My utopia

Oh yeah, and I got this from the quiz Mei memed us.  Guess I’m not getting there any time soon.

Hi-tech, Post-scarcity Anarchist Individualism, e.g. The Culture in a number of the novels of Iain M. Banks

Hi-tech, Post-scarcity Anarchist Individualism, e.g. The Culture in a number of the novels of Iain M. Banks

You’d rather skip the inconvenient practicalities of social development and revolution, and go straight to a society in which resources and possibilities are limitless, and who can blame you? Why mess about with complex social systems when you can have all-powerful sentient machines with a sense of humour and recreational sex till the bovine protein synthesisers reach their point of origin. And if you get bored with having your every imaginable desire on tap, you can always join Contact and agonise about whether it’s more unethical to go around imposing freedom on less utopian societies or to continue to exist while not imposing freedom on them.

See the story behind this quiz at http://badinfluences.org.uk

Which Utopia are you building?

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Big Sister: Day 6

I got the bullets off the Trigger boys in the end, in return for another adult-size sleeping bag and two more buckets. Sensible trade, on their part – the last thing they needed was to be fighting each other for the basic comforts. It didn’t take them long to find the cameras in the fridge, and they keep accidentally throwing stuff on top of them, the scamps. I’ve said if any go dead, they don’t get dinner or fresh buckets, and so far they’re not pushing me, cause they don’t know how far I’ll go, and frankly neither do I.

We’ve killed some time this week with “Store-room confessionals”, a good way of getting to know your looters. I told them their dinner would depend on their answers.

Trigger Grumpy went first. I expected him to be the most trouble, but once out of the fridge with the door closed behind him, fuck me if the bastard didn’t look straight into the camera and start weeping.
“This isn’t me,” he kept saying, and he looked younger than I’d thought, early twenties maybe, with hair just long enough to curl and a little chin-dimple that was beginning to be lost to stubble. He begged me to get him away from the other two, said he’d lost his family to the Flu and escaped a quarantine hostel (though he was hazy on the details of how he’d done that) and they just picked him up and made him start looting with them.

“Seems a lot of effort for them to go to,” I said, “when they could just kill you and keep more for themselves. Guess you must have some special skill they wanted you for.”
Turns out he’s military, trained in ammunitions, and he knew where to get the guns from. Which begged a few questions, such as why take them to the armoury if they didn’t already have guns to make him? Why was he in a hostel if he was qualified to be guarding it? Why stay with the others when he had as many guns as they did and more practice at using them? He clammed up after that. I gave him macaroni cheese, for effort.

Next was Trigger Happy, who didn’t want to talk about his past or how he’d fallen in with professional looters, but was happy to spend the next fifteen minutes explaining what he was going to do when he found me, swearing almost as much as Jezza on a Monday morning. Eventually he ran out of ideas and started smashing up the store room, which didn’t contain much besides empty tins and full buckets at that point. I left him a bucket of soapy water and disinfectant, a mop and the threat of no more bucket changes til it smelled of roses down there, and later watched him grudgingly cleaning it up under the watchful eye of the third Trigger, who’s been keeping the other two in line since the beginning.

His confessional was interesting. Before I even asked him about his situation he threw a challenge at me, and put me on the defensive. Who am I to keep them there? Who am I to hold an entire storeful of food to myself? And probably because I’ve been asking myself that question on a daily basis for the last couple of months, I responded quicker than I should’ve.
“I let people take what they need,” I said. “You saw the setup I had when you came in, you could’ve gone on your way with a week’s supply; you didn’t have to get greedy and go looking for the source.”
“What gives you the right to the source?”
“What gives anyone the right to anything anymore? Possession’s ten tenths of the law now, and that was suiting both of us pretty well until you walked into my fridge – at least I didn’t get here by waving guns around.”
Which I shouldn’t have told him. I was supposed to be gauging how much of a threat he was.  I tried to keep a bit of control after that, and when he wondered how I did get here, I told him, “You first.”

