Robert Swindells: Daz 4 Zoe

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Robert Swindells Daz 4 Zoe
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    Daz 4 Zoe
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This dramatization of Robert Swindells' GCSE text depicts Britain in 2051. It is a divided country: half the population shelters in fortified suburbs, the other half smoulders in sealed-off ghettos. Zoe is one of the privileged; Daz is a semi-literate ghetto dweller. Then they fall in love.

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Robert Swindells

Daz 4 Zoe

© 1990


Palm trees don’t like the cold. That’s why they don’t occur naturally in England. You see them sometimes in seaside towns but they never look right. Ragged they are, with dead bits hanging down.

Old people occur naturally in England, but they don’t like the cold, either. Some of them are ragged too, and there are probably dead bits only you don’t see them.

Anyway, there was this winter. It was a really cold winter – one of the coldest on record – with hard frosts every night. It was so cold that old people started dying. Daren’t have the fire on, see. Not with electricity the price it was. So they wrapped themselves up in blankets and sat shivering till they fell asleep and died, like lost explorers in the Arctic.

And there was this seaside town that had some palm trees. Now palm trees can’t feel the cold, but it kills them just the same. It was killing these particular palm trees all right. Slowly but surely.

Until one day the man that looked after them – the Town Gardener, I suppose – had this brilliant idea. What he did was, he got a lot of electric blankets and some very long cables and he plugged the blankets in and ran them out on the long cables and wrapped them round the palm trees. It took several blankets to wrap each tree but when he switched on, the trees were really snug.

Every night the Town Gardener switched on, and night after night the electricity ran through the long cables, warming the blankets till the cold spell was over and the palm trees were saved.

Afterwards it was on telly and in the papers, how the palm trees were saved. What a good idea, people said. What a clever man. Everybody was really happy.

Well, no – not everybody. Some of the old folks – some of them that didn’t die – moaned on about the waste of electricity, but you’re going to get moaners whatever you do, and the moral of the story is you can’t please everybody.

Or is it?

The rest of this book is fiction but it could come true, and we wouldn’t like it if it did. You’ll see what I mean when you’ve read it. It could come true, but it won’t if we’re together. All of us.

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be.


Daz thay call me. 2 years back wen I com 13 Del that’s my brovver thay catch im raiding wiv the Dred. Top im don’t thay, and im just gon 15.

2 lornorders com tel our mam, 1 wumin, 1 man, nor thay don’t come til after thay dunnit neever. Our Mam been down a longtime fore then wiv the dulleye, and she just sort of stairs dont she, til thay go of, and its not til nite she crys.

She sez dont you never go of wiv no Dred, our Daz. No Mam, I sez, but I never crost my hart. Don’t cownt less you crost yor hart, rite?


Hi. I’m Zoe. Zoe May Askew. Or Zoe may not. (Joke!) I’m fourteen. My friend at school is Tabitha. Tabitha Flinders Wentworth for short. She’s fourteen too. If the name seems familiar to you it’s no big surprise. Her dad’s Paul Wentworth of Wentworth and Lodge (Developments) PLC, the outfit that shoved up practically every residential estate in practically every suburb in England. You’re bound to have seen their boards, plus their ads on T.V. He’s into about a million other things too, Tabby says. Security. Roads. Power. He’s into power all right. Chair of the Suburb Selectmen, Chair of Schools Management Committee, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Dog leaves a mess on the sidewalk, Paul Wentworth’ll make himself Chair of it.

They’re loaded. Well, you can imagine. They live in this gorgeous architect-designed house on Wentworth Drive. That’s right – Wentworth Drive. He built the place and named it after himself, and why not?

I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering how come Tabby Wentworth would bother with a scumbag like me, right? Sure you are. Well, my dad’s an estate agent, see, and what estate agents do is they sell houses. You probably thought they sold cheeseburgers, but they sell houses. Wentworth builds ’em, Dad sells ’em. They’re not friends, exactly, but they do a lot of business together and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Well, no, as a matter of fact, it’s not.

Listen. I want to tell you a story, only I’ve got to start at the beginning, right? And that’s where Tabby Wentworth comes in. At the beginning. Because she started it. She started it because everything’s boring and fourteen’s a lousy age and chippying’s about the only way you can get a bit of excitement around here. Chippying. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry. You will. In fact you’re going to know all about chippying real soon.

There’s us and there’s them, see? Subbies and Chippies. They don’t call themselves Chippies, of course. I don’t know what they call themselves, but I know they call us Subbies. That’s because we live in the suburbs. We work and take showers and have nice houses. They don’t. They hang out and live in crummy apartments and they don’t even wash, for pete’s sake. And they hate us. We’re just ordinary, decent people, doing pretty much what people ought to do, but they hate us. Dad reckons it’s envy. They envy us. They want our cars and our money and our nice houses, but they don’t want our long years in school and they don’t want to work. That’s what Dad says, anyway. I don’t know. I bet they’re the same as everybody else, really, but I wouldn’t say that to Dad. He says they get so many hand6uts they don’t need to work. And if they want some money or a nice car, they just sneak into the nearest suburb and take it. That’s why we have fences and lights and guards. That’s how come we have to carry I.D. all the time, and why we keep moving if we go outside.

Say you have an aunt or a cousin or somebody living in a neighbouring suburb and you want to visit with them. What you have to do is get in the car, check the tank, hit the freeway with your foot down and go like the clappers till you’re there. It’s the only way. You stop out there – you just so much as slow down and they got you. They’re watching all the time, see. All the time.

Why Chippies, I hear you ask. Why do we call them Chippies. Well, that’s easy. It’s their favourite food, chips. They practically live on them. Everybody knows that. It’s a well-known fact. And that’s where chippying comes from. It means going out and mixing with the Chippies.

What happens is, some kid gets fed up being cooped up. I mean all right – a suburb’s a pretty nice place. I’m not saying that. But any place with a fence around’ll get to you, eventually. So this kid gets ballsed off and he calls a couple of buddies and they get in the car and go. Not down the freeway, ’cause that only takes you to the next nice prison. No. They take one of the turnoffs the copcars use and cruise into town. I mean right down there where the streets are dark and dirty with high, crummy buildings and broken glass everywhere. Why? Because the one thing those dumb Chippies know how to do is have a good time.

They have these clubs. Not like our clubs. I’m not talking about squash clubs or health clubs or bridge clubs, and I’m not talking about youth clubs, either, with bands that play gospel half the time. No. These clubs’re night-clubs. You know. Dim, smoky little joints with booze and dope and bands that really belt it out. All the stuff the Chippies knock off, stuff they lift in the suburbs or take from hi-jack trucks gets fenced in the clubs. You might have seen something similar in old movies, but unless you chippy you’re never gonna see one for real.

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