This story follows on from previous tiny tales about Lauren, but can be read a a stand alone tale; after all, the people Lauren meets also have no idea what happened to her…
Nobody believed me, why would they, but I had no choice but to tell the truth. I could not just walk back into my life, not when I had brought back two people from the future.
Why me, an ordinary forty year old mother and teaching assistant? I suppose it could have happened to anyone who visited the Ladies at that busy London Wetherspoon, couldn’t find their way out and went through the wrong door into the future.
The end of the twenty first century is far from what I imagined. A perfect storm of situations led to a future that looked more like the past; humans had managed to save the planet, but not their civilisations.
I must not speculate or ramble; I am writing this letter to put down what little I do know in the hope that someone will take notice. I am sending this to experts, those with a voice in the world and the imagination to not dismiss me… King Charles, David Attenborough, the science chap that does that podcast… I just need one of you to answer my letter.
The two people I have brought back with me are an officer called Billings, who initially was most helpful and understanding, though she is still convinced I am the mythical figure Lauren of London. She is so traumatized from her experience of London in 2023 that I’m not sure she will be of much help. The man is called Doctor Chowdry and I think he is what passes for the top scientist among the Bunker People. Scraps of life from earlier decades escaped destruction and in oral tradition knowledge was passed down his family. He is certainly clever as he worked out how to get us back to 2023, though it took him a few weeks and he didn’t quite get the date right.
Thus it was that we arrived back in London on the day of King Charles’ coronation, eighteen days after I left, but in the right place. There were the three of us in the Ladies at Wetherspoon. Luckily a trio of chattering women barged in through a door so at least I could see the way out; I hustled my companions through it before the women noticed one of us was a bloke and we were all dressed strangely. I realised we were late when I saw a missing persons poster in the corridor…
Were you in this Wetherspoon on the evening of Tuesday 18th April 2023?
The flattering photo of me dressed up for the ‘do’ we went to in March looked nothing like the person I had just glimpsed in the mirror. I had exchanged my sackcloth for the bunker clothes the civilians wore in the bunker, but they were hardly flattering.
We had tried to plan how we would arrive inconspicuously, but the main problem was that I had lost my handbag during my narrow escape from the great cat attack. I had no money, no proof of identity and no way of getting home.
Upstairs in the restaurant it was daylight; the place was packed and in celebratory mood. I tried to slip us out quickly, but had time to see a chap reading a newspaper with the front page proclaiming Coronation Day. Outside were crowds of people, though I knew we could not be on the route of the royal procession. Police were everywhere, security I supposed as there were protestors. Then the full implication of my position hit me. My family must be distraught, perhaps thinking I was dead. How could I contact my husband, should I tell one of the police officers? No, they would think I was trouble of some sort, they were already arresting a protestor. I was overwhelmed with panic, but that was nothing compared with the terror I saw in the faces of my two companions.
A woman’s voice behind me spoke in a calming tone. I hung on tight to the others as they flinched at the sight of the uniform.
‘You look like you need help, or perhaps just a cup of tea, a day like this can be very overwhelming. We’re doing refreshments in the hall over there.’
The Salvation Army, hurrah, yes I did need a cup of tea and as they are used to not judging people, salvation was literally at hand. We did not look much stranger than the other people gathered round various tables and as we collected our tea I told the woman I needed help.
‘You help look for missing people and put people back in touch?’
‘Yes we certainly do.’
‘I need to get in contact with my husband.’
‘How long have you been away?’
‘Oh, that’s not long, are you able to go home or do you want a third party to speak to him?’
‘It’s complicated and I haven’t got a phone or any money so I think that would be a very good idea.’
So, good people reading this, that is how I was initially reunited with my family, who also don’t believe me. You will perhaps have heard about me on the news, but I plead with you to contact me personally and listen to the story the three of us have to tell.
What’s happening this weekend? Nothing? No Coronation, no Eurovision…
What shall we talk or blog about?
So who won Eurovision? Liverpool! I have never been to Liverpool, but I know someone who has; they had a ticket to the final rehearsal on Saturday afternoon and apparently it was awesome. Our television news had been following the lead up to the contest, from the special Eurovision train full of excited seasoned fans, to the full week of action in the city. Even if you couldn’t get tickets to the contest you could still enjoy the revelries and celebrate the first time in 25 years that we were holding the contest. It sounds like Liverpool did us proud.
