Welcome to the 2222 British Isles literary study cruise. We will soon be passing by the tiny islands of St Catherine’s, Boscombe, Pokesdown, Hengistbury and of course our destination Southbourne. If the seas stay calm we will be landing for our visit to the National Trust property, the newly restored Tidalscribe House. Has anyone actually been on land before? No I thought not, make sure you take your land nausea tablets as soon as we get the berthing go ahead and before you leave the lecture theatre.
The twenty third century has brought many exciting discoveries, not least of which was the decoding of ‘The Internet’ which turned out to be real, not a myth at all, with the discovery of more historic documents than we could have dreamed of. For students of literature, just as exciting was the unearthing of the ‘voices’ of the early twenty first century when people still lived on land. At last it has been proved that far from ambling mindlessly towards global disaster, vast numbers of ordinary citizens were intercommunicating with the rest of the world and trying to counteract the ignorance of bumbling world leaders.
A lot of citizens wrote what they called ‘blogs’ and ‘websites’. As well as exchanging information they had a highly developed culture of writing, often issuing books on primitive hand held electronic devices.
Today’s lecture is about an author who has not come down to us through history, but was discovered by sheer accident. When at last in recent years a select group of scientists and academics were allowed on land, they chose an island that seemed to have largely escaped the destructive storms of the twenty first and twenty second centuries. The 2029 forced emergency evacuation of the then south coast left houses as if the owners had just stepped out. In one of the houses was found a vast collection of paper books apparently all written by Janet Gogerty. Just as our ancestors did, the scientists tried an internet search and discovered Janet Gogerty had a website called Tidalscribe. She had written thousands of blogs as well as ‘publishing’ many novels and short story collections. If her writing is to be believed, her life and times were much stranger than we have imagined, but her novel Three Ages of Man is uncannily accurate in describing ‘the future’, our life and times. This is the book you will be studying in detail on your degree course.
When we enter the house you will see the author’s book collection in hermetically sealed cases, but the National Trust has preserved the house as close as possible to the way it was left. On her desk sits the antique computer, beside it a half full cup of what is believed to have been coffee, not a banned substance then. Also handwritten notes on paper, faded and barely legible in a strange script, which leads us to wonder if they were intended to be transcribed as her next book or were some mystery message to the future. We will never know what happened to her after she left her home, was she one of the minority that survived?
It is that time of year when Bournemouth council, or more accurately BCP Council now ( Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole ) tells us by how much our beach hut rent has gone up, with various explanations as to why. We were on the waiting list for six years and I guess most beach hut people will pay up rather than lose the six foot by six foot piece of concrete they rent. It’s best not to calculate the cost per minute of sitting in the sun, making a cup of tea or having your own private changing room. There are people who go every day, but most of us have other things to do, places to go and gardens looking accusingly at us. I had not visited since last year, though I have walked past to make sure it was still there. The council does not own our huts and how ever much we have paid, the hut is worth nothing if you can’t unlock it. Weather and salty air play havoc with padlocks, whether they have keys or a combination lock and pulling the shackle out can be as impossible as pulling Excalibur from the stone if you are not the future King Arthur.
Luckily I brought WD 40 from home. I have never known what WD 40 is actually made of, but I love the scent and apparently WD and duct tape are all you need to solve most DIY problems. There is a can of WD 40 in the beach hut, but that is not much use if you can’t get in… I used a lot of WD 40 and had to resort to going away to wash half a can of it off my hands then sneaking back, when the second padlock wasn’t looking, to open it.
When you walk down here it feels like being on holiday.
When you see your patch of sea you know it was worth the money and the struggles with the padlocks.
As the padlocks soak up WD 40 and you soak up the winter sun and eat your sandwiches you know it was worth it.
Then after two bites of your sandwich the weather changes, your tea gets cold and you wonder if your friends will regret saying they would ‘pop in’ for a cup of tea. This is why you keep blankets at the beach hut…
…but the sun will probably come out again before it goes down.
Silly Saturday Skies
It’s my third birthday tomorrow. I don’t know why I suddenly had to come and stay with Granny or where Mummy and Daddy have gone. Maybe they went to buy my birthday present, maybe they have gone to get my puppy. I really want a puppy like Jacob has, a Doodle puppy. I keep asking, but Mummy and Daddy just smile and ask me if I would like a brother to play with instead. I said no, I would rather have a puppy.
Will they be back in time for my birthday?
Granny’s taking me home. We stopped at the petrol station to buy flowers for Mummy. I don’t know why, it’s not her birthday.
Daddy opens the door with his smiley face on.
‘Guess what Luke, we have a really big surprise for your birthday.’
