Richard Pierce


Day 129

Day job has had to be priority since I got up, so am a bit late with this for a week day. So, in haste…

M and I went to a garden centre yesterday so that she could build some protective chicken fire cages for her fledgling vegetables. Being the impractical man I am, I managed to puncture one of my fingers on the chicken wire just getting it out of the car. She built the cages without incident. Figures. How I managed to get such a practical and pragmatic woman to fall in love with me is still beyond me. 16 days until we’ve been married for 31 years.

I did my first Nordic walk for ages yesterday in an attempt to get myself anywhere near normal fitness again. It felt like I couldn’t get into a rhythm at all. I blame Norwich’s sloping and uneven pavements. That’s my greatest dislike about this place – those damn pavements. I still managed 5k in 44:23 and with a relatively intact back, so I suppose that’s ok.

The sun shines. The world turns. Cruelty everywhere. Maybe that’s why I got so hung up on memories the last few days. The real world now is very different to the real world then. Those days, despite the heartbreak, seem gentler, somehow.

I am having real trouble with these specs, but need to persevere with them for at least another four or five days. Eyes take a long time to adjust.

I know these are banalities.

The one thing I miss about being single is that I could sleep without closing curtains or blinds. It’s a small sacrifice.

Back to the luxury of just one tiny cup of espresso.

There are a million words in my head, and not enough time to write them.



The nave echoes their footsteps back at them, from around, from above. Robert strides ahead, a man on a mission, and only Aggie can keep pace with him. When they reach the end of the nave, he ignores the huge main doors through which processions move into the Minster on holy days, moves to the right to the entrance that’s been adapted for wheelchair access, waits there impatiently for them all to catch up, unlocks the door which, despite being smaller than the others, is still heavy and dark, opens it just wide enough for them to exit one by one, ushers them through, and pulls it shut behind him, with an audible effort. Aggie doesn’t help him, knows he doesn’t want help, shields him from the others while he locks up.

‘Just a few more steps,’ he says, cheerfully. ‘Just over the road.’

They cross.

‘Here we are,’ he says, in front of the imposing old building, a facade of nooks and crannies and brick. ‘The Dean Court. This is where they used to keep us in the 19th century. A place for the clergy.’

‘You’re not really clergy, though, are you, Dad?’ Marit says.

‘Lay clergy, my dear,’ he says. ‘That still counts, doesn’t it?’

‘I suppose so,’ she says.

Robert puts an arm round her. ‘It doesn’t really matter, anyway, does it. I think this whole situation would be far more outrageous if I’d been a Catholic priest, wouldn’t it?’ He laughs, a tenor laugh to match his voice, once, deeply. ‘Let’s get in the warm.’ He pushes the door open, walks in ahead of them. ‘Another lesson, by the way, Zav. The only time a gentleman doesn’t let a lady through a door first is when they go into any sort of drinking or eating establishment. A gentleman must always make sure the environment is suitable for the lady, and mustn’t let her go ahead on her own as she could be mistaken for being on her own.’

Zav grunts. ‘Bit old-fashioned if you ask me.’

‘I’m not asking you. I’m educating you,’ Robert says. ‘Now, are we all here?’ He looks round. ‘Good. Ah, he’s here.’

At the far end of the room, by the window, all alone behind two tables pushed together, an old man sits, looking at them attentively. He gets up as Robert approaches. ‘I thought you weren’t coming,’ he says, eyes twinkling. He looks at the others. ‘Glad you could make it.’ His gesture is wide-armed. ‘Please, sit.’

‘Some local difficulties, Martin,’ Robert says, squeezes into the chair opposite. ‘You know how things can be.’

‘The Muse, Robert, the Muse. I know. Very difficult being a creative.’

Robert raises an eyebrow. ‘Tell me you’re joking.’

‘I’m always joking,’ Martin says. ‘Even if it’s just playing games with the truth.’

Aggie decides to sit next to this unexpected dinner companion, slides easily into the chair next to him. ‘And you are?’

‘She speaks,’ Martin says, holds out his hand. ‘Martin Bride, entrepreneur extraordinaire, and Robert’s best friend. Welcome.’ He looks round the table, everyone now sitting down. ‘Do choose anything from the menu. My treat.’

‘That’s really not necessary,’ Robert says. ‘I was planning to pay for it all.’

‘It’s the least I can do,’ Martin says. ‘It’s not every day I get to entertain a little cabal of unknowns.’ He takes a sip of the glass of white wine in front of him, his fingers surprisingly well-manicured and free of wrinkles.

‘Who are you?’ Marit says prickly, sitting next to Robert.

‘Martin Bride, entre…’

‘I heard all that,’ Marit says. ‘I mean who are you really.’

‘Now that’s a difficult question, young lady,’ Martin says. ‘We all wear many disguises.’

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