London. Early morning. An aeroplane overhead every couple of minutes. I do remember it being like this, when I did this regularly every other month, being away from home overnight because meetings went on late and it was more time-effective to stay here and work late and then early again the next morning to get everything out of the way rather than catch a train home and not get back till 1 or 2 a.m. The irony, this time round, and it’s the irony of a luxury gone, is that I found out yesterday that my favourite cafe just down the road, which stayed open throughout the lockdowns, actually closed down a month ago, so I will need to find somewhere else to get a pastry and some coffee for my breakfast. See what I mean about luxury? I am one of the lucky ones, right now.
I scribbled this down last night:
and out into the wild again
swathes of maskless
pushing against the current
a river of people
i miss home
the quiet claustrophobia
of it and its predictability
regular bed times
no chance of excess
above the london streets
traffic gone now deeper
than before life was
locked down for good reason
with the truth
i miss home
the comfort of the hated
sofa the wine in
the fridge the tea
the others drink
this is an empty crowd
here in a london back street
the moon gone from the
relatable pic i was about
all this movement
it’s too much
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 88
Robert tells of the lights going out, of the deathly hush, of Aggie leaping at a familiar shadow and finding nothing but a box appeared out of nowhere.
Martin frowns. ‘The things moving around the crypt and undercroft have always been a worry,’ he says. ‘I’ve watched the CCTV over and over again, and there’s nothing I can see to suggest it’s mechanical rather than supernatural.’
‘So you’re another subscriber to this idea that it’s the work of the Devil?’ Zav says.
‘It has to be,’ Martin says, jaw set firm. ‘The interesting thing, and stop me if you’ve said this already, Robert, is that it started when the renovations began, and when the clerics started arguing with each other about what it was they were actually doing and who would take the glory for it.’
‘Ach, glory,’ Robert says.
‘You know it’s true,’ Martin says. ‘The didn’t just disturb whatever it is down there, but they became just like those Jesus threw out of the temple.’
‘Then shouldn’t you be saying that these mysterious happenings are the work of God rather than the Devil?’ Katharina says. ‘Would the Devil have cared about the abuse of the temple? He’d have encouraged it, surely.’
‘Hm.’ Martin leans back in his chair. ‘I’d never thought about it that way before. Had you, Robert?’
‘I try not to think about it at all,’ Robert says, pours himself another glass of wine, passes the bottle round. Only Aggie doesn’t have more.
‘Head in the sand as usual,’ Martin says.
‘Maybe so,’ Robert says. ‘But I can’t bear to think what really might be going on down there, on my doorstep. And it’s not really important. I think Cassie planted the damn box there and set up some sort of thing to make a holograph or something of herself.’
‘Hologram,’ Marit says. ‘Like the ABBA concerts later this year.’
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, my girl,’ Robert says. ‘But I’m sure it makes sense to someone more modern than me.’
Marit shakes her head. ‘I think this old duffer thing is just an act you put on to make people think you’re a lot less clever than you really are.’
Martin raises his glass. ‘True, that. … Anyway, the box.’
‘Just a note saying she thought it was best for me to go back to Norwich because there were things there for me to find.’
‘Genuine?’ Martin says.
‘We both think it’s her handwriting,’ Robert says.
‘Do you have it?’ Martin says.
‘We burned it,’ Robert says. ‘The best thing to do.’
‘You always were an impetuous young fool,’ Martin says.
‘You flatter me,’ Robert says.
‘And we’re just supposed to hang around up here while she goes back?’ Marit says.
‘It’s safest that way,’ Robert says.
‘No-one’s attacked us for at least twelve hours,’ Zav says, smiles.
Martin ignores him. ‘And no indication as to where she might be?’
‘I assume she’s making her way to Moscow overland,’ Robert says. ‘Sneak over the border somewhere.’
Martin sighs. ‘It’s been over half a century since I was there.’
Robert doubles up laughing. ‘And you miss it, you old country gent, do you?’
‘Nothing wrong with that, is there?’ Martin says.
‘But you hated it intensely,’ Robert says. ‘That’s why you defected.’