Richard Pierce

Life

Day 225

I just got back from the supermarket (where I fruitlessly searched for some Aperol), and realised I hadn’t written the blog for the day yet. So, while M’s fabulous home-made pizzas sit in the oven, I’m sitting here in my 32C office trying not to melt or to be distracted by everything else that’s going on around me.

Apparently, I spent 9 hours and 7 minutes in the last week doing my Greek lessons. I am learning as I go along, though not as quickly and well as the perfectionist in me would like to. I managed to do a live radio show this morning that we can add to our library of pre-records, mainly for Saturdays, which is when we normally have DJ shortages, or I want a lie-in. And I lay down on the bed in our room, in the lovely through-draught again and read for some time. And then M and I had a lot of fun (not) measuring distances on the library wall (which isn’t straight anyway), and then drilling holes where we thought they should be, and discovering that the wall was made of so many different materials, it was difficult to drill straight. And I forgot drill bits got hot when drilling into masonry, so cursed a bit when I touched the drill bit. Nothing serious. The joys of home improvements. And all because we have such a vast collection of books (but not as vast as it was). But as we all said (M & the children & me), it’s these books that have made us who we are; they’re more our history than anything else..

I had thought about driving down to Stradbroke to watch the lads play cricket, and to pick up the t-shirt and other goodies a grateful artist/band sent me the other day, but in the end decided it it was probably not a great idea (nor a very comfortable one) to sit in a hot car with no A/C for hours. I do miss having a beer or two with the lads after a game, though, not that I’d have been able to have more than one small one if I had gone down there today.

And thus the wheel turns, and thus life changes, and morphs, and different shapes and patterns emerge, and we become slightly different people as the time passes.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 178

The thud of the door closing is almost a relief to Aggie. She knows, because she saw as soon as the door was open, that the locks have closed automatically, that the latches treat this tunnel as the inside and the cellar in the house as the outside rather than the other way round, something she finds intriguing and refreshing. It means they can’t follow her. It means that she is all alone with whatever will confront her if anything does. It means she finally has time to breathe and think, and feel and react instinctively. She feels like she was watching almost every word she spoke, almost every move she made, not just because of Lilibet and her fear of hurting her or patronising her, but also because of Marit, that girl, that young immature thing, who is still on the edge of something, still balanced somewhere between good and bad, and doesn’t know which side she’ll choose. The thought makes her doubt the wisdom of having left Lilibet with Marit and Katharina, but Lilibet can look after herself, she knows that, too. No point worrying about that now. She takes her first steps towards the downward slope of the tunnel.

This place is man-made, alright, but it’s a primitive builder who was at work. The floor is just flattened ground, dusty and dry, and the walls show the signs of the rough tools used to burrow through the rocks, and where there are no rocks, old red bricks have been used to create the walls, and to echo the curve of the hollow through what Aggie takes to be the bedrock of the city. Her footfalls echo in an odd muffled way, as if being in this enclosed space makes them hold their breath, and sneak out their sounds only fitfully and carefully. She starts her descent now, and her ears pop slightly as the incline becomes steeper. She hasn’t been counting her steps, but she thinks she must be approaching the river. And sure enough, the tunnel and its path dip even lower down, and the ceiling height compacts, and she has to start stooping slightly to make progress without hitting her head on the rocks and bricks above. She smiles at the age and solitude of it all. Then the lights flicker and fizz once, twice, and go out. For her, the light fades slowly, and she relishes being able to adjust her eyes and not having to act normal like in front of the others. That’s the only reason she had used the torch, so they wouldn’t ask too many questions.

Aggie carries on walking, the tunnel now black and white through her pupils. She doesn’t know where this ability has come from, to see so well in the dark, to be able to navigate when there’s not a single source of light, to find directions from that invisible but tangible map in her head that tells her, right now, that she’s about to go under the river, that she’s moving in a slightly north-westerly directions. Of course, she doesn’t know where the tunnel will lead her, where it will surface or end, nor what will be waiting for her when it does.

A few more steps, so many more than that for people of a lesser stature than hers, and the path starts to head upwards again. A few breaths more, and she feels, knows, she’s surfaced on the other side of the river. And then there’s a door on her left, metal, riveted, and heavy, and she pulls it open. It doesn’t creak, the hinges still well-oiled, which imbues her with extra care, and behind it there is a narrow set of stairs, circular, a spiral held between parallel walls. She climbs the stairs slowly but surely, scents fresh air, and comes to another door, the same type of locks in it she undid a few minutes ago, in her house, Cassie’s house, she has to remind herself, and she unlocks them, pulls open another heavy door. The lights of the city reflect on the river, and she knows she’s standing on Pull’s Ferry, two minutes’ walk from the cathedral. She dissolves into the dark again, closes this door behind her quietly, realises now that this tunnel must have been built in the fifteenth century when this gatehouse, ferry house was built. And now she’s back in the tunnel, and she knows exactly where the next set of stairs will be.

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