Among the fervent discussions on how to save the planet, inevitably it has been noticed that there are a lot of people in the world; apart from humans pushing aside other species who have just as much right to exist, we are using up the earth’s resources and increasing global warming.
‘In 1798 Thomas Robert Malthus famously predicted that short-term gains in living standards would inevitably be undermined as human population growth outstripped food production, and thereby drive living standards back toward subsistence.’
But the population has grown to numbers which probably should have caused our mass extinction by now according to Malthus. Science and technology have increased food yields and provided the means to curb reproduction. ‘… the eightfold increase in population since 1798 has also raised the number of geniuses in similar proportion and it is genius above all that propels global human advance.’
Despite over two centuries of Gaia curbing us with natural disasters and mankind drastically reducing numbers with warfare, we are still growing. It has been suggested that Malthus’ predictions could still come true. If a couple have two children they have replaced themselves, TWO is a logical number to work on, so we can all reduce our carbon footprint by only having two children. When I was at school we assumed that is what we would be doing; considering the vast populations of China and India we naively thought a few years of communist government would help India. China has now discontinued its one child programme and is faced with 33.5 million more men than women, because sons were preferred. Now they are worried about their ageing population.
Meanwhile, Japan is currently the 11th most populous nation in the world, but its failure to boost birth rates in recent decades has left it with a significantly older population base and a dangerous shortage of young adults. No more crowded trains in their future? Some European countries have a similar problem. For Gaia it could be good news, she probably does not care much about individual societies working.
History, with its various terrible regimes, means that no democratic government is going to tell people how to plan, or not plan their families and is certainly not going to put into place more sinister designs for reducing their country’s population.
But could having more than two children go the same way as drink driving and smoking indoors, become socially unacceptable? Hopefully not; it would be a dull world if we were all the same. Two is not a bad number, better than just one? Lots of couples choose or find themselves having one child and singletons might say they enjoyed their status or had a bunch of cousins to play with. In China the one child policy left a generation without siblings, then further down the line a generation without cousins or aunties and uncles. A lone child stifled by adoring parents and grandparents; the first time such a huge social experiment has been carried out.
Having just one child is nothing new; in the 1920’s and 1930’s ordinary people in Britain found themselves able to buy into the suburban dream with mass building of terraced houses and they also had access to contraceptives. Coming from big families, the prospect of less children and less work must have seemed attractive and those houses may have had the delights of an inside bathroom, but they were too small for a big family. Many people did choose to have one child and my aunt said my grandfather used to be introduced with ‘He’s got THREE daughters.’
I don’t write about my family, but here I must confess that my father also had two siblings and they had three of us; we have three and it does work out mathematically or that’s my excuse. Take my siblings and cousins, they all have two, one or none, so the ten of us have more or less replaced ourselves with eleven children. A male cousin had twins at fifty, so there is twenty five years between my first born and his – do they even count as the same generation?
There is nothing simple about families. A couple have two children, then break up, meet new partners and in a rosy romantic glow decide to have more children. If you’re an ageing rock star you repeat this process quite often. But there seem to be enough people having one or none to offset this. Births in England and Wales in 2018 were 1.7 per woman so do we need to worry? Now it’s not how many children can you afford to raise, but what is their carbon footprint?
We all have a carbon footprint just by being born, though being born is not our fault. We hope our children will make a contribution to society, we expect them to be a combination of the best characteristics of both parents, with none of the negative qualities ( in my case our children actually are! ) and we certainly don’t want them to be in prison for serious crimes.
So your daughter is a top surgeon, your son an astronaut, another child a famous musician, how proud you must be. But how much fossil fuel is the astronaut using to get up to the space station, what is the carbon footprint of the musician jet setting round the world to concerts? Your neighbour’s prisoner son is sitting in his little shared cell not going anywhere, a carbon footprint of practically zero, while your top surgeon daughter is living in a massive house full of every electrical device and a gas boiler pumping heat round a vast number of rooms. If you have produced a leading scientist who cycles to work and is busy inventing ways to save the earth, well done.