Then I got the full story of the gang. Trigger Grumpy was a soldier, but he wasn’t a resident at the hostel, he was a guard. The three of them were security, and after the order came not to release people on the 28th day, parties were sent out to collect more supplies, since the depots were almost empty by now. They were given firearms (it was a risky business, with looting gangs and quarantine refusers out there) and they were given a list (no doubt compiled by my “breakers and auditors”) and once they were far enough away from the hostel they figured why keep going back with this stuff? The only real reason would have been for the anti-virals, but the supply of those had to run out sometime, and they weren’t the first guards to desert before it got to crisis point. If they didn’t go back, they’d be presumed dead or diseased, and nobody would go after them, so they stole the lists and went freelance. They were going to take this place over for themselves. They didn’t know it was occupied already, but the set-up was enough of a clue to prepare them for the possibility. I didn’t press him on what they’d been planning to do about that if they hadn’t got locked in a fridge, cause I was more interested in the hostels.
“So why aren’t they letting people out?” I said.
He laughed, or maybe choked.
“What’s going on there, not too different to what you’ve got going on here. People’ve been kept in shitty conditions too long, not given information, unreliable food, taunted, messed with. The quarantine managers are afraid to let people out in case they go for the remaining supplies, take it all back.” He paused long enough to let me take that one in. “Not many left to let out, anyhow,” he continued, “but enough for riots when they see how few security are left.”
I couldn’t resist responding, “Yeah, I hear some of those deserted.”
“I saw an opportunity to get out of the round-up, and I took it, just like you. You got lucky, is all. I wouldn’t have been working for those fucking flag-wavers if I was sitting on a storeful of food, either. I did what I had to.”
“Sure. And more besides.”
“You’d know about that, wouldn’t you?” he said calmly.  I decided I wasn’t compelled to justify myself to him, and let him fill the silence. “You had to keep us from finding you, sure, but you wouldn’t be doing all this Big Sister shit if you weren’t enjoying it.”
Well, a little.
“Not at all. I’m just wondering how to get rid of you without compromising my safety. Easiest would be to turn off the cameras and look the other way while you run out of air. Riskiest would be to let you go. What would you do?”
He dealt with that one pretty creditably. Ran a hand through his hair, looked straight at the camera and said, “I’d keep me on. I can help you get the others out the way. We’d both rather they were gone but not dead. Two of us could watch in shifts in case they came back. You’re smart, and you’re handy, but I don’t think you know how to fire a gun. I’d be good security – I’ve got experience, and a man’s voice is more threatening to a gang of looters – that’s their prejudice, not mine. Reckon we could both do with the company, too.”
Not a bad pitch, all things considered. I considered all things.
“I mix a mean Martini, if that’s a decider,” he added. It wasn’t, but the rehearsed half-smile to camera was.
“Big Sister will keep your CV on file, but for now we regret we have no suitable opening for a person of your skills.”
That broke his calm, but he didn’t kick himself half so hard as I did. I should’ve made it plain from the start that I wasn’t alone here. They didn’t need to know that. I could’ve been the spokesperson for a whole armed gang. I’ve been an idiot to let them see me as a weak, lonely woman. Not his prejudice, no, just his veiled threat to intimidate me into thinking I need him.

As he went back into the fridge, he asked, “Did I earn tinned stew or dog food for that?”
Honestly there’s not much difference between the two, I think the dog food tastes a little better – less salt. I gave him the dog food, in a plastic cocktail glass with an olive in it, but I gave him a tin of beans, too. It’s nice to have somebody to talk to, even if he is a skeezy bastard.

Uninvited Guests

So, I’ve had a fun day.  Three nasty-looking looters set off the proximity alarm early this morning, blokes in their late 20s or 30s.  Most looters I’ve seen so far are very young or very old, half starved and terrified.  These looked like they’d been doing alright for themselves and had a fair bit of experience.  I watched them clock the open invitation and the rat maze for distractions in less than a minute – they didn’t even stop to take the free food.  They’d bust through the shelves and started heading for the kitchen store almost before I’d silently buzzed the locks open, and the bastards even shot a couple of my cameras en route.  I was lucky they chose to investigate the kitchen before the stairs, or they might have made it to the Outer Inner sanctum, and I’d be scrambling away over the rooftops with my bug-out bag.  As it was, I caught them in penalty box number one – straight through the store cupboard and into the walk-in fridge.

