This is what is termed in England a “Bank Holiday” weekend, with Her Majesty’s government granting the peasants both Friday and Monday free from toil (unless you work for the NHS or any “service” industry, in which case tis business as usual).
Her Majesty’s Meteorological Office, the bods in charge of England’s weather, have therefore conjured up cold, grey, wind and rain or snow depending upon in which corner of the country one build’s one’s web. Latterly it was springtime, briefly, but now, once again, it is not.
The Cardinal and I are going nowhere. For one thing, being a crew of one, if I got the Cardinal off the towpath I’d like as not never get him back in again long enough for me to moor up. With a cross-wind he’s a seventeen tonne kite on a fifty-foot rope and, Lord High He-Who (Must Be Obeyed) though I am, even I can’t control that. I have already once this winter experienced being on one side of a canal holding a rope while my boat is on the other side entirely, and won’t answer my call, and it’s not an experience that I wish to repeat.
So I have destroyed London instead.
Having just published the Opus Magnum I have set to work on the Opus Nextus, and as yet, it doesn’t have a title. While the hodilay-makers chug past on their (ooh, it’s Easter!) hire boats, poor sods, wrapped in layers and battling the breezes, determined to enjoy themselves, I am aboard, thoroughly moored, enswigginating coffee, munching hot toast and Marmite, and tapping at my keyboard. Even the customary dog-walkers haven’t made a show of things so far today, although whether that is because of the reluctance of the humans or the reluctance of the fireside-loving dogs one cannot say. Dogs are generally brighter than are humans, so I suspect that it is they who will have bolted the door and moved their baskets out of draughts.
Yes, you read that correctly, I have destroyed London. I like destroying London. London and I are not fond of one another. When I visit London, London gets the upper hand. When I write about London tis I who call the shots and pull the strings.
The Opus Nextus? Six, possibly seven, stories of my usual realism (that some uncharitably describe as bile-laden cynicism). Old-fashioned language (with punctuation and words that you would never see in one of those “text msgs”), old-fashioned people and old-fashioned settings. A laugh – I hope – about the nature of deep thought, high politics, the nonsense (and importance) of history, money money money, and, of course, religion in all of its glory. The only thing that I can be certain of is that it will be more of my customary blethering nonsense, dark thoughts wrapped up in a joke.
How do you destroy a city? Rather like this… [beginnings of the first-draft, unedited & needs work!]
On the Matter of Politics and of Politicians
A man wearing a sandwich-board ran past, screaming hysterically. The end, it seemed, was nigh, very nigh indeed. An earnest-looking old gentleman in a white fall-out suit, white wellington boots and a dented tin helmet cranked at the handle of a portable siren, the note falling and rising to match the cadence of his arm. Policemen, when not looking anxiously to the sky, directed motor-traffic somewhat uncharacteristically brusquely, ordering the common people to return to the safety of their own homes as quickly as possible. Shops of all kinds, the butchers, the bakers and even the candle-stick makers, locked their doors and turned their signs to “Sorry, we are closed”.
London was scattering like ants sensing a blast from a caretaker’s DDT spray.
London was hunkering down like a dog about to be whipped.
The flash lasted only moments, the atomic radiation infiltrating everything in an instant. Heat, an unnatural, crisping, vaporising heat, rolled out from the centre, faster, much faster, than the 4:50 express leaving Paddington Station. Miss Marple, among others, would never see Milchester again. In London’s parks Nannies pushing heavy Silver Cross prams laden with the chubby, smiling babies of Kensington, Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Belgravia dissolved in a blur of charcoal, ash, and dust. Her Majesty, The Queen Elizabeth, died without seeing her end coming at all, the glass in the window of Buckingham Palace’s downstairs lavatory being of the frosted sort.
