Survivor

survivor-blog-170211When Diane set off in bright sunshine to camp in the mountains and experience the wildness of nature, she gave no thought to the wickedness of man. A happy, successful student, she meant to enjoy to the full her last week of freedom before starting a career. But the power of nature almost overwhelmed her; and the malice of man was worse…


Mrs Reeves looked doubtfully at the computer screen where, courtesy of Skype, she could see her daughter, Diane.
“I’m still not happy with this idea of you hiking off into the woods on your own for a week. It’s bad enough you’re in America all those miles away without thinking of you unprotected and defenceless.”
Diane sighed. “Mum, it’s one of the reasons I came over here, remember? There’s no real wilderness left in England, and I want to go somewhere where it’s just me and nature. It’s not really dangerous, you know.”
“You’re an attractive young woman, Diane. I wish you’d let Howard go with you. He could take care of you.”
Diane covered a smile. Bookish musicologist Howard, six foot four and a scant ten stone, wouldn’t even be able to keep up with her, never mind look after her. She loved him for who he was, and she jolly well didn’t need a protector anyway. Besides, Howard was in LA at a conference.
“I’ll be fine, Mum.”
“Just phone me every night, Diane. I’ll be worried sick.”
“Okay, Mum. Provided my cell phone has a signal. You look after yourself, too. Love you!” Diane broke the connection. She shook out her wavy, auburn hair, and her face gradually cleared. Six years of university study had been fulfilled with the award of a PhD; in two weeks time she would start her career with a merchant bank in the City. For the next seven days she would be freer than she had ever been, probably freer than she would ever be again.
She hardly noticed the fifteen kilograms of her pack when she set off the next morning. The gentle air buoyed her up. The sun made the distant peaks seem close. She breathed deeply, and exulted in the sense of freedom as she set off from the hotel along the Storm Valley Trail. A man in the car park looked up from his pick-up, and grinned at her. He was wearing a camouflage jacket and trousers, and a hint of ginger hair showed under his military-style cap. Diane wondered whether he was a hunter; her guidebook had warned her to be cautious when she entered wooded areas.
She walked steadily, with no sense of haste. After an hour she paused to remove her jacket, and have a drink. The day was warming up. The river flowed broad and strong beside her. As she sat completely still and gazing at the water, she saw a flash of blue. A kingfisher dived and reappeared with a small shiny fish in its beak. “Oh, wow!” she exclaimed, under her breath, and watched as the bird flew upstream with its catch.
Diane walked on. She could smell the warm grass, the damp riverbank, and her own sweat. Sometimes she passed grazing cattle, and even at a distance she could detect their sharp, sweet scent. The riverbank was alive with the buzz of insects.
At midday she sat down in the shade of a tree. The knobbly bark massaged her back, and the grass was soft beneath her. The triple-decker club sandwich had looked intimidatingly large when the hotel had delivered her packed lunch; now it seemed an ideal size. Diane devoured buttered wholegrain bread stuffed with mayonnaise, salad, turkey and small crunchy pieces of salty, smoky bacon.
Satisfied, she sat quietly and thought of Howard. No good imagining him out here in the countryside; you would never catch him more than a hundred metres from civilization. So she thought of him instead in the Conference Centre in LA, arguing animatedly about the music of Geminiani and the significance of a recently discovered manuscript in Dublin. She loved his passionate enthusiasm; she loved to hear him perform. Mentally, she conjured up the sound of a recorder consort, with Howard playing a virtuoso sopranino part. She chuckled.
Still, there were miles to be covered before she could camp up for the evening. She smeared on more suncream, put on her hat and pack, and set off again.
By five o’clock she had arrived at her intended destination and pitched her tent. She sat late that night, and savoured the stars. There was no moon, and yet the sky was ablaze. Mingled with the familiar twinkling crystals were swirls of faint light like milt in a rock pool, the whole forming a great arch across the sky. Diane had never seen the Milky Way so clearly before, and she was filled with awe and delight.
She woke early, five o’clock. She was a little stiff from sleeping on the ground, but her sleeping bag felt luxurious.
“Oh, bother!” Suddenly she remembered that she hadn’t called her mother as she’d promised. She reached out of bed for her cell phone. Wait a minute. What time is it in London? One o’clock. That’s okay. She dialled, but there was no reply and she was transferred to voicemail.
“Hi, Mum! It’s only me. Just letting you know I’m alright – sorry I didn’t call yesterday. Bye!”
The second morning’s walking was harder. The path became rough, and climbed slowly but persistently. The river on her right was noisy and fast, the brown water breaking over boulders, churned to froth, a cappuccino river. A precipitous rocky slope rose on her left keeping her close to the water; she couldn’t avoid the tumultuous noise of the rapids. She looked wistfully across the river, at the grassy meadow on the other side and the woodland beyond. Could she somehow cross? No, the torrent would wash her away in a second. And what was that at the edge of the trees? It looked like a human figure; but when she looked again it had merged into the background as though camouflaged.
