Anything that I write, have ever written, or will ever write; is just a snapshot in time. A tiny glimpse of a small life and the lives and things that I observe.
Anybody reading this today (9th May 2020) will know immediately what Lockdown and Covid-19 mean. Hopefully, at some future point, we’ll have to remind ourselves of that strange time.
The time that the world basically went on hold. Every day similar to the last. Enough variations in the weather and.. oh Thank God… Work, so that I can tell the days apart. For those furloughed, out of work or retired, this must monotonous beyond belief.
I’m still living two days at a Time – but the lack of clarity, the screeching of various factions and the increasing disconnect when I talk to friends and family on the phone are all making the part of me that I’m keeping under my own lockdown want to rise up and do something. Fight back.
Against what though?
I’m still no clearer about the risk to myself or others, the relative mortality stats seem to be flawed at best and there are no recovery stats posted in the UK, although I know two people personally over 50 who’ve had it and survived.
But the itch is still there.
I drove halfway to town this morning and walked the dog before it got too hot and I saw a man with a Costa cup. I was actually excited and asked him if they’d reopened.
it was from the petrol station and therefore much more likely an infection vector than an actual shop. I didn’t tell him that, nor did I take his recommendation to go and buy one. He was a nice chap though and we agreed that it’s the little things that are starting to bite.
No physical contact at all for those of us who live alone. No handshake, no hug from a friend, no kiss of a cheek or the prospect of more from a new friend. No cuddle if you’re feeling down or a pat on the shoulder to push you forward.
A huge amount of people are living in solitary confinement and let’s be honest here (at least to ourselves), I have it lucky.
I have a job that never required me to travel much anyway. I have enough friends scattered across the world that I can talk to somebody at any time of the day or night if I feel the need to.
I have Milo.
Milo the Rescue Dog, the dog that I took from a shithole kennel in Warrington.
Milo of the missing teeth.
Milo of the doggie PTSD.
Milo, who spent Twenty PLUS weeks in the cage – the last time that he was dumped.
Milo of the apparently infinite capacity for love.
The longer the lockdown goes on, the more he wants to play in the garden, some variation of me chasing him around to grab a toy or a ball. A game that initiates nine times out of ten.
So I can’t complain. Not really.
The Rescue Dog has rescued me.
I’m one of the few people I know at work who isn’t struggling now. I have regular exercise and I’m not allowed to get too involved in work issues for long as it’s either walk-time or playtime again.
I can cope with this shit for a while longer.
I can take each day as it comes and try to see the beauty that surrounds us .
To appreciate each moment as a snapshot and to look for the next one.
But it can’t be forever and unless we can start being given more than platitudes and stats that don’t add up, I suspect that all those like me who are quietly sitting on the fence of this will take our own side.
Because I want to see my friends again, I want to sit in a bar or a garden and cry with laughter because somebody has left their phone too close to a pack of deviants. Or because somebody has made me wear a dress in public (for fun not perversion… although….).
I’ve made promises to myself.
I’m going to live day by day for now and take it as it comes.
Derek sat at his rig, flexed his fingers and put his mask in place before spinning up his own little VR construct.
There he was. Alive and waiting on the screen, ready to flatter, fluster and bemuse the waiting string of naive and desperate young things who would eventually allow him to lure them out and….
Enough. He had to get into character if this was going to work. He had to BE the character he portrayed. Ironic really, given that his construct was a struggling actor.
Jason Janus, for that was the actor’s real name (according to IMDB, who were the experts in this stuff, so they should know) was just not quite perfect enough to find any real work. Uncredited long-shots in adverts and a fiery death (also uncredited) in a minor blockbuster. He was a polymath by the standards of industry; Writer, Singer, Actor, a real triple-threat who couldn’t quite make it.
And the little girls lapped it up.
How could anybody so handsome, so well spoken, so.. so… Perceptive.. How could he not find real work?
Perhaps he needed a new fan-club leader, or social media expert, or perhaps they could just write to the major directors and work on his behalf?
Because the thing that he was hinting at was too much for somebody like them.. Wasn’t it?
Because he was perfect and he knew THEM in a way that nobody ever had.
He seemed to know just the right thing to say to cheer them up when they were at their lowest and had an uncanny ability to know exactly when they were low. Almost like their souls were bonded.
Except he’d never be crass enough to say that. He might say that he felt like he knew them in a way that he’d never felt before. He might allude to them perhaps having an ‘old soul’. Anything else usually came from them.
His little toys
They were correct though, he knew them in ways that even their best friends and parents didn’t. Every keystroke, every conversation, every whispered secret to their friends, every teardrop from a real or imagined hurt. And he had it all.
From the moment of first, meticulously researched and planned contact, he installed backdoors into their PCs, tablets and phones. Their diaries and secret thoughts were open to him.
He was an ACTOR
In this new world, Actors were somehow classed as key workers, never without a propaganda film to make, an advert to show the masses how to think, who to avoid, which class of people may be somehow filthy.
They looked at the photos on the news and entertainment websites that he directed them to. They loved it.
Look! There he is, just slightly out of focus, being punched by Jason Statham.
Look! There he is behind Dwayne Johnson on the red carpet at a premiere.
Look!!! There’s his script that has just been optioned by a major studio, directors were queuing up to take the job.
And… He had agreed that only HE could be the star!!!!!
AND. AND. AND.
He was looking for a special type of girl, somebody raw but beautiful, somebody without the layers of cynicism that he (they) despised.
He was looking.
She just had to be found somewhere.
AND OH MY GOD!!!
What were the odds of her friend in Singapore pointing her out to him online, inviting him into a chat group?
But that was how it started. Every single time, a friend that only contacted them intermittently would appear and chat for a while before mentioning THEIR new friend. This actor. He was only a friend and he seemed like the sort of person that they’d like to chat to.
Three- way chats became a two way chat at some point and they just got on SO WELL.
And let’s face it, the lockdown had fucked things beyond belief for people like her. The spirited types whose every move now was tracked by contact tracing apps. Where had she been? For how long? Who had she met?
Whole enterprises had sprung up around the apps and the New Puritanism, partly fuelled by the statist tendencies of both extremes of the political spectrum and the religious fundamentalists was now fanning big business.
If she met a boy for more than two minutes, her phone SHRIEKED and her parents would be notified. Try to go to one of the appointment-only bars and the bouncers would be on her in a heartbeat.
Oh. And her parents would be notified.
VR had caught on in a big way, but girls with wealthy parents like hers still had no leeway, they were constantly monitored and couldn’t get away with anything at all.
Or could they?
In his fourth or fifth text-only chat session, he’d suggest a private VR chat, hosted by one of his media friends, it wouldn’t be traceable and her parents would never know.
How could they resist?
And they didn’t, only one had got away.
She spooked when the VR programme glitched, seeing his real face and background. Nothing too horrible, he wasn’t ugly or fat, just much, much older and his eyes may just have looked a bit too bright, shiny and fevered for her liking.
He erased all traces of their chats from her devices and planted a few messages to her best friend that suggested that she’d like to be SO much more. Who’d believe what she said now?
Still, it meant that he now wore the mask and all the facial monitoring was done from within and nobody could identify him no matter what happened.
And now it was time to take the latest little starlet on to her trip with Destiny.
Little Callie Blau. School now finished and in her first year of college. Legally emancipated but restricted by the Lockdown, apps and lack of money as badly as a 19th century convent girl.
Black haired, pale skinned, dark eyed, red lipped. Genuinely beautiful in a way that none of the others had been. He was looking forward to this one more than he ever had before.
The tearing and gnashing of flesh
Callie was going to be perfect.
