Two great novels to download for Christmas. First frighten yourself with the chaos and terror of global flooding; coming NOW ! Then reassure yourself and the human race that it will all turn out OK in the Utopian Future. Both are gripping and romantic tales that you won’t be able to put down. Most readers hide away from family, friends and all interruptions and read from cover to cover in one session – or on an airline flight. All the heroines and heroes are real people – we apologize for any similarity to fictional characters.
And the factual bases are realistic. These things will come to pass. Treat yourself to a truly good read.
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“Fifty years ago, most of the glaciers we looked at were slowly growing in length but since then this pattern has changed. In the last five years the majority were actually shrinking rapidly.” Scientists estimate the glaciers are losing 250 cubic kilometres of ice to the seas each year – about 60% more than they gained through snowfall. British Antarctic Survey report – 22 April 2005.
On the late afternoon low tide Alice slid her kayak into Hans Place, just behind Harrods, lifted the paddle from the dark, swirling waters, drifted to a half submerged first-floor window, floating twenty feet above street-level, checked as she always did that the darkened room behind the glass was abandoned and empty of decaying corpses and their unquiet ghosts, clung onto the window struts under the wide dark-red brick lintel, where she all but disappeared from view, stopped breathing – and listened.
Alice Whitaker was now turned nineteen. And although she had the best of everything that she had ever wanted or in her wildest shop-a-holic fantasies, had ever dreamed of having, after three years of creeping inundation and recurrent plagues, Alice’s face, and her character, had changed from being outgoing, confident, innocent and in full bloom to being pale, set, paranoid and wary. She wore her fair hair tied up tightly into a top-knot and pony tail, not for the pleasing appearance it gave but to lift the hair clear of her ears – ‘all the better to hear you with, my Dear’ – and out of her eyes – ‘all the better to see you with, my Dear’. Survival depended on being always alert.
The tide was on the turn and grey-brown, threatening water was already pouring inwards, rushing through broken windows, along alleyways and narrow streets, and surging dangerously around corners of buildings, lampposts and pillars. Alice bobbed in her camouflaged double-handed Aluet Sea 11 kayak and clung on. After a long, long silence, while her ears heard nothing but the water slapping against stonework and cries of gulls scudding high in the grey skies above the sheltering canyon, she whispered into a walkie-talkie handset, billed on its convincingly hi-tech, shiny designer box as “Spy-Con – Inexhaustible Battery and Wind-Up-Power. Range Two Kilometres – Defies interception as it auto-cycles through Four-Thousand wave bands per minute. Privacy Guaranteed” and, as she whispered into the very expensive mouthpiece, her privacy and her transmission were, despite the promise on the box, breached and intercepted.
“I’m coming in…” she whispered, “…OK?”
“OK” confirmed a husky reply – also whispering.
High above the water with views over much of London, in the Executive Suite and Restaurant of the two-hundred-and-forty-foot, seventy-five-metres high Post Office Tower, latterly BT Tower, on Cleveland Street, south of the Marylebone Road; an ordered chaos of electronic telecoms boxes nested in a bewildering maze of wires and fed signals from near and far into recording equipment and, of particular threat to Alice’s preference for secrecy, into the headphones of one of several middle aged men who bent tensely over a control panel – and listened with fierce concentration to Alice’s “Privacy Guaranteed” conversation.
Mount Kilimanjaro, (Kilima Njaro, Shining Peak)at 5,895 metres (19,340 feet) Africa’s tallest mountain, has lost its famous snow cap. Fifteen years earlier than the most pessimistic global-warming forecasts, the volcanic tip of the mountain is visible for the first time in 11,000 years, testifying to the devastating speed of climate change. G8 Energy and Environment Summit, London, March 2005.
“Avian Flu found in migrating geese. Tens of thousands of birds that could be carrying the H5N1 avian influenza virus are due to leave the reserve…” The Guardian Thursday July 7 2005.
Three years earlier, on government advice which in turn the government obtained from the very best scientific authorities, the population of central London, North and South of the river, had stayed put when the waters rose and spilled over the Embankment in the Spring Tides.
