I forget to say! Remember last week when we said goodbye to Uncle Andy, and he put something into my coat pocket? I didn't want to look with mum and greg there and when I got home the email from lucy1965
got me too excited and I forgot about it. Then a comment from inky_jewel
reminded me. I rushed to my coat pocket to find a note from Uncle Andy, and wrapped up inside of it, 6 £50 notes! To me that's an absolute fortune - as much as I'd make in a few months saturday work! The note read:
Here's something to keep you going. Don't worry too much - the oil company is paying for it! Buy something nice but don't spend too much of it - you could be very glad of it over the next few months.
Good luck with school. Keep working. Hopefully when I see you next the farm will be starting to produce some food!
If you ever need me, I'll be here.
Lots of love
It took a little bit of willpower but I only ended up spending ten pounds of it. With Mum and Greg both working from home the computer's been in use most of the time so the time to post these messages has been few and far between. I decided I'd go and get something to write in during the day that I could then copy up. I came up with this:
It's a leather bound, acid-free paper Moleskin, like the one Hemingway used to use! It opens up to have a surprising number of pages, which I've been writing my journal entries in when we've run out of power rations!
Later in the week, I got to finally meet lucy1965
! she sent a message saying she'd landed in Cardiff and we arranged somewhere to meet for lunch. I knew mum wouldn't understand, so I slipped out and told her I was going to Lindsey's.
I wandered down to the juice bar on Cotham Hill, which despite being a tiny place was still going strong through the crisis. All that local organic produce is good for business.
"Mia!" A lady with greying brown hair worn up in hairsticks came over to me as soon as I entered. She smiled and her face dimpled. She hugged me with a warmth that seemed like I'd known her forever.
"Hi!" she said, after we'd ordered and sat to wait for our drinks. "The train was a nightmare, it's nice to sit down. So how are you? Did your dad wind up in New Zealand?"
"He left last week," I said. "He rang to say he'd got there ok - obviously whatever strings Emma - that's his new wife - pulled, they worked, they're into the country. I'm just glad I'm not there. I couldn't leave Bristol."
Our drinks arrived - A pot of tea between us and two rich juices, mostly of locally harvested berries. Lucy sipped at hers and her eyes sparkled.
"Mmm!" She said. "Someone's doing something right around here! How do you
think things are going in Bristol? I know what the papers say; I want to hear what you think."
"It's ok," I swung my legs subconsciously, enjoying the taste of blackberries and raspberries. "I mean, we don't seem to be struggling like some people are saying. There's nothing here too bad - lots of crime in St Paul's, lots of homeless people. But all the poor people has its upsides - there's hardly anyone out drinking the night away anymore, so there's far less fights! The police keep saying a lot of the time they have less to deal with - even if it's more serious when something happens."
Our food was brought over by the student serving behind the counter, who was dressed in a lovely pastel coloured skirt and a massive smile that made me jealous. I had lovely hot quesadillas and Lucy had a quinoa and courgette salad. It was, needless to say, gorgeous.
I hummed along to the jack johnson tune playing in the background. Lucy noticed.
"What bands are you listening to?" She asked. "I ask not for me, for I am approaching senility, but David and Emily aren't familiar with the music here."
"Same as everywhere I guess," I said. "A lot of American stuff though - a lot of the British bands these days sound like Rolling Stones clones. The cheap internet downloads means you can listen
to pretty much anything, but there's hardly any foreign bands on tour in the Uk anymore."
"So any names I should be dropping?"
"A lot of angry stuff," I admitted, "Punk like Anti-flag, Greenday, The Hold Steady, Biffy Clyro... but then once I've got my anger out things like Iron and Wine, Sigur Ros, Appleseed Cast, Explosions In The Sky... pretty ambient stuff. There's British ones too - Radiohead, Mogwai, Oceansize... After all that revolutionary music I need something to cool me down!"
"Radiohead, Greenday and Sigur Ros I recognize -- I don't know if you're familiar with Christopher O'Riley's transcriptions of Radiohead for classical solo piano?
Remind me with an e-mail and I'll send you a .zip file with a copy; you might find some of it interesting -- but the rest I don't know."
"Sounds good!" I said. I was surprised to see her actually write some of the names down - I hope it goes down well with her kids or there'll be hell to pay! She looked at my steaming cup of Earl Gray and the other people in the cafe drinking hot drinks.
"How the hell
is England still getting tea?"
I laughed and sipped at the magical green stuff. "I don't know, I guess our need is great enough! It's not as if it goes off - they probably just ship on massive slow boats from India."
"True," she said. "We've been having trouble holding onto coffee but that stuff goes off much quicker -- some of my friends have had a very difficult time coming off their morning mocha fix. NOT pleasant to watch!"
''seriously," I said, leaning forward across the table, "how is it in the US? We’ve been getting such mixed reports.''
