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Category Archives: planning

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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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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Thinking back before going on.

We’d almost reached Chester when I got cold feet, and we argued again.  I didn’t want to take the car in – I decided I wanted to hide it ten miles out, in case we needed it again.  Sue said she couldn’t walk that far, and it’d kill Sarah.  Sarah had gone to gather blackberries, or no doubt she would’ve protested any implication of weakness on her part, but it wasn’t really about how far we can walk – it was about me stalling the plan.  I dropped them on the outskirts of Chester, just out of sight of the checkpoint, then took the car out a couple of miles further.  The plan is that I’ll walk in from here and join them.  We’ve agreed to meet back at the caravan if something goes wrong.  We’ve hidden a handset and a solar charger, wrapped in plastic bags – all cautions I’ve insisted on, despite accusations of paranoia.  Sue can’t understand why I have such a strong aversion to the plan.  Chester’s thought to be one of the better quarantines, according to some blogs from inside, and we’ll at least get food, which is the most urgent of our concerns.  I couldn’t explain then, so I’m going to try now, in case I don’t get another chance.

I keep thinking back to my ‘Storm in a Kettle’ arrest in 2015.  The student demonstrations and the summer riots that year had merged together into that infamous press soundbite, the Autumn of Rage.  Up until that day I felt like there was some point in fighting, some chance of winning.  I was brought up to believe that revolution was possible, if dangerously volatile.  I’d been involved in the Anti-cuts, No Borders and Free Palestine movements for a few years, I’d seen the Arab spring and the Indignados and Occupy burst out of nowhere, and it really did seem that we might have our turn at re-making the world.  The politicians, the police and the press said that we were mindless thugs, intent on wanton destruction, and we said the same of them.  Even if some of those caught in that kettle didn’t consider themselves part of a demonstration, let alone a revolution, even if they didn’t quote Marx or Bakunin in graffiti planted on police stations and shop fronts, they took what they couldn’t afford from those who had too much to care, and they threw bottles of fire at those who would stop them, and these are not apolitical acts; they were, perhaps, more political than the un-proofread papers, the home-made placards and the poorly-rhymed slogans of the socialists and anarchists I marched with to Parliament Square.  But once the barriers went up, and the batons came out, it didn’t matter why we’d been there.  We were forced into a clear alliance, and we became an army.  Despite all the conspiracy theories, nobody really knows who threw that explosive, but whether they were terrorists, revolutionaries or agent provocateurs, the result was the same.  The dead are still dead, the scarred are still scarred, the Terror and Radicalism Act was passed and the world was changed.

Nobody got out of that kettle without a beating and a permanent record under the new act.  I almost came out a lot worse.  They kept me for two days, laughing when I asked for a phone call or a lawyer, asking me about terrorist groups and my beliefs, by which they meant religion.  I told them I was an atheist, which was and is true, but I felt compromised saying it.  I grew up with Islam, and I’d never denied it before.  They wouldn’t believe me, anyhow, not with my parents, my associations with Free Palestine.  They had already made up their minds; I should have stayed silent, but I felt compelled to justify myself.  They thought they knew everything about my ideals, my identity, my politics, my motivations, so that anything I said either corroborated their assumptions or was a lie.  I was amongst those who escaped the Conspiracy of Silence charge by a whisper.  Our lawyers pointed out that this was prior to the Act coming into force, so even if we had conspired to remain silent, it was not yet a crime when we did so.  Still, I know that the names I confirmed at the prompting and threats of the police were the real reason I never faced that charge.  Everybody told me I had no choice, that it wouldn’t have helped those who were convicted for me to be another name on the list.  Nobody blamed me, everybody said it was an impossible situation, and they probably would have done the same, or wouldn’t have knownwhat to do in my place.  Such carefully chosen words.  Everybody agreed, I was only thinking of my family, and it made sense for me to avoid a prison sentence.  I didn’t really have to make any excuses, my friends were so willing to make them for me.  But nothing could justify it.  It was betrayal, and surrender, and that was the sentence I lived with.

It wasn’t the only sentence, though.  For years afterwards I’d find myself wondering how many of the stop and searches were routine, how many of the patrols that passed a building just as I entered or left were coincidental.  Friends accused me of paranoia, and at one point I even believed I was delusional.  For years afterwards my blood ran cold when a car pulled away from the kerb after I passed, or somebody got up from a café just after I did.

