Eight – Exits Intervals Elsewhere - Herd Mentality
Map of the area to the south of Taunton, West Somerset, England. Corfe to Taunton is roughly 2 miles. The 3-word references (which are also found throughout this document in Bold) mark locations identified using the app What3Words. This app divides the planet into 3m square grids and assigns a different set of 3 words to each square. Somewhere on Earth there’s probably a square called Never Get Lost. I wonder where it is? Oh hang on a minute let’s check…. Looks like there isn’t one. But there is a Never Deft Lost. It’s in Southland, New Zealand just to the east of Rae’s Junction, between Roxburgh and Lawrence (there’s also a Never Debt Lost in the heel of Italy).
Seven years I lived here, in the lee of the Blackdowns. The whole of my teenage years. During that time I did a lot of rambling and I thought I knew the land pretty well. But in this short limboland time of Covid I’ve found paths I never knew existed. Short cuts. Estate perimeters. Ancient hollow ways. Rambling’s become even more popular too, it seems, since the 1970s. Local Councils and Associations have been busy. So now we have, in just this little corner of West Somerset: The Macmillan Way West, The Coleridge Way, The Tarka trail, The Two Moors Way, The Exe Valley Way, The Valleyheads Way, The East Deane Way and The West Deane Way. Not to mention the great South-West England Coastal Path which, at 500 miles, used to be Britain’s longest but has now become incorporated into a mega-all-of-Britain coastal adventure that will, I should think, keep you busy for the good part of a year, should you have the time and inclination to tackle it.
Why on earth did I never come up here, for example?
I’m at Castle Neroche on the extreme East End of the Blackdowns (Mailbox Worms Stammer). A high-point of strategic significance. The natural steepness here has been made more complicated, more defendable, by centuries of human occupation. There’s been a fortress settlement here since the Iron Age, but there are no walls or ruins or stones left now. Just vestigial ditches and banks, the bracken-covered flat-top, and the clear lines of sight over the lands below. So you can see your enemy coming and get ready to smite him down. I wonder what the life expectancy of your average Iron Ager would have been then. Thirty maybe?
They must have had virus pandemics and what not back in those days, wouldn’t you think? They certainly had the Black Death. That’s well-known. But flus and corona viruses? Must have had them too. Cos humans haven’t been around that long anyway have we? Just a few million years, right? Probs wont last that much longer ay? In the big scheme of things I mean. Probably don’t have what it takes to make it, cockroach-style, through all the tough planetary times ahead. To hit whatever curveballs nature throws at us out of the ballpark.
Down off the top of Neroche there’s some fantastic sunken pathways to follow. Here water has etched out gullies alongside old banks. Massive beech trees sprout from the banks, their root systems exposed to view, wrapping around the earthworks like face-gripping aliens. There goes another squirrel. There goes another love song...
2020Me is sitting on a stump (Exits Intervals Elsewhere) munching a biscuit and sipping from my thermos. A couple of walkers coming up the track. Quick with the mask. Raise a hand to wave. They wave back. And (wow that’s a first!) they don’t speak! No cheery ‘Hello!’ No hearty ‘Good Morning!’ I haven’t seen a lot of people over these weeks of morning rambles but all the ones I’ve seen have been maskless and all of them have greeted me with a cheery Hail Fellow Well Met Englishness. This despite the fact that I must look like some species of urban post-apocalyptic guerrilla in my outfit of overcoat shades and camouflaged mask.
Don’t berloody talk to me! I mutter as I stare at the ground beneath my boots and stomp on cursing. What’s the matter with these people? Don’t they know there’s a war on? 40,000 of their (of my!) fellow citizens are dead. That’s Forty THOUSAND. And it’s still ‘What-ho, chaps, and carry on smiling!’ Talk about ‘While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag!’
‘What’s the use of worrying?’