"Remember, love, we're talking about a very large country, and the situation varies state to state: it's rather like saying 'How is it in Africa?'" She stopped smiling then. "Overall? The worst of the violence is past. People are starting to come out of the shock and realizing that they have a LOT of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. An inherent suspicion of the Federal government is a deep-seated part of the American psyche -- there are enough people left who remember the Japanese-American internment camps that only the very desperate have gone to the FEMA settlements -- and so no one's expecting anyone from Washington to step in and straighten things out.
“Unfortunately that means a lot of duplication of effort, all around the country, and if the winter's bad --" She stopped and sipped at her tea. "A lot more people are going to die before things stabilize. Spring's going to be hard: we're only a handful of generations removed from farming, most of us, but that's time enough for a lot to be lost. The whole culture's changed in only 50 years, and parts of it are going to have to change back much more quickly."
'Do you already have a house lined up? Do you have a garden?'
"Oh, Mia, I'm sorry -- that was terribly gloomy of me!” She smiled. “Yes, I do have a house lined up, though it isn't finished: there's some trouble with the filters on the rainwater tanks and the clay plaster on the walls can't be finished until the masonry stove is run through its test firing, so we won't be moving in there for at least another three weeks. Bryan and Jayne have a MIL apartment as an extension on their house, and they've asked us to stay with them: it's just up the hill from the clinic, and after the initial team meeting Scott will be working from home.
"And there is a garden: the enclosures for the houses and the lot have been designed as hedgerows -- though they're still very small. Because the property was originally a car lot, the rest has been designed for raised beds until a soil amelioration team can come out and have a proper look, and see if we can clean it up with cover crops or if topsoil would have to be replaced. I mean to start some things in the sunspace as soon as we're settled; I had to leave my garden behind, but now I have a new space to play with, and a lot more vegetables will grow here without having to be nursed along!"
"Speaking of vegetables --" here she grinned at me. "How's the cooking going?"
"Not too bad," I felt a little embarrassed. "I cooked a paella yesterday - we used our rations on prawns - a bit naught but it tasted so damn good... There's been some good lessons on cooking in school lately."
"And school's going ok?" She took another sip of juice. "Do you feel like you know what you want to study?"
"I don't know..." I shrugged. ''what do you think I should study?''
"You know I'm likely to plug the biological sciences!" she laughed. "I don't think you have to throw over any established ambitions and take up agriculture just yet: there's always going to be a need for doctors and engineers and plumbers --"
"And midwives, unless the people screaming for zero population growth are determined to till with their Zimmer frames! I don't think there's going to be as much use for degrees in media studies or MBAs, but the world hasn't shrunk as much as a lot of people would like to think. There's still room for a great many sorts of jobs; what's happening now is that they're being revalued in light of energy becoming expensive again.
"Whatever you choose to study, history should be on the list -- remember what I said about 'duplication of effort', and pointing out to you and inky_jewel
that there were already programmes in place to help all of you learn how to garden? We don't have time to keep reinventing the wheel: being able to make connections and get information to people who need it is going to be a matter of life and death for some time to come; that sort of synthesis needs to be encouraged, and history is very good at teaching you to connect disparate events."
‘‘How do you think this'll all end up? Are you feeling good about this new life?''
"You know, it's funny, but I am. I'm moving to a house that's half the size of the one I left, we’re earning between the two of us about what Scott used to make on his own -- but we both have work we love, our son is married and happy and they both have work they love, all of us can eat and stay warm and even have some time to goof around, and most of our friends aren't on the other side of the ocean from us any more.
"We really didn't fit our neighbourhood, before; now when things go wrong we won't be forced to deal with them on our own. I know that the attitudes towards privacy here have meant that someone could go 20 years without speaking more than a handful of words to their next-door neighbours, but people are going to have to rely on the ones around them to get them through, again -- and while sometimes that's intrusive and claustrophobic and just damned annoying, it's not an entirely evil situation."
Her phone buzzed after a little while longer. She got it out of her dark green satchel at her feet and looked at the screen.
"I've got to go," she said, "Scott's finished with his friend and we really need to get back on the train!"
"Ok," I said, finishing the last of my drink. "Well it was really nice to meet you!"
"Me too," she said. She gave me a warm hug. "You take care of yourself Mia."
We left the cafe and she went one way down the street, me the other. We stopped and waved at each other a couple of times, then she disappeared out of sight.
And that was that; a fleeting meeting with someone I had only known as a page on the internet, an email buddy, there for a lunchtime with me. Another person starting a new life in the vastly different world without oil.
[author note: week 29. Many thanks to lucy1965
for collaborating on today's post.
The moleskine is mine - if you look carefully you can read a paragraph from my novel, Iridescence and Light! I bought it from this site
. It used to be that Moleskines were hugely popular - writers like Hemingway did all their work in them. The company went bust in the eighties but recently an Italian firm started making them again using the traditional acid-free paper and quality leather and traditional methods. It's the kind of small scale operation that produces lovely items worthy of my purchase.]