She felt a sense of relief as she crested a slope and saw that the land in front of her opened out. She lost no time in walking away from the river to a place where she was less battered by its sound. Lunch was a frugal meal. Bread, cheese and an apple. She filled a one litre water bottle from the stream and dosed it with a chlorine tablet.
Clouds were gathering, and the wind was rising. She checked the weather forecast on her cell phone. The storm that had been due to strike sixty miles south of her had changed course; she was going to have the worst of it. ‘Still,’ she thought, ‘provided I pitch up properly I shouldn’t have any problems. The tent’s advertised to stand up to Force 10 winds.’ She walked on.
That evening she stopped early. The sky was solid grey, and the air was gusty. She chose a small raised plateau well above the river as her campsite. There was just time to heat her meal before the storm broke. As she ate, she sat at the entrance to the tent looking through the lashing rain. This time she had no doubt. There was a man in camouflage on the far bank, and he had pitched camp about fifty metres from the river. Was it the man she’d seen in the car park? She shook her head. Whoever he was, and however irritating it was that he should encroach on her solitude, he was on the far side of a fast, deep stream. He was no threat. She was peacefully asleep in bed before nine o’clock.
The crash of thunder woke her abruptly. She lay still, heart pounding, not sure what had disturbed her. The rain was still hammering on the walls of the tent, which were bellying out to one side like sails. They flapped and clattered in the gale.
“Ouch!”
The tent was lit brighter than day for an instant, and within a heartbeat came the crash of thunder. Diane buried her head in her sleeping bag. It didn’t help. The flashes of lightning were so bright that she could see them with her head under cover and her eyes closed. It was like being on a battlefield.
The quilted sleeping bag muffled Diane’s laughter.
“I wanted adventure,” she said to herself, “and it looks like I’ve got my wish. Ow!” LA would have been more comfortable and definitely safer…
The electrical storm gradually receded, but the rain continued relentlessly. Diane dozed.
It was broad daylight when she woke and the rain had stopped. She looked at her watch. 06:15. Should she go on, or go back? She took a biscuit from her pack.
“Breakfast in bed!”
The sleeping bag was surprisingly comfortable, and after her disturbed night, Diane was tempted to go back to sleep. But the wind had dropped, and the light coming in through the wall of the tent was golden. It would be a shame to waste a beautiful morning. She levered herself up onto one elbow.
“That’s odd.” She could feel vibration through her elbow, vibration that was intensifying. She began to feel a pressure in her ears, which became a rumble, which became a roar. She scrambled out of the bag, unzipped the tent door, looked out and gasped.
The whole mountainside seemed to be moving, rocks, mud, trees, cascading helter-skelter.
A fir tree that had stood a hundred feet high drifted past her, canted at a ludicrous angle like the mast of a stricken sailing vessel. She looked uphill. The edge of the mudslide wasn’t approaching her any more closely, and the flow seemed to be slackening. Just to be on the safe side, though, she grabbed her protective jacket and boots and moved away from the avalanche. She glanced again up the slope, wondering uneasily whether the area directly above her was stable.
When all movement had stopped, Diane packed up her kit. Time to go home. She looked more closely at the mudslide, to see whether it would be possible to cross it. She shook her head. No. It would be far too hazardous. She looked up to the top of the landslip. There was solid rock up there, but it was at least a thousand feet higher than where she was standing. She could see new streamlets spurting out of the scar left by the landslide. It didn’t look like an easy passage; it might well be impassable.
It was starting to seem as though she would have to follow the original route, up to a point where she could cross the river and then hike down the far side. She glanced across to the far bank. The river, in spate from all the rain, had been dammed by the mud and debris. It was pooling, and rapidly spreading and deepening. She saw the man again. He wasn’t looking at the pool, or the landslip.
“He’s looking at me!” realised Diane. And the man made a lewd gesture.
Suddenly the route across the top of the landslip seemed a great deal more attractive.
As quickly as she could, Diane shouldered her pack and set off diagonally up the mountainside, away from the fallen hillside. The ground was very wet. Every careful step squeezed water out, little runnels that trickled downhill. Sometimes the soil slid backwards under her tread. Her boots became turgid with mud. She turned upstream, at an angle to the fall line, trying to find solid ground that would not be likely to slip. Reaching a line of rocks, she followed them up into the trees.
Once inside the woodland and out of sight of the stalker, she breathed more easily. She took out her map and identified the plateau where she’d camped. She estimated how far she’d come, and in what direction, and marked the place on the map. So, if she was right about the exact location of the apex of the mudslide, she needed to travel north-north-west and climb steeply.
