Happy Valley

I’m thinking of becoming an eco-warrior to get my golden ticket out of here

During a dog walk with Muggles at Wormwood Scrubs, Charlotte Cripps discovers a campsite for HS2 protesters and a travel loophole for eco-warriors

Tuesday 08 March 2022 18:22 GMT
(Amara May)

I nearly did a double take when I saw a friend’s teenage daughter in an Instagram post frolicking on the beach near Lamu in Kenya. The caption read “Essential work”. She was wearing a polka-dot bikini next to an old fishing boat. 

How the hell did she get a golden ticket out of here last week? I thought international travel was banned? But no! There is a loophole, I find out after bumping into her yummy mummy while I walked Muggles in Wormwood Scrubs – the least glam venue in west London. I can’t help but glance up at the bars on the windows of the prison and think “there but for the grace of god go I”. That could have been me peering out of those bars when I nearly ended up on remand at Holloway for unknowingly becoming a getaway driver for a burglar during the dark days of my addiction.

The mum is with her lurcher, Alfonso, and laden down with shopping bags from Wholefoods and other posh shops: how lovely! Is she planning a picnic? Can I gate crash it? My stomach is rumbling.

She tells me she’s heading towards a fantastic camp – it has tree houses and log fires. Can I book the kids in for Easter? But I get the wrong end of the stick. I thought it was a bushcraft camp, not a protest camp for HS2 activists.

“She’s on her “gap yah”,” explains the mum, who was visiting the campsite to check if any of the protesters needed anything at all and was dropping off a couple of Daylesford Pumpernickel seeded rye loaves with big fat juicy raisins and a bucket of organic blackberries. Gosh, are they all trustafarians at the camp? Is Britain's Greta Thunberg moving into one of those tree houses? Or Blue Sandford, the 18-year-old HS2 activist and daughter of a Scottish aristocrat, who was holed up in a tunnel under Euston Station for weeks?

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 It’s certainly a good cause to do a food parcel drop. The proposed high-speed rail line will ruin the woodland and a hugely diverse ecological conservation area. But I daren’t take Muggles through the woodland because of all the vegan food laid out for the protester's lunch.

But she insists so I put him on a lead and get dragged towards the vegan canteen where a man is eating gluten-free vegan lentil chips. He points to a man suspended from two trees in an orange hammock. “We have somebody up there 24/7 so they can’t chop the tree down,” he says. I see HS2 security guards with what looks like a little Tardis that says “keep away” if you get too close. But the security woman sees Muggles and tells me she’s a dog groomer. My mum friend is giving me a dirty look as I’m fraternising with the enemy but I just want to know if Muggles’s nails need cutting to stop him from bringing in so much mud? It could save me hours of cleaning.

Muggles then manages to grab a block of vegan cheese and a baguette near a tent and is eating it with the packaging. “God I’m so sorry,” I say to the protester who is explaining to me that wildlife is being bludgeoned to death including lizards and newts. I try and stick my hand down Muggles’s throat as he seems to be choking as he scoffed it all so fast. Oh god, am I going to have to do CPR on him next? He bounces back and even my friend suggests we make a quick exit. I’m so embarrassed I change the subject from Muggles’s food issues. “So how do you go about travelling in lockdown?” I ask again.

“Just become a volunteer eco-warrior darling and the world is your oyster,” says the mum. “We were really struggling with what to do with her through Covid – but this is perfect. She’s doing marine conservation with some deep-sea scuba diving thrown in, but you can work at a turtle sanctuary in Costa Rica and help protect rhinos in Namibia. The Corona insurance is included in the package,” she howls with laughter. Wow, can parents go too? I might look into it for my next family holiday. But in the meantime, I have more pressing issues such as finding a new nanny.

It’s time to have emergency talks with the dog walker and reinstate her as the kid's nanny. But in the meantime, I interview some new nannies over Zoom.

But as I’m talking to Roberta, she appears as a rabbit? She must have got stuck on a Snapchat filter with white ears. And there is a little party hat hovering over her head with sparklers. At least she’s fun. “Oh no, I’m so sorry,” she says, but asks me if I know how to remove it. “It’s fine we can still talk,” I tell her trying to put her at ease.

I’m asking about her cleaning skills. “I like the flat as clean as a hound’s tooth,” I tell her. She hasn’t met the dog yet – will it put her off? He has started digging trenches in the garden and only stops growling and flicking mud everywhere if I give him a rice cake.

Just at that moment, I get a call. “Yes, it’s Charlotte. Who did you say it was?” Oh my god, it’s Alex’s ex. I thought I was long rid of having to deal with an ex, seeing that Alex died in 2014. She wants to send a removal truck over to take all Alex’s possessions. He might be gone – and I miss him every day – but the drama never stops.

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