About two million souls, including Alice, hopeful, dark-eyed, slim, pretty, seventeen and dating, and her family among them; all imbued with the same stubborn and stoical spirit as the people of the London Blitz, humming Land of Hope and Glory and appropriate sea-shanties, simply decamped from their ground floors, abandoned their cellars, delicately ignored the politely named ‘reflux’ that washed back up the lower lying lavatory pans, basins and bathtubs, donned waders to go shopping, rescued what precious belongings they could, watched the filthy waters rise and invade their buildings and then, with their families and household pets, moved upstairs.
“Protect your property from looters.” Was the sensible and sound advice issued by London’s Emergency Services Council, in turn taking their advice from HM Government, which in turn relied heavily, as they often repeated, on the best available scientific advice, “You may be uncomfortable for a few days; but don’t lose a lifetime’s assets for want of a few days of vigilance.” Nobody could be sure that their Household Contents Insurance would remain valid if they ignored the government’s advice – and so they stayed – for the duration.
The duration was far longer than Londoners expected. At high tide The Thames rose several feet above the pavements in Parliament Square, flooded Guy Fawke’s cellars under The Palace of Westminster and, nudging forwards a margin of mostly unmentionable flotsam and jetsam, it crept up Whitehall, made a left into Downing Street where Number 10 was protected by the very latest home-flood barrier, and, after spilling ten feet deep at the end of the street down into Horse Guards Parade, it edged up Whitehall towards Nelson, the greatest of all English Admirals, who had been raised high enough to ignore the mess which had been advancing for some weeks in his direction and who could therefore turn a blind eye to it with haughty disdain.
The salty tidal waters rose and fell twice a day, the tides flushed out the sewer rats and all the other sewer contents and, over several weeks, the sea sank deep into the ground, down through fissures and abandoned pipes to pollute the famous artesian wells that had reliably supplied the city with fresh water for more than two thousand years.
But as the tap water became bitter and diseased, Lady Porter and Lord Sainsbury showed their true metal, buried their political differences, rose nobly to the occasion and directed vast supplies of bottled water from Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s supermarkets respectively, discreetly charged at only ten times the usual price, to the stricken areas below and East of Teddington Lock. From the west the Thames above the lock still flowed with fresh-water which was piped, in rapidly laid yellow plastic mains, to cleaning and pumping stations above the shore line in Chelsea, which in turn supplied the affected buildings.
The North Sea – during the Easter Spring Solstice, when the Sun and the Moon line up to tug in tandem at the Earth and lift the mighty oceans into a higher than usual bulge – had flooded up the river estuary, unobtrusively flowed across the Swanscombe and the West Thurrock Marshes and had spilled down into the Dartford Tunnel – fortunately at night when there were no gridlocks of queuing vehicles – then swamped the Dartford Marshes and flooded up the River Darent to Dartford town. Some seventy thousand homes between Dartfordand Eltham awoke to find their feet in freezing cold salty water, with human waste floating on the surface. And most of the brave inhabitants, as advised, stayed put.
That same night The Woolwich Ferry had found its slipway and jetty was suddenly twenty feet below water and was unable to dock on either side of the river. City Airportand the Royal Docks became part of the Thames as did New Charlton – and the North Sea flowed effortlessly around the Thames Barrier. The Blackwall Tunnel was flooded through its airshafts – again, Thanks Be to God, without anyone being trapped inside under the water – and Bow Creek expanded from being an interesting narrow channel into a broad, unpredictable, swirling, dangerous tidal surge. Canary Wharf, and other fabulous high rise office buildings on the Isle of Dogs, at sunrise found that they had no island to stand on, and were ankle deep in the sea.
With the dawn of the next day, joy riders packed the Overhead Light Railway to Docklands from Minories at the edge of The City just for the novelty of seeing the sea below them, sweeping past the rails’ pillars and supports as the tide inexorably advanced on London Town. The Cutty Sark at Greenwich was disgraced when, as the North Sea liberated the famous ship from its dry dock on a mighty swell, it failed to float for more than a few minutes and sank back, elderly and incontinent, to its tourist geared mooring with water flooding over its decks and up its wooden masts. The first single-handed, world circumnavigating yacht, Gypsy Moth, in contrast, bobbed happily about on the choppy surface like a puppy let out to play.