The woods were dense, and there were no visible landmarks. There were many obstacles that stopped her from following a straight path. It was exhausting work. Almost, Diane turned round to follow her original route, but her fear of the stalker was too strong. She paused at midday. As she sat down on a rock, she remembered her mother and pulled out her cell phone. There was no signal. The battery was nearly spent, too. With a sigh, she zipped it up again in her pocket. She ate a few biscuits, and drank some water, pulling a face at the taste of chlorine.
Although the day was bright, under the canopy of the wood it was twilight. Diane felt tired. Surely she should be close to the mudslide? Or had she climbed too high? She wished she could see a landmark, or preferably two, and take compass bearings. Never mind. Moping wasn’t going to take her home. She slogged on.
After another hour the light ahead brightened.
“The trees must be thinning out, thank goodness,” she muttered.
Not knowing whether she was above the unstable ground or not, she went forward cautiously. She could see rock ahead; that was a good sign.
Suddenly, her breath caught in her throat. Surely that was a figure there, just outside the wooded area? She slipped behind the trunk of the closest tree and peeped round it. Not a hundred metres away stood a man in camouflage, looking into the wood. Hardly daring to breathe she backed away, keeping the tree between her and the stalker. When she had placed another hundred metres between herself and the man she paused. There was no sign of anything but trees, no sound of anything but the wind in the canopy and a single bird singing.
She trotted, at a measured pace she knew she could maintain for hours if necessary. The stalker must know the mountain very well, she reasoned, and he must be fit and fast to have overtaken her. She tried not to think of him. The rising sense of panic interfered with the rhythm of her running and her breathing. She reached the south-eastern edge of the wood. No sign of him. She looked over the valley. Was that a place where she could cross?
Now she ran like a sprinter, heedless of the risk of falling. If she could just cross the river and reach the woods opposite without being seen, she had a chance. She skidded on scree as she neared the stream, almost sliding into the torrent. She climbed onto a rock. It was wet and slippery. The water looked very close and fierce, a lion waiting to pounce and devour her. She stepped onto the next rock, and nearly slithered off. Another step, and another.
With a yell of defiance, she made it to the penultimate boulder. Even as she tensed to spring over the last gap she heard a shout from behind. Her legs weakened, the jump fell short and her feet slipped back off the rock. She hurled her upper body forward, winding herself, bruising her chest and gashing her face, but falling clear of the water.
Desperately, she hauled herself to her feet, struggling to breathe. Her vision flickered and greyed, and she fought to stay conscious. The stalker was close to the water’s edge, he was at the water’s edge, he was on the first rock. At last Diane forced some air into her lungs, and her sight cleared a little. Bending down, she grabbed a large stone.
“Stop!” she croaked. “Stop, or I’ll throw this at you!”
The man laughed, and took another pace. Diane hurled the rock. The man swayed to one side and the projectile missed. The man snarled. Diane bent down, grabbed another missile. The man was only metres away. She hurled it, fiercely, and it struck him full in the face. He wobbled, but advanced relentlessly. Diane bent to gather another stone as the man took the final pace over the torrent. Blood was streaming down his face as he lurched across.
Diane hit him in the face with the rock, as hard as she could. She pushed him, toppling him back into the stream. His head caught a boulder, and then he was whirled away in the spate.
Diane shrank back, horrified. She wondered whether to run downstream and try to help the man. But he couldn’t have survived the rapids? Could he? Perhaps it had been her final blow that had killed him. Certainly she had caused his death.
She sat down a little away from the stream, still gulping in air, still dizzy. She ached in every part. She rubbed her face where it stung, and was amazed at how much blood there was on her hand when she took it away. After a few minutes, she stood up and walked unsteadily down the path by the stream. She looked intently at the torrent, dreading that she would see the man’s corpse, and dreading that she wouldn’t see it, that he would be waiting for her downstream, waiting for revenge. She wept as she walked.
It was only a mile downstream to the site of the landslide. The pool had already overtopped the dam and was carving itself a new channel. Even as she watched, debris from the mudslide toppled into the water draining from the lake, and the flow speeded up. Floating face down in the lake, a figure in combat fatigues spun gently in an eddy.
Diane wondered about her cell phone. Would she have a signal here? With clumsy fingers she pulled it out. Thank goodness. There was a signal. She dialled the emergency services, described where she was.
“And there’s a man here,” she told them. “He’s in the river. I think he must be dead. He must have fallen in. He’s not moving.”
They were very quick.
Within an hour, Diane was seated in a helicopter. Beside her, on the floor, lay the corpse of the man in fatigues, a wisp of red hair, dark with mud, across his brow. Water trickled from his clothing and spread like a bloodstain across the floor.


