June the 16th.
I got the call I had been expecting and dreading: Chris Hammond died early this morning. He was stubborn enough to hold on for longer than anyone expected, but it was clear he was never going to recover. He left detailed instructions for his cremation arrangements: All I have to do as his advocate is give them to the funeral director.
June the 22nd.
Well that was a rare sight! Riding in today I spotted a long and very shapely pair of female calves displayed in public despite the weather. She was wearing long dark grey socks but even so it is a brave soul who expresses such borderline contempt for the New Modesty.
Like the beginning of the Consensus no-one can pin down its origins exactly: In truth there were probably a number of causes. There was the inevitable counteraction to the tattooing craze earlier in the century; now tattoos are seen as out of fashion, gauche, lower class, and a barrier to getting a good assignment. These days they are not to be seen in public, and would be better removed if possible (done for free if visible on hands, neck, or face).
The New Modesty values also frown upon the brazen display of bare flesh by both sexes as it is seen as disrespectful of and antagonistic to the Muslim community. The recent run of colder weather, and the fact clothes made from more material are seen as a sign of relative affluence have also played their part in making covering up à la mode.
The pendulum of fashion had been swinging away from not so cheap but nasty disposable wear before the Crises, but the suddenly intensified post-Crises austerity made all the difference. With the disruption in world trade caused by the economic crises the retail clothing sector lost their easy access to supplies of worn for a single season, made just-in-time, imported garments; prompting an instant shortage of new clothes. When the Transitional Council assumed 'temporary' control over the sector - along with so many others of the economy - they used the opportunity to impose their values on what people wore: Dictating how peoples' bodies were to be clothed being another step closer to imposing a far more comprehensive regime upon them.
It took far longer than expected to establish a Fed clothing industry, and while the workforce were being trained to produce subsistence clothing the many people who had expected an endless supply of throwaway glad rags were left waiting for the new stocks to arrive. They began to look increasingly dishevelled and had to learn to repair what they had left to wear in order to make it last as long as possible. Nowadays looking patched and shabby is unwise, as it is a Connie maxim that one who is scruffily dressed is a person of suspect morality deserving of closer scrutiny. Once it may have been fashionable, but now anyone wearing deliberately distressed or holed clothes is asking to be referred to the Community Support Office as an urgent case; something which is best avoided.
Eventually the officially approved styles in a limited range of sizes began to trickle into the few remaining shops with the promise of a planned reduction over time in the availability of extra-large and beyond sizes to encourage the population to lose weight. It was measures such as these which reinforced how our lives had changed for good: Consumer choice was now a bygone luxury.
The new garb was dowdy, drab and uncompromisingly utilitarian; made out of heavy, durable, recycled but not very comfortable to wear synthetic fabrics. Dull colours were specified in order to reduce the need for laundering. Awkwardly cut, the designs came as a shock and met initial public rejection, but there was no choice; either you wore your pre-Crises clothes until they wore out, or bought from the dwindling stocks of upmarket apparel if you could still afford to, or did as some skilled and independent people did and made your own. For the rest of us it was the Hobson's choice of utility or nudity.
Once the early quality control and sometimes hilariously bizarre sizing problems were sorted the Clothing Credits were allocated: Then slowly and out of necessity people grudgingly began to adopt the naff new styles. Soon, fuel-poor and freezing they clamoured for Warmsuits - a rebranded heavily padded thermal onesie - to live in when the first of the really bitterly cold winters took hold.
Some of the changes which were made were understandable: The move from many sizes of rain jackets to one-size-fits-all waterproof ponchos was logical, simplifying production. As was the replacement of zips with buttons in most cases: Buttons were less likely to fail; and if they did they could be repaired rather than throwing the whole garment away because of a broken zip. Some other decisions didn't make any sense, but were imposed anyway. Despite meeting the one-size-fits-many criteria, production of tights and stockings was halted; they were considered to be a wasteful use of resources and an encouragement to wanton sluttishness. Leggings and jeggings were banned as well: They are seen as inherrently mal-moral, and demeaning to a woman's dignity. In pre-Crises times many women who should never have worn unflattering leggings did so, and the results were often an unpleasant - nay disgusting - sight, with the seams being stretched to bursting point. But back then it was a woman's choice what she wore; now it is no longer the case. The anonymous controllers of clothing production (no doubt hardcore Connies) decreed maxi skirts, wraps, or full-length loose fitting trousers would henceforth protect female modesty.
Footwear has changed as well. Louche high heels are out; along with shoddy ballerina pumps. For both sexes flip-flops and cloth shoes are proscribed for encouraging slovenly attitudes. Though canvas shoes with hook-and-loop touch fastenings for people with special needs are still available. And now, for some obscure reason, black plimsolls are once again permitted.
Sequins, bows, and other shoe decorations were forbidden as an unnecessary frivolity. Boots have become strictly practical, and sports shoes are now only to be worn while training for or playing sport. Instead most styles have been substituted by durable but unstylish plastic shoes; with ardent Connies adopting unisex sandals and clogs as part of their uniform. Eventually those evolved into Flacks; hardwearing wooden or plastic soles which can be fitted with a variety of interchangeable strap styles or uppers.
