s really cloudy and there’s no wind for an extended period.  As long as the kids have an internet connection they’ll be happy, but I ration them to an hour online a day, aside from school, to make sure they have time for chores and learning skills that’ll be important should things deteriorate.

So much has changed in the last 30 years, and so quickly, faster than any of the scientists were predicting, or willing to predict anyway. The CO2 levels in the atmosphere rocketed, due to warming oceans soaking it up less and less, more being released from vast areas no longer locking greenhouse gases away under a permafrost layer, and humankind’s continued thirst for cheap and dirty energy. A few big and unexpected volcanic eruptions didn’t help either, although they did remind people we can’t control everything. We reached a tipping point where global temperature rises were locked in, and are still locked in despite a massive reduction in carbon emissions. In the space of about 20 years the big glaciers in the Arctic Circle had all but melted, causing sea levels to rise dramatically, and huge areas to be flooded; the Norfolk coastline certainly changed, however at least we’re still above water, unlike swathes of Bangladesh and India, the Maldives, and countless other areas around the world.

I let the chickens out, make sure they’ve got enough grain, then do the rounds to check everything is in order, the pigs are happy, and nothing’s been stolen overnight. We don’t have much trouble nowadays, compared with 10 years ago, but there’s still the odd band of desperate people about, those without a home or means to contribute enough in return for food. All’s well and I head back inside hoping Danny and Jess have got breakfast ready.

The altered climate brought with a whole host of challenges. Some areas had too much water, whilst other suffered from extended drought, causing huge population migrations. War had been the motivating factor before, however now climate change took over. Then things got really bad, with economic meltdowns in China and the US sending everyone else down the tube. This led to more unrest, with richer countries no longer able to help out those most in need, or unwilling to do so with so many issues on the home front. Borders started closing, but this didn’t stop huge numbers of people streaming into Europe from the Middle East and Africa. The dystopian future people had feared would happen started to become a reality, with fascism on the rise in many countries, and vicious crackdowns on anyone threatening to further destabilise already precarious governments. The UK, by virtue of the English Channel, was spared a lot of the problems that hit France, Germany and Scandinavia, especially after some radicals blew up the Channel Tunnel; no mean feat considering it was meant to be relatively bomb proof.

Danny and Jess are up and already half way through their breakfasts by the time I’ve shaken the water off my coat and sat down at the table. We chat about who’s doing what today as we munch our way through eggs and bacon, with a few rounds of toast for good measure. I’ll need to go and restock on butter from the farm down the road again soon, and we’re nearly out of jam, with a few months until we can make any more. My wife Cassy used to make the best jam, but she passed away a few years ago, one of the last to die of the Snow virus before a vaccine was made widely available. Danny and Jess will work on their schooling this morning, before helping out in the workshop this afternoon. I leave them to clear up breakfast and head there myself, keen to finish fixing up a couple of biofuel generators that have been on my to do list for the last month, and which the mayor chased me up on yesterday.

I think about Cassy, as I often do, as I get to work cleaning the generator alternators. I miss her so much, but life goes on and I still have Danny and Jess; I’m fortunate compared to so many others. Rising global temperatures and melting ice didn’t just cause sea level rises and intense storms, we got hit by diseases no one was expecting. It started with the Zika virus spreading like wildfire, and then a whole load of other outbreaks as vector numbers and their viable habitats increased. We saw more Ebola due to a deterioration in sanitation in parts of Africa, but the Snow virus was the worst. Scientists reckon it was something locked away in the ice that thawed and went airborne, infecting masses before a vaccine could be created. Survival rates were low, and death not pretty, with funeral pyres lighting up the countryside for miles. The latest stats estimate over 70% of the world population perished due to Snow, with outbreaks still happening in some remote areas; I guess that’s solved the overpopulation crisis. Weirdly Russia seems to have done a lot better than other countries, and there are more than a few conspiracy theories suggesting why that might be, however it might just be that they were more prepared to take drastic measures to look after their own.

I finish the generators, grab lunch with Danny and Jess who as usual seem determined to explain why learning algebra isn’t going to help with anything, then we all head back to the workshop to continue working on the tram components needed for the new network in Norwich; self-drive systems I have the knowhow to build, and which Danny and Jess can help with, sort of, they’re learning anyway, and I’ll get them working in the vegetable patch if they get bored.

