November 12th 2046

The young man breathed a sigh of relief as he finally sighted his quarry of the past four days.  The old man was sitting on the park bench enjoying the sun and feeding the ducks.

“Hello fella”, the young man said as he sat down on the bench.  “You said that you’d be able to tell me about the old days?  About 2006?  About the blankets?”.

The old man tore off another piece of bread and threw it in the pond and watched a small crowd of ducks hungrily fight over it.  “Sure, if you want to hear about that sort of stuff”.

The young man started a mini-recorder and placed it on the bench between them while the old man continued to talk.

“It was back in oh-six, about the middle of February and if you believe the reports it was the first winter of the ‘big freeze’.  I remember the years that followed, OAPs dropping dead in the street, cats frozen stiff in the streets…  Happy days”.

Before continuing the old man took a swig from a bottle of something, probably illegal, which he’d concealed in a brown paper bag.

“As you know I was working in London for the ambulance service, it was a pretty good job but back then the health service was run and funded by the government.  So a lot of things went wrong.”

The young man interrupted, “That was when Blair the Deceiver was in power?  Just before The Party started to dissolve parliament?”

The old man looked sullen, “That’s right, bad days, very bad days”.

Sensing that the old man was about to enter a fit of depression, the young man decided to prompt him, “But about the blankets…?”

“Yes”, replied the old man, eyes suddenly snapping into focus, “We used to say back then that the only equipment we really needed was a chair and a blanket, but on that day there were no blankets to be found.  We searched the stores, we even tried ransacking disused ambulances in case they had some – but there were none to be found.”

“What did you do?”, asked the young man.

“Well, we got onto our Control – they tried to contact someone in management, but no-one seemed to be around.  So Control spoke to their overseers – the people who had the job to look after these emergencies.  They were no help.”

“Were the management ever any good?”, the young man asked.

The old man was quiet for a moment before continuing, “In this case it turned out that there were no blankets at our central stores, normally the blankets would be stored there before being delivered to individual stations by a tender driver.  But the warehouse that washed and packed the blankets hadn’t delivered any to the stores.”

“With no blankets, how could you help patients?”

“Well, after talking with Control they suggested that we ‘liberate’ some blankets from the hospitals in the area – so some of us went on stealth missions.  We’d take in a drunk and while the nurses backs were turned your crewmate would sneak out with an armful of blankets.”

The old man threw another chunk of bread to the anxiously waiting ducks, “We didn’t call it stealing.  Besides, the hospitals had more than enough”.

“Of course”, the old man continued, “back then we’d share a blanket amongst a couple of patients – there wasn’t enough for one blanket each.  This was before the H5N1-MRSA cross-breed became epidemic.  You’d never get away with it these days.  But back then if there wasn’t filth on the blanket, you would use it again.  We had to or there would have been blanket shortages every day of the year.”

“In this case the shortage lasted for a couple of days, it turned out that everyone in the blanket warehouse had applied for annual leave at once, so there was hardly any staff working.  In those days you had to use up most of your annual leave before April.  That year they prevented the ambulances from collapsing by letting us ‘carry over’ more leave to the next financial year than normal, but they forgot about some of the support workers.”

“We were lucky that year…we didn’t know it was about to get worse…”

The youngster clicked off his recorder before the old man could continue, “Yes, but we all know what happened in twenty-oh-eight, I’m just researching the precursors to the health collapse and I was thinking that this might be of some use.”

“Well I hope I was of some help”, the old man said standing up from the bench with a groan, “I’m off to stretch these worn bones.  If I can be of anymore help, just let me know”.

“Will do Mr Reynolds”, said the young man, “Will do”.


Yes we did have a shortage absence of blankets a couple of days ago, so far there is no official reason, but the tender driver told me the theory that I use in this story.  It’s also true that we have to reuse blankets for different patients.  There was a manager around, but he was in a meeting.  I don’t know what the ‘overseers’ suggested.

There is no H5N1–MRSA cross-breed.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’m still alive in 2046.

Yes I’m wrote in this format because I have too much time on my hands.


15 thoughts on “November 12th 2046”

  1. *starts knitting*Nicely written, although I have trouble imagining you swigging from a bag.

    Would it be a really good idea or a really bad idea to make sure there's a spare blanket handy at home, just in case? You know, in the general vicinity of the first aid kit, or next to the bag for expectant mums.

    That arrangement of holiday sucks. I remember one winter as a “morale booster” we had a competition where the prizes were five days, three days, and one day of additional holiday (to be used before the end of March). Even if we'd had the time spare to do an entry for their dumb competition, we had no opportunity to book the holiday time we already had, being “given” more would have just added insult to injury.

  2. Only perhaps in the future…(You'll have to ask people with better knowledge than me about virii effects on bacteria – I used those diseases because they are the big scary ones this year).

