Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 90

One of the reasons Bregman says to stay away from the news is that it only ever focuses on the extraordinary and the awful rather than the mundane and normal, the beautiful banal. That it only ever highlights what’s wrong with the world rather than what’s right, or ordinary, about the world and people. I’ve extrapolated this a little in my mind over the last few days. Isn’t art often just like the news? We only write/draw/paint/sing about the extraordinary/bad/sad/depressing things in life rather than the ordinary/good/happy/uplifting/normal things. Perhaps this is where my wish comes from to write a book without a plot. There may well not be an audience for such an uneventful book, just like no-one would want to watch a news bulletin about nothing, but we need to somehow shape the world differently so that there would be audiences for those books, those goodness bulletins.

Yesterday, I ripped the garden study apart to reorganise it, to stop my keyboard overlapping two separate parts of the same table, to move all the Radio Stradbroke studio equipment out of my eyeline and into a standing desk arrangement. My writing and work machine now has the desk to itself rather than sharing it with anther computer, and I must admit, this morning, sitting here, centrally, at this table, I feel a lot more centred (and don’t keep moving the keyboard around so it stops rattling over the crack in the table where the extension leaf begins and the table ends). L emailed me the other day reminding me that my discomfort at the desk is yet another of my HSP traits. I keep forgetting about that, and often resolve to note down all these different aspects of my life so that I can get a whole picture of myself, and then promptly forget. It’s a mark of what I see as my general laziness.

It’s snowing here this morning, big fat flakes of snow. I have always said the seasons are shifting, and so it seems again. Extraordinary heating events in Arctic and Antarctic, and snow in Middle England. I like snow, just not when I’m hoping for spring and some indication of heat, and when I know the English will be panicking and wondering how to deal with a slight smattering of the white stuff. I could go off on a whole jokey routine about white stuff, especially bearing in mind the appearance of Johnson in Parliament yesterday when many commentators were suggesting he was either high on illegal substances or very hungover, but I won’t. Snowy England is a laughing stock is the bottom line.

Just before bed last night, I think I finally found the bridging paragraph (or part of it) to push on with The Mortality Code, so maybe I will make progress on that today. On the other hand, I have an optician waiting to sell me some new varifocals an hour’s drive away.

There’s a disaster waiting to happen a few gardens down. A man in a high-visibility vest is standing in a tree in high winds with a chainsaw in one hand, clutching at the tree trunk with the other and shouting very loudly to someone below. I daren’t watch or listen. This is life.



‘What did you talk about?’ Aggie says.

‘Everything and nothing,’ Marit says. ‘Like mothers and daughters do.’

‘Did she tell you what she was planning?’

‘Planning with what?’

‘Did you know she was travelling around a lot, and spending time with heads of state?’

‘I don’t know anything about what she does.’

‘And she didn’t tell you where she was going?’

‘Why would she? All she was interested in was if I was alright, if I was coping.’ Marit crosses her arms. ‘What is this all about?’

‘Aggie thinks your mother may have something to do with the invasion of Ukraine,’ Zav says.

‘That’s not what I think,’ Aggie snaps. ‘I said she might know something that might have stopped it. That that’s the reason Valentine and Putin might want her dead. That’s what I said. Don’t use that English spin on things to twist my words.’

‘Maybe my summary wasn’t quite correct.’

‘God, you’re full of shit,’ Aggie says.

‘Then why do you let him follow you around like a lost puppy?’ Katharina says. ‘It’s obvious what he really wants.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ Aggie says.

‘Nothing further from the truth,’ Zav says.

‘Children, children,’ Anna says. ‘You’re getting off the point.’ She turns to Marit. ‘Was she her usual self?’

‘Cool and relaxed as always,’ Marit says. ‘Elegant and charming to everyone around her. Dressed down.’

‘Did you always meet away from Norwich?’ Anna says.

Marit nods. ‘But I’d leave from Salhouse and get the train into Norwich, so I wouldn’t have to walk past Valentine’s house, so I’d be in the station to change.’

‘Bit of a complex operation,’ Zav says.

‘Do shut up,’ Aggie says.

Zav grunts, drinks his coffee down in one. ‘Seeing as you don’t need me…’ He gets up.

Anna puts a hand on his arm. ‘Don’t be an idiot. We need to stick together.’

He sits down again. ‘Then stop picking on me.’

‘We’re not. We just want you to be sensible, not act like a spoiled public school brat. Learn to listen.’

‘Is there anywhere else Cassandra likes to go, or somewhere she feels safe?’ Aggie says.

‘Cromer. We met in Cromer a lot,’ Marit says.

‘Why not this time? Aggie says.

‘She thought maybe I should think about moving to York. More opportunities, less chance of Valentine being around.’

‘And what did you think?’ Katharina says. ‘Because this is news to me.’

‘I didn’t really want to leave you. Although York is very tempting.’ Marit blinks away some unbidden tears.

‘Oh, my love,’ Katharina says. ‘You must go if that’s what you want to do.’

‘And you?’

‘I could always live up there, too. But not cramp your style.’

Zav opens his mouth, his smile almost sarcastic, thinks better of it.

‘Does Cassandra own this house?’ Aggie says.

Katharina nods. ‘She wouldn’t let me pay for it.’

‘So she’d be just as happy to sell it again?’

‘She’d probably keep it. It’s her way of keeping Valentine’s hands off things.’ Katharina’s hands form a shape that means this is just the way things are.

‘Why the hell did she stay with him?’ Anna says.

‘I don’t know,’ Katharina says. ‘That old keeping your enemy closer cliché, maybe.’

‘Maybe she never loved him in the first place,’ Aggie says. ‘And he was just part of a plan she’s had since forever.’

‘And what would that plan have been?’ Anna says.

‘She always wanted to change the world,’ Katharina says. ‘That’s why we didn’t get on for such a long time. Her views were too extreme for me. She said she’d do anything to bring tyrannies to an end, that she’d die for what she believed in. I couldn’t let her do that.’

‘So she married Valentine because of that?’ Aggie says.

Katharina nods.

‘Then who’s your father?’ Aggie says to Marit.

‘The guy she met me with in York. That’s why we met there. She’s still in love with him.’

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  1. Ren Powell

    3rd April 2022 at 09:05

    I wonder sometimes – why we crave the things we fear. I know there must be loads of books on this by “experts”, but I figure we are all the actual experts on this kind of thing. Why we need to pay people to tell us to watch fish swimming in aquariums to lower our blood pressure, so we book a trip to a huge aquarium and jostle the crowds every step of the way. Deplete our bank account. I might buy a single beta fish. … No. I would probably kill it. Sending calmer thoughts your way!

    1. Richard Pierce

      3rd April 2022 at 16:03

      I think we crave those things we fear because in some strange way the fear makes us feel alive, seeing people away from us suffer makes us feel safe. Maybe it’s a self-preservation thing. I was never much into self-help books or programmes. Bregman’s analysis of humankind is riveting philosophy of a sort, but there are no real answers, not that I was expecting any. And you know me – I’m not very good at calm thoughts!

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