The sea had flowed to the north up the Lea Valley and tens of thousands more homes were marooned. River Police and local boating clubs rushed to aid the families and carry them to higher ground. Wapping and Shad Thames, long the favoured film location for Jack the Ripper movies, went underwater. But it was south Londonthat suffered more than the higher north side. The Elephant and Castle traffic gyratory system became a large boating pool to the joy of Alice’s younger brother Alex and hundreds of other teenaged school children who, oblivious to the dangers, brought rubber boats, home-made rafts and every sort of vessel to play with, making a welcome improvement to the built landscape, and the whole area back to the river was inundated.
New Concordia Wharf on Jacobs Creek and Joseph Conran’s huge Butlers Wharf development, taking in the old brewery by Tower Bridge, had been surprised by tidal flows twenty feet higher than the previous records, which reached high over the puddle-clay skirts, which had kept the submerged basements of those early Victorian masterpieces in baked bricks completely dry for nearly two centuries. The ground floor apartments were soaked, the basements filled and many of the occupants were forced to go out for lunch to expensive restaurants – also as it happened – owned by Joseph Conran. While on the north bank at the other end of TowerBridge, The City stood proud of the first floods and, apart from the Traitor’s Gate in the Bloody Towerbeing overwhelmed, had looked down with effortless superiority upon the plight of its poor south bank cousins.
But, higher up the River Thames at the royal end of London, in the Boroughs where the Royal Court had first settled in an uneasy truce with the wealthy and fiercely independent City, at Westminster and along the Victoria Embankment, it was the north bank that the North Sea had first breached, before it leaked along the southern walk and into the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall, swamping the electric drives of the Millennium Wheel and stranding people who had been curious and brave enough to want to go up aloft in the Wheel’s observation cars to view the scene of creeping and insidious devastation for themselves. They were eventually rescued by Royal Engineers with back-up from Royal Air Force helicopters. It was estimated that more than seventy-thousand more homes, mostly in Pimlico, Lambeth and Battersea had been flooded to a depth of up to four feet on their ground floors – obliging residents to move up to the next floor.
From studies of 35,000 post-menopausal women in Iowa, 58,000 men and 62,000 women in the Netherlands and many other studies, drinking tea, green tea and black tea, apart from being refreshing, is thought to protect against cancer, arthritis, heart disease, high cholesterol, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, malaria and sepsis. The English have been drinking tea for 350 years. The Chinese and Japanese have imbibed tea for two-thousand years. A British economist in 1790 lamented that tea was replacing beer as the national drink for the peasantry. “Take two lean hogs” he wrote, “and feed one on home brewed barley beer and the other on tea. The beer fed hog will thrive and get fat; the tea fed hog will wither and die.” He predicted that the fashion for tea would bring the end of the British Empire. Internet fragments 2001.
As evening faded into night, Aliceslipped her kayak away from the tall terraces in Hans Place, crossed the baffling waves and counter-currents in the narrow street and slid into the deeper shadows of an unpromising looking yard at the rear of Harrods. The walls, climbing a hundred feet above her, punctuated by dull red, solid iron doors, were tiled with white glazed, tired and cracked tiles, carrying runs of metal fire-escapes, polished air conditioning and boiler chimneys and water and electricity conduits. ….
AFTER GLOBAL WARMING.
By Noel Hodson. ISBN 1-4137-6870-9.
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The last thing Sebastian Huggins felt, immediately before he fell in love with the most beautiful woman in the Universe, was very, very cold.
Cold because Concorde, complete with its precious cargo of privileged New Years Eve revellers, landed not at Heathrow on the First of January 2000 AD as planned but due to a freak accident with a magnum of champagne and its metal bound cork, it landed in a deep crevasse, a cavern of blue and white ice, in the unforgiving Polar Ice Cap.
The valiantly heroic efforts of the flight crew, from keen eyed, sun bronzed pilots through to svelte, polite stewards, had slowed the supersonic flight, reassured the passengers, levelled out the serene wings and sculpted belly and brought the beautiful aircraft into the longest ice slide in history, shedding wings, tail and wheels before plunging deep into the icy chasm, yawning unexpectedly at the end of the impromptu runway. The shrieking fuselage, the shock of the impact and the quick blast of a fuel tank exploding brought tons of rocks, icy water and packed snow down on the plane in a frenzied avalanche of steam and spray, which froze within minutes locking the capsule and the passengers deep within the ice, where they disappeared from all human knowledge; for a long, long time.
