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Author Archives: Ash

About Ash

I am a nurse at the North Middlesex Healthcare Enterprise, formerly NHS Trust, and at one time known as a Hospital. The job remains the same, and my aim is to carry it out in spite of the priorities of whoever currently attempts to profit from it. I'm also the husband of a town planner and the father of a 17 year-old well on her way to becoming a mechanic, which is useful as I'm the owner of a car almost the same age. I refuse to sell it on the basis that it still works, and I keep in working order on the basis that I'll never sell it. This year I took three months out of work for an adventure holiday disguised as a research project, where I entered into a sort of pact to begin blogging, due to falling in with bad influences. I haven't attempted this sort of self-reflective digital soap-boxing since my student years, and I'm afraid I'm going to rather enjoy it.

Remember, remember…

It seems everybody’s leaving the blogosphere now, for the real world or the next world or a new world.  I’ll miss them, but I can’t say my life is bereft.  We are exceptionally lucky, really, to have ended up alive, together, in a place where we are needed and have a chance to make a difference.  A year ago, we were busy fighting our own battles and ignoring each other’s, for the sake of a distant future in which we would have time and leisure to think about appreciating one another again.  Now that we’ve lost all the things we hoped that future would contain, there’s nothing in the way, and we’ve found each other.  It takes losing everything to discover how little of it mattered, how much of what we really value only lasts because we rebuild it every day.

There are fireworks in Sefton Park tonight.  I thought that anything containing gunpowder would have been used in the fighting by now, but it seems some time and resources could be spared for explosions of beauty, to celebrate even failed attempts at change, to remind ourselves that whenever we want to, when we decide it’s time, people are capable of coming together and blowing everything sky-high.

There’s a delicate balance here that could break into open conflict at any time, but it hasn’t yet.  Everything we’re building here is too important for anybody to relinquish control, and that means everybody must relinquish control to the same extent, and exercise it to the same extent, too.  The priority for any particular faction becomes not to forward the faction, but to maintain the balance, and when we’ve balanced for long enough perhaps we will forget we were ever factions and remember only that, together, we stayed upright and kept moving. 

The hospital is working.  Everybody fears blood flu, but the virulent strain seems to have died out, and it’s only the usual winter maladies and pre-existing conditions that are affecting us now.  Some things, we no longer have the resources to treat, though incredibly there are still some medical labs operational around the country, and the pharmacists here are hard at work replicating the most commonly needed drugs as best they can.  There’s no trade, as such, because there aren’t any surpluses, as such.  We’re not producing a whole lot here, yet, and there’s not much point in sending food down to the labs in Bristol, where many farms are still operating.  As it stands, they have the means to produce enough vital medicines to supply the communities that are asking for them, and the plan for expansion is to salvage equipment, train people up and get other labs started rather than just have one small, overworked team increase production.

All these tactics work with our much-reduced population, with communication and co-operation between almost everybody affected possible most of the time.  As I said before, without currency there’s nothing in the way: we see all the systems clearly.  Will it remain this way, as it all builds up again?  Can we keep the systems simple when the population rises, and the processes become entrenched?

I have to go – Sarah’s calling me to come and see the fireworks.  I’m not going to make dramatic announcements about abandoning the blog completely – but I’m prioritising my family, the chill November air, the smell of bonfires and a flask of hot cider.  And remembering.  You might not hear from me for a while.  I wish you all the best.

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Posted by on November 5, 2026 in actually doing something

 

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Hope for the future

After a great deal of debate and disruption, the elections went ahead, and were once again inconclusive.  The militia accepted amendments to their proposal, and the committee was not dissolved.  It will, instead, be expanded to include delegates from each workplace, and the pre-existing members are now responsible for and answerable to neighbourhood committees rather than political interest groups.  I’ve managed to end up elected to represent the hospital, and Sarah tells me that the militia are OK with this, provided the role is rotated periodically, which is fine by me.  The sooner the better.  Those meetings are interminable.

