Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Saturday, May 31 – Fair shares
I wouldn’t let Martin go into the village again today, even though we could do with some vegetables from the barter market at the pub. But Gail said Tony was going anyway with Brad and Flyn, so they could fetch our supplies, in return for some duck, rabbit or venison the next time Martin is able to go out with his gun.
They didn’t come back till early afternoon and when Tony came up to see us he was empty handed and apologetic. He hadn’t been able to get supplies for us or for his own family. The new arrivals have taken it all. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but he said it was chaotic. They may have been comatose yesterday, but they were fully awake today and as the local growers and the farm butcher started setting up at the pub, they just launched themselves at the goods and took it all. Tony thinks the farmers won’t dare to come back while the encampment continues and the arrivals have also taken over the pub and Mick has moved into the vicarage. That will be a culture shock for him I said, but it was the only moment of amusement in Tony’s account of the situation.
We’re all shocked at the change in circumstances these badly behaved people have brought on our village. Up to now, through all these months, we have been civil and decent, sharing what we have and ensuring that no one really suffered. But now, without any sense of fairness, we will all be worse off. No one will dare to go into the village to exchange surplus produce.
Tony said that there are other signs too of how inconsiderate they are being. Any wooden fence fronting the road is theirs for the taking, back gardens are being raided for vegetables and eggs and most villagers are learning not to answer a knock at the door. Thank goodness we’re tucked away here, I said. But Tony said we shouldn’t count on it. They’ll start searching further afield soon, he said. The only good piece of news he brought us was the rumour that rations are being increased and there should be a delivery early next week. Let’s hope they bring some potatoes, I said.


Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Friday, May 30 – Why won’t they listen

Martin said he wanted to go into the village today. He insisted his foot wasn’t troubling him, but I know it is and said he might manage to walk there but he wouldn’t be able to run back, if he had to, so he shouldn’t go. I thought he’d listened to me, but late this morning I realised I couldn’t hear him chopping wood and he wasn’t trundling logs up to the house in the wheelbarrow either. So I went up the drive to see Tony and Gail and found that he’d ignored me completely and had gone off with Tony and Brad.
Gail was pretty annoyed too. We’ve had enough of the men thinking this is all one great game. So we both spent an anxious hour or so waiting for them to come back. When they did, we were both waiting with grim faces which made them laugh and they told us there was no danger on the green this morning as nearly all the travellers were still out for the count. The booze they’d managed to find, illicit or legal we don’t know, had knocked them out and the few who were awake were in no fit state to fight.
But that doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t be wary, I said. And you shouldn’t go taking risks either. All three of them laughed again and I can see that Gail and I will have to keep a close eye on them. They are bound to want to check on the situation again soon.
So I tried to put my dark thoughts behind me for the rest of the day. Although the weather hasn’t been good, Jane has been encouraging Sooty to exercise. This dear little lamb is getting stronger by the day and Neil says he thinks she definitely has a chance now. Another week and he thinks Jane should try feeding her lamb nuts to gradually wean her. She is tasting the grass already and trying to do little hops and skips. Jane carries her some of the time, but when she puts her down on the grass Sooty walks at heel, just like a little black poodle.
And my hens are comforting with their soft clucking and the broody hen puffs herself up over her clutch of eggs, which are all marked so I can still take the freshly laid ones indoors.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Thursday, May 29 – A walk to see the fray

The story so far….. the UK has been suffering a nationwide power cut since October, creating chaos in towns and cities, but out in the countryside Sandra and her family and neighbours have been coping well…. until now…..

Last night we all talked at length about the new arrivals and whether there will be a problem, then we decided that I should go into the village today with Tony and Neil to see for myself. Martin and Stephen really wanted to come, but they aren’t up to walking that far yet, so I left them to fetch logs and water and keep the fire going. It’s been chilly and drizzly today, so I can’t do any laundry outside and we’ve needed both fires for cooking, boiling water and keeping warm.
Martin thought we should go in the car or Neil’s Landrover, but I said that would draw too much attention, so we walked across the fields and I wore even drabber, scruffier clothes than usual. We all carried heavy walking sticks, just in case, and as we approached the village green we could hear shouting.
Then we rounded the corner and there was the green crowded with tents, looking like the end of the Reading Festival. The two young oak trees planted to mark the Jubilee and the Millennium had been snapped off and a crowd of men were cheering two others fighting near a smoking heap on which they had presumably tried to burn the young trees.
David Henderson and Rev. James were both standing to one side and when we joined them they said the fight had broken out over the distribution of rations, even though the refugees had been well fed with the hog roasts and were receiving equal shares of supplies. I noticed that there were very women in the crowd and no children to be seen. Rev. James said that families with children had either been squeezed into the village hall or were camped in the church and churchyard, as it was thought this would be safer for them. David said he believed some kind of alcohol had been circulating amongst the men and that it would be best to wait for the furore to die down. We left soon after that and returned home feeling troubled and gloomy. I shut up the hens as soon as I could and Neil said he would leave his dogs to guard the fields at night from now on.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Wednesday, May 28 – Feeding and fretting

