This tale is in the near future. The United Kingdom has left and not left the European Union. The country is united by division. Everything is just like it is today, only more so. The things that worry and bother and irritate normal people today, will do so tomorrow. Only, because of the situation, just a whole lot more.
It’s hard to explain. Perhaps I should just tell you what happened. I’ll fill in details you might not know as we go along. Treat you as if you were from out of town. Guide you through it all…
I left the bar and the cops and The Department people, and Foxley and the brunette technician with the big thighs, and went outside. With the Mayoral Uber ban in force and the black cab strike on, I decided to head to my office. Which wasn’t too far away, along the river.
I’d gone in, and up, and rested my spinning and now aching head, on my arms. And I must have slept there for a while until I had awoken, just now. In my office. On the top floor of the old building.
The office with the legend
Printed on the glass pane in the door.
Chapter 2. A New Day
“TV on” I said and the Vid’screen blinked into life. “Any channel but the news.” I told it.
The Vid’Screen switched to BBC 24 News extra, As I knew it would. The screen showed the BBC’s morning presenter Ahmed Al-Askari, in the full native dress of a resident of Khartoum, lying full length across his newsreader’s desk. This was new.
The media had been trying to make news reporting more interesting for a long time. The old, austere, managerial desk with a phone, had long gone. So had the business like desk with a laptop. The giant semi-circular, glass topped desk, with presenter using an ipad fad, had been and gone.
So the producers came up with no desk at all. Just newscasters walking around poking and swiping a Minority Report touchscreen wall in the centre of the studio. It looked too much like the bridge of a missile cruiser so there then followed the desk resurrection. But with no chairs or tablets. Newsreader just stood behind it.
That looked mean, as if the budget had been cut, so then came stools with no desk. Stools in front of a desk. A sofa on one side and a presenter leaning on a wall on the other. Four, different sized desks in a row. Steel desks. Marble desks. Slate desks. Hemp desks.
Laid back lawn chairs on fake green grass and a patio table. Some designer had heard most people watched the Bbc news in their garden and wanted the news to ‘exude empathy.’ That idiot got moved on and the next university media and current affairs intake decided low slung chairs behind a coffee table with a Tassimo dispenser with spoons, milk and cornflakes bowls.
There was a guests and presenters lolling on beanbags phase. A short lived ‘pogo stick’ presenter in front of a green screen. Then, an aerobic mat under a desk with the presenters kneeling to camera. And now this, lying languidly on the desktop.
Marketing snowflakes never cease to amaze me. Someone probably got a £100,000 bonus for this ‘horizontal direction engagement’ idea. And it was all so unnecessary anyway.
As it was illegal to NOT watch BBC news.
A while back, at the start of AB,- After Brexit, some pompous Parliamentarians had decided that people didn’t know what was good for them.
The voters ate badly. Invested unwisely. Exercised erratically. Voted appallingly and paid attention to the wise politicians, infrequently. So an amendment, under the Bercow precedents, was made to the TV licensing laws. All televisions, and later the more modern Vid’Screens, were required, by law, to tune to the news for the first forty minutes of each day’s viewing.
The channel was fixed to one of the BBc’s ‘newsshare’ stations for that time period and could not be changed or muted or turned off. The other broadcasters had done their nuts. So it was theoretically possible to switch to another news provider. But in practice, there were so many forms and filings and legal papers to sign and witness, that it was easier to change your religion.
I didn’t mind Ahmed Al-Askari. He was clear. And very smiley. Unlike Ffiona Babycock. Her superior manner, sour expression and her constant finger wagging and the way she spat any word with ‘man’ in it… “Mankind. Management. Manganese”… with all the emotional distaste and disgust of her finding a used condom in her laundry hamper. She was a real turn off. He was much less irritating.
The news seemed to be the usual stories that had been rumbling on all week. The government was in the 2045th day of talks about the EU backstop reversal. They were claiming real progress, and a breakthrough in negotiations.
HS3, High Speed Rail 3, London to Hull, was now going to be delayed by another year and cost another 20 billion europounds. The all wind powered trains were proving difficult to run efficiently.
King Charles II was continuing his tour of tiny countries no one had heard of.
Tabitha Herzog was launching a new range of her titanium plated jeggings. Sales of her self sealing and healing, knife resistant, fashion wear had made her a fortune when the street violence spread from inner city to outer city and even suburbs. ‘Stabitha’ Herzog had done extremely well from that crisis.
“Tv off,” I said. And the Vid Screen ignored me.
The rolling news ticker insisting on informing me that the conglomerate Jaguar-Landrover-Ford-Nissan shares were down. And that the Ant and Dec’s emotional wedding to each other was going to be a private affair. Just 15,000 celebrities and close friends.
And the Met Chief said she was running very short of enough metal barriers to put up for Euro-Commissionaire Dominique Grieve’s visit.
I walked over to the old fashioned three drawer metal filing cabinet and pulled a side handle that revealed that the filing cabinet was in fact a disguised fridge-freezer. No one ever opened a filing cabinet. Everything was on a stick. Or in a cloud. Or on a stick-cloud. It was a good hiding place for illicit items. Like forbidden food.
As the vanilla glow from the internal light shone on me I took out and drank some milk from a carton. No bacon in the fridge. Shame. I fancied a crisp, bacon sandwich. White bread. Thick crust. With lots of red sauce.
But the digital fridge calendar was telling me today was a vegan day. No meat or dairy of any kind allowed for purchase at all.
But I was a former Special Agent from The Department. I could get any type of meat from a hundred different unlicensed suppliers and black marketeers any time I wanted.
But I didn’t feel like going out just now. Not in the drizzle. Not with this head that still crashed like an 80’s drum sequencer. It had been sounding like the electro beat from Human League’s, Sound of the Crowd. 12” version.
Now my inner head was making a sound like knocking at a door.
I grabbed a salad bag and some grapes and went back and sat in the swivel chair at my desk. I spun it around to look out of the windows behind me. The windows here were covered by louvred blinds. Part of some upper supervisor’s office back when these building were part of the warehouses and offices that lined the Thames, in the days when everything in the entire world, at some point, passed along this river.
After Empire it was made into small unfashionable offices and it was in an ideal location for them. Too far from a tube station for the busy workers. Too far from the market streets and good schools for housing. But for seedy shippers. Dodgy accountants. Cut throat importers, unscrupulous payday lenders and suspect solicitors, it was perfect.
I fitted right in.
The knocking in my head had now become a tapping. A tip-tap -tip- tapping. With a wooden echo. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore it..
“Alexa!” I called to my virtual, personal assistant, who’s tiny box sat on the corner of my workspace.
“Get the damn horse off the dance floor.”
But then I was completely startled when a real, soft, cultured, human, female voice that definitely didn’t belong to the Amazon assistant replied, “Alexa doesn’t appear to be here.”
* * *
To be continued