Tides will tear us apart

Emma J. Myatt writes of a future when shopping times depend on the tide.*

Dear Denise,

Congratulations! I cannot believe that by the time you get this, Zane will be fourteen weeks old. I wish there was a way to get news faster – how I miss the internet. I bet you’re an amazing mother. I bet you’re like Mum with a twist, a bit more craziness, a little less planned. You didn’t say much about the birth – not sure how the hospitals are with you but here everyone’s struggling a bit – (we now only get stories in the round-up papers at the end of the week in each town) and I’ve heard about a lack of drugs/pain relief and a total shortage of midwives.

It pisses me off that everyone saw all of this coming, and did nothing. But you know all this, no point in me ranting any more.

I want to meet Zane more than anything in the whole world. I am saving like mad but it’ll still take me years – breaks my heart to think of missing all these early months. I’ll keep doing the lotto – keep everything crossed.

Jake and I are okay. The kids are fine, working hard and hoping to get into the science projects over in the Highlands. There’s been a massive investment in the projects lately and apparently the buildings are huge towering things that you can see for miles. I’ve not been up there, just too much to do here, but I’ve seen pictures. Leo is still good at maths and chemistry, and Lexi’s a physics whizz. God knows where they get it from – not me, as you know – and Jake’s still as into farming and solid earthy stuff as he ever was. I hope they get there. It’s probably the only future I trust at the moment.

We hear stories from Aus, the ships bring papers and news but I dunno how much can be trusted and anyway, by the time they get here everything’s six weeks old. I hear it’s still hot, you are still getting plagues of insects and the fires are nuts, but at least you’re getting more rain than before. I so hope I can see it for myself one day. The latest fares are around £17,500 per person. Jake and I can pull in about half this from anything we need to sell in a good quarter, but it goes, like a finger click, to pay for life and food and everything. We’re stuck, really: if we grew our own we’d survive and not need to buy but then we’d have no money at all. Despite this I’ve managed to save. I’ve £2,000 in the bank, roughly. Jake’s got some stashed in in the farm somewhere (he won’t even tell me in case I let it slip to the gangs) but realistically it’ll be years before we make it.

I miss you so much. Life here’s good in many ways; we’re still healthy and the kids can still learn. Our part of Scotland was pretty empty before as you know so the vanishing land hasn’t had too much impact as yet. But however lucky we feel compared to some, I will never ever forgive myself for not coming with you when the fares were reasonable. I should have listened to Mum. I’ll not go there, I go there every letter and it does me no good.

Has Zane got your eyes? Is he cheeky, like you were? Does he look like his auntie Lynn at all? I bet you’ll be a great mum Denny.

You asked about the house. It’s still here. The water’s about three metres from the door at the highest tides. Last time I wrote it was four, so the rising’s happening quicker than they all said. Nobody will buy it but, amazingly, the government has been good at making flood defences. We’re getting insane storms and the house just gets engulfed by waves. We’d have washed away by now if not for the New Walls they’ve given us. Basically they’re like huge sheets of plastic that have been put up all around the house – we’ve had them about two months now (did I write that we were getting them last time?) They got dug into what was the garden at low tide and they’re higher than the roof. They’re clear, so we can see through, but it’s still like living in a goldfish bowl. If the house goes, we do get compensation but I don’t dare tell you how much – it’s practically nothing. No point moving until it goes, so we’ve stored all the important stuff in the high field in the barn, and the rest is stuff we can live without. The New Walls have doors, all water tight of course, and at high tide we can’t enter or leave. It’s so, so strange. Dad would have hated it and I’m so glad he’s not here. Mum saw a little before she went to the home, but she’s not seen it like this. She’d be heartbroken about the garden so we just don’t tell her or show her pictures.

She’s not doing too well actually Den. I don’t know how much longer she’ll be here. I’m glad you got to say goodbye properly. She has no regrets, just tells me to tell you that you did the right thing. And you did. All that space you have in Australia whilst we huddle on a shrinking rock, climbing higher with every tide, losing more land every week. Estimates say we’ve lost a tenth of the habitable land in the UK. It feels like more.

But we try to stay happy. I sound upbeat, I know. It’s a habit I’ve got into for the kids’ sakes, and it’s hard to stop it.

The truth is though, we’re terrified, Denny. Every day I wake up expecting to be wet. The sea’s come faster than they said. It seems like a dream now when I think of how it was. Every morning I look outside through the weird New Walls and see the world, whitened through sea spray, the farm a little smaller. If the house goes we’ll be moved to one of the new settlements over at Cairn o’ Mount. They’re like council estates from the early 2020s – remember the ones they built during the first housing crisis? Tiny ugly practical things with hardly any space per family. They’re free, that’s about the only bonus. We’ll get allocated one as soon as we become homeless.

Maybe the rising will stop. After all, the ice has all gone, the travel rules have prevented any further air pollution. The limit on electricity will help, as will all the chem bans. But I feel it’s all too late. Like I said, we knew this was coming. Remember the conversations we used to have about ‘doomsday’? There was a guy in the papers last week saying how he felt doomsday had already come – that day when the damage done was too bad to reverse, whatever legislation we make now. I think he’s probably right but we’ve got to hope, right?

I’ll have to go. I can feel myself getting down and I don’t want to do that… in the end I’ll just end up telling you how shit it all is, and how we’re all doomed here and I’ll say again how short sighted I was not to come with you. See? I’m off already. I’ll have to go and get this to the delivery office so it’ll catch the boat on the 12th. I’ll see it all the way, in a bag, making its way to you across all those massive oceans.

