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A message for Sue and Sarah.

I’ve made it back to the caravan.  I can’t get through to you.  Do you still have your handsets?  I’ll wait here for you, and if you’re not here by tomorrow evening, I’ll assume you couldn’t get away and try to find a way in.  Leave me a message if you can.

I love you both.

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Posted by on September 3, 2026 in Uncategorized

 

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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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Protected: Now I’m resorting to secret posts…

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Posted by on August 15, 2026 in Uncategorized

 

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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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u blogjacked

hi evri1 im ash an i have irashnal fobyas of bad speln and my dorta driving   i teech her cos it maks me fl lik a gud dad in a norml world an preten shes gonna get a 2nd hand fiat fr her 18th an go to uni in bristl, bt carnt let hr get awy frm us fr 5mins or go lootn on hr own tho shes mor quite thn me or achly do smthin usefl cos im a bludy COWARD

also i hv a rlly stupd passwrd.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2026 in sarah rocks

 

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Soup and Sanctuary

We continue to travel around, looking for safe stopping places. There are riots in some of the cities where people are breaking out of their quarantines, but the small towns are looking deserted. The larger petrol stations that are attached to supermarkets are guarded by the army, but some smaller ones in isolated villages are abandoned – it’s here we’ve been doing our raiding, and, to answer this month’s meme, living on travel sweets, crisps and twiglets when we can get them, and dandelions, nettles and berries when we can’t. Most authors of foraging manuals and wild food guides expected that they would be used by hobbyists with well-stocked larders. It’s very difficult to make anything tasty entirely from foraged food, but here’s my recipe for nettle soup, with some suggested replacements for increasingly hard-to-find ingredients.

Ash’s nettle soup

  1. Heat a little oil in a pan.
  2. Add a chopped onion and two cloves of garlic, and stir until softened.
  3. If you’re lucky enough to have potatoes, chop them up small so that they cook quickly, saving you fuel. Otherwise, stir in some flour or whatever thickening agent you’ve managed to acquire.
  4. Add the liquid slowly and bring to the boil, stirring as you go.
  5. Once the potatoes are soft, add about three handfuls of washed and roughly chopped nettles per person, and simmer for a minute or two just to ensure they’re well and truly de-stung.
  6. Use a hand-turned blender or masher to get the consistency as soup-like as possible.
  7. Season and serve.

Oil or fat. We brought plenty of cooking oil with us, but it’s getting very scarce in the places we raid. Some wild nuts and seeds are good sources, but the likelihood of finding a sufficient quantity to be able to press a decent supply is almost as slim as getting hold of a working oil press. The best bet for vegetarians is to find an abandoned cultivated rapeseed crop, while those able to hunt could make use of fatty waterfowl such as ducks and geese.
Onions and Garlic. If you can find wild onions or wild garlic (ramsons), they add a good flavour, but don’t make nearly such a solid base as cultivated varieties.
Thickening agent. With no potatoes or flour left, we add a little milk powder sometimes.  The stems of Fireweed are supposed to contain a thickening agent, but it adds a bitter flavour and, to be honest, I’m not sure how it’s supposed to be extracted.  This is the kind of thing it’s very difficult to replace without using cultivated crops.
Liquid. Most recipes suggest two cups of milk, cream or soya alternatives as well as a cup of water or stock, but unless you have access to a cow or a soya processing plant, you will probably be using water. Strain and boil it before adding it to the soup, especially if you have no water purification tablets.
Nettles. These, at least, are plentiful. Lest it needs saying, use thick rubber gloves to pick them! You can eat stalks, flowers etc., but the young top leaves before flowering are the tastiest and most nutritious part. Wash them well and try to get them from somewhere far enough from a road that they won’t be contaminated by traffic exhaust. They’ll lose their sting once immersed in boiling water.
Seasoning. I daresay there’ll come a time when we have to get to the coast and use sea water for salt, but for now we harvest salt and pepper from the hardy perennial vandalised fast food chain, which is in plentiful supply.

This soup is one of our few sources of vitamins, though at times it’s more like nettle tea than soup. After eight weeks on the road we’re sick and worn out, stick-figure cartoons of ourselves, all cheekbone and shoulder-blade. Last week, after two days exposed in a layby because Sue and I couldn’t drive for more than ten minutes before feeling dizzy, we needed a proper rest and had the most incredible urge to be inside a building again, even for a little while. And I had an idea.

While I’m sure that most people with money have barricaded themselves into their gated detached fortresses, it occurred to me that there are a reasonable number of luxury residences around the country guaranteed to be lying empty. I won’t give the exact location that we found, but it’s one of the smaller stately homes, preserved as a museum and restored to its 19th century condition, complete with period furniture and fittings. The good thing about listed buildings is that they don’t have double glazing – sash windows make for easy entry, and we guessed that if silent alarms were set off in some security centre, the staff wouldn’t be there, or would have more pressing issues to attend to. We were going to leave the museum area relatively untouched and just use the staff rooms, but it turned unseasonably cold that night, and the display rooms had fireplaces draughty enough that we reasoned they must be usable. I was afraid of our smoke being seen, but we decided, again, that nobody would really be looking. We had some charcoal left from the last garage we raided, and we collected dry wood from the grounds; then we discussed whether, under such circumstances, one should retire to the parlour or the drawing room for the evening.

Even after running from the police, siphoning petrol from cars and an intensive course in breaking and entering, the idea of crossing that red rope barrier and touching museum pieces provoked a thrill of transgression. Sarah’s laughter as she clattered copper pots and jumped onto antique beds convinced us we’d done the right thing. After all, these objects were built to last, and to combine beauty and functionality. There was something very right about putting them to good use after so long. We found that even the stove was still connected to a chimney, and we cooked our last two tins of baked beans on a Victorian range and ate them by candlelight, accompanied by blackcurrant squash in crystal wine glasses. Sarah was for stripping the rather unsettling life-size dummies that populated the place and dressing up, but Sue drew a line at this – the costumes were delicate items, and besides, it would be impractical. We might have to leave in a hurry.

In the light of the day, we explored the grounds and made an even better find than the house: a kitchen garden with a wide variety of tomatoes, courgettes, new potatoes and a surprisingly abundant number of beans, given its neglect over the past month. Fresh vegetables were a greater luxury than the embroidered bedspreads and silver cutlery, and after three days there we felt revived.  We’d just decided to stay for the foreseeable future when we saw the fires, from the window, distant but ominous, and huge. The nearby town was burning, and a quick check of the functioning local socnets confirmed that people had broken out of one of the larger quarantines, and immediately gone about breaking into the others. It wouldn’t be long before they were scouring the suburbs for food and shelter.

In principle, we should have welcomed the escapees into the house, invited them to work the gardens with us and form a community. That’s what I would have suggested doing a month ago. But we didn’t know whether they’d be infectious, starving, desperate or violent, and we didn’t wait to find out. The last time we decided to trust our neighbours, it didn’t work out well for us. We harvested what would ripen and headed North, leaving the museum to its fate.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2026 in memes and quizzes

 

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