Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 52

The third named storm in a week. Its change in direction from its two predecessors chases it down our chimney, fills the house with big noise and drafts we didn’t know existed. One of the plastic panes on the garage shifted so far the rain started leaking onto the old car and the spare boards I keep in there, so, in the late Sunday afternoon gloom, I went next door, their drive higher up the slope towards the Heath, and shoved the pane all the way back up into the position it should be in. I had intended to take my Antarctic gloves with me to do the job, but forgot, so my hands looked as if they had been shredded by glass shrapnel, but it was only the dirt of years of neglect. Come spring, I hope the garage will have a proper roof on it. Too late to deal with these storms and others that may yet come as the earth spins ever more quickly through the cosmos fuelled by the heat of climate change. At this rate it will burn out before the sun does, many many life times before the sun does.

I have always said that Sunday is the first day of the week, in the hope that it would make Mondays easier. It doesn’t really work, in truth. I woke up this morning after 7 hours of sleep, of which at least 5.5 were uninterrupted feeling stale and tired and pained. I’m never convinced that this is purely the aging process, more that it’s my body’s constant rebellion against this artificial societal imposition of routines humans were never intended to be submitted to. But then what is history but a chronicle, a reality, of the imposition of rules on the many needy by the few who have everything and need to do nothing? But then I think of those who aren’t as lucky as I am, those who don’t have jobs they love doing most of the time.

The wind hurtles through the sky, and the birds allow themselves to be driven along indeterminate paths by it. Faster and faster they fling themselves through the air, are flung through the air. Perhaps we should be more like those birds, and allow ourselves to be thrown in unexpected directions at breakneck speeds by the winds of fortune. We might find more fertile places to rest when the winds cease.



The soft soles of her black boots make no sound. All the lights in all the houses on the street are out, and Aggie’s walking through a ghost city. The rain stops, and the wind drops. No movement except for her slow and purposeful strides towards the bridge. She listens for anything out of the ordinary. This is not the first time she has made this pilgrimage. Often, once Sir and Madam have closed their bedroom door behind them and locked it from the inside, she has waited, read pages of Joyce or Jacobsen, or scribed careful symbols into her book, waited for the noise of the city to stop, and quietly escaped from the house, to walk across the road, to find the bridge, and to follow the old paths on the island. But this evening, this night, something is different. There’s no-one back in the house who might be listening out for her footsteps, who might be wondering where she’s gone, why she’s gone, and when she might come back, if she comes back at all.

To her left, the river is empty. In the summer, the hired holiday boats moor here, and its passengers celebrate their freedom from work and care late into the bright evenings. The moorings are sepia in the night now, empty and deserted, and, on the other side of the river, the Pull’s Ferry water gate is a smudge of greyness across the still water, its stone as colourless and lifeless as a lost memory. She’ll have to pass by it on the other side again. The metal gate in Bishopgate will be locked at this time of night, and she’ll have to retrace her steps on the other bank of the river to get to the cathedral.

Aggie’s long effortless strides take her to the bridge in moments. She crosses it in its middle, careful never to be close to the edges of bridges where it would be too easy for any would-be assassin to surprise her and push her off into the water. Her life is measured and bordered by these simple survival strategies without which she wouldn’t be able to exist. Right now, she feels no threat, but one could materialise at any moment. Death always comes when you least expect it. Past the pub on her right, all lights extinguished, outdoor parasols rolled up, chairs stacked and tied up, all as it should be. Down the narrow alley on the left, into total darkness now between fences and buildings, and out onto the open gravel track that runs in gentle curves between the river and the corralled playing field of the school, weaves its way around the boundaries of property and the trees that stretch out their branches to touch each other way above the path, forever seeking each other’s company. A last short bend, and there’s Pull’s Ferry again. Close up now, its stones look white, a bridge house made of the bleached skulls of history, an edifice made of massacres, a shiver in history. She speeds up to get her past those memories from the not-so-distant past, crosses from gravel onto the wet and slippery cobble stones of Ferry Lane, their unevenness replaced in places by old tarmac. A deserted car park on her left. What used to be stables on her right. Between the big houses at the entrance to The Close, all the doors blue, of course, although she can’t see their colour in the dark. No lights anywhere. Then, finally, out into the seemingly nameless oval green that takes her to within reaching distance of the cathedral, where the building rises out of the dark to meet her gaze, to let her know it is still there and that the floodlit work of art she looks at every evening is not a projection, not a figment of her twisted imagination, but a stone and mortar reality.

Two more turns, a few more silent oversized strides, and she’s at Edith Cavell’s grave, where she always comes to when she needs some solace. Even at this time of night, the memorial stone glows and throws its unearthly light out over the low remains of the original cathedral building. Aggie stands there and bows her head briefly. Makes her way beyond to the small door that opens into St. Saviour’s Chapel, the door she usually has to unlock with the toolkit she has in her coat pocket. Except tonight it’s already open.

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