Salvage by Robert Edric is a bleak novel about inertia and our inability to cope with environmental disaster.
It is set in the 22nd century; the UK is a barren country blighted by pollution, erratic weather systems and flooding. Livestock have long since been culled due to contagion with farms being converted into landfill sites; the nation is choked by crumbling infrastructure, corruption and red tape.
Quinn, a disillusioned civil servant, is sent to a remote northern town to write a report designed to pave the way for its rapid expansion in order to resettle families fleeing the floods.
He encounters selfish individuals desperate to maintain their own fiefdoms while everything around them is falling apart. Tragedy is personified by a son of the earth crushed by the loss of his family farm and a jobless journalist driven to drink by professional impotency.
Edric depicts a ruined land where politicking reigns supreme. In creating characters reduced by their grubby little compromises, he shines a critical light on contemporary Britain.
Gifted singer-songwriter Reg Meuross gave an intimate concert at the Black Swan Folk Club this evening.
He sang about the Votes For Women martyr Emily Wilding Davison, the highwayman Dick Turpin, Dylan Thomas, Hank (Mr Lovesick Blues) Williams, the band leader’s violin that survived the Titanic disaster, Cicero, London, a hard-pressed NHS nurse and the young anti-Nazi martyr Sophie Scholl.
I left the York pub with the lyrics of his topical song England Green And England Grey still resounding in my head; which, I felt, was appropriate as millions of votes cast in today’s General Election were being counted:
England green and England grey
Look out on a summer’s day
To all things bright and fair and gay
To my home, my love, my England.
I believe in dignity, rich or poor we’re all born free.
Austerity and slavery, I thought they were behind us.
I don’t believe the BBC, monarchy or anarchy
Or an empire built on piracy, by our history you’ll find us
For years our women had no say no right to work or equal pay.
God help the crippled and the gay, the fragile flowers of England.
Shut the factories, shut the mines, punish those fell on hard times
While they honour them who do the crimes, the greedy men of England
How can a man respect a man who steals his house and sells his land
And takes the wages from his hand to pay his own expenses.
The NHS our England’s jewel is bartered by Westminster’s fool
To justify his public school and military defences
Sing the songs of old John Bull, Cecil Sharp and John and Paul
Come English folk, come one and all to the sweet songs of our England
Take my hand and walk with me down the back roads to the sea
In spite of all, we’ll both agree there is none so sweet as England.
I have voted in every General Election since 1979 when Labour’s “Sunny Jim” Callaghan was turfed out of Number 10 by Margaret Thatcher.
However, today is the first time I have cast two separate votes at different polling stations. My first “X” was marked in my name; the second “X” was done on behalf of my youngest daughter who currently resides in Vancouver on Canada’s Pacific coast, half a world away. She decided to make use of a proxy vote while her sister, who is studying in Weimar, Germany, opted for a postal vote.
As I walked from one polling station to the next, along Hamilton Drive, York, this morning I felt proud that both my daughters have participated in today’s General Election even though they live outside the United Kingdom.
The suffragette Emily Wilding Davison would have been proud of them as well; today marks the anniversary of her death more than 100 years ago. Emily became a Votes For Women martyr after she ran into the path of the King’s horse as it was racing in the Epsom Derby. She died from her injuries several days later on June 8th 1913.
The right to vote that we enjoy today was certainly hard won.