The decision was easy – the plasticopter was not available to pick us up – we would have to walk to Southampton and take the next evacuee ship. Did anyone want to come with us?
Silas didn't. De Haan didn't like that, but no one could change his mind or force him to go. Silas wanted to stay, he could help, perhaps he had fallen for one of the group.
Sirwin got a team together: Erik who was good with a gun, he also had the power, Lena who needed help with the birth, and three children Christa, John and Creol who had found their parents via the satellite TV link. And me, Jim Power.
“It's over seventy kilometres straight down the M3 motorway, perhaps we can do twenty a day, but Lena and the kids can't.” Erik wheeled in a cart “It's totally made of wood, we use it when we go looting, it uses half a bar of lard to lubricate the axles every day.”
Everything that Silas and I had brought with us was to stay with the group. We took clothes, bedding, food and water; Erik had a gun; I had a map and a cell phone and a solar charger.
I said goodbye to Sirwin and Silas and the rest of the group “Be seeing you on sat TV.” Sirwin hugged Lena. The clothes, bedding, food, water, kids and Lena went into the cart and off we went.
We saw lots of trees and fields and bridges, but no roads signs, no bridge parapets, no metal, no people. We spent the night outside Basingstoke. The second day was also good, we overnighted north of Winchester – summer weather and no rain.
The third day was not so good, some alkies dropped rocks onto us from a bridge. Erik sprayed them with bullets – he said one word: scum. The cart fell to pieces and we all had to walk. We reached Eastleigh late in the evening.
We started early the next day, just six kilometres to Southampton docks, the ship was leaving that day, we had to be on it.
“What's that big thing over there?” asked Christa. “It's a blimp, it's a huge balloon floating in the sky and held in place by a rope. Hopefully it's got a cell phone antenna.”
I phoned the ship's number I had been given before leaving Sandhurst. “No, stop, don't go any further, it's not very safe in the town, there's some nasty idiots about. We'll come and pick you up.”
Half and hour later a horse and cart arrived – two horses actually – big surprise. “So you're the famous Jim Power. Get in and let's get you onto the boat. You all look surprisingly healthy, most of the people we get are in a bad way when they get here, poor bastards.” Erik decided to return to Sandhurst instead.
On the ship our details were taken, the ship left port and we joined the shower queue. A nurse dressed entirely in white rubber – only her eyes were showing – asked cheerfully “Anyone need delousing?”
I put my clothes and stuff into a plastic bag and had a shower – was that good. I was given a red T-shirt “NO GREENIES ON THE ISLAND” and black jeans, plus the plastic bag. I was checked over by a doctor. Lena, the kids and I had lunch in the cafeteria. Was that good, no, it was better, we were feeling good.
In a quiet corner I used my phone to film Lena, the kids and myself. “And lastly I want to thank Erik, he protected us, he'll be back with you soon.” I uploaded the film to de Haan with instructions to send it to the Sandhurst group via the satellite link.
I told Lena and the kids to get some rest, it would be a ten-hour journey. I dictated my report into my phone, uploaded it and dozed off.
It was early morning when the ship landed at Oostende. The media were waiting, they wanted pictures, they got them, they wanted to know what we were doing. The kids' parents were there to pick them up, more pictures. Lena was going to Clever. “You mean Kleve, that's where Anne of Cleves came from.” And I took the coastal tram to de Haan.