When I was walking back from my very intense acupuncture session yesterday, an old song came into my mind that I’ve not hummed for an absolute age, and that I used to sing to myself when I was still running 3 or 4 times a week. It’s an old Norwegian lullaby, or at least we used to sing it to the children as a lullaby. It’s called Lykkeliten, and brought back so many memories, and before I’d even got through the first few bars, my eyes were streaming. The passing of time does this to us. And it’s not all because of rose-tinted spectacles. What I was crying most about was that lost innocence, not just of the children, who are now all grown up, but of ours, their parents, we who were at the beginning of the path then, with so much passion and energy and hope, convinced that the world would become a better place, that we would all find our place in it, our rightful place, and that romance and peace and happiness weren’t just illusions. They are not illusions, of course, but the world has veered off course since then (even before then, if we’re truthful), and the attacks on decency and respect and honesty have been relentless. Mind you, humming that song all the way back lifted me, made me think that not all is lost, that there will be better times and ages ahead, for all of us. I also remember thinking that when they all grew up, especially O, they’d be standing on tables raucously singing the lullaby, just like Mario Lanza sings Drink in The Student Prince. Ah, the dreams of youth.
Massive aircraft noise over Norwich here this morning, and nothing at all showing on my flight tracker. Echoes of war? Or just vainglorious exercises to persuade the people that the UK government means business when it doesn’t? I know what I think. How much does it cost to run a fighter jet for an hour? And how much does it cost to run a hospital for an hour? I don’t have the numbers, but am sure they would make enlightening reading. Just as it is enlightening to remind people that the UK government threw £37 billion away on a useless, mismanaged and corrupt covid-19 Track & Trace system which had nothing at all to do with the NHS, whilst actually spending that money on the NHS would not just have ensured a more effective managing of the pandemic, but would also have gone a long long way to saving the NHS and supporting people in poverty.
A lot of people are doing a lot of posturing right now. I have written to my Conservative MP again asking her what she is going to do about the fact that Boris Johnson has now been shown, without a doubt, to have lied to Parliament. As usual, I won’t expect even an acknowledgement from here. These people think they are above the law, think they are better than us, think they can do whatever they want to do. And the way our voting system is structured, they can. There is no difference between them and Putin, and Trump, and Hitler, and Nero, and Attila The Hun, and any other tyrants you can think of on the spur of the moment.
One last thing – a strange thing. I used to have to lift the handle of the door to the garden study to make sure it stayed closed. It’s now closing without me having to make that extra movement of my hand. Either the ground has shifted, or the study has shifted, or the mechanism has healed itself. I’ll settle for the last. It’s a positive. I remind myself that there are many positives, and always will be.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 46
‘No, no,’ Aggie says, waving her arms at Katharina. ‘That’s exactly not what’s happened.’
Marit comes into the room with a silver pot of coffee, puts it down on the table with a bang, walks back out to get some cups.
‘And some biscuits,’ Katharina calls.
‘But not the poisoned ones,’ Katharina says, and smiles.
‘Oh.’ Marit is halfway into the room. ‘We’re not going to kill them then.’
‘No. They say Valentine didn’t send them.’
‘And you believe them?’ Marit puts the cups on the table, walks back into the kitchen. There’s the sound of tins being shuffled.
‘Just make sure you put them back into their proper tin,’ Katharina says.
Marit appears again. She’s holding a tin marked Gift. ‘Happy?’
‘Good girl,’ Katharina says.
‘Hang on,’ Zav says. ‘Why put it into a gift box?’
‘Gift is poison in Norwegian,’ Marit says, and smiles at him. ‘Do you want one?’
‘I think I’ll pass,’ Zav says.
‘Don’t make fun of the poor boy,’ Katharina says. ‘Can’t you see he’s easily misled?’
‘They all are,’ Marit says, and wiggles her hips. ‘It’s always very simple.’
‘Enough,’ Katharina says.
‘Yes,’ Aggie says. ‘We’re here to talk about important things.’
‘And death isn’t important?’ Marit says. ‘Killing your enemies?’
‘Avoiding death is more important,’ Aggie says.
‘Oh, God.’ Marit yawns. ‘More immortality shit.’
Aggie gets up, towers over Marit. ‘Do you take anything seriously?’ She grabs the tin, stomps into the kitchen, slams it down onto a work surface, comes back out empty-handed, starts pouring coffee for everyone, ands out the full cups, no milk or sugar for anyone, something she can understand and appreciate, no other way to drink it. ‘Your mother is missing,’ she says, stays standing, head inclined, like a mother hen watching over her chicks. ‘And just before she went missing, she called me and said don’t let him.’ She holds her hand out when Marit moves. ‘Let me finish. I think he is Valentine, and that Cassandra has got herself into some sort of mess.’ She doesn’t mention the photos or the Kremlin letter. ‘And that, for some reason, she’s either in hiding from Valentine or that he’s got her. And that what she wanted to say was that we shouldn’t let him find you.’
‘How do you know all this?’ Marit says. ‘You could just be making it up.’
‘Just like you could have poisoned the coffee as well, but haven’t. I found some letters in her bedroom. I work for her and Valentine, as a housemaid.’
Katharina laughs. ‘Trust Valentine to find himself an outsize housemaid.’ She shakes her head. ‘Typical of the man. He thinks that anyone outside of the norm has no brain or ability. And he’s always wrong.’
‘Then how did he end up with Mum?’ Marit says. ‘She should have known better.’
‘I warned her,’ Katharina says. ‘But she wouldn’t listen.’
‘Children never listen to their parents,’ Anna says.
‘Well, we know that now,’ Marit says. ‘Old news.’
‘Why would she want Valentine not to find you?’ Aggie says.
‘He’s not my father,’ Marit says.
‘He’d kill me.’
‘So it’s not something you know that she’s told you?’
‘A bit dangerous, you living this closely to him,’ Zav says.
‘You need to hide your most precious things in plain sight,’ Katharina says.
‘Still risky,’ Zav says.
‘You’re a boy,’ Katharina says. ‘What would you know about risk?’
Zav swallows hard. There’s that blush again.
‘He can’t help it,’ Aggie says. ‘They trained him poorly.’
‘But you’ve led Valentine right to us,’ Katharina says.
‘No,’ Anna says. ‘I killed the two who were following us.’
‘How do you know they were his?’ Marit says.
‘Seems obvious to me,’ Anna says.
‘Nothing’s obvious,’ Marit says.
‘When did you last see your mother?’ Aggie says.
‘Two weeks ago. In York,’ Marit says.
‘York? Why York?’