Richard Pierce


Day 238

Being back on BBC Radio Norfolk with Stephen Bumfrey yesterday was a blast. But I’d been more nervous than I can ever remember being when I walked down into Norwich. Three years since I’d been on “proper” radio, so maybe it’s understandable. In the end, I needn’t have worried. When we finished, I checked my phone, and we’d got lots of lovely feedback. It felt like I’d never been away, and the chemistry was still there, even after not having seen each other for such a long time.

There is a certain beauty in sitting in a professional radio studio, with one eye on the presenter you’re talking to, and one eye on the studio clock behind that presenter, always aware of the seconds ticking away, always aware that programmes are slotted together in a certain way, and that when the clock hits a certain time there are only x seconds left until you need to stop talking, and stop talking with a decent wind-up rather than cutting yourself off in mid-sentence. None of this over-running by a few seconds/minutes like we can afford to do on Radio Stradbroke, because there’s only an offline stream to follow us at 1pm. I’m very fortunate that I learned this quite early on when I first got the opportunity to be on people’s radios across the country. That day when I sat in a darkened studio in London and did 13 interviews with 13 different local radio stations down an ISDN line is fresh in my memory, and taught me that I had to be precise yet personable, that I had to listen to certain inflections in unseen presenters’ voices that would be cues to finish talking in the next seconds. I remember being so excited to do that succession of interviews, and buzzing for days afterwards.

A lot of people don’t realise that radio presenters don’t just pitch up five minutes before their show starts, nor that they don’t just make it up as they go along. The fact is that they put in as much work off air as they do on air. A four-hour programme will take four hours to prepare (on a good day). The systems in professional radio studios are vastly more complex than the primitive 1-mixer and two computers set-up I have here in the office (and I must admit I’d dearly love to learn how to use one of those complex desks they have), and rely on split-second timing. Even I often need three hours to put together my 3-hour shows, especially the New Music Friday shows which involve a lot of hunting around for something good to play. And however spontaneous radio sounds most of the time, it is spontaneity within an existing framework (yesterday, I was scheduled to be in the 15:20 slot, and we started our segment at 15:19:45, which is damn impressive – you can listen again here for a month after the show went out – and I have linked to the point at which we start talking). I do try to think of links between records. Yesterday, I tried to think of complete sentences and phrases to use once I got on air. And I had two sides of notes with bits highlighted that I could glance at so I got all the credits in for the artists involved in the making of Marina Florance’s Annie C. And the reaction to that song in the studio was amazing, better than I had expected. Goosebumps and silence. That’s how a good song is defined. And that made me very happy indeed.



‘Better tell the other two that I’m going,’ Aggie says, and puts the phone down on the window sill.

‘Yes.’ Lilibet pulls on her clothes. ‘That’ll be interesting.’

‘Quick shower first.’

‘I’ll get some coffee on.’ Lilibet kisses Aggie. ‘I don’t want to give in to temptation. I’d never want to let you go.’

‘I’ll be back before you know it.’

‘I hope so.’

Aggie steps into the shower, washes absent-mindedly, thoughts flying ahead to what she might have to do when she gets to Washington. How she might recognise this Marion woman, and what she might learn. She dries herself quickly, throws on some clean clothes, packs a small bag with two days of necessaries, throws in the folder she picked up in the cellar, then straps her knife to her leg. She knows she’ll have to give it up before she gets out of the car at the airport, but she’s not going to leave it here. Her guns she puts carefully into her wardrobe, closes it regretfully. She puts on a happy face before she leaves the room, and skips downstairs.

Katharina, Marit, and Lilibet are sitting at the table in the kitchen, much the same as when Aggie got back the night before. There’s a coffee waiting for her on the table. She smiles. ‘Proper little housewife I have in you,’ she says to Lilibet, stares at her across the table.

Lilibet shrugs. ‘Busy day ahead. Just trying to be nice.’ She smiles a little stiffly.

‘About that,’ Aggie says, looks at Katharina and Marit. ‘I’m flying to Washington later.’

‘What?’ Marit says. ‘When did that happen?’

‘I found something in the tunnel last night that I needed to think about before telling you.’

‘Bet you told her, though,’ Marit says, frowning.

Aggie feels her anger rising, bites it back down, doesn’t give in to the urge to tell Marit about the dead body which attacked her yesterday, steered by yet another of Valentine’s malevolent contraptions. ‘I’m sorry if that gives you offence,’ she says, deliberately choosing the stilted language. ‘I wanted to be entirely sure of what I was doing.’

Marit shakes her head. ‘I’ll never understand how you can be like this.’

‘Human nature is complex,’ Katharina says. ‘And it doesn’t do to question other people’s motivations or needs. And we all need to move on.’

Aggie puts her hands flat on the table. ‘Anyway, what I found were instructions from Cassandra to go to Washington to meet with someone she trusts who might be able to give us some answers…’

‘Give you answers, you mean,’ Marit says.

‘Oh, come on,’ Aggie says. ‘Let me talk. We’ve been through all this already, and I know it’s difficult, but Tom was a plant, Martin’s plant, designed to get at Robert, not just at you. You can’t help that you fell in love with him…’

‘It wasn’t love, just lust,’ Marit says.

‘Well, then you’ll lust again,’ Aggie says. ‘And as far as answers go, I’ll share them as soon I have them. If I get any at all. I’m not convinced, but I can’t not do as Cassandra asks. And it may be the only way we’ll find out where your mother is.’

Marit shrugs. ‘I’m not sure I even care anymore. She’s spent most of her life away from me.’

‘Don’t be so bitter,’ Katharina says.

‘If she cares so much about the world, she shouldn’t have had me in the first place.’

‘Life and love don’t work like that,’ Katharina says, and puts her hand on Marit’s. ‘But I do understand you, and I’m sorry I can’t make things easier for you.’

Marit just shakes her head.

Katharina coughs. ‘Right. Down to business. I assume Lily is taking you to Heathrow.’

Aggie nods.

‘And what do we do while you’re away?’

‘Stay safe in here,’ Lilibet says. ‘Especially while I’m driving there and back.’

‘Why don’t we all just drive there and back?’ Marit says. ‘Then at least we’re a unit and not two splinter groups.’

Aggie smiles. ‘Good idea. A grand day out.’

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