Screaming winds then reversed the heatwave, blasting inwards with a howl, bringing flame and smoke. Wolseleys, Hillmans, Jaguars and Standard Vanguards alike in the leafy suburbs lifted off their wheels, became burnt-out wrecks and having rolled over and over, at first towards the outer horizon, then rolled back towards town. High, high above the city stood the mushroom cloud, growing as though flexing its muscles, a towering god – but lit from within by fires borrowed from Hell itself. Where once had been a city there now stood a single, cheery-red Post Office letterbox, smoke pouring from the slot as the love-letters, birthday cheques and Football Pools coupons within, stamped with first class and second class alike, roasted. Where once had been a city there now stood a child’s swing, heated to glow red.
By no stretch of the imagination could it be termed a good day for London.
London was obliterated.
The Home Counties could not be said to be exactly enjoying themselves, either. They glowed white, then sank back through yellow and orange to red, journeying towards a dull, matt, ash-black. Three cricket stumps burned like torches in Richmond Upon Thames, but of the players there was no longer the least trace remaining.
Those few, those very, very few, who were left alive began to feel a certain guilt engendered by a near-universal tendency to wonder if perhaps they hadn’t, in fact, copped the sticky end of the wicket when held in comparison to the dead.
The Prime Minister, anxious to avoid accusations of metropolitan parochialism, wondered aloud what had become of the far north of England – Herefordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk?
The Government’s Senior Hair Stylist, who had been idling over a map on the bunker wall, wondering about the fate of the Midlands, of Cheshire, of Derbyshire, and of Lincolnshire, glanced then upwards towards Cumbria and Northumberland. Held apart from the pulse of the nation, separated so utterly by physical distance from the news outlets, had they died without even knowing why? Had the Ee-yoo factions sent missiles raining down there too?
The missiles that Brussels had sent arcing over the English Channel and the North Sea had, of course, been quite meticulously, fairly and generously spread about. The nations of Europe, England’s greatest fan-club, comprised of France, Germany, Spain and Italy, had all contributed the necessary ordnance. “Glee” is not a term oft bandied about in those nations, but in the matter of the permanent flattening of England the rather serious monsieurs, the perennially cross herrs, the superior señors and the senior signores all allowed themselves a giggle.
Portugal alone had raised a dissenting voice, and Portugal had been reminded by Brussels of Portugal’s diminutive size, unimportance, and vulnerability.
… [and onwards, once I write the rest!] To be continued, as they say.
The only banter that I have written for the story thus far:
The Government’s Senior Hair Stylist, and the Prime Minister, upon leaving the nuclear shelter of Number Ten Downing Street:
‘London’s a shit-heap’ said Jaycie, tugging hair out of her favourite hairbrush.
The P.M. didn’t see any such sign of status quo in the landscape. ‘No, something’s definitely changed, but I can’t put my finger on what’s different.’
‘All of the buildings have been burnt away? The place is radioactive and will be so for fifty-thousand years? Everybody’s dead? That sort of difference?’
‘No, it’s something about the mood of the place, I’m very good at sensing moods. London used to have a sort of cheerful raspberry-red aura, now it’s more sort of, well – dark cherry. It looks so gloomy!’ The P.M. abhorred gloom.
© Ian Hutson 2018 / The Deisel-Electric Elephant Company, England.
It’s great fun! The Prime Minister has no idea what is in store. The worst is yet to come.
What I must do now of course is to kick the characters into life after the apocalypse. In technical terms this is known as “finishing the damned story”.
After I’ve scratched out this first draft it will be time then to go through it again and again and again, changing, correcting, fiddling and tweaking.
No, I said “tweaking”. I have never “twerked” in my life, and I don’t even know what “twerking” is. Something akin to Mafeking, one imagines.
I plan on a break later this afternoon to bake a loaf of bread (to replace the one that I have just eaten), and I’ll need to take time out every couple of hours in order to feed and poke at the stove. That’s my “Bank Holiday” weekend planned out.
I hope that you’re enjoying yours (even if you’re in London)!
Keep a weather eye on Europe for me while I am distracted, if you would, please.
If the weather improves in the next week I may get back to some boating.
Ian H. Admiral (retired), Paperback Writer & Destroyer of Worlds.