Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 198

While I’ve been sitting on my backside most of the day editing and uploading the last three weeks of Radio Stradbroke podcasts, M has been busy and practical and has laid some of the paving slabs at the back of the house so that the cats can comfortably use the new cat flap, and so we’ve got something other than the dust bowl of Kolkata to step on when we come out of the French windows to the extension. All very middle-class and privileged, I know, and I am aware of how lucky we are to be able to do these things. How romantic a visit to the DIY shop is on a Sunday afternoon!!!!

We had originally planned to go to the DIY shop yesterday after my Radio Stradbroke show, but a very dear artist friend, Sarah Luton, messaged me during the show to say she was in Norwich town centre painting, so we went down to see her. M hadn’t seen her for 29 years, and I hadn’t seen her for 10 years or so, apparently, although I thought it was only 5 or so years. We have two very large and wonderful paintings by Sarah in our living room and what is to become the library, as well as probably the most treasured thing in our house, a drawing of M on your wedding day, as well as numerous drawings of the cats who lived with us when we lived in Newbury, and she lived half a street down from us. She’s fabulous, and so very very lovely. Go have a look at her stuff and buy some.

Of course, all M’s practicality has a sort of counterproductive effect on me, because I spend an awful lot of time (too much time) on kicking myself for not being more practical (and that makes me feel very zeta male, although that shouldn’t really bother me), and feeling very lazy. I mulled this while I went round Mousehold Heath on my walk earlier (95% of which was in the shade, because I treat heat and sun with respect). And I do know part of it is because I find practical things very boring – doing of any kind, in fact, being the laziest man on the planet. A very rich patron would be just the job for this poet – ha!

One thing I do need to do more of – and I’ve been meaning to do more of it since 2016 but got derailed by the ridiculous illegal Brexit referendum, since when 90% of my social media activities have to do with politics (maybe I should have been more vociferous before then and it might not have happened) – is to promo my books more. Writers nowadays need to be very active in marketing, which inevitably detracts even more from being creative (and I’ve written about this on many many occasions, so won’t bore you with it all again).

The weekend is drawing to a close – another weekend gone where I feel we’ve not rested enough, not done enough, not lived enough. Same old story. It’s middle-class angst, and the fear of mortality, really.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 151

The pictures in her head won’t go away, even as she’s running down the roads with Lilibet in her arms to get back to the car in the shore car park. Images of Lilibet lifeless in her arms, of blood seeping between her fingers, of Valentine standing over them both, grinning like a maniac, his hands full of knives. And as he releases the last one, the one aimed directly at Aggie’s heart, he screams that she owes him everything, that he’s the one who made her the warrior she is, and that death is the only punishment traitors deserve. Even when she puts Lilibet down gently on the tarmac, unlocks the car, and jumps in, starts it up, speeds away before Lilibet can even get her seatbelt on.

Silence. Aggie drives like a mad woman, speeds back down southwards, her senses alert to everything that surrounds them. Eyes and ears awake to the possibility of ambush, of police cars, of other cars. She stares straight ahead, teeth pressed together, oblivious to anything but the need to get back to York as quickly as possible. She has thought of the possibility that Martin’s car is tracked, of all sorts of possibilities, from sensors measuring the weight in the seats, to a simple chip showing Valentine where the car is, to any of a myriad of other possibilities, and her brain won’t stop turning over those possibilities, while she weaves her way through the increasing traffic, adopting the same posture she’s always taken when she doesn’t want people to notice her.

Lilibet sits next to her, eyes out of the side window, watching the landscape speed by. She slumps in her seat. ‘Have I done something wrong?’

Aggie takes one hand off the wheel and puts it on Lilibet’s leg. ‘No.’ She searches for words she can’t find. ‘Never. I’m just lost in this whole thing. I need to do this, I need to do that. I have no idea how everything fits together. Maybe I need to go back to Norwich. Maybe Cassandra will be back in York when we get there. And maybe not. And then, in either case, what do I do?’

‘It’s not up to you to save the world, if it needs saving.’

‘It’s always needed saving. It will always need saving.’

‘By others, surely?’

‘We can’t always leave everything to someone else.’

‘Then we’ll save it together.’

‘I’m afraid to lose you,’ Aggie says, squeezes Lilibet’s thigh, puts her hand back on the wheel, stares ahead with renewed intensity.

‘But you won’t.’

‘Things don’t work like that. Just because we say something’s not going to happen doesn’t mean it won’t. Just like if we say something definitely is going to happen it doesn’t always happen.’

‘We’ve done alright so far.’ Lilibet’s voice doesn’t rise. Aggie thinks it’s the most gentle voice she has ever heard.

‘One day.’

‘One day is all it takes. One day at a time.’

Aggie smiles through the windscreen. ‘You’re right. of course.’

‘I didn’t think you were afraid of anything.’

‘I’m afraid of everything,’ Aggie says. ‘That’s why I’m the way I am.’

‘Take me to see your cathedral.’

‘Haven’t you ever been to Norwich?’

‘No,’ Lilibet says. ‘And now I want to go. So you can show me the cathedral does still exist after all the lights have gone out.’

‘Perhaps that’s what I’m afraid of most,’ Aggie says. ‘All the lights going out.’

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