It’s great we have power to run things like trams, and electric vehicles, as well as our homes. We didn’t a few years ago when huge storms wiped out a lot of the off-shore turbines; higher sea levels, and massive storm driven waves aren’t kind to turbine blades. Some places started to use old petrol and diesel generators again, but that didn’t last long, with a violent backlash from many who saw such things as the cause of all our problems, and rightly so might I add (just in case the Environment Ministry is reading this). How could the human race continue using resources that are essentially dooming us, for so long, ever since the industrial revolution…bastards…why didn’t they just think a bit more about the future and their children, instead of being so unwilling to make even the slightest change to their excessive lifestyles. We’ve got fusion coming online now, finally. We should no doubt have put more effort into developing it sooner, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Fusion is going to take a few more years to roll it out across the country, however once it’s in place we’re sorted energy wise, and the last of the nuclear plants can finally be shut down for good, getting rid of another threat to the world’s future.

We knock off an hour before dusk, after a productive day on all counts, even if Danny did fall out of an apple tree trying to retrieve the drone he’d accidentally flown into its branches. They shouldn’t have been playing with it anyway, but I let that pass; they’re good kids for the most part, and I’m conscious they don’t get as much time to just be kids as they should. Over supper we watch the latest news reports, which aren’t all doom and gloom, despite more severe weather warnings as the persisting El Nino effect and disrupted Jet Stream send more storm fronts our way; nothing new there. There’s a great documentary on how marine life has recovered in the last 15 years, since the genocidal fishing fleets were put out of action, and demand fell due to a reduced population. It reminds me we should head up to the coast, not as far away as it used to be, to enjoy some fresh crab and restock on smoked fish. Although we don’t have all the food luxuries that were ever-present 30 years ago, we’re pretty well off now, and even have an abundance of some things, such as vegetables and meat, although we try not to eat too much of the latter. It was bad for a while, with anarchy reigning when food shortages hit and things collapsed, but we got there in the end.

We wash up and ensure any waste is assigned to the relevant pod for recycling, not that there’s much waste these days with packaging made illegal, and people taking their own containers and bags to pick up food or goods from merchants or the government-run outlets. That’s another thing that’s hard to believe nowadays; how could people in the 20th and early 21st century be so wasteful? We’ll be living with a legacy of plastic bottles for millennia to come, but at least we can reuse them for various things, and very few are produced new now due to the restrictions.

After dinner, and for a bit of fun, we take the electric motorbikes out for a scramble around the nearby forest track, wearing our light enhancing goggles to avoid crashing on the way there.  We enjoy seeing who can perform the most outrageous stunts around the solar storage lighted track, and as usual Jess wins; she’s no fear that girl. After a chat with the neighbours on the way back, who are out for a horse ride and like us enjoying a break in the rain, we all plug-in to the Net for an hour before bed, surfing our way through games, adventures, social media or news, whatever takes our fancy, and occasionally interacting with each other, far away friends or relatives as we float disembodied in the ether; I can see why some people were tempted to go fully virtual.

Then some alone time. Jess and Danny are in bed. I sit by the wood burning stove which I’ve lit as a luxury, burning a few kilograms of our wood allowance, and reflect. We’ve made it, things are looking up for the human race now, as long as we remember lessons learned. A tear tracks down my face as my thoughts turn to Cassy, and all the others we’ve lost, including my parents, early victims of the Climate Riots. Yes, we’ve made it, Danny and Jess have a future, and as long as we continue to strive to live in harmony with Earth, rather than exploiting and abusing it and each other, we stand a good chance. There’s still the threat that the climate changes we’ve locked in will throw us some curve-balls, or the odd country might go rogue and contravene the Earth agreement; Russia still worries a lot of us, but we’re getting there. I wonder what our parents, grandparents, great grandparents would have changed if they could have only seen us now.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Interesting to write, and think about what life could really be like in the not to distant future. If not by 2050, then within the next few hundred years. It’s fascinating to think about how things could change, quite quickly, for the worse in the short-term, but better in the longer term, with sustainable policies coming into effect, and the human race living in parallel rather than perpendicularly to the rest of the planet, and technological advances still benefiting us. Of course I haven’t mentioned a zombie apocalypse, but I’ll save that blog post for another day.