The Polar Ice winced, crackled in hoary complaint at the invasion by the foolish, briefly warm tube of mammals, then burped up a few spouts of residual steam before grumbling back into a dark, timeless coma.
Days passed, and the intrepid, dogged searchers gave up their intrepid dogged searching and went back to their own humdrum lives; shaking their anorak enveloped heads in disbelief that something so large, so sophisticated and so expensive could vanish so completely – complete with its payload of disgruntled movers and shakers, who, had they had the facilities to instruct their lawyers from their inconvenient new location, would have sued the airline for everything it owned; right down to the last roasted, salted cashew nut.
Weeks passed and the newspapers reduced the column size to two miserable inches, tucked away at the bottom right hand corner of page five. Months passed and grieving relatives held funerals and glorious memorial services before making a brisk businesslike visit to the readings of the wills. After all – life must go on. Flowers were dropped from helicopters onto the incommunicative ice, near where the tail had been found, which was many, many miles from where the sleek body of that supersonic aircraft now lay stilled, immobile for ever, and deathly silent.
Years passed, while the insurance companies resisted claims in the USA, Britainand the European Courts on the grounds of habeas corpus. As one forthright American insurance assessor succinctly put it, while Lloyds of London (1999) Limited distanced themselves from his style but embraced whole-heartedly the spirit of his message; “no stiffs – no loot”. Decades passed, and the disappearance of flight BA-Concorde-2000-AD passed into the legendary literature of Ghost Ships, Pyramid Builders, Bermuda Triangles and Alien Abductions – and became a symbol of all things weird and wonderful in aeronautics.
A century passed, and the insurance companies after carefully deducting a not unreasonable annual management fee, paid up; on the grounds that they accepted the passengers had not returned to their families, had not been discovered alive and well and living in South America and were, on actuarial statistical grounds alone, after one hundred years, in all probability, fully dead. Sebastian Huggins, one of the privileged passengers, was not dead however and was not aware of time passing, but, though he mercifully did not know it, he was extremely cold. More centuries passed.
Sebastian’s first feelings, as awareness returned, and before he fell in love, were dominated by the most gigantic, excruciating, intrusive and overwhelming attack of pins and needles any soul in torment ever had to suffer. He whimpered with self-pity. He writhed with discomfort. He tingled with distress. There was nowhere to put the afflicted limbs and divorce them from himself until the attack subsided. He was the afflicted limb. It was all pervasive. It was universal. It was the whole of existence. And it was torture.
But he did feel warmer. The miracle was that he felt at all.
Gradually the pins melted into the needles and transformed into a deep hot pulse. Minute electrical impulses flashed through billions of little grey cells that had been in the OFF position; awareness gradually returned and peeked out timidly at the brave new world they were about to experience.
From his very foreign, deeply unsettling, but strangely comfortable magnetic-flotation bed, a very large and, as he still believed, a seriously wealthy, American male of the genus homo-sapiens, circa 1955, extended one of his ponderous arms and with his heavy fingers bashed neurotically at the keyboard set into his bedside table to summon another ten Big-Macs-with-Fries and a side Coke to add to the immense pile of fast food that was rapidly filling his floor. Joseph Sigmund Hanson the Third, President and owner of the $1.7 billion Buttermill Corporation, as he still liked to believe, was upset and disoriented. And when he was upset he needed to eat and to be reassured that he could continue to eat for as long as it took to console him. In this crazy place, that did not use money, he had been assured that the computerised hole in the wall would deliver any goods he wanted be it food, clothes, jewellery, a car, a plane or an ocean going yacht making him, in effect, as wealthy as he had ever been – but crucially, without money.
There were many unaccustomed and upsetting things that he currently chose to ignore but the information, that he most urgently needed not to believe, was that this very modern institution functioned without money, and that therefore he, the 140thrichest man in the world, as he desperately had to continue to believe, was no richer (nor poorer) than any other citizen and that despite the loss of his wealth, power and position in society he could still order anything he wanted, and was therefore logically (he had a powerful urge to ram their damn logic up their neat, corked up, athletic little fundaments) as wealthy as he had ever been – and so was everybody else, he either had to reject, test to destruction or risk a complete mental breakdown. He had selected the second option, unconsciously linked it to his need for comfort food, and was demanding burgers, chips and sweet beverages by the minute. So far the computer had smoothly and quickly brought him everything he asked for.