Mask on, he initiated the call, a few seconds of noise and there she was. She was in her bedroom as usual, a mix of schoolgirl pink and gothic black decor. She was desperate to change her image to something older, but her parents you know…?
‘Hello, I was worried that you might not call tonight, you seemed…preoccupied last night?’
He smiled. Outwardly it was warm and sweet, inwardly, it was cold and gratified that she’d walked into the setup so easily. So, so easily.
‘Wow, I can’t believe that you spotted that, I’m so sorry.. I just had something come through and it was just.. so.. so… perfect that I couldn’t believe it’
The girl smiled broadly, god, she really was perfect.
‘What? Is it your script? What is it?’
She leaned further forward into the virtual space, her usual outfit of jeans and ‘something blue’ – always blue, whether a sports top, t-shirt or hoodie. Her little joke – ‘Callie Blue’.
‘Come on, please tell me, I’ll just DIE.’
He smiled again, this was it. This was where the script that he had so lovingly prepared started to work on them.
‘Netflix have been in touch, they want to option it. I’ve played hard on this though and told them that I HAVE to play the lead and that I want to select my own leading lady. This is my only shot and I can’t take the risk. It HAS to be a newcomer, she HAS to be under 20 and she HAS to know how I think.’
‘And, I was.. I was…’
She leaned in again, the construct of the VR putting them into touching distance.
‘What? You were?’
He smiled again. The hook was set..
He leaned in, and…
FUCK.. What WAS THAT?
The girl looked perplexed, her perfect brow furrowing.
SHIT.. Had she seen the glitch? This was a weird one. He’d seen a darkened space, lit only by soft oil-burners, there may have been something in the dark – but he couldn’t be sure. Fucking software was glitching more than he’d like these days.
She was smiling nervously now, but he couldn’t see any trace of real knowledge in her eyes. He settled down again.
‘ I was wondering if you’d take a screen test? Tomorrow? After college?’
The girl was beaming now, the smile lighting up her face. This was almost going to be a shame..
‘Won’t know a thing, I’ve got a friend who can make your phone say it’s still at home and even if you’re not keen after you meet the casting director, you can keep the hack on your phone.’
The girl was all smiles now – a double-baited hook, potential fame and guaranteed work AND freedom to do whatever she wanted.
‘So how would we make it work?’
She was his now and her life could be measured in hours…
‘I’ll send a driver to pick you up, he’ll fix your phone on the spot and he’ll bring you to the studio. We’ll have a mocked-up set and I’ll be there with a cameraman and the casting director. I just know that you’re going to be right for this, you have everything the script needs. You’ll be gone for four hours max, your parents won’t even know you’re gone.’
That was true anyway, they were so used to being self-medicated after all these years of Lockdown that they were usually out of things by 9PM, knowing that the app would do their job for them. It wasn’t even like she could leave her phone behind, proximity and motion sensors had put paid to that little trick.
‘OK. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I can’t believe how lucky I am, I just can’t…….’
‘You deserve all of what’s coming, just PLEASE don’t let anybody know until after casting though, I have a non-disclosure clause that will kill the deal and take what little cash I have left.’
The girl nodded frantic assent and he moved to wrap the call up as soon as possible, knowing that she would be writing all this up in her ‘secret’ diary. He’d be wiping that before she left the house tomorrow.
The next day passed in a blur, so much to do, so much.
Print a Key Worker pass for one of his aliases.
Change the number plates on his people-carrier
Check his tool bag
Monitor the girl’s phone and activate the tracking programme he’d installed that would spoof her location to the Lockdown control app monitoring stations.
Check his tool bag again
All the good stuff was at the studio but he had a few things in there, just in case he needed them.
Check the VR programme. – that glitch was spooky and it wasn’t one of his scenes – no sign of it, but still a worry. He’d uninstall it after this and start from scratch
Print ‘the script’, the girl could read that while he drove her to the studio,
Shower, dress for the part, black suit, white shirt, dark tie.
It was an hour’s drive to the girl’s house and another hour from there to the studio- and it was a studio.
An uncle had left him an industrial park and a sizeable amount of cash. He’d taken one of the units and converted it to a working soundstage with lights, cameras and a full remote control setup.
The lights were already on and warming the space and he allowed himself a smile as he saw the girl waiting for him in the arranged place.
He pulled in, flashed his lights and watched her come to the door.
Even more beautiful in the flesh, she GLOWED , there was no other word for it. A simple blue dress, heels and no apparent makeup.
‘Good evening miss, can I have your phone please?’
She handed it over and he made a pantomime of making changes to it, opened up the app that he’d inserted and returned it. She climbed into the back seat , did up her seat-belt and he drove off.
He watched her in the rear-view mirror as she watched the app on her screen and saw that her phone was still apparently within 50 metres of her house.
‘Can I offer you a drink of water for the journey?’
Her dark eyes smiled at him from the mirror, her perfume was understated and smelled vaguely like incense, surprising for one so young – and very intoxicating.
‘No thank you, how long will the journey be?’
‘Just under an hour, Mr Janus is already there and he’s left a copy of the script for you in that envelope.’
That smile again.
A rustle of paper and she began to read, he watched her as often as he could while she did so and was a little worried by what seemed to be dark amusement in her eyes.
‘So Mr Janus, Jason.. wrote this by himself?’
‘ I believe so miss’
‘It’s a little dark, does the girl have to die?’
‘Oh. You haven’t read it. It seems a bit bleak.’
And yet she seemed to be smiling, was there something wrong with her?
‘We’re nearly there now miss, just another mile or so.’
‘Your voice seems familiar, have we spoken before?’
‘Ah Ok. I asked Jason, Mr Janus a question last night.’
‘Yes. I couldn’t believe that I was so lucky and I asked Jason if he was doing this just because he wanted to, that he wanted to give this dream to me.’
That strange question from last night, he’d brushed over it with a glib ‘Yes of course, you deserve this’, now here it was again.
Just in time to save him answering the question, the open doors and blinding lights of the soundstage came into view, illuminating the inside of the car and highlighting her perfect features.
‘DO YOU think he meant it? That he’s giving this to me freely?’
There was definite amusement there, if she suspected him, she should be scared, but.. she wasn’t. Why wasn’t she bothered? Why was she…. amused?
‘I.. don’t know miss, I can’t speak for him.’
‘Are you sure?’
The lights in the unit were dimming somehow, the blinding glare was retreating into a dull red glow where no lights should be.
“I.. I.. don’t know what you mean miss, I’m just a….’
She had taken his hand and was looking deeply into his eyes. That dark amusement was all that he could see now.
Fuck… How had he thought that she was young, she was so old.
‘Derek, the time for lies is over. You gave yourself freely to me last night and promised me whatever I wanted. Me Kali Blue, you gave yourself to me. You and that long trail of souls that you carry around you like a shroud.’
Fuck… she knew his name.. She knew about the others… How? How?
“Enough now Derek, it’s time.’
Tightening her grip on his hand, still with that dark amusement in her GLOWING eyes, she led him into the warm darkness.
It wasn’t anything major that started it all off. Not nuclear testing, or global warming, or volcanic activity or even the pollution from the Gulf War. No, it was something really quite minor and everyday. So, things happened slowly and that’s where I’ll start.
Ever since I was a boy, I’ve been fascinated with Science Fiction. Films, books, comics, cartoons, anything. I especially loved stories about nature gone mad, films like Tarantula or Them. Books like The Rats, Night Of The Crabs, Mantis! , Spiders, the list seems endless.
I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now, ordinary, if disgusting creatures mutated by chemical or nuclear accidents, grown to huge size and developing a craving for human flesh.
If only things were as simple as that, we might have a chance.