With all the work on re-organisation and safeguards and recallability procedures, there’s been very little time for the major administrative functions we’re supposed to be here for.  I sometimes think the only thing the committee really organises is itself, and that not too efficiently.  And yet, whether by general consensus or individuals getting on with what’s necessary without waiting for sanction, life goes on.  I take a much more optimistic view of our situation now.  Houses enough for all comers have been cleared and sanitised and re-furnished, water’s going through the system, power’s getting into the grid – albeit sporadically – from the off-shore wind farms.  There’s a programme to keep food coming in from various allotments within the city and surrounding farms (and we even have our own chickens).  Several schools are running.  The militia guards the borders and the fuel depot, and even manages to send a few buses round the city twice a day.  Most importantly (and the real cause for my change of mood) Sarah promises to stick to the transport and stay out of the higher-risk militia duties – for a while, at least.  It was Khalil who persuaded her and their militia comrades that her skills are too important to risk, and she should teach engine maintenance for a couple of years before taking on border patrols.  Merely a reprieve for Sue and me, but cause for celebration nonetheless.

And speaking of celebration, Sarah announced this plan to us on her eighteenth birthday.  We made a cake and had a small party with Khalil and his family, before he and Sarah left us for more stimulating company and wilder activities that I’m not allowed to ask about.  It was good to have a quiet evening with Maira and Rafel, anyhow.  They are amongst the few people here who call on us without any agenda, and they feel like old friends already.  Sarah has many more friends, of course.  It seems almost every night she has a meeting or a duty or a party to go to.  There’s plenty of partying among the youth here, and among the not so young, too: bonfires in the street and vegetable vodka and mushrooms and garden-grown cannabis.  I’m not sure whether we’re celebrating our survival or trying to forget our anxieties.  After so long cooped up with Sue and Sarah in cars and caravans, it feels strange to have separate rooms to go to and separate lives to lead again.  It makes me a little sad, to be honest.  I’d just got my family back, in so many ways, and I fear losing them again.  But we must all go to work – not for money or to meet quotas, but because our work is essential, and appreciated, all the more so for the lack of anything to pay us with.

No credit system has passed the pragmatism test here.  Without all those complex variables in the way, inequalities and disadvantages are easier to spot, and systems easier to overturn.  Why should doctors have more food than fruit-pickers?  And how would we take it from them?  That’s the real reason no election has been successful.  With an independent militia and no currency, there’s no way to control distribution, and so no way to make promises to any particular sector or organise us against one another.  It’s working out of necessity rather than consensus at the moment, but the longer it works, the more the consensus tends towards the way things are.  If we can fend off the raiders long enough to achieve stability… who knows, we may even have a future here.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2026 in actually doing something, planning

 

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Assessing the Situation

Nobody seems to notice that we’re balanced on a knife-edge here.  Maybe we’re used to death now, or perhaps we can’t help our denial, and after all this we’re still looking the other way until forced to personally confront the dangers.  It was brought home to me when a truck screeched into the ambulance bay with half a dozen injured militia fighters from the Kensington barricade.  There’d been a skirmish with a group that’s been seen raiding empty houses in the Wavertree area for a couple of weeks.  They tried to get over the barricade to the central food stores, and they came armed.  The militia saw them off over a couple of hours, and came in with stab wounds, bruising, some minor fractures.  An abdominal gunshot wound.

Anybody with medical training is a doctor now, there’s no distinction of rank or qualification.  The qualified doctors here were mostly GPs, and some specialist consultants in cardiovascular or neurological conditions.  As an A&E nurse I have the most experience of serious injury, and it made sense that I was called to take charge.  I see that now.  At the time, when an urgent call for me to come to surgery echoed through the corridors, there was only one reason for it that I could imagine.  I don’t remember how I reached the trauma centre, only the colour draining from the world and the ringing of blood in my ears.  We did all we could, but none of us are surgeons.  The bullet had punctured her stomach, and the acid had affected the surrounding tissues.  She died of multiple organ failure an hour after she was brought in.  She was an old hand, her friends told me, one of their best, a veteran of the quarantine liberations.  She was twenty-two.  I gave a small group of her closest comrades the explanations and condolences, shared their tears and listened to their grief and praise, but all I could feel was the relief that flooded through me when I saw her face.  It’s not Sarah was all I could think.

