Five Go Off The Planet

Hooray for the Hols!”cried Greta, tossing her plaits joyfully over her shoulders:

No more Latin, no more Greek, / No more freezing my arse off sitting on a cold pavement holding a placard reading Klimastreik!” (It sounded better in Swedish, of course.)

There were five of them. Greta, just seventeen, was the youngest. Then came the two Belgians Anuna de Wever, nineteen, and Adelaïde Charlier, twenty. The German Luisa Neubauer, at twenty four, was the wise old woman of the group.

Old McKibben the handyman came trundling up the path. He’d packed the girls’ trunks and loaded them into the caravan – all except for Luisa’s. (She was a little older than the others, and managed to pack her own trunks very nicely thank you.)

Ere y’are missies. Don’t be gettin’ into any mischief now, and mind you takes care of old Deben ‘ere, and see ‘e gets plenty of ‘ay and oats.” Deben the Donkey hee-hawed as only Deben could, farted and staled on McKibben’s boot. Greta gave Deben a hard prod with the whip, and the caravan set off. Old McKibben pulled out a soiled handkerchief and blew his nose loudly, trying unsuccessfully to hide a tear.

From the steps of the Great Hall Anuna’s mother Katrien Van der Heyden waved distractedly, before returning to her studies of gender equality, diversity and climate change. Her second daughter [1] Anuna had been a subject of academic interest to her when, at the age of two, she had declared she wanted to be a boy. Anuna had now renounced all gender, much to the chagrin of her mother, since it left her nothing to study. Her father Harwin de Wever, who had been let out of the cellar specially, gazed blankly at the parting caravan before descending to his den. [2]

Four girls – but who was the fifth member of the Famous Five? Why, dear old George of course, Greta’s faithful Welsh Terrier – mangey and getting on a bit now, but still playful as a puppy when in the presence of his Mistress, whom he adored. [3]

They made good progress that day through a landscape that recalled the imaginary worlds they’d read about in the books that elderly aunts had regaled them with in their childhood – Tove Jansson, Tolkien, Rupert Bear [5] – before stopping for the night in a leafy lay-by.

As they were sitting round the dying embers of the camp fire, with George sprawled at Greta’s feet, Greta suddenly broke the silence with: “Beg dog, beg!” and George obediently turned on his back with his paws in the air, pleading to have his tummy tickled. Greta took a charred stick from the fire to satisfy his desires, rubbing it violently across the hound’s exposed abdomen.

There! How do you like it?”

Ruff! Ruff!”

Men!” sighed the slender adolescent, as if drawing on aeons of innate female experience. Then she suddenly got serious:

Guys! Don’t forget that we’re not here on a holiday. The end of the world is no picnic. It’s up to us four…”

Foonf!” snorted George.

… sorry, us five – to find a way to stop the world from overheating by a whole degree Centigrade…”

Arff! Arff!” George interjected.

..oh, very well, 0.5°C, you old fusspot. Now kindly shut up.”

And without further ado, the four chums got down to discussing climate chaos, ecocide, and animal rights. George, realising that the discussion didn’t apply to him, soon got bored and went off to sniff the environment. He circled the caravan three times before deciding on the right rear wheel of the caravan, where he casually lifted a hind leg and left his calling card.

That night, curled up on the bottom half of his mistress’s sleeping bag, George had a strange dream:

George was lying on the river bank, getting rather tired of leafing through IPCC AR5 WG1, [4] for it had no predictions of imminent catastrophe in it “and what’s the point of a peer reviewed official intergovernmental report without predictions of imminent catastrophe?” thought George.

So he was considering, as well as he could (for global heating was making him feel very sleepy and stupid) whether it was worth the trouble of changing his position to lick his privates (given the absence of anyone likely to appreciate his efforts) when suddenly a white bunny rabbit with pink eyes and plaits ran close by him.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that: nor did George think it so very much out of the way to hear the bunny say to itself: “Knulla mig! I’m late! Too late to save the planet!” But when the bunny took an i-phone out of its backpack and started texting the leaders of the free world, George ceased his licking and bounded after the rodent. For a hot bunny with an i-phone was one thing, but one with a line to the leaders of the free world was another, and, burning with curiosity, he ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit hole under the hedge.

In another moment down went George after it, never once considering how in the world he was to get out again. The rabbit hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, and George found himself falling, falling…

George let out a tremendous howl, and Greta woke with a start. “What’s that noise?” she asked.

It’s only George. He’s barking,” murmured Anuna from the next bunk.

I know, but what’s that noise?” repeated the frail young Swede.

[to be continued]

[1] Or first – who knows? – Anuna has a twin sister.

[2] Katrien has an extensive CV at

Anuna’s father Harwin is an “urbanist” (town planner.) He has no internet presence. Katrien seems to be married to someone called Peter. There are five Peter de Wevers listed at LinkedIn, one of whom describes himself as a “bus analist.” I don’t think that’s him.

[3] George Monbiot February 2019

The Youth Strike 4 Climate gives me more hope than I have felt in 30 years of campaigning. Before this week, I believed it was all over. I thought .. that climate breakdown and ecological collapse were inevitable … we created a cannibal economy: we ate your future to satisfy our greed… ours is a society of altruists governed by psychopaths… we have bequeathed you a world that… may soon become uninhabitable. The disasters I feared my grandchildren would see in their old age are happening already.. But those of us who have long been engaged in this struggle will not abandon you… we will stand in solidarity with you. Though we are old and you are young, we will be led by you… Together, we will build a movement that must – and will – become irresistible.


