The present, the past and the future

04 Aug

Raiding is becoming more dangerous – most of the food has been taken for the camps and what’s left is often guarded. We’re tying to extend our foraging skills, and we’ve attempted to catch fish and snare rabbits.  We’ve had little success, but we’re persevering.

We thankfully haven’t come across any occupied shops, but at the last place we met another family – a young couple with a three year old – and almost killed each other with fright.  They’ve been on the run a little longer than us.  They were on holiday when it all kicked off, and left their campsite for an abandoned barn off the motorway, but had to leave when they were seen by a patrol.  They spent an evening in the caravan with us, swapping advice on edible wild plants and the best shops for looting, and they warned us not to try service stations, even though there are very few patrols on the motorways anymore.  Fuel is guarded by either police or armed gangs, and if it’s the latter they sell it at less conspicuous locations.  We shared food and tea bags and stories and rumours, and were reassured to discover that we weren’t the only ones, and then they went off to their tent for the night and in the morning they’d packed up and gone.

I’ve got to admit, I was a little offended.  I’d thought we might end up travelling together for a while, helping each other out.  I don’t see why they wouldn’t want that, or why they wouldn’t even say goodbye.  What did they think we’d do?  Sarah suspects I scared them off by talking about community – apparently most people equate that to some sort of religious cult.  I told Sue, I don’t want to go back, if that’s what it’s come to.  She said, go back?  She never wanted to be there in the first place.  That surprises me.  I’m surprised by a lot, these days.  I’m surprised by how little I miss having things, and more surprised by how little Sarah and Sue complain about everything we’ve left behind.  I always thought we’d settled down and bought the car, the house, then the better car, then the bigger house with the nicer garden, because it was what Sue wanted, what we both wanted for Sarah.  But it turns out that Sue was happier when we were sharing a room in Edmonton, and Sarah wishes we’d taken off in the caravan and left it all behind years ago.  “It would’ve been more of a laugh without the blockades and the blood flu,” she says.  You’d think that would make me happy – relieve the sense of loss, the grief for the death of a lifestyle.  But it only depresses me.  What was it all for, I ask myself?  All that work, earning all that money, all to build a prison for ourselves.  We can’t even celebrate our escape, because we’re mourning our friends, and the waste of it all.

And now, of course, there’s a vaccine being tested in China.  In spite of all that’s happened, it might not even be too late for us, we might pull ourselves back from the brink.  What then, for the quarantine refusers?  How embarrassing, if we abandoned a dying society and it got better.  Or recovered, anyway.  Couldn’t we have given it a push?  Held a pillow over its face?  It was what was expected of us, after all, but we were too busy looking out for ourselves. So it seems it will be just us, for as long as we can manage it, until there’s some kind of rebuilt social structure large and anonymous enough to slip back into unnoticed.  And nobody will have learnt anything.


Posted by on August 4, 2026 in moaning, planning


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19 responses to “The present, the past and the future

  1. Elaine

    August 4, 2026 at 2:29 pm

    Don’t let it get you down – your little get-together sounds more amicable than my last social engagement. Hey, maybe you should put out an ad for travelling companions on one of those Quarantine Free sites.

    • Ash

      August 4, 2026 at 2:31 pm

      No thanks, the caravan’s crowded enough as it is.

      • Jack

        August 4, 2026 at 3:03 pm

        Find somebody else with a trailer, go convoy!

        • Ash

          August 4, 2026 at 3:07 pm

          I’d quite like that, but I have my family to think about.

          • Elaine

            August 4, 2026 at 3:08 pm

            You don’t mean to suggest letting strangers from the internet into your space would be kinda risky, Ash?

            • Jack

              August 4, 2026 at 3:09 pm

              Ha! Yeah, he’s a bit slow to take his own advice, ain’t he?

              • Ash

                August 4, 2026 at 3:10 pm

                Don’t you two start ganging up on me!

                • Elaine

                  August 4, 2026 at 3:11 pm

                  Aw, just messin’ with ya, Ash.

  2. Jack

    August 4, 2026 at 3:12 pm

    Sucks, huh? The W4’s the only social life we really got, but we can’t trust anybody there enough to tell them who or where we really are. We might as well all be spambots.

    • Elaine

      August 4, 2026 at 3:13 pm

      Makes you wonder how much of any of it’s real.

      • Jack

        August 4, 2026 at 3:14 pm

        What’s that supposed to mean? Anything you’ve told us been a lie?

        • Elaine

          August 4, 2026 at 3:15 pm

          Me? Nah. You?

          • Ash

            August 4, 2026 at 3:16 pm

            Can I interrupt at this point to assert, from a neutral perspective, that having met you I’m pretty sure you’re both real.

            • Elaine

              August 4, 2026 at 3:16 pm

              Yeah, but we only have your word for that, and who’s vouching for *you*?

              • Ash

                August 4, 2026 at 3:17 pm

                That won’t work on me. Sue and Sarah don’t let me doubt my own existence for a second. 🙂

  3. Fiona

    August 4, 2026 at 4:02 pm

    I remember Elaine saying once we’d never see normal again with a telescope. One thing that will have changed for sure, much lower global population. That will bring a lot of other changes. If enough good people like you can survive these hard times, it may be a fresh chance for humanity. That’s what I’m clinging to, anyway.

    I guess I’m now allowing myself to breathe a little sigh of relief for my own personal survival. It’s been twelve days since I found Clara. Not as long as Mei’s quarantine, but quite a bit longer than expected for the flu to strike down someone like me who’s always had an excellent immune system. I’ve been trying to teach her how to do everything around here in case she had to survive on her own, but it’s been tough as she was pretty traumatized and not much in the mood to concentrate on anything.

    • Ash

      August 5, 2026 at 1:48 pm

      Well, that is a relief. I hope to hear more about your community and how you manage once you’ve given yourselves the “all clear”.
      I hope you and Clara both get some time to regroup and recover now. Children are resilient. Sarah would resent being referred to as a child, of course, but she is young, and though she’s as angry and resentful as you’d expect of someone whose promising future has just crumbled before her eyes, she has taken to this life with a courage and competence that frankly scares me.
      Sue and I wait anxiously for her to come home, and we see that slight shadow’s silent approach, then make out the full racksack on her back and the sharp knife in her belt, and we look at each other and wonder how we raised this strong, stubborn stranger.
      I can guarantee that however you take to parenting, it will never be dull.

  4. Mei

    August 5, 2026 at 2:39 am

    The vaccine will not save anybody, will not bring a society back. Even if it works, how do we produce enough for the world? How do we send it there? It will not come to England for a long time. All that can save a society is people taking a risk to build one.

    • Ash

      August 5, 2026 at 1:53 pm

      I don’t hold out much hope of that. I suppose we’re just waiting to discover whether any of the quarantines have actually worked.


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