There were supposed to be elections yesterday, but the committee decided to call them off for the funeral and the cleanup operation: a political decision.  There are at least four committee members who believe they have claims on being the Mayor or Chair or People’s Representative of Liverpool, and as far as I can make out there have been no less than twelve elections since the committee was formed, all of which have been contested until declared invalid.  People have election fatigue.  The militia are thinking of calling for the dissolution of the committee, for general meetings to be the only decision-making body, with the chair to be decided each meeting, by lottery if necessary, between delegates from each workplace and neighbourhood.
“It’d be a physical version of the non-hierarchical student forums,” Sarah told me when she returned from the militia meeting yesterday.  I built up the fire while she orated at me.
“We have to have direct democracy on every decision that affects us.  Any successful election would consolidate too much power with a single faction and prompt internal conflicts.  The committee are wasting everybody’s time on their egos when we need to be talking defence tactics.  We can’t fight party political battles with raiders on our doorstep.
“What do you think, dad?” she asked, with a sideways glance at Sue, sitting at the table under the one bright lamp in the house.  Sue set her jaw and concentrated on the solar charger she was repairing.  Clearly this conversation had a history I was not privy to.
“I’m not sure,” I said carefully, watching the flames take hold of the fresh logs.  “I see your point of view, but I see and speak to a lot more people who have little to do with the militia, and to most of them a proposal to dissolve the committee… It might look like a military coup. People will think you’re trying to get rid of the committee to take power for yourselves.”
Sue smiled grimly.  Sarah’s yells of denial were aimed at her, but she kept her eyes on her soldering and I answered instead.
“Nobody’s doubting your motives,” I said reasonably, “but by the very nature of your organisational structure you – and those who feel as you do – don’t represent everybody.  The militia is also a faction, a powerful one, not immune from political manoeuvring, from within and without.  It could end up as a  takeover, regardless of intention.”
She rolled her eyes and sat by the fire with me.
“If we wanted to take over, it’d be easier to do it like everyone else, going on about how important we are and how much more we could do if we had more powers.  They say we’re the ones after power, but we do all the work and we’re the only ones not putting ourselves on a bloody ballot!”
I understand how she feels.  The majority of survivors are middle-aged or older and, rightly or wrongly, there’s a strong impulse to trust well-spoken politicians explaining what they can do for us over an armed youth movement saying we should do things for ourselves.  Sue and I may like to feel we know better, but we have a more urgent interest to defend than our own politics.  The committee may be a dangerously volatile collection of self-promoting bureaucrats, but they’re not the ones training our daughter to risk her life for their cause.
Sue put down her soldering iron.
“Sarah, for all their faults,” she said softly, “the committee aren’t the raiders.  They have good intentions.”
“Yeah, and we know where those lead.”
“Well,” I put in, “all roads can lead two ways, depending on how you walk them.”
I sounded just like the placatory liberals I used to hate, and was inwardly proud of Sarah for responding with a disgusted tut.  We might have laughed, then, and changed the subject, if Sue hadn’t said what I’d lacked the courage to.
“And the road you want to go down, Sarah, the road to revolution and a better world, you know what that road’s paved with?  Beautiful, brave, dead children.”
In the silence, she pushed back her chair and headed up the stairs. Sarah went to the door and shouted after her, “We’re not children!”
She looked as if she might cry, but when I went to her she turned away.  She sat back down and poked the fire fiercely.
“Of course you are,” I said.  “Even the ones over forty.  Anybody who still has the heart left to fight is driven by a powerful innocence.”
She scowled at that.  I tried to explain to her: it isn’t an insult, we’re not even saying she’s wrong.  But for those of us who’ve seen the battles lost too many times before, the cost is too much to bear.
She sees only the cost of doing nothing.  She says she won’t spend her life watching her friends die because they never took the opportunity to win when they had the chance.  She’ll make a world where we don’t have to fight anymore, or she’ll die trying.
She said, “I didn’t escape from Chester to sit and watch everywhere go that way.  We lost everything, and all we’ve got out of it is being here, now, being where we can make it different.  If we throw that away, we got nothing, and we might as well have died back in London.  Do you understand me, Dad?”

