'Earth was abundant. When we had finally finished plundering its resources, we moved on. But our new homes were never as rich. So we sent ships with scientific teams to find new zoology in distant galaxies we could farm, synthesise or simply hunt down and eat...' In the future, food is the new gold...
Grove Jones stops on the main gangway of the space port and glances
at the briefing alert on his digi-billet. The ship he is looking for
is called the 'Saturn Anne II' but he can see no sign of it on the
computerised docking list boards. Just like the Newtrishia
Corporation to hire some tin-can space barge that can't even find its
way to the right docking bay. He spots a techanoid and waves the
billlet at him. 'Know where this is?'
The teachanoid blinks twice and then pulls the rictus grin of the
very poorly made synthetic robot. 'Yes sir! The last bay, in late
last night. Boards not updated yet. Very big ship. Have a very happy
'Last bay, late. Says it all.' Jones growls in thanks at the
too-cheery reply, shoulders his backpack and heads in the direction
of the illuminated arrow sign lit up on the techanoid's chest plate.
One of the first projects for our new garden, after a few months of settling in, is repairing, repainting and re-utilising the decking. This has entailed cutting back and reshaping overgrown shrubs and plants, checking and replacing any rotten substructure and replacing worn out screws across the deck. We are going for a bold grey, pink and orange colour scheme on the deck and walls to give a Mediterranean/Mexican feel to what is turning into a lovely sun trap. The pots of salad are loving the hot weather and midsummer is only a heat haze away. Please don't forget to leave out a shallow dish of water for the birds and wildlife, always a must in a midsummer garden.
I have blogged before about how hard women fought to win the right to vote in this countryand I am sad to see voter turnouts are still low in this century. Please stand up for your rights and your local community and vote this Thursday. It isn't a chore, it's your chance to vote for someone to represent you in government. Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday and you can still vote even if you've lost your poll card, as long as you are registered on the electoral roll. The BBC have put together some info about a General Election with FAQs worth checking out if you are unsure what a General Election is all about. All major parties have published manifestos (a public declaration of policies and aims), you can check out the Liberal Democrats manifesto here ~ Manifesto
So here it is, a list of seventy science fiction films worth watching. I had to draw the line somewhere so decided seventy was more than enough for now. They are ordered alphabetically rather than in any preference and I have added the year of release to avoid remake v. original confusion. Perfect for a wet week in June... Watch this lot and you will know sci-fi.
Six episode mini-series based on John le Carre's book, this gripping espionage thriller about a hotel worker who gets caught up in the world of an international arms dealer is both stylish and sophisticated. An all-star cast features Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Debicki, Tom Hollander and David Harewood. Directed by Susanne Bier. Five out of five stars
***** Straight Outta Compton (18)
A gritty and hard-hitting biography of the early life and emergence of the Los Angeles band N.W.A. and the influence of their music on Hip Hop culture and the wider American consciousness in the 1980's. O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr. and Aldis Hodge star as the band members. Directed by F. Gary Gray. Five out of five stars
****** Arrival (12A)
Beautifully filmed with a dreamlike quality this absorbing science fiction story deals with a linguist drafted in to try and communicate with aliens while dealing with a trauma in her own life. The two threads of narrative weave together to produce an unexpected and moving denouement in this left-field film. Amy Adams ably carries the movie with Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker also starring. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Five out of five stars
The Big Short (15)
Another biographical movie, this time examining the financial crisis of 2008 and the American housing bubble that triggered it. It follows three teams of traders who predict the collapse of sub-prime mortgage market and look to short the market and make millions. Both humorous and horrific this snapshot of the capriciousness of the 'American Dream' is stuffed full of cameos and quirky narratives. An all-star cast includes Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt. Directed by Adam McKay. Five our of five stars
(previous episode) In the near future, Daisy takes part in an isolation experiment for five years only to find a very different world waiting for her when the doors open... (comedy/horror/sci-fi/distopian. All rights reserved) Part twelve of many. Resetting
overridden the computer programme? Daisy asks, almost in awe of the
small, slightly battered robot. 'Yes, Fermat programmed me to be able
to access all systems on board. For when we are... were going to be
living in it. Is he dying?'
Fermat is screaming and screaming until one of the baying pack moves
up gingerly approaching the lead dog and clamps its jaws around
Fermat's neck. There is a strangled gurgling noise as the jaws meet
in the middle and the screaming stops.
should imagine so.' Douglas shudders slightly at the thought of what
might be happening outside. Having no windows and soundproofing on
the ICL now seems like a brilliant bit of design engineering. 'Can
you get the ICL moving?'
but you are very low on water, power and food. The bio-digesters in
the system were only engineered for a five year tenure. We should go
to the garage before we travel anywhere.' T-Ladi runs a diagnostic on
the ICL's service history. 'The ICL could do with a deep clean, as
well. Many, many of its cleaning schedules were not complied with.
