The scientists are in terror
and the European mind stops
All philosophers who find
Some favourite system to their mind,
In every point to make it fit,
Will force all nature to submit.
Jonathan Swift, quoted by Thomas Love Peacock
“Thomas love, Peacock Blue or Lime Green?” enquired Vanessa Huntingdon, leafing idly through a colour chart. The rays of the setting sun lit up the the vines creeping up the pergola of the Victorian mansion at the top of Apocalypse Close, making the choice of a colour scheme for the new conservatory seem ever more urgent.
“Peacock” replied Thomas absently. “Green makes me sick”. He was already fondling her thighs, and clearly wasn’t in the mood for a serious discussion about interior decoration.
“Better not say that tomorrow to Paxo” said his wife, sighing and laying aside the colour chart. If she wanted to impose her will in the matter of the colour scheme for the new conservatory, it might be well to cede to his equally pressing needs.
* * *
“It’s … not … sustainable …” He gasped, emitting CO2 in short hot pants.
With a final groan he rolled over, and stared blankly at the ceiling.
“Darling, must you wear those when we make love? A little cross dressing is one thing, but pink frills – it’s so kitsch”.
“They belonged to my mother. She taught me to recycle everything”.
“Well you’d better not wear them to the Television studio. And for Gaia’s sake don’t say anything bad about Green”.
Thomas grunted. He’d wear what he bloody well like. Who would know, under his designer jeans? No-one, except that cute little assistant personal assistant’s assistant of Paxo’s, if he got the chance, after the interview.
* * *
As the National Express coach bumped and ground its way along the narrow winding lanes of the M54, deftly avoiding potholes and traffic cones, George Moonbat cursed his decision to abjure the advantages of the petrol driven automobile. And to think there was a perfectly serviceable Porsche in one of the family garages somewhere!
He checked his carbon footprint counter. The battery was getting low. ‘Must remember to buy some more at the airp… I mean bus station’, he thought. Two hundred miles as the crow flies, or 350 by National Express. He’d have to go easy on the carbon for the next few weeks. Still, in London, he’d have the bike…
It was five o’clock in the morning when George had left his stone cottage nestling in the shadow of Cader Stroffig to take the coach for London. At first he had had the vehicle to himself, but luckily his personal carbon counter didn’t know that. Was he personally responsible for all the emissions of this lead-spitting, CO2-belching monster during that time? he wondered. Or could he share them with the driver? Poor bugger, his carbon count would surely condemn him to the ultimate circle in the hell we’re all heading for.
For the first four hours the bus had zigzagged through the black hills of Tryffidd, stopping at numerous villages to pick up passengers who, like George, had foresaken the motor car for public transport, in accordance with their oath to cease raping the planet which had nurtured them; a one-legged soldier, veteran of the Afghan wars; two nuns, and a girl with her head in a plaster cast. George wondered whether to hand out flyers for the upcoming March for Mother Gaia, but decided against it.
Now it was the last stop before Victoria Coach Station – the little Staffordshire village of Flytepath, recently transformed into the site of London’s fifth airport. Suddenly the coach was invaded by hordes of mindless oiks, heaving their thirty kilos of tourist trash into the coach’s hold and trooping up the aisle, bloated from booze-ups in Budapest, or suntanned from unnecessary planet-destroying sojourns in the Seychelles.
George shuddered as a bronzed couple installed themselves on the other side of the aisle and started browsing through their honeymoon photos on their iphone. Their harsh estuary vowels jangled in his ears. His fingers fell limp over the touch screen keyboard of his ipad. No question now of finishing the chapter of his new book. “Fear and Warming” was due at the publishers next month. Delay was unthinkable; the world could not wait.
He glanced over at the couple giggling at the photos flitting over the little screen. Essex Adam and Eve – sipping cocktails from coconut shells beside the pool; jet-skiing in a tropical lagoon; careering over the desert in a 4X4; paintballing in the nude on a coral reef…
George could stand it no longer. He rose and stood in the aisle looming over them, jabbing at the phone screen. “Don’t you realise” he barked “For every litre of kerosene burnt on your futile pleasure jaunts, a baby drowns in Bangladesh?”
The man rose slowly in his seat, stared impassively at George for a second, then expertly head-butted him, knocking his wireframed spectacles askew into a mangled hockeystick shape.
George groaned and slumped into the aisle, as the driver braked and swerved into the motorway service station. “Five minutes ladies and gentlemen” he announced. He rose and ambled down the aisle towards George, who was wiping the drops of blood from his ipad “And you foureyes, hop it. I’m not having troublemakers on this bus”.
Five minutes later, the driver completed his headcount and turned to the honeymoon couple. “I recognised him soon as he got on. Couldn’t think where from. He was on telly last week, dishing out orders, telling everyone what they could do and couldn’t do”.
“Tory minister, is ‘e?” said the honeymooner.
“Somefing like that”.
* * *
Night was falling when the minicab arrived at the motorway service station to pick him up. George flagged it down and got in without a word, still dabbing his nostril. He sank gratefully into the back seat, which appeared to be upholstered in the dappled hide of some vanishing tropical herbivore, and muttered “London”.
“That’ll be 250 pound sir. I’ll have to take payment in advance”.
“That’s alright” murmured George, shuffling the sheaf of cards in his wallet “The paper will pay”.
He stared at the never-ending parallel lines of headlights and tail lights stretching out before them. “When will we all wake up?” he muttered, as his eyes closed.
When he opened them again they were in the outskirts of London. “Who was it described London as the Great When?” he mused. He’d heard that at Hay-on-Wye, or was it Ware? Doctor someone, but Who? No, not Dr Who … Sutton? Dr Sutton? Sutton Hoo? He fingered his ipad, googling distractedly. ‘ah, “Great Wen”. Dr Johnson, of course.
The taxi initiated the complex foreplay which would eventually lead to its inserting itself into the outer ring road. “Whereabouts sir? North or South?”
“North please. NW3. Apocalypse Close”.