When I’ve finished this, I’ll seal it in a plastic container and seal that in concrete inscribed with today’s date and my name. Maybe, one day, in the distant future, it might be read.
The house is as safe as I can make it, but I don’t think that it will stay that way for long, even steel can only take so much punishment and lead can only screen a finite amount of radiation. The walls are not so thick that I can’t hear them baying and snarling outside, those that are left alive. One of them ripped the TV camera from the wall yesterday, so I can’t even see what they’re up to anymore. Perhaps that is a blessing.
I bought the house from the family of a survivalist. He had built the house complete with a bunker that had been designed to withstand a nuclear attack, well, theoretically anyway. The end of the cold war left him in a state of deep depression and he eventually blew his brains out with an uzi. When I moved in, I found that his bunker was well below specification, it was swarming with ants. I put down masses of poison and, when the room was insect-free, I had it sprayed, floor to ceiling with a quick setting plastic compound.
Even at that time, I didn’t fully understand what was happening, I’m not sure that anybody did. Apart from Solcom, who were so busy trying to cover their tracks that they lost sight of the real problem. It was probably too late anyway, the process had started.
If you were here, now, with me, as I look around my refuge/prison, what would you see?
Probably nothing special.
That’s where you would be wrong, as everybody was wrong. We were so busy looking at chemical spillages and nuclear radiation, that we missed the obvious until it was much, much, much too late. Solcom had their suspicions for almost a year before they went to the government. A whole year. It makes me feel sick to think of all that wasted time, all the lives that were wasted, one by one, until it became an epidemic.
The first proven victim was attacked in Devon on a bright summer’s day. Her name was Edith Watson and she was thirty seven years old and married with two children. She was walking down the local High Street with a carrier bag full of shopping. According to witnesses, she suddenly dropped her shopping and started to flail at the air around her. Then the sky above her head darkened and a loud humming noise could be heard from almost a quarter of a mile away. Within seconds, it was as if she grew a second, lumpy and heaving skin. She let out one piercing scream, but that was almost instantly muffled and she fell to the ground. People ran towards her to help, but were beaten back almost immediately.
All anybody could do, was to watch her die.
Why she was picked out as a target, is still unclear. What is clear, is that a swarm of bees, a whole hive, over thirty thousand of them, attacked her at once. She was dead within minutes as the combined toxin raced through her system. The attack in itself, although horrible, was not unusual; many cases of the kind had been reported over the years, mostly in South America. No, what set this attack apart, was the fact that the bees on the top layers stung the bees underneath them, and the attack didn’t stop until every single bee was dead. I have a photograph somewhere, of this poor woman, buried under a mound of dead bees, unrecognisable as a human being.
There were another eleven attacks of this kind over the next few months. People attacked and killed by bees, wasps and even locusts. On one occasion, a baby was stripped to the bone by ants, while his parents dozed at a picnic. On all these occasions, the insects turned on each other after the initial killing. People in high places started to ask questions. Only Solcom knew the answer and they weren’t telling.
Did you know that some people can pick up radio signals through their fillings or through metal plates in their head? There have been recorded cases of some of these people going berserk and embarking on a killing spree that usually ends with their own suicide.
Something in their minds just fuse and they are as good as dead from that point on.
Did you know that in the early 1990s, a “yuppie cancer” was diagnosed? It was caused by the microwaves emitted and received by mobile phones and developed on the side of the head, by the ears.
Did you know that the radar on AWACS planes is so powerful, that if you stood in front of it while it was operational, that it would literally cook you?
Have you ever heard of Sick Building Syndrome? There are various theories about the cause of this problem, ranging from ley lines to a lack of plant life in and around the building. The Chinese employ a Feng Shui man to tell them the correct spot to build. On or near a “Dragon” is considered bad “Joss”,( luck ) and such sites are avoided. Whatever the reasoning behind it, the problem is real and such buildings tend to have a lower productivity output and a dramatically worse sickness record than that of a “healthy” building.
In 1993, Solcom developed the Nanowave, it was based on the microwave but occupied a millionth of the space and time of its predecessor. It was also capable of carrying two hundred and fifty times more information. This amounted to a revolution in telecommunications, video phones were now a reality rather than an expensive, unreliable luxury. Portable videophones became the norm as people drifted away from the old style of communicating. Solcom became powerful beyond measure, eclipsing the Japanese giants and totally eliminating B.T and Mercury as competitors. Nanowave relays were set up in every country in the world, with huge gigawatt transmitters erected in Antarctica and the North Pole.
In 1995, Dr Ernst Lubin, the inventor of the Nanowave went mad. He started to see imaginary insects everywhere. He was committed to a mental home for three months and was pronounced to be cured after much pressure was applied to the trustees of the home by Solcom. It was considered bad P.R to have an employee locked up. Two weeks after his release, he wandered into a McDonalds with an assault rifle and killed twenty three people before turning the gun on himself.
Shortly after, a game warden in the Kokuri National Park in Kenya started to observe strange behaviour amongst the animals. This was typified by an attack by lions on a herd of impala.
It started as a normal hunt, the lionesses split into a loose formation and started their initial run to break up the herd. The herd didn’t move. All four of the lionesses scored a kill, easily bringing down an impala. Then it started to go wrong. Instead of running away, the impala charged the predators en masse. The big cats didn’t stand a chance, and the video footage of the charge makes for disturbing viewing. The lionesses were each gored dozens of times by the slim horns of their prey and were ripped apart by the savagery of the thrusts. Within minutes, there was just a huge expanse of red dirt and torn off limbs scattered about. Then the real carnage started. The impala, seemingly driven mad by their frenzied attack, turned on each other. Again the video footage is horrendous, the overall impression is of dust and blood and the death screams of tortured animals. Not one impala survived.
In London, on September 15th 1995, four tourists and one policeman were literally shredded by pigeons in Trafalgar Square. The pigeons then battled in mid-air until not one survived. Eyewitnesses speak of a rain of blood coating every square inch and of Admiral Nelson turning a bright glistening red.
Between October 1995 and April 1996, every single member of the Nanowave team died violently. Some started fights in bars, some committed suicide in a variety of gruesome ways. One team member while on the twenty fifth floor of a building in Los Angeles, turned to his companion and said; “There’s that bastard Robinson down there, I’m going to get him.”
He then leapt out of the window, shouting abuse all the way down.
On April 20th 1996, Solcom finally turned to the governments of the world and asked for help. Many governments, including our own, had already started their own investigations and that is where I first became aware of the magnitude of the problem.
I had been seconded to the American government team, to help them to make sense of the St Patrick’s Day Massacre on March 17th.
On that day, a peaceful parade in the middle of New York, erupted into the worst riot that the world had ever seen. It had started when one of the marchers, seeing somebody in the crowd wearing an orange hat, leapt at the unfortunate hat-wearer and smashed his skull with his baton.
This seemed to be the signal that the crowd had been waiting for, friend flew against friend, brother against brother father against son.
The whole parade ground to a halt as thousands of people grappled against each other makeshift clubs and jagged bottles flying. When the police tried to step in, they were swamped and their weapons ripped from their hands.
Gunshots started to echo.
The mayor of New York attacked the Commissioner of Police with the jagged end of a champagne bottle, ripping his throat out on live television across America. The riot spread and spread, the whole crowd started fighting and the police had to fall back to wait for a lull.
It didn’t come.
People killed and killed and killed, until they were in turn, killed themselves. The phrase “rivers of blood” could have been coined for this one day alone. The streets were awash with bright, arterial blood, up to the depth of the combatant’s ankles. Some people who may have survived their wounds, drowned in blood.
And still it didn’t stop.
