Richard Pierce

Life, Sport, Writing

Day 53

When I limped back into the house last night after cricket training, I said to M and A that it really was time to think about retiring because it felt like my body just couldn’t cope any more. My glute felt like it was about to rip again, my calf felt strained, and my Achilles was very tender – and all in my left leg. A, who’s really our resident sports scientist, told me it was normal, that I was using muscle groups I’d not used for almost a year, that I’ve not been in winter training for at least 5 years. I just harrumphed at the rationality of it all, and sick of the seeming decline my aging is bringing me. But then I had to admit to myself that the other newbie who was there last week and again this week, S, who’s actually really half my age, said that he’d not been able to move for two days after last week’s exertions, so maybe, just maybe, I will persevere. And I have to admit that, although there are more pains in more places this morning, they don’t seem as bad as last week (or even last night). Driving home in the wet dark yesterday thinking of stopping was miserable, orange echoes off the streets, clinically straight roads, indistinct speed limit markers, and the dread at perhaps having to age gracefully rather than the hoped-for disgracefully.

I have an optician’s appointment today. It’s over two years since I had my eyes tested. They have changed, I do too much screen work, despite the fact that I use my notebook. There are days when I’m staring at the screen for well over 12 hours. It can’t be changed. There is a time imperative to get all my ideas out of my head into some sort of readable format before my brain gives in, too. Even if I live to the age I want to live to (125), time is running out. I don’t want to waste those electrical impulses that are still firing, and were actually conflagrating when I watched the last 70 minutes of a programme about the ballet choreographer Wayne McGregor last night after M and A had gone to bed, and, as usual when I do something in the evenings, I couldn’t switch off the adrenaline, nor the neurons, nor the neurotransmitters. I scribbled lots of notes into my phone because I didn’t have the strength to get up to get my scribble journal from the dining room table without losing my thoughts.

The moon, part of it amputated by its cycle, was huge again last night. I photograph it a lot, but can never get the right picture.

We are eternally striving. That’s as it should be. First World pains are as nothing in the context of all worlds.



Aggie stares at the open door. Is it a trap? Or a mistake? A plan, an accident? She can’t know, won’t know, until she steps through the opening into the chapel, until she’s inside, until she’s allowed herself to cross into the unknown, until she lets go of the control she’s imposed on herself for the last five years. It was different when she unlocked the door herself, when she let herself in, and the excitement of the forbidden would ripple through her body, make it feel less clumsy, less tall, less different, when the breaking and entering was her decision, her secret, her illicit pleasure. Not like now, when it looks as if someone has been reading her thoughts, been here before her, has changed the routine, has prepared the ground for something. Aggie doesn’t like different. That’s why she doesn’t like herself. She plucks the stiletto out of its holster, pushes herself flat against the cold stone wall, instincts awake, the old craft back unrehearsed, her breath shallow and quiet. She nudges the door wider open with the toe of her left boot. Too soon to get out the tiny flashlight she has in her coat. She creeps from the gloom of the outside into the wall of blackness, from cool night air into the even colder air of the short arched corridor that leads to the long and narrow chapel.

Aggie’s free hand touches the ancient stone, leads her through the short passageway. There should be another door here, but it’s disappeared. She reaches across to where the tiny window should be, and her finger tips graze worn wood. Yes, this one’s been opened, too. It can’t be an accident. She moves on, and all she can hear is the humming in the air that absolute silence creates. A slight change in temperature again. She raises an invisible eyebrow. Weird. Her left hand reaches for the metal screen that leads to the Ambulatory. That, at least, is closed. Her eyes are accustomed to the dark now, her pupils huge and absorbing what rare fragments of light particles might not yet have escaped. Two pale rows of pews either side of the aisle littered with memorial stones to soldiers lost in lost wars and forgotten conflicts. She slides into the first pew she comes to, the coolness of the wood seeping through her coat. She bows her head to the left, in the direction of the plain altar she knows is there, under the stained glass windows much higher up, and now nothing but panes of darkness, no stains, no glass, no saints, no saviours. As hard as she listens, she can hear nothing to make her feel someone else is here. She leans back, pushes herself into the wood, makes herself almost a part of it, wants it to absorb her so she can be nobody, nothing, just another random collection of insentient atoms. She remembers how she started this evening, and wishes she could perfect the art of not thinking.

A sudden shift in scent, a paroxysm of an almost imperceptible draft. She drops to the ground noiselessly, glides towards the altar, hidden below the beech of the pews. A shock of breath back where she had been a few seconds ago. A low growl. She prepares herself.

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