Richard Pierce


Day 144

As usual, I feel utterly exhausted after my 5E acupuncture. That’s why I’m posting this so late for a week day. It was my first treatment for a month (my practitioner has been away), and I got up this morning knowing I had to get a lot of work in before I left the house to get down there for 11am. After not sleeping well on Sunday night, I also knew that I’d probably be more tired than ever afterwards. It was an intense treatment – lots of moxa, lots of warmth, some needles in new places, some in old places, drifting in an out of consciousness in a room on my own, lots of images and thoughts wafting through me (with a needle in the middle of my forehead) without sticking (that’s the best way if your mind is crowded; just let them come and go, and drift past quickly; you can pick them up later). The realisation that it’s a two-way street; that my practitioner is grateful to me for asking for entirely 5E sessions, that I am grateful for having them, and better for them. A discussion about how many people shy away from 5E because of its inherent spirituality, for its veering into territory people either avoid or make fun of; a view into a different universe that can scare people, or which can give them occasion to make fun of people like me and reduce us to the tree hugger level of insult (which doesn’t touch me, to be honest; I believe in spirituality, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think other people shouldn’t; horses for courses; tolerance; all that). I like L – she is a serious practitioner with a humorous edge. I like what we gain from each other. And I need a spiritual connection to people who treat me.

Because the practice is over halfway into the city, I wandered down to the market after my session and treated myself to a huge bacon sandwich (on white bread, no sauce), and sat on the terrace in front of the Town Hall that looks down over the market to eat. I watched people, listened to conversation I probably shouldn’t even have been hearing. A part of the conversation “how has it got to this stage, where we’re permanently knackered; I thought we’d be past all that by now.” A snippet of the one person – a tall dark-haired woman in jeans and a loose-fitting cotton shirt wandering around the stalls looking for something, phone in hand, making a call after each stall she’s looked at, then returning to the stall just below where I’m sitting, apologising for interrupting two stall-holders’ conversation, disappearing into a fabric stall, having a long discussion, staring at her phone, nodding at the stall holder, saying thank you, leaving without anything, speaking into her phone again (though inaudibly to me), smiling, wandering off and not returning; my intuition was that she’s pregnant (whether or not she knows it yet, I don’t know). A snippet of other people – skinny young woman in crop top and tight white trousers browsing the outside of a vintage clothing stall with bored-looking bearded boyfriend; she wanders around the outside of the stall touching all the merchandise while he nods dutifully; then they disappear into the stall and don’t resurface before I leave. Third and final snippet – stall holders sitting round a table drinking tea and eating; others keep turning up and there are lots of hugs and kisses, male distant greetings, smiles, questions, raised voices; and it strikes me that folk will look at that tableau and get this romantic image of people just hanging around getting something for nothing, and nothing could be further from the truth. These pictures are consigned to permanence now, and may well find their way into some book or another that I have yet to write.

The sun is shining through those clouds that look like an oil painting. I called this picture “Earthly Constellations” when I took it an hour ago and 2 hours ago and sent it to the family WhatsApp group. There’s a poem in there somewhere, as there is in most things.

I will carry this tiredness through the rest of the day gladly.



Aggie, back downstairs, the lights all left on the curtains all left open, the invisible ghosts watching her, smiling at her, steps outside the house, closes the door as gently as possible, and locks it. There is an indescribable joy in her belly, a feeling that raises its wings up into her eyes, into her cheeks, into a smile. She’s back with Robert and the others in a fragment of time.

‘You didn’t take long,’ Robert says.

‘You didn’t tell me your house was haunted,’ she says.

‘I didn’t know it was.’

‘There was no-one in there. Just something, someone watching me. Benevolently.’ She hands the keys back to him.

‘Are you being serious?’ Zav says, his voice high-pitched.

‘Calm down, my boy, calm down.’ Robert moves his hands up and down in front of Zav’s face, palms down towards the ground. ‘No need to get hysterical.’

‘I’m not.’

‘Sorry, but you are,’ Anna says.

‘Of course, I couldn’t tell if anything was missing,’ Aggie says. ‘I don’t live there. But I couldn’t see the wall for frames, and the pile of paper on the piano looked no less high than it did earlier.’

‘Well, that’s something at least,’ Robert says. ‘If someone stole my music, my notes, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d be incomplete, I suppose.’ He gazes up at the sky. ‘But then I’m incomplete anyway, without Cassie.’ He sighs, stamps his foot. ‘Then let’s go and say hello to this ghost, and welcome it properly, and ask it why it hasn’t made itself known to me before.’

‘Perhaps it’s another of Cassandra’s tricks,’ Zav says. ‘Like the box.’

‘If that was a trick,’ Robert says.

‘Surely…’ Zav the goldfish.

‘Your voice is going all high-pitched again,’ Anna says. ‘Is that a trick they teach you at public school? To speak either in very low and slow registers to gain approval from other public school eminences, or to squeak agitatedly in a very high pitch to signal disapproval of something the public school ethos would decry either as useless or as something only the little people would take seriously?’

‘Why are you so anti?’ Zav says, and this time his voice rises two octaves.

‘Because … the state of this country, to start with,’ Marit says. ‘Don’t your type ever put two and two together? OR do you just look at it from the other angle…’

‘And which angle would that be?’ Zav says as Robert unlocks the door.

‘That for the rich two and two always make five, and that for the poor they make three because you lot have taken the other one,’ Marit says. ‘Privilege has its benefits, doesn’t it.’

‘I am on your side,’ Zav says, bends down so he doesn’t hit his head on the top of the door frame.

‘We know that,’ Katharina says, puts her arm round his skinny frame. ‘But you do leave yourself open to ridicule some of the time, with your squeaky little voice when you’re shocked, or when you fall back into those Establishment habits you thought you’d trained out of yourself. Don’t worry about it. Just be a bit more relaxed, and accepting. You’re in the real world now.’

‘Indeed,’ Robert says. ‘And the real world needs us all to share a decanter of port right this very minute.’

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