As I was telling my mate Ash only the other day, if you’re ever looting a store, prop open the doors as you go; just cause they opened when you pushed them, doesn’t mean somebody isn’t sitting up in a control centre ready to lock them behind you.  The noisy buzzers can easily be taken out of those remote-locking intercoms, and you won’t know anything about it until you hear the click.  You’ll be relieved to discover that there’s an inside handle on the fridge, but when you try the door, just to reassure yourself, and find that it doesn’t open, even when you barge it with your shoulder and use creative language on it, confusion will quickly turn to panic and you’ll curse whoever’s with you for getting you into this, and they’ll curse you back, and it’ll be hilarious for anybody watching on hidden cameras in the shelving.  Walk-in fridges are pretty tough – those insulated walls can take a hell of a pounding and, it turns out, even a bullet or two, but you don’t want to do too much of that, cause shooting through an industrial-size tube of tetrafluoroethane in an airtight space would only be funny for a minute.   I’ve got to admit these guys know their stuff, cause one of the gang grabbed the rifle off of Trigger Happy before it was too late and yelled at him to save his ammo for the bastard fucking with them.  I took that as my cue for the tannoy announcement.

“Welcome to the Big Sister house.  Day one: the housemates arrive and settle in.  After ten minutes yelling at each other about who let the door close, they realise they’re in an air-tight box where shooting is likely to release poisonous gases.  It’d probably be an idea for them to get rid of those guns before they do each other an injury.
“The housemates’ first challenge is an act of trust, to gain Big Sister’s approval.  Outside the fridge is a secure storage area.  In half an hour, Big Sister will open the door and let you out there.  Do not try to open the door of the storage area.  Leave your guns, bags and jackets in the storage area.  Turn out your pockets and leave the contents there.  Go back into the fridge, and close the door behind you.  If you successfully complete this challenge, half an hour later Big Sister will open the door again and you will find food and bedding in the storage area for your use.
“You really want Big Sister’s approval right now.  You do not want to fuck with Big Sister.  Big Sister has spent the last two months turning this store into Fort fucking Knox meets the Temple of Doom.  If you complete all your challenges without being an arsehole, Big Sister will reward you and let you leave.  If you want to find out what happens if you’re an arsehole, be an arsehole.”

They laugh, of course.  It is kind of a ridiculous situation, and as many have noted, I am hilarious.  Trigger Happy begins to suggest shooting the other door, but the smart guy who took his gun does that looking around talking thing they do when they haven’t figured out where the cameras are yet.
“Big Sister, I take it you can hear us as well as we can hear you?”
I decide not to engage in conversation until I’ve got their guns.  If they think I can’t hear them, so much the better.
“Give me the guns,” he tells the other two.  I’ve counted two pistols and a rifle on them so far, and I’m nervy, cause anybody with that many guns on display’s got to have a few more hidden. I’m glad when his boss says, “And the rest, come on,” and Trigger Happy takes another pistol out his jacket.  Trigger Grumpy gets grumpy, though.
“I’m not giving all my guns to some psycho bitch on a tannoy!”
And the boss forgets I heard him talk about saving ammo for “the bastard who’s fucking with us” and goes all Trigger Tranquil.
“Big Sis is just being cautious, that’s all, am I right?  Anybody’d be nervy, bunch of guys with guns busting into their safe house.  We’d do the same, wouldn’t we, fellas?  We came looking for food, not trouble.  So here’s what we’re gonna do.  We’re gonna give the guns to Big Sister, so she can trust us.  But we’re gonna keep the bullets, just on this shelf, here—,” the camera judders as he empties the rifle chambers and slaps the pistol clips down on the shelf, “—so that we can trust her, too.”
“Big Sister will consider your offer,” I say, and put on a Blandest Hits of 2020 playlist interspersed with Colmart jingles on repeat.  Cruel, but I have to cover the noise of the drill while I put some extra security on the outside of the store cupboard door, and the condescending fuckhead was pissing me off.