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On coming late to womanhood

lavender

Would you like a bunch of lavender,
Purple flowers, sage green stems, and fragrant?

Once you might have had daisies
Gathered in your gingham skirt
While you made chains and counted petals
– loves me – loves me not.

But would you like a bunch of lavender,
Homely in style and straggling in habit
And fragrant with summer?

Once you might have had roses red,
A white dress,
(Would you have been romantic?
Would you have gone a virgin to your marriage bed?).

Come, have some lavender.
Blessed by bees, age-old remedy,
Bringer of forgetful sleep.

Once, your hands might have held posies from your children,
Orchids from your husband,
Tokens of their love, your worth
– loves me – loves me not.

Yes, I will have lavender
But not for sleep, not to forget.
I will have lavender and laugh with the bees,
My own habit straggling, but joyful.
I will have lavender and rejoice.

And one day I shall have lilies
White in my arms as I lie still
A small smile on my face
For my body – my old body – is perfect.

That day

16463771_1438247266186876_1789566438159118410_o

This is a poem by a friend of mine, Alison Simmons, and the photograph that inspired it, taken by kenaz24photography. I enjoyed words and image, so I thought I’d share them. Thank you to both Alison and Dylan!

“That Day”

Where did the sun go on that day, the cloud hung deep and low
Your lone figure on the hill, I watched you walk away.
Where did the joy go on that day, the trees and air were still
My heart screamed loud, my tears fell hushed, I could not speak or pray.