So who actually won? The lighting and stage technicians… and all the other people back stage you don’t see. The turn around on the stage was sixty seconds apparently. The contest is not just about the song, it’s about the performance. Flashing lights, strange outfits, dancing of all sorts and scenes that couldn’t be described as dancing; all very different from the early years in black and white when singers came on in suits and nice dresses.
But which song won? Points come from judges in each competing country, then the viewers’ votes come in. Sweden’s Loreen won with her song Tattoo. It looked as though Finland would win at one stage, though I fell asleep during all the scoring and missed that bit. Finland came second and Israel third. Ukraine, last year’s winners, whose show it was, came a creditable sixth. And where did the United Kingdome come? Second last with Mae Muller’s I Wrote A Song, which I thought was quite good. Germany were last.
Goodness knows, we’ve looked in all the likely places, but there’s so much junk stuffed everywhere.
Don’t sneer, could be valuables hiding amongst the rubbish.
Ah ha, this could be interesting, Diary 1949 …
’I am determined to write in this every day, so many exciting things happening to me at the moment. Tricia had a new year’s party and her brother chatted to me!!! He is going to call me on our new telephone.’
Oh no, that’s all she wrote, bet he didn’t phone her.
Here’s a hopeful looking envelope…
‘To my grandchildren’
Bad luck on that front Mum…
Open it then.
‘I know everything is electronic now, but newspapers are a wonderful record of everyday life. I saved a newspaper from every eventful day starting with the day Giles was born right up to William and Catherine’s royal wedding; if you’re doing a school project or even a history degree they could come in handy.’
Oh that would be interesting, a newspaper from the day I was born…
Bad luck Giles, we put all those boxes of papers in the recycling bin when we tackled the loft, anyway, you can look them up on line…
Now this envelope looks a lot more hopeful.
‘If you find a pair of pink gloves I bought them on holiday. I remember taking them out of my suitcase, then I never saw them again.’
Perhaps she wasn’t joking when she said there was a secret drawer in that awful old bureau.
Oh look, our homemade birthday cards…
Never mind those, get a tape measure and work out if there’s a false back, or feel around for some secret levers.
We’re not taking it to Antiques Roadshow, let’s try that small panel with a screwdriver.
Well I never, why would she leave a letter to me hidden away?
Open it then, don’t keep us in suspense.
‘My Darling Giles, you always wanted to know the truth; the truth about your father. I’m afraid I have to tell you, hard though it will be to come to terms, my husband was your father and the father of your younger brothers. I know he was very boring, but I’m afraid I did not have an affair with some splendidly exotic chap, goodness knows where you get your good looks from.
Oh at last, you’re no better than us Darling Giles, even if you were Mum’s favourite.
But is that it then, what happened to
‘All will be revealed in the house when I’m gone.’
She said that about ten years ago, probably forgot to leave the clues.
Now we’re getting somewhere –
Last Will and Testament
Thought she said she wasn’t going to leave one.
Perhaps that’s the surprise we were supposed to get. Right, let’s open it
May Madness continues… after the excitement of the coronation I realised I did not need to take down my bunting, but just add to it and celebrate Eurovision 2023. Some ribbon from HaberDasherDo and a few safety pins..
...then I discovered Amazon would deliver a flag by 10pm… which turned out to be a bit bigger than I expected.
Teddy has been carrying the Ukrainian flag since Ukraine was invaded last year.
The Eurovision Song Contest was started in 1956 and I doubt those who participated in those early black and white days would recognise the colourful stage productions and strange outfits in the twenty first century. There are many more countries participating now, some newly created borders and a few countries not in Europe… Some countries have always loved it, while in the United Kingdom many of us may have been indifferent or embarrassed by our song entries. Sweden famously produced Abba whose songs have been a background to so many lives and when Ireland hosted the contest in 1994 the interval entertainment of Riverdance took on a life of its own and millions have been thrilled by the many live Riverdance shows.
Last year everything changed when the UK actually had a song people were talking about and seemed to have a chance of getting good scores, Sam Ryder with ‘Space Man’. More importantly Ukraine was was going to enter and despite the awful suffering of their country send a positive message to the world. Their Kalush Orchestra won with ‘Stefania’ and the UK came second. Ukraine should have been the host this year, but sadly that would be impossible so as second place holders the UK was chosen and are jointly hosting with Ukraine in Liverpool.
