When TSA worked on Sustainable St Albans Week we tried to commission an arts piece that related to climate change with a local feel, but few artists responded
How do we talk about climate change? And why has there been no serious dramatic pieces written on the subject? Is it because people don’t understand, or are we too paralysed with fear and uncertainty? Amber Warning below – is a short creative story exploring climate changes issues through the voices of two people walking in the Lake District. Note: while we are asked to remember that short term weather changes are not to be confused with long term climate changes, the recent debilitating flooding in the North of England certainly brought home to people in the UK the seriousness of potential weather change.
TippingPoint is enabling the arts sector to create and produce work that addresses the huge challenges of climate change: Amber Warning, below, is one example of commissioned writing on the subject. See more at http://www.tippingpoint.org.uk/
A band of persistent and heavy rain will move northeast across the country. The rain will be accompanied by strong southeasterly winds bringing difficult driving conditions with surface water and spray on the roads. Isolated flooding from small watercourses is also possible. The strongest winds will be along the coasts with gusts of 60-65 mph in places with disruption to transport, including ferry services, likely.
With perhaps the risk of more persistent rain
Ulverston: Heavy Rain. 8°, feels like temperature 4°. Precipitation probability 90%. Visibility: Very Poor.
‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Mike said, turning his head back towards Lou as he walked. He was wearing old leather boots, a pair of ripped jeans and a tired waxed jacket, the hood pulled up over his blond hair. City man turned country gent. The cloud was so low they could see only each other and a narrow patch of peat bog.
‘We could die.’ Hurrying to catch up with him, Lou slipped, her foot sinking into cold dark water which darted over the lip of her boot. ‘Fuck.’ Shefelt it seep into her sock, chilling her skin.
‘We’re not going to die; we’re in the Lake District,’ Mike said, still walking.
‘I’ve got a wet foot.’ She could feel her heart, thundering now beneath her rain-beaded coat, her not-quite-thick-enough jumper, her too-short T-shirt.
Mike laughed. ‘No one’s ever died of a wet foot.’
Lou glared at him and then looked to either side, straining her eyes in an attempt to see: nothing but the faint shape of a rock; clusters of grass jewelled with water; dark damp ground. Their shoes sank into the wet moss, two squelching rhythms, not quite in time.
‘We can’t see,’ she said, and heard her voice career upwards a little. ‘We haven’t got a map.’ She swallowed. Or a compass. Or food. Or water. They’d planned a two hour stroll, but they’d been gone three hours already; spent half of that wandering about in thick cloud. She wanted to be back at their tiny rented cottage with its smoky fire and chintzy curtains. She wanted a Amber Warning Sarah Butler Weatherfronts: Climate change and the stories we tell 7 book and a cup of tea and a packet of chocolate biscuits.
‘A map wouldn’t help in this lot anyway,’ Mike said.
‘So what? We call mountain rescue?’ They had no reception. She’d already checked her phone, its little symbol whirling at the top of the screen, looking for a signal.
‘It’s fine. It’ll clear.’ Mike was drawing ahead, his shape fading into the thick grey. ‘I’m pretty sure we just keep heading this way. There’s a road and a pub, that’s what Stu said: up onto the ridge, keep left down towards the forest, then you’ll hit the road and the pub’s half a mile from that.’
‘So are we left?’ Lou could feel sweat prickling her armpits, but she was cold at the same time. ‘Is this even a path?’ She felt like someone had blindfolded her and spun her around until she felt sick.
‘A pint of beer and a steak and kidney pie, that’s what I’m having.’ Mike drew away, walking more quickly across the boggy land, stretching his stride to move from one dry hump of grass to another. A hill loomed out of the cloud for a moment, a brief jagged outline. Then it disappeared, and the rain started to come down heavier.
They had both agreed – a weekend in the Lakes would do them good: get away from the house and all the jobs that needed doing; away from their computers and emails and job worries; they’d be able to relax, to talk about things that needed talking about.
‘We’re lost in a fucking bog and you’re thinking about beer.’
She saw Mike’s shoulders lift into a hunch.
‘It’s three o’clock,’ she said. ‘This rain’s getting worse. And we’re probably just walking round in circles.’
He stopped abruptly and Lou nearly crashed into him; she backed away to a firm bit of ground.
‘What do you want me to do?’ he said. ‘Panic?’
‘I’m just trying to say, I’m scared. It’ll be dark in an hour and a half, and we don’t know where we are. We should have set off earlier.’
Mike shook his head. ‘Don’t start.’
The rain had found a route in around the collar of her jacket, she could feel it cold on her neck.
‘I’m just saying, if we hadn’t spent all that time faffing about –’
‘So it’s my fault then?’ He gestured to the cloud, the rain, the wet ground.
She wanted to go home. That’s all she wanted. Four walls, a roof, a fire, a cup of tea; nothing complicated.
‘You said we didn’t need a map.’ Lou folded her arms, squeezed herself tight. She willed the cloud to clear but it looked thicker than ever and the rain was getting heavier, making pock marks in the puddles.
‘I told you, a map’s no use in a cloud anyway.’
‘But we don’t know where we are. We’ve no reception. We’re fucked.’ She felt the tears crowding up from her chest and tried to swallow them away.
Mike lifted both arms and then dropped them again. ‘I don’t know what you want, Lou.’ She wanted to be safe, warm; she wanted to know where she was.
‘And the thing I really don’t understand is how come I’m the one who always has to fix everything?’ Mike went on. ‘The leak under the sink. The car. Your laptop. Your career crisis.’ He counted them off, releasing a finger for each thing. Only his little finger remained bent into his palm. Lou looked at it and thought, our relationship. They’d drunk two bottles of wine the night before, but had talked about nothing but TV programmes and their friends new babies; they’d fallen asleep without even trying to have sex.
Mike sighed. ‘I’m doing my best, Lou. I’m trying to be positive.’
‘We need to think.’ As a kid, her mum had told her to stay still if she ever got lost and the one time it had happened she’d done just that: a forest of unknown legs, and then a face she didn’t know, are you lost, love? A woman trying to take her hand and Lou saying no, I have to stay here, I have to stand still. It had worked. Her mother’s legs breaking through and her arms reaching down and scooping Lou up, hugging her long and tight, saying, you’re safe, it’s all right darling, you’re safe. She wished they could just stand still and that someone would come and find them.
‘I’m cold, let’s walk.’ Mike hugged himself and twisted from left to right. Lou had a sudden image of him lying on the wet ground, curled up like a child, his face almost blue from the cold, and the thought of it made her heart skitter against her ribs.
‘We need to go down, yes?’ she said.
Mike raised his eyebrows.
‘And right now we don’t know which way’s down?’
‘So.’ Lou took a shaky breath and stared into the dense white of the cloud. She could hear the whisper of rain on the grass, and below that, a faint sound of running water. ‘So we look for a river,’ she said.
‘Water goes down.’ Lou pulled her shoulders back a little and tried to ignore the icy wind which felt like it wa
s reaching into her bones. ‘If we go down we can get out of the cloud, and Stu said to go down, didn’t he?’
Mike nodded. ‘He did.’ ‘So come on.’ Lou reached out her hand. Mike took it, their fingers interlacing, cold and wet against each other, and they set off step by awkward step, over a landscape neither of them knew.