This is a breach of rules and you have triggered penalty payment
clause 4579, Daisy.'
guessing the prize never happened.' Daisy replies, waving to the
door. 'So the penalty doesn't really matter.'
a minute T-Ladi, did you just say we needed to go to a
Douglas asks. 'You do know that civilisation as we know it has
I do not mean a petrol station. The garage is a purpose built ICL
utility workshop, very near here. Fermat sealed it after Downfall
Day. We can restock and clean the ICL. Make any repairs, I registered
there is some strange metal framework wedged under the chassis as you
threw me in through the door.'
remembering Douglas' bike, Daisy moves the conversation on. 'What
about the computer programme?'
will be fine, I will simply reboot the system and it will start
running as though from the start of the experiment again, wiping all
memory of the last five years.'
Daisy can't explain why it matters but losing the only thing she has
shared the last five years with, even if it is only a piece of
particularly belligerent computer code, seems the same as erasing
part of her herself . 'Do you have to wipe its memory?'
T-Ladi pauses for a moment and tries to analyse Daisy's facial
expression but fails. Human faces are still too tricky and Fermat
would not let her practise on him. 'I could reset the clock instead,
it might override the safe mode.'
this sounds like a plan, we travel to the ICL workshop restock the
caravan with enough supplies for us all to make it to New Cumbria...'
would you travel to New Cumbria?' T-Ladi asks, surprise registering
in her synthetic voice.
they are building a new country there...' Before Douglas can
continue, T-Ladi starts to laugh.
so funny!' Douglas folds his arms and slumps into the nearby sofa.
Cumbria is a piece of Government propaganda to try and make humans
feel more comfortable about the fall of civilisation. Something to
cling to. The hope was people would survive in small pockets across
the country and try to rebuild with the thought of a power base in
the mountains. There isn't anything there. Maybe a few sheep.'
do you know all this?' Douglas asks annoyed, first it was Daisy and
now a robot is laughing at his plan.
hacked into the public broadcast software. He found the source files
and the outline of emergency planning. There was no plan.'
No new nothing. That is why Fermat went to great lengths to get the
ICL back. He had a plan.'
in the ICL.'
Douglas asks a small flame of hope flickering in his mind at the
thought of a new plan.
that was it.'
live in the ICL? ... Forever?' Daisy can feel her blood
pressure rise, five years was bad enough but forever?
just until his death. We ought to get this vehicle to the garage, I
shall drive us there now.' With that, T-Ladi unplugs herself from the
docking port and makes her way through to the cockpit.
sits next to Douglas on the moulded sofa and tries to make sense of
the last day. But there is no sense to it. Nothing makes sense any
was going to be rich and famous. Write a book, live on a island
paradise. Give regular interviews, maybe even a tour or two. And now,
now I have to spend the rest of my life in this... this... egg powder
and Sun-U-Like and there isn't even any cake....' Daisy stops making
any sense and starts softly and inconsolably crying.
sighs, for a moment he wishes he was still on his bike, free, alone
and with a clear plan to get to New Cumbria and start a new life. But
it is much a dream as Daisy's imagined future is. The only thing that
is real is this, here and now, the ICL and the slim chance they might
survive for longer than most in the hi-tech cocoon of protection the capsule provides.
slowly manoeuvres the ICL back onto the road and keys in the location
of the garage into the auto satnav. Then sets about overwriting the
digital clock, resetting it to five years without overwriting the
memory banks of the computer programme. It takes a few minutes but
she is successful and the digital projection above the sealed doors
in the living area suddenly flashes back into life, rolling back 1827
days in blur of light and starts counting down again.
(previous episode) In the near future, Daisy takes part in an isolation experiment for five years only to find a very different world waiting for her when the doors open... (comedy/horror/sci-fi/distopian. All rights reserved) Part eleven of many.
opens the door to the express lift and stares at the corpses within.
Just what Fermat thinks she is going to do with them, she has no
idea. There is far too much bio-material to go into the paper waste
incinerator or the food composting unit. Health and safety
regulations mean they could not be stored in the walk-in food
refrigerator without sealable, leak-proof body bags so where could
she put them? T-Ladi runs through a list of the rooms in the
underground ICLRF (Isolation
Capsule Laboratory Resource Facility) but each one seems inappropriate to the task in
hand. As she reasons through her options the lift doors slowly shut
behind her and suddenly it seems obvious what she can do with them.