Martin and Stephen have more or less recovered from their foot injuries, but they aren’t up to walking into the village yet, so we’re relying on Tony and his son and son-in-law for news. I don’t want Jane going into the village alone until we are sure that the incomers are behaving decently. The few stragglers who reached us during the winter and were accommodated in the village hall, were all grateful for whatever help we could give them and their numbers could easily be absorbed into the community, but now we are hearing that a couple of hundred or more have arrived so far.
Tony, Brad and Flyn went to see the encampments this morning and came back saying the farm butcher has donated two hog roasts already, but that won’t go far with these numbers. The Parish Council are in a panic and have met in the church with Rev. James, to decide how to distribute rations. They are asking every village family to donate a portion of the supplies that came the other week.
The travellers arriving say there are ration centres in places like Aldershot and Guildford, but the queues are vast and the rations so meagre, people finally lost patience and that’s why many are escaping into the countryside to fend for themselves. Tony said the new arrivals seem thin and ill, for the most part, and are astonished at how well-fed the villagers look.
Part of me wants to help, of course, but I’m worried about our little family here too, particularly with Anna’s baby only a few weeks away. We must stay strong if we are to protect new life.
I’ve been thinking about this problem all day and when I went to collect the eggs late this afternoon I discovered that one of the Legbar hens has gone broody. I slid my hand underneath her and found she was sitting on five eggs. I’ve left her one, which I marked so I shall know which are fresh if she lays more. But I am in a quandary. What is the greater need? Eggs today or new hens tomorrow?

Taking the Plunge

I am in New Zealand! I can scarcely believe it myself. I am so glad I decided to take the risk, and, indeed, the plunge. This is, I hope, a new opportunity.

My thanks must go to those who enabled me to arrive in this fair land. You not only carried me across the sea, you restored my hope in friendship.Whitter 27May

My arrival here was not, of course, achieved in any straightforward manner. First there was the trek through the forest, where every rustle and cracking stick had me jumping in terror. But I do not believe I was followed. After a night and a day of gruelling journeying, where fearsome beasts haunted my dreams and cruel stones tormented my feet, I reached the shore of the sea that lay between me and New Zealand. And there, like early travellers – and all flightless animals – I faced a problem. How on earth (or indeed in the air or on the water) would I cross that sea?

My mind whirred but my body ached and my legs would carry me no further. I slumped down into undergrowth by the beach and slept. When I awoke, the sun was high in the sky and my energy levels were themselves raised once I had nibbled on a few of my remaining biscuits. I hoped there would be ginger biscuits in New Zealand. I lay considering my plight and listening to the seagulls who called to each other as they wheeled and danced above the water. One of them swooped down low and it was then that I noticed a group of humans apparently standing on waves. As these humans raced towards the beach, I saw that they were in fact standing on boards of some kind. I have since been told that the correct name for these boards is surfboards.

It looked rather enjoyable and, it seemed, rather useful. Surely it would be possible to ride a board such as this to New Zealand. After all, if a human could stand on one, no doubt a dodo could too.

This might have been the moment to have realised two flaws in the plan:

1, I did not have a surfboard;

2, The humans using surfboards were being taken back by the waves onto the beach in Tasmania, not out to sea towards New Zealand.

But somehow, watching the humans and hearing them shriek with excitement, these flaws did not occur to me. In fact, number one flaw was overcome later that evening when I was checking what the humans had left on the beach – I hate to see a beach littered with rubbish. They had forgotten the remains of a picnic, but the gulls seemed to believe that said picnic had been reserved for them. In any case, the sandwiches contained meat and I am a vegetarian.

But the humans had left something else behind. Propped up against a rock was a surf board.

My problem had been solved.

There was a potential third flaw in the plan that I perhaps should have thought of – could I swim? I had never had the need to try before.

Nevertheless, I settled down for the night with a more joyful heart, ready to take to the waters at first light, before the surfers returned.

I slept fitfully and was grateful when dawn broke. What a beautiful morning! The sky was pink and the colour seemed to wash over the water. I whistled a little tune as I hauled the board towards the water (actually I puffed a little as well as whistled).

Potential flaw four – could I stand up and balance on the board?

It took me many attempts to stand up. When I finally did, I came across plan flaws numbers two and three – I came crashing back towards the beach with the surfboard somewhere over my head and my beak full of water as I struggled to swim.

I plumped myself down heavily on the sand and stared out to sea. Could I paddle to New Zealand? I doubted it. I had looked at the map, it was too far. I hung my head in despair scarcely noticing the sounds of the sea and the cries of the gulls.