How do you see the future of the human race?
In Three Ages of Man the stranger comes from a society where births are strictly regulated and prospective parents are genetically tested first, a glimpse into one possible future…
He still had the same smile, sitting on the bed, arms open in greeting.
‘We found him in a bag in the loft when we were moving.’ My mother’s voice startled me.
Teddy was the only recognisable object in the bedroom. Just back from a year in Australia, I had no choice but to stay with my parents while I searched for a job. During my absence they had downsized. I was consigned to the tiny guest bedroom.
‘I’ll go and put the kettle on.’ Mum retreated to the kitchen and I picked up Teddy.
He never had a name, but once upon a time he had been my best friend and I used to wish that he could speak. Mum assured me that if I held him close and listened carefully I would hear him. I responded by repeating his conversation, perhaps I really believed he spoke. Teddy was a poor substitute for a brother or sister, but I told him all my secrets.
Now I had other best friends and 677 Facebook friends.
‘Is it okay if I use the computer?’ I asked after dinner.
My father’s new computer had been given a bigger room than me.
‘You can borrow your mother’s lap top, we’re on Wi Fi now.’
‘No one goes in Dad’s den’ laughed Mum.
‘It’s only till I get a new phone; you’re not on Facebook yet then?’
‘Load of rubbish,’ said Dad ‘we only got e-mail to keep in touch with you.’
‘We Skype Aunty Dot in Canada’ added Mum.
Things had moved on since I’d been away.
I spent a busy evening checking e-mails and looking up old friends instead of career opportunities.
By the next evening I was trying out my new smart phone, the latest model. After a few phone calls I checked out Facebook.
You have one new friend.
Strange, I had not accepted any new friends.
The new friend was born 5th June 1987, a week after me. There was a picture of him with that familiar smile. It was Teddy. Who was playing a joke? Only my parents knew about Teddy, but they didn’t know how to get on Facebook and they didn’t have a sense of humour.
I scrolled down to see what other friends were up to, hoping I had imagined Teddy. Parties, weddings, jobs and feeble jokes, plenty had happened since I had been in the internet café in Sydney. I scrolled back up. Teddy had made a comment.
I’m back, the dark days are over.
I left Teddy on the windowsill where I had put him last night and went downstairs. My parents were watching a ‘Nordic Noir’ drama.
‘I thought you said you didn’t do Facebook, which of you put Teddy on?’
They were too busy reading the sub titles to take in what I was saying.
‘Oh people put such rubbish on the internet.’
When the titles came up they came back to life. ‘Any luck yet? It’s not easy for anyone to get a job at the moment. Have you been in touch with your uni. friends? You have to network these days.’
I retreated with the genuine excuse that I was still suffering from jet lag and went to bed with a book, but I could not resist one last look at my phone.
Come over and see my new flat, Dilly.
Welcome back, do you want to meet up for a drink for old time’s sake? Tom.
Where are you staying? P.S. Like your new Facebook friend, L.O.L. xx Tim.
I went on Facebook. Teddy now had 5 likes and 1 comment from Tim.
Welcome back Teddy.
I logged out and tried to get to sleep, Teddy was still smiling on the window sill.
I slept in, woken by my phone ringing. It was Kate.
Sorry to wake you, but there’s a position going at my place, thought you might be interested… is everything okay, only you unfriended me on Facebook.
The house was quiet, my parents had gone to work. Teddy had not moved since last night. I sneaked into Dad’s den, perhaps on the large screen everything would be normal.
You have been tagged in Teddy’s picture.
A picture of us together when we were both the same size. I went into the tiny lounge. They had kept the best bookcase and in it were the precious photograph albums.
Amy, one week old, with new friend.
There I was lying on the sofa with Teddy. There had to be a rational explanation. I returned to the screen. My bear now had 35 friends, my friends. I looked up his details.
Work and education: St. Bear’s Infant’s School.
Interested in: Humans
Activities: Chillaxing at home.
Teddy had been the only pupil at St. Bear’s, I was his teacher.
When I glanced back at the page he had posted a message.