Eventually, the Army were called in and had no choice but to open up on the crowd with automatic weapons. At first they rebelled against the very thought of killing their fellow Americans and tried to help the survivors. That idea changed when they too, were attacked by the crowd, and, in one unforgettable moment, a young trooper had his throat bitten out by an eight year old girl.
Of a crowd of more than 50,000 people, only two hundred and forty seven people survived.
Bulldozers had to be used to clear the streets of bodies.
Nobody, including myself, had any idea what could have triggered normal people to act like bloodthirsty savages. Have you ever seen a Zombie film? That’s what those people looked like, only they didn’t shuffle and were as quick as vipers. We were getting nowhere with the investigation, and post-mortem after post-mortem showed no tangible results.
Then Solcom came forward and everything changed.
At first, their story was too much to take in, it didn’t make any sense. Then, all of a sudden, it did.
That’s when I bought this house. I stocked it with thousands of books, tons of food and thousands of gallons of water.
Preparing for a siege.
You see, Solcom had found, very early on, that the Nanowave was a mutagen.
It altered, very subtly and over the course of time, the chemistry of the brain.
Let me give you an example.
You’re walking along the road, it’s dark and you can hear footsteps behind you. You hear something that sounds like the snick of a flick-knife. At this point, your body is flooded with adrenalin and the fight or flight response is initiated. The blood in your body drains from your skin and is transferred to the major organs, the heart, the brain etc. Depending on your personal makeup, you will now turn to face the challenge or you will run away. The most common response is to run.
However, the Nanowaves alter the receptors in the brain that govern this response and the only option that your brain will allow is to fight. Studies have shown that many psychopaths have a slightly altered chemistry and that their only response to a threat is a sudden, devastating attack. The problem however, doesn’t end there, once the adrenalin levels are sufficient to start an attack, the part of the brain that governs reason is disabled.
Once the various governments involved found the cause of the problem, they found that they had another.
Everybody was dependent on the Nanowave.
The transmitters couldn’t be switched off or destroyed.
Instead, experiments were tried to change the frequency that the waves used, and more traffic was routed through satellites.
To no avail.
If anything, things became worse.
On August 1st 1996, two hundred and eleven people in a Hackney housing estate were killed by an attack of millions of cockroaches.
On August 13th 1996, four thousand people in New Orleans were killed by rats.
There were countless examples of people being attacked by the family dog or cat. Those people that managed to fight off the attacks, went on to kill family and friends before dying themselves.
On November 21st 1996, a garrison of British Army troops stationed in Crosmaglen were sniped at on a housing estate. They replied with mortars, machine guns and grenades. The dead were uncountable, mainly because it was hard to find all the pieces.
The list was endless.
On December 5th 1996, all nuclear bases around the world were shut down; even the Chinese had to accept that it was too dangerous to leave a single one manned. All nuclear submarines were recalled and disabled. All strategic bombers were stood down indefinitely.
The world, theoretically, was a safer place.
On January 17th 1997, I quietly resigned my job and retired to my house.
Things seemed to get worse from there.
Every day, there seemed to be new atrocities. Nature going berserk, people going berserk. Parliament stopped meeting on April 11th 1997, after a thankfully empty, House of Commons debate erupted into sickening violence. There were one hundred and eleven dead.
All decisions are made from an underground bunker. I’ve seen it, it’s not as secure as mine.
The streets now are full of bloodthirsty, empty-eyed mobs, using anything as a weapon. I saw one of them clutching a dismembered arm, using it as a club.
I have enough food and water to last me for years, my bunker is virtually impregnable, even the air is recycled rather than filtered in. I don’t think that anybody or anything can get in.
What worries me, what terrifies me, is that someday soon, I’ll want to get out.
2020 update. ‘Arthur’ really did have a solicitor. In Cambridge. I’ll be writing separately about him and his dealings with Arthur and Susan in a new blog post in a few days, where I’ll fill in all the blanks, detail where fraud could be proved and highlighting the wonderful work of Nick Timmings – the aforementioned solicitor. Every word will be factual – no allegations can or will be made.
Back to 2018
There’s no good news. Just sound and fury and noises from afar.
Had promised to get back to Arthur’s Cousin Vera to let her know that whether her letter had been received. They promised to do it soon, maybe that day.
Well that was August 1st, Joseph is now on a well deserved holiday and Vera hasn’t heard anything at all, but she’ll keep pushing him, because….. well, we have to push or we get ignored.
There’s something fundamentally wrong with this system, it’s been over three months for this part of the case alone and I get the definite impression that everybody would be happy if they just upped and left and took their problems and their adult diapers and their shouting and screaming and their foul smells and their rats somewhere else.
Just far enough to be in a different county.
and be somebody else’s problem
But maybe I’m not being fair, the problem is that none of us know anything.
Thank God for the persistence of Postladies.
So I wrote a letter to my Uncle.
I’ll reproduce most of it below and I sent it ‘Signed For, Addressee Only’ – this just means that somebody has to go to the door and sign for it.
It took me three attempts to get it delivered as they just don’t answer the door.
Anyway, here it is..
‘Dear Uncle Arthur, I hope that you and Shirley are well.
Despite your assurances to the social worker, I remain worried about your wellbeing, as do your old neighbours in Frinton, who I met with a month ago; my Dad (your brother) and the wider family, including your cousin Vera and your nephew Michael.
I have given them all your address and they will be writing to you individually, as will I on a regular basis. I know that you said that you have lost your address book, so everybody will ensure that they give you their address. Mine is:
xxxxxxxxxx I met with your current neighbours last week, they seem like lovely people and I had tea and a few drinks on Saturday evening with both the uphill and downhill neighbours, you may have seen my car on Sunday morning as I parked opposite to walk the dog to the river.
I wasn’t sure that it would ever get to him or whether he would respond and in the meantime I had a disturbing alert to say that he had been seen pushing a shopping trolley to the shops in Middleham. This sounds innocuous but it’s half a mile up a vicious hill that I’m not that keen on walking myself, let alone pushing or pulling a trolley.
Susan’s brother had been in the house an hour previously.
I sent a mail to Social Services, etc. and the mail and the reply are below.
Please see the attached text from a concerned neighbour
If Susan’s brother was there with a car, again… Why is my uncle pushing trolleys up a steep hill, in Summer, at the age of 84?
Does he have to die of a heart attack before somebody does something here?
Of course, if he does, the house is Susan’s and the problem goes away doesn’t it?
There is something very wrong with this picture and it’s getting more disturbing by the day.
I don’t really expect much of an answer, this is more in the nature of evidence for the inevitable inquest. ‘
I received a reply from the now ubiquitous Joseph Smith.
‘Dear Mr Hodge
Thank you for your e-mail. I can assure you that this information will be considered as part of our on-going safeguarding enquiries.’
Which, to be fair, I didn’t really expect to receive. So it was slightly heartening to get this acknowledgement (if nothing else).
And things idled on.
Until last Monday.
And I got a phone call from a number that I’ve never had a call from before.
The call lasted over twenty minutes and I have a recording (luckily) of the last 18 minutes, but I’ll paraphrase the call as best as I can.
The Phone Call
It rang as I was trying to do something else and I was a bit surprised to hear my Uncle’s voice on the line.
‘Is that Thunderdog?’
‘This is Arthur, have you been saying things to my neighbours? They’ve said that you’ve told them I’m nutty.’
‘No, which neighbours do you mean, what are their names?’
‘I don’t know their names, I don’t talk to them’
‘So how could they tell you what I supposedly said?’
*sound of paper and pen in the background*
‘Are you alone Arthur?’
‘Are you alone? Is Susan with you?’
