I used to think that I’d like to be a scavvy when I was a bit older. They work in teams, making sure every last bit of waste is put to good use. When they aren’t sifting and sorting the rubbish or overseeing the compost-making they go out into the villages and strip houses and farms and look for anything useful. It’s been going on since the Great Death, three or four times a year in the better weather but the journeys are getting longer and longer. It’s dangerous work and scavvy gangs always take a couple of the Major’s men with them. The dog packs are the biggest danger, up to thirty animals roaming the land looking for anything they can overpower and eat. You see the scavvies setting off on a tractor and trailer with a hut on the back in case they are stuck out overnight. A couple of horses and carts follow behind. I got to go once last year, but only because Dad was in the party. I couldn’t wait to go on my first scavvy run. I’ve always loved the idea of journeying into the unknown, getting away from the familiar and everyday routines of Library and Market, always seeing the same faces and hearing the same small talk.
My favourite place in Goodfleet is at the top of The Downs, where on a good day you can see for twenty miles or more in either direction up and down the coast. Always, the most mysterious place is the line where the sea meets the sky. That is where I want to go, beyond the known, beyond our little town. Once, when I was smaller, I asked my dad if he could get me a big telescope so I could take it up to the top of The Downs. It would allow me to see further, perhaps as far as the coast of Europe or even beyond. He’d laughed and then