Category Archives: Short story

Anger…

Most of the time cycling to work is great. It’s relaxing, keeps you fit, non-polluting, burns calories, and all the other positives.

Sometimes however it can leave me feeling a bit angry, for various reasons.

Today was one such day. I wrote a poem about it on my lunch break.

Anger
As I cycle…

Fields flash past
Forest, stream
Wild hedgerows
Full of thorns
Rooks caw
Cold, clear
Fresh, free, clean
Relax…
Turn the pedals
Breathe deep
Enjoy the moment

Then
I sigh…
Two young hedgehogs
Hit…
Dead
On the verge
Did they crawl there to die?
A blackbird
Head crushed, slain
Will sing no more
A pigeon
Ragged, bloodied, feathers everywhere
I pass more corpses
Rat, deer, rabbit
Hawk, pheasant
Lying on a tarmac altar
Sacrificed for what?

Plastic, litter
Infesting hedges, ponds
Fields, woodland, paths
No-where is spared
Polluting, poisoning
More jettisoned
From car windows
No thought
Heedless of damage
Why no shame?
Why so lazy?
Why think this is okay?

Fumes, foulness,
Exhausts belch
Black smoke, invisible toxins
More poison
Choking, chest hurts, throat burns
And new roads
Scar the countryside
More bad smells
Bitumen
Strangling Earth
Infected arteries
Opening the countryside
To more…
Death

Past the Broad
A small sanctuary
Peace
Smile returns
Weave down the road
Morning dogs!
Wildfowl paddling
Early morning rowers
Swans gliding
Majestics presences
Not enough

Drivers, many good
Some, not so
No indication
Pass too close
Abuse…thanks
3 mile commutes
Or less
Why not walk, cycle?
They won’t
Don’t think
Too hard
Too much effort

That’s why
I’m sometimes angry
Depressed, despondent
Can this ever change?
People won’t
Too selfish
Too…someone else
Until it’s too late
Then they’ll blame
Others
Instead…
Look in the mirror

END

 

Thankfully it’s not all bad, and a lot of people are trying to make things better. That was, however, cathartic.

The Brexit Bomb

The following story is a work of fiction. I thought it would be interesting to think about what the UK, Europe and wider world could look like in a few years time. Who’s to say what will actually happen, it’s very hard to predict with any degree of accuracy, however I do know that within my circle of friends and peers there is a very real fear surrounding the consequences of leaving the EU. I hope at the very least this ‘story’ provokes people already decided on voting to leave, into considering an alternative viewpoint. I hope the events described below don’t come to pass. I’m not scare-mongering, just considering consequences, and writing a story. I wish more people would consider consequences, based on actual research and not unfounded fears of what might happen, or what’s causing alleged issues in our country today.

The Brexit Bomb
It’s cold. And dark. The roads are clogged up with slush again, stained brown by the polluted air. At least we don’t have to worry about global warming any more, that’s one positive, if you can call anything positive that’s happened over the last few years. I’m pretty sure we’re also in the clear on excess immigration, not many people want to move here now, of those that are left anyway. I’d laugh, but it hurts.

Whoever decided to give the UK populace a referendum on leaving the EU should be locked up and the key thrown away. We were no way qualified to make such a decision. Isn’t that what we elected members of parliament to do, advised by ranks of actual experts? I don’t think we can lock them up anyway; think they bought it when the Houses of Parliament burnt to the ground in the riots of 2018.

The referendum did one good thing. It actually got people out voting, and certainly got people interested in politics for a little while. Unfortunately the media and certain politicians spouting nonsense, on both sides of the argument, left voters believing things that simply weren’t true, or with an ill-informed and skewed view of reality.

Looking out of the window now I can see a small group of children playing under the skeletons of long dead trees. They’re young, hungry, and will probably only live into their thirties. They’ve never known anything different. I wonder which way their grandparents voted and if they had the slightest inkling of the path they were leading us down.

