Richard Pierce

Life, Politics, Writing

Day 63

Every day presents us with new dilemmas. I feel guilty for being weary. I am not a refugee. I am not being threatened by an army. I am not being threatened by white men with guns. I am not being bombed on the outskirts of a desert in Africa. I am not starving. I’m not thirsty. I’m not on the verge of death. I have a swollen ankle that I don’t rest enough. I’ve been crunching spreadsheets for the last 3 days. I have been wandering and sitting around with a giant albino in my head obsessing me. That’s the sum of my woes. That’s the sum of my dilemmas. It’s nothing.

I will, this morning, on the radio, play out the first movement of Gorecki’s wonderful Third Symphony, although I’ll start it 3 minutes in because the first 3 minutes are almost inaudible, and that doesn’t make for good radio. I did discuss this piece briefly with Mrs S who has spotted me through work and is now reading my blogs, and the impossibility of not crying when listening to the piece, at which point I said I wouldn’t play it out. But such is the universal pain of the world encapsulated by this music, that, this morning, this grey grey morning, in this peaceful, if sometimes violent, city which is now my home a thousand miles from conflict, I need to play it. There’s no option.

England, and it is little England coming up for 6 years after the EU referendum, is such an insignificant insular place now. It was insular even when it was an empire, because it was an empire built on exceptionalism and the suppression of anything different. The country has walked backwards in time, remained obsessed with the out-of-date trinkets of royalism, jingoism, and class, walked so far back in time that it has no relevance or influence in the modern world. It refuses to have any influence, refuses to sanction those, regardless of nationality, who would spread malevolence and spite so they can remain rich and powerful, with no conscience or regard for the needy. The right-minded amongst us have to share the cesspool that is England with those who deposit even more cess in the pool. A horrendous thought.

The words have all the wrong weight this morning, on this desk littered with papers, cables, reference books, phones, calculators, remote controls, biros, and fountain pains, notebooks and blank lines. The world sits amongst all these things in its ugliness, and leers at me with its pestilent skeletal face.

Gorecki’s music speaks of atrocities and redemption.

I will make time to tidy the apocalypse from my desk.



The recoil of the handgun is nothing to her fierce arms. The suppressor in the barrel keeps the sound of the shot down to a gentle plop. He clenches his teeth, his face sweaty now.

‘I don’t know why you’re sweating,’ she says. ‘I shot the floor.’

He looks down at his leg, still whole, no blood, no shattered kneecap. ‘I knew that,’ he says.

‘And yet you’re in pain.’ She smiles menace and kindness. ‘Pain doesn’t have to be physical.’

He can’t unclench his teeth.

‘Fear does that,’ she says.

He nods, moves his jaw. ‘Why did you do that?’

‘Perhaps there’s something about you that makes people want you to like them.’


‘Those men in the cathedral. Were you expecting them?’

‘There’s always someone to clear up after me.’

‘Because they don’t trust you, or because you’re very messy?’

‘No-one in this game trusts anyone.’

‘Always a game. Always this male attitude. It’s not a game. It’s life and death.’

‘You die if you take it too seriously.’

‘You die if you don’t,’ she says.

He wipes the sweat from his head with the sleeve of his shirt. ‘You’ve used up all your threats now. And put a hole in your floor.’

‘Not my floor, and you don’t know the threats I still have.’

‘Look,’ he says. ‘The rest of my kit is in the car.’

‘A big sports car, is it? Another male thing. James Bond and his big bonnet.’

‘It’s a hire car, and it’s pathetically small, actually.’

‘Why not catch the train?’

‘Trains don’t run all the time.’


‘Now, before you hit and shot me…’

‘I didn’t shoot you. Although I’d quite like to now.’

He starts reaching out to her with one hand, his skin within an inch of hers before she lifts the gun again.

‘Don’t touch me!’


‘Before you made me slap you, you said we didn’t have to go to London.’ She pushes her chair back, away from him, hand with gun now lying on her thigh, still levelled at him. ‘Explain.’

‘I don’t think the people who hired me are the English.’

‘I don’t think that either. But all threads lead through London. That’s where Sir has gone.’

He suppresses the smirk. ‘Why don’t you use his name? Or her name?’

‘I don’t like to. It keeps a distance.’

‘You like distance?’

‘I like peace and safety. Now you’ve disturbed it.’

‘I think it was disturbed before I even arrived.’

She shrugs. ‘I don’t actually need you. I can just sit and wait here until the next thing happens.’

‘You’ll be able to resist those four men and their reinforcements, will you?’

‘I can resist anything.’

‘He looks up at her. ‘Is that so?’

‘You’re wasting your time, in all ways.’ She gets up. ‘You should have stabbed me when I was carrying you. And I’ve had enough now. Go to your car and drive away.’

‘Don’t you want to know why someone wanted me to kill you?’

‘I want to know who and why, and I don’t think I can work it out with you crowding my head and being some pubescent alpha male. Just go away and create havoc somewhere else.’

‘They’ll know by now you’re not dead.’

‘Who cares? Maybe they’ll send someone with a bit more of a clue than you. Maybe the main player will come and do their own dirty work, and then I’ll know.’

‘They never get their hands dirty. You know that.’

‘They do sometimes.’ She separates again, this part of her gesturing him out of the kitchen, down the stairs to the front door, the other part of her remembering the old face of the old sinewy arms which had carried her to a safer place, the arms and face which had stopped her from leaving that disinfectant-scented room, had guided her gently back to the bed, told her she wasn’t healed yet, stroked her head with all those pains in it, watched her fall asleep again, waited day and night for her to get stronger. The long white hair, the green eyes, the patience, the smile, the anger, the hatred, the words of peace and redemption. Lost now, lost.

He’s pulling on his shoes that he carried down here. ‘You won’t change your mind?’

‘Why would I? Now go before those guys catch you. Because it’s you they’ll be after now.’

‘Not unless they get you first.’

‘They won’t.’

It’s still not light when she watches him walk away down the street, but she can see the cathedral rising into the day again.

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  1. Beth

    4th March 2022 at 14:40

    The world in all its ugliness, England, my own former home of the U.S….yes. But right now, outside my window here in Montreal, there’s brilliant sun on pure white snow, the chirping of birds, and a fine spray of icy snowflakes blowing off the roof, each one shining in the sunlight. I’m about to listen to some William Byrd, which my choir sang last night — it was my first time back since October and Omicron. And then I’ll listen to your Gorecki. The news is dreadful; and after these long winter months I can finally feel the heat of the sun on my skin. I’m trying to remember that it’s both the darkness and the light together: not a matter of choosing, but holding one in each hand. Thank you again for these morning writings.

    1. Richard Pierce

      4th March 2022 at 18:12

      Thanks for this wonderful comment. The lyricism gives me hope. And it is the darkness and the light together. It always has been. That’s what we are, creatures of darkness and light. πŸ™‚ <3

  2. Ren Powell

    4th March 2022 at 15:18

    I am late to the desk today – but here. Knowing you don’t want to write about this but knowing how we can’t not even if it is the guise of a novel.

    1. Richard Pierce

      4th March 2022 at 18:10

      Thanks πŸ™‚ You know you’re in my head all the time anyway. Very strange unsettling days. Rx

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