The birds flew south and winter came, you left me, now I know
I asked your friends, I said I’m fine, I saw them nod to say,
I held my breath and stopped the time, I felt the clock go slow,
Your friends they gently smiled and moved, the shadows came to play

But now the spring is coming, the winter’s rest has slipped,
The day the birds return is near, the sun will burn the mist.
My strength to look, to calm my heart, another day renewed,
The shadow of you on that path an autumn memory,
But still I wont forget my love,
That hill, that cloud that day..

The Saboteurs

“DON’T FRACK OUR FOREST”.
Paul nodded approval of the banner as he entered Edwin’s bedsit.
“Like it!” he said. “Is that for the demo on the 28th March?”
Edwin grunted.
“Have you persuaded anybody else to sign the petition yet, Paul?”
“Yeah, I talked a couple of colleagues into it. One of them might come on the 28th too. It’s a bit difficult, though, as most of them are engineers.”
“Then they ought to be used to decisions based on evidence. Put your back into it, Paul; this is important.”
“Hi Eddie; hi, Paul!” Liz came in cheerfully, and kissed Edwin on the mouth. “All ready for tonight? I can’t wait!”
“Did you make the banner, Liz? It’s really eye-catching!” asked Paul, grinning, and kissing Liz on the cheek she offered him.
“No, that was Eddie. He’s a dab hand with a sewing machine. I just made the coffee.”
There was a knock at the door. “I’ll get it,” said Liz, as she opened it to let Nick join them.
Edwin sidled over to Paul.
“Don’t even think it,” he said.
Paul looked down at him with resignation. “What am I supposed not to think, Eddie?”
“You know what I mean. No funny business with Liz while you’re on this mission. She’s my partner.”
“That’s not a very enlightened attitude to women, my friend.”
“No friend of yours, you posh git. Liz is free to make her own mind up. I wouldn’t hurt her; I love her. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stand by and see someone else mess with her. So keep your hands off.”
“I’ll make my own decisions about that, Eddie. I’ll be quite happy to beat the living daylights out of you, if that’s what you want.”
“In your dreams.”
“Don’t take any notice of Eddie,” exclaimed Liz to Paul. “He’s just wound up about tonight’s operation.”
Edwin, mid-thirties, ex-army corporal, called them to order.
“Right. Listen up. Paul and Liz, you’re the Away Team. You set off in ten minutes to the exploratory fracking site. Here’s the grid reference.
The place should be deserted but put your balaclavas on before you leave the car; cover up that blonde hair, Liz. Check that there’s nobody there by throwing pebbles at the portakabin – not big ones; we don’t want to break anything needlessly. Throw at least five, with one minute gaps between them. If nobody responds you can assume there are no security guards. Cut the fence and enter.
Check for things that could damage the environment, like diesel in an unbunded tank, or chemicals stored on open ground, and photograph them. Use the stencils and spray paint to write ‘DON’T FRACK OUR FOREST’ on the portakabin. Photograph that, too. Then come straight back here.
Nick and I are the Home Team. We’re here to send in the cavalry if there are problems, and we’ll post the pictures on social media when the Away Team return. It will blow that company’s environmental credentials right out of the water.
Remember. If you need to phone, use the pay-as-you-go phone, not your personal phone, so the call can’t be traced back to you.”
Are there any questions?”
Paul, Liz and Nick looked at each other.
Paul shrugged.
“Sounds straightforward enough. Come on, Liz, let’s go! See you, Nick!”
The shelves, the furniture, even the floor of Edwin’s bedsit were covered with books, pamphlets and old takeaway cartons. Nick stacked up enough of them to be able to sit on the grubby sofa, and shuffled a space for his feet so he wouldn’t be treading on any of them. It would be at least three hours before Paul and Liz returned. Ed uncovered the keyboard of his computer, and brought up a page of Inside Climate News. He maintained a steady and profane commentary on what he was reading.
Nick fidgeted. He picked up a leaflet and glanced through it. Contamination of water with methane in Pennsylvania. The evidence supported the claim, but how relevant was it to the proposed drilling in the forest? He said as much to Ed.
“Pennsylvania is where they’re drilling into the Marcellus shale. There’s a raft of evidence of leaking gas well casings in the Loyalsock Forest. I wish you’d make an effort to keep informed.”
“Shall I go and buy us pizza?”
“Already sorted; due to be delivered at half past ten. I hope you’ve got twenty quid in your pocket to pay for it.”
“Do you mind if I use your loo?”
“Go ahead.”
Nick went down the corridor and occupied the lavatory. With the door safely bolted, he drew out his mobile.
“Hi. It’s Nick. Everything’s going ahead. They should arrive in an hour.”
He put the phone away and washed his hands ostentatiously.
