M and I drove down to South Norfolk today to see L&F who are over from Belgium with their 10-week-old daughter, B. Cue broodiness, from me, as always when babies are involved (though I can never quite understand it, because I honestly couldn’t do with nights interrupted by crying babies, and never have been able to deal with them to the extent that I very rarely woke up when any of our cried – that could be the reason I worry about them endlessly now, to the extreme that I have sleepless nights because of it). It was so lovely to see the three of them, to hold B, to see M hold B, to see how first-time parenthood is affecting our young friends, how it takes the edges of people, even if those edges hadn’t been very sharp to begin with. It did make me feel extremely old, I must admit, a touch closer to the end of the road of useful ness, a bit nearer the generation I had always never wanted to be a part of, a generation that of course we all end up joining, because time, biology, the universe, transience.
Although it’s still summer, strictly speaking – I ignore meteorologists because I think it’s lazy to divide the year into its four seasons by convenient months rather than going by the age-old solstices and equinoxes – the cold has taken me (and M) by surprise. We were saying last night how we’ve suddenly been reminded of how much we hate the cold, how much it weighs on our moods and motivations. In short, it’s vile, and another reason to aim for this dream we have of moving to Agios Nikolaos when we retire or can afford it, although there are many mountains to climb before then. The serious side of this of course is that literally (and I am using that word in its true meaning) hundreds of thousand, if not millions, of people, face the prospect of being very cold this winter because of the greed of the energy companies, because of the unwillingness of this government (which is pandering to the monarchy, its bed fellow, as we speak) to take care of the people of this country, the unwillingness of the government to renationalise national utilities which should be owned by the public, the refusal of this government to impose huge taxes on the profits of the energy companies (and any other large private enterprise you may wish to mention). I find it hard to be cheerful and optimistic in the face of this reality, and the perpetual gaslighting of the British public by the Establishment, because that is exactly what we are living through right now.
But, I reflect now, in the darkness, on L&F&B, on the beauty of seeing their family life blossom, and rejoice in the fact that new beginnings are possible. They are always possible. We just need to be able to see them, and see beyond everything and everyone who would deny us happiness.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 213
This time, Aggie doesn’t scream or lose her temper, although she feels the rage building back inside her. She doesn’t throw the files on the floor, she doesn’t lose control. She calmly puts the file back in the drawer, having noted the date, August 1955, eleven years on from the last file she saw back in the cellar in Norwich. She asks herself how many other files might be left in here, and if only some of them are left in here, where all the others are. Really already in Russia? What possible monetary or political power value could there be in these files which are nothing more than proof of some sort of race cleansing programme? And why would the British government get involved in something like this, something so horrible and despicable that it’s almost as bad as what happened in World War II, as bad as the experiments performed by Mengele? And its beginning preceded that war by at least six years, according to what Aggie has worked out. She opens other drawers here, behind the judge’s throne, behind what seems now more and more like a sinister seat of power from which countless young albino girls were sentenced to death, sentenced to be part of an experiment which doesn’t seem to have ended well for any of them.
The questions whirr round Aggie’s brain, and even at her most rational, which she is now, and ever conscious of the danger she is because of her location, because of how she found herself in this place, because of the place it is and all the secrets it holds, she can’t work out the motivation behind such a huge number of experiments, and even less behind any motivation the former president may have had to share this abominable secret with Russia, and behind any motivation Cassandra might have for wanting to know exactly what happened, except for the sake of knowing. She shakes her head. Some of the drawers she unlocks are empty, some full of files and dust. She works her way ever more quickly through the drawers, having worked out that the most recent file in a drawer is the one at the front, that they’re sorted in date order. The dates creep ever more closer to the present day. Experiments still conducted in 1969, one on the exact date of the moon landing. And in 1974. 1983. 1991. The drawers behind at this end of the room are exhausted, and she has reached 1995. She sits down on the floor, head in her hands. She feels like she’s a failure for not being able to work out what exactly is going on, and what the link to her is, except for that story, half-imagined, half made up, that she told Lily in the car. She figures out that the drawers nearest the judge must always be the most recent one, gets up again, and counts the empty drawers, counts the contents of one of the full drawers, and from that decides that the experiments must still have been going on when the last president left office. Did they stop then? She gets out the most recent file she can, decides to brave her fear and sit in the wooden swivel chair that is up there on the dais, gets out a tiny torch and reads through the file from cover to cover, ignoring the pictures as best she can, the photos of blood and abuse and death. And it’s there, right at the end of the file, in writing so small she almost misses it, that she discovers something that makes her shiver.