Hurrah, I’m going to get a puppy, a big puppy like Jacob’s. I rush into the living room. Mummy’s lying on the sofa in her dressing gown, maybe we’re having a pyjama day, but I’ve got my clothes on, Granny never lets me have pyjama days. The puppy must be in the garden.
‘Happy birthday darling, aren’t you going to come and give me a cuddle?
Granny’s peering into a big flowery bag next to the sofa. She has a silly grin on her face.
‘Don’t you want to see your birthday surprise Luke’ says Mummy.
‘Is it a Doodle puppy?’
‘Why don’t you have a look.’
Daddy, Granny and Mummy all have their arms round me, I nearly fall into the bag.
Inside is a blanket, is the puppy wrapped up? There is something pink, a round pink blobby thing. It’s a squidgy face, yuk…
‘It’s your new baby brother.’
WHAT! They said would I like a brother to play with, they didn’t say he would be a baby.
‘Have I got a puppy as well?’
‘No Darling, we’ll all be too busy looking after the baby to have a puppy yet. Perhaps when you’re both big boys.’
‘I am a big boy, you said I would be a big boy when I’m three.’
‘Do you want to help choose his name’ says Daddy.
‘No, he doesn’t need a name yet.’
The squidgy baby is making a noise, ow, my ears. Everyone is laughing except me and making a big fuss as if crying is clever. What is Mummy doing now?
‘Look, Mummy’s giving baby his breakfast.’
What sort of breakfast is that, wouldn’t he rather have Cheerios. I wonder if I’m going to get any other presents, like Lego. I wonder if Jacob would swap. Perhaps his mummy would like a baby and we could have his puppy.
Tuesday Tiny Tale – Grandma’s Birthday Bash
Grandma’s Big Ate O WhatsApp group
Anyone heard from Josh?
Am I booking the house?
Yes, all agreed on the date, Gma’s actual bday?
No, that’s when we’re in Portugal.
If I’m doing photo book send me nice pix of Xmas with smiling kids.
No, haven’t heard from Josh.
And smiling adults.
But not the one with Lucy unwrapping sex toys!!!
Sending pic with everyone round the table.
Oh I look awful. Don’t use.
I am not even in it, was in the kitchen… all day.
Who took pic of baby on Great Gma’s lap?
Josh I think.
Have we heard from him yet?
Send the link to this place pls.
Did, four days ago, ‘The Greenhouse….’
Not that sort, environmentally friendly, green roof, grey water tanks, straw walls.
Hope a wolf doesn’t come along…
Oh that sounds excellent, get some ideas for our self build.
Y’re not still on about that?
Yes, can’t wait to tell everyone…
If we’re only there for a few days, doesn’t matter what it’s made of.
Thought we were booking for a week.
We can only do four nights, ballet and horse riding.
I want a week and so does Mum, it is her birthday treat.
Who’s working out the cost share?
Anyone heard from him?
Thought Gma was paying for it.
Did you get another date for your operation Tam?
No, but let’s get on with booking.
Did they decide where your Danny was on the spectrum?
Are you bringing the dogs?
And their containers?
What about the little ones?
We could put them in the crates ha ha…
We need four more to book the air rifles.
Do they do archery at that place?
Yup and human hamster balls.
What do they do for great grannies?
Garden shop and tea room.
Baz’s girlfriend is allergic.
Tyson won’t eat my baby will he?
Might do, ha ha, certainly won’t realise your handbag fur ball is also a dog.
Fur baby, fur balls are what cats have.
Did we decide whether to get Gma another cat?
Josh was looking into rescue cats, anyone heard from him yet?
Haven’t you lot got beds to go to. Let’s finish sorting this tomorrow if we hear from Josh.
Okay, but who’s taking Gma?
No room in our car.
We’re coming on the train.
We’re bringing the van.
I’m in the opposite direction, thought Josh was bringing her.
Has Josh been in touch with anyone?
Wordless Wednesday – Dawn to Dusk
Tuesday Tiny Tale – Birthday Girl
Finally the day has arrived, twenty one at last and I am going to have a big party. All the family are coming of course and some of my best friends, not all of them alas. Covid wreaked havoc with our social lives, but now it’s 2024 I think we have put that behind us. Of course the planet is still hovering on the brink of disaster, but hey let’s forget about that for one day, I’m going to have breakfast and open all my cards.
We’re having the do at that new hotel, very posh and a nice place to stay for those who have travelled. Dinner and dancing after, but informal as there will be lots of children. I wanted everyone to come and the visitors will span a century, can you believe that. The newest baby has been named Daphne after the amazing aunt who has just notched up one hundred years.
Here I am then, ready to greet all the guests. What nobody knows yet is that Charles and I are going to announce our engagement tonight, that will be a surprise for quite a few guests; all part of the excitement, life doesn’t get much better than this.
That meal was wonderful and now I must make my little speech before we release the children to let off steam.
