Richard Pierce

Life, Sport

Day 154

Depression is a pernicious disease. There is no catalyst or cause for it. It just comes and goes. The day before yesterday (which I wrote about yesterday), I crossed a road (having dutifully waited for the green man, and walked past a big school near the DIY shop I was going to. My mind, there, at that precise moment, said to me “Hang on, you’re happy.” And I was. Half an hour later I wasn’t, and yesterday’s blog tells the story of that. And I was still in that space yesterday, that dark place, where there don’t seem to be any doors, no rungs to any ladders to climb out, never mind no ladders. But then A asked me if we’d do what we’ve planned to do for an age – to go up to Sprowston Recreation Ground, where there are grass tennis courts that are free to use, and knock some tennis balls around. And so we did. Partly just because we could (and it was happily deserted up there), partly because A is just as intent on testing out the health of my back (being our resident sports biologist and sports psychologist) as I am. We walked up there, played for 90 minutes ad walked back. I was stiff after that, and my back a bit sore, but I felt so much better, especially in my head. But I am lucky in that most of the time my depression isn’t as severe as many others, that it doesn’t confine me to dark rooms and my bed, that it doesn’t, most of the time, inhibit me physically. Lying on my bed afterwards, after my shower, doing my stretches, I reflected once again on cricket and its effect on my mental health, and once again came to the conclusion that I’ve done the right thing not playing yet this year (if at all), and that being able to take the time to reflect on this, and to not feel beholden to my favourite game is a sign of maturity and self-care. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss it, but that’s actually by the by.

This morning found me sore and stiff still, which is fine, and I treated myself to a double espresso after breakfast. I do have to admit that the double cup isn’t as stylish as the single tiny cup, so I’ll be back to that tomorrow. And not stylish for the sake of the outside observer, but stylish from my own perception’s point of view, that I want to sit in the garden with my roll-up and a cup, the shape of which pleases my eye, and the weight of which pleases my hand. That’s what I mean. Because having something that pleases your sense of aesthetics is just as much self-care as doing something that’s good for you, making decisions (and being able to make those decisions) which are positive for you. That’s what matters.

I write this with Wolf Alice’s The Last Man on Earth (Lullaby Version) on very loud. It pleases me. I played a load of loud music on my Radio Stradbroke show this morning, starting off the show proper with The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen and Anarchy in The UK. That’s how to mark this jubilee, the one that marks the haves out from the have-nots even more clearly than ever. The rich on a balcony, and the “common people” down in the dust. I had meant to write a poem to mark it, but I haven’t got round to it. Maybe later today or tomorrow.

As usual, my fingers have found more words to type out than my brain thought it had. That is my blessing.



Even before she opens the door again, even before she puts her face back on, Aggie can her the sirens. She breathes out, just the once, gathers herself, and strides back out into the hall. Katharina now has her arms around Marit, sitting next to her on the floor, the bullets still hitting the door and achieving nothing.

‘It’ll stop in a second,’ Aggie says. ‘Once they hear the sirens, too, all the way up there.’

Robert’s back here, too. ‘Martin’s lot,’ he says. ‘Not proper police.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘It’ll distract them nonetheless. How many of these bloody automatons does Valentine have?’

‘He could have a whole army of them by now for all we know,’ Martin says.

‘Well, this time, we’ll take one alive,’ Aggie says. ‘Not give him the chance to realise we’ve got it. No self-destruct this time.’ She checks all her pockets, double-checks her calf sheath for the stiletto. Everything’s there. ‘And don’t wish me good luck. I don’t need it.’

‘You’re not going out there on you own,’ Anna says, throws her arms round Aggie.

Aggie shrugs herself free. ‘I am. You stay here and do the protection. And even if Martin and his lot turn up, do not let them come after me.’

‘So much for it being safer here,’ Katharina says.

Aggie shrugs again, pushes her rage back into the pit of her stomach where it will be useful rather than let loose on an old grandmother and her naïve grand-daughter. ‘I’ll be back as soon as I can.’ She disappears into the study where she remembers there’s a window that the lights from the street and the reflection of the Minster floodlights can’t reach, a window that looks out over the front garden, behind the black reilings, but where no-one will be able to see her. She opens it with out a sound, only just wide enough for her bulk to ease out, drops to the ground as soon as she’s outside, leaps over the fence into the garden next to it, makes her way on all fours to the edge of it, just outside of the pools of light. Sure enough, the bullets have stopped. She calculates the angle, decides the shooters must be in the main tower, all the way up there, that they must have found their way up there on the inside. She’ll do it from the outside. She rounds the octagonal Chapter House, looking for footholds on these ancient outside walls, some where with an angle so complex and distorted they won’t be able to see a dark shadow racing up it. She finds one, over eight feet up, jumps once, reaches out her right arms, clamps her hand into it, pulls herself up with the ease of the practiced, and races up the wall, no stopping her now, hands over feet, legs and arms working in unison. If anyone could see her they’d think she was doing this on a horizontal film set, not on a vertiginous vertical smooth wall. Her breaths stay slow, and she feels her strength rise from inside here, enjoys the gusts that barrel in from the East, that would throw anyone other than her off the wall. She smiles without relaxing, revels in the freedom of doing something only she can do.

Below her feet she can see the smudged outline of of the spiked roof of the Chapter House. Sliding along the stone balustrade now, boot next to careful boot, she looks for some way in to the tower. She’s level with the bell-ringing chamber now, the plan in her head as if she’s always had it in there. She pushes against the wooden shutters where she sees a weakness, catches the crumbling wood before it can fall inwards and warn anyone inside of her presence, lands lightly on the wooden floor, a line of footprints dragging their way through the dust. One person only, unless they walked in each other’s footprints. She does follow the footprints, even though her boots are so much bigger than the original ones, pushes herself against the wall when she hears footsteps, calm footsteps, the sure sign of a confident retreat. She lets the shadow pass by her, detects a perfume that a man would not wear. One of her arms snaps out of the dark and grabs the shape by the neck, fingers pressing hard onto the one pressure point that won’t cause alarm to the one she’s attacking, nor alert their controller to anything being amiss. The pressure point that leaves the eyes open and does nothing more than cause paralysis. The shadow freezes mid-step.

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