Tuesday 25 June 2013

Fever Diary – 25th November 20--

The priority on that dire day was to either dry our clothes or obtain replacements.  The cold cloth was debilitating in the wind and slowed progress. In the end, I found, to my shame, that I could go no further and huddled, utterly miserable in the lee of a dry stone wall, waiting for the end. When one is profoundly end-of-tethered and cold to boot, there is something comforting in the slow shut down of exposure. They say the feeling of cold slowly recedes and a kind of drowsy numbness takes its place. Nature’s blanket gently being drawn over the head.
However, just as I began to find the sleep of the eternal an altogether attractive prospect, (and one I may well have experienced before) Pedro, to his everlasting credit, took charge and disappeared towards a distant farmhouse. All in all we had travelled less than five miles from Shiplake and I knew that they would track us down soon enough if we couldn’t leave the area rapidly. All seemed lost and, in truth, I wasn’t entirely unhappy. I had died once. I could do it again.
He returned within half an hour carrying two pairs of running shorts, a pair of baggy jeans, some army camouflage trousers and two heavy woolen hoodies, the legend ‘Working for the Clampdown’ on the back and ‘The Clash’ on the front of one and the superfluous legend ‘HOOD’ on the other. He had wrapped the shorts around each hand and draped the jeans and trousers over his shoulder.  Balanced on his swathed palms was a foil tin that smoked slightly. He placed it down to reveal a portable disposable brazier of smouldering charcoal beneath a wire mesh upon which rested two of the most delicious smelling pork chops I had ever seen. 
We fell on them intermittently as we stripped off from the waist down and donned the running shorts beneath the clothes.  I eschewed the baggy jeans and chose the army trousers as they felt more natural. Although I hated the hoodie and its eccentric, indecipherable decoration, I was cold enough to find its material a comfort and relief.  I was loath to put the soaked boots back on, but Pedro produced two rolls of long socks from his pockets and I almost kissed him. His raid on an empty farmhouse had produced nothing, but a foray to a temporary caravan in the field behind had produced the contents of a washing line and a barbecue whilst the inhabitants squabbled over a TV programme inside the tiny mobile home that apparently played host to a pair of raggedy builders converting the abandoned farmhouse into a habitable holiday home.  The chops were still warm and we ate like pigs, the juices coursing down our faces until, warmed by this and the new clothes, we felt we could go on and find shelter.
What happened that evening as we entered the town of Shipston-on-Stour will now be well known to most of the Interverse. It might appear from the footage of my impromptu appearance on the hustings, (now ranked as the most viewed vid in the Europe section of the Viewsites) that I had intentionally sought out this meeting to put my point, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the rich and mostly undercooked meal stolen from the builders had an unfortunate effect on the stomach and the only reason we entered the community centre was to use the lavatories. Viewed historically, it might be seen as entirely appropriate that some political passions may be put down to the bowel and the stridency of some speeches to diarrhoea.
Having availed ourselves of the facilities, we noted that hot teas were being dispensed at the rear of the political meeting that was taking place in the main hall. We quickly snaffled a scalding beverage in an inadequate plastic beaker with a slice of fruit cake and sat with some relief on a pair of free seats at the rear.
Only then did I realise that the four main political parties were hosting a local debate on the most vital (!) issues of the impending election. Four representatives and a dowdy chairwoman sat on a shabby stage before drab red velvet curtains tied back either side to frame a painted flat of the London skyline on the back wall that had obviously been used for a recent ‘Dick Whittington’ pantomime. 
The drone of uninspiring discourse had the usual soporific effect and I sat drowsily aware that both the sitting MP and the three challengers could all be described as sitting firmly on the centre right and centre right right of the political compass. One younger fresher faced candidate tried to curry favour with a slightly libertarian view undercut by an emphasis on home security that seemed guaranteed not to frighten the horses.
However as the debate went on, I noticed that all were focusing on the situation in China, terrorism and the need for constant awareness of all manner of potential threats. The Chinese debacle, of course, was not described by any of the politicians as a war. The phrase ‘peacekeeping’ was used throughout, despite the news reports of active British campaigns against various factions in the territory since the break up of the country into its respective UN cantons after the collapse of the Revolutionary Government. There was an underlying implication that the Altay disaster which precipitated the fall of China could very well happen here in Europe and that the security of nuclear power facilities needed to be ramped up and improved against those who sought to bring about change via the atom. No one but the quasi-libertarian suggested closing them, of course, and he was quickly shouted down.
All in all, there was few of what one might call ‘local’ issues, the emphasis being entirely on outside forces. All of the whey-faced career politicos darkly hinted at impending threats against which we would be defenceless unless a new Government were elected or a ‘fresh approach’ to security introduced. At the same time, technology and the Interverse were cited as the tools to empowerment and change that would make ‘Digital Democracy’ a reality at last, with even the Olders assisted into participation. At one point, in a rare departure from the enemies without and within theme, a candidate seemed to be suggesting, to much applause, that 3D wallscreens in every home was not only some kind of civil right, but a necessity for any functioning democracy.

It was at this point that the local Mayor who was chairing the farce threw the floor open for questions and I committed what may now be regarded as the most foolish act of my life in the AW. At a time when we were effectively public enemies, on the run from all manners of covert authoritarians and with a need to be as invisible as possible, I got to my feet, Pedro pulling desperately on my jacket. I did not know what I was going to say. In fact, without notes of any kind, I was not as incoherent and rambling as I expected. Nonetheless, in the end it was ridiculous, nebulous nonsense. The kind of thing one might say in a dream. 

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