‘I know you are,’ I hand her another pile while I keep my ears pricked to hear the door bell. I’m waiting for the phone technician. Our landline has not been working properly for the last three weeks. This is the first appointment they could give me.
‘For example, I do a lot for women,’ Peirene continues. ‘Over half of our authors are women.’
I don’t react. My thoughts are elsewhere. It’s embarrassing – and bad for business – if a company’s phone line is down for such a long time.
‘And let me tell you another thing: I’m also doing a lot for our community. I support Counterpoints Arts.’ She draws a deep breath. ‘So, I’m defying Trump & Brexit and xenophobic right-wing politics with my actions. Right or wrong?’
‘Right,’ I nod vaguely. I’m unsure why she feels that she has to tell me all these things. I know them anyway.
‘So aren’t you feeling guilty-?’ Her voice has suddenly turned accusing.
I look up at her, standing there on the ladder like a Nymph of The Mighty Judgement.
‘-for us not having joined the women’s march today.’
The coin drops. She clearly feels unhappy that we decided not joining the march taking place right this moment in central London.
‘Peirene, neither you nor I should feel guilty. If we could have gone, we would have.’ I hand her another pile of books.
‘You could have!’ She folds her arms in front of her chest, refusing to take the books from me. ‘All you are doing is waiting for a phone person to turn up. What a weak excuse.’
I struggle for a response. Then find one. ‘As you have just pointed out, there are all sorts of different forms of activism. Marching in protest is one. Mine is to get our phone line back up and running so that readers who want to buy our books over the phone, can do so. And that surely will help to spread international understanding.’
For a moment the Nymph remains with her arms crossed. But I know that she knows I’ve scored but she doesn’t like to admit it straight away.
‘And what if the phone technician doesn’t turn up?’
In that moment the bell rings. I flash her a smile of relief and zip down the stairs to open the door. I’ve not stayed at home without reason. Soon the phone will be working – and the world will be, ever so slightly, a better place.
Image by Tom Hilton, creative commons.