‘No, I’m all on my own’
‘Really, I doubt that, I thought that you were inseparable, I’m not sure that I believe you, but I’m not sure it matters either, which neighbours was it? Uphill or downhill? And if you don’t talk to them why would they tell you a lie?
‘Er, it was downhill’
‘Ah, yes, lovely people, I’ve been in theirs a few times for a cup of tea, so why would they tell you something like that? It doesn’t sound very true to me’
‘Well, what about the other neighbours in Frinton?’
‘What about them? I spoke to a few of them and they were very concerned about you’
‘Who was it?’
‘It was Jackie from the corner and I had a very long chat and a cup of tea with her, she was worried after you left’?
‘She was a troublemaker, she came in my house and was going through all my letters and when I asked her what she was doing, she said that she didn’t think I could read’
‘Are you sure that you remember this properly Uncle Arthur? She had a very different story and said that she came over to pay you the money she owed you for letting her park on your drive’
*sound of mobile phone in the background*
‘Are you sure you’re alone Arthur?’
‘Are you alone in the room? Is Susan with you?’
‘No, there’s just old Shirley’
‘Whose phone rang then?’
*pause, paper sounds*
‘Anyway, what about Nobby?’
‘What about Nobby? I haven’t spoken to him in over a month’
‘He’s our cab driver’
‘I know exactly who he is, but I haven’t spoken to him’
‘And the bank have frozen my money, I went there last Saturday, I had a right row and I called the bleeding police’
‘You called the police? You do know that the police already know about your bank and so do social services and social services are talking to the bank’
We then spent a few minutes while I told him that despite the fact that I thought Susan was probably in the background that I’d tell him everything I knew.
I began though with telling him that I believed Susan to be a danger to him and Shirley, that I believed that she has mental problems and that I had reported this to Social Services and the Police.
This involved a fair amount of me unloading on him and telling him that I had copies of statements given to the police, including on the day of the funeral when he sat in a cafe and talked to a stranger about not being able to go.
At that point I heard a female voice start to say something and then stop.
Conversation went a bit faster after this point, the point of the conversation had changed and this was now me pushing him – hard.
I continued to tell him all I knew about Essex, the Police kicking his door in while Shirley was alone, everything.
I told him ‘for the record and for the benefit of others listening in’ that I wasn’t going to back off no matter what, but that he wouldn’t see me, I had no plans to go to the house and that I would be keeping the pressure up on social services.
We then talked a bit more and he started talking about his money being frozen again.
‘I’ve worked all my life as you know and I can’t get my own bleeding money out’
‘Have you asked why they won’t give it to you?’
‘Have I asked?’
‘Yes, have you asked the bank why your accounts have restriction on them, because this was something that they did because their safeguarding team had concerns about the way your bank account is being run and it’s interesting that you don’t seem to know anything about it or haven’t asked in seven months’.
‘I went to the bank last week, in Harrogate, they told me I could only get two hundred out and it cost me near two hundred to fucking get there’.
‘But did you ask them why you have restrictions?’
‘Well I called the Police and they made me sit in a room – on me own- and erm, yap, yap yap, I told them it doesn’t make any difference, it’s my money and I’m entitled to it. ‘
‘Did they think it was a crime?’
‘No they didn’t say that’
‘So what exactly did they say?’
He rambled a bit at this point and I made the repeated point that he needed to talk to the safeguarding team in his bank to find out what the issue was from their point of view.
Somebody was shouting at him from the background and he eventually hung up.
It was a strange call, but it had felt good to let him (and the listener) know just how much effort I’d put in and to turn the conversation round into something more useful (from my point at least)
To let those involved – even on the periphery know what’s going on.
I texted both sets of neighbours and advised them to keep an eye out as it may get interesting…
Which was just as well I suppose.
At 14:45, my Uncle rang me again to threaten himself with my solicitor – or something. It took him about five attempts to tell me that I’d get a letter from his solicitor if I didn’t back off – or something. It was all a bit bizarre. I laughed, blew Susan a kiss and hung up.
Only to get a phone call from the first set of neighbours demanding to know what I’d said as Susan had been round to abuse them, citing me as the source for her information that they were talking about her.
I calmed them down and sent a copy of the audio file from my phone call with Arthur.
Which they then shared with the other neighbours who had received a similar visit.
It was all very heated and both sets of neighbours called the Police – as did Susan.
And that’s where it ended for the day.
Apart from one more letter..
The Letter (2)
Dear Uncle Arthur
Thank you for your two phone calls earlier this week, I confess that they have left me more worried than ever about your situation and I have forwarded my concerns on to Leyburn Police and Social Services.
Your first call was slightly incoherent and seemed to involve things that you alleged that I said about you to your neighbours – I didn’t say those things of course; and your statement that you didn’t really talk to the neighbours or know their name left me feeling as if you had been prompted to call me.
I could hear paper and scratching in the background during the call, which (to me anyway) showed coercion and control by a 3rd party and the fact that Susan then felt compelled to then see fit to abuse both sets of neighbours giving my name and therefore slandering me has left me annoyed and considering my next steps.
She was clearly listening to the call and chose to deliberately change my words to you when she spoke to the neighbours to suit whatever purpose she hopes to achieve.
However; I hope that my advice to you to call the safeguarding team in your bank will prove useful in your attempt to find out why your accounts are restricted.
The NatWest Safeguarding Manager is a gentleman named Neil ….., if you call NatWest, they will get him to call you on a number of your choice – he may be able to explain why your accounts set off alarms in the system.
He has been in communication with Social Services – I suggest that you ask them for details.
A large number of people are concerned about you, including your cousin Vera who has written to you twice – the first letter was signed for by S Auckland and the second letter which contained an Order of Service for your only Sister’s funeral (remember her?) hasn’t yet been able to be delivered.
Did you get it I wonder? Or did it go the way of the letter and card that I posted through your door the Saturday before the funeral. I sat and watched as Susan threw it into the skip outside (I have photos to back this up by the way – and witnesses).
Your second call in which it took you five attempts to threaten me with a solicitor if I didn’t stop contacting you (an interesting idea given that this is only my second letter to you since your sister’s funeral) would have been funny if it wasn’t both sad and sinister.
This has caused me to redouble my efforts with Social Services as I believe that you are being coerced by a 3rd party, namely Susan Auckland and I have named her in a safeguarding concern report to North Yorkshire Council which has triggered the current case that you are involved in.
However, should you wish to pay the fees and your solicitor wishes to communicate with me, my address is:
If your solicitor is still John Smith, he and I have met and corresponded in the past and I would look forward to hearing from him again and would relish the opportunity to discuss this situation in court.
You may be surprised at the depth of my knowledge regarding your situation, the people involved and the efforts I’ve undertaken on your behalf.
That’s all folks
Apart from one more letter that I wrote to Police and Social.
Which has had an unexpected result.
I’ve had a phone call this afternoon that is genuinely positive and I really can’t say much more than that right now except that finally I’m hearing words that aren’t just platitudes.
It’s Easter Monday as I write this and the UK is still under lockdown, it’s day…
I’m not sure what day of lockdown it is, because I’m not counting.
My guess for the relaxation of restrictions is around the first week of May. I won’t be sorry if it’s earlier of course, but I won’t overly panic if it’s longer.
I miss friends and family, but that’s why we have phones, and Skype and WebEx and Zoom and all the other near-magical tools that can make us feel like we’re in the same room.
Let’s face it, if you’re in the UK, don’t have the virus but do have food and drink, you’re winning right now. Don’t believe me, go to Malaysia where it’s full military lockdown with drones overhead or India, where basic sanitation is still beyond the reach of millions.
