Richard Pierce

Life, Politics, Writing

Day 258

Another fragmentary.

This year’s blog now has over 266k words. Quite remarkable. I really didn’t think it would accumulate words so quickly and massively. Just goes to show how many words and thoughts we have in our heads. Has anyone ever worked out how many words a human speaks on average in a year? I have just checked, and of course the veracity of online sources always needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, but according to Languages Around The Globe, it’s 10,950,000 words a year. So what I’ve written here so far this year is actually only an insignificant fraction of that. Still. They are here for posterity now, and in their ring binder. Until Aggie comes down and the number is halved (ish).

I called my doctor’s surgery yesterday for the results of the CT scan and the x-ray I had last week. I was told imaging results are subject to delays because of staff shortages. We all know why that is. Since Brexit there has been an exodus of Europeans from the National Health Service. So not only has the Tory government been defunding the NHS since it came into power in 2010, but it’s been de-peopling it as well. That’s the essence of the matter. And it seeks to blame all the NHS’s troubles on covid-19. In truth, the troubles were already there (deliberately induced by the Tories so they can sell pieces of the service off to private companies), and covid-19 just served to bring the plight of the NHS to the attention of more people. A government with blood on its hands in so many ways.

Estimates for the costs of the Queen’s funeral, its accompanying pomp and circumstance, and the coronation of the new King, are around £6 billion (£6,000,000,000 – get your head around the enormity of that number). Not that the monarchy will be paying for it, of course. Tax payers will be, instead, as they try to scrimp and save through the winter, as they have to decide whether to heat their houses or eat. Perhaps the government and the monarchy will encourage families to eat their dead relatives in time of need instead of having to make such a difficult choice, while ministers and royalty tuck in to sumptuous breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and even more elaborate banquets. Royalty, by the way, which is exempt from having to pay inheritance tax on its private wealth, and which pays income tax voluntarily, and that only since 1993.

On the upside, the very painful growth on the inside of my left foot has come off after 10 days’ treatment with salicylic acid. If only it were that easy to fix this country.



Within ten minutes, Aggie has worked another brick out of its setting so the hole is now wide and narrow. She moves on to the layer above the hole, and quickly pulls out a third brick. Now the layer beneath the hole. By the time she’s finished, the opening in the wall looks like a plus sign. She’s not sweating. Aggie never sweats. Another thing she wonders about. An irrelevance. Some people just don’t. She contorts herself to fit through the mathematical symbol in the wall. The air is cool and dry now, no mustiness any more. The steps up are utilitarian at best, so not for show, not for the public nor even the President’s family. Why would Truman have had this built? Some corner of her mind reminds her that he walked from Blair House to the new West Wing, the new Oval Office, he’d had built every day and was almost assassinated. Why not use the tunnel if he’d had it built. Too obvious? Presidents have to make public gestures, after all, otherwise they leave a vacuum in the popular psyche. No need for her to go upstairs anyway. She can’t imagine that any of the answers lie up there, where, right now, some urgent business or another of government is probably being decided, or slept on, or forgotten about, and Secret Service personnel will just be milling around while the President and his wife sleep, possibly in separate bedrooms. There are no sounds down here, not of life above, nor of life below.

Aggie descends the stairs. She doesn’t touch the bannisters, puts one foot in front of the other as surely as if the stairway was lit brightly. Metal railings, just bolted together. Nothing sophisticated here. This can’t be the fabled bunker under the White House everyone talks about, the one that’s shown in films as some cavernous room full of glass partitions and huge computer screens showing the entire American nuclear arsenal and all the points in the world it’s aimed at, the huge table with innumerable seats for President, military and civilian advisers, the crisis centre, the hub, and, as they’d like you to believe, the only place in the world that could save the world from disaster. No, this is definitely not that place. Start at the very bottom, she tells herself, and now gallops soundlessly down seven more levels. She counts them at each turn, and counts one level for every two turns of the stairs. Until she is finally at the bottom, when the final turn takes her only to a vacant concrete space under the last flight of stairs, a space she does probe with her fingers to make sure there isn’t yet another secret entrance to yet another secret and unexplored and forgotten space.

When she emerges from the dead angle of space, she walks to the outline of the door she saw when she was coming down. Again, no pass scanner. She pushes down on the handle, pushes it inwards. It’s a heavy, metal door, but it has no lock. Really? But then she supposes it doesn’t need to be locked if hardly anyone knows it exists. She pushes her way into the room beyond the door. The space itself is muffled, however strange that might seem, but she gets the feeling that any sound in here would not travel beyond its confines. She’s surprised to see the sudden elegance after the industrial simplicity and functionality of the stairs. As her eyes adjust yet again to the different layers of murk, she gets the feeling that this is some sort of throne room. In a republic?

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