She presses the button for ground level and the lift streaks upwards
reaching the surface level in seconds. The door chimes softly and
slides open onto the interior of a small, shadowy, long disused stone
church. T-Ladi steps out and surveys the interior. It is cold and
her footsteps echo across the old tiles. Running up the length of
the small nave are two sets of wooden pews, some fallen against each
other, here and there dappled light falls through dirty stained glass
leaving streaks of mauve, red and green on the peeling walls. Where
once was the altar, now is a stainless steel box full of wiring and
computer circuitry, connecting the weather station, solar panels and
small satellite dish to the ICLRF below.
drags the first corpse from the lift, through the church and out into
the small graveyard, little more than a higgledy-piggledy line of
ancient tombstones, the interred long forgotten and turned to dust.
One by one, she lays mummified bodies over the graves, trying to
straighten them as best she can so they lie neatly in a row. With the
last body she pauses for a moment, wipes her hands on her overalls
and sighs. She would cover them over later, for now it would have to
do, at least they were finally laid to rest in an appropriate place.
stares at T-Ladi as she exits the lift. 'All the bodies out of the
Fermat, all the bodies are out of the lift.'
the lift is clean?'
Now you need to plug yourself in and download all my research files,
I need a portable back up.'
we going somewhere?'
finally we a getting out of this bloody hole.'
grinds her teeth as she sticks her fingers in her ears to to try an
mask the sound of Douglas peeing into the vase of synthetic flowers.
sorry but needs must...'
you have to make so much noise, I can hear it with my fingers in my
ears and you don't sound very sorry!'
I'm more relieved than anything...' Douglas wonders what to do with
the vase and finds an empty built-in cupboard to stash it in.
Daisy removes her fingers from her ears and notices the sudden quiet.
'We've stopped moving. Where are we?'
here we are!' The computer programme announces over the intercom.
Both Douglas and Daisy ask simultaneously.
the new headquarters of SpaceLife Science. You two can now exit the
ICL and have a nice life. Goodbye Daisy.' And with that the computer
programme opens all the locks and seals on the doors and switches
into safe mode. As the lights power down, the outer hatch door seals
hiss and click open, Daisy and Douglas are free to step out into the
warmth of a sunny morning. As the fresh air floods in through the
open door, Daisy sighs, if she is going to die of plague, at least it
will be outside and not sealed up in the ICL.
watches her leave, wondering what to do. He hesitates for a moment
then follows, a thought occurring to him. 'Just where is the new
SpaceLife headquarters?' But the computer programme does not answer
and Daisy cannot hear him.
stands in the small graveyard staring at the mummified corpses laid
neatly on top of the graves. Had they run out of room? Was this how
it would end for her? A noise behind her makes her turn round as a
synthetic humanoid walks over from the entrance of the church,
wearing a flowery overall with a name badge. 'Hello, my name is
T-Ladi. I am here to welcome you, Daisy Darruthers, to the SpaceLife
Team's new headquarters.
stares at T-Ladi, then inspects the scratched and worn name badge.
She can just about make out the words 'Tea Lady' on it. They had sent
the tea lady to greet her?
are these bodies here?' It occurs to Daisy the corpses are dressed in
asked me to remove them from the express lift so you would not
realise that was how they were killed and then he would override the
airlock protocol and squeeze the air out of you as you travel down
thirty levels to the Isolation Capsule Laboratory Resource Facility
to collect your prize. Then we can leave the laboratory and live
forever in the ICL.'
listens in horror to the humanoid's explanation. 'And Fermat is?'
waiting for you in the new headquarters. Welcome Daisy. Please follow
me to the express lift.'
Maybe not.' Daisy turns to find Douglas at her side staring up at the
you just hear that?'
and I think I know how this Fermat got us here. There's a satellite
dish up there. Probably sent out a signal to the computer programme
on board the ICL. These people have been dead for a while. Poor
souls.' Douglas turns his attention to T-Ladi. 'They didn't die of
no, we are not in the plague zone here and Fermat was very careful to
route the ICL around the danger zone. He does not like germs, or
flies, or other people much... I don't think he likes me, except when
he is tired...'
he is in the church?'
facility is under the church.'
there's a lift to get down to it?'
I will escort Daisy to it. This way...'
am NOT going to get in any lift..' Daisy walks away towards the ICL
parked on the cricket field.