“Eee-yup!” The gulls calls were loud now. Very loud. I looked up to see a large gull hovering above me. It was a giant, the largest I could recall ever seeing. It swooped down low over the water and skimmed to a halt a short distance from me. I backed a little, suddenly alarmed by the glint in its piercing eyes. This really was a very big gull.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” The gull’s voice was harsh and grating. “You dodo boy with your silly wings?”

“C-can I help you?” I stuttered.

“Well, it seems to me that you and your blogging habits have brought a little too much attention to this fine place,” grated the gull. “There’s some mad man with a lot of hair wandering around in the bush looking for you and we don’t like it.”

“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean….” I trailed off. He was right. I had caused trouble and all for nothing.
“Yeah, gave us a laugh though. The boss called me over to have a look. I saw you on that surfboard crashing back onto the sand. Funniest thing I’ve seen in years.”

“The boss?” I was interested… and a little nervous.

“Yes, Desdemona. She’s in charge around her. She saw you on the beach and decided something needed to be done to rid the area of you. Me and the boys is happy to oblige. Come on lads!”The gull let out a shriek like metal scraping against metal and from the rocks nearby rose a flock of singularly huge gulls. They must have been watching us. They looked hungry.

“Right Shane and Rodney, get the rope!” I gave a start Two vast birds were lugging a coil of rope towards me. The rest of the flock followed close behind.

“Ok, boys, who’s good at tying knots? Right, Don, you go ahead. Right, tie the rope around the surfboard. Yep, that’s right. No, Don, you are not putting a bow tie on, not today anyway. Tie a proper knot, a double bowline will do. That’s it. Right Bertram, get on the board. Go on, what are you waiting for?”

“Ow!” A sharp poke in the side made me cry out and open my eyes which I had shut as I waited for them to bind and gag me

“Come on Bertram!”

It took me a while to realise that the gull was addressing me and not some other fine fellow by the name of Bertram. “I am Ferdinand,” I told him in my politest, firmest tones.

“Whatever. Get on the board. The boys will tow you out.”

“Tow me? Where to?”

“To the aunts, of course.”

“The aunts?” I swallowed.

“Yeah,” the seagull chuckled. I did not like the sound of his chuckle nor the sound of the aunts, but the threat of a flock of seagulls with sharp beaks drove me onto the board and the next thing I was clinging on tightly and bobbing out to sea, pulled by Shane and Rodney, though I never worked out which one was which.

The aunts turned out to be Desdemona and Katarina, two bottle nosed dolphins, who acted as some sort of guardians to the animals in the area. I noticed that the chief gull – who turned out to be called Dennis – was polite to these two, and the dolphins in turn were polite to me. In fact, I find it hard to believe that Desdemona had ever laughed at my predicament, so concerned was she for me. She and Katarina took over from Shane and Rodney and the next thing I was skimming along through the waters towards our latest promised land – New Zealand.

Taking the plunge P5

 Map of New Zealand in relation to Tasmania


Dennis says:

Good riddance.

Tex-Mex says:

Wow Ferd! You are the best!

Sandra says:

You certainly are!

Kiwi-fruit says:

Welcome to New Zealand. I and my family would be very pleased to meet you. Please can you make your way to Lake Manapouri where I will send a delegation to greet you at the end of Supply Bay Road. Can you be there on May 31 at 11.00?

axel says:

is trap

Casey says:

Does anyone know this Kiwi-fruit? Axel could be right. I’ve been making some enquiries and no-one else knows about another kiwi on the internet. Take care Ferdy!

Tasmania says:

You don’t trust me, fair dos, but listen to Axel and Casey.


Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Tuesday, May 27 – Tales and tents

A day of good news and bad news. It started with us all in a happy mood because we had enjoyed the special evening that I had prepared with the help of the girls. We commandeered the dining room where we cook all our food on the fire and said Stephen and Martin couldn’t come in until supper time. Martin was a bit miffed at this until I took tea outside to him and he kept coming up to the door to the kitchen asking if he could come in yet. I think he was feeling the cold as there was a chilly breeze blowing.
And when we did finally open the door they were astonished at how we had draped the room with remnants of brocade from the attic and rearranged most of the cushions in the house, so it looked like a Kasbah. Anna had made the men Arab headdresses, but she drew the line at draping the women in black, so we wore long dresses and had old necklaces draped around our heads. Jane looked particularly fetching in a chain belt which she had retrieved from the dressing up box, which I think I last wore in about 1970. Then we sat down to eat mutton pilaff and carrots with caraway seeds, flat bread with nigella seeds and a beetroot dip. We had mint tea as the mint is growing well now and then told stories like the ones in 1001 Arabian Nights until it was dark outside.
But later today our mood changed when Tony came up to the house to say that large numbers of refugees had arrived in the village and had set up their tents wherever there was open space. They are camping on the village green, outside the pub, in the churchyard and on the common. And there’s more coming this way, he said, they’re all fleeing the big towns and cities now the weather has improved and the days are longer. We could soon be inundated.
So I shall make sure I shut up the hens as soon as they go in to roost. We need their eggs and they laid five today.

