Mat Paskins

Inever expected how exciting it would be to get out there. The sense, you know, that this was our time and what we did would really make a difference. All these people had arrived at the camp, and they were relieved. No one was shooting at them any more – and, you know, the problem wasn’t what would happen next or anything big, it was that naturally they gathered together, for protection, in their own camps, and spread out much more.  More, I mean, than you would if you were living in a space which had been designed by an engineer, which made supplying them with water a complete nightmare.  But you couldn’t say to them “Oh, live along the grid I want you to”, you know? They wouldn’t do that. Anyway, how would that be safe? Actually it’s a really sweet engineering challenge, how you can deliver water to so many people. And there were cows wandering around, and children who always wanted to play football. And you had to get used to the idea that, maybe, a new generator wasn’t necessarily going to work because someone would always have put some water in the petrol, skimming some off the top.  I asked people about it, you know, if we’d been drinking, if we were back at the hotel and flying out the next week. I asked them “Do you feel it, like this is what we were always meant to do, all the time?” I just wish I didn’t have to spend quite so much time applying for grants.

Little one. You will learn to be brave in ways we cannot understand. Your life will not be our life, though we raise you in the only ways we understand. Accept our imperfect need as it tries to turn itself to proper care, not raging that you cried so long. Little one, we know that when you stamp your foot more than the puddle moves beneath it. We can see joy and fear married in your eyes when you see an aeroplane, a digger, crane. You do great excavations when you have a stick and start to dig in dirty fields. The world is yours, or will be, little one; we will not know how ours has passed. You will continue our story in a way which looks like hating us, which would tear our hair out at the roots, if we could know its passion true.

These days I keep myself to myself but I do like to see the dark-works when they set them off. They do them on the back field and they get the kids to light them What’s that? Dark-works, I said. No I don’t mean fire-works, these ones are soot and coal dust, I don’t know. They’re meant to make it rain. No, I don’t know if it works, you’d have to ask a weatherman. I didn’t know what Guy Fawkes Night did when I was a lad, but I still went to that. Well, exactly. It kept things going didn’t it, and I don’t see that we’re worse off with them. So why not. You’ve got to celebrate. When they’ve got their sparklers, the kids look like they’ve had a wish. It isn’t really children you can have hope for, is it, though; it is survivors. I mean, I don’t mean to be horrible, but they—you can already see the fat ones and the clingy ones and they won’t—they’re not likely to change all that much, are they? Not unless they get away.  What’s that? Is that how I see myself, as a survivor? Ask me next year. Or the next. Ask me in ten years, see what answer you get then. I’m forty-seven years old, thank you very much, I’d like to do more than just survive. Though in the—let’s say, longer term, things are not looking very positive, and I doubt I’ll see two hundred.

Mat Paskins teaches history of science and helps to study the history of foraging. He is Community manager for commodity histories –