Moments

There are moments in my life, unexpected, unnerving moments, when I find myself looking in from the outside; when I find myself watching me going about my life. I’m observing me, from a distance.

You have to understand that these are brief moments, glimpses, that happen whilst I’m awake. And they happen with alarming regularity these days. Perhaps I find myself standing at the toilet, or about to deal with something at work, or about to go to sleep. And I find myself looking in, detached, watching me about my daily life.

Those are the moments when I most wish I wasn’t me. The moments when I wish I was just watching the dull, movie me. When I wish I was someone else, doing something else.

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Book review: ‘Last Light’ by Alex Scarrow.

‘Last Light’  by Alex Scarrow is a fictional, apocalyptic thriller that exposes the fragility of society and civilization in early 21st Century England.  An England that houses millions of people into packed urban areas, where they are utterly reliant upon the importation of food, and where supermarkets use the  ‘just-in-time’ delivery system that saves on shop floor space and expensive warehousing.  The England that came close to complete chaos during the limited tanker drivers’ strike of 2001, when Tony Blair’s government described the country as  ‘nine meals from anarchy’.  Little has changed since that time, with The Independent recently reporting that England’s food growing, importation and delivery system remains as fragile as ever.

In ‘Last Light’ explosions, that appear at first to be unrelated acts of terrorism, cripple the world’s oil supply and chaos ensues.  Our Kiwi oil engineer hero is trapped in Iraq with a platoon of British soldiers, as they fight to get out of a country in meltdown.  His wife is stuck in Manchester, desperately trying to reach their children in London, as the government shuts down the transportation network.  Meanwhile his children are holed up at a friend’s house in London, without power and with insufficient food and fresh water, whilst gangs loot, rape and murder in the streets outside.

Our hero begins to realise that everything is connected.  That the situation befalling the world is directly related to a Peak Oil report he compiled for some shadowy characters a decade ago.  He realises that his family is now in danger.

. . . and that’s all I’m giving away.  Buy it and read it yourself.  I found it well written, and rather gripping.  The depiction of England as only a few power cuts or failed fuel and food deliveries away from disintegration is very chilling.

I only have one gripe with the novel, and that is the bad guys behind it all.  I think the novel would have worked better without them. That said, I still loved this book.

Here’s a short quote from the book:

As they entered the tinned goods aisle, Leona was aware that it was noticeably busier than the other areas in the supermarket they had walked through; half-a-dozen shoppers, like herself, warily eyeing each other up, whilst filling their trolleys with canned goods.  As she, Dan and Jacob wheeled their trolleys down towards them, there was a moment of shared communication, eyes meeting, and barely perceptible nods of acknowledgement.

They’re here for the same reason.

Somehow the thought that there were other people out there who had begun to see beyond the news soundbites to something more disturbing, made the bizarre situation she was in right now feel that much more real.

Leona could see that these few people alone had already cleared the shelves of several ranges of product in this aisle.

My God.  There’s only six of them at it, and already the shelves in this aisle are beginning to empty.

She shuddered at the thought of what it was going to be like in this supermarket, and every other one around the country, when the penny finally dropped for everyone else.”

[End of quote.]

In my own work I occasionally meet celebrities.  A fortnight ago I met Simon Scarrow, brother of Alex and himself an author too.  He came across as a very nice chap.  I mentioned  ‘Last Light’  and he said he had read his brother’s book and enjoyed it.  He immediately added that it had made him view the world a little differently.  “It seems a little more fragile”  he said “and I must admit I store a little more food since reading it.”

I did exchange a few messages with Alex Scarrow, through Facebook, after reading his book.  He said he was happy with how the book was received and was planning the sequel  (which became  ‘After Light’).  At the time, I asked him about food storage and prepping.  I wondered, having written the book, whether it had changed his own view of the world.  He confessed that researching and writing the book had caused him concern, and that he had considered prepping.  However, he had come to the realisation that, if the shit really did hit the fan, any  ‘punk with a gun’, as he termed it, could take his store.

Perhaps that’s the single major difference between England and much of the world.  Gun ownership is relatively low, and it’s difficulty for most people to obtain a firearm legally.  But we do share a common fear with the rest of the world  –  no matter what weapons we have, no matter how well prepared we are, a better armed and experienced individual or group can take it all away from us.

‘Last Light’  by Alex Scarrow  –  I very highly recommend it.

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I know a bit about computers.

a laptop

 

I know a bit about computers.  Well, a little bit.  I’m fairly competent online at downloading stuff, and I can run some diagnostics and registry cleansers and things that will clean up your hard drive and speed up your laptop.  I can even open the back up and replace a keyboard or other components when it comes to it.  I don’t know a lot, but I know enough that I’ve helped others online and in my local pub  –  which led to a brief but interesting conversation this week in the local.

A chap I know by face, and who I was once introduced to (although I forget the name), looked excited to see me when I approached the bar. I don’t really know him at all, but he has always seemed pleasant enough.  He’s a bit of a cockney geezer, if you know what I mean; the kind of bloke who always seems to have something on the go, some plan.  Anyway, we exchanged an  ‘Alright?’, before he leaned in towards me conspiratorially.  “Just the man I wanted to see . . “ he said quietly,  “ . . you know a bit about computing, don’tcha?”   I told him that sure, I know a little.  I expected him to be having some performance related problems with his laptop or something, or that he was maybe seeking some advice on what product to buy.  No, that wasn’t it at all.