Now if only everyone would really think about this, and the challenges ahead, and make changes before we’re forced to by circumstance.

Strange things did happen here

If you go down to the woods today…you might see something odd; me falling off a slackline. Slacklining was originally invented by climbers, but has developed a wider appeal over the last few years, and is definitely up there on my list of self propelled sports. Learning to walk across a 2 inch wide piece of webbing is proving pretty tricky, but great fun, and gets me out into the woods at the weekend which can’t be a bad thing. I can only manage about 5 metres without falling off at the moment, however I’m sure controlled bouncing and backflips are only a few weeks away. Travelling Lobster has already attained a much higher level of competence, however I think that’s due to a lower centre of gravity and more limbs; basically he’s cheating.

Lobster demonstrating how to walk a slackline in Bacton Woods

Lobster demonstrating how to walk a slackline in Bacton Woods

There are allegedly several benefits to be enjoyed from slacklining, including better balance and posture, improved core strength and concentration, and perhaps even a reduction in your chances of ankle or knee injuries when participating in other sports, which can’t be a bad thing. One can enter an almost meditative state whilst walking the line, as you’re only concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, and getting to the tree at the other end. Unfortunately my meditative state is usually broken after a few seconds as I tumble off. It’s also pretty hilarious, which helps – laughing is good for the soul. I’ve been learning with a friend, who incidentally is far better than me; the inadvertent monkey noises, arm windmilling, intense expressions of concentration and frequent bouts of swearing are all cause for much hilarity. I’m not sure what people out for a walk in the woods think, must look and sound a bit strange, but I’d throughly recommend it as a cheap, fun, and non environmentally harming activity. Of course you’ll need a bit of patience, but one can look forward to feats such as those being shown off by the individuals in this YouTube clip (I’ve got a way to go yet):

There are loads of YouTube videos you can watch on slacklining, with some pretty amazing stunts, including some people riding bikes over them which I’ll have to try at some point; maybe not with all my panniers on though.

Talking of cycling, two cool things this week, the first being I had my first ever go on a tandem bicycle. There’s a vague plan afoot, with a friend from work, to ride from Cambridge to Norwich on a tandem, raising money for charity. I was slightly dubious of this idea to begin with, especially as my fellow tandem rider hasn’t actually ridden a bike for 25 years, however the initial feasibility study has proven successful, so watch this space.

The second cool cycling thing this week is tickets have gone on sale for this years Cycle Touring Festival in Lancashire. I went to the first one last year, which also marked the start point for my 6 month European cycle tour, and can thoroughly recommend it for meeting like-minded individuals who don’t think you’re a bit strange to go off pedalling for weeks, months, or in some cases years, living off what you can pack on your bike. My friend Tony, who with his wife Gill pedalled around the coast of Britain in 2014, following a similar route to mine from 2013, recently wrote an entertaining blog post about the festival and its attendees – http://www.gillandtony.co.uk/its-a-tribal-thing/

You can get tickets for the festival via their website here: http://cycletouringfestival.co.uk

I should probably explain the title of this blog post. Usually I find coming up with a title for a blog pretty easy, but for some reason I’m failing tonight. I’m going to stick with the lyrics from a song I’ve had stuck in my head for the last few days, ever since watching Mockingjay Part 1, which I really enjoyed and very much lived up to the books. ‘Strange things did happen here’ is quite apt in many ways, as lots of strange things do happen, some of which I’ve described above.

And now on to the not so good strange things. Five dead sperm whales have been found on the East coast of England over the last few days, having beached themselves, probably because they got lost in the North Sea where their sonar doesn’t work too well. The North Sea is too shallow for them compared with their normal ranges, meaning they get lost, and if they beach themselves on a sand bank they suffer cardiovascular collapse and organ failure; not a very nice way to go. Sadly this isn’t an uncommon event on our coastline, but I’m hoping it wasn’t caused by humans in this instance; maybe just the whales getting lost whilst chasing their squid prey, rather than getting confused by sounds in the sea originating from us, or becoming ill from a build up of toxins and beaching themselves (PCBs, plastic, radiation etc). I really don’t want to see any more pictures of people taking selfies with dead whales, or as I saw earlier today someone attacking the carcass to claim teeth as trophies; people are pretty awful sometimes.