Sue thought that I gave up on activism after that because of the violence I’d been subjected to, or that I was afraid of further arrests putting her and Sarah at risk, and that too was true, so I left it at that.  But what I never really explained was the effect the questioning had had on me, the way they twisted everything, took my identity, my own self-knowledge away from me.  I could be a fanatical Islamic terrorist, or I could be the naive dupe of a soon-to-be-outlawed anarchist organisation, depending on the associates I named.  I could not act independently on secular or rational thought, that didn’t fit my profile.  Everything that would justify my actions to myself would incriminate me to them.  I had to be who they wanted me to be.  I had to be nobody, to deny my agency, my beliefs and my friends, or lose my job, my family, my freedom.

Now, my greatest fear is walking into that quarantine camp where they will isolate me and question me about where I have been, why I didn’t give myself up sooner, what my intentions were in evading quarantine, what I believe and what means I would be prepared to take to defend that belief, and if it doesn’t fit in with what they’ve already decided, they’ll keep asking until it does.  I told myself, back then, that I wouldn’t have given in so easily if it wasn’t for my responsibility to Sue and Sarah, that it was their presence forcing me to put pragmatism above principle.  I blamed them for my fear and my retreat, even as I refused their support and encouragement to keep going, persuaded Sue we should get married and put Sarah in school, be a respectable family, so that we’d be safe.  These last few months, since we lost everything, it’s the first time that I’ve felt we were ourselves again, no pretences or conventions to appease, a rebel family against the world.  This feels like surrender.  Sue says to be pragmatic.  That’s always been the appeal to surrender.

I don’t really care about the car – I needed an excuse to stay behind a little longer.  It’s not just that I don’t want them to see me give in.  That’s what I couldn’t explain to them.  Though I grew up speaking English as well as Farsi, I carry the trace of my parents’ accent.  Sarah has no trace of an accent.  To her, Farsi is more like a secret code than a language, a special game that we played sometimes when she was small.  She has my dark eyes and hair, Sue’s pale, freckled skin.  The simple truth is, they were less likely to face hassle and awkward questions at the gate if I’m not there.  I wonder if I should join them at all.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2026 in giving up, moaning, planning

 

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Turning ourselves in

The last three shops we’ve been able to get into had nothing left that was edible.  Most supermarkets are occupied, and their inhabitants go to even greater lengths than Elaine to defend their stores.  The last time we attempted to get near to a large Tesco we passed the gutted shells of burnt out cars.  I’d just caught sight of the charred corpse in one of the wrecks when Sarah swerved suddenly and accelerated towards the exit as a gout of flame sprang up on the tarmac behind us.  We don’t go near the larger shops now.

Last night we ate our penultimate tin of kidney beans with boiled nettles, and Sue suggested, again, giving up and going to the quarantine camp.  At least they’d feed us, she said.  At least they wouldn’t shoot at us for wanting to eat.  The quarantine time period’s long past – perhaps families are allowed to stay together now.  The question on my mind is, if the quarantine period’s over, where is everybody?  You can drive for an hour on any road and see nobody.  You’d think people would be leaving the cities, if they were free to do so.

We argued until past midnight, Sue pointing at maps and reading blog testimonies from various cities in the region, me pointing out how little those testimonies mean, Sarah unusually silent, lying on the bunkbed with her headphones turned up, chewing on her sleeves.  I don’t want to lose the caravan and the car, and our independence.  Sue feels we’ve gone beyond that now.
She said we can go to the city, or we could keep raiding until we get shot, or we can watch our daughter waste away on nettles and dandelion leaves.
I said that if we can hold on for autumn, there’ll be blackberries and hazelnuts and chestnuts to eat.
And she said, it’ll get colder, and darker, and we’ll get sicker.  None of our attempts at snaring or trapping or fishing have had much success.  There are a few mushrooms, roots and berries that I know for sure are safe, but it takes a more expert forager than me to actually find enough to live on for any amount of time.  We’re almost out of iodine, too, and unlikely to find more.  There’s nowhere else to raid within walking distance, and moving on means using the last of our fuel.

Sue stayed up searching the W4 and running down the power, and this morning told us that Chester’s called an amnesty on quarantine refusers.  We could join them now, and be kept in isolation for 28 days before joining the general population.  They say they’ve got basic industries running and they’re working farms in the surrounding area.  They’ve got security, food and jobs.  They need workers.

