Just back from my rucksacked walk to the big supermarket. Left in the sinking sun, returned in the gloaming. I often ask myself what’s more important to me – the light or the warmth? It’s not an easy call to make, but I always reckon warm evenings (like 25C or something like that) would be adeuate compensation for the short days. Having said that, for two of the four winters we lived in Norway for, we had so much snow that the nights actually seemed really light, and in the depth of winter we were only getting about four hours daylight. But then the snow so well reflected the moon and the outside lights the Norwegians traditionally leave on so people can find their way that it didn ‘t seem so dark. And the cold was real cold, not the dank damp dripping from the trees and buildings we get here in the UK. Anyhow – it’s a complain any of you who know me well will have heard from me ad infinitum. Mind you, it bears repeating – and climate change probably has a lot to answer for in this respect, too.
The Bank of England has put up interest rates to 3% and in the same breath warned that the UK is in for a prolonged recession. I know I’ve written about this before, too. But here’s the thing – I barely scraped a pass in my Maths O level, and it’s still obvious to me that you don’t tame overall inflation with interest rate rises. The deep-seated issue with the UK economy is that Brexit has proven a disaster and pump-primed, as it were, the rise in living costs, and will continue to do so until we rejoin the EU. This rise has been compounded by the government’s unwillingness to impose either a windfall tax or lasting taxes on energy companies making billions of pounds of profit every quarter. The illegal war in Ukraine is not a significant contributor to the rise in energy prices, which are actually the main driver of inflation (fuel underpins the retail and production food chain, if you like), but the main generator of fear of blackouts (and they’re not the same thing). The fact that continental European governments are doing their best to protect their citizens from the greed of the energy companies puts the UK government’s lack of action into stark relief. And acknowledging the Eurozone is going through an economically rough patch only reinforces the fact that Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster. And the fact that rich people and ruch corporates don’t get taxed highly enough feeds inflation, too, and deprives public services of desperately needed income.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 240
The din subsides from the exit closest to them. Aggie grabs her backpack from between her feet, gets up, throws the backpack over one shoulder, bends her knees when the walks through the divider between First Class and the rest of the plane, and makes for the door. She pushes her way through the gaggle of attendants and pilots, touching Julia’s back gently, just a quick movement, a transient tap. ‘Thanks for all your help,’ she says to the group. ‘A very pleasant flight indeed. Her feet touch the metal bridge into the terminal noiselessly.
Valentine is right behind her, leaving the last remaining passengers to say their thanks and goodbyes. His suit is creased, and he looks like a man after a particularly bad night. He frowns at her as he starts walking next to her. ‘You did nothing, absolutely nothing. The deal’s …’
There are screams behind them. Aggie turns and runs back, agains the trickle of passengers still coming out of the plane. Julia’s on the ground, motionless, eyes wide open, blood around her mouth. ‘Someone call 999 and Security,’ Aggie shouts, kneels down on the hard surface, and feels for a pulse. Nothing.
Valentine now. ‘I’m a doctor,’ he says, his voice deep and calming. ‘Let’s see if I can help.’ He lets Aggie get up, his turn to kneel down, to feel for a pulse on wrist and one neck. ‘I’m afraid she’s dead,’ he says, his voice sad and despairing. ‘It looks like an aneurysm. There’s nothing I can do.’ His fingers smoothe over Julia’s face, closing her eyes. ‘I’m really sorry. She seemed such a lovely woman. So kind and helpful.’ He gets up slowly, looks at Julia’s sobbing colleagues, one of them on her mobile phone, frantic. ‘I’m sure the authorities here will be very helpful to you. I’m sorry I can’t stay with her until they arrive.’ He bows, a short sharp, tidy bow which conveys just enough grief to be believable.
Aggie steps forward. ‘I’m sorry, too. Please be kind to yourselves. This is no-one’s fault. It just goes to show that life is too damn short.’ She smiles a sad smile, and turns away, to head back into the terminal, trying hard not to be moved by the sobbing and crying behind her. SHe walks deliberately slowly.
When they’re inside the building, along one of those interminable corridors in a maze of interminable corridors that take too long for travellers to navigate whether they’re leaving or arriving, Valentine gets closer to Aggie. ‘That was you, wasn’t it? You managed, somehow, to poison her, didn’t you?’
Aggie smiles. ‘Well spotted, Sir. Now do you believe me when I say none of your miserable army are good enough to be me?’
‘It certainly looks that way. I’ll do the deal. Ten million.’
‘All of it now,’ she says under her breath.
‘No,’ he says. ‘One million now, the rest when you’ve killed all of those damn fools. In Norwich and in York. And then I’ll tell you where I am, and you can come to me and take your next orders.’
‘Remote orders will be enough,’ she says. ‘I don’t like travelling much.’
‘Who said you’d need to travel?’ he says.