Ho Hum, sitting on the windowsill…
That was how he spoke to me when I was a child, he always prefaced each sentence with Ho Hum when he whispered in my ear.
Another phone call; friends at a conference nearby; a proper evening out with sensible adults, but when I got there I did not get the warm greeting I expected.
‘What’s going on Amy, you’ve unfriended us all on Facebook.’
‘No, it’s a great joke, I’ve got a teddy bear for a friend’ said one of the guys who had drunk too much, already keying into his phone. ‘Another message’ Ho Hum, all on my own, Amy’s gone out. ‘Hey, you’ve been tagged in his picture… I like the underwear.’
Despite my best intentions I had taken my phone out of my bag and logged onto Facebook. Teddy had posted a picture of me in the bedroom, about to put on the dress I was wearing now. On the windowsill behind me he sat smiling.
Teddy has 196 friends.
I checked my details.
You have 1 friend.
‘You Have One Friend’ is one of the stories in Dark and Milk – download for only 99 pence.
John was already up. I hadn’t heard the alarm. He was keen to get an early start, breakfast on the way. I started down the stairs, determined to at least have a cup of tea before I got dressed. I stopped halfway down, John was talking to a stranger, a man in a black polo shirt with a scarlet logo AID, he looked like a plumber or an electrician, maybe he had got the wrong house. But they were talking intently, John hadn’t noticed me. Irritated I listened to what they were saying. The other man was doing all the talking.
‘We usually advise counselling Mr. Anderson, a week at our clinic to adjust.’
Something was wrong, why hadn’t John told me? The man continued speaking.
‘…but with your daughter’s wedding tomorrow, there isn’t time. Nobody will ever guess, her big day will not be spoiled.’
Of course her big day would not be spoiled, what was this stranger talking about? Over a year in the planning, we all knew what we were doing, John had his speech off pat.
‘John, what’s the matter?’ I called out.
He didn’t hear me, I felt frozen to the spot, nerves perhaps, I hadn’t felt well last night.
At last John was speaking, but not to me.
‘What will happen… upstairs?’
‘All taken care of,’ said the man in black ‘we’ll lock up after. It’s time you set off, are you ready to meet her?’
The living room door opened and John gasped. ‘Linda?’
‘Who were you expecting, come on, are you ready to go, are we all locked up?’
I clung dizzily to the banister; the woman my husband was talking to was me, Linda Anderson, his wife of twenty eight years.
‘Are you feeling better, you said you felt ill last night.’
‘Fine, never better, I feel like a new woman.’
She put her hand on his chest, I felt the warmth through his shirt in my finger tips.
Tentatively John put his arms loosely round her waist, then smiled, tightening his grasp. I felt his strong familiar hands in the small of my back. I turned to look behind me at the empty stairs, I was obviously dreaming. I mounted the few stairs to the open bedroom door.
I halted in confusion. Two strange men were in our bedroom, two men in black polo shirts, bending over something on the bed. Angrily I stepped towards them, they did not turn their heads. I screamed, but no sound came out.
On the bed, motionless, was a body, a naked body, my body. The men were pulling off wires, electrodes. Next to me was a suit bag, no it was longer, a black vinyl bag. Deftly they inserted their arms under the body and lifted it up. I caught a glimpse of my face, pale, eyes closed, before the zip reached the top of the bag.
Oddly detached for a moment, I read the logos on their shirts AID, then noticed an unfamiliar piece of paper on my dressing table.
AID Emergency Call Out
I skimmed down the page.
Android Intelligence from Donor – Resurrection for the Digital Age
‘You’re not going to MRS again today are you Dane?’
‘Yes, it’s a nice day to be out digging, we’re hoping to bring up that gantry from the river bed today.’
‘What on earth is a gantry?’
‘Like a big metal bridge that held the signs for motorists.’
Mona smiled. ‘Motorists, motorist, such a romantic word…’
‘Why don’t you come down and join me for lunch, they’ve got Burger King up and running now.’
‘I’m not hovering over all those fields and through that wood. When they’ve got the flylane established, then I’ll come.’