When I get back to the Inner Sanctum, I check over the footage I’d missed to make sure they haven’t put the ammo back in the guns, then turn the tannoy back on. They’re visibly relieved when the music stops.
“Big Sister will open the door now.  If you leave the guns and the bullets, you’ll get three tins of stew, three tins of beans and three sleeping bags.  If you leave only the guns, you’ll get what I consider to be a fair swap.  Do not touch the door on the other side of the storage area.  You have been warned.”
Click.  Like a shot, Trigger Grumpy’s through the door and launching himself at the electrified handle of the store cupboard door.  Trigger Grumpy gets very grumpy, and uses some language that causes me to start peeling labels off the tins I’ve put aside.  Then Trigger Happy pulls a loaded pistol from his boot and starts shooting at the door.  I was really hoping they wouldn’t do that, because my planned response is a bit of a bluff.  By now, though, they’re nervous enough to back away from the fog machine smoke that starts billowing under the door, and when the flash-bangs go off, cracking open the bottles of almond essence, Trigger not-so-Tranquil-anymore yells, “Get back in the fucking fridge,” throws the guns down behind him and slams the door.

Big Sister wasn’t entirely happy with the way they handled that challenge, but at least the gun that Trigger Happy sneaked through was loaded, so I got more out of it than Trigger Cautious had hoped.  I am nothing if not magnanimous, and gave them two label-less tins of dog food and one tiny tin of beans, two adult sleeping bags and one child-size bag with pink flowers on it, a gallon of water and a bucket.  My entertainment’s sorted for tonight, I think.

What else shall I do with the Triggers?

What just happened?

What do you call a looter who doesn’t loot?  Seriously, I need to come up with a name.  I think I’ve had breakers and auditors.  Breakers and auditors with guns.

They came in through the Open Invitation and wandered the maze through the designated route, like good little rats, but they didn’t take anything – just made a lot of marks on a clipboard and then got gone, even boarding up the window they came in through before they left and putting some fresh locks on the doors.  I left the locks, but took the board down – looking too secure invites more thorough investigation – I’d rather keep my Open Invitation open.

Don’t get me wrong, may all my future looters be so civilised, but something makes me think they could be back for more than an inventory.

Looters

In answer to Mei’s “what food are you” meme, it’s tempting to go with lemons: bitter and twisted and at my best with a gin & tonic, but that’s too obvious.  I think I might be Cherryade, with a fizzy & bubbly surface, loud and attention-grabbing, leaving you with a sour aftertaste and the nagging concern that you’ve absolutely no idea what I’m really made of (though it sure as hell ain’t cherries).  I’m concentrating on drinks, for some reason.  There’s not a whole lot left in the Booze aise.

Speaking of which, I have looters in as I type – it’s quite exciting, after the monotony of the last coupla weeks.  I was afraid, at first, that the police would be coming to clean out the store to supply the quarantine hostels (or whoever is still safe enough to be running the hostels, which still aren’t officially letting people out), but it turns out to just be a group of kids, none of them older than 17 by the look of it.  I’m watching them on the monitors right now – I never saw anybody looking so frightened while acting so tough.  They’re following the path I set, looks like they’ve found the prize.  That’s all the Tim-tams and crisps gone…oh, and one of them has the sense to take the rice and beans – I’ll have to re-stock the bait after they go.  They’re still hanging round talking… come on, fellas, appreciate the company but it’s time for you to turn around.

Fuck it, one of them’s looking through the gap in the shelving – I’ll have to block that from behind after I’ve seen them off.  Yep, they’re gonna try and climb over.  Time for a tannoy announcement…

I’m a Quarantine Refuser

So, everybody’s got a Disaster Manifesto, even if nobody really thinks it’ll work. Here’s mine – hole up where you can’t be found and sit tight until everybody else is dead. It’s working for me so far.

