John-Paul Flintoff




Believe Me, I've Been There...


I know what it’s like to worry about the state of the world. I’ve been there. It’s horrible. It happened to me just over a decade ago. I was doing some research for my job – feature writer on the UK’s best-selling upmarket newspaper (ooh, look at me!) and I found a story that nobody had covered.

I was ecstatic: this would definitely go on the magazine’s front cover. But as I described the sheer scale of the horrors to my editor, on the phone, it stopped being just a story. Because the things I was describing were going to directly affect me, and my wife, and our tiny daughter…

(She was so tiny! I didn’t want anything horrible to happen to her)

… and the words turned to dust in my mouth.

In an instant, it stopped being just a story. It became my mission. Frustratingly, my editor could only the funny side of what I told her. Later, I’ll tell you what that was, but for a while, I played along. I pretended it was merely funny. I thought, hell, if I can get the story in front of one million buyers of this newspaper, and the many others they share their copies with, I will have done my job – even if I have to seem light-hearted about something that’s causing me to lose sleep.

But that didn’t last. I couldn’t joke. This was too serious. I became convinced that we were headed for some kind of dark ages. Very soon, I was convinced, humankind would be living in caves again – those of us who were living at all. (The vast majority would be wiped out.)

My wife didn’t enjoy me talking like that. But she hadn’t been reading what I had. So she didn’t know any better, poor thing. I tried to explain. But she didn’t like that either. So I became a bit of a survivalist – as much as that’s possible while still leading a relatively normal life in north London.

I continued to work as a journalist, but as much as I could I did without the fragile modern systems that I knew to be unreliable: instead of using electricity, I wrote on an old-fashioned manual typewriter, and delivered my stories by hand, on paper. I must surely be the last journalist who ever did that.

I started growing my own food, and collecting hand-tools, so that when the power eventually goes down, we’d be OK.


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