It’s a year to the date that we moved from Stradbroke (the old village as I now call it) to Norwich. And, for some reason, I am running late this morning, although I got up earlier than usual because M has had to go into the office today.
Yesterday, I understood why I had given up coffee for 14 years. After working in the morning, I had to travel down to the old village to tie up some loose ends, and then back to Diss to pick up my new varifocals, and then back up here. A wearisome trip in that the traffic was awful both ways, that the bakeries in Diss had all just about sold out of something I wanted to have for lunch before starting the last part of the trip home, and that the car, even with the windows down, was very hot. But it was lovely to see some old friends again (not been down there since just before Christmas last year). So, when I got home just after 4pm, I gave in to the craving and had my second espresso of the day. And it did make me feel slightly woozy and hyper. And didn’t really set me up too well for my 5k walk that I had to do, as it was Long Walk Day (for me, anyway). So, I’ll be back to only having the one cup a day, I think, and I have had it already.
R commented on yesterday’s post how unusual it was for a man to have no agenda when writing a poem for an unknown woman in a restaurant in France. I will dig out that poem and put a picture of it up, on the original paper menu we used in that restaurant (I wrote two copies of it, even then being aware of posterity, I suppose, in my youthful vanity which still lasts now). I just hope, as I hope whenever I think of that woman, that it made her smile and that it somehow became a part of her life, and that she looks at it in her middle age now (I think she would be the same age as me) and remembers the day some odd-looking unshaven boy with too much hair and skinny jeans dropped an unsolicited piece of paper with a French poem on her table.
We must remember that our lives extend their tendrils into other lives, too. There is not really any such thing as splendid isolation, especially not nowadays. And in many ways that is a good thing. We grow, we grow. And not just older.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 82
Aggie doesn’t rush into the house when the silence extends into multiple seconds, detects no danger, not from the outside, not from inside. She looks across the cobbles, through the yellow light of the street lamps and the floodlights on the Minster, smiles across at the others still standing inside the open door, a false smile she doesn’t know the origin of, her face pulled into an unfamiliar shape, unfamiliar to her, and devoid of the feeling in the pit of her stomach that a smile should bring. If only she could find the art of happiness she was thinking of yesterday evening. Was it really only yesterday?
‘I know you’re out there.’ Robert’s voice, strong as ever, educated as ever. Bordering on the supercilious. But always with a melody in it. ‘You might as well come in.’
Aggie takes a few quiet, small steps into the house. It still feels warm, although the door has been open for several long minutes. It hasn’t changed from the welcoming home it appears always to have been. Grace and favour houses don’t always feel like home.
‘Come on,’ he says, a tinge of impatience now.
She walks into the piano room. The box is on the piano, next to the music stand, on top of the piles of music notations, next to the array of pencils in different colours, the lid open.
‘I found a key that fitted,’ Robert says, sitting ramrod straight on the piano chair.
‘I heard,’ she says.
‘You’re an impossibility.’
You’re an impossibility. That old hated voice again. When she’d been leaving? And they had been helpless in their wheelchair, withered arms too weak to even move it forwards an inch, never mind strong enough to bar the way out of that room now decaying with the stench of the final illness? Aggie shakes her head. ‘I aim to please,’ she says, dredges some light-heartedness up from where she doesn’t know.
‘You should have been a spy,’ Robert says, a sudden smile illuminating his drawn face, the double chin gone for now. ‘Maybe you should apply.’
‘They won’t take foreigners.’
‘You would then?’
She shakes her head. ‘I’m not a joiner of things.’
‘And yet you’ve joined this little gang together.’
‘That’s by accident, not by design.’
‘For a foreigner you’re very articulate.’
‘I’m just a good learner.’ Her accent creaks.
‘I don’t think you fool me.’
‘I’m not trying to fool you.’
‘I didn’t mean to offend you,’ he says, his voice gentle. ‘Perhaps there are things about yourself that you don’t yet know.’
‘Many things, I think. Many blanks.’
‘They will stop being blanks,’ he says, and lifts his hands up so she can see them. A single sheet of white paper, not the parchment of romantic purple novels. ‘It’s a note.’
‘So I see.’
‘They seek her here, they seek her there.’ The paper rustles in his shaking hands. The illness again. ‘They seek her every bloody where. Is she in heaven, or is she in hell, that damned Cassandra, wish her well.’ He looks up from the paper. ‘And that’s all there is.’