I actually slept, so, even though I got up at 5:45 so I could give A a life down to her early shift, I felt quite well-rested. I even went to bed at the time M and I usually go to bed when she’s here and not on hols. I was going to write this then, but Greek, work, Wordle, Scholardle, Absurdle, unhappy stomach, and whatever else distracted me (even when I got back from giving A a lift at 7:15). And now I’m here, and the day has half gone, and I’m going to pick M up from the station later, as apparently, after leaving here with just a small backpack, she’s coming back with said backpack and a suitcase of books (given to her by the girls, no doubt).
One weird thing I was pondering over yesterday evening is how the ways of us communicating when one or the other of us is away has changed over the years. I haven’t actually spoken with M since she left on Monday morning – we’ve just been messaging each other. In the early days, of course, there was no messaging, no mobile phones even, never mind smartphones. I remember the first Christmas after we’d met, and M was down in Kent, and I was at my parents’ house, and I sat on the floor in one of the empty bedrooms that had been one of my sisters’ and spent well over an hour on the house phone talking to M who’d declined my invitation to come to my parents with me. Oh, the thrill of it. I do remember being nervous. But then it’s this progress towards smartphones and not talking face-to-face or ear-to ear that’s robbed so many people of the ability to actually be socially literate. I did think last night about phoning M, but didn’t want to disrupt any quality time she was having with the girls.
Anyhow, I know I’m in danger of sounding like a grumpy old man, but there are many good things to miss about the relatively technology-free days of the late Eighties, things we have lost to the detriment of our quality of life. There are many advantages to the internet (I wouldn’t be able to do my day job as effectively without it, wouldn’t be able to write this, wouldn’t be able to have my Zoom call with Colonel L later, wouldn’t be able to stay in touch with children as regularly, nor self-publish books, etc etc), but the disadvantages are plain: misinformation, spreading of untruths, propaganda, the ability (and invitation almost) to vent without actually stopping and thinking about problems first and trying to solve them, identity theft, cyber warfare, online bullying, echo chambers, etc etc. There were days when the internet was confined to one corner of one room of the house for a maximum hour a day. And, despite everything I say, I’m not really a Luddite. I just think we’ve forgotten how to be people.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 169
‘Seriously?’ Aggie says into the rear view mirror.
‘That’s mad,’ Lilibet says.
Katharina shrugs. ‘That’s why she wouldn’t talk to me for such a long time after Marit came along. She wanted to play it all her own way. Took no advice. Asked for no help. Nothing.’
The black tarmac of the road winds its way through Mousehold Heath and down the hill. Street lights occasionally peep through the branches as the car swings its way along the sharp bends and over the speed bumps.
‘What about the house?’ Aggie says.
‘Mine?’ Katharina says.
‘No. The one we’re going to now.’
‘Oh, That’s Cassie’s.’
‘What?’ Aggie almost slams her foot down on the brakes.
‘Yes, it’s Cassie’s. All in her name. She never let Valentine put his name on the deeds.’
‘So he doesn’t actually have anything to do with it?’
Katharina shrugs again. ‘Robert may have given her some money towards it. He always had more money than he knew what to do with.’
‘Still does,’ Marit mumbles. ‘Men of a certain age with certain accents.’
‘He’s a good man,’ Katharina says.
‘He is,’ Aggie says. ‘A very good man. I like him very much.’
They cross the roundabout near Cow Tower, near the cathedral. Aggie feels like she’s coming home. ‘I’ll park up as closely to the house as I can,’ she says.
‘You don’t think Valentine will be watching it?’
‘It doesn’t matter if he is,’ Aggie says. ‘There’s nothing I can do about it. And I have to get in there to look for whatever it is Cassandra wants me to find.’
‘Why couldn’t she just have told you what it is?’ Marit says. ‘It’s ridiculous and stupid.’
‘In case her message got intercepted? Because it is just a game.’ Aggie exhales loudly. ‘I wish I knew.’
Miraculously, there is a parking space free just opposite the house. Aggie pulls the car to a stop, her eyes automatically going to her right and the sill-lit cathedral. ‘Still there then,’ she mutters.
‘Yes, it is still there,’ Lilibet whispers, her eyes drawn in the same direction. ‘I can’t wait to see inside it.’
Aggie gets out of the car, still looking at the cathedral, shakes her head, and crosses the road without waiting for the others. She puts her hand into one of many pockets, and pulls out the key. ‘Looks unchanged to me.’
‘He could be inside,’ Katharina says, having caught up with her.
‘Then he’ll have to deal with me,’ Aggie says. ‘And I somehow don’t think he will be. Perhaps he was genuinely nervous about coming back here when he discovered Cassie had gone, and wasn’t just pretending to be gormless and intimidated.’
‘He’s a good actor,’ Katharina says.
‘Not good enough to make himself sweat,’ Aggie says. ‘Let’s see, shall we?’ She unlocks the door, listens for the beeping of the alarm to kick in, reaches for its panel, types in the pass code. ‘And then there was silence.’ She walks into the hallway, waits for the familiar silence and scents to wrap themselves around her. ‘It’s good to be home.’