I do.  But I still feel as Sue does.  I’m terrified by her certainty, her resolve, and I want nothing more than to keep her home and safe.  But how long will this home be safe?  I see my mother shining out of her eyes, and I can’t tell her that she’s wrong, or naïve, or incapable, because she is none of those things.  She is idealistic, and innocent, and courageous.  And if the rest of the militia were truly like her, there might even be hope for them, for all of us.  But I can’t quite bring myself to believe it.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2026 in actually doing something, giving up

 

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Settling in for the foreseeable, preparing for the unforeseen

Well, the journey was eventful, mostly with the necessity of keeping Sarah in vehicles and fuel, but eventually we reached Liverpool.  We suspected that both the Mersey Tunnel and the Runcorn Bridge would be troublesome, so we went all the way around Warrington and parked our last car on the hard shoulder of the M62, by a wood a good hour’s trek from the end of the motorway.  Since we had a second handset again, we left one buried at the foot of a recognisable tree in a plastic bag, and agreed to make this our meeting point should anything go wrong.

Today we retrieved it, in light of our decision to stay here.  We’ve been assigned a spacious house with running water (cold only) and occasional electricity (for an hour or two after dark), which feels absurdly luxurious, as does knowing where the next meal is coming from.  We’ve all found gainful – if not entirely prudent – employment.  I’m working at the last hospital standing, where there are injuries and ailments of many kinds, but no sign of blood flu since the storming of the quarantines.  Sue’s part of a team installing off-grid power sources to supplement what comes in from the off-shore wind farms.  Sarah is converting diesel engines to run on chip fat and, in her free time, training to join the militia, and nothing I or Sue or anybody else says will sway her against it.  I’m not sure what to make of them. They try to avoid appearing to have a uniform, but it’s hard not to notice the pocket-belts and headsets, not to mention the visible weapons they all carry.  Two dropped round the day we arrived to give us their SkIMp contact and a password, and told us that we could call on them if we saw any sign of raiders, or if other residents gave us any trouble that we couldn’t manage ourselves.  They took exception to being described as a police force, but were happy enough to answer questions and give us a bit of background on what’s been happening here.

Liverpool was one of the first cities to break out of quarantine.  It’s been through something resembling a civil war that continues to flare up in isolated pockets on the outskirts of city.  The militia tries to keep it there, and most people go about in relative safety within the barricades. It seems that, early on, several groups started coalescing into communities – some loosely democratic, some leaderless, some more authoritarian but unable to keep a leader for long – and when these communities discovered one another, there was a period of cautious standoff before a period of yet more cautious merging and co-operation.  This uneasy alliance was galvanised by a particularly brutal gang made up largely of police, ad-hoc security and local fascist groups, dangerous enough to bring almost all the other disparate factions into coalition against them.  The militia was formed to oppose the threat, and because no group wanted the others to have control of it, it was independent of them all.  They’re self-organised, with no ranks or leaders, only working groups and conveners.  They’re all volunteers.  They fight off raiders, make supply runs outside the barricades, mediate disputes and even scavenge, repair and supply bicycles (more important than you might think, given the scarcity of petrol).  I’m uneasy about them.