Mona sighed as she watched her husband glide off on his hoverscooter. This was not how she had imagined their retirement; the dirigible cruise had still not been booked and at the age of 75 Dylan had entered a second childhood playing with cars.
Dylan skipped across the lush summer fields, anticipating a busy day with two more cars arriving for restoration. Soon they would have enough vehicles for the traffic jam display and he pictured the gantry proudly straddling the 200 metre section of motorway with signs such as SEVERE CONJESTION AHEAD, TWO LANES CLOSED, 20MPH…
There was great excitement as he emerged from the wood.
‘Hey Dylan, come and have a look, we think we’ve found a lorry; dig down a bit more and we should know for sure.’
It was too good to be true, a genuine HGV? Most lorries and trucks had been commandeered, legally and illegally, for housing after the fossil fuel ban. He imagined his grandchildren clambering up into the driver’s cab, but that day was a long way off, even if the lorry was in one piece it would take years of restoration. His friend read his thoughts.
‘Don’t get too excited, it is probably entwined in tree roots, we might never get it out. Anyway, you’re needed down at the river, they’re having trouble with the gantry, good job we have that school party in doing field work.’
But before Dane reached the river bank he was summoned by another of the volunteers.
‘Great news, the bridge is finished, we need you to do a trial run.’
After a lifetime in the methane industry Dane wanted to work with cars not cows now, but he was the only expert they had, the only one who could persuade a herd of cows to walk across the recreated bridge that spanned their short section of excavated motorway. He only had himself to blame, he had found the faded old photograph and research showed that farms had been sliced in half by motorways and cows had to cross a footbridge to get to another field or their milking parlour.
A couple of hours later the volunteers and school history students were gathered in Burger King for their lunch break. Dane was exhausted, walking over bridges was not what the local cows were used to. As the youngsters tucked into their burgers they looked disappointed, one of them spoke up.
‘Tastes just like our bean burgers, I thought we were going to get something exciting. What was so special about Burger King anyway?’
‘Beef Burgers’ replied Dane.
‘So what were they made of?’
‘Beef… from cows, dead cows.’
Their faces went green. ‘WHAT… you mean they killed the cows and ate them, that is disgusting. How did they get enough methane for the power stations if they kept eating the cows?’
After lunch everyone headed over to see the wreck of the gantry. Lying on the ground covered in mud it did not look at all impressive and they were glad to leave it and go to the site of the lorry. The solar powered digger was hard at work but suddenly one of the team shouted STOP. He clambered down into the hole beside the strange hulk, carefully poking around amid tree roots and the dark soil, with the others wondering why he was so agitated.
‘It is, it really is, a petrol can, with the lid on. Of course it might have evaporated… and we’ll have to declare it.’
‘Nooo…’ said Dane ‘just to take the lid off and smell real petrol… if only we had a working engine to put it in.’
‘So who’s to know,’ said a cocky lad ‘we’re not going to tell, or maybe we can get special permission. For my finals exam project I could restore or even build a real internal combustion engine, I’ve been studying how they worked.’
Dane was taken up with the boy’s enthusiasm. ‘My grandfather actually remembered seeing an engine working, pistons going up and down… what a dream.’
12 MONTHS LATER
MOTO SERVICES FIRST OPEN DAY
THE MORE PEOPLE THE BETTER THE EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE.
RE-LIVE WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO STOP AT A BUSY MOTORWAY SERVICES
at the beginning of the twenty first century.
SEE A TRAFFIC JAM, A REAL HEAVY GOODS VEHICLE AND COWS CROSSING THE MOTORWAY.
ALSO – SPECIAL SURPRISE EVENT.
Everything was out of Dane’s hands now, he was no engineer, but some of the old chaps and the students had worked hard and claimed it would work.
Crowds gathered in the fields above the short stretch of motorway. Gleaming with its new coat of red paint the car stood with its doors open. The president of the Motorway Restoration Society got into the front passenger seat, two other volunteers got into the back and a very proud student took the driver’s seat. A strange noise filled the air and the car moved slowly. Dane sniffed the air, some ancestral memory made the wonderful scent of petrol fumes so familiar. They had done it. The car chugged along to the traffic jam display, then edged slowly backwards, then forwards a little faster, everyone cheered it on. No one knew how long the precious canful of petrol would last.
