Jack and Jill went up the hill to hitch a ride on an airship. They cycled as quickly as they could but the Marlow Hill was a tough nut so they occasionally enjoyed a boost from the onboard electric motor. When they reached the Booker Airship Park they slotted their bikes into the free chargers and ran off to find their teacher. She promised she would be here. Jack and Jill couldn't be more excited. Their grandfather had told them so much about flying. They couldn't wait.

It was cool for November, just 30 degrees in the shade. Jack and Jill ran through the row upon row of potato plants that now covered the old Booker airpark. When they reached their teacher she was telling the children how the airpark used to have real aeroplanes. But that was over fifty years ago. Nowadays few people can afford to fly in an aeroplane but everyone can enjoy the airship. Dad had said the airships had been around before the aeroplane so Jack asked teacher if this was true. It was.

A passing cloud threatened another torrential downpour so the teacher took the children over to the tethered airship. Jack and Jill took a sharp deep breath. How big it was. As they neared they passed under it shadow just as the rain started. Thankfully the ship sheltered them. The captain introduced himself and told them his ship was called "Hopkins". He told them why but Jack and Jill were not interested. Their eyes were like saucers as the good captain described how the ship would capture rain water to use as a buoyancy aid whilst, when the sun came out, the photovoltaic panels that covered the ship would charge the onboard batteries. As the rain passed on the captain invited the party aboard. All had to pay and the kids reached for their e-wallet phones.

The ship's sub-captain held out the payment tab and asked each child whether they would be using sterling (the national currency) or the Swan (the local currency). Dad had only given Swan credits to his kids that day - it was all he earned. So Jack and Jill swiped their wallets over the tab to get the familiar beep of a payment accepted. Soon they were aboard and had their faces pressed to the windows of the passenger compartment. The rain water was held in large ground tanks which were released at lift-off. Like a cork from a bottle, Hopkins rose rapidly into the sky.

As the ground receded the children had their first view of High Wycombe from the air. How big it was - stretching all the way from Stokenchurch to the north west and Loudwater to the east. Before them spread the sprawl of a thousand snugs all surrounded by more trees than anyone could count. The snugs were the homes built for the incomers. Dad had told the kids that older homes used to need heating with electricity or by burning things. Snugs did not - so they were more "snug". Simple. All the homes were owned by the new town folk. Most were America and French but there were also large numbers of Spanish, Italians and the people from down-under. Their countries were not what they used to be in the history books anymore. Not with the droughts. So now they lived here. They were clever people and much prosperity came in their wake. Indeed the very airship the kids were in was owned by an operator whose family had come over from Australia only twenty years before. He owned the Booker airship park too.

Under the ship circled the Red Kites that survived only in the Chilterns. The children could see the roofs of High Wycombe all painted white to reflect the heat of the sun. The only darker patches were the countless thousand twinkling solar panels that generated so much of the town's juice and each home's hot water. Through the town centre ran the shiny green ribbon of the Wye occasionally reflecting the sun through the green canopy that sheltered the water. It helped keep the town cool. Over in Hughenden were there three large biomass power-stations with their funny green painted chimneys. Over to the east were the anaerobic digestion plants that supplied so much of the fuel for the town's bus fleet. Here and there the children spotted the fields of the dozen urban farms that fed the townsfolk. To the east down the old M40 motorway were the lines and lines of wind turbines elegantly spinning slowly in the evening breeze.

All too soon the ride was over and the kids shuffled back off the airship. The children talked excitedly to their parents via their e-wallet phones and eagerly sent each other pictures of their own homes they spotted during the overflight. Before they could all wander off to their electric bikes the teacher reminded them that they had only one month left to complete their competition entries for the new year. The year 2100 was only weeks away. They needed to write a good essay about life in the bad old days of 2010. The children shuddered at the thought. But the prize was certainly tempting - a trip in the good-ship Hopkins to far flung Totnes.

The future is what you make it. There is a better way.

To comment on this post please go to http://www.post-carbon-living.com/blog/?p=1698 Mark will be talking more about the History of High Wycombe 2000 to 2100 in a talk to the High Wycombe Society at the Guildhall on the evening of Friday July 6th 2012. This event is open to the public.

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