ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS NO MORE COD AND CHIPS.
Once upon a time there was no more cod and chips. No more cod, because like the dodo we hunted them to extinction. No more chips because oil was so expensive it couldn’t be wasted on mere food. So there was no more cod and chips; but nobody really noticed, because petrol was so expensive that nobody could afford to drive to the chippie to buy any. No more cod and chips and no more popping in the car to the shops to buy stuff and no more ignoring the weather.
There was, millions of channels of telly and shoot ‘em up games. If you wanted to you could watch a screen from morning till night. Many of the programmes were repeats though and once you had seen a series through a couple of times even millions of channels was not enough. Some people went a bit stir crazy watching the people on the telly doing things that they could no longer even dream of doing themselves and they took to drinking and drugging, fighting and stealing; but this story is not about those people. This story is about the people who trudged through mud to meet up in village halls and talk about how to survive and how to find solutions.
Can you see them? Through the orange lit windows of the village hall on this rainy Autumn evening? Their coats dripping in the porch as they gather in a semi circle around a big log fire? Watch how they make sure the old people take the chairs nearest the heat and the children have blankets to sit on the floor in front of the fire. These are people who have learned the lessons of sharing fire so that everyone has what they need.
A tiny woman in the crowd has stood up indicating she wishes to speak. For a long while nobody notices, she patiently waits as neighbours chat away about the state of their day until gradually elbows are dug into ribs and finally someone yells out “shut up will you”.
So why is the crowd so eager to hear this short woman speak? As the warmth of the fire dries the curls back into her hair we can see that she is one of the gypsy people that has been staying nearby all year. She and her tribe have taught the villagers much about how to feed themselves and their animals from the hedgerows. They have shown them how to find dry kindling in a wet wood and how to strip down the old petrol machines to find the useful parts. Her tribe were rich in the knowledge of how to survive without money and generous enough to share it.
Into the crackling fire silence the woman places a question for the crowd, “for so long tried you’ve to change everything to fit your desires are you now prepared to make the changes that will more food to go round?” they look at her with skin stretched tight over their hungry faces and nod, “are you really prepared,” again they called out “yes”, and so the woman continues; “do you recognise that you have forced huge beasts to come into your barns so you can steal their body fluids. “Yes” they murmur, shamed with the memories. “Do you acknowledge that you have interfered with the nature of plants so that they could no longer make viable seeds and emptied your wastes and pollutants into the water supplies like fools.” Again, a barely audible, “Yes”. “Are you now ready to put right your relationship to the finite resources of the planet you call home? “Yes” they call out, and then like with a the pantomime, “yes, yes, yes”
The petite woman holds up her hand to indicate she is serious, “if you think you are ready to live in harmony with the planet i have a big solution for you right here” and from her bag she takes a bottle of capsules and the little woman tells them her big idea right to their shocked and confused faces.
A big red faced man at the back is scoffing. “that is ridiculous and impossible” he yells out, his words slurring from the effects of home made alcohol.
A young woman holding hopeful hands with her partner asks “can i get this right please, are you saying that these pills will make our children grow to half size”
The woman nods, “if you take these. Your children and their children in perpetuity will be, like me, three foot tall at full grown height.”
“But the animals how will we manage our cattle and our crops, if we become reduced to the size of children”
The small woman smiles at them a smile of infinite kindness, her voice soft now and low, “just think how many more of you could get around this fire if you were half the size. Being small changes everything, i can live in smaller places and keep warm with half the fuel, i eat half as much and i can even get a lift from my dog when she’s in the mood to give one. Doesn’t reducing your consumption mean changing yourselves fundamentally?”
And her question hung in the air like a lantern.