Richard Pierce

Education, Life, Writing

Day 116

Last night I dreamed of my secondary school headmaster, the one who told me I wasn’t clever enough to get into Cambridge because, that morning, I hadn’t realised there was a meeting for pupils who thought they might get into Oxbridge until my German teacher had asked me why I hadn’t gone down to the meeting in the headmaster’s study. I dreamed that I’d gone into his office, as a grown man (and he was still the age he had been 45 years ago), and told him I’d been wrong to hate him, and that he’d actually done the right thing by challenging me in the way he did. And I put into his hands book manuscripts and lists of achievements, and he’d leaned back and cried because I’d finally thanked him. I don’t really know how to interpret that dream. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the fact that I often see myself as manipulative and thoughtless. Perhaps it’s not about that headmaster and me, but rather about myself in his position and being thanked by the people around me for things that I’ve done. Or another configuration of my dreadful relationship with my father. Whatever it is, I woke up feeling relief that another issue from my past had seemingly been resolved.

Whenever the sun disappears behind the clouds, my body is invaded by coldness. Even though my office was 26C yesterday afternoon, I still felt cold. And too hot. My acupuncturist has recommended I have a hot water bottle against my lower back all the time because it’s so cold it’s blue to her eyes. I haven’t got round to that yet. I will look for a heat pad, although all this makes me feel like an invalid. Patience is not one of my virtues. I don’t suffer myself gladly, nor do I make the time to focus on that part of self-care, the one where I have to physically look after myself. I always think it’s wasted time. I spent 20 minutes after my shower yesterday contorting myself into a shape that would allow me to reach my neglected toe nails (TMI, I know, but it’s relevant) and turn them from claws back into something resembling something attached to a human rather than a vulture. It didn’t particularly make me feel any better about myself; I just looked at the clock and registered another 20 wasted minutes. I don’t think maintenance of anything has ever been my forte. I just can’t be bothered. Explain that to me, Richard.

There’s a list of things to do in the notebook on the desk in front of me. Lots of work stuff, including the call I forgot about last week, cricket club stuff, volunteering stuff, moving books from one platform to another to make them more easily accessible, book marketing stuff. The list doesn’t have “writing” on it, though. It should have, really. I’m just reading King’s Misery and just over 100 pages in think it’s an allegory of Writers’ Block. I haven’t got that right now. I just have a lot to do which distracts. The list doesn’t have on it to do that Goethe translation that I was going to do over a week ago, doesn’t have explicitly on it to look for that missing character in The Mortality Code, nor to do more on Aggie. Funny that L, whom I wrote about yesterday, and M, whom I live with, read this blog, but not the Aggie pieces. Maybe she’s irrelevant. I don’t think she is, but the further in I get, the more things I have to remember, and the more things I forget, and the more I beat myself up about always writing material which needs research. Oh, for that plotless book I dream about (except I never dream about it in my sleep otherwise I would have transcribed the sleep dream into the book).

Time. Time. Time. Time for me to move south and be permanently in the warm, in the heat.



Robert walks past them all, tall and fearless and sad. ‘Come,’ he says. ‘It’s quite normal for me to play for people. It’s what I do, after all. Now.’

Aggie’s not far behind him, fascinated as she is by his alternating demeanour of knowingness and dark despair somewhere deep down, the abyss behind his eyes. his worry for the woman he loves, has always loved, who has spent half a life time with someone else, someone she may not even love, someone she may hate, someone whose destruction she has craved since she first found out he wasn’t the man she thought he was. And Robert, left behind, stepping to one side, sitting in the dark nooks of history with his hands bound, and his innate British politeness keeping him silent.

The walls of the house, every single one of them, is covered in paintings. Large ones, small ones, medium-sized ones. Hung in no particular pattern, many of them not even straight, just a chaos of art fixed over wood panels and plaster where no wood panels are. Painting after painting after painting.

Robert slows down briefly, to be next to Aggie. ‘I can see you understand,’ he says. ‘Most people don’t. You have to have loved and been left to understand. You have to yearn to understand.’ He nods without waiting for her to answer, walks through into the room and crosses to the black grand piano, scuffed and scruffy, a pile of yellow paper sitting on the music stand above the keys. He sits down, pulls his jacket from under him, and hits the middle C. And then his hands glide across the black and white tapestry of the piano, his long fingers stroking the keys, the white hairs between each knuckle catching a sliver of the light from above and dancing with the joy the music infuses into his veins. And then he starts to sing ‘In a world where people walk in darkness, let us turn our faces to the light, to the light of God revealed in Jesus.’ He doesn’t look at them, stares instead at the sheaf of paper in front of him, then closes his eyes, opens them again and stares at the paintings on the wall opposite hm. ‘Let us turn our faces to the light.’

All of them are spellbound. Aggie sees them all stand stock still, feels her heart beating up into her throat. For he, Robert has the most perfect voice, and his face is overcome by a look of calm and peace that makes everything else it has said to her seem like centuries ago, seem like tiny waves on a huge calm ocean.

‘Though the shadows linger all around us, let us turn our faces to the light.’ He plays another five beats of chords, finishing with a last peaceful lingering note, and lifts his hands from the piano. ‘Before you think otherwise, I didn’t write the words,’ he says. ‘I just wrote this particular tune because I thought it suited the words. Bishop Robert Willis wrote the words. He’s obviously more clever than I am.’ He gets up, slowly. ‘No need to applaud.’ He bows and laughs. ‘Well, that’s kept me happy for another day.’ He looks at them again. ‘Why so serious? It’s not really a contradiction for a Christian to have been a spy, and to have fathered a child out of wedlock.’ His eyes are alive again. ‘If anything, it makes total and absolute sense.’

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