Death on a Sofa

It could happen right now. The ceiling could collapse on me, squashing my skull under the concrete. The radio could burst into flames and I could suffocate in the fumes. A thief could break in through my window and stab me to death. I could have already ingested a deadly bacteria from a tomato that I didn’t wash earlier. I could have a heart attack. The incense I am breathing in could be poison.

The whole point of death is its suddenness. That’s the game, that’s the framework. I need death to live and life to die. I need you to be me and you need me to be you.

The fluorescent light bulb on in my room could explode and kill me with noxious fumes. The floor might collapse underneath me, crushing me in the rubble. My computer could explode, sending shards of plastic flying across the room to sever my carotid artery and I could bleed to death on this very sofa, right here, as I write these very words.

Still waiting.

Better do something else.

The Age of Plastic

What’s left when the entire human race is dead?

Good question. Well, now we know: what’s left when the entire human race is dead? Fire alarms, that’s what.

There’s no one here to service them, there’s no one here to fix them after they go off. And, because they weren’t connected to the grid, they didn’t just shut up when the power went down. I know that sooner or later the batteries will run out, but I’ll probably be gone by then too.

It gets you to thinking though. Those fire alarms will last longer than I will. What does it say about the human race, when our warning systems outlive the ears they were meant to warn? It’s like the man who set his alarm clock for the morning, but never woke up. When the neighbours called the police, they found him there, the alarm clock still ringing, but his ticker gone.

When we’re all dead and rotting – and it won’t be long – the vultures (or whatever’s left) will get ear-ache picking over our bones.

Makes you wonder what else we’re leaving behind. What else seemed so important that we had to give it a life-expectancy ten times longer than our own?

Did you know that the first piece of synthetic polymer plastic wasn’t created until 1907? The plastic we used to make, before we started dying, had a life-expectancy of a thousand years. You’d have to go back to the Norman invasion of England to get an idea of how long a thousand years is. Just imagine if the Normans had made everything out of plastic instead of wood or metal or stone. Archaeology wouldn’t be so hard: it’d all still be here.

Except there wouldn’t have been any archaeologists around to find it. If the Normans had invented plastics, like we did, they’d have got themselves into this fine mess, like we did – and we wouldn’t have existed at all.

So should we be grateful that the Normans didn’t invent plastic? Grateful that we got the chance to live on earth, grateful that we were the ones who invented plastic? Grateful that – no matter that we wiped out fifty percent of the species on earth, including ourselves – at least we had the opportunity to live?

Maybe we should be. What difference does it make? The earth was bound to reject us sooner or later. No species lives forever. We’re not the first species to mine ourselves out of existence in an orgy of over-consumption either.

Maybe we are the first species to talk about it at dinner parties, though. Maybe we are the first species to know what we’re doing to ourselves as we’re doing it to ourselves – and then to pass around the port.

We’re like the villain in a Bond film, who, with masochistic relish, informs 007 of the precise mechanism of his death and then walks away. Of course, that was always just a plot device to give James Bond enough time to escape from the villain’s snare. It’s not going to work that way for us. We’re doing it to ourselves, pressing the gas mask to our faces as we talk. We can’t walk away.

Strangely enough, though, I don’t care. And I’m not alone. Well, I am alone, but I wasn’t alone, clearly. No one cared, before they started dying, because it wasn’t real. No one could get a grip on the scale of the problem. I can’t blame any one else either. No one understood what we were doing in the age of plastic. And then, when we did understand, no one could control themselves.

We choose this, we wanted it.

Funny that, as the earth burns up, the only sound I can still hear is the sound of fire alarms.

No Supermarket: Week 2

Week 2 and I still haven’t been to a supermarket – or even so much as a High Street chain. I have to say, it’s going rather well. The Suma order arrived on Thursday with 12.5kgs of oats for our house at only £8. I also got a load of Jasmine tea, raisins and eggs. Cue massive omelets.

Yesterday, I went to another local co-operative, Fareshares, who sell organic, mostly fair trade food and other household goods at the right price. Here’s what I bought:

  • 1l washing detergent @ £2.96
  • 250g sunflower seeds @ £0.50
  • 100 rooibos teabags @ £2.83
  • 500ml Aspall’s balsamic vinegar @ £2.83
  • 680g sauerkraut @ £1.67

And I made an incredibly generous (!) £0.21 donation to make it £11.00 in total.

The same stuff at Sainsbury’s would have cost me £10.34, but I would have had 500ml more detergent, 50g less sunflower seeds and 20 fewer teabags. [Incidentally demonstrating there the way you use ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ in the English language. I’m educational too!] If I’d been able to buy the exact same quantities, Sainsbury’s would have cost me a theoretical extra £0.05, so it more or less evens out.

However, as I’ve said before, it’s not all about price with No Supermarkets. The stuff I would have bought at Sainsbury’s probably wouldn’t have been fairly traded and certainly wouldn’t have been organic. I also wouldn’t have met the lovely people at Fareshares or ended up with some random sauerkraut!

Fareshares

Fareshares is a food co-operative near Elephant and Castle in South London. They buy their stuff from wholesalers and then sell it on to us little people at near wholesale price. The people who work there are volunteers and the only major overheads are for the building.

They sell all sorts of stuff. There’s lots of dry foods: seeds, rice, millet, oats, nuts and dried fruits. They also sell tinned things like tomatoes, bottled things like oils and sauces, cartoned things like soya milk. There’s also a small stock of fresh fruit and vegetables and bread (on Thursdays only) – and I’m sure much much more.

It’s a co-operative so try and turn up with a bag or some cartons for your stuff. Then go around picking and packing your own shopping, totting up the total as you go on a piece of scrap paper. Then head to the till and pay. It’s an honesty system, so be honest!

Opening hours: Thursday 2-8pm; Friday 3-7pm; Saturday 3-5pm
Address: 56 Crampton Street (near Walworth Road), London SE17 3AE

Go – it’s brilliant!

An Alcoholic in a Country Village

We see him, now and then, shuffling along the road leading out of the village. Sometimes we see him in the local shop, his head unsteady, tilting at the sweet stand. But most often we see him in the pub, The King’s Head, on the left as you come from the green.

His name is Steve and he drinks lager. Sometimes he plays on the fruit machines, but most often he drinks lager.

The King’s Head is split into two parts, separated by a wall. The larger part of the bar is on your right as you come in and there’s always half a dozen locals here, whiling away the country hours. The left hand part of the pub has only a few seats and is where you can find the pool table, a couple of dartboards and, lately, me and George.

And Steve.

We go there to relieve the tension of unemployment. At the pub we can relax, shoot some pool and talk about jobs and how they’re for mugs and how we could make a whole stack of money in some scheme or other.

But we don’t drink. Oh no, we don’t drink, not like Steve.

I wonder about Steve a lot. He’s not employed either. I don’t see how he can be. He’s there, already drunk, when we pop in for a quick game of pool at lunch time and he’s still there when we leave. He drinks slowly, but steadily. Lager.

But then he does seem to go home for the evening. I wonder what he meets there. A wife? His mother? A housekeeper? Or the lonely click of his key in the lock, the tired creek of his old front door and the empty tick-tock of the hall clock…?

The Hostage

The men with masks tied us up. They tied us up, back-to-back on the floor of the bank vault, and then they left. For two days we breathed each other’s breath, felt each other’s hearts, beating through our rib-cages. For two days we starved and suffocated together.

On the morning of the third day, the men with helmets came and cut the cord. The vault opened to the agoraphobic world and I lost you in the crowd. You were relieved, but I? I am still in that vault, bound alone to my memories.