richard pierce

richard pierce

27 January 2012

Framheim, 1912

It is here we kept the whales at bay,
Here we built a home not a hut,
Hung and painted and decorated it
With memory and a little hope.

Around it we dug a warren
Into the moving ice, a maze of
Practicalities to guard our spirits,
To appease the gods of lethargy.

We grew up with the cold in our
Icy cities, in the mountains, each
Year more winter than summer,
Lives lived with the seasons.

Here we were happy, mostly,
In our home from home, our
Norwegian haven, the scent of
Coffee and baking always in the air.

This was our light in the storms
Of darkness, a sanctuary never to
be invaded by melancholy or grief,
Somewhere to return to at the very end.

We left it twice; once to conquer, and
Then never to see it again. It is
In our nature to be practical and
Sentimental in the same breath.

The sea took it and we never grieved.

Richard Pierce
From K175 - Antarctic Fragments

Dead Men, my debut novel about Scott and Amundsen is published by Duckworth on 19th March 2012. I will be giving a lecture on the book at the Natural History Museum on 15th March 2012 at 14:30, followed by a book signing.

For more information, check out

17 January 2012

Scott At The Pole, 17th January 1912

We plant our flag into the frozen
Tip of the planet, a failed gesture
Because someone else was here first.

We try to seem hopeful not weary,
Successful not beaten, but the pictures
Won’t lie. We are broken.

I never dreamed of anything like this,
Cannot stop the tears in secret,
Beneath