Richard Pierce

Life, Politics, Writing

Day 189

Today has just been one thing after another, with spreadsheets not tallying, VPN failures, worries about children, a seemingly unending flood of emails, simultaneous phone calls, etc etc. But I am here now, and the day is moving to an end of sorts, and I’ve finally found a bit of time to sit down and focus. Still not the same as sitting on the sun lounger in the shade of G’s caff, and listening to the burbling voices around me, and watching the people.

I’ve come round to thinking, just now actually, that the two weeks of writing in Crete were akin to the old days when I could sit in coffee shops and smoke and write and watch people. That it’s actually the act of watching people that helps me to write rather than sitting in this sterile office (as in there being no other people around), and trying to think of words. The thing is, the way someone you’re watching bends over, or the way someone moves a leg, or the way they gesture when they speak, or a certain inflection, even of words you don’t understand, from over your shoulder, or the way a wave its the shore, or a gust of wind pushes a wave or a tree or an object – all these things can create new word patterns in your head, can make you suddenly link two or three seemingly unconnected words and turn them into a new sentence. In this office, in front of a big screen, none of that applies. I can hear the odd pigeon sound outside, but other than that nothing. And the thing about having written on a phone screen is that your peripheral vision can pick up all these other visual cues while you’re actually writing. I don’t really know why I’ve never thought of that before.

Radio was fun this morning, if only because it distracted me from some of the less positive thoughts I was having. And is was lovely to have live interactions with people listening again. It was pretty exhausting standing up for three hours to do the show, after effectively three weeks of sitting on my backside, but that just goes to show how good standing up to do things actually is for you. Tomorrow is Radio Stradbroke Music Day, so I’ll be wending my way down there (although I can’t stay for the whole thing), and then maybe I can refocus properly on what I’m trying to achieve (have to achieve) both on the day job front and on the writing front. And maybe catch some of all that breath I’ve lost over the last three days of non-stop activity and worry. Having my first Zoom with Colonel L in 3 weeks has helped, too. He always manages to put things in perspective for me. And hopefully, I shall be able to read his latest letter (which was waiting for me when we got back on Tuesday night) at leisure, because a letter is a gift, and not something to be rushed.

A final note on the politics I spoke about yesterday – my instinct has been proven right, and many people have now finally realised that we are in a situation where an unconstitutional coup is a clear and present danger.



‘I think it’s that old-looking Nissen hut over there,’ Lilibet says as they turn on their heels. ‘And the key to it is probably on that bunch.’

‘We may not need a key if it’s in the same state as the one we were just in.’

‘Best not to leave a trace, though, eh?’

‘Yes, you’re right.’

They approach the semi-circle of the hut.

‘It’s bigger than the one with the Vampire in it,’ Lilibet says.

‘More floor space,’ Aggie says. She stops in front of the door, looks round, shuffles the keys on the bunch. stops at one that looks a likely candidate. She feels like a prison warder. Did the mentor feel that surge of power when she locked the girls into their respective rooms, or when she chose which ones she’d take out on missions to kill their friends? The key fits, the door pushes open without squeaking, and she lets herself and Lilibet in, carefully closing the door behind them.

It’s cool and dry in here, and the entire floor space is more or less covered in spare parts of planes, hoists, and half-assembled airframes for at least three or four different aircraft.

‘Do people really spend all their time in here fixing up old planes?’ Aggie says.

‘From what I remember most of them are volunteers, and do it at weekends or take days off work.’

‘To get away from their families, I suppose,’ Aggie says.

‘That’s not very charitable.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘Sorry. Maybe I’m just jealous that they do have families to run away from.’ She carries on walking, touches bits of machinery and planes with her hands inside her sleeve. ‘It smells like classic cars, as well.’ She stands up straight. ‘Why would I say that? I can’t remember ever having driven…’ She’s inside her head again. A sunny day. After being saved. She’s in a fast car with no top, and the roar of the engine loud as the mentor pushes the car to go ever faster. The growl of the car thrills her, and the landscape passes by her at what seems like a greater speed than she has ever experience. The road stretches out ahead of them, and she sees the mentor’s taut fingers rest on the gear-stick where there’s a switch of some sort. And just when she thinks they’ve reached the fastest they can go, she sees the mentor’s thumb flick at the switch, and the car gives a sudden lurch as the engine whines, and they are pushed back into their seats, and the car goes even more quickly, and the road seems too short for them. The mentor looks across at her and laughs, and the wind is in her grey hair, and her eyes manic. Where they were going, Aggie doesn’t know or recall, just the sudden excitement and fear of speed, and the smell of the fresh air and petrol and oil and age.

‘What?’ Lilibet says.

‘You’re the only one who’s ever noticed that I have these flashbacks,’ Aggie says. ‘How do you do it?’

Lilibet shrugs. ‘I don’t know. You just seem to stop, and everything around you does, too.’

‘But usually I have really long memories in a microsecond, and I can carry on doing other things outside, and the world just keeps on doing what it does.’

‘Maybe your anomaly is catching.’ Lilibet smirks. ‘What did you see?’

‘Just the mentor and me in a fast old car with overdrive.’

‘Do you know what make?’

Aggie shakes her head. ‘Not yet. Red bonnet with raised part where presumably the engine is a bit outsized.’

‘Sounds like a Triumph GT6.’

‘My turn to ask you how you’d know that.’

‘A friend of mine had one. Cool car.’

‘Old things are cool. And usually much more attractive and practical than new ones.’ Aggie sidesteps a particularly old and dilapidated-looking airframe that seems to be held together by nothing more than rust. She scratches her head, kicks at the concrete floor. ‘This all makes no sense. It’s not exactly sterile, is it?’ She runs the back of her hand along the metal frame, looks at it. ‘There’s no dust.’

‘Should there be?’

‘It doesn’t look like it’s been worked on for an age.’

‘That could just be because it’s old.’

‘Maybe.’ Aggie steps into the frame, lifting her legs up high so she doesn’t knock against the metal struts. She bends down in what would be the body of the plane. ‘Look at that,’ she says, puts her hand on a part of the floor and pushes down. It springs back up, now at an angle. ‘A door, a secret door.’ She pulls it up, and lights come on automatically in the walls of the sloping corridor she’s now uncovered. ‘It looks like we’re going on another adventure.’




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