The instant and continuous response from the computer that, after some initial confusion to sort out exactly what he wanted, was currently flooding his room with delicious and high quality food, did nothing however to allay his huge anxiety. As he punched the key-pad automatically and repetitively and as sumptuous food soundlessly appeared in the panel at his every command, his psyche writhed in un-assuaged torment as his universal paradigm, the very essence of his identity and self-knowledge, soundly based on his unquestioned assumptions about the permanence of capital, wealth and the American way of life, crumbled around his faltering ego.
Another part of his unconscious mind knew there was no need to keep on punching in the computer codes to instruct it to deliver Big-Macs-with-fries. But he absolutely refused to enter into a dialogue with the goddamn computer, because in his real world, in thereal world, computers could not hold chatty conversations with homo-sapiens circa 1955 and he urgently needed, or his sanity needed, to hang on to that fact.
Sebastian opened his eyes experimentally, subconsciously aware that an uncountable amount of time had elapsed for which he had no memory. He took in a high-tech, silvered room where he was lying on a gadget festooned, high-tech bed. Tubes snaked around him and stuck to various sensitive bits of him – but stopped at his integument. Nothing pierced his skin. Nothing invaded his physical boundary, yet somehow they brought vital fluids and soothing pharmacological balms which washed him gently back to life. Sitting by him, leaning over him and perilously close to him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her delicate face was radiant with warmth, interest and intelligence. Her interest was in him; Sebastian was the recipient and subject of the most powerful personal interest he had ever known. Even his mother, when available between social events, had bottle-fed him at arms length, to avoid any infantile incidents or leakage, usually watching television or reading Vogue Magazine; her attention not directed at the somewhat wrinkly and compressed little fruit of her womb – an unfortunate child – as she described him, with some maternal warmth and even pride, to her friends.
But the vision looking down at him now was absorbed in his every breath, his slightest movement, the tone of his skin and hair. Her own skin bloomed with health and exuded subtle exquisite perfumes. Her hair swayed in the strong lights and shone with a vigour only previously achieved in twentieth century advertising studios. Her large grey eyes twinkled in the lights as they studied him with wit, humour and compassion. The diamond in the centre of her forehead glowed with inner life and glittered and scintillated with immeasurable value. She was totally alert yet completely relaxed. Her body was slim, athletic and strong. Her breasts were perfectly formed and, to the excusable victim of what Sebastian could safely assume would turn out, when full memory returned, to have been a terrifying ordeal, they looked accessible and comforting to touch. But he constrained himself, gasped, and almost swooned back into unconsciousness.
Sebastian was lost in her ambience. This was the only moment in the entire adventure when he believed he was dead and in heaven. If he wasn’t dead, he wanted desperately to die for her. And he was dumbstruck. His fascinatingly interesting lips fell open incontinently and he gasped a little more. The vision spoke.
“Mr Huggins. Are you with us? …I’m Doctor Eloise Le Friac, your Unit Leader. Do not be afraid. You’ve been asleep for five hundred years and you are now safe in my care”.
Sebastian Huggins was not, in his professional life, a man of few words. In fact, as a serious political journalist and economist he was a man of many words; friends might say far too many words on far too many subjects, but his words failed him now as he absorbed this altogether delicious message. Safe in her care fulfilled his every desire. If he had been able to re-write the script, as he did with sweeping imagination and little regard for accuracy in his memoirs, he would definitely not have said what he is about to say. He would, had he rehearsed the moment, have composed something quotable, as he later remembered he probably had, to mark this historic and unique occasion. But his very real excuse for being less than original was that his brain had just a few moments earlier been defrosted, warmed to room temperature and drained of accumulated waste products after an unremitting five hundred years in deep freeze.