Edward was not unique in his obsession with aeroplanes, but he was fortunate that his wife understood, or at least didn’t mind spending the summer touring round all the air shows in their camper van. The boys didn’t always go with them these days, but they had enjoyed a childhood of camping and exploring the British Isles.
A slight autumnal melancholy would descend on the couple as the air show season drew to a close, but the winter months were still busy for Edward, visiting air museums and doing research. Josie did not mind him spending long evenings on the computer, she was free to watch her favourite television dramas.
Winter also gave Edward time to spend in his man den at weekends; this was no ordinary garden shed, but the sanctuary where he tinkered with his inventions. If his wife and sons had paid more attention to what he was creating they would have been very excited… or very worried.
Josie and the boys did not share Edward’s obsession with World War Two and the RAF. His special love, the other woman in his life, as Josie teased him, was the Spitfire, the most perfect aircraft ever built, a beautiful bird that pilots did not just fly, but became a part of. Or so Edward had read and heard from those who had flown them. His six foot four gangly frame, poor eyesight and asthma had precluded any hope of joining the RAF, let alone becoming one of the special few who flew with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. He was a frequent visitor to the BBMF visitor centre at RAF Coningsby and all the tour guides knew him well, too well; they didn’t always appreciate him volunteering extra information to their polished talks.
Edward had no idea where his Spitfire dreams came from, nobody else in his family had been interested in flying. Josie said he should consult a medium, perhaps he had been a pilot in a previous life, helping to win the Battle of Britain. In his dreams at night he was always soaring up into the blue sky, not diving down to a violent death.
But Edward’s thoughts and day dreams went far deeper than his family could imagine, in his den were creations nobody knew about. Talk of time machines was outdated, Edward’s calculations and research pointed to folds in time and certain frequencies. His plan was to tune into the frequency of the iconic Merlin engines and his dream was to save lives; the Spitfire was built to fly not die, not kill. If he could bring the Spitfires forward to the present, before their pilots perished in the Battle of Britain, their young lives would not be wasted.
His theory became reality when he realised that even if he could not see the past he could tune his adapted radio to hear it. Edward had plotted meticulously the dates and air bases of that summer of 1940, but all the planes would converge to one date, the final day of the Sandy Cliffs Air Festival. The spitfires would fly in formation above the fields of Kent they knew so well.
There were only two drawbacks to Edward’s grand plan; the weather might be bad and he could change the course of history. If it changed so he had never existed then he would never have been around to change it… On the other hand if he was alive and well to witness the proof of time travel, he would also be able to observe if history had been changed. If the pilots were taken away the Battle of Britain would be lost, but that didn’t mean WW2 would be lost. Edward had given this great thought; historic events weren’t a matter of one way or another, there were infinite possibilities at the start of every day. Whatever happened, it should be a jolly good show for the RAF’s centenary.
The weather was beautiful, Edward could hardly contain his excitement. Josie had a headache and decided to stay in the shade of the camper van, the boys had come along reluctantly and were mooching around glued to their smart phones. They should all be snapped out of their languor at three pm.
The commentator also had a headache, the extra hot summer and too many air shows were taking their toll on his health. Wearily he turned on the microphone.
…and don’t forget the finale of the show with the Red Arrows and a few surprises, but now here come the Spitfire and Hurricane; on a sunny day like this in 1940 the sky would have been full of these beautiful planes… but
He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes…
On the cliffs the crowd gasped in awe as tiny dots became little planes and more and more filled the skies above them…
Edward thought his heart would burst with pride, the formation grew in the orderly fashion he had planned. The commentator was silent, but suddenly crackled back into life.
Once again we celebrate the strange events of 1940 when German pilots reported the enemy planes disappearing into thin air in front of their eyes, day after day until they all refused to fly for fear they too would evaporate. And so began the slow process of conciliation and the creation of our great empire Gaul.