[5] Big in Holland in the thirties, surprisingly. See


  1. Notes from a pedant: Rabbits, even those with I-phones containing telephone numbers of world leaders, are not rodents. By virtue of possessing four (and not two) incisors in their sweet little upper jaws and being strict vegans, they are Lagomorphs.
    Oh the joy of being able to strut my A-level knowledge after almost half a century; eventually all information is useful.

    What I also wish to know is are the foursome keeping appropriate social distancing?

    Liked by 1 person

    Thanks for the correction. In the timeless era when the story takes place, everyone keeps appropriate social distancing, because everyone knows their place.


  3. Geoff. “In the timeless era when the story takes place”. Oh have you perchance forgotten that, within the story, the ages of the quartet are given, thus fixing time like an ice pick?
    Greta knowing her place is a worrisome thought.
    Pedantry once acquired cannot be relinquished.


    Greta knowing her place is an essential part of the narrative. As the daughter of an actor and an opera singer, she has a narrow margin of superiority over the daughter of an urban planner and a consultant specialising in race, gender and climate issues, wouldn’t you say? The point is, neither of them needs conventional schooling (or didn’t, until about three months ago) because this self-creating social hierarchy which has blossomed over the past few decades before our mystified eyes guarantees them a place in state-subsidised wonderland – devising state-subsidised computer models that don’t work; acting in state-subsidised theatre no-one wants to see; writing reports that nobody reads which are publicised on charity-funded websites that nobody visits; all conveying the same message that no-one is particularly interested in hearing.

    All that certainty is now gone; maybe for ever. Even Greta’s Gulbenkian million which she’s just announced she’ll give away to her friends will only support a few dozen more of these people for a few years more. But Enid Blyton was all about holding on to the illusion of a world that was fast disappearing too.

    Pedantry is precious. It keeps us all on our toes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Greta knowing her place is an essential part of the narrative”

    Ah Yes but what IS her place?

    Apologies if I’ve mentioned this here before but she’s descended from Svente Arrhenius of Nobel Prize and global warming theory fame. (I’m unclear whether directly or indirectly, most sources being awfully coy and the more forthright none too reliable.)

    Less well known is that he was an ardent Eugenicist and a board member of Swedish Society for Racial Hygiene, a group focused on promoting the benefits of controlled reproduction in humans. (I should stress that I don’t know if he was active on the board and that neither he nor the group endorsed anti-Semitism – he died before it became a major international issue. His Nobel Prize was thoroughly deserved even if he did lobby fit to bust to get it.)

    Wee Greta could not reasonably be held responsible for the views of her ancestors EXCEPT that she’s made a bit of a name for herself promoting the other Arrhenius hobby horse and that neither she nor her supporters have AFAIK ever referred to his slightly dated views on race, let alone distanced themselves from them.

    No Cancel Culture in the that milieu, it seems. Not even among weeny Greenies.

    Pedant? Me? Come, come.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hans
    It’s ok in English to treat Dutch and Flemish as the same language, just as we call the language spoken in Glasgow and New York “English.” We’re not very normative about these things.
    I did make a serious mistake in my comment on the subject at Notalotofpeopleknowthat, which I’ll correct when the hardback edition comes out.


  7. “Von der Leyen’s recovery plan lets down the young
    Future generations will have to pay back Europe’s debts. It’s only fair that money is spent on preserving our future.”

    “Adelaïde Charlier and Anuna De Wever are representatives of Belgian Youth for Climate (YFC).

    Applauded by countless European leaders as a “historic” moment, the EU deal on a €1.82 trillion budget and pandemic recovery package is a big step back in the fight against climate change — and a betrayal of the people it’s claiming to put first: the next generation.

    The youth of today will inevitably be saddled with the colossal debts incurred by Europe’s response to the pandemic. This should give us a major say in how these vast sums are spent.

    In reality, we have the least influence in this flawed recovery plan, even as we will bear the largest brunt of a worsening climate crisis — a crisis that will be hastened by EU measures to get us back to pre-coronavirus “business-as-usual.”

    The fact that the global lockdown caused by the pandemic resulted only in a 10 percent drop in emissions is a stark reminder that reaching our climate goals will require radical measures. We need to rethink our economies from top to bottom if we want to meet our pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement and have a real chance of curbing the destructive impact of climate change.

    Sadly, the EU deal reached in July doesn’t move us in that direction. For the EU to dub its recovery plan “Next Generation EU” is both insulting and highly misleading. Its basic failure to recognize climate change as a crisis — let alone one that will dwarf the pandemic — denies young people a decent future. It denies us hope.

    Let us be clear why our leaders have failed us so badly with this plan….

    …As the world leader on climate change, the EU must do better. How can the bloc ask the world’s other leading emitters to redouble efforts to meet their Paris commitments when it does not take action itself?”

    More pertinently, perhaps, what’s the point of saddling your generation with enormous debt, achieving nothing with regard to the climate, while the rest of the world isn’t interested in what you have to say or in doing anything about it?

    Liked by 1 person

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