Richard Pierce

Life, Sport

Day 149

M and I watched Le Week-End last night, which (spoiler alert) despite its hopeful ending (and great acting) left me feeling a little deflated. Maybe that was in part due to Liverpool losing the Champions League final. But, as M rightly pointed out, football is just a game, and will always remain so, something that I woke up realising with increased emphasis, and realising also that I’d wasted time and energy being upset about it. And, reading the reports this morning, the Real Madrid goalie had a spectacular game, so, as a fully-committed member of the Goalkeepers’ Union, I am happy with that, especially as goalkeepers in general, and Courtois in specific, never get enough recognition (especially in England, actually – and perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise bearing in mind the xenophobia prevalent right now, and the everlasting arrogance of the English – another example of this being their insistence on fencing foil rather than epée along with all the rule ramifications, complacency and reliance on bent referees that particular discipline brings with it). There’s a whole book to be written about how the English don’t appreciate or respect cornerstones and touchstones in all sorts of contexts and settings, actually, but that’s for another day or another life-time. Talking of which, I’ve already christened the radio show Kimmy B and I are going to do in Stradbroke next Sunday The Citizen and the Anarchist, not that anyone knew that before I just wrote it here.

It’s very autumnal out there, and I have a long list of things to do yet today, which I shall once I’ve done this, had my Radio Stradbroke meeting, and had lunch.

Despite me saying that sport’s only a game, and nothing more (whilst maintaining and knowing that epée fencing is a martial art and always will be), I must admit to being concerned about a friend of mine who’s not doing brilliantly on the field of play right now, and part of me feels guilty for not sharing that field with him this year, but the spaces inside my head are more important right now, as is the necessity to have full confidence in my back again (and it is slowly getting there, although it was feeling a bit rugged yesterday). As part of a 3-mile walk yesterday, I stopped off at the local cricket ground (and stopped my stopwatch, just for the avoidance of doubt) and watched a game there for about 20 minutes. Oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly), I didn’t stand there wishing I was playing. I was entirely content just to watch, to analyse what was going on, and to appreciate skills of captaincy and of technique. The mark of me being an ex-player? Perhaps so. And that realisation was quite invigorating, to be honest.




‘You’re supposed to be in bed,’ he says when he sees her creep into the room.

‘So are you.’

‘It’s too empty.’ He looks straight at her, and strikes one last muffled chord. ‘Story of my life.’

‘You should stop feeling sorry for yourself.’ She doesn’t know where the words come from, or the confidence.

‘I know.’ He starts another song, something modern, something she vaguely recognises.

‘How do you keep the sound so low?’

‘That would be the celeste pedal in the middle,’ he says. ‘It means I can practice or compose at any time of day.’ He carries on with the tune.

‘Why don’t you write modern things like this?’

‘I don’t have the talent,’ His hands keep moving.

‘Sing the words.’

‘I couldn’t. They’re not mine.’

‘But they’re appropriate.’

‘I don’t have the voice.’

‘I’ll decide that.’

‘The guy who sings this is young enough to be my grandchild.’

‘I am surprised you like Harry Styles,’ she says.

‘Oh, I just like sad songs.’ He takes a deep breath, starts from the beginning, singing so lowly she can hardly hear him. His voice falters.

Aggie takes up from where he stopped.

Robert keeps playing until he reaches the chorus, where he joins in with Aggie, adding a harmony in a deep register. And then, just before he gets to a key change, he lifts his hands from the piano. ‘Enough,’ he says.

‘Do you write too many songs about her? Aggie says.

Robert smiles. ‘Of course. But they’re not in here.’ He taps his head with his index finger. ‘It would be too painful to carry them around with me all the time. Better to keep the hopeful hymnals in there, and to let them out into the wild. It wouldn’t do for an old man to start writing popular music sings.’

Aggie chuckles. ‘You can just say pop music.’

‘That would destroy the illusion of me being an old out-of-touch church composer who surely must be happy with a life of celibacy, restraint, and faith.’

‘You’ve never been happy, have you?’

‘Not really,’ he says. ‘Except in those very early days. But even then I always wanted more, more than fleeting happiness, something permanent, something that would last for eternity.’

‘You don’t know it won’t, and that’s not what faith tells you, is it?’

‘Oh, my dear,’ he says, and reaches out to where she’s sitting in the comfy chair next to the piano where he must sit and think and take naps when he’s not scribbling scores onto paper with innumerable multiple lines on it, pats her on the arm closest to him. ‘Faith is a multitude of things, You might even say that faith is a multitude of sins that cancel each other out in the sinning and the forgiveness that comes from whomever we might believe in, and from ourselves. The only problem there is that some of us can never forgive themselves, nor can they accept the forgiveness that our faith might offer us.’

‘Why would that be?’

‘You are a deep one,’ he says. ‘Aggressive attack tiger one moment, philosopher the next.’

‘I’m jus normal.’

‘That’s where you’re wrong, Aggie,’ Robert says. ‘There’s something extraordinary about you, something even I can’t fathom.’

‘But you’ve fathomed it more than the others,’ she says.

‘Ah.’ He sighs. But that’s only because, for some obscure reason, you’re allowing me to.’

‘Not consciously.’

‘Hm. I’m dubious about that.’ He gets up, and reaches for a decanter he must have brought with him when they had all gone upstairs. ‘One last libation? I have a very fine Tokaji here.’

‘But will you really go to bed after that? You need to.’

‘I think your friend Anna and that young upstart Zav will have finished giggling by then,’ he says, and pours two glasses of an amber liquid, and grins. ‘I’m surprised you and Zav didn’t…’

‘He’s not my type.’ She takes the glass. ‘Nobody is.’

He smiles at her. ‘Some day,’ he says. ‘Some day someone will be.’

She raises her glass to him. ‘But that day is not today.’

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