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.