He looked around the bar before leaning in again,  “I want to send someone a virus.” he quietly announced.  Not what I was expecting to hear, I can tell you.  I politely let him know that that wasn’t my area of expertise at all, and that I honestly didn’t know where you’d start with that kind of project.  I suggested he might like to Google it.  Clearly disappointed, he nodded and went back about his business.

It was a fascinating little exchange, and certainly not the kind of conversation you have every day.  I was left deeply intrigued.  What business was he involved in that would leave him wanting to dump a virus on somebody or some other business?  What had someone done to him that would rile him so?  And what level of conflict, in his world, was this exactly?  Was he responding to an attack against him, or was his plan the opening salvo in something that would quickly escalate.  I wanted to know it all . . . and yet I wanted to know nothing.  I wanted to be as far away from all of that as possible.

I’ve known some shady and dangerous characters in my time.  You know, people you’re glad to find yourself on the right side of.  People who blatantly don’t operate within the law.  The truth is I’ve always been happier to see them leave my life.  I know there’s a whole different world out there, beneath the thin veil of law-abiding society, and I’m very happy to encounter it so rarely . . . to know so very little about it.

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Thrift shop shopping list.

I visited my local ‘NANSA’  charity thrift shop saturday.  Amongst the items I bought was a hardback notebook with ‘Shopping List’ sheets inside.  I thought it would make a nice little doodle pad for my nephew.  When I got it home I leafed quickly through the pages, just to be sure there was nothing adult written within it.  Imagine my surprise to find a full note on the final sheet.  It read as follows:

 

Paula,

I hope we have not

fell out.  It has been

very bad for us the last

few days we have had

a lot of worry we

do not know weather we

are on our head or feet

I did not kwo what

to say to you I thought

it was best sara

got in touch.  Sorry if

I was wrong.”

 

I have copied the note exactly as it appears, spelling and grammatical errors and all.  A couple of phrases suggest a local Norfolk, England accent, and it feels like a woman’s handwriting  –  hell, it’s clearly talking about deep feelings, and I don’t know many men who write notes about such things.

 

I’m left wondering whether Paula and the author are speaking, and friends again.  I do hope the  ‘Shopping List’  note was just a first draft, and that Paula received the final copy as a written letter, email or text.  It’s interesting to me how this brief window onto somebody else’s life left me concerned for both Paula and the author; left me hoping that they’d resolved whatever the situation was, or that things had at least turned out for the best.

 

Funny how a stranger’s note, that has absolutely nothing to do with me, could leave me concerned and wishing for the best.  My reaction has taught me a little about myself, and perhaps about the human condition that afflicts those of us who are not emotionally blind or psychotic.

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Killing a baby rabbit.

a ferrets

 

I killed a baby rabbit today.  I was cycling into work when it happened.  I need to be at my post by 5am, so I pretty much have the roads to myself at that time of day.  It was the carrion crow and the large black-backed gull that I spotted first, dancing and pecking around something at the side of the road.  Then I spotted the bunny between them, spinning itself in circles whilst its back legs dangled limp behind it.  It must have been winged by a car or lorry.

The birds quit pecking at the bunny, and flew off, once I was on top of them.  I lay my bike on the verge and stooped to pick up the doomed little thing.  It squealed like the devil before I swiftly despatched it by banging its skull forcefully down on the asphalt.  I threw the body on the verge, so the birds could pick at it at their leisure, without having to dodge vehicles.  I closed my eyes and said a prayer for the little tike’s soul.

I was raised on a small council housing estate in a very rural village. I was therefore, to some extent, a country boy.  I know how to catch a rabbit with ferret and nets, or with a snare.  There was a time, when I was younger and fitter, when I could catch one with a stick, after stalking them alongside a combine in a field being harvested. I can dispatch a rabbit, quickly and painlessly, even without the aid of asphalt.  I know how to prepare and cook them  . . and I know how good they can taste.  I’m experienced at viewing, and using, rabbits as food.  Yet killing a wounded rabbit in the road, an act of mercy that I’ve found myself performing twice in two years, feels different these days.  I’ve lived in towns and cities for too long, and the death of an animal now saddens me, sometimes deeply. Would you believe I say a little prayer for them everytime I euthanise them or see them roadkilled these days!

This morning’s incident got me thinking.  If a man-made or natural disaster causes an extreme TEOTWAWKI scenario then there could be a lot of people hungry for bush tucker.  Somewhere as overpopulated as England, where I live, is likely to very quickly witness a crash in the wild bird and mammal population (much like during the war, or the Great Depression).  The countryside will be positively packed full of hungry urban folk, who are desperate to catch and kill them some bushtucker.  It will be a steep learning curve for them, but learn they must.  And once the raided stockpiles have gone, once the carefully cultivated vegetable gardens have been trampled, once the bushtucker is rare . . cannibalism must surely follow.

My only hope is that, long before a population crash due to famine, there will be a population crash due to illness, disease and the consumption of untreated water  –  preferably while the hordes are still urban, still trapped in their towns and cities.

A positive thought for a Monday morning, eh!

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