The newsnets have dubbed the likes of me “Quarantine Refusers”. Thankfully there’s so many unidentified dead that they haven’t yet been able to make an accurate list of us out of the missing. And there’s a use of the word “Thankfully” I didn’t think I’d see myself making. Misanthropic curmudgeon I may be, but that’s a new low. As penance or punishment – swear I didn’t cut and paste:
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.
Not cause of heaven or hell or karma or any of that shit, it’d just be nice to feel like I’m any kind of loss to the world.

Anyhow, turns out us quarantine refuseniks have good reason to stay away from the hostels, if the blogs from those who’ve escaped them are anything to go by. The ABC newsnets are claiming they’re set up to work on similar lines to the successful quarantines in China, with new arrivals isolated and given food until it’s safe for them to join the green-lighted people inside. The escapees, however, tell tales of hotels crammed to double capacity, healthy people being forced into rooms with those already coughing blood, being locked in, food not arriving, handsets confiscated, families broken up… and all enforced by police supported by a network of Emergency Support Officers recruited mostly from security firms. I wonder if Coll’s finally living his dream.

I also wonder how much of this is a botched attempt at containment of the disease, and how much is just population control. Maybe those who’ve been sitting in their luxury bunkers for weeks just want to limit property damage and ensure there’s more food left for them when everybody else is dead. Maybe the authorities had my manifesto. Is that paranoid? It’s difficult to tell these days. I’ve always held that no conspiracies are necessary for powerful people to be arsewipes, but it does seem like this snapped into action like a sprung trap the instant the riots started. Perhaps I should be out there, smashing up the security stations, instead of in here washing down the last of the chocolate fondant puddings with a bottle of Prosecco.

I must learn to give a shit about other people before I die.

But I’m not dying just yet.

Sorting my lifetime supplies

My first week in isolation has been eerily undisturbed. The local newsnets fill with vids of people boarding up their homes and happily toddling down to their local quarantine hostel, and my CCTV screens show the odd hopeful looter making their way through the wrecked store. Here I am, all prepared for a desperate last stand, and the wailing sirens and ranged forces of law and order have failed to lay siege to me. I feel kind of snubbed.

I’ve been busy, though. We don’t have a huge warehouse built onto the store, but there’s plenty here if you know where to look: the cafe kitchens are always well-stocked, and a week’s stock for the cafe is one person’s lifetime supply (that’s my favourite joke just now – I have a lifetime’s supply of all essentials, measuring a lifetime as the time until the supply runs out). The shelves weren’t entirely picked clean before the looters were ousted, so the supply situation’s not so bad. I’ve taken as much as I can reasonably fit up to my inner sanctum, and I’ve set up a sort of maze leading casual explorers away from the kitchens, to a little stock of goodies – a decent enough haul to persuade the average looter to get gone without poking their nose further. Plus, I found some wireless home security kits in the hardware section, so I’ve set up a network of cameras and alarms that’d make Coll cream his pants.

I’ve also had a little time to sit thinking about why I did this, and I can understand why it’s hard for some of you to believe. Thing is, I don’t expect to face the consequences. I look at how this thing’s spreading round the world, with the whole of Asia and half the Middle East covered, and the newsnets talk like it’s just another flood or drought or war, but it’ll be under control before it gets to the English-speaking white folks. It’s bullshit – you know how we’ve kept it back so far? We haven’t. We’ve ignored the signs. Because to really be safe, we’d have had to stop the wheels turning, give out all the food, crash the markets. Instead we just got corporations to sponsor steri-sprays and face-masks, and those sponsors wouldn’t want the advice leaflets to say “Don’t work, don’t shop”. Now it’s too late. This is where it all comes down. Holing myself up here, it’s not really about survival, except in the short-term. If I’m going to go out coughing blood, or gasping my dehydrated last by an empty storage tank, I want to do it without fighting past hundreds of others for the privilege. Mei’s part of something bigger, but I’ve got no real reason to make it through into whatever’s left of Canberra after the quarantine. I’m here because I’m not getting herded into a make-shift prison to die at the government’s convenience. If we’re all going to hell, I’m taking my own damn handcart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to go out any time soon. I’ve got it pretty damn sweet here, just now. I’m running two 50” homesets, drinking the most expensive wine in the store and figured I’d best use up the Deluxe range sirloin steaks with a whisky-cream and organic shallot peppercorn sauce. Tomorrow I’ll nab a fryer from the household isle and make some chips. I have a lifetime’s supply of potatoes and I should use them up before they start sprouting.