It is the first time for 25 years we have hosted the contest and for those who have always loved Eurovision and Liverpudlians, there is great excitement … and it’s catching. Whatever you think of the various songs a lot of people are having fun, both locals and Ukrainians in exile here. On the news you can have a break from what is going on in the rest of the world and see happy people gathering in Liverpool. There have been two semi finals and tomorrow is the Big Night...
The Coronation Weekend closes with a bank holiday and the return of rain, but Sunday was sunny for community picnics.
Saturday, day of the coronation, it drizzled and rained in London, while here it poured with rain all morning; families planning to watch on big screens and have a picnic with their friends were disappointed. But apart from the weather, which had been forecast all along, the coronation went well. For those looking forward to the coronation it lived up to their expectations.
My invitation to The Abbey?
If you were inside Westminster Abbey, early as directed, there was music to entertain you in the long wait for the royal arrival. If you were watching on television and switched on early you would know that five thousand military personnel arrived at Waterloo Station by train and marched over Westminster Bridge to take part in the procession. There were plenty more interesting snippets from commentators about the day’s plan’s, from how the many troops would line up ready to march, to the names of all the horses ( well not all of them ). At the abbey entrance we could see who was arriving and have fun trying to identify them. As the King and Queen left Buckingham Palace and the mounted guards and bands led the procession up The Mall, there were intriguing comments from the commentator which set off my writer’s imagination. ‘Apollo’s playing up’ . Hmm story idea, what if Apollo suddenly decided, after all the parades he’s been in, to make a bid for freedom!
Apollo the Drum Horse will be ridden by Lance Corporal Chris Diggle from the Band of the Household Cavalry. The nine-year-old horse stands at over 17 hands (1.73 metres) tall and weighs in at nearly 800 kilograms. He is described as a “big friendly giant” who “loves attention”.
The coronation service was full of contrasts; the guests in the abbey representing all strands of modern society and every religion as promised, but they were there to witness an ancient ceremony with aspects going far back beyond our own history to King Solomon being anointed with oil by Zadok the Priest.
It was a long service with lots of symbolic items being handed around, people with strange titles in all sorts of outfits and new and traditional music. Whether you were in the abbey or watching on television the history, music and human interest made it a unique experience. King Charles was probably one of the few people who had actually been to a coronation before. Even for regular church goers there were odd aspects to grasp. The strange chanting of psalm 71 by the Greek Orthodox choir seemed to take us right back to the time of King David.
The even bigger procession back to the palace was a feat of precision. Earlier in the week on the news channel we had seen the late night full rehearsal, strangely ghost like; now it was in full colour. There were more interesting touches. I liked the fact that Princess Anne nipped off to get changed then leapt onto her horse to join in the procession.
‘She gave a rare interview to CBC news that aired on Monday, saying: “I have a role as the Colonel of the Blues and Royals in the Household Cavalry regiment as Gold Stick. And Gold Stick was the original close protection officer.’
The coronation was always going to be a contrast to most people’s lives. Most people don’t go to church and have little to do with the military, while the royals are steeped in the traditions of both. But does the fact that so many people turn out for every royal occasion and many at home love to watch, demonstrate we love that which is outside our every day lives and is part of our history and heritage?
For those who were not interested in the coronation or averse to royalty there is always somewhere peaceful to get away from it all.
Most of us have never witnessed a coronation before and anticipation varies from excited crowds camping out for days to catch a glimpse, to those who are ignoring the whole thing. Whatever your views it is guaranteed to be a colourful spectacular, with lots of lovely horses, beautiful music and human interest. Not guaranteed is the weather. It rained for the Queen’s coronation, you wait 70 years for another coronation and it will probably rain again! We have never gone to events involving crowds and camping on pavements; I admire people who do, but like many will take the easy way and watch on television.
On my walk home this morning I endeavoured to catch some coronation atmosphere…
A reminder that we have had three royal events in less than a year.
If you want to be sociable and take in some ambience without going to London many councils are putting up big screens and you can bring a picnic. I think I may favour my sofa to damp grass…
Some shops and houses are flying the flag, boasting some bunting…
One of these may or may not be my house…
Whatever your views on royalty, King Charles III has a lifetime of knowledge and more intelligence than most / all of our political leaders! Whatever your religious views, he acknowledges a higher power; unlike politicians who often think they are God. He was telling us to look after the planet long before other leaders recognised there was a serious problem and his interests cover everything from farming to music and of course people…
Tonight’s tale follows on from last week’s or you can read as a stand alone story.
