Richard Pierce


Day 200

Two weeks since we got back from Agios Nikolaos. Which means we’ve been back for as long as were there. The attraction hasn’t faded, and probably never will. I am grateful for the fact that the two weeks we were there for didn’t seem to go by as quickly as the two weeks we’ve been back for. It reinforces my irrational and visceral view that there is something magical about that place, that there has to be something magical about that place. Yesterday, I started reading Zorba The Greek which I bought in a bookshop in AN after a long evening walk when M needed some more books, and I couldn’t resist buying Zorba and The Fratricides. When in Crete, do as the Cretans do. And Zorba is already proving a joy, a slightly dated joy, I guess, but a joy nonetheless. I was going to say odd how quickly life can change, but that’s not odd at all. It’s what life does to all of us.

The heat has been bearing down on us all today, and my timing is all out. I should have finished this by now, but got distracted by taking half-hourly breaks in the cooler house when it really just got too hot in here. I know I always talk about how I like the warmth, but I’m not talking about these apocalyptic temperatures, I’m talking about 18-20C at night and 25C during the day. Temperatures to live comfortably by. And today, of course, the thought crosses my mind again about that magic material I’m sure must exist or be inventable and affordable that stores all of summer’s excess heat and lets us keep it for the winter, and which has no adverse environmental impacts. Humankind is missing a trick somewhere, but then that’s possibly karma, because if you do something for profit and to exploit, nature won’t let you get away with it, not ultimately.

The evening is settling on the parched grass. Even the medlar trees look fried, despite getting regular water out of the watering can. The wind is blowing strongly into the wings of the brass garden mill (or whatever you call it) I got M for Christmas, and which she put together a week and a half ago. I keep asking myself how I could get it to generate electricity without disfiguring it, but I’ve not made the time to think about that either. So many things in my head. Too many thing, and I can’t find the compartments to lock up some of the less desirable things and thoughts. Maybe that’s a strength, and not a weakness.

Missing Bake-Off: The Professionals again, because my timing’s out. Hell, it’s only telly, not real life. But I like the judges’ accents and voices. They make me feel like the UK is still part of a greater better whole. We will be again, one day.



That’s when Aggie realises, with Lilibet’s half-conscious sigh, that she’s not making up this story as she’s going along, but that she’s actually finally remembering what happened before those days with the mentor, before the baby was killed, before she was bleeding out on the snow, before he used and abused her, before all that, back to when she was a child. She realises the little girl is her, and she sees herself walk into that kind woman’s house, and feels the pain when she tries to talk and the words won’t come out. The traffic fades, and she can see the village, and it could be any village in any war in any country. It could be a village at the border or Ukraine and Russia, a village in deepest Ukraine, in deepest Czechoslovakia, anywhere, somewhere, and she’s none the wiser for the words the woman speaks because, somehow, although she can understand the words, she doesn’t recognise the language.

Lilibet stirs.

Aggie keeps telling her story.

‘The woman, kind-faced, kind-eyed, led Agata to the bathroom at the back of the house, and filled the tub with water, water steaming, hot water, poured something into the water that smelled of fresh spring days, pulled a towel from a pile of towels on a shelf next to the tub, and put it on the old rickety chair next to the bath. “There’s no rush,” she said. “Just don’t drown. I’ll find some clothes and leave them just inside the door.” And then Agata was alone in the bathroom, in the steam, and she peeled all her sodden muddy clothes off her weary body, and climbed into the hot water which somehow was just the right temperature, and scrubbed herself all over until her skin felt raw, and sat there until she felt the warmth leaving the water.

‘She got out, dried herself, and as the steam cleared, she saw that on the spotless floor was a pile of clothes – trousers, socks, a shirt and a jumper. She put them on, didn’t even wonder why there was no underwear, felt clean and normal, although she couldn’t remember what normal actually was, because she could remember nothing before the moment she’d turned up in the village, as if from nowhere. She folded the towel and put it neatly on the rickety chair, and let herself out of the bathroom, and her breath was taken away by the scent of cooking, the like of which she’d never smelled before. She followed the scent, and the sounds of cooking, and found herself in a small kitchen, all wood-clad and warm.

‘”There you are,’ the woman said. ‘Sorry I didn’t have any girl’s clothes.” She nodded at what Agata is wearing. “Those were my boy’s when he was little. Before … before he died.” She took a deep breath. “And I never had a daughter, and never another child.” She shrugged. “These things are sent to try us.” Agata nodded, put her hand on her heart, smiled a shy smile, held out her arms as if to ask if there was anything she could do. The woman shook her head, kept stirring the pot. “I should tell you my name, although you can’t say it right now. It’s Petra.” She held out her hand, stiffly and formally. “Welcome to my home. It can be your home, too, if you want it to be. Until we know where you belong.” Agata took Petra’s hand, squeezed it as hard as she could, let go and pointed at the floor. “I think we understand each other,” Petra said. And Agata nodded, and smiled again.’

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