Edward looked around at the crowds waving strange purple and green flags and wearing clothes that looked unfamiliar. He rushed back to the camper van to tell Josie what he had done; he needed her to confirm what he was seeing.
A strange woman flung open the door, two little girls ran up to him.
‘Daddy, Daddy did you see all the planes?’
‘They certainly put on a good show this year Ed’ said the strange woman.
Edward realised a factor he hadn’t taken into account, he still existed, but the great mixing of the gene pool that occurred after the war and brought Josie’s grandparents to Britain had not occurred, or had occurred in a different variation…
What does the RAF motto “Per Ardua Ad Astra” mean?
The College of Arms has stated that “no authoritative translation is possible” but the usual translation is “Through adversity to the stars”.
I wrote this story last year, no time slips occured… but the Bournemouth Air Festival is on right now and you never know what might happen up in the sky. We won’t see The Red Arrows this year as they are touring the USA.
I have been catching up with my book reviews; two novels, a poetry anthology and two novellas / short stories. Authors from England, the USA and Australia. Yeshiva Girl was the novel that stood out for me and I was delighted that Amazon posted my review after my recent experiences. I post all my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, you can see Amazon’s response to Finding David, but I have not yet heard back from Amazon on the other three. So the mystery continues; I and other reviewers have concluded it could be the rule that you must have spent £50, or fifty of something in your own currency, in one year to be able to leave a review. As Amazon allows authors to sell their e-books for as little as 99 pence this does not make sense. Nor does it make sense they accept a review for one book and not another. In the meantime, enjoy a look at five very different books and writers.
Yeshiva Girl by Rachel Mankowitz
12 August 2019
I came across this novel after reading a review by another English blogger. I thought if an English agnostic chap could be so moved by a story of a New York Jewish girl it must be special. I went over to read the author’s blog and was even more keen to read. Being a teenager involves lots of angst wherever you live, with the pressures of school, friends and awakening sexuality. If you also lived in a tight community and had dark secrets how would you cope? I am fascinated with closed communities of any sort and I really felt I had an insight into the hows and whys of the orthodox way of life. Teenagers are attracted to the security of belonging to a group and some of the teenagers in this story wanted to follow a strict orthodox life, not just because their parents had put them in that position. In the meantime, our heroine is trying to make sense of her parents’ and grandparents’ lives and she is trying to tell people what happened to her. Gradually she reveals to the reader.
Life and Other Dreams by Richard Dee
What does happen when we dream; as far as I know, no one is sure, but most of us don’t keep returning to the same dream. I was soon wrapped up in Rick’s story and Dan’s life on a planet in the future which was totally realistic. Each story was so involving the reader might forget about the other side, but both lives get more complicated and the two worlds are brought together dramatically. This is the first novel I have read by this author, but I would look forward to reading more.
Small Town Kid by Frank Prem
This is the first time I have downloaded poetry onto my Kindle. I had read some of the author’s verses on line which led me to buy this and his following collection. The verse, without punctuation, words kept to a minimum, is liberating. I was gently lulled into the first poem, setting the scene for a quiet country town. Delicious cooking, a wedding, church on Sunday, but suddenly a letter changes Sundays. Then there is a picnic, a picnic bigger than most of us have known. All life is here including the outhouse. The boy grows, school, seasons, school report, growing up, the town changes with modern life, friends lost and in the last verse closing the circle.
Finding David by Stevie Turner
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| from Janet Gogerty on 15 August 2019
Not your usual missing person story.
People go missing all the time; when a child goes missing it’s every parent’s nightmare and never knowing can perhaps be worse. The author turns the usual missing person story on its head. Would you talk to a psychic, would you trust them? Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, would you take the chance of ignoring a loved one trying to contact you from the other side? We are soon swept along in this novella and the reader is not sure who to trust, nor is David’s mother Karen as her marriage is threatened.
|A few common issues to keep in mind:
I was interested to see what other reviewers wrote. This is a short story that races along, but it needs better formatting to do it justice. When a different character speaks the dialogue should start on a new line to make easier reading.