The heavy shove as he left was completely unexpected and jolted him into the edge of the door. Even though he anticipated the subsequent blow to his midriff and tensed his muscles, it knocked all the wind out of him. Then he was being held, Edwin’s enraged face thrust towards him.
“So who was that then? Eh? Eh?” Edwin tugged at Nick’s collar repeatedly, each time banging his head painfully against the door.
“My Dad. I’ve arranged delivery of a takeaway for him.”
“Liar! You’re a grass. Here, let’s see that phone!” His forehead smashed into Nick’s nose, and his hand reached for the phone in Nick’s pocket.
Last number redial.
“Hallo, Nick. Didn’t expect you to call back. Is there a problem?”
“Is that the police? I have an emergency with one of your colleagues. He’s haemorrhaging. He gave me this number to ring.”
“OK. Place him in the recovery position – you know what that is? – and we’ll get an ambulance round straightaway. Is he fit to speak?”
“Nah, don’t bother with an ambulance. He’s okay after all. Just a bit of a nosebleed. Nice of you to confirm who you are, though. By the way, did he tell you he’d been sleeping with one of our members? That’ll taint his evidence a bit I should think. Bye-bye!” Edwin almost sang his farewell.
As he ended the call he could hear sounds of consternation from the other end.
“Now that your undercover role is compromised, you’d better go and meet your buddies somewhere. I suggest you tripped and broke your nose when you fell. It might be less embarrassing than standing up in court and admitting what a pig’s ear you’ve made of things.”
Nick dabbed at his nose. The bleeding had already almost stopped, but it felt very sore. He picked up his cagoul and slunk out of the building.
Paul had driven relentlessly quickly on the motorway. Once in the forest he drove like a rally driver. Liz clutched the sides of her seat, and sometimes closed her eyes. She was exhilarated. They were within two miles of their destination with thirty minutes to spare. Stars sparkled in the ribbon of black sky left between the trees.
“We’d better stop for a bit,” suggested Liz. “You’ve been way faster than Ed. You’re much smoother, too.”
With a screech of tyres Paul pulled off the road into a fire-break between the trees. Liz’s hand slipped surreptitiously onto the inside of his thigh.
“You’d better turn off the phone; we don’t want Eddie interrupting, do we?”
Liz grinned. “Already done,” she said, holding up the phone and displaying its dark screen.
Edwin dialed the Away Team’s number. No answer. He frowned and looked at his watch. They’d be in the forest, but not at the fracking site. Possibly there was no mobile coverage where they were. But they should have coverage when they arrived; he knew, he’d checked. He sent a text, and worried. While he was confident that Nick wouldn’t say anything about his assault, if Paul and Liz were caught after they’d cut the fence they could be prosecuted for criminal damage. It might even mean a custodial sentence. That would be tough; he knew from personal experience.
There was no reply to his text after ten minutes. Either the phone had a fault, or Liz had forgotten to charge it – but surely, even Liz wouldn’t have been that scatty? – or they’d switched it off. His gorge rose and his fists balled. Perhaps he could get through on Liz’s personal mobile. He’d need his own phone for that; he hadn’t memorized her number.
He never carried his personal mobile in his pocket; it was too likely to fall out. Mostly he kept it on his desk. It wasn’t there. He looked in the other likely places, on the sofa, down the side of the sofa, on the television stand, on the middle bookshelf.
They must be at the site by now, unless…if they’d had an accident, the mobile could be broken. In Edwin’s opinion, Paul drove like a maniac. In any case, there was no reply. He kept searching for his phone.
In the forest, Paul and Liz straightened their disheveled clothing. “Oh-oh. We’re nearly late!” Paul released the clutch, and the car shot out onto the lane.
“Just slow down a mo, so I can turn on the mobile.”
Paul grinned. “Don’t be so wet. There won’t be a message. We’re late. Here we go!” The car roared down the road, and there was no way Liz could enter the correct PIN.
There was a different ring tone.
“That’s my personal phone,” said Liz. “I wonder who it is? I’m not going to answer it, because it won’t be Eddie.”
It went to voicemail.
“Nearly there. Yee-hah!” Paul punched the air with his left fist.
The phone rang again.
“Who on earth can that be at this time of night?” Liz pulled out the phone, and looked at the screen. “It is Eddie! What on earth is he playing at? Eddie? What’s up?”
Paul swerved off the road into the entrance to the site, sending up a shower of grit that tinkled against the gate. “You have reached your destination,” he announced.
Liz spoke in a little voice. “That was Ed. The mission is off. Nick was a police informer.”
They looked at each other.
“An informer? Nick?”
Liz nodded.
They stared apprehensively at the dark trees. Who was hidden in the shadows?
Paul engaged first gear and drove away, slowly and very carefully.