Dougal thinks rapidly. 'Could you override the automatic computer
programme in the ICL?'
could yes. Fermat upgraded my systems to run the Resource Facility
for him so he could concentrate on taking over the planet.'
you could drive it away from here?'
Fermat and I will take turns with driving.'
Daisy, You and I could take turns.'
he could stay here and take over the planet. It's very important
it is. Just us, no Fermat?'
just us three and the automatic computer programme once we are free
of the signal range.' Dougal points to the satellite dish.
can override the signal.'
Dougal can see Daisy jumping up and down and pointing to something
behind her from the corner of his eye and he turns, just in time to
see a blur of matted fur and fangs launch itself into the air towards
a moment Fermat cannot believe his eyes, he had followed T-Ladi up in
the lift to see what was taking her so long to fetch Daisy from the
ICL, only to find her chatting to some random man. He glances round
the graveyard to find a weapon to deal with the stranger when he
notices the bodies, neatly laid out on the graves. Fury pumps through
his veins as he realises what T-Ladi has done and without waiting for
reason to kick in, he snatches up a nearby rusted shovel and launches
himself towards the stupid robot. As he moves he spies someone
waving in the distance on the cricket pitch, near where the ICL is
parked. It must be Daisy Durruthers but why is she waving?
the day a pack of wild dogs sleep under the cricket pavilion,
crawling in through a gap in the metal fretwork and hunkering down in
the deep gloom under the wooden floorboards, only waking again at
dusk for the night's hunt. But today is different and one or two of
the hounds, woken by the whirr of the lift mechanism and the scrape
of the church doors, idly watch as a machine shaped like a human
drags body after body into the graveyard. From the smell, it is old
meat, left to dry and now leather-blown, not worth risking a daylight
attack. But then a vehicle pulls up nearby in the long grass and a
couple of humans, fleshy and fresh, step out. One of the dogs
whimpers, hackles rising and the rest of the pack wake, sensing
urgency in the cries.
lead dog flattens himself in the grass and crawls on his belly to the
outer perimeter of the graveyard, hidden from the view of his prey.
Now there is another human, equally as fleshy and fresh, emerging
from the old church. The dog knows the rest of the pack will hang
back till it attacks first. Then, they will pick them off, one by
one. Three good kills will keep them fed for weeks.
dog sinks his fangs into the outstretched arm of Fermat, just as
Fermat is about to land a blow with the shovel on T-Ladi. Fermat
screeches in pain and rage as the rusty spade clatters uselessly
against a headstone and he falls, rolling over and over with the dog
firmly attached to his arm.
is suddenly aware of blood-curdling howls from somewhere off in the
long grass of the cricket pitch and he turns as the hair on the nape
of his neck rises in horror and fear. He grabs T-Ladi around the
waist and hoists her over his shoulders and starts running towards
the ICL. In front of him, almost at the vehicle is Daisy and behind
him is the sound of Fermat's screams and the baying dog pack.
sprints faster, the baying pack gaining on him with every step. Ahead
of him Daisy is hanging out of the door of the ICL, her hand reaching
for him. He throws T-Ladi into the caravan, as Daisy grabs his
outstretched arm and hauls him in, slamming the door button with her
palm, screaming at the automatic programme to close the doors.
Behind him the pack of dogs are almost upon the open door as T-Ladi
slides over to a nearby docking port and connects up with the ICL.
'Override Protocol. Octopus. Pythagoras. Tortilla. Close exit hatch.'
door slides shut with a pneumatic hiss as the first dog slams into
the side of the ICL, baying and slathering, claws skittering over the
metallic surface. Inside, Daisy, Douglas and T-Ladi huddle on the
floor, trying not to think about what is happening to Fermat. (next episode)
As the temperatures warm up and daffodils begin to emerge, Spring seems to be just around the corner and my thoughts turn again to the garden but this time, not with a year full of plans or planting schemes but in packing away the gardening tools and moving house. After seventeen years it will be strange to start afresh but we will take a lot of family memories with us from the garden.
It was never an elegant garden, not so much designed as emerging from an irregular, uncooperative patch of brambles, rubble and topsoil scraped over a patch of chalk and flint hill. Its saving grace was the closeness to woodland, inviting a never ending supply of wildlife to it and through it. From bats, newts, foxes, hedgehogs, frogs and spiders to voles, mice, slugs, snails, butterflies and ants; there was always something to look at. And the birds. Lots of birds. From owls to woodpeckers, bullfinches to long-tailed tits via buzzards, pheasants and fierce little wrens.
'Ripplestone Garden' will find a new home, a new space for family and friends and a new view in the South West, until then here's a very brief garden round up of the last seventeen years...