Richard Pierce

Life, Poetry, Writing

Day 78

Two days of winter left. The wind is blowing the clouds across the sky. The sun is out. The office is dark compared to the brightness outside. It’s good weather to hang the washing out. The wind comes from the east. Ironic. Still those thoughts of the sound of bombs travelling in on the gales. The Saharan sands reached us earlier in the week, the windows still streaked with exotic mud, the roof of the office with a trail of the stuff from sloping surface to drainpipe. The world is actually much smaller than we imagine or hope sometimes. Lies travel around the globe just as easily as sand and missiles and fallout. Which is the most toxic remains to be seen, though there can never be any doubt which toxicity would ultimately prevail if released. Without having read up about it, I still don’t really understand the motivation behind inventing a nuclear bomb. Nor behind inventing a standard bomb, nor behind a gun. Knives and spears I can understand, just about, though not their inhuman uses. Science can never excuse itself as pure science without thinking about all possible end results.


That brings me back to my musing about human nature. I finished Bregman yesterday morning after I finished yesterday’s post. Without giving too much away – and I think everyone probably interprets the book differently anyway – the bottom line is this (as I’ve already written in my review: compassion is more effective than empathy in trying to change the world for the better. Humankind evolved from being nomadic, companionable, and kind into being distrustful and effectively solitary (in terms of groups of different people being solitary and territorial). The structures and strictures humans imposed on themselves and others once the model of living moved from the dynamic to the static are exactly what has made us assume we are born bad people, and that we have to struggle to allow our goodness to surface. The epilogue ends with ten lessons for a better world, the headlines of which I will copy out and stick on my office wall next to my Eight Lessons Of Therapy. It will take a lot of effort by a lot of people to make the world a better place. Some might even question if there is enough time left to make the world a better place – again. After reading the book, I wonder if, ultimately, humankind’s greatest failings are laziness and intransigence. Those static structures (which now include insidious news and social media) have made us too comfortable and complacent. Having said all that, I defend the artist’s right to portray the good and the bad in human nature. Light and dark. Point and counterpoint.



‘Knowing your enemy won’t necessarily save you from them,’ Aggie says. ‘It won’t stop them from doing bad things just because you’re there with them.’

‘Perhaps she loves him anyway.’

‘Love?’ Aggie snorts. ‘A figment.’

‘You’re cynical as well then.’

‘Just realistic.’ She would have loved the child, she knows that, knew it even when she was lying dying on the featherbed of red snow.

‘You just have to believe it.’

She raises her eyebrow at his too tender look. ‘Philosophy won’t get us anywhere.’

‘That wasn’t a lie, by the way,’ he says. ‘I really did study philosophy.’

She ignores him. ‘Let’s leave all the guesswork about the past. It doesn’t help. If she has something Valentine wants, what is it? And where is she?’

‘When she called, did you get the feeling she’d cut off the call, or that it had been cut for her?’

‘It was cut for her.’

‘So she’s a prisoner?’

‘Or someone could have cut the lines to wherever she was calling from.’

‘She didn’t call from a mobile then?’

‘That phone doesn’t show the numbers calling,’ Aggie says, her head inclined in the direction of the phone on the wall with its long cord.

‘You could always dial 1471.’

‘Feel free to try.’

Zav walks across to the phone, takes it from its cradle, dials the number. The caller withheld their number.

‘I told you,’ Aggie says.

‘Try all extremes,’ he says, and puts the receiver back. ‘Especially when you’re clutching at straws.’

‘We need to focus on one of the two people we’re trying to find.’

‘We have to find,’ he corrects her.

‘Stop splitting hairs. Semantics are irrelevant. Action is clear.’

‘But you’ve reached a dead end.’

She shakes her head. ‘No such thing. Those papers were all in her desk, not his. So she must have seen the communications at the same time as him or before him. So she decided to go. No fuss. Nothing different yesterday morning. They left together. He comes back alone. So that means she must have fled when they were in London.’

‘Are you sure it’s always London they go to.’

‘No doubt.’

‘There are any number of stations on the London line.’

‘I have no reason to believe they were lying.’ She hits the table with the flat palm of her right hand. ‘And if Valentine is a Russian asset or whatever you want to call him then that makes even more sense.’

‘You want to focus on her, don’t you?’ he says.

‘She’s the one in danger. He isn’t.’

‘And if she just made the call and pretended to be cut off, just to lure you into some sort of trap?’

‘It’s not a very good trap, is it, when you don’t even know where the bait is.’

‘True, true.’

‘Stop with the patronising.’

‘I wasn’t patronising.’

‘Then it’s obviously something you do subconsciously, something that’s been bred into you. Public school entitlement. British exceptionalism. Call it want you want.’


‘Maybe you’ll learn.’ She gets up. ‘No point talking round in circles. We need to search the house properly.’

‘Don’t you know it inside out?’

‘I didn’t go into their room before last night. That was always understood. Nor the cellar.’

‘Not even for wine?’

She points at the wine coolers on the far wall. ‘Does it look like they had a wine cellar? I despair.’

He raises his hands like she’s pointing a gun at him. ‘Just tell me what you want to do, and I’ll do it.’

‘You can do all the rooms I had access to, except my room in the attic and except for their bedroom. Maybe I’ve overlooked something. Too familiar.’

‘Ok. And you?’

‘I’ll go through their room again. Without haste this time.’ She stands up even straighter. ‘And without being afraid. As an equal not as a servant.’


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  1. Ren Powell

    19th March 2022 at 11:44

    Listening. And thinking of the Hindu’s Shiva. We create from destruction…if its nothing more than a consolation?

    1. Richard Pierce

      19th March 2022 at 12:55

      Perhaps it’s more than a consolation, though not necessarily for humankind, but just for Mother Earth.

  2. Ren Powell

    20th March 2022 at 18:14

    I like that way of looking at it.

    1. Richard Pierce

      20th March 2022 at 18:50

      🙂 I meant to write today based on that view, but the thoughts didn’t align in time. Maybe tomorrow.

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