And I Feel Fine.

I want to savour this, because I probably won’t get to say it again for some while, if ever; so believe me when I say, cheeses priced on a popsicle, you will not believe the day I’ve had!

It all started with a newscast. It could have been just an ordinary day at the office, but someone decided to let slip that the deaths in Sydney last week were confirmed as blood flu, and this led to a series of events that placed me in my current situation: holed up in the security booth, the sole occupant of my former workplace, while Canberra goes to shit around my electronic eyes and ears.

Some local reports will tell you that I started the panic buying. That’s a lie – they were rioting before I even came on the air, I just turned a random stampede into a choreographed ballet of loot and run. Who knows how bad it could have been without me? I can relate word-for-word my almost-entirely-improvised announcement, because I recorded it for posterity. It was my finest hour, my greatest performance, my tribute to Boal’s Invisible Theatre and, in all probability, my legacy, and it went like this:

Greetings shoppers, I’m Elaine, and I’m here to enhance your looting experience on behalf of Colmart on this, our last day of business.
The recommended items of the day are cough-drops and booze, but I can see the more discerning shoppers are headed for the tinned goods and the pasta & pulses aisle. As I speak, I see on security screen 2 that there’s an altercation going on over a 2kg bag of tri-colour fusilli, and — yep, clean-up on aisle — too late, there goes a shopper and a trolleyful of corned beef and — come on now, shoppers, no fair looting her while she’s down — instead, I’d grab your last carton of semi-skimmed longlife before the security guards grab you, yes, you with the oh-so-flattering cycling shorts, on your bike, they’re coming round the back of aisle 3, no, THE OTHER WAY, where the cereal used to be…that’s it, keep running! He got away, Dorothy, he got away…
Here come the reinforcements, and I can announce… They’re coming for you, lentils and jellybeans, and the tills have been closed, I repeat, the tills are off, and staff are being evacuated. I’ve been asked nicely to get my arse off the air, but don’t worry, people, I’m barricaded in here with the shut-off switch, I can see the security screens for inside and out and I’ll be announcing when the cops arrive, so keep on looting — it’s like the Christmas rush and the January sales all rolled into one, here, people, you gotta stock up like there’s no tomorrow, because the rumour has it there’s no tomorrow.

At this point I left them with a stirring dose of an aptly titled REM track, turning it up loud enough to drown Jezza’s frantic banging on the office door, while I finished off my own preparations.
I’ve been squirreling away supplies in the DJ booth for weeks, and I’d made out I was going camping after work to explain the sleeping bag, water containers, camp stove and large rucksack, which I’d filled with gas canisters, a small crate of tinned food, sundry luxury items, various locks, bolts and latches and a cordless drill. The aluminium sheet for securing the skylight had been hidden behind the sound desk about a week back. I’d already secured the office door, so I took care of the roof, removed the security tag and cork from a large bottle of vintage Moët and sat back to watch the show. When Jezza started using the fire extinguisher as a battering ram, I texted him a photo of myself, champagne and cigar in hand, D-locked round the neck to the door handle.
“Leave me be or it’s going on the store socnet,” I called. The story was already on the store socnet, as it turns out, and was doing the rounds of the local newsnets until they took down everything but the evacuation procedures.
Jezza was shouting that he didn’t give a fuck if it injured me, it was his fucking door and they should hack it the fuck down. He’d managed to wrangle the assistance of the fire brigade, but they didn’t seem too happy with that idea, and after telling Jezza they were a little busy to sort out his industrial disputes, what with the looting and rioting around the city, I heard their footsteps retreat. Twenty minutes later the security screens showed Coll striding towards the fire escape, blowtorch in hand, Jezza dragging himself along after with a face like a ripe tomato. I watched them climb roofwards.
There were several loud thumps from above before the smash and crackle of the skylight shattering onto the metal sheet, then the brief hiss of an oxyacetylene flame, but the aluminium didn’t even get glowy before it fizzled out into swearing.
Coll’s tones were a little too low to make out, but after Jezza’s thundering “Whaddya mean it’s outta gas? Where the fuck do you keep the stuff?” I patted a desk drawer, smiled to myself and poured another glass of bubbly. Then I listened to Jezza alternately fume, cajole, threaten, plead and insult me for a full 43 minutes before he finally gave up and left me to it.
They cut off the cameras, then the power, and I’d just filled my fifth container before the water went, too. I got enough charged batteries to run essentials like a light and a handset for a few weeks. When I was sure they were really gone, I ventured out to turn the power and water back on, arrange the cameras to my satisfaction and secure several other doors on the way up here.

