Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 80

Enough of the antihistamines now after 3 days. I can feel the psychotic effect they have on me building up (mind racing, depression, ears ringing), and my left arm is almost back down to its normal size. So that will do. The interesting thing is that these are the normal daily antihistamines you can buy over the counter for hay fever, and they always do this to me. The really heavy-duty non-drowsy antihistamines I was prescribed when I had a months-long allergic reaction to something in the garden had no such side effects at all. Although I didn’t dare use the few remaining ones to deal with this disproportional reaction to an insect bite. A middle-aged man writes about his health complaints. Oh dear.

I check the headline news very briefly every morning in the hope that the war will have ended, that Putin will have been removed from power, that the threat of nuclear war will have receded a little. And every morning I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed with a lot of other things, too, on a global scale.

Yesterday, I worked a bit more on the translation of Hölderlin’s Hälfte des Lebens and sent it to X who had really got my head going on translating this again (I think I had done one years ago but couldn’t find it). X really liked it, and sent me a lovely and touching message back about it. This morning I realised that, unlike German and Norwegian, English has no verb that I know of for writing poetry (unless you count versify which is a ridiculous word that reflects the English love for complication and long words rather than simplicity). In Norwegian, translating a poem is known as “gjendikting” which is writing a poem anew. That’s what this is. I tried to stick as closely as possible to the syllable count of the original poem, and can’t take credit for its beauty, only for the choice of English words.


ripe with yellow pears, and
filled with wild roses, this land
droops into the lake,
you dear swans, and
high with kisses, you
dip your heads in
the sacred abstinent water.

my sorrow, where will i
find, come winter, the flowers, and where
the sunlight and
shadows of the earth?
the walls stand, mute and
cold, the vanes rattle
in the wind.



‘They used it to keep the rooms clean,’ Aggie says, swallowing hard.

‘I thought you were the maid.’ Zav looks at her dubiously. ‘You’d only need it if there were fluids around. Bodily fluids.’ He sits down next to her. ‘Come on. We’ve got this far.’

‘I don’t know what exactly it’s about.’ She takes a deep breath, decides to tell the truth. ‘Some weekends there were guests who’d have dinner on the Friday or Saturday night, and who’d not be at breakfast the next day because they’d been called away on urgent business.’

‘Except there was no urgent business.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘Perhaps, perhaps not. I just heard the rustling of the sheets.’

‘So it could just have been, erm, games, rather than anything else.’ He’s blushing.

‘It could, but I don’t think so.’ She stares hard at him. ‘Is this sex thing an automatic reaction for you? Or do all men think like that all the time?’

His blush had started to fade, but now it intensifies. ‘I think that’s the way men are wired. All of them.’

‘Can’t you rewire yourself? Use a bit of effort to avoid at least speaking those thoughts?’

‘I’ve never thought about it.’

‘Banter. It’s always just banter, right?’

‘You’re very sensitive about it,’ he says. ‘It’s just one of those things.’

‘Yeah, sure.’ She shivers inside. She had thought it was love, back then, teenage love for someone older and wiser. But it was one-sided, the craving to be needed and wanted and loved, when all it had been for him was the animal need to have, to dominate, to be in control. And she would have loved the baby anyway, would have taken care of it, brought it up, but he took it from her, ripped it out of her, killed it, killed her. Or so he thought. Part of her wishes he had killed her. It would have saved her from the nightmares, the madness of those days interned by someone she thought had saved her for herself, not to run an experiment in creating warriors and psychopaths to have revenge on a world that was moving forwards too quickly. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come to the old. ‘But it’s not, is it?’ She hasn’t stopped staring at him. ‘And it deflects from clear thinking.’

‘There’s always the possibility that this could all just be sexually motivated.’

‘After everything we’ve talked about? And Valentine tries to kill you, or me, just because some sex games have got out of hand? Don’t be stupid.’

‘What were these guests? English, or foreign? Men, women?’

‘All types,’ she says. ‘Women, men, Russian, Chinese, English. Nothing in common except being here.’

‘Did you ever investigate?’

‘Why would I do that?’

‘Curiosity. Your self-appointed role as a beacon of decency.’

‘That’s not what I am. I didn’t want to lose my job. I don’t want to lose my job.’

‘Who told you something urgent had come up and they had to leave.’

‘It was usually him.’

‘Didn’t you ever go down to see what was going on if you heard something?’

‘I don’t want to lose my job. I told you.’

‘You’re weird.’

‘And you’re asking all the wrong questions.’ Aggie doesn’t want to be on the defensive. ‘Acting like you’re a policeman.’

‘I am a sort of policeman,’ he says.


‘What’s that mean?’

‘You know what it means.’ Aggie grabs the passports, holds them like a hand of cards. ‘Norwegian.’ She drops it onto the table. ‘Russian. Ukrainian. Hm. That’s a whole story there.’ She drops them onto the table, too. ‘Canadian. South African. French. Spanish. Italian. Australian. Swiss. Argentinian. New Zealand. Notice anything strange?’

‘No German, no English, no American.’

‘Well done. And now tell me why.’

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  1. Ren Powell

    22nd March 2022 at 06:44

    I thought I replied to this. Nodding to the antihistamine thing – omg it makes me batsh*t crazy. Can’t have them at all. And to say that I love the beautiful translation. Sometimes (not often) I miss translating.

    1. Richard Pierce

      22nd March 2022 at 08:19

      Thank God re the antihistamines – not that you can’t take them, but that there’s someone else out there like me. I always worried it was just my overly fertile imagination. And thanks about the translation – that means so so much to me. I’d rather create than translate, but I miss my Sunday afternoons at uni that I spent translating listening to great music.

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