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Category Archives: actually doing something

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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Having a strange day

Looking back, I can see the hysteria’s been building for weeks.  Riots and looting aren’t unusual at this time of year, but in the past supermarkets have been the last resort once the electronics and fashion items are gone, not the primary target.  Another borough was put under quarantine yesterday and of course everybody’s afraid it’ll be their own neighbourhood next, but it all seemed distantly hysterical until we lost Margot and Barbara.  The sight of two inexpertly slaughtered chickens on the back doorstep this morning seemed to bring it all home a little.  Of course, there’s no proving who it was, since I told the whole neighbourhood I’d be leaving my gate open, but the over-punctuated note, informing us that in the absence of council resources for pest control, the author saw fit to take steps against any “possible sources of contagion”, is something of a clue. Poor Margot and Barbara.  They were good hens, and they deserved better.

Hospital staff have been on double-time as an incentive not to leave, and under threat of a serious black mark if we don’t either make it into work or show up on a stretcher.  We’re wearing those ridiculous suits at all times now, bloody uncomfortable as they are, and everything stinks of disinfectant, even more than usual.  There’s still no definitive word on the incubation period – it seems to vary wildly.  Some are saying we have a busy few weeks ahead and then a gradual return to normality, others that it won’t be long before we’re so swamped there’s no point in even coming to the hospital. As it is, there’s very little we can do beyond palliative care.  There’s no cure, no effective treatment that does anything more than delay the inevitable.

I’d been keeping most of this to myself, trying not to cause panic, but people aren’t stupid – especially not my family.  This morning, the car wouldn’t start, and Sarah said she couldn’t fix it, and of course there are no buses or taxis.  I was already late by the time she’d admitted to sabotage.  She said she’d fix it when I promised not to go into work again.  Sue swore that she wasn’t in on it, but she supported the move.  And I thought, if we’re not going into work, and the chickens are dead, what are we sitting around here for?  We’ve decided to get out of the city.  We spent the rest of the day packing the caravan full of food, fuel and hardware, and we’ll set out at first light tomorrow, while the roads are clear.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter where we go as long as it’s away from centres of population, but we’re heading for the lakes where Sue’s cousin has a field we can camp in.  We haven’t been able to get through to her yet, but I’m sure she won’t mind.  She’ll call us paranoid lunatics, but she won’t mind.  We’re in danger of coming up against road blocks, and we may have to take some circuitous routes, but we have everything we need to spend a night or two on the road if it turns out to be necessary.  At least it gets us out of this poisonous neighbourhood, and it feels strangely like packing for a holiday.  I can’t help being a little excited.

As to Mei’s meme, I am clearly a humble potato, a solid, reliable sort that flourishes underground.  Not impressive at first glance, but adaptable and full of slow-burning energy.

 

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Open for visitors

Things were just calming down a little when the BBC newsnets announced a week’s national holiday, to prevent the spread of the flu.  Not for me, of course – frontline medical, security and a skeleton of power and haulage workers have been issued with our Reliflu and are expected to Keep Calm and Carry On.  Confidentially, I haven’t taken them.  If I get Blood Flu, I want to know about it as soon as possible, not hide the symptoms and spread it to my colleagues, patients and family.  It was manic at the North Mid today.  Half the shift was missing, either called in sick or just disappeared, and emergency protocols were enacted about twenty times, rushing everybody with flu-like symptoms into isolation.  There were no confirmed cases, though.

We’ve been advised not to go to shops but to order food online, and the retailers will be assisted by the TA with deliveries.  Airports have been rather belatedly closed, and people advised not to travel unless necessary.

Just to rub our noses in it, the Neighbourhood Watch have had leaflets printed and are now warning people to be on their guard against radicals, asylum seekers and looters coming into the neighbourhood in search of handouts or easy targets.  I was so angry, I used up every scrap of paper in the house printing a response, saying anybody needing shelter and food can camp in my back garden.  I’ve posted it to every tree and lamp-post on this and the surrounding roads, and I’ll leave the back gate and caravan unlocked over the coming week.  Perhaps a foolish token gesture of defiance, but I refuse to be a hostage to paranoia.  They can’t do me under the TRA for that.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2026 in actually doing something

 

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Meeting and mobilising

The first meeting of the Community Disaster Response Collective is planned for tonight.  I’ve posted it on all the relevant Socnets and put notices in shop windows and on lamp posts, and I even did a bit of door to door with those neighbours I’m on nodding terms with.

There was a bit of interest from the Whitbys and the Macgregors.  I remember Linda Macgregor from some of the Autumn of Rage demos in 2015 and she still sometimes sidles up to me with a knowing “Wotcha, Comrade” at the deli counter in Sainsbury’s.  I’m trying to play down that connection: I don’t want her getting (or giving) the impression this group’s going to be confrontational with the Borough Council. I’ve booked the Town Hall.

I had the opposite problem with the Morrisons – the chicken-worriers from next door.  They moved here last year from the Cotswolds, where it seems they had long experience as semi-professional community busybodies.  They asked who was coming to the meeting, and kept exchanging looks and tutting when I named a few neighbours.  Then Geoff clarified that what they’d meant was: who’s coming that’s important: any MPs, councillors, local business owners.  I told them I’d invited the Shapiros, who run Total Convenience, and the Kaplans at Kebab Korner – turns out this wasn’t exactly what they meant, either, but rather than elaborate on who counted as a legitimate local business concern, they suggested I should have the police there to consult on security matters.  I tried to pick my words carefully.  I’m envisaging the group’s purpose as being relevant to scenarios in which the big businesses and authorities would be somewhat preoccupied.
“This is more about how we might have to take care of ourselves, and each other,” I told them.
They exchanged a stony look.
“We can take care of ourselves,” Jane said.
“And each other,” I repeated.
“We’ve got security,” Geoff added, looking me up and down.
“As a community, I mean.”
“If you want to do something to protect the community from the Asi—from the ’flu, you can get rid of those bloody chickens in your garden.  They’re unhygienic.”  He leaned in, and added, “We keep chickens on farms in this country.”

There’s no use trying to involve people whose idea of community organising is writing letters to the local papers admonishing MPs for ‘letting in the wrong sort’.  There’s a malicious part of me that hopes they’ll have to come crawling to the CDRC for help, which we could either begrudge them or offer freely and sanctimoniously.  But no – I fervently hope that nobody ever really needs our help, and that the whole thing’s a waste of time.  Except it won’t be a waste, because if nothing else we’ll get the community into one room, talking and making plans together, recognising one another in the street, and even if that’s all that comes of it, it will be worthwhile.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2026 in actually doing something, planning, ranting

 

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