The book had been locked away again; I had only read the opening lines of Door To The Future, published 2028, but enough to know the narrator shared my name and had also been propelled into the future. There must be many Lauren Smiths around, this book need not have anything to do with me, just a coincidence, though how many others of my namesake had gone through the wrong door?
How did it come to be written and if it was about me, was it reassuring proof that I returned to my own time? It was unlikely I had written it, I had no imagination, as my English teacher was always telling me. Before we had the children I worked in an office and wrote reports, dealt with finances. I liked that world of precision and writing a romantic fantasy novel would never have occurred to me. Someone else could have written it, but I knew no writers to tell my story to.
‘Lauren, Miss Smith, did you hear what I said dear, you must be tired, we must let you sleep.’
I had been so deep in thought I had lost track of what my rescuer and his mother were talking about.
‘No, I can’t sleep, I need to find out how this happened to me and how I can get back.’
‘No hurry dear, your time will stay the same, that’s what the book says.’
As they tried to explain their world I realised I could understand their past and my future better than they possibly could. I surmised Billings in the bunker had a better grasp of what had happened; my stomach churned as I wondered if she had made it safely back to the bunker or had she been eaten? I asked my rescuer what creature it was that attacked me.
‘A great cat, he wouldn’t eat you, got plenty of venison and beef out there, they just like to play with the weaker humans.’
The creature I glimpsed was a lot bigger than mythical black panthers spotted in the west country, it didn’t make sense.
As if she read my thoughts the mother spoke.
‘My mother told me strange creatures they had never seen escaped from the borytrees when everything stopped. Signtists made them from gentic earing. They mixed with other animals that went to the wild…’
It made sense, if normal society broke down the creatures we kept for our entertainment or experiment would escape, not just domestic dogs and cats, but wolf packs lovingly supervised in Scotland, animals in the zoo and wild boars that were already roaming some woodlands. I recalled Billings’ words that farm animals were much better at survival than humans, then there were large deer populations breeding happily with no natural predators.
‘How did everything stop?’
‘Pewters ran the world, then they turned off the cities.’
A simplistic explanation, but with no books and only stories passed down it must be hard for them to understand. When I worked in the office I was efficient, liked everything to be precise. If I had worked in pre computer days I would have kept immaculate ledger books and orderly filing cabinets; unless the office burnt down all that information would be safe and nothing would hold up our work. If the computers ‘went down’ in our office, or worse, the whole company’s computers were down it was a disaster, we were helpless and expected the tech people to sort it out. I Lauren Smith could not fix a computer let alone make them. If power started failing there would be no basic services or computers; society would grind to a halt.
‘But survivors, hunters… our people knew how to get food’ said my rescuer.
I would have been a bunker person, so would my friends. It was obvious who would survive, anyone who had been in the armed forces, knew how to use a gun, survive under tough conditions. Even those people we look down on who go out shooting grouse or culling deer and enjoying the stalking, they had the last laugh. Farmers, they deserved to survive, presumably they knew more about animals than the rest of us and probably had a shot gun handy and could kill a sheep or cow if need be. I knew little about life outside the city and now it seemed my lifestyle was pathetic when it came to awful disasters. But still there was a big question.
‘I don’t understand how the cities in my time could crumble, we have huge buildings everywhere, tall buildings, ancient stone buildings, where did they all go?’
‘There were wars, then the big destruction came. Weapons flew by themselves, even when the wars stopped. Weapons dropped out of the sky and flattened cities, my mother remembers even from the countryside where they had escaped they could see the fire and smoke on the far horizon. The city people who survived were hiding underground.’
In my cosy little world of the family and my teaching assistant job we watched the news, but still felt removed from all the awful events. Syria, Ukraine, it was possible for cities to be flattened under relentless attack and unmanned drones were a reality.
Even if I took the hunters and bunker people back to my time right now it was probably too late to unravel events already set in motion. I looked down at the uncomfortable rough cloth I was wrapped in and at the rough clothes of the man and his mother. Even if we could get back to 2023, who on earth would listen to us and our tale?