We’ve been to a weekly “general meeting” to try to get a handle on who or what all the different factions here represent.  There’s a committee that oversees administration – it consists of maybe ten or twelve people, each nominated by a community or influential group.  Many of the major players were once trade unionists, party activists or civil servants – people used to public speaking.  I recognised a number of familiar characters through their oratory styles: the debate-lover who throws a controversial question into the mix every time a discussion nears consensus; the softly-spoken voice of indignation that wears the opposition down with repetition; the chorus of younger voices, dotted around the room, applauding one another’s interruptions to make their numbers seem greater than they are.  Then I recognised Khalil amongst the militia, speaking animatedly against a committee proposal to issue a new currency.  I was surprised to see him head into the private committee chamber after the meeting.  Sarah informed me that he was a delegate rather than a committee member in his own right.
“It’s a rotating role,” she told me. “He has a mandate, and he’ll report back to the militia on what the council’s up to.”
“And if they’re up to no good?” I asked.
“Then the militia’ll stop them.”
“You sound very confident about that.”
She told me to stop making “dad face”, which is apparently an involuntary expression of cynicism that I use to undermine her choices.  “Anyway,” she added, “since when do you want to see politicians in charge?  The militia are just doing what you do, keeping an eye on the power.”
“And who keeps an eye on the militia?” I asked.
“Everyone,” she said, rolling her eyes.  “Especially people like you.”
I get the impression that the committee consider the militia something of a liability, but too useful to disband, and they’re right on that point.  Without them, we may well have been walking into another Chester.  As it is, we’ve walked into an uneasy alliance that may stabilise or fall in the coming months.

Since our appearance at the meeting we’ve had visits and official messages of welcome from representatives of a number of factions.  A few months ago this might have seemed reassuring, but Chester brought back some old instincts, and I recognise when my political affiliations are being probed, my threat assessed and my favour courted.  There are a number of factions here that wouldn’t mind counting a family like us among their own, which is encouraging until you consider how little they’d like to count us as somebody else’s.  For now, Sue and I are working hard, smiling a lot, keeping our mouths shut and our ears open.  But I’m concerned that Sarah’s allegiances are all too obvious.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2026 in actually doing something

 

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Moving on again

Well, for those who were concerned, I’m alive and almost well.  As Sue heard, I was refused entry to the quarantine camp, though “refused entry” is a rather evasive way to describe beating somebody to the ground and stealing their handset and shoes before dumping them, unconscious, in a wood.

I awoke to the familiar aroma of nettle soup.  I’d been covered with a coat, and an insistent voice said, “Drink this,” so I did.  There was something in it besides nettles – it had a more rounded and slightly peppery flavour, and when I could focus enough to look at the tin mug being held to my lips I saw some kind of yellowish root in it.  I looked up at a young man’s concerned and impatient face, then scrunched my eyes shut in pain when he yelled, “’’e’s woken up, Mam!”

A gentler voice responded, “Let him rest, Khalil,” and I obliged while a hushed argument took place over the urgency of getting my story.  I tried to wake up, but fell unconscious again.  It was the best part of an hour before I could sit and thank them for their kindness.  By then, the father had returned with two cheerful small girls, and some kind of dead animal – a squirrel, I think.  Khalil offered to fetch some water, and the girls bickered over who was going to light the fire until their mother told them to quiet down, and go and wash their hands in the stream.  That left me with the parents, who introduced themselves as they built the fire and skinned the dinner.

