Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 76

C and K, our London daughters, suggested the entire family sign up to a tracking app so that we can see where each member of the family is at all times. They said it would put all our minds at ease because we would know when any of us was back at home safely after trips, dates, and such. A good idea, we thought. And it was actually quite exciting to be able to see one of them travelling at 90 miles an hour on a train, to watch their progress. But the interesting thing was that then I started worrying because the dot hadn’t moved from somewhere away from home back to home as I thought it might (should). It seemed to increase my worry rather than reduce it. K suggested in the family WhatsApp that this was because I was checking it all the time because of the novelty rather than just checking it when I thought it was absolutely necessary. Good point.

So I’m not checking it manically now. I must admit, thinking about it, it still feels a bit like an intrusion, but I’ll bear with it yet. I think about how my parents wouldn’t know from one week to the next what I was doing, where exactly I was, when I was at university or working in Germany, or when I was living in London. And that was probably a good thing. Or maybe not, because they might have realised I was being a bit wild and talked me out of it sooner. Although, and sorry to bring this back to Bregman again (who seems to be occupying my every waking and sleeping moment, one reason that civilisation is collapsing is that children aren’t as free as they were when I was young, that parents are spending more and more time with their children and shaping their lives rather than letting them discover new things and shape their lives themselves.

For a very long time, I have been trying to work out what pain actually is. I am not a very scientific or thorough man in these things, so I have never consulted any text books about this, nor have I even consulted Google about it, because it’s not really the science I’m after. The genius who first invented painkillers must know and understand what pain is, at least the physical side of it. I think my search is more of an abstract one, one where I’m trying to link the psychology of pain with the physical reality of it.

I have struggled with a bad back since I was about 19, the result, I think, of feeling immortal at that age and abusing my body on the hockey pitch and in any other way I could think of. When we first moved to Norway and I was in my forties, I had another bad back injury and discovered acupuncture which I am convinced kept me on my feet. And I remember reading articles about back pain and how most of it was actually fear rather than pain, and that not only was a lot of pain imaginary but that my resulting immobility was probably caused by the fear of pain rather than pain itself. I had acupuncture yesterday for my Achilles (and the residual issues in my left glute from ripping it a few years ago, since when it’s never felt totally right again). This morning I had a light bulb moment from putting all these memories and events together. Fear stays in our nerves even when the real pain has gone. Fear lives in our nerves. I’ll probably find that hundreds of clever scientific papers have been written about this forever, but the important thing for me is that I’ve found my own conclusion. Although, of course, I still haven’t discovered the cause of fear, my fear, your fear, everyone’s fear. That’s the next step. Just imagine a life without fear.



The real Aggie makes her way back to the kitchen with her satchel, the scent of coffee strong as soon as she goes in. ‘The maid has a maid,’ she says.

Zav laughs. He’s standing at the window looking across to the cathedral. ‘It’s a fine view,’ he says. ‘You must like it.’

‘I’ve been lucky. I am lucky.’ She puts the satchel on the table, picks up her coffee, carries it to the window, stands next to him.

‘You make your own luck,’ he says.

‘Maybe it’s made for us.’ She sips at the coffee. ‘Nice.’

‘The machine made it. I don’t think there’s an option other than nice.’

‘Such a modest boy.’

‘Not really. There isn’t an option to make shit coffee from one of those machines.’

‘Machines can get it wrong sometimes.’

‘I think I’m going to tell you to shut up in a minute,’ he says.

‘I think I’ll pretend just for a minute longer that there’s nothing to pre-occupy us, that we haven’t been forced into trusting each other.’ She tries to look out of the window without seeing the total mismatch in height between them, without cringing at her size, without hating herself and her shape.

‘Who said I trust you?’ he says. ‘I only have your word for it that Valentine was after me as well as you.’

‘Have a look at this.’ She goes back to the table, gets the papers out of the satchel, the pistols gone and behind the books upstairs with most of the other killing machinery, spreads them out on the table. ‘You said Russian was your forte, so go ahead, and read through these.’

Zav bends over the table, moves the papers around with his finger tips, sorts them into some kind of order Aggie can’t decipher, scratches his chin, a slight shadow developing on there now, and straightens up. ‘That’s Putin’s signature on there.’

‘I know.’

‘So why is Cassandra dangerous. And why would Putin want her to be eliminated?’ he says, and walks across to the window. ‘All those photos suggest she has ins to powerful people, but not publicly acknowledged. Does that mean she was working for Putin, that she was some sort of honeytrap…’

‘A married woman?’

‘It takes all sorts. You only have their word that they’re married. Perhaps they are, perhaps it’s a marriage of convenience, a marriage of spies. And then, all of a sudden she becomes persona non grata. Why?’ He holds up his hand. ‘Let me think. She turned. She changed her mind. Because …’

‘Stop mansplaining. I have a working brain. I want us to work this out together as a team, not be patronised by a guy who’s shorter than me.’ She suppresses the smile that comes with having been positive about herself.

‘That’s sizeist.’ He frowns. ‘And now you’ve distracted me.’

‘Can’t have much of a brain then.’ Aggie starts making herself another coffee. ‘If we assume that she was Putin’s to start with and now she’s not, she may have turned because he invaded Ukraine.’

‘Would someone like her be bothered about that if she’s just been leeching secrets from the West?’

‘Don’t talk down like that because she’s a woman.’


‘Look at it the other way, like a person not a misogynist. Perhaps she was forced into being his honeytrap, perhaps she was a prisoner to Valentine, to Putin, to whatever, and she suddenly found a way out.’ Aggie tells him about the phone call. ‘Perhaps she needs someone to save her, wherever she is. Perhaps she’s stronger and braver than you and me, and just needs someone on her side for a change.’


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