Note on fracking
Fracking is a technique by which sub-surface rocks are broken to recover the natural gas, mostly methane, trapped inside it.
Burning methane contributes less to climate change than burning coal, but it is not zero carbon. Putting fracking infrastructure in place will commit us to burning the gas to recover the investment.
There is a good deal of evidence that fracking can cause contamination of groundwater. There is also evidence that methane can reach the atmosphere; when it does, it is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
There are several sites in the UK where exploratory drilling has been proposed, including Sherwood Forest.

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From a liberal point of view – February 2017

Yesterday, the House of Commons voted in favour of Brexit. To say that I am angry about Brexit is to massively understate my feelings. I am outraged by a decision that seems so palpably against the national interest.
But what will my anger achieve?
Nothing positive.
In the short term it will make me less happy. If the anger is prolonged (and there’s a real risk of that), it will adversely affect both my mental and physical health. Perhaps worst of all, because angry people usually think less clearly, my anger will make me less effective in opposing the many socially damaging policies that this government wishes to introduce.
So, I shall abandon anger.
Easier said than done. How can I do it?
As an aspiring wordsmith I believe passionately in the power of words. There are many Facebook threads and many journalistic articles that are angry rants. Every one of the angry words that I read (or listen to) is nudging my mental state towards anger and away from tolerance. Recognising this gives me two practical steps that I can take.
Practical step number 1 – I shall only read factual articles about Brexit, and I shall even try not to read too many of those. I shall stop reading, or viewing, angry rants (except – maybe – Jonathan Pie…).
Practical step number 2 – I shall try to remind myself continually that what I must oppose are the policies (Brexit, austerity etc) and the mindsets (racist, misogynist, homophobic) without demonising the people. Many of those who voted for Brexit did so for motives that they thought were right.
That does not mean that I shall be doing nothing. I shall continue to write to my MP about Brexit, the NHS, and the arms trade. I shall sign petitions. I shall attend meetings* and demonstrations. But I shall try to do so effectively and without anger.
Wish me luck!
*For any South Devon readers, there’s a meeting in the Civic Hall, Totnes, at 7:30 p.m. Friday February 10th, to discuss the future of progressive politics. Caroline Lucas should be there!
Please, if you agree with this post, share it with your friends!