“Where am I?” he heard himself say with crashing and dramatically disappointing predictability. The next completely embarrassing thing he did was to feel not only the deepest, abiding, undying love for the angel bending over him but to realise to his eternal shame that his genes had seized the opportunity to make an early bid for their immortality. His genes stimulated his creative male instincts; which were boldly, some would say nobly, rising to the challenge, covered only by a thin if ultra-warm indestructible sheet. He rapidly bent his legs and made an all encompassing tent. He went pink all over.
A stage whisper intruded from over her head “How very intriguing. He’s immediately cathected with Eloise and would mate with her”. Another voice came from above “A marvellous example of the life-force asserting itself – in the first few minutes. This is a most interesting project” it whispered excitedly.
“Mr Huggins”. The vision leaned nearer to him, when Health & Safety officers might have advised a rapid move in the opposite direction. And she crooned softly and intimately in his burning ear, “You’re safe and well but we are intruding on your privacy. We will withdraw and return when you are composed.”
“No – don’t go.” cried Sebastian, reaching out to catch her divine wrist, but to his everlasting regret, his hand caught nothing. His hand went through her arm and hit the metallic bedside, sending a cascade of delayed pins and needles coruscating up his lonely arm.
“Mr Huggins. I’m not present. We are communicating by enhanced 3-D laser projection. I assure you I will return in ten minutes. In the meantime, be assured of your absolute privacy.” As she and her chair dissolved, to his distress, before his eyes, she turned her exquisite head on her exquisite neck and spoke to the ceiling “Computer – priority need. Mr Sebastian Huggins, guest status Angel Gabriel City, needs clothing”. A computer voice responded, “Understood. 5 minutes 46 seconds”.
Precisely 5 minutes and 46 seconds later a panel of warm, metallic looking material sighed gently open in the wall nearest his bed and a twenty-sixth century jump suit complete with undergarments, exactly tailored to Sebastian’s measurements, appeared as a soothing computer voice murmured “Your clothes Mr Huggins”, before discretely switching itself off.
Dressed and more in command of himself, Sebastian creaked around the room on muscles, bones and sinews which had not moved for half a millennium. He reflected that he was born into a new world, with nothing. He was naked, or just had been, penniless and alone. And he didn’t have his spectacles. On further reflection he felt fine. In fact he felt great and he felt famous – which indeed he was. As the Rip-Van-Winkle of this brave new world he had become, without the least effort on his part, a celebrity. His economist mind triggered daydreams of the chat-show fees he would command, of the royalties from his best selling book, of the speaking engagements he would tour – at ever increasing fees. The film of the book, or perhaps the book of the film would earn a fortune – and he was deeply in love. Plummeting in an air-crash and freezing nearly to death wasn’t all bad, he mused – if you were rescued by an angel. As this thought flitted through his mind he glanced out of the window and buckled at the knees as terrifying vertigo struck him to the floor.
Hanging onto the window-sill for dear life and trembling uncontrollably, Sebastian levered himself up, parked his nose on the sill and peered out cautiously. It was not just the towering height of the building that made him reel; he could see down twenty, thirty, forty stories and he could sense the building carrying on upwards and upwards above his head; but he’d been in tall buildings before; it was the indisputable fact that where the building stopped, where the ground floor clearly was, there was no ground to rest that floor upon. The ground, which his unnerved stomach and absented courage suddenly yearned for, was a long, long way below the ground floor. So far below as to be hazy and indistinct and, even as he managed to force his timorous gaze down and down to focus on it – it wasn’t even ground – it was water. If anyone were to walk out at ground floor level they would simply drop a long, long way, – down – accelerating at fifteen feet per second per second until the physical laws of air resistance forbade any greater speed and the ground, or rather the water, was inevitably, conclusively, finally and fatally reached.
His very recent, last memory of plummeting downwards in an out of control Concorde as the unyielding icy surface of the North Pole rushed up to meet him had, he felt, sensitised him to vertigo. He felt no shame in this newly acquired phobia to add to his collection. After plunging five miles in Concorde and being frozen for five hundred years he thought he was entitled to vertigo – and he probably would also avoid having ice in his drinks for a long time.
As Sebastian clutched the window sill and tried to implant his feet into the floor to assure himself of grip and stability, the 26th century door to his room flew open with a resounding whoosh; admitting a figure, wreathed in billowing white and in full and determined flight which unnerved Sebastian almost more than had his discovery of the absence of sensible foundations for the building.