Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Life, Politics, Writing

Day 169

This morning is disappointingly cold and grey. It looks and feels and smells like it’s going to rain. I will need to go and change into some long trousers and socks before I start the radio. The temperature in the office is down to 23C. All very sad. I know that compared to what’s going on in the world this is nothing. I know that yesterday’s heat is because of climate change and that it’s a dangerous sign, just another step to the world heating up beyond what it can bear. But I can’t help liking, no not liking but loving, the heat, that I like nothing better than to sit in the shade when it’s hot enough to lounge around in the shade wearing shorts and t-shirt, being able to actually relax without worrying about my back, without thinking I need to steel my body against that insipid dampness and indifferent climate the English call temperate. That’s the thing here – the English complain about any climate that’s not their temperate. Heat – horrible. Proper cold – horrible. Fog, mist, damp, trees dripping with the unwanted moisture of the English weather – that’s all fine, delightful and lovely. No, no, no!

Today in 1928, Roald Amundsen disappeared and was never seen or heard of again. Disappeared in the frozen Arctic, trying misguidedly (and perhaps in an attempt to resurrect his fame) to help search for Nobile and his crew who had themselves disappeared in the Italia airship on their way back from the North Pole. Amundsen’s back story is interesting and mysterious, and one of these days I might release the parts of Dead Men I was asked to excise to make it more manageable for my publishers, those parts that try to shed a light on Amundsen and his love affair with Bess Magids, and his fight to escape the bankruptcy that threatened him, the bankruptcy he sought to escape from the day he boarded that Latham 47 prototype seaplane he disappeared on. The history of polar (and most other) exploration is full of the marginalia of forgotten and ignored women. I gave a lecture on this on board Amundsen’s Fram in 2012, about how the patriarchy has tried to besmirch the women involved with Amundsen and Scott, how the polar establishment tried to expunge them from the histories of their dead men (no pun intended; I just wrote that out of my head, but maybe that’s really where the title to that novel came from, from this sense of society defining women by their dead men). Those excisions totalled about 40k words. By the way, I’m not bitter about those excisions, because the book is snappier without them, but they deserve to have a place somewhere other than just on the margins of the story.

And that’s where this grey morning has led me to, with 40 minutes to go till I’m on air, to once again reflecting on how women’s power to influence history has over and over again been airbrushed almost out of existence by men, reflecting on how (and all generalisations are false including this one) history and the world could have been entirely different had men not been able to grab for themselves this unassailable position of power to run things, how the world might have been a much kinder place had women been involved more without having to pretend they were men. Because, look at powerful women in history like the evil Thatcher and the warring Cleopatra, and they have imitated man’s unquenchable thirst for power and destruction rather than following the instincts of empathy and peace.

What tangled webs humankind weaves. Webs it no longer has the capability of escaping from.




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