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347. Gathering together (X)

I served the Warden as a valet for about fifteen years. Now, in my retirement, I have come out to the fields—out to pasture, literally. As I write this…memoir, I suppose it is really…I look out on fields of corn. It is very quiet round here, nothing like during the Anarchy. Back then, I was a teenager; and it was very unwise to go into the countryside—especially alone. I slipped out now and then and one time I saw a farmer’s barn all ablaze.

At first, I took a few pictures—and put them straight up on social media…on…the platform slips my mind. I want to say Facebook, but there have been oh so many of these things since my day. My granddaughter showed me one the other day; it was all done out grandly for the King’s birthday…Well, anyway, I popped the pictures and a video up and then I went in for a closer look.

I was foolhardy, just like all teenage boys. The heat was terrific up close, much hotter than you would think. It was getting to be about dusk and I glanced down into the shadows. At first I thought it was a bale of straw wedged up tight, but when I looked closer it was a body…it was sort of bunched up like. There were more, the farmer and his family. I had seen my grandfather die at home in bed, but never a violent death. You got used to it back then; the Anarchy only got going properly the next year or the year after—and then, everyone knows from the screens anyway, it was like that all the time. All the time. Sometimes my granddaughter asks how we coped then, and I always say: “Oh, it wasn’t so bad. That was how it was. You’d be surprised what a man can get used to.”

I never tell her the real details—not right for a girl. Today, you see that everywhere: “Not suitable for a lady. The hemline is too high in this season’s collection…” Well, I can tell you it was different when I was a lad. I never thought I would live to say that, but what can I say…it was different when I was a lad. I mean the way girls behaved then you would be shocked. There were no rules really; actually, it was a sort of competition to break the rules as much as possible when it came to lads and lasses. This just popped into my mind: the other day my granddaughter said, “Grandad, what’s a ‘thot’?” And I was about to tell her when my daughter gave me this sharp eye and I had to pretend that my memory was going again.

You see she grew up—my daughter, I mean—under the Sweep; and the kids that came up then are very different. Now, things have progressed since I was a lad. I mean, you can walk in the countryside now; and when I was my granddaughter’s age it was all: “Muslims blow up this, Muslims demand that, Muslims raped these girls—primary school bombed here…” People today have no idea really; but to get to where we are was hard, hard on my daughter’s generation I mean. Sometimes I wonder if it was too hard on them. The hajis have all gone now—for the most part. There are always honourable exceptions round and about; though why they stay…NCID watches ‘em pretty tight.

From where I sit, I can see the lodge where the Warden used to holiday. He was a modest man, very modest. It is a small lodge with a little moat, very private. And down in my hand I have a button from his tunic; it came off the day before he died and, I must admit, I had meant to sew it back on but when he died I put it in my pocket and forgot it. One of those funny things like.


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