Richard Pierce

Education, Life, Politics, Writing

Day 184

Fourteen years and 5 months ago (not to the date), a very good friend of mine, T, died of cancer. I dreamed about him last night, that he’d somehow faked his death, that I met him and he denied who he was, and that, by the time I’d got M to come and confirm who he was, he’d disappeared. I don’t know what any of this means, of course, but I woke often in the night, and went back into the same dream, and finally woke late this morning with the feeling that everything I’ve done, everything I’ve written, on this holiday has no value. I tried to explain to M at breakfast that this was not overthinking, that this thought was not one I’d created deliberately, but that it had implanted itself in my mind of its own accord. I am now fighting it, chasing it out of my mind and body (which works so much more slowly when this happens), and I’m already feeling better. I’m using other rational voices at my disposal to help me with this. And, in reality, writing this thing every day is another tool I have to help me work through these sporadic and unpredictable episodes. Even if no-one reads it (although I do know that people do, and that makes me feel humble and grateful).

While sitting out late at Giorgo’s last night, M and I watched the local youths sitting on the sunloungers on the beach, watching stuff on their mobile phones, or gathered in circular groups just talking, and (once again with the proviso that all generalisations are false) remarking on how peaceful they were, how self-contained, and how there appeared to be no alpha male posturing, but just teenage girls and boys treating each other as equals. No vandalism, no alcohol abuse, no fighting, no shouting. And this is not a wealthy place in most parts. We found it refreshing and wondered why it’s not like this in the UK. And there are so many possible reasons for this, I’m not even going to start, because this post would have turned into a novel before I’d come to any sort of cogent conclusion. One central point, though, I think, is education, formal and informal, neither of which is adequately funded or supported in the UK for reasons best known to Tory governments over the last 50 years.

We have now had our pick-up time for Tuesday afternoon confirmed, and the first thing M said is that it will allow her to have another full day at the beach, though I have no idea how. She is, after all, more practical than I am. That’s the primary reason we’re still married.

It’s Sunday, so the locals are out in full force, except of course those who are working full pelt. The cafés behind me are full of the wonderful staccato of Greek, people chilling over coffee, people with the freedom to be where they want to be when they want to be. My brain has almost come to a total stop right now. Reality, the reality of the politics I’ll be going home to, is paralysing.


‘It’s this building right there,’ Lilibet says, pointing at the long building ahead of them.

‘I should have known,’ Aggie says. ‘Furthest away from anything. That’s why you chose this spot to get in as well.’

‘But the fence was intact.’

‘It’s three weeks since you were snatched.’

‘They’re struggling for cash. They wouldn’t have replaced it. Patched it up, maybe.’

‘So someone just walked in the front gates, found you, and drugged you.’

‘That’s the way it looks,’ Lilibet says.

‘I don’t like this. The feeling of the place, the whole link to my memories, the fact that it could even have been an inside job.’

By now, they’ve reached the back wall of the corrugated iron building. Close up, it’s huge, and stretches forwards much further than it looked from the fence.

‘They keep some old rare planes in here,’ Lilibet says. ‘And some of their repair projects. The other repair shop is closed to the public.’

Aggie paces along the rear wall of what’s big enough to be called a hangar. She kicks at the ground, stirs up some stones and dust. A small section of the wall clatters away from the structure and crashes to the ground. The noise loses itself in the distance, and no-one comes running. Aggie crawls in through the opening, and Lilibet follows, dragging the loose panel back against the wall.

They get up off their knees, stand on the concrete floor. Aggie scrapes her foot across the concrete. There is only a slight echo.

‘Can you remember where you were when it happened?’ Aggie says.

‘Over there,’ Lilibet says, points at the oddly-shaped silver aircraft that seems to take up most of the space, its red bulbous nose ill-matched with the rest of its sleek silver fuselage. ‘The …’

‘The De Havilland Sea Vampire,’ Aggie says.

‘How did you know that?’

‘It just popped into my head from nowhere,’ Aggie says, its specifications dancing in front of her eyes. ‘Sorry. I didn’t want to interrupt you. I couldn’t stop myself.’

Lilibet lifts her hands. ‘It doesn’t matter, honestly.’ She laughs, reaches out to Aggie. ‘I’m no great expert on these planes anyway. I just love the shape of this one. It’s like a flying catamaran.’

‘Yes, it’s very beautiful,’ Aggie says. ‘I’d love to fly it.’

‘You can fly?’

‘I think so,’ Aggie says. ‘But now’s not the time to try it.’ She walks up to the plane, reaches up to pat its left flank, enjoying the firm touch and dull sound of metal that meets her hand. ‘Whereabouts were you?’

‘In the cockpit,’ Lilibet says. ‘I wasn’t meant to be, but I just couldn’t resist, and there was no-one around. Or at least I thought there wasn’t.’

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