Still, it’s tough for many people who haven’t had the dubious benefit of being in a hotel for months at a time where the only people that you’re likely to speak to are waiters or where calls home have to be tightly scheduled.
I had a look on the iTunes Store today for apps that might help with that mystic thing called ‘Mindfulness’ – there’s a lot of them out there and they all seem to want you to spend upwards of $100 a year to look at some pretty pictures, listen to some vague noises and bore yourself into a stupor. I think that they’re probably making a fortune from those poor souls who need a mental boost.
My only plan for getting through this is as follows, you can follow it or do whatever you want:
1. Take every two days as it’s own thing. There is only today and tomorrow (tomorrow is a work day but otherwise won’t be much different)
2. Avoid TV, Radio and printed ‘news’ – unfollow and actively block people like Piers Morgan , Robert Peston and anybody that you see on social media spreading horror stories and conspiracy theories.
3. Look for the positives in life. Your friends especially will always be there if you need a bit of support on a given day. Spring is here and the world outside is beautiful. Get out early or late if you can and enjoy the sunrise or sunset without so many people around.
4. Revisit the songs, books and films that made you happy when you were younger. Take delight in finding new meanings in each one now that you’re both older and wiser.
5. Seek the things that made you laugh, they probably still do. I’ve been rewatching ‘Bottom’ and it still makes me laugh out loud as the first time I saw it.
6. Drink or don’t. Exercise or don’t. It’s only two days. You can do what you like in the next two days.
7. That’s it.
Today I’ve followed my own rules, I rang my Dad, walked Milo along some beautiful countryside, read a portion of one of my favourite books and I’m sat in the garden writing this with the Lexicon of Love by ABC playing in the background. I’m as content as I can be for now. Later I’ll have a gin and change the music to something more suitable, maybe AC-DC or Manson or Wagner, who knows?
Maybe I’ll update this in the distant future. But that’s after tomorrow, so I won’t stress it.
To be honest, it’s been too hectic and the hits have come thick and fast.
The long running saga of my Uncle and Aunt still isn’t over and I can’t really say too much as it’s all getting close to the wire for some other people..
Sadly, my Uncle has Alzheimer’s and won’t get the happy ending that he deserves although some other people may get exactly what they need.
Work is massively hectic in a good way and I have a 5 day trip to Europe in a couple of weeks that will take in 5 cities in as many days (Plus Luton on the way out and Manchester on the way back)
And then there’s been HIM.
A spur of the moment rescue dog with a whole raft of issues. And a backstory made up of lies. He’s supposedly 8 or so now but seems and acts much younger. He was (again supposedly) owned by one person for seven years.
Except. His vaccination records only go back one year. And I was supposed to be his second rescue home – I’m the third…I don’t know how long he’s spent in cages, but I suspect over six months.
He was supposed to have food aggression and a few other issues – he doesn’t. He does have a doggie form of PTSD where something will trigger his defence mechanisms, but then; he’s missing teeth and has some scars on his head. And if he sees a fat bloke with a beard, he’s like a ballistic missile.
Somebody hurt him badly.
Oh – he’s also not a morning dog, if he could speak, his first words of every day before 7am would be ‘fuck off’.
I don’t do ‘personal’ but a change in circumstances in November meant that I had to find alternative ways of getting him cared for on the days that I’m not at home and this meant interviewing sitters and the various fringe lunatics out there who’ll take your dog ‘if they agree to become part of our pack’ …
I eventually found the right person and after a few meetings, they took to each other and Milo now goes off for days at a time, giving me the comfort to have a work AND social life again, knowing that he’s loved and cared for. And he has a couple of little friends – Luna (she loves him and he adores her) and Roo – a three legged rescue from Romania
He’s also taken to the wider family and I’m now the proud possessor of a drawing by the sitter’s 6 year old brother that just glows with love – I’m currently having that framed.
And….. he’s got a raft of health issues. Both of his back knees have gone and he has a buildup between his discs. So he needs a total of three operations.
And I wonder
Did the previous owner know all this and did they cut and run rather than getting him sorted? I guess I’ll never know.
But.. I wonder….
Anyway, I took out loads of insurance when I got him and he’s now had his first knee op
And he still loves me, despite him being dumped in the vet, operated on, being in pain and wearing those stupid collars. Oh and being locked in a cage.
In a month or so, he’ll have something called a Fenestration on his discs and that’ll be it for this year, I want him to have some summer…And beach and canal time so that he can run around and be the happy little dog that he should have been since day one.
Life has changed so much in the past year that it’s hard to believe. I moved house AND started a new job on the 1st April last year and then took on the biggest project of all in August.
I don’t know where things are going to go now, the job is good, I’ve had a massive stroke of luck with choosing a pension advisor (contact me if you want his details) and much of my free time (when I’m not snuggled on the couch watching bad TV with a snoring dog) is taken up with socialising , travel and fun.
My issues with my Uncle and Aunt won’t end for a while, nor will the trips to Yorkshire, but…
I know that whatever I do next, it’ll include him. The grumpy little lunatic is mine now.
Things have moved on since I last wrote and if you’d have asked me last year when I started this, I’d have been confident that it would all be over by now.
But the problem lingered and getting it all closed was hampered by a deliberate policy on the part of Susan and others to move to a new area for a while if things got too hot with social services and the police. So it was only when Arthur and Shirley moved back to North Yorkshire and he took a turn for the worse that things changed.
Arthur is diabetic and his condition was so badly managed that he ended up in Hospital after collapsing, in a very bad way physically and wearing badly soiled clothing – which prompted social services to move in and take Arthur and Shirley to a care home.
Arthur wasn’t very happy that he’d been moved
But he had no choice, he was in a bad way mentally and physically and his memory was starting to go. As for Shirley, it transpired that she was the bottom person in the twisted hierarchy within the house and was the last person in a strictly controlled toilet rota.
I had always assumed that Shirley was wheelchair-bound as she was never seen outside the house in Middleham but she’s actually quite sprightly when she has her walker (more of this later) and she has full mental capacity, which made her ordeal in the house even worse.
Social Services contacted me
To see if I was still interested in helping and I had a couple of phone calls and a scheduled visit to meet Arthur and Shirley and their care team. Shirley’s hands are badly twisted by arthritis but she is chatty and was quite open in her support for me helping them both out. I spent a few hours chatting to the team and to Arthur and Shirley and we agreed that I would get Lasting Power of Attorney for financial matters. I scheduled another visit to meet them again and waited for the paperwork.
Two weeks ago
I went back to the care home along with a friend and the dog whose name and ID that I’ve stolen. I collected the LPA paperwork and had a visit with Arthur and Shirley, who received her first flowers for many years and watched their faces light up when the dog deigned to let them pet him.
Arthur asked for three things.
An Alarm Clock
A trip out in the car.
I promised to go back in a fortnight and ordered the other items for him with Amazon.
We went back to the home, armed with magazines for Shirley and a dapper little dog who immediately greeted them both as friends.
I commented on Arthur’s watch and how nice it looked.
‘It was only cheap’ He said.
‘Erm not that cheap, I bought it’
His face fell for half a second and then broke into a beaming smile.
They were both dressed in their Sunday best and the staff of the care home were all smiles as we led them out to the car.
I rang my Dad from the car and listened with a smile as the two brothers chatted away for a few minutes
We only drove for a few miles
As I wanted to make sure that they had time outside the car and we went to ‘The Railway’ in Richmond, which is a beautifully converted old railway station. We talked of Arthur’s money and the people who have tricked him out of it. I was relaxed and calm and promised that once the LPA is in, I’ll sort what I can as I already have a contact at his bank.
We talked of old neighbours and better times but they were both clear that they never want to see Susan again. I’m going to move them to Cheshire once the money is sorted, so that will never be a problem.