This week we’ve continued to see strange weather patterns afflicting much of the world, with freezing temperatures in parts of South East Asia that don’t often go below 10’C, massive snow storms hitting the East coast of North America, and now the UK is beset by more gales and wet weather; although we have it lucky in comparison, at least most of us have central heating. The frankly worrying weather patterns are again caused by hot air being drawn up over the Arctic, including Greenland, forcing cold air south, disrupting the Jet Stream and turning weather normal for this type of year on its head in many areas. This will no doubt melt more glaciers and contribute to sea level rises in the season when these glaciers should be expanding. Reading the science behind this, the culprit is again the human race, due to unchecked CO2 emissions causing global warming in places that really don’t need to be warmed, and thus climate change. It seems obvious we’re in for rough times as the climate further destabilises, although who knows, maybe it’s just a blip; the evidence doesn’t seem to back up a blip though, with CO2 levels at their highest in 3 million years*, causing temperature rises that are warming our atmosphere and seas with devastating consequences.

*http://robertscribbler.com/2016/01/26/arctic-heatwave-drives-deadly-asian-cold-snap/

On the subject of CO2 emissions, the low fuel prices we’re seeing at the moment can’t be a good thing can they? A massive increase in oil production, from tapping shale reserves (fracking) has driven prices down, which in turn must have lead to an increase in use, with demand still rising in China and other fast developing countries. Wouldn’t it have been better to keep prices high, by increasing taxes? This would in turn:

  • Show down consumption, meaning reserves would last for longer. It’s not like we’re sustainably farming oil. We don’t plant a new crop every year and thus replace reserves; once it’s gone it’s gone, with some of the alternatives such as Biofuels having equally damaging consequences for the environment.
  • Limit CO2 emissions from cars, planes etc, and thus help with meeting targets set in the Paris COP21 agreement
  • Increase tax revenue that could then be spent on good stuff, like researching and implementing alternative clean energy sources (fusion, renewables), the NHS, or feeding and homing the homeless

I don’t claim to understand all the economics behind the oil price changes, but it seems to be driven by human greed yet again, as well as politics; wealth and politics won’t matter much if we  don’t have a planet we’re able to live on. Can we at least, as I think Stephen Hawking recently said, avoid completely destroying Earth until we have invented viable space travel and are able to colonise other planets; although quite why the human ‘plague’ should be inflicted on other worlds I don’t know, not until we mend our ways slightly anyway.

I’ll pause there on the doom and gloom front, but you have to admit it’s pretty strange how we seem driven as a race to ultimately destroy ourselves? I read a blog today where the author used the phrase ‘challenge our sense of entitlement’. This really struck a chord with me; I think we need to really challenge our sense of entitlement to what we take for granted; excess consumerism, driving a car, burning fuel, waste, our place in the Earth’s ecosystem etc.

I’ll finish with a few humorous, or in the case of the latter touching strange things.

  • Trout tickling. How on Earth was that ever invented?  Did someone just randomly get in a river one day and approach fish with rather strange intentions? This was one of the topics we contemplated whilst slacklining in the woods, and is something I think I need to try at some point. If you don’t know what it is there are videos on YouTube.
  • Ferret Legging. This is the sport where contestants put ferrets down their trousers and see how long they can keep them there. The custom allegedly arose in Yorkshire, which perhaps explains a lot, with individuals trying to hide there poaching activities by keeping these furry and sharp toothed creatures hidden down their trousers; sounds hazardous to me.
  • Cheese rolling. This is another bizarre British tradition, which takes place at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester. Locals started racing rounds of Double Gloucester cheese down the hill, and now people come from all around the world to participate. This has apparently been going on for hundreds of years, however it sounds like something the Victorians would have invented to me, as was for example Morris Dancing, another odd but entertaining pastime. I think I might right a blog just on odd British pastimes.
  • The performance artist Marina and Ulay reunite: I saw this video a while ago, and remembered it the other day. I challenge anyone not to be moved by it.

The animals of Cycling Europe

From the Arctic tundra of northern Norway, to hot arid climes of Spain, and the varied landscapes of Eastern Europe, I came across a variety of flora and fauna as I pedalled my way around Europe this summer. Whilst some of the animals were too quick to be photographed, such as the Black Woodpecker I saw in France, or just to fast as was the case with the hares in Sweden, I did manage to capture a few on camera; mostly dogs and cats as they tended to make their presence known, whilst in search of fuss or food.