Voting day seemed to arrive quickly after months of speculation, with the Leave and Remain campaigns trying to sway the proletariat one way or the other. The polls were roughly even, with no-one knowing which way things would go. Politicians, leaders of commerce, historians, scientists, Nobel prize winners, and leaders of other countries had all voiced their opinions one way or the other. To this day I don’t know why a lot of folks ignored the statements being made on the risks of leaving the EU. These statements were made by highly educated, well-respected and experienced individuals. People instead chose to believe certain tabloid newspapers run by narcissistic idiots only interested in their own agendas, as well as unhinged politicians or public figures spouting badly if at all researched nonsense that only served to play on people’s fears, identifying the wrong causes for alleged problems.

I do wonder if things would have been any different if the vote had gone the other way. I suppose we’ll never know.

We woke up on 24 June 2016, in my moderately sized family home in Derbyshire, to the news that Britain had voted to leave the EU. It wasn’t even that close a vote in the end, with 59% of people voting to leave. It makes me furious even now to think how stupid we all were. I say we all were, as even if you voted to remain in the EU you probably bear some responsibility for not calling to account the voices lying about why we should leave, or doing more to assuage the fears of those voting to leave, or undecided up until the last-minute.

Writing this is giving me a headache, and unfortunately I think I’ve run out of medicine. Medicine and food, along with a whole host of other things including clean water, is in short supply these days. The regional government is doing it’s best, but there really aren’t that many options when your growing season is limited, and anything you do produce is likely to be contaminated. We hear stories that other countries might be doing a bit better, but comms are limited and even if they could help they’re unlikely to want to, seeing as we were the butterfly that casually flapped it’s wings, setting off a whole chain of catastrophic events.

To begin with the Leavers celebrated, and even those who voted to Remain were carried along in the tide of euphoria that swept the country. There was a feeling that maybe things would be better now, after all 59% of the population couldn’t all be wrong could they? We’d get back control of our country, reduce immigration, give our businesses more chance to thrive, get rid of all those petty rules made by EU bureaucrats, rules that had no place in the UK, etc etc

Unfortunately that kind of relied on our own government being clever, and the arguments for leaving the EU being true. It turns out they weren’t, and the euphoria was pretty short-lived.

Other countries even jumped on the bandwagon carrying out their own EU exit referendums, with the Netherlands quickly voting to leave, and several others on the borderline. The big shock was Germany voting to leave a year and a half later, as a wave of nationalism swept the country in the wake of the migrant crisis. The death knell for the EU was surely sounding.

Before all that things almost immediately started to go wrong for the UK. We still had a couple of years before we actually left the EU, as it would take ages to disentangle ourselves, but investors began to pull out of UK businesses straight away, deeming it too risky in an already shaky global economy.  The pound started to slide, which in theory could have increased our exports, but our manufacturing industry wasn’t exactly what it had been. London, the once financial centre of the world, was relegated down into the doldrums as the markets and money moved elsewhere. To be fair our politicians tried their damnedest to get us new and improved trade deals, and to capitalise on our new-found ‘freedom’ in a whole host of other areas, but it just didn’t work, as the principles we’d voted to leave on were wrong. It took us quite a long time to realise we were completely stuffed, and by that time it was too late as we’d actually left. I don’t think we could have stayed in anyway as the Prime Minister had promised to abide by the referendum decision.

This water really does taste quite disgusting with the puritabs in it. Still, it’s better than the water they’ve got over in East Anglia; hardly anyone lives there now after the wind blew the toxic clouds in. We keep hoping things will get better again, but I have to admit I’ve been feeling low recently, especially after the flu swept through the city taking many of the young, old or infirm in its wake. We just don’t have the support services anymore.

Where was I? Ah yes, the economy crashed and we entered another recession. We tried to make more trade deals, and did so but had to sign up to freedom of movement within the EU, and compliance with lots of other rules around manufacturing and worker’s rights; the latter was probably a good thing the rate the government was going. In fact we were forced to abide by most of the rules we’d been party to before. People said we should have traded outside the EU more, but it’s simple question of geography; you trade more with countries closer to you.