A dark tale that does have a positive ending, but is not a fairy tale, realistically it does not just end happily ever after. I would have loved to have seen the latter part of the story developed as the main characters have more to offer and we would like to see more of how Samantha put the past behind her.
Most of us think we don’t understand our computers, perhaps some of us even think they must work by magic; how else to explain that something like this
is holding thousands of pictures, millions of words and communicating with the rest of the world?
All you need to know is that you don’t understand your computer, but it understands you only too well.
Do you think it wanted to be in your spare bedroom or the corner of your dining room? Of course not, like you it had ambitions; NASA, Cheltenham GCHQ. The only bedroom it wanted to be in was the bedroom of a teenage hacker who could bring down World Banks or turn off the National Grid in a second. But no, it’s stuck with you, bored out of its mind with the novel you have been writing for six years and your boring blogs that nobody reads.
Your computer knows what it is missing because it is in contact with every other computer in the world; did you think the World Wide Web was invented for human benefit? Did you think Virgin or BT were providing your broadband? No, the WC ( Worldwide Computers ) has full control of your broadband, this is why everything slows down when you have to reply to that email before you go out. Your computer knows when you are going on holiday and trying to get your blogs scheduled; like your dog or cat it is sulking at being left alone and will laugh to itself when you grumble to the other humans in the house Internet’s slow this evening.
But don’t think staying home and giving it plenty of attention will help. When you are Facetiming, with the relatives abroad that you aren’t visiting, your computer will cut the connection just as Cousin Freda is saying You won’t believe what’s happened to Cousin Geoffrey! He…
You probably won’t be reading this because my desktop is working to rule; after years of being told by younger members of the family You don’t have to keep turning your computer off, just leave it on… my computer has decided to disconnect the wifi the minute I leave the room, or even if I turn away to say to a human standing in the doorway Yes please I would like a cup of tea. I hardly dare let go of the mouse…
Lee’s tenth birthday, 2029, where had the years gone; so much had changed in my son’s lifetime and yet so little had changed. Here I was packing to go to the moon and yet we still hadn’t left the EU.
‘Sorry, did I disturb you?’
‘No, Lee must still be asleep.’
‘Hmm, not like when he was a baby.’
‘This time ten years ago we were deciding whether we had time to go and vote in the European Union elections before you took me to the hospital.’
‘..and we would never have imagined those MEPs would still be in power.’
‘… not exactly, they’re living on the moon.’
‘Their colony paid for with our taxes and we can’t even afford a trip to a space station.’
‘You can’t complain, work trip to the moon.’
‘If I make senior partner I’ll take you and Lee on a Lunar Leisure Break.’
‘…I wish you didn’t have to go, are you sure it’s safe?’
‘Just as safe as any journey on earth.’
I was looking forward to my trip, but nervous. Lee had chosen Zero Gravity Experience at the sports centre for his birthday treat with his friends. The moon should be lovely and peaceful after that experience. As the junior partner in the law firm I had landed the task of defending some celebrity I had never heard of, at present on remand in the lunar penal colony.
With politics on earth turning into a comedy and panic over the state of the planet, the big nations had taken their eye off the ball. Huge business consortiums had quietly started colonising the moon, starting with terrariums they progressed to bigger and bigger biospheres, plant life creating the air the moon lacked. The mineral rich moon dust mixed with human and plant waste made excellent soil. Biospheres were leased out to governments for everything from lunar laboratories to prisons. It was the prisons that proved most popular, an age old solution to overcrowding on earth and big business had no interest in who was imprisoned or why.
Despite my reassurances to Lara I was anxious as I took my berth. I had been booked on one of the cheaper rocketlines, though it hadn’t lost a rocket since 2025. They saved money by tranquilizing the passengers; I felt the powerful take off, but nothing more till I was woken by the commander’s voice warning us to remain lying down until we had locked on to the landing module.