They were friendly but reserved. Maira asked, with a hint of caution, whether I was travelling alone, and I noticed that Rafel stopped what he was doing to wait for my answer.  When I told them that I’d been trying to join my wife and daughter in Chester, the tension dropped a level.
“Then you are Ashraf,” Maira said, and she told me how they’d met Sue and Sarah on their way into Chester, before having their own application rejected, though not so violently as mine.  They weren’t surprised by it, or by my story.  Chester was the third city they’d tried and failed to seek refuge with.  I wondered why they wanted to get into a city, given that they seemed to be managing so well in a copse of woodland outside.  They’d clearly got the hang of hunting and foraging, far better than I had.  They shook their heads at this.  It’s almost October.  It will soon be colder, food will be scarcer.  Two of their children are still small.  They’re under no illusion that they can make it through the winter without joining a city with some proper shelter and a reliable food source.  They were determined to find one that would admit them, even if it meant back-breaking work, suspicious strangers and the ever-present threat of violence.  They said they would escape again in the Spring, if they could.  They were going to try Liverpool next, and urged me to do the same, once I’d found my family.  It’s always difficult to know which blogs to believe, but there seemed to be quite a few giving different and not overly glowing reports of the set-up there, and they reckoned that was a good thing.  Variety of opinion means a certain amount of freedom to express it.  The many endorsements for Chester all made similar and, as it turns out, false claims.

I learnt a lot from Maira and Rafel, and from Khalil and the girls, who are already pretty good trappers and gatherers of the right kinds of mushrooms, roots and leaves.  I’ve also learnt from my mistakes in Chester.  I should never have left the car so close by, for a start.  I’d left everything of use in the caravan, detached the car and parked on the hard shoulder of the M6 only a couple of miles outside the town, and when I felt well enough to return to it, it was long gone.  They must regularly patrol the area around the city, so I left the road and headed back to the caravan via the fields.  By the time I reached it I was exhausted, and ached all over.  Rafel had given me a pair of socks, but they were no better than bare feet for much of the journey.  Sue now says I shouldn’t have tried to leave so soon, but the restorative power of a good meal and a welcoming family was tinged with anxiety for my own, and I wanted to get back to the caravan and see if there was any word from them.  When I got there, the caravan was empty and lonely, and there was no message yet on the workset.  I tried SkIMping – another stupid mistake, as they would obviously have left me a message by now if they still had their handsets. I posted what I had the energy left to say, and fell asleep.

I was woken by a sudden movement of the caravan.  For a minute I thought I was being towed, but the rocking was too violent for that, and then I heard shouts and laughter, hands banging against the walls.  I was just able to get on my feet before the whole world overturned, throwing me off them again and cracking my head against the bunk beds.  The door was now above my head, and I could see through the window that a figure was clambering towards it.  I tumbled through the skylight and made for the woods.

I didn’t get a good look at my attackers, but they must have been the guards from Chester.  I shouldn’t have gone back for the car, or SkIMped Sue and Sarah’s handsets. Knowing that we had a caravan wouldn’t have told them where it was – they must have found my trail across the fields from where the car had been.  I don’t know how much they took before setting the place on fire, I just staggered into the dark, hoping they wouldn’t follow.  Minutes later I heard distant whoops of laughter and saw a blaze spring up far away, though the trees, and realised there would be nothing to go back to.  I wandered for maybe a mile until I found the farmhouse I spoke of on Elaine’s blog – the rest, you know.  I thought I was dreaming when I heard Sue and Sarah’s voices in the kitchen.  I thought I must be dying.  They’d been searching for shelter, and happened to wander in the same direction as I did.  Well, it turned out it was a pretty clear forest path.  I’d blundered through it and they’d followed it steadily, and they’d seen a house, just as I did.