The Crises also affected the hair and beauty industries. Hair styling and colouring products became scarce, so styles became more 'natural' and easier to maintain without a continual supply of products the Connies deemed harmful to the environment. The same paternalistic shortages applied to cosmetics of all kinds, with it being deemed a sign of empowered self-esteem to show your face without them. Nail bars closed down almost overnight as the need for manageable, low-maintenance, ready for manual work fingernails became apparent.
Although the move away from artificial beauty products seems to have become permanent, clothing styles have altered as the slight recovery has eased the material shortages, and people learned the skills to make their own clothes, recycle material, or choose to buy made-to-measure from the resurgent tailoring sector. A subtle counter-revolutionary style has evolved; pushing the boundaries of accepted taste, but not too far. At the moment colourful ethnic home woven designs are in vogue, as are wraps which conceal many sins. The public weigh-ins, shamings, compulsory exercise regimes, and the other excesses of the strident anti-obesity campaign may have been brought to a premature end after things began to spin out of control, but it is still prudent to artfully conceal too much body fat with carefully styled fabric; even though overweight people are a much rarer sight now. No doubt the Connies will find a way of being offended by these new fashions, but as yet they have no cause for complaint.
Even so, showing too much leg, neckline, or bodily flesh can still attract verbal abuse by Connie zealots; and women need to be very careful not to show any cleavage in public for fear of being charged with exposing oneself: Through in the spirit of sexual equality the offence applies against topless men as well; were they to be so bold. Flamboyant displays of accessories, jewellery, and all facial piercings will result in many disapproving glances; as would the flaunting of a pale flabby lifebelt of a midriff with a pierced navel below a short camisole see women refused service in most places; not that anyone would be foolish enough to dress so outrageously.
Facial hair, unless worn as a statement of religious identity, is also frowned upon; designer stubble even more so as a sign of indolent decadence. Effeminate long hair or ponytails haven't been seen on men for many a year. Good grooming and modest hairstyles are seen as a personal sign of adherence to and support of the new moralism.
Wearing any prominently branded sportswear is strictly from poverty now. It seems scarcely believable that people used to pay inflated prices to become a walking advert for a company's product, and to have mistakenly believed doing so actually increased their stature in the opinion of others. Well if that was the case then, it certainly isn't now! Having to wear clothes so old they date from that misguided era is certain to see the unfortunate person be looked down upon as a bit lacking in a certain something.
No one wears garments which are too tight-fitting, too obviously show their bodily curves, or jackets too short for them; and denim is a thing of the past with jeans, as well as shorts or any cropped calf-exposing trousers falling foul of the unwritten dress code.
Most people conform to the norm; avoiding controversy by wearing New Modesty styles, work wear, or uniforms; of which there are many. The Connies are very keen on uniforms, be they the standard Personal Protective Equipment for manual workers, or smarter suits for the more office based occupations. Most professions have them, though they are by no means compulsory - yet - as it is seen to encourage pride in oneself and one's work, as well as fostering a sense of community. Otherwise the uniforms are variations on the boiler suit or two-piece tracksuit theme; having different colours and patches to denote the company or assignment class. Even pre-school groups have them now, supposedly to ease the transition to the first National Education System uniform; standardised throughout the Fed, but with different patches for each school.
I had to look away and concentrate on the road again to avoid the cluster of potholes I knew to be near. By the time I had dodged those perennial hazards I'd passed her. I mentally wished her luck. Wearing a calf length skirt - even it is obviously home sewn from recycled fabric and worn with practical flacks in an attempt to downplay the effect - is a bold statement; one bound to get you noticed. I hope her legs didn't get too chilled, and the attention she got was the sort she was looking for.
June the 24th.
It's Chris Hammond's cremation this afternoon. He wanted it to be a low-key affair but he was so popular there was no way that could ever be possible. A group of two hundred or so of his friends and most loyal fans have come to Havant crematorium for the humanist service, and I've arranged for one of our news crews to record the event; it will be a prime item on South Tonight. It's the least we can do for Chris, and it fulfils one of his last wishes to rile the Connies a final time, as it surely will.
It turns out we aren't the only ones filming here. Stationed on the other side of the road, a couple of Young Communitarians, cameras in hand, are 'cording the mourners as they enter. I don't know if they thought up their pathetic attempt at intimidation themselves or if they are dutifully carrying out someone else's orders but I have to control the urge to cross the road and ram their cameras right down their fucking throats. Instead I get our crew to turn their cameras on the duo. Once the YCs realise they are in the spotlight they skulk away, but now we have their images I'm going to make damn sure their appearance today is coupled with the report of our final farewell to Chris. Let's see how they like their faces shown up in public! Making some Connies squirm is what he would have wanted us to do; and so we shall mate.
As for the service, it went as well as can be expected; a full house, and nary a dry eye in it. For all the talk about a Celebration of Life, when all is said and done it is still a funeral.
His ashes were laid to rest in the Garden of Remembrance for the time being, until his surviving family decide how they should be disposed of. The ceremony over, and my duties discharged, I head back to Media House to finish the report of his send-off in a sombre and annoyed mood. My temper isn't helped by the drizzle slowly thickening into a steady rain. A final veil of tears for a great man and a firm friend.ns 22.214.171.124da2