‘Thank you everyone for joining me to celebrate my twenty first, it’s so wonderful to see everyone together after those Covid years and to be here with five generations of my family. I do have a little surprise for you. We have not known each other very long but Charles and I have decided to get engaged and we plan to have the wedding very soon, we don’t want to wait as he is ninety one. But Charles wants to add a few words… ‘
‘Well I never thought I would be getting married again, especially to a girl of twenty one, but that is the advantage of courting a young lady who was born in a leap year, 29th February 1940. How many great grandchildren we have between us we have lost count, but it’s wonderful to see both our families here. Here’s to the future.’
I thought we would wait in a much grander room than this, nothing to inspire my new stand up routine. But what a selection of odd bods here for the audition, plenty of material there. A few gals and chaps I recognize from the circuit, the third division circuit, ha ha. Hmm… some well known people from television, surely not as desperate as me for the job. I am banking on them choosing an unknown so He can’t be accused of favouritism or worse if they pick someone the press can dig up the dirt on.
Would you believe it, he’s certainly come dressed for the part, wonder who designs his dresses, looks like a cross between a wedding cake and a fifties party dress. Must be a wig with all those ringlets. I’ll tell you who’s not wearing a wig… Himself has just walked in, has he no pride, you would think he could comb his hair for once, better still have a hair cut; but come to think of it, he’s just right for this job and he should have some cracking politician jokes. But if they are looking for an all rounder I bet he can’t sing or play an instrument. That’s what I’m counting on and He does love music, though I’m not sure He’ll be keen on my harmonica, ukulele probably more up his street.
Wonder if we just present our routine or they tell us what they want. That’s what it would have been like in the old days…
‘Pray sing me something soothing, have you perchance a new ballade?’
If they didn’t like the melody it would be off to the tower… new topical jokes every day, not easy when you had to wait for a ship to sail in and a messenger on horseback. Much easier now with social media, but have to be quick off the mark with a fresh joke that hasn’t already been made by those political commentators on the news. Speaking of which, look who’s come in the room; he doesn’t need the job, unless he’s expecting to be sacked by the BBC. I suppose he would at least know where to draw the line, not like some of the stand ups. Politics, modern art, avoid family life…
Ah ha, that smart chap has returned with his clip board, still got a face like a wet Sunday. Then so have all the people in this room, like they are afraid to smile or crack a joke till they get in there.
Hell, he’s beckoning me to be first and look who’s giving me a thumbs up, patronising bastard, no doubt confident he’s going to get the job. Well it’s not over till it’s over, maybe I’ll throw in a few jokes about the other applicants to be Jester at the Court of King Charles the Third.
A staff member stood at the entrance to Wilko, apologising that the computers were down and they were only taking cash. I was vindicated, smugly waltzing in with a £20 note in my purse. Anybody who has been to Wilko’s will know you can get quite a few things for £20.
How many of us have been ’treated’ to a meal by younger relatives only to see them turn from the till and say ‘Have you got any cash on you, the card machine is broken.’
Will cash be phased out, should it disappear? Covid hastened the avoidance of real money in those early pandemic days, when we were told to avoid touching anybody or anything. Even shops that had been cash only started accepting cards. Anyone who has hands that don’t work properly, whether through stiff joints or peripheral neuropathy, will ruefully remember their school days; Saturday shop jobs when they were amused to see old people tip the whole contents of their purse onto the counter, as they could not see the coins properly. Swiping your piece of plastic, phone or watch could be seen as a great way to avoid fumbling around as the queue at the till builds up behind you. So why should we preserve the Royal Mint?
How can children learn about money if they can’t see it and see their pocket money disappear when they buy comics and sweets? Who doesn’t look back fondly at jobs where their weekly pay came in a brown envelope. If your salary goes straight in the bank you never see your hard earned money.
You may be reluctant to buy a coffee if you have to break into a shiny new note, but loose change is handy, vital for lots of things. Putting the smallest coins in your piggy bank probably won’t amount to a holiday, but you can have fun pouring the contents into a Coinstar machine or taking a bagful of coins to an amusement arcade. If you are selling raffle tickets at your club’s evening event you hope everyone has real money in their pockets. At the library coffee morning there may be glares if you have no coins to drop in the ‘voluntary contribution‘ tin. Then there are the times parents have used a coin to unlock the door of the cubicle in the public toilets when their child was locked in…
Counting up other times I need cash there is the Big Issue seller ( yes I know some of them have card machines now, but ours haven’t ) , spending less than £5 at the greengrocers and putting a pound in the saucer for the Wick Ferry.
Money is part of our national identity and a highlight of your first holiday abroad is working out the ‘foreign money.’
Do you take cash out with you? Wads of notes because you are laundering money or just a fiver and a few coins?