So here we are, with no car or caravan and a house that does for shelter from the elements but little else.  No fresh water, electricity, heating, not even a working fireplace or old-fashioned range.  We’ve managed to get quite a few potatoes that were left behind from a harvested field, and Sarah’s managed to get a tractor working, though we instantly ran out telling her to turn it off, the noise could bring raiders from miles around.  We talked about staying, setting up our once longed-for homestead, but it didn’t take long to abandon that idea.  Apart from the practicalities, it’s far too near Chester, and if it’s been raided before it’ll likely be raided again once activity is spotted.  We’ll set off for Liverpool tomorrow.  Our transport’s not exactly stealthy, but it’s better than walking all the way.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2026 in planning

 

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A message for Ash

It’s Sue this time.  We retrieved the wrapped handset from the tree where we left it, but no message from you.  When we saw the burnt-out husk of the caravan we ran towards it, which was probably stupid, but we needed to know if you were here.  There was nothing to salvage of our home, and nothing to be seen of you either, and we’re taking that as a good sign.  We think you must have got away, possibly with the workset, and abandoned the caravan to whoever did this.  So I’ll post here in the hopes you can find some way of seeing it, and replying to us.

Sarah said a little about how it was in Chester, but I want you to know all of it.  I would have sent that message myself, but after challenging the guards on missing people I was given a red tag, and told to stay within the residential and work areas for a week.  It was Sarah who pulled me aside before I got into real trouble.  It was the first day, after three hours of gruelling work shovelling ashes and occasional unburnt remains into sacks to go out to the farms as fertiliser.  By the end of work, I was frantic that you hadn’t arrived, describing you to everybody, asking if they’d seen you.  Eventually, somebody pointed me to the guard who’d been on the gate all afternoon, and he told me you’d arrived and gone away again.  I couldn’t understand it.  I thought he must be lying.  I asked about the people we came in with – a Pakistani family with two little girls and a boy Sarah’s age.  We’d shared stories in the waiting area, before they took us for interviews, one by one, each separately tagged and scanned and given the details for our accommodation, food depot and work duties, even the seven-year-old.  We hadn’t seen them since.  Sarah wanted to wait for them, but I just wanted to get to the depot, get our loaf of soggy bread and find our flat before our shift started.  When the guard told me you’d gone, I started asking about them, too, and Sarah dragged me away and told me to look around.  There was nobody inside the walls who wasn’t white.  I stopped asking questions, and we decided we’d get out the next day and find you.

We went to the depot immediately after work to get into maximum debt and go away with as much food as we could.  We had to queue for an hour.  I couldn’t stop myself worrying about the debt, and Sarah got annoyed with me.  “It’s all just numbers on a screen, mum.  They only bother with it so they don’t have to call the food ‘rations’ or the work ‘slave labour’.  It’s not like anybody’s ever going to be able to pay it off, they charge us more in rent and food than they pay us.” And I got annoyed, because I wanted to believe that some sort of remnant of the old world was in place, that there was some continuity, some normality to be found.  “It is normality,” she said.  “That’s how it’s always been.”  When did she start talking like we used to?  She’s like your mother, no quarter for liberal platitudes or half-measures.  How we must exasperate her.

We went back to our accommodation and made some rucksacks out of wiring and pillow cases, to take the food and the few essentials they left in the flats.  Just as I thought we’d calmed down and focused on a plan, Sarah told me she’d found out how to get a message to you, and she needed my wedding ring, and so we argued again.  I didn’t want any complications to my carefully timed plan, or to think of her going alone to a corrupt guard in a deserted building where I couldn’t follow, and I eventually pulled rank and told her that it was my wedding ring, and she couldn’t have it.  She started shouting, “What’s more important, making real contact with Dad or holding onto a memory of when you used to?” and that hurt.  I didn’t really care about the ring, I just wanted to stop her going, and that made her even angrier, angry that I was weak and afraid, that I couldn’t be strong for her and wouldn’t let her be strong for us.  She had an idea that you’d be breaking in to find us even as we were breaking out, and that we had to get a message to you, and even as I told her you wouldn’t try something like that I began to worry that you would, and hesitate over whether to leave at all.  By the time Sarah persuaded me to give her the ring we were both shouting and shaking and crying.  She grabbed it from me and stormed out in a rage, then immediately returned and hugged me fiercely, planted a kiss on the top of my head, and strode out again.

