JS Adams vividly imagines Portsmouth in the throes of eco-apocalypse in the second part of his serialised story.
Just a typical morning stroll with the family and their dog along Southsea seafront promenade would soon prove a small disaster for one Derek Osmand. He only wanted a quiet life and a simple excursion along the beach on his day off, to see what all the fuss with these icebergs was about. He wasn’t particularly interested in global warming. The man on Sky News had said it was nothing more than a natural cycle of the planet’s eco system. Mr Osmand was an avid reader of The Mail on Sunday, which also held this view. Indeed, words such as “warmageddon” and “planetary death spiral” didn’t stand up to much scrutiny when put under the red hot lights of expert testimony and, if The Mail said it, then that was all the information Mr Osmand really required.
But then these stupid icebergs began drifting into the English Channel, even up the Thames and into London itself, with other reports of stranded Inuits and Yupiks floating along with the currents. Now here in Portsmouth, the icebergs had clogged up the entrance to the harbour and run aground along the eastern approach.
Mr Osmand and his wife Beryl held different views on the icebergs.
‘It’s like ice cubes in a glass of cola,’ he stated at breakfast. ‘The glass still holds the same volume, but it doesn’t magically overflow when the ice melts does it? End of!‘
His wife regarded him over the melting butter dripping from her toast.
‘But,’ Beryl began, frowning at the toast and the butter dripping onto her plate.
‘Oh for God’s sake Derek!’ she snapped, ‘No, it’s not bloody end of!’
She spat a mouthful of toast across the table. ‘The world isn’t a bloody glass of Coke and, in case you didn’t notice, the ice sits on the land, you idiot. So when it melts, it glides along the ground and then it falls into the sea in huge chunks. Thus. Raising. The. Sea. Level.’
Mr Osmand paused over his coffee. He felt a tug at his shirt from small fingers.
‘Dad?’ It was his son Matthew. The family’s golden retriever Bonzo was panting by his side. ‘Can we go and see the icebergs today?’
Mr Osmand looked at his son, then at his grinning wife, and he sighed in deep resignation.
So they came to the beach to view it all for themselves. Beryl pointed out that the sea had already risen above the existing sea defences, which were held fast by the beach front, much of its shingle now scattered by the storms.
‘Maybe we’ll be swamped one day and end up like Atlantis,’ she mused.
‘Don’t be daft – I’m sure its just sea erosion or summink,’ Mr Osmand frowned.
‘Here boy!’ said Matthew, throwing a pebble for Bonzo to fetch.
‘Mind the cars, son,’ said Mr Osmand, warily watching his sons clumsy antics as Bonzo leapt after another flying stone with great enthusiasm and slobber.
‘I thought you brought his ball, dear,’ said Beryl.
‘No,’ sighed Mr Osmand. ‘I thought you had.’
They walked leisurely along the beach front towards Eastney, the early morning chill easing a little as clouds the dispersed to reveal a clear blue sky, releasing the warm fingers of the sun. The promenade lay in chaos after the latest bouts of hurricane weather; a mass of rocks littered the walkway, making it difficult to ascertain where the beach ended and the promenade began. Behind them was the Coffee Cup Café with a giant deck chair outside, damaged slightly by the storms. Its windows were being partly boarded up and hastily repaired by workmen whilst staff got on with the usual business of serving the punters. They too carried on regardless; unperturbed by the damage about them. They drank coffee and ate cakes, worked on Sudoku puzzles with eyes glued to tablets or phones, oblivious to the great sea beyond and to the icebergs now drifting about the sea.
As the couple passed the cafe, they noticed a large crowd at the other end of the beach, gathered about an iceberg that had drifted inland.
‘Wow!’ exclaimed Mr Osmand, smiling. ‘Now that’s an iceberg. Look at the size of that fucking thing.’
Beryl stared. ‘But it’s a bit weird how it’s right on the beach shallows like that.’
‘It must have a flat bottom for it to get in that close,’ he said.
‘Bonzo! Here Boy! Fetch!’ said Matthew, running behind them.