I’ll fuckin tell you what the fuckin use of fuckin worrying is you short-sighted cloth-eared twits: your grannies will die. Your parents, your lovers, God forbid, your children. They will die as they have died: without having the chance to even hold your hand, without even having the chance to say goodbye. This is a fuckin shameful diabolic nightmare. It’s a colossal fuck-up. And still the leaders stand there grinning like schoolboy idiots at their failed science projects.
For fuck’s fuckin sake....
Bleedin’ell! It’s just a bleedin’ sniffle for Pete’s sake. I ain’t got a temperature ‘ave I? What is it? 36? That’s normal aint it? And now I ‘ave to sit here in my room like a naughty little schoolboy until matron says I can go out to play? What about my rights? Yeah what about my freedoms? It’s like that ‘ole mask fing right? I mean ‘oo give them the right to tell me what to wear? Them’s my clothes yeah? If I want to go down the pub or shopping or whateva or the beach why do I ‘ave to wear a bloody mask? Cos we all know they don’t work right? I mean Boris said right from the start they don’t work. There’s no evidence and all that. And he should know. Went to Eton didn’t ‘e? Yeah ‘e got a good education and ‘e knows a thing or two that’s for sure. Also ‘e was just following them guideline fings that his boffins said about that they got from Pete Townsend and Rog from The Who. And now everyone’s panicking like maniacs and all that. Wearing masks and not talking. I mean bleedin’ ‘ell. I dunno know what the world’s coming to...
Now now, soldier, that’s quite enough. Back in line now, I say. Don’t forget we’re at war now. We’re at war. But this is a far cry from the kind of war we’re used to. There’s no visible enemy here, soldier. Nothing we can charge at bayonets fixed. Nothing to aim our machine guns at and blast to kingdom come. This is a tricky enemy. A sneaky little pesky micro-organism of an enemy. Our guns are useless against it. Instead our weapon of choice is this, the FC-180:
(holds up a piece of cloth)
Now this may not look like much to you soldier. Just a bit of old shirt right? But watch this: (fashions FC-180 from cloth and dons)
Now I’m armed. I’m protecting you now soldier. If the virus is inside my lungs right now it has to get past this line of defence (indicates FC-180) to get into your lungs. Now, at the moment we’re sending you into battle unarmed. We wouldn’t do that to our soldiers. So...
(like a flash, whips out pre-made FC-180 and straps to soldier’s face)
Now you are protected by a double-line of defence and what’s more you are protecting me from a reciprocal threat of C-19 attack.
Are you following me soldier?
Nah, this is stupid! This is all stupid. You look like a right berk wiv that rag on yer face n I feel ... I feel ... er... I aint got no dignity like this! You know what? I quit! I aint signed up for this. I’m goin down the pub.
(rips off FC-180 and turns to go)
Oh yeah n that’s anova fing... I said all the time right, me n everyone on Facebook fink this so it’s not just me, there aint no point in doin nuffun, right? Cos whateva you do you aint gonna stop it. It’s gonna get in an we’re gonna ‘ave to live wiv it, yeah? So we might as well enjoy ourselfs. We still got the summer. We still got the beach, yeah? You can’t live in fear like you lot want to get us to do. We aint. We aint gonna live in fear! So stuff yer bleedin’ FC-whateva! Stuff it right up yer arse!
(throws FC-180 away and leaves) Sir! Colonel Sanders, sir?
Yes what is it, Sergeant Major?
You’re not going to let ‘im just walk off like that are you sir? Well Sergeant Major (sighs) it is a free country after all. Right-O sir! Sir?
Yes Sergeant Major?
Cuppa tea sir?
Yes Sergeant Major. Why not? Let’s have a nice cup of tea...
UK-born in 1962, Treefrog ‘David’ Sanders is a musician and artist with a peculiar interest in the piano and creative investigations into the world of fluid dynamics. Since 2009, David has exhibited works at venues including the NZ Academy of Arts, Thistle Hall and Ron Barber Gallery. David has also been a member of the Bayview Shelley Bay Arts Collective and the music theatre group, Amalgam. Solo painting shows include Demolition Series (2009), Surface Tension (2013) and Strange Attractors (2017). David lives and works in Wellington, NZ.