I spent the next hour trying not to watch the window, trying to occupy myself with preparing and packing.  The flats had been cleared, but not too thoroughly.  Our plan was to escape down the river on a camping mattress we’d found at the bottom of the wardrobe when we arrived.  I checked it for punctures, though I had nothing to fix them with.  I’d found some maps in a kitchen drawer, too, and planned out our route and how we’d get back to the caravan.  And then I watched the window until it was dark, and when I saw her walking steadily back towards the flats I knew that she was fine, that our daughter’s damn near invincible, and I felt so proud and relieved – and sad.  I put my head down on the table and realised I had no energy left to escape that night.  Then I realised I couldn’t tell Sarah that, and I’d just have to find the energy, borrow it at crippling interest from the next day’s reserves, like everything else there.

The canal’s not far from the residential blocks, but it was a tense walk.  There isn’t exactly a curfew, but being seen out and about at night with bags and an inflatable mattress would certainly have raised questions.  We found an unguarded stretch and huddled together in a warehouse doorway, while we took turns inflating the mattress.  It was only then that I began to really think about what we were risking, what would happen if we were caught.  In theory we weren’t prisoners there, but running from a debt was a serious crime.  There were all kinds of speculations about what happened to “debt fugitives”, but most imagined they were summarily shot.  There’s no reason to bring somebody back who might be trouble, or to let somebody go who may know how to get back in unseen.  I thought about that as we set our makeshift raft floating on the canal and tried to crawl on board without overturning it, and I wondered if Sarah had thought it, too.  Of course she had.  She never used to kiss me before walking out after a row.

We lay flat and paddled the raft with our hands over to the other side.  We knew that the canal passed a few checkpoints where we might be spotted, while the river was wider and ran further from the residential areas and away from main roads.  After crossing, we carried the mattress through deserted streets to the river, drenched and ridiculous, me jumping at shadows and Sarah suffering from inappropriate giggling fits, until we reached a quiet spot to throw ourselves into the hands of the Dee.  There was a level change which, small as it was, sent us spinning down a fall towards the handbridge and almost overturned us.  Then it was my turn to be angry at Sarah; I hissed at her to get a bloody grip, as I struggled to right us and save the food while she squealed like a child on a rapids ride.
“Have you been drinking?” I asked her, as if there were the slightest possibility, as if she’d just come home late from college, and she shook her head, then buried it in the mattress, crying with laughter.
She took gasping breaths as we got the mattress stable in the current. When she could speak again, all she said was, “I can’t help it.  It’s just too funny.”  And I realised that it really was.  We clung together and gave in to helpless laughter as the river carried us gently away.

Once we were well into overgrown, unharvested farmland, we put everything in the centre of the mattress and swam it through the chilly water to the bank.  By this time most of our clothes were wet anyway.  We wrung them out but didn’t have any spares, so put them back on, damp, let down the raft and began the long squelch North by the pole star that we knew would eventually lead us to the M6, or at least a road with signs to it, and from there, we hoped, to you.  Instead, this morning we found the burnt shell of our home, and you gone.

But we have this handset, and we have each other, so all we can do is keep moving.  Sarah thinks you might have gone back to the museum – it’s the only place we can think of where you’d imagine we might look for you.  But first, we have to find some kind of shelter and sleep.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on September 4, 2026 in Uncategorized

 

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اینجا نمی آیند.ما در حال از ترک از امشب

right dad, s’me.

i got 10 mins so jus the tl;dr: chesters pr is lies, they put u 2 work an keep u in a scummy flat wiv no water, feed u veg mush and moldie bred, put u in det 4 fud.

sets r gon (no passn info 2 raiders) but gards got handsets an all corupt. mums weding rings only gold we got so this is it.  if u move on, leev a mesij in wher we foun mushrums las week an well find u. aftr we py r det cours.

usin ur blog so evn if u don spot this ur matesll skIMp ya. pls coppi/past hole text.  we luv u dad.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2026 in sarah rocks

 

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