Mr Osmond turned to watch his son and saw Matthew bowling a large rock into the air. It hit the front fender of a Gold Vauxhall Micra Saloon coupe Deluxe parked outside the cafe. The rock clattered onto the pebble strewn promenade, as Beryl turned to discover the source of the noise.
A balding, middle-aged man in a grey suit ran out of the cafe, clutching his coffee and shaking his head in disbelief. He turned to Mr Osmand, who attempted to control Bonzo and retain diplomacy with the angry car owner, who was motioning wildly at the fresh dent in his car. The man glared at Mr Osmand as if he had caught him red-handed, deliberately destroying his car. Beryl, embarrassed, stood quietly nearby, arms folded and looking on as her spouse squirmed uncomfortably in front of the angry car owner.
‘No! No! It wasn’t me mate, it was -’ started Mr Osmand.
The car owner’s eyes narrowed. He looked livid.
‘I’m not your mate,’ he said ‘and I saw ya throwin’ rocks about.’
‘Look, I’m, er, just trying to control my dog here,’ appealed Mr Osmand. ‘I’m out with the family, see? I had nothing to do with that rock hitting your car.’
The man stared at Mr Osmand, his son and Bonzo in turn. Bonzo panted, unconcerned, at the angry car owner and stood up on his hind legs to lick the man’s furrowed face. The car owner, spilling his coffee, motioned back and forth from Mr Osmand to the damage on the vehicle.
‘Now listen ‘ere! I saw you.’
‘But it wasn’t me!’
‘Yes it was.’
‘Dad?’ Matthew’s voice sounded across the two men’s angry exchange.
‘No, it wasn’t me, honestly! Look – perhaps it was those kids over there’
‘Look mister, I think you need to give me the details of your insurance company.’
‘Hmm right. That might be a problem, actually.’
‘What is it now Matthew?’
‘It’s a polar bear.’
‘That’s very interesting son. Look Mr, er?’
‘Look Mr Mundy, perhaps we could come to some arrangement, I-‘
‘Derek..?’ said Beryl, tugging on the arm of his duffel jacket.
‘Perhaps Mr Mundy if we exchange our -‘
‘What is it now, Beryl?’
‘There’s a polar bear!’
In the cafe, jaws were dropping, along with eating implements, pens, cups and saucers. Sudoku was abandoned, as people forgot iPads and iPhones, and sprung from their seats, gawping in the same direction. Mr Osmand looked over the angry man’s shoulder and his mouth dropped open.
‘Is that a?’ But the rest of his question was redundant.
The polar bear was lurching and lumbering along the shingled beach towards the cafe, a chihuahua in hot pursuit. The bear’s clumsy trot along the shingle made people scatter in all directions. In a different context, it would have been funny.
Following Mr Osmand’s gaze, Mr Mundy turned slowly around, dropped his coffee and began to step back towards his dented car.
‘That’s a- that’s a bloody polar bear!’ he exclaimed, pointing.
Screams began to sound from the café as the patrons sprang towards exits. People began to spill along the promenade, knocking over garden tables as they clambered out of the path of the polar bear.
‘It’s coming this way! Run!’ someone screamed.
Mr Osmand grabbed his wife and son and backed into the cafe. The polar bear climbed over the perimeter fence, ran through the sand pit and angrily swiped at the giant deck chair, the leg of which shattered as the bear’s claws ripped through the fabric like air. Rising onto its back feet, the bear swayed and roared, then staggered slowly toward Mr Mundy’s car. It leapt effortlessly onto the roof as the metal creaked loudly beneath the bear’s weight, looked around for a moment and slipped out of view on the other side of the car.
Mr Osmand reached for Beryl as she clutched Matthew close. They both sighed in relief as the bear moved out of sight. Bonzo, unconcerned, lapped at the remains of an upturned ice cream cone on the cafe floor. Outside, the pandemonium faded as quickly as it had begun. Mr Mundy stood outside, cradling a piece of his Gold Vauxhall Micra Saloon coupe Deluxe in his hands.
‘My car,’ he moaned, staring after the beast. The chihuahua was still in hot pursuit as the bear moved inland, towards the fences surrounding the golf course and the pitch-and-putters within, blissfully unaware of a polar bear in Southsea.