It would be half an hour before the pub
opened. George Walker sat in his armchair and idly picked up his
young daughters schoolbook. He opened her Childrens
First Atlas and inspected a map of Southern England.
George found London and identified his home
borough of Hackney. There was Barking, Romford, Enfield. But what
was this? Mid-way between Romford and Chelmsford was marked
His wife came in.
Pat, he asked, do you
know where Saudi Arabia is?
Its just north of Brentwood, I
think. I remember seeing a sign to it on the M25.
George fell silent, intently studying the
Essex map. Israel, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait. There were all
there. Shit! he exclaimed, I thought all these
places were north of Newcastle.
Pat smiled. Didnt you do any
geography at school?
No. He thought for a few
moments. Wheres America then?
Its on the other side of
London, just west of Heathrow. Surely you must have heard of
people passing through Heathrow on their way to the States?
If theres a war in the Middle
East, thats only twenty-five miles away. We might get hit
by a stray bomb.
It wouldnt be deliberate,
reassured his wife. We would just be collateral damage.
Anyway, she continued, there are bigger problems
nearer home. The North African famine for example.
George was reluctant to ask. Wheres
North Africa? he said tentatively.
Pat looked at her husband disbelievingly.
The desert starts about two roads away. When I stand on a
chair to dust the pelmets in the upstairs bedroom, I can just see
the first line of sand dunes. Thats why Mrs Davis moved to
the house in Acacia Drive. The desert begins at the bottom of her
garden. When she gets fed-up with the drizzle, she can walk to
the compost heap where the sun always shines and daytime
temperatures are in the forties. She has problems with camels
eating the petunias, but thinks the weather more than makes up
for that. Mind you, I hate the drive to Stevenage - all those
bleak refugee camps with shortages of food and water. It was all
tropical rainforest, you know, before the logging companies came.
Off to the pub? enquired Pat.
No, theres war, famine and
ecological destruction within thirty miles of Hackney. He
peered again at the atlas. Im taking food from the
freezer to the Sudan. That should only take half an hour. Maybe Ill
make friends in the Middle East on the way back, or see if theres
any rainforest left to save.
Pat glanced at the TV guide. You know
Manchester United are on telly tonight?
That now familiar question arose in his
mind. Wheres Manchester?
Pat paused, reluctant to admit he had
caught her out this time. Im not quite sure. I think
its in the Pacific somewhere.
I cant be bothered with them.
He hurried to the door. Thats on the other side of
the world. Nothing to do with me.