Anyway, I’m not down all the time. We keep upbeat. We can still buy whisky, when the tide’s out it’s almost like old times. Ha – do you remember when the garden first got a bit soggy and we thought it was the extra rain or a diverted spring? Then that wave, that just kept on coming? I often think of those early days, when you were still here, when it was all still media hype. I often try to call backwards in time down the years to younger versions of ourselves, to tell them to do something. Nobody would have listened, though. Everyone thought they were just crazy anarchists… crazy people who wanted to cause chaos… remember Paula, and how she stomped off to London with all those petitions? Most of what she wished for has, by necessity, been banned.

I miss all of it.

I want the world back.

I want my sister back. Come home… No, don’t ever come home, it’s not good here and it’s going to get worse. The amount of people and the amount of Hill Houses just doesn’t add up. I hope I’m dead by that time.

I said I wasn’t going to get sad. I’m sorry Den.

I love you, and I love my new nephew, and I’ll keep lottoing and get the rest of us on that boat and come and join you. I can see your farm in my mind’s eye. All that space.

Give Zane a big kiss for me, little sis.

XXXXXX

Lynn.


MyattEmma J. Myatt is a full-time writer, full-time mother, chicken keeper and tutor who also runs a holiday let/writers’ retreat. She writes in every scrap of spare time she can find and has been published on line in various places and in several anthologies. She’s currently working on an anthology of her short stories.

hourofwrites* This vision was an entry in the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions. [Apologies to Joy Devision on the title — David]

Happy delta life

Lucas Janssen might move from nasty, flooding Amsterdam to raise food in the Dutch floodplains.

Interview from ‘Futurum Urbanum’ (November 2036)

Note from the editor: In the past months, during our ‘Futurum Urbanum ’ editorial meetings we came to the conclusion that we should also pay attention to developments beyond the scope of the metropole. Statistics show that there is a growing number of people that exchange their city life for a living on the countryside. This tendency can be recognized in the whole European continent. In the editorial board we wanted to understand why people make such choices. Therefore, we visited a small community in the eastern part of the Netherlands, where we had an interview with Mark van der Steen (44). Mark and his family live in Honderdmorgen, a community quite close to the Waal river.

FU: Why did you decide to move to Honderdmorgen?

Mark: At first, we lived in Amsterdam. It is the city everybody wants to live in, and so did we. After some years we started to experience that it was not really that great. First of all, we had great difficulties in finding good education for our three children. The situations in the schools were really bad and good teachers missing. And then, of course, there were the climate effects. During summer, every two weeks we had a flooding leading to a total congestion of the city. The summer heat and the growing number of insects made it hard to be outside.

FU: How did you end up here?

Mark: Well, we were scanning the various options in the Dutch countryside as we wanted to make a living in production of high quality food. In this area the prices had significantly dropped because of the expectations of continuous flooding from the Rhine, or Waal as this branch is called. There were a lot of deserted houses. Hence, the prices were low and we decided to take a chance. Apart from the lower areas there are also some higher grounds in this area.

FU: And how did it work out?

Mark: In the end it worked out quite well! We are here now for almost eight years. We have a real nice community of nine families that make a living with the production of food and we have been able to organise the education for our children. In terms of flooding, after a couple of years it turned out differently. Germany introduced their ‘Wasserwende’. They started retaining their water by building large reservoirs and infiltration works. As a result, we have not been flooded since we are here. Actually, we need to take various measures to have sufficient water to farm here such as closed reservoirs. One of the unexpected is that truffles are growing in the higher located forests.

FU: So what is it actually that you make a living with?

Mark: There is quite a large group of people in cities that want high quality foods. We produce a wide variety of meat, vegetables and fruits. The vegetables and fruits are of course seasonal; the meat is sold continuously. We raise the ‘Roman Roosters’, which are sold in cities across the border as well. Chefs like the meat of our roosters because of its intense taste and nice structure. For the fruits, for instance, we are growing seven varieties of raspberries as well a three varieties of gooseberries.

FU: This all sounds … almost Arcadian. At the same time I can imagine there must be things you miss out here. What is it that you miss most?

Mark: I don’t think we miss too much. During the growing season we’re too busy. And we have an arrangement with one of our customers. They stay in Warsaw in December and January to enjoy real winters and we can use their apartment. We pay them in chickens, which works actually much better than using the official currency. In fact, more than fifty per cent of our business is based on direct trade. The Climate Tax on meat is a real pain in the ass for businesses like us.

So we spend long weekends in the city. First of all, our children can meet certain professionals learn specific skills, e.g. native speakers foreign languages. Then, of course, we visit musea and go to concerts. Moreover, we sometimes give courses to city people on growing vegetables. Some twenty years ago there was this interest in urban farming, which after a few years stopped. These days it is picking up again, people have a need for connecting to the physical world. Basically this has always been an underground current, but now it surges more than ever.

FU: Do you think your children would want to live here or in the city?

Mark: You ask for themselves. Let’s see who’s around. … Ah, there is Fiona, she is fourteen and our oldest child. Today she has been taking care of a group of toddlers.

Fiona: I am planning to live in the city in a few years time because there is no other option. I play the hobo and I want to become a professional musician. However, I already know I cannot stand to live in an apartment building. Thus, finding an appropriate spot to live is going to be challenge. And afterwards, I will return here. There are many benefits, such as living with our animals, being free of camera monitor, and I reckon there will still be disconnected spots to relax.


JanssenLucas Janssen has experience in most of the disciplines related to the field of integrated water management. Currently he is with Deltares, a research and technology organization. Lucas lives in Wageningen, the Netherlands, near the river Rhine.