I hear that hostels and hotels are being secured and set up for quarantines. I prefer to sit out the epidemic from here. Whatever Jezza and Coll are doing now, I expect getting me out of this room has fallen a few steps lower on their to-do list. The days from here on in will be mainly uneventful, and also numbered. Don’t let me get gloomy, my macaronis; talk to me, sing to me, entertain me as I record my further descent into madness for your delight and edification. Let’s try to make the coming weeks pass like a fart, not a kidney stone.

Making preparations

So, looks like I’ll get my wish about moving on from this dump – I’ve been made redundant. As of today, I’m working my three weeks’ notice.

Worst part about it is I can’t even blame Jezza, though I won’t pretend the hint of glee under his faux-regret tone went unnoticed. Turns out the experiment with “Tannoy Greeters” has been officially designated a flop, and the Colmart family are disinheriting us all. They’re going to have announcements recorded weeks in advance by a professional polenta-pusher with an Equity card, and piped into all stores on the half hour, every half hour. Next time I pass by the Leisure and Lifestyle aisles and hear the rustle of a malicious whisper, I’ll remember that, and smile. Nothing else to do now but make preparations for my departure.

That in mind, I believe I’ve got a meme owing on preparations, and a little barney on a friend’s blog the other day got me thinking about isolation and quarantine. Everybody’s got their Blood Flu emergency box of beans and bandages, but nobody’s really talking about how they’ll avoid catching the virus – because, y’know, much as I’d hate to be caught without supplies, the first rule of survival is don’t be dead. In this case, that means being in isolation before everyone else thinks of it, so I’m going to take back my disparaging remarks about Jack’s attempt to isolate himself from his own family, even though there’s not a sniff of flu as yet on his half of the continent. Myself, I don’t pretend to be in anything resembling a “quarantine”, but reading about Mei’s situation gives me an awareness of when I’m in contact with people, and I realise I’ve been living in pretty isolated circumstances as a matter of routine.

I always had to be self-reliant. My folks washed their hands of me the day I told them I wanted to go to drama school. Gifted with what my mother liked to call a face for radio and a body for truck-driving, I’m not exactly inundated with auditions, but I work and I manage. When anything’s gone wrong in my life, whether it’s with a contract or the plumbing, I’ve looked up how to fix it myself before calling out the experts. It’s partly a lack of funds, and partly, for want of a better word, pride – if I can do something for myself, I will. I live alone, work alone and generally avoid people. I shop online, drive to work, cook and eat alone, spend my leisure time walking and camping in the outback alone. In fact, at this point, I probably haven’t been in especially close proximity to another human being for longer than Mei. Which means that if the Blood Flu is, as we speak, spreading through Australia in its silent phase, I’m safe as a cheese sarnie at a vegan convention.

Could misanthropy be my salvation? Should I thank my parents for instilling in me a crippling social dysfunction? I am making some preparations, but just to be especially paranoid or mysterious or both, I’m not going to say on a public forum what they are. Let it be known, though: I got my ideas. I’m researching systems and squirrelling away supplies. I’m gonna be just fine.