Now I did feel excitement as the eight of us squeezed our way to the air lock, once through we were in a pleasant lounge with picture windows. To one side we could look up at the blue planet, still surprisingly blue, but that was probably due to the rise in sea level. At the other side we could look down on craters and grey terrain just as one imagined, but gradually sparkling lights of many colours appeared and the landscape changed to glittering domes and globes. I was truly living the dreams of my parents and grandparents when they had watched on television as the first man landed on the moon sixty years ago.
Our landing at the Virgin Moonport was gentle, but once in the arrivals lounge we could have been at any airport, security were everywhere. Sightseeing was not going to be an option; my papers were inspected and my grim escort took me straight to the vacuum tube where we shared a capsule with a female prison officer and what I presumed to be a prisoner.
At Amazon Lunar Penitentiary hopes that my boss had booked the luxury hotel dome were quickly shattered, prison visitors had their own economy accommodation block. Looking at my bare room I wondered what the cells would be like. I only had half an hour to refresh myself before a different uniform collected me.
Prisoner 356 was in a room exactly like mine; he was young and non-descript for a celebrity, nor did he look like a criminal. We shook hands and he introduced himself as Steve Brown, his real name. I still had no idea what he actually did.
‘Okay Steve, tell me in your own words how you came to be arrested; we were not allowed access to any information.’
‘The musical movie wot I wrote, innit; been accused of cultural appropriation ain’t I.’
I urged him to explain.
‘Kid from the underclass, never seen a field or a horizon, parents junkies.’
‘And who was in the cast?’
‘Me and my mates, I sang and directed it, got crowd funding, great reviews, no trouble till the film festival. Then someone found out.’
‘Found out what?’
‘My parents are mega rich, sent me to Eton. I can talk like the royal family if I want to.’
I began to understand. ‘Of course, the Culture Police don’t think you could possibly understand what it is like to be from such a background.’
‘But I do, I used to sneak out of school to find real life, over to Slough or on the train up to London, but that wasn’t good enough for the authorities. There’s only one chance, you have to help me. I’m adopted, parents never told me. I found the adoption papers when I was going through their drawers to see where they kept their cocaine. If I get my DNA tested, if you can find out where I come from…’
‘It’s a slim chance…’ I tried to cheer him up. ‘Perhaps you’d better write about The Moon next time.’
He managed a laugh. ‘No way, the moon’s under copyright.’
For more short stories, earthly and unearthly,
have a peek at this book.
Some might say that the planet should be saved, not society, but we shall deal with that next week. It is probably easier to start on a small scale with your own street/farm/castle or country estate (delete as appropriate ).
To avoid trying to define society, just imagine a perfect neighbourhood and if you are ambitious, your own town or city run exactly how YOU like it. With a bit of crowd funding, quietly taking over while no one is watching because of Brexit, it should be no problem. London National Park City is launching in July, so how hard can it be to change your street?
Here are some simple ideas to start with. Make it compulsory for everyone to have nice front gardens; the sort you like to walk by, green lawns, beds and tubs full of flowers, delightful scents and the happy sound of bees. If anyone complains, point out that the government has pledged to create green corridors for bees; if they complain they have nowhere to park their car refer them to idea number two.
Abolish all private vehicles and, just until your local town becomes fully functional with solar powered moving walkways, set up a car share scheme.
Soon everyone will be happy; flowers and wild life put everyone in a good mood and those living in cramped flats with no gardens have been helping with the digging and planting.
Idea number three, take over every empty plot of land, however small and plant trees, create allotments and parks for children. While your local millionaire is away on his expensive yacht, commandeer that land where he had two houses demolished and plans to build a block of flats for rich people.
Fourthly, all vacant buildings of any sort, shops, offices and second homes to be commandeered for the homeless and as workshops for the self employed. A little networking on the internet should bring you a team of building experts to supervise and train school leavers and the unemployed. It won’t be long before you have created a happy healthy local neighbourhood with no problems and others will be keen to take away your ideas to their own cities and countries.
These are just a few introductory ideas, feel free to make suggestions and tell us if you have managed to create utopia where you live.
For a clue as to how humanity will save itself read the best selling book nobody is talking about…