Maybe being on holiday is a good thing, after all. I did nothing yesterday except fix the crackle on my mixer (thanks, Marty, for some brilliant ideas from an electrical genius), read yet another Elly Griffiths Doctor Ruth Galloway book lying on my bed in the Baby Cobra pose (and that felt deliciously helpful), and walk round sofa show rooms with M (indulgent, eye-opening, and another lady’s life story freely offered and now stored in my cannibalistic writer’s mind). And I hung the second set of solar-powered fairy lights on the garden fence so now the whole right side of the back garden as you face the house is gently illuminated at night. They will now stay there for as long as we live here or until a storm rips them off the fence and carries them off to some destination unknown (and then I’ll get some new ones, because I think we’ve been missing fairy lights in our gardens, will o’ the wisps to illuminate our ways).
The net is closing in. Perhaps I’ve used this phrase before, but never before have so many people in my immediate circle been testing positive for covid-19. This government’s foolishness knows no bounds. Many people I speak to aren’t even aware that lateral flow tests will stop being free at the end of this month. Many people do know, and are angry. It’s like this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, coming on top of all the other financial burdens and hardships the government is choosing exactly now to impose on the poorest in this country. It beggars belief, and Z said yesterday he thought a revolution was coming. Perhaps he’s right.
The war continues. We actually know very little here about what’s really happening. Much of what we hear is rumour and counter-rumour. Is the mainstream media deliberately blurring the edges of it so the people of the West don’t panic about the nuclear threat? I shrugs and despair (again) at inhuman humanity. And when a kerfuffle happens at the Oscars, it forces real stories like war, poverty, and death from the public eye. A confirmation that Bregman (see, I haven’t forgotten him nor his Humankind book) is right when he says watching and reading the news is very bad for your mental health, focusing as it always does on the darker side of human nature. The Oscars – who cares? Rich people playing games. Apparently there’s a dress code for the ceremony. Who knew? Dress how you want, for fuck’s sake.
I need some breakfast. There are millions who need it but don’t get it. Context.
I have a poem to write for a birthday tomorrow.
I cannot lift my words from realities into universal truths today. I’ll leave the soaring to others.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 45
‘Police,’ Zav says, holds his warrant card up to the young woman. ‘Can we come in?’
‘What’s this about?’ she says.
‘Routine enquiries,’ he says. ‘There was a fire in the other road, and we’re asking people if they saw anything.’
‘And you need to come in for that?’
Aggie is still frozen to the spot. Pictures scrolling. Voice matches. Alarms going. So loud. She grimaces.
‘And you’ve come with two weird police women, have you?’ the woman says.
‘We’re just civilian chaperones,’ Anna says. ‘Can’t just let them loose on their own, you know.’
‘And what about you?’ the woman says, looking at Aggie. ‘A bit on the large side, aren’t you?’
‘We’re all made in different ways,’ Aggie says. ‘Some at the front of the queue, some at the back.’
‘Still doesn’t give you the right to come in,’ Cassandra’s doppelganger says sulkily.
‘Then we’ll just conduct our business out here for everyone to see,’ Zav says.
‘No odds to me,’ she says. ‘You’ll be talking to them all anyway.’ She folds her arms, locks her left leg behind the right, leans against the door frame.
‘Who’s that?’ a shaky voice comes from in the house. ‘It’s getting cold.’
‘Just some hawkers, Gran,’ the young woman, hardly out of her teenage years, call back. ‘They’re just going.’
‘Let them in. We could do with some new company.’ Another red light of recognition in Aggie’s mind. That slight twang. Not from here. A different shape of palate and sound. Across the sea from the Northeast.
‘Bloody hell,’ the woman says, unfolds herself. ‘I suppose I’ll have to let you in now, won’t I?’
‘Looks like it,’ Anna says. ‘What’s your name?’
‘Marie,’ Marie says.
‘Ignore her,’ the querulous voice comes from inside the house. ‘It’s Marit, really, but she thinks the English can’t say it properly. And she’s right. Come in and close the door.’ The body to the voice appears at the inside door to the porch. She’s tall, long grey hair in a neat ponytail, doesn’t look as old as the voice had suggested. ‘Come, come.’
Marit pulls a face, steps to one side to let the three interlopers come into the house. ‘Take your shoes off,’ she says as she slams the door closed behind them.
‘Thank you very much,’ Aggie says, pulls her boots off her feet with her feet. She had to bow down her head to fit in through the door. ‘You must be Katharina,’ she says to the long-haired older woman.
Katharina smiles. ‘I did wonder how long it would take you,’ she says. ‘Put the coffee on,’ she adds, looks at Marit with clear blue eyes. ‘Proper coffee.’
‘If I have to.’
‘We still have manners in this house, even if no-one else has them,’ Katharina says, leads the way into the small living room, one sofa, a chair and a stool. The sofa is pine and stretches from one wall out into the gap they all have to squeeze themselves through to get in. She drops into the wide, matching chair, cushions soft with age and distress. ‘Sit, sit.’ She gestures at the sofa. ‘You’re very polite for assassins.’
‘What?’ Zav, half-sitting, bounces up again.
‘You’re here to kill us, aren’t you?’ Katharina says. ‘Valentine sent you, didn’t he?’