Last night, M and I did what you really shouldn’t do when the clocks go forwards – we stayed up very very late, drank too much prosecco, and turned the oven off at the wall because we couldn’t figure out how to change the time on it and didn’t want to risk it coming on while we were asleep. As a result, I didn’t wake up till gone 10. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m officially on holiday, and my approach this week will be to take things as they come. No plans. No disappointments.
That it’s taken me until being over 60 to realise the simple healing power of stretches is something I suppose comes to most people. Things we should have known when we were young and destroying our bones and muscles in the secure knowledge that we were immortal and indestructible only become obvious now. My back felt very tight and painful yesterday, so I did any number of simple back stretches on the bed, and got up loose and pain free. The same thing this morning. Very stiff, very slow-moving. More stretches. Pull those knees towards my chest and hold for a count of 30, and repeat seven times. And other ones that I haven’t actually got the words to describe. And the final ones lying on my stomach and raising my upper body 0n my elbows and holding it (is that a baby cobra or something?) whilst doing Wordle, Scholardle and Wordle 2 and answering messages. And tensing my core at the same time. It’s building all these things into my daily routine that I don’t seem to be able to manage. But I must, because those stretches heal my mind as well. Oddly enough.
It’s Mothers’ Day here in the UK. Yes, commercial tosh, and every day is Mothers’ Day. But we’ve been home alone for most of this weekend, and it was so heart-warming that each of the four children sent M a message on the family WhatsApp. And I, sitting next to her at the breakfast table, sent her a message as well, to thank her for the four wonderful children we have had together. M, after all, has done all the hard work, and I’ve just been hanging around in the background. M is baking a vegan cake while I sit here playing with words. The story of our life together, really. Grateful doesn’t really say enough.
It’s after noon, a long way after noon, now. The day stretches ahead finitely. But there’s still a long way to go. I wrote a visceral poem of memory and healthy idleness last night while we were watching The Road. I don’t even know if it’s finished yet, and haven’t yet read it back to myself. It could be dreadful, for all I know.
The sun is streaming into the messy garden study. Someone said there’s going to be snow on Thursday. The wheels of time grind existence into dust. I played a track on the radio yesterday called Digital Immortality. It had no words. There are lots of words spinning around my head, everywhere, all the time. I just need to pick out the right ones. This is what writing every day does. Self-seeding. Amidst all the pain and cruelty and despair, there are still reasons for hope.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 43
‘What’s the point then?’ Zav says. ‘They’ll have moved on a long time ago.’
‘With Cassandra still living in Norwich?’ Aggie says.
Anna watches them without saying a word.
‘That doesn’t mean anything,’ Zav says. ‘It’s not meaningful.’
‘Then tell me where else we’re supposed to start,’ Aggie says.
‘See,’ Anna says. ‘Aggie’s always right.’
Aggie shakes her head. ‘Too many mistakes. Now. In the past.’
‘The past wasn’t a mistake,’ Anna says. ‘Just a wrong turning.’
Show me the scar, Aggie wants to say. Let me see your skin and the mark I left on you. I wish I’d have run away with you. But she can’t. Not here. Not now. The memory burns. That month alone in that blacked-out cell was the loneliest she’d ever been. The electric shocks every time she touched one of the walls, when she hoped that her hated size and unreasonable strength would let her escape and find Anna somewhere somehow. She looks at Anna now, at the slight figure of her across the table, the perfect shape, the perfect clothes, the perfect bruise on the side of her throat coming up already from Aggie’s attack, and shrinks back inside what she sees as her own grossness, her own misshapenness. ‘Easy to say.’ Her voice falters and she curses herself. ‘We need to go there and find Cassandra’s son or daughter.’ She drains her cup and gets up.
Zav sighs. ‘Fine,’ he says reluctantly.
‘Stay if it’s too much effort for you,’ Aggie says.
‘Ha ha.’ Long and drawn out. He sighs again and gets up. ‘Let’s just make sure we have enough weaponry with us.’
‘Always,’ Anna says, and gets up, too. ‘Lead on, McDuff.’
‘A classical education,’ Zav says. ‘How refreshing.’
Anna raises an eyebrow and walks straight past him.
Aggie sets the alarm this time before she locks the door. She walks ahead of Anna and Zav, off to the right, up the road past the Lollard’s Pit pub, past the takeaways next to the river, over the roundabout where Ketts Hill climbs sharply up out of the city, winding its road up to the prison and the Lookout Point, another one of her favourite places to look down at the cathedral from. She pushes on effortlessly, along the freshly-tarmacked Gurney Road that cuts through Mousehold Heath, looks up at the peaks of the trees, wonders how they survive this close to the road, dives into the heath on a path hidden by undergrowth. She loves the way the traffic noise disappears once she’s ten metres into the heath, the quite enveloping her, the cool stillness, the peace she senses seeping into her through her taut, sometimes too taut, skin. She stops in a clearing under a gathering of trees, turns and sees the others nowhere. She retraces her steps to the road, just as they are about to pass the hidden entrance, the almost invisible path.
‘Try to remember your legs are almost twice as long as mine,’ Zav says, as he forces his way past the bushes onto the heath. You don’t want us to get lost, do you?’
‘I wouldn’t mind you getting lost,’ she says through clenched teeth.
‘And I would after you broke my phone,’ he says.
‘Stop bickering, you two,’ Anna says. ‘Focus on what you want to do.’ She takes Aggie’s hand. ‘Come on.’
‘I could carry you,’ Aggie says. If she could blush she would.
‘No need,’ Anna says. ‘I was going slowly for his sake.’
‘Just talk about me as if I weren’t here,’ Zav says.
‘Fragile ego,’ Anna says. ‘Like all men.’
Zav grunts, runs ahead of them.
‘You don’t know where you’re going,’ Aggie shouts after him, and laughs, lets go of Ana’s hand although she doesn’t want to, stretches her legs to catch him up. ‘Stop acting like a child.’
‘Is this how they train you to be? Seriously?’ Aggie says. ‘We both need these answers.’
‘You’re so light-hearted since she turned up,’ he whispers. ‘How do you know we can trust her?’
‘I just know,’ Aggie says. ‘History, like I said.’
‘A history that doesn’t need sharing right now.’
Anna’s sharp alert. The sound of a knife finding its target. Anna covered in blood, two men on the ground next to her. ‘That didn’t take long,’ she says, wiping her hands on the nearest leaves.
Aggie looks at her. ‘You became a real killer after all.’