It was good to see Shirley smiling and the look on her face when after telling me that she would like a new walker with a basket to replace one that was lost, I showed her that one would be delivered on Tuesday is something that I’ll treasure. The dog snuggled into her in the back of the car, making her smile even more broadly and I dropped them off with a promise of another visit in two weeks (the other weekend is reserved for visiting my Dad in hospital)
This isn’t over by a long way and the hard work to get their money back from Susan, Lionel, Brett and co. will take a while, but I’m not letting this go now.
To today and my Dad is in hospital, there’s a few things wrong with him and he’s not getting any younger. He’s been there for a week now and as I type this, I’ve seen him for the last time for at least a fortnight as I fly out to Malaysia for work tomorrow night.
I had made a promise to my Dad a year ago that he’d see his Brother again but I had to break some bad news to him a few weeks ago.
Here We Go…. Again
Since the last time I spoke to my Uncle, I’ve kept in loose contact with the various people and agencies and he was in Cambridge somewhere for a few months, where; guess what
Right first time.
Another social services case.
This time though, I heard from North Yorkshire and they told me that I would be called (if I consented) by a case worker from Cambridgeshire who needed some help.
Another week went by before I was actually called and I had a long conversation with a nice gentleman who basically wanted to know everything that I’d found out and copies of all the evidence that I’d submitted to Police and Social Services.
I agreed to send it and things went quiet again.
Partly because he never sent his email address.
On the Road Again
On the 22nd or 23rd April , they moved back to Middleham, the pattern had repeated again and they surfaced from a taxi and the neighbours could hear the shouting and bawling the moment that they arrived.
I can only imagine how that felt after the peace and quiet that they’d had since December, knowing that the noise and filth had returned and that there was nothing they could do about it.
On the 24th April 2019
Police and Social Services forced an entry and Arthur and Shirley were taken to a care home.
The local Police Sergeant rang to let me know but Arthur wasn’t willing to talk to anybody.
Susan wasn’t given the address.
She did buy a dog the same day though. £800 apparently, so that’s nice.
A week or so went by and I recieved another call to say that Arthur still didn’t want to talk, but was slowly coming round to the idea.
He had the strange idea that I’m after his money and so’s my Dad. It was pointed out to him that his money is gone (on a long list of things to find out), so that changed things a bit I’m told.
That my Dad is currently in isn’t too bad but it’s a long drive each way and I went to see him yesterday and he talked about getting a will together and a power of attorney signed in case he gets worse. He seems to be improving though, so this is just sensible.
I mailed the Sergeant that I’ve been in contact with and let her know the situation, she actually mailed back pretty quickly but is on leave until Friday. She said she’d get a PC to pop in.
My dad called me last night. I expect the worst on every call at the moment and I had a wobble for a few seconds as his voice was cracking and he was near tears.
Arthur had called.
They had a long chat and he and Shirley are delighted to be in the care home. Arthur wants to see my Dad again and I’ll sort that when I get back from Malaysia.
I can’t praise North Yorkshire Police, a certain estate agent and all the friends who helped along the way.
There’s a huge drink in it for you all – and my undying thanks and support if you ever need me.
They pretty much cover what’s happened between May and Today, there are obviously things that I can’t disclose but this is likely to be the last ever post on this subject in particular – but more of that later.
What I haven’t said is that North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation, they took statements, spoke to various people and have been great at keeping me up to date.
The issue, as it has been all along is that Arthur hasn’t been willing to raise a complaint and until somebody could determine his Capacity, there couldn’t be any real progress as nobody can get into the house and speak to him / anybody else.
So, Capacity has been the sticking point all along, it’s been holding his bank from taking anything forward or releasing his money, it’s been stopping me from taking this to the Court of Protection.
An Unguarded Comment
From somebody in the middle of this has highlighted that.
THERE WAS A THIRD SOCIAL SERVICES CASE IN CAMBRIDGE
It began sometime after January this year and ended in April when they moved back to Middleham.
Three cases, none of them linked, all involving safeguarding and vulnerability.
In three different counties.
How often does this happen? How much of our taxes and rates are spent on a system that allows this sort of thing to slip through the net?
But there we are.
An Inspector Calls
I got a phone call last night to say that Arthur has been tested and has been found to have Capacity.
What does this mean?
The bank have turned the taps back on and they’ll allow him full access to his money again.
They have to.
The Police have stopped their investigation.
They have to.
Social Services will continue to monitor welfare at the house.
They have to.
Arthur, Susan and the whole caravan move again.
Because they will.
TH…. TH…. TH… THAT’s All Folks
Until Arthur and Shirley die quiet deaths, unknown to their families, Susan inherits the house and lives happily ever after, abusing the neighbours, living in filth and calling the Police on anybody who crosses her wherever they end up.
If that sounds bitter, it isn’t really.
It’s a recognition that the system is flawed at the moment, call somebody a naughty name on Social Media and you’re in the system for ever; live like animals at the fringes of society and the system isn’t scoped to deal with it.
I think that when they DO move, somebody will at least notify the authorities of the nightmare heading their way, I feel sorry for whatever neighbours they end up sharing space with, they’ll find – just like the current neighbours; that shy of burning the house down, they can’t do anything at all.
I’ve tried all I can with this, I can’t do any more, Arthur has made his bed and now he’ll have to die in it.
I will be trying to take the general issue up with my MP to see if there’s any chance of getting a Private Member’s Bill raised and I’ll update if I get any progress.
And I’ll take some quiet comfort in the fact that I’ve tried my best, I’ve forced Social Services and other agencies to up their game and I’ve managed to make life just a bit more difficult for Miss Susan and her family.
I owe thanks to so many of you that have given willingly of your time and effort to help with this and that’s my real takeaway from this.
I hope I can give something back at some stage.
I’ll do a separate blog post on this, so much happened in the period after I wrote this that everything was almost lost.
Arthur lost every single penny he had and more.
He had £34,000 left in the bank when capacity was given.
By a social worker.
Not a doctor. Or a psychiatrist.
A fucking social worker.
Within a day, he’d taken £8,000 out in cash.
And they went to Cambridge again.
And by Easter 2019 he was overdrawn, ill and about to be dumped by Susan.
I’ll be writing about the legal genius that is Nick Timmings from a Cambridge law firm and a host of others.
It’s only been a few months but the story keeps changing and mutating around all those caught up in it.
Sadly I’m more convinced than ever that it doesn’t have a happy ending, North Yorkshire Social Services are understaffed, outgunned and have the law against them. They can’t effect entry into the house unless they can prove physical abuse.
This puts my relationship with them into a category marked ‘strained to non-existent’.
Despite them telling me nothing, fobbing me off with OfficialSpeak (more to come on this), I’m still ahead of them in terms of what’s going on in Middleham, who’s involved and what weird and wonderful things they’ve done or tried to do.
I take a step forward, they take a step back and fall over themselves, all while vulnerable adults live in a house that the neighbours have come to abhor.
And when I left things last time, they had disappeared completely.
Or as far as the family was concerned anyway.
Social Services had an address via her brother Francis and our best guess was that a friend had moved them as it wasn’t a taxi.
2020 update. They had gone to Cambridge to stay with the lovely Lionel Bowden.
When in Doubt – Attack.
So I did, I wrote a letter to the Chief Executive of North Yorkshire Council – Richard Flinton, I sent it to his publicly available email address
and the text of this is below:
‘Dear Mr Flinton,
Please take some time to familiarise yourself with my Uncle and Aunt’s safeguarding case, which now seems to have apparently permanently stalled.
