Richard Pierce

Life, Politics, Writing

Day 208

After two nights of not sleeping very well at all, partly caused by my despair at seeing summer pass so quickly, I slept almost too well last night. Probably because I’d come round to realising during the course of the day yesterday that acceptance was the best way to go, that fighting against the way my world was shaped was a useless waste of energy. My sleep was garlanded with veils of Greek letters and words, a constant stream of words I understood, and some I couldn’t understand, and a desperate reaching out for words that I don’t yet know. So far have I immersed myself in my Greek lessons, and that can’t be a bad thing, to be so suffused by a new language that I dream in it.

A year ago today, I was lying on my bed incapacitated by the worst back injury I’d had for twenty-odd years, plagued by the worst pain that I’d known for a long time. The anniversary is preying on me, because I just want to get through the day without collapsing with a bad back again. I know that sounds superstitious, but that’s how my mind works. And of course this is the day Stradbroke Cricket Club travel across to my old college in Cambridge to play against the Liverpool University Staff who are now on their 62nd annual tour of Cambridge (although the 60th didn’t happen two years ago because of covid-19). And today, more than on any other day, the realisation that I have retired from playing cricket hits home properly. Maybe it’s all these things combined which made me feel panic attacky this morning. M even offered not to go into the office because I was feeling so weird. But that’s passed, I think and hope.

I’m writing this in a very bitty way this morning. I’ve had a call with my GP about my foot injury, and am going in for an appointment on Monday. The practice is stretched very thin – I don’t blame anyone there; I blame the government for underfunding the NHS, and for taking more and more money out of it whilst lying to the public that they’re hiring more doctors and nurses than ever. And that is a lie. We’re 20k doctors light in the NHS, and we have a 50k deficit of nurses in the NHS. Hospitals are falling down due to lack of maintenance funding. The list goes on. And the personnel deficit is down to Brexit (EU nurses and doctors leaving the country), and down to the fact that NHS workers are still not getting a fair wage. The sooner we have a decent government the better. And the sooner the Labour Party stops talking rubbish like “Make Brexit Work,” the better. The UK needs to rejoin the EU if the economy is to have any chance of recovery, and if the country is to have any hope of surviving all the crises which are upon it right now.

Sleep to Greek to anxiety to cricket to politics. There’s a whole life in three paragraphs.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 161

Running along the streets, Aggie is surprised at Lilibet’s ability to keep up with her. She’d have thought that someone who’s spent most of her recent years looking after two young children would be out of shape, especially when having to keep up with her own huge strides. She tries to push away that tiny kernel of doubt from her ever-questioning idiotic mind, to focus on what’s needed. They clatter onto the bridge across the Ouse, rich with tourists and other unwanted obstacles, and race through the crowds, trying to attract as little attention as possible. Aggie’s adopted her usual bad posture she uses when she wants nobody to notice her, and she realises Lilibet’s quick light-footedness is allowing her to side-step people without them even having to move. She smiles to herself.

The sun reflects from the green water, and Aggie finds herself just wanting to stop, and hug Lilibet, to lean against the side of the bridge in a warm embrace rather than chasing yet another escapee.

‘Come on,’ Lilibet says. ‘We’re almost there.’ She sprints ahead even more quickly.

Aggie catches her up in two quick strides. ‘How are you still so fit?’

‘Lots of gym work. Lots of running along the roads before the sun’s up.’ Lilibet doesn’t even sound out of breath. ‘I missed the army a lot, and it was something to stop me thinking about the ex.’

Aggie says nothing, and keeps running until they get to the squat rectangular building that is the station. ‘Where the fuck is she?’

‘She may not be here.’

Their voices echo as the walk under the stone canopy that protects taxis and passengers from the rain and sun, and walk into the entrance hall. So many people milling around.

‘You’d think there wasn’t a pandemic on, wouldn’t you?’ Lilibet says.

‘We’ve got no bloody masks either.’

‘Can’t think of everything.’ Lilibet laughs. ‘Not in an emergency.’

‘It’s not even funny,’ Aggie fumes. ‘Where the hell is she?’ She stares up at the departure board. ‘Manchester? London? Edinburgh? Where would she go?’

‘London’s the most likely, isn’t it?’ Lilibet says. ‘Get a flight to Moscow.’

‘Does she even have a passport and money?’

Lilibet shrugs.

Aggie races out onto the concourse, vaults up a wooden staircase and down the other side, to get to the platform where the London train is about to arrive. She looks up and down the platform. ‘Too many damn people.’ She almost stamps her foot. ‘Shouldn’t they be somewhere else?’

‘They’re going somewhere else,’ Lilibet says. ‘That’s why they’re here.’

‘You know what I mean.’

‘Sorry. I’ll stop trying to make this seem less hopeless.’

‘Sorry. I’m just sick of all this.’

‘Look. There!’ Lilibet points to her right. The train’s just puling in, and a tall, black-haired girl is standing just behind the yellow line, a back pack slung over one of her shoulders, her hair hanging down over her face. ‘Come on.’

The train brakes squeal, but the train seems to take an age to come to a stop. Crowds bunch up in front of Aggie and Lilibet as they try to get to Marit before the doors open and she disappears into the train.

Aggie catches her by one of her elbows. ‘No, you don’t,’ she says, just as the doors open, and the crowd surges into the train.

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