There was nothing else I could say.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2026 in giving up, planning, whinging

 

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The present, the past and the future

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.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2026 in moaning, planning

 

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The Journey Begins

It appears we’re going to be on the move, sporadically, for a good deal longer than we thought.

We were lucky to get out of London at all.  We hit the first blockade when we’d barely passed Brent Cross. As the ‘Slow’ signs and flashing sirens emerged from their forest of cones, Sue narrowed her eyes and said, “Well, so much for getting out early.”

Ahead of us, a steady stream of traffic was guided through the central reservation and back towards London. There was nowhere to go except up to the checkpoint, where one of the three armed police officers approached my window and asked where we were going.  I told him we needed to get to Windermere, and he looked at me like I’d just told him I was aiming to fly to the moon.
“You want to go on holiday in the middle of a National Crisis, do you, sir?” he said.
I thought about pretending we couldn’t go back home because of an outbreak, but luckily I thought better of it, even though we didn’t know about the quarantine camps at this point – nobody did except those who were in them – I just had the feeling that going back to any major centre of population wouldn’t be wise at this juncture. Instead, I said, “We’re trying to get home – we’ve been on holiday, and we need to get back to my elderly mother.”
He went off and spoke to his superior officer, then murmured an incomprehensible stream of words and numbers into his radio and listened intently to the incomprehensible crackle that returned.
“You can get to the M1,” he said, “but you’ll only come up against another road block before you get past Birmingham, and I don’t fancy your chances of getting there tonight.”
“We have a caravan,” I pointed out.
“Well, you can’t camp on the M1.”
The whole country was in the process of being locked down, and he wasn’t having any argument. He said we’d be given somewhere to park the caravan in the city.
“Go back to Brent Cross, and they’ll escort you to a safe waiting zone – I’ll let them know you’re coming.”
He opened up the near barrier and pointed us through the gap to the southbound lanes, while flashing sirens warned us from attempting to go further North. But as soon as we were underway, Sarah looked up from her handset with other ideas.
“Get off at Junction 4 and take the A41. We’ll see how far we can get out of London avoiding the motorways,” she said, with more confidence than I’d expect of somebody who I was initiating into the arcane art of road navigation less than three months ago. “Set the W4PS to check for updates from UKfluweb for towns that’ve been locked down,” she told Sue. “It looks like we can still make it past Birmingham tonight if we hurry.”
Despite my little deception, this level of civil disobedience hadn’t quite occurred to me.  I wasn’t sure whether to be shocked or impressed, but I was definitely a little wary at the suggestion we actually go on the run.  Sue made the necessary decision.
“We didn’t just pack two months’ supplies into a dilapidated caravan so that we could be herded into a secured scout hut to die within a week”. She’d been silently catching up on socnet statuses from her cousins in Wood Green, where the clampdown on travel had come in quickly and ruthlessly that morning. They’d been at their grandmother’s when what they called “pigs in spacesuits” came door-to-door, grabbing anybody who so much as took a breath deep enough to cough with. They were demanding to see everybody registered at the address; thankfully Kelly had the presence of mind to hide, but Tracey had stomped out to give them a piece of her mind when they began interrogating her gran, and they’d been dragged into a van full of aged neighbours. They were given face masks for protection. “It looked like they were being gagged” was what Kelly said after peering through the curtain to see her sister and elderly grandmother bundled into a police van. Sue shared this with us sombrely as I followed Sarah’s directions.

For the first three hours, I drove while Sarah tapped away in the back with a workset, the W4PS and a road atlas, negotiating a route around the exclusion zones. Then Sue took over the driving and I did the navigation, while Sarah kept track of newsnets, having been refused a turn at the wheel.

That’s taken us as far as here – a field in “Wedgnock” which is precisely the middle of absolutely nowhere, identified by Sarah as being set far enough back from the road or any inhabited building that we can safely stop for a few nights without being reported. Our assessment is that we’re in for the long haul. I’d never appreciated how much geography is bypassed by simple means of a motorway. It could take us another two days to get as far as the Lakes, and that’s if a) all these little roads are traversable with a trailer, b) no extreme weather makes them impassable and c) no more of them get closed off in the meantime. Then there’s the possibility of hitting traffic again. We’re not the only ones who turned refugee just before it was too late. What will they do if the roads get blocked with us? Herd us into quarantine camps? Leave us to walk home or starve?

But I’m getting morbid, and that does none of us any good. So, it’ll take a little longer than we thought.  It’ll be a journey to remember, whatever happens.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2026 in planning, whinging

 

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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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