I say ‘apparently’ because despite me telling your team that the subject of a multi-agency safeguarding case was preparing to run – as it was happening, in real time – nobody has yet seen fit to update me or tell me that my vulnerable relatives have been traced.
I have expended huge amounts of time and effort since reporting this case (in parallel with a member of North Yorkshire Police reporting the same issue in early May ) and have given your teams any information that I have gathered to help build a case.
The lack of information is distressing to my family, in particular to my father who feels that he has lost his only brother.
I have been collating all my experiences anonymously via a blog that has also acted as a diary. As of tonight, I am encouraging the press to look into this and will continue to do so until my relatives have been found and made safe.
I would greatly welcome some news and support from your team. ‘
I did receive a reply – which although not massively heartening, at least made me feel like somebody was taking note.
RE: Arthur and Shirley Hodge
Thank you for your email dated 9th July 2018, of which I acknowledge receipt, in regard to the above matter. I have passed this onto my colleagues in Health and Adult Services, in order that they can investigate and respond to the points that you have raised.
And then nothing happened – this shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was in a way, I was starting to see the scope of the problem here and unless a law has clearly been broken, Social Services have no right of access.
And I don’t think I want them to have.
As painful as this is, the idea of well meaning idiots having access to your home without a warrant is terrifying.
I couldn’t sit back and passively wait for nothing to happen for weeks more.
So I consulted with friends and we put a credible plan in place to try to track them down, we had a list of criteria for towns that they might be in and another list of volunteers who would try to see what we could shake loose.
I printed dozens of photos of Arthur and put them in my car along with business cards and other details ready for when we visited the towns.
THANK YOU ALL
The Twitter response was extraordinary and a few people were incredibly supportive in trying to keep awareness up of their disappearance and my Direct Messages were often incredibly moving. I can’t thank you all enough, you know who you are…
On the 14th July, they turned up again in the same Kia that they had left in, so I notified Social Services (again) receiving a ‘Thank You’ on the 16th.
And nothing happened.
Nothing at all .
There’s a pattern here and it’s mostly filled with blank spaces.
The neighbours saw Social Services drive past without stopping on the 16th July and shouting and bawling was heard from the house that night.
But the neighbours were and are starting to feel the pressure.
The place stinks, adult diapers are bulging from the bin, but the bin-men won’t take it. Calls to environmental health haven’t really helped.
And Susan has taken to standing in the garden to glare at the neighbours opposite, she’s slowly wearing them all down.
I spoke to one of the neighbours at length and decided that a visit wouldn’t hurt, it’s a lovely area anyway and I could combine tourism with a little checking up.
So on the 21st July, I was back in Middleham, I took tea with both sets of neighbours and offered to buy them beers in the local hotel in the evening. They gave me some more details on the driver of the Kia, I still don’t know exactly who he is, but now think that I could track him down in less than a day if need be.
They also told me a grim little story of how Susan had been bellowing at her mother the night before.
A Daughter’s Love
Susan’s mum, is incontinent, as is my Aunt.
It’s an age and infirmity thing and I can only imagine that it’s embarrassing, uncomfortable and a source of constant worry.
Quite why she feels the need to move them around the country at a moment’s notice in cramped cars is beyond me.
As is this.
On Friday 20th July, Susan was screaming at her mother who had soiled herself again, a stream of invective telling her how foul and filthy she was.
When her mother argued back that she was indeed her mother and entitled to a little respect; Susan screamed ‘YOU SHOULD HAVE RESPECT FOR ME…. FOR ME..’
Sadly, the neighbours didn’t call the police that night.
Beer And Comfort
I bought the neighbours a few drinks that night and also managed to bump into the area Police Commander to give him some glowing feedback on his team. He couldn’t really comment but promised to make sure that the officers concerned would get the praise in their files.
I think that the neighbours now understand that they’re in a fight whether they like it or not, Susan will complain to the Police every chance she gets. it’s her way. They need to play by the same rules; move away or suffer the pain every day until something bad happens.
Nothing else happened that night, I didn’t go anywhere near the house as I didn’t want Susan to know I was in the area.
A Walk In The Sun
On Sunday afternoon, I parked my car in full view of their house and took a walk to the river that flows less than a quarter of a mile from the bottom of the road, I took a few photos and basically enjoyed the walk.
I enjoyed the curtains almost being ripped from the poles as I walked back to the car more though.
I think that Susan may have one or two anger issues but I can’t be sure.
I drove home and had a few beers, happy that I had at least made sure that I had thanked the people most affected by this mess and that I had probably jarred her equilibrium for a day.
I Don’t Like Mondays
Quite a lot of things happened on the Monday, I’ll note them in the order that they occurred.
I received a letter from Joseph Smith of North Yorkshire Social Services, remember that name, he’s going to pop up again in this and subsequent posts.
Here it is:
My reply was to the point and indicated mild dissatisfaction
I then received a text from the neighbours at 15:50 to say that the usual woman from Social Services had turned up with a man that they hadn’t seen before.
They were silly enough to ask the neighbours if they were OK and then received the full benefit of months of frustration, they were taken aback by this as it was the first time that they had actually talked to a neighbour.
After this encounter, they tried to knock at Arthur’s door but all the curtains were now closed and they were denied entry.
And then at 18:30 Susan’s Brother, Francis Auckland arrived and they filled the boot of his car with items from the house before he drove off.
A Series of Unconnected Events.
Late on Tuesday night, real actual screaming could be heard from the house and then Arthur could be heard shouting to ‘Call the Police’
Lots of shouting about a break-in could be heard and after a while somebody turned up in a car, looked around the perimeter of the house with a torch and said that they couldn’t see any intruders, any sign of intruders or any sign of a break-in.
On Wednesday, Nobby the cab driver turned up along with Susan’s brother and all four people got into the cab with luggage and they drove off at 14:15.
At 14:30, I informed the Police and Social Services about the three unconnected events, making sure that I mentioned the loading of the car on Monday.
At 14:45, her Brother returned to the house to check the windows, I again informed all parties.
At 15:09 the usual social worker and another ‘official looking woman’ talked to Susan’s Brother on the drive of Arthur’s house.
At 20:48 they returned home.
And that’s where they are now.
Letters From The Past
The wider family have been writing to Arthur, but only one ‘Signed For’ letter has got through so far – it’s from his cousin Vera and was signed for by ‘S Auckland’, all other letters have been turned away or the door hasn’t been answered.
The Postwoman isn’t happy at all.
People will continue to write and we’ll see if Arthur actually got that letter.
Vera went to Mencap to see if they could help with the situation.
They contacted North Yorkshire and then got back to Vera to say that they’d made contact but couldn’t help any further.
She then received a call from Joseph Smith (remember him) who told her that there were no signs of abuse. He did ask if she knew me though, I guess I’m becoming a bit of a irritant.
She told him that I was a wonderful caring Nephew who was trying to help his Uncle while the state ignore him.
And then Vera tore him a new orifice and pointed out to him that coercion was indeed abuse, that she believed that Arthur was being controlled and that her letter had been received but she’d had no reply.
Joseph had to agree the coercion point, which once again makes me wonder if they just have a script to fob relatives off with?
Because, there are actually official guidelines for this stuff.
Just look at them.
I’ve been writing about this since May and have started to do some real digging on this, and if this is available to the public, there MUST be better information available for those entrusted by the state to look after the vulnerable.
So why the fobbing off ?
I suspect that they’re at an impasse and unless they ask the police to look into fraudulent activities, that they don’t know what to do next.
But Joseph Smith has stated to Vera that he’d go to the house (possibly today) to talk to Arthur to see if he’d got the letter – which Susan signed for.
More letters are due for redelivery this week too.