As we were locked into lots of EU rules anyway, immigration didn’t change, not in the shorter term. To be honest I’m not sure it would have changed even if our politicians had done a better job, as at least 50% of immigrants came from outside the UK in the first place. It was lucky we still had immigration as we relied on a lot EU workers to prop up our crumbling economy, and key services like the NHS. That changed in the longer term though, as the pound continued to slide and things got worse, making Britain a pretty unattractive place to move to.

After we left Scotland held another referendum on their independence, citing that even though economically there was a risk, as North Sea oil revenues were low, they would still be better off in the EU. This time they were successful and quickly exited the UK. Wales started to consider doing the same but never really got the chance. There was talk of the North of England wanting out, and the black flag of Cornwall flying again. The UK was dying, and we considered emigrating to Scotland to try to escape the worst of the recession, and ensuing madness as people got desperate, and eventually really desperate.

Taxes rose, austerity policies continued. The UK’s credit rating dropped meaning the cost of borrowing increased, and in some cases people would no longer lend to us. The government cut back on all spending on environmentally responsible initiatives, something they could do without EU restrictions. This caused a lot of upset amongst the Greens, but to  be honest everyone was too pre-occupied by other worries to pay much attention to the dangers of climate change. Inflation rose along with unemployment and discontent, with extremist and right wings views becoming mainstream as people looked for someone else to blame.

Things got really bad in 2021, with mass riots and violence on the streets. Some towns and cities turn into war zones as rival communities from different ethnic backgrounds kicked off against each other. London was largely spared until the autumn of 2021, but then the touch-paper was lit when someone discovered that allegedly some Tory ministers were embezzling public funds. That’s when the Houses of Parliament burnt down and many were killed before order was restored. Martial law was enacted in several areas after that, until things calmed down. No-one really seems to know what happened to the Royal Family, but they’ve disappeared.

And what was going on in Europe whilst the UK was committing suicide? Things weren’t a lot better there. With the EU destabilised Russia took its chances. They’d already annexed the Crimea and large swathes of Ukraine, and now marched into Latvia, threatening to continue into Lithuania and Belarus. Lack of coherency in the EU made a response slow and indecisive. NATO wanted to act, especially under the steering hand of President Trump and the United States, but the threat of nuclear retaliation by the Kremlin stalled any action. There were also rumours surfacing, which were mostly put down to conspiracy theories, that there was a Russian mole in the UK government, in a position of some significance. Some people claimed the mole had been behind much of the Leave campaign, steered in the background by Russia, and that even now they were continuing to cause confusion and spread lies, leading to an ineffectual UK, or should we say England.

In hindsight it would have been better just to leave Russia to it, not that what was left of the UK had much choice in the matter. In the end Trump acted without the full consent of NATO, moving US Naval vessels and an aircraft carrier into the Baltic. It’s still unclear exactly what happened, but things rapidly went from warm to hot, with a nuclear device taking out the US fleet. Russia claimed it was the action of a rogue commander, which no-one really believed. Europe dithered, but Trump didn’t launching a retaliatory strike. Before people finally saw sense several nuclear explosions had gone off, both in Europe, Russia and the US, with huge numbers of casualties on both sides. President Trump was killed in the exchange, and the US is now facing its own unity challenges, but news is so scarce from that side of the Atlantic, at least publicly, who knows what’s really going on.

That was all several years ago now, but we’re still locked in a nuclear winter with little respite, even though no nuclear weapons actually detonated on the UK mainland. Plenty of people have died anyway was a result of the fallout, further civil unrest, famine and disease, but I think we’re better off than a lot.

I’m tired, really tired, and sick. I’ve lost most of my hair now, and think the cancer has spread. You’d have hoped that over the course of centuries humanity would have learned from its mistakes, and become slightly more sophisticated in its thinking, but it seems we’re doomed to failure again and again. Hopefully anyone reading this in the future might learn something from it, and who knows, we might evolve yet. For now I’m opting out, I’ve had enough…over and out world.

THE END

That was a bit depressing, but one has to ask is it that far-fetched? I think I’ll go and read up a bit more on the pros and cons on both sides of the argument. I hope everyone else does too, seeing as we’ve been granted the responsibility of deciding our own fate.

 

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.