Black Market Catnip

london_temperance_hospital_3The boys looked up and, hovering above them, above the narrow, cobbled street, barely higher that the warehouse guttering, they saw a small, cigar shaped, bronze coloured airship; the canopy was banded with aluminium straps, it had a single broad-bladed propeller, slow-turning as the engine idled, and a compact gondola from which dangled the precarious ladder.   In the open hatchway stood an impossibly tall, slender tortoise-shell in bottle green chauffeur’s uniform.   She had exotic golden eyes, kohl rimmed and cosmeticised to emphasise their mesmerising effect.

“Please come up Mr Boz… It will be alright.”

“I’ll see you back at the pad.” said Boz, beginning to climb.   Dangly pilot ladders are not the easiest things to negotiate for anyone but the most practised of pilots and Boz didn’t really do climbing.   However the dirigible had descended as low as it dare and eventually, somewhat puffed, he was allowing himself to be helped aboard by the torti chauffeur.    The cabin interior was fitted out in midnight blue velvet plush edged in gold cording, a large chandelier hung from the deck-head, a half open, panelled door with brass fittings led through to the flight deck.

“Good morning, so at last I get to meet the famous Mr Boz.”   A tabby cat wearing a red white and blue rosette sat in a deep tub chair holding a large brandy glass,   “I’m sorry, do sit down” he indicated towards a similar, but vacant seat.   “I am Larry from Number 10.”

Boz sat.

“Barrymore, see to a drink for Mr Boz, would you.”   The airship had ascended, turned west-nor’westward and was flying above the City.

“Is she driving AND waitressing?   Is that safe?”

“Let’s not worry about Barrymore, very competent young lady.   Let’s talk about you.   You’re still looking for the recently deceased Mr McGoogs.”   It was not a question and Larry did not seem to be expecting any form of answer.   “You appear to suspect that Mr McGoogs is some sort of secret force for good, with a plan.   He is not.   He is a despicable profiteer and we are better off with him dead.”

Boz was feeling very uncomfortable.   The cabin was warm, he had not slept, the brandy gently burned in his stomach and the cat he now faced was terrifyingly confident.   “How do you know all this?   Did you have him killed?”

“People tell me things, Mr Boz.   And I don’t kill… as a rule.

“We are on our way to make a hospital visit.   There’s something I want you to see.   Do agree to come along.”

They were crossing above the seeming random tangle of railway lines that lead into the rear of Euston Station and soon began a descent into a tight courtyard outside the entrance to an apparently abandoned hospital.   Larry took Boz by the arm and led him into the building whilst Barrymore tethered the craft.   Above the faux-Grecian portico, decorative brickwork spelled out ‘London Temperance Hospital’.  Within, the entrance hall was deserted, fallen plaster littered the marble floor, but deeper into the interior, along a tiled corridor things began to bustle.   Crisp nurses came out of doors striding efficiently in starched pinafores and black stockings, hurried past, plunged down hallways or clip-tapped up stone stairs.   Businesslike chatter emitted from curtained alcoves and intimidating side rooms.

Larry opened a door and encouraged Boz into a long Nightingale ward with two rows of identical, cream coloured, iron beds.   On the edge of almost every bed sat, motionless, a cat in striped winceyette pyjamas; most stared vacantly beyond their inner space into the vacuum of eternity, some shook.   In the centre of one bed was a bulge under the bedclothes that twitched uncontrollably.   Another cat stood to attention at the bottom of his bed, in a frozen salute.   Larry ushered Boz towards him, but they were waylaid by the ward sister.   Boz could not take his eyes off her chest, where she had pinned a wonderful little upside down watch.

“Best leave him.  He will settle eventually.”

Larry turned to Boz, “These are all here because of your Mr McGoogs.   All they needed to help them cope with the stresses of catlife was a little catnip at a timely moment, something to layback the troubled soul, hush the cacophony.   And what did they get?   Krapola.   Honestly, that’s what it sells as, Krapola Katnip, and it’s rubbish. It’s force grown under artificial lights in vast sheds in Milton Keynes, it’s thin and weedy with virtually no psychedelic properties, and it’s not even cheap   He’s flooded supermarkets and pet shop chains with the stuff and it affords no relief.   All these cats needed was a little break from reality and McGoogs denied it to them – for profit.”

The nurse kissed Boz lightly on the forehead, “The monster is dead, and good riddance.   Go home and forget about him.”