  3. Not cross breed as such, but it is certainly possible for a virus to infect a bacterium (but not the other way round to my knowledge). Whether you'd then get more deadly effects or whether the bacterium would just die is another matter.I think too much.

  4. Nice change from the normal style : ) Personally I think the blanket shortage is because they are all currently wrapped around me as the heating in my house has decided to take it's annual leave just as it's started to get cold : ('Buttongrrl spending to much time nose blowing'

  5. AAAARRRGGGGHH!! Managers in meetings. Never there when you need them, and what is the outcome of their meetings? Drawing up more “guidelines” etc. which involve even more paperwork and forms. Trying to justify their over-inflated salaries.

  6. Great post! And I just knew the old man was going to be named Reynolds….Re the great “cross-breed” controversy. Bacteria do have viruses that attack them. They're called bacteriophages, or phages for short. There are millions of them, and they're very specific. There is a fascinating antibacterial treatment invented in Georgia (when it was still the Soviet Union) that involves isolating phages lethal to a given pathogenic bacterium, say typhoid. The stuff works like a charm–the same sort of Omigod! effect that penicillin had when it was first invented. Bacteria can't evolve resistance because the phages evolve too.

    We haven't heard much about it because the doctors there realized what they had and wanted to work together with better-funded Westerners to carry it forward. Some Americans expressed interest, but this was at the beginning of the biotech boom, the Americans wanted to own all the patents, the Georgians wouldn't sign them over, and the Americans lost interest when they couldn't make a killing. (Sorry about the pun. Couldn't resist.)

    Drug companies haven't pursued it because they really don't like tailored drugs. The Georgian phage method would require libraries of hundreds of phages adapted to kill different bacterial strains, as well as the need to select for new phages on a continuous basis. Much more profitable to have a single blockbuster drug you can sell to absolutely everyone. (More fodder for Tom's file of things that don't work when profit is primary.)

    All that said, a flu virus is not a phage, could not attack a bacterium, and when I got to that sentence, I must admit I chuckled, which was probably not the desired effect.

    (If you want to be scary, although still only faintly plausible, cross Marburg and rabies viruses. They're at least slightly related, although how you'd ever get them to cross is problematic. One person would have to have both infections and survive long enough for them to cross-over and then to pass the crossed version on to somebody else. Bacteria are easier, but I can't think of a well-known scary one that would go well with MRSA.)

  7. Interesting – the TV dramas would have us belive that you all use the swanky (but itchy) new disposable blankets now – I take it this is not the case in London?Are there reasons why – aside from cost?

  8. I recall reading that crossing of viruses is a real concern when a person is infected with multiple different strains of HIV (I can't find the reference for that at the moment, sorry). This would be less of a problem than with influenza because of the relatively slow replication and low transmissibility of HIV. I would think that with all the different strains of influenza passing rapidly around the population, the chance that they would mix and match would be quite good.

  9. when a virus infects a bacterium, while it's getting the cell to make the virus DNA, it's shredding the bacterial DNA. when it packs up the virus DNA to send out and infect other cells, it can get parts of the bacterial DNA with it. while they're not exactly cross breeding, they are shuffling DNA.

  10. Love it! And of course a virus and a bacterium can cross-breed – in a story. Anything can happen in a story! Glad there are still researchers around in 2046! (Did you get my email BTW?)

  11. Yes, very similar viruses can exchange bits of DNA. Two flu viruses infecting one person, or two strains of HIV. What us persnickety types are carping about here is that a bird flu virus was crossing with an MRSA bacterium. I'm trying to think of an example of the same thing on our scale, but I can't because there is less difference between, say, a human and an ant than there is between a virus and a bacterium.

  12. Zinnia, you've poked one of my pet peeves. No, anything cannot happen in a story. Less than in reality, actually, because reality doesn't have to be believable. Hence the phrase, truth is stranger than fiction. I have to agree that science fiction that worries too much about “known laws” and all that stuff gets boring. However, sometimes nonsense is both unnecessary and damaging, and then it really annoys me. That's not the case here, but take the example of Star Trek. Millions of people watch, lots of kids learn from it. So why have Dr. Crusher spout drivel like, “My God! The DNA is falling apart into amino acids!” In the context of the story, that's just technobabble, so why not have the *right* technobabble? Paramount has a big enough budget to ask a high school biology teacher what to say. (End of rant.)

  13. Actually, quite well written. And if you can handle the third person like that, then step on over to alt.callahans on Usenet, the best (virtual) Irish pub you'll find. We all tend to talk at some point in the third person, speaking from the point of view of the character we adopt when we step into the Place. (Technically Callahan's Place, because the Place was two bars later, after Callahan's was nuked on the Night of the Cockroach. Read the books of Spider Robinson for a fuller explanation.)As for the blankets, such methods of “acquisition” are quite traditional in such places as the Army; sometimes you just need to get that jeep, you know….

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