In the far North there wasn’t initially a lot to be seen, aside from a few friendly trolls lurking around Nordkapp.

On the road South to Honningsvag I was pleased to see reindeer, but reminded of Scandinavia’s penchant for hunting at the hostel where I was staying.

I came across more reindeer and a couple of living  moose on my way to Finland and Sweden, and was constantly accompanied by the sounds of birds singing, as the snow thawed and Spring arrived.

I was of course always accompanied by an animal of sorts, Travelling Lobster, and I shouldn’t forget that I am also classified as part of the Animal Kingdom. I couldn’t have done without my ‘jovial’ companion, even if he wasn’t one for doing much pedalling.

Travelling Lobster modelling a catalogue pose in Sweden

Travelling Lobster modelling a catalogue pose in Sweden

The Lobster had a fondness for cows. I’m really not sure why, however it could be to do with his addiction to chocolate, and realisation that cows are integral to its manufacture. It was he that ate all the chocolate I was forced to buy to feed this addiction…honest.

Has anyone else found that some cows get quite excited when you cycle past them? I quite often found they’d follow me as I pedalled past their field, and that they’d sometimes break into a run to keep up. This happened to me a lot on my cycle tour in Scotland in 2013, and I’m wondering if it’s something to do with my red panniers.

As well as cows I encountered lots of goats on my way around Europe, more so in the South where herds sometimes blocked the road, and sometimes on campsites where they were used as environmentally friendly lawnmowers; don’t leave your washing out near them though.

Birds were often to far away to get a good picture, or moving to quickly, however wildfowl proved more easier to photograph, especially when they wanted food.

I lost count of the number of birds of prey I spotted, ranging from huge numbers of buzzards, to Black Kites, massive eagles where I couldn’t be definite on the species, countless Kestrels, and soaring falcons. They were often being mobbed by gangs of crows intent of driving them off; crows a long with pigeons were a constant feature around Europe. Birds of prey weren’t the most lethal of feathered friend I came across, although thankfully I only saw a sign warning of the dangers of the following.

Pretty sure flying sheep don't count as birds, but a worrying development nonetheless

Pretty sure flying sheep don’t count as birds, but a worrying development nonetheless

Yep, sheep, I really hope they don’t evolve wings, no one would be safe. I encountered many sheep ambushes on my tour around the coast of Britain in 2013, and became convinced they were after me and possess some kind of hive intelligence, with a grand conspiracy in play. I came across many more sheep in Europe, however they weren’t quite as vicious as their British cousins.

On the dangerous animal front there isn’t much to report. The only bears I saw were on signs, stuffed, or statues thereof, and although I visited a wolf sanctuary I didn’t see any as they were all asleep.

I guess the most alarming animals of the whole trip were the dogs encountered in Greece, Turkey and Eastern Europe in general. Often wild or feral, they would chase me, snarling and barking. My scariest experience of the whole tour was being surrounded by a pack of 7 or 8 growling feral dogs in the hills outside Thessaloniki. On the flip side I came across a lot of friendly hounds, who were more than happy to say hello and stick their noses in my panniers looking for snacks.

Cats were also a common feature along the way, especially further South. They’d often arrive to inspect my tent and panniers, or to just say hello and settle down beside me in the sunshine.

Horse drawn vehicles became more common in parts of Eastern Europe, however I happened upon many equine beasts elsewhere.

On the farm animal front, I met a few when staying with friends on their farm in the Ardeche, a wonderful break on my tour that I’ll always remember.

And then there were a few exotic or miscellaneous beasts, or imaginary creatures, that I came across.

Finally here are a couple of nice landscape shots, although really I could do a whole series of blog posts just show-casing some of the amazing panoramas I pedalled past.

Poppies in France, not far from Paris

Poppies in France, not far from Paris

Spain also had some stunning countryside

Spain also had some stunning countryside

All these pictures were taken using the camera on my iPhone 6. I considered taking my Canon digital SLR, however it’s just another piece of baggage and thing that I could potentially lose or get stolen, so decided against it in the end; good decision I think.

Still thinking about ideas for my next cycle tour adventure; likely to be a series of shorter expeditions I suspect, to fit around work, but looking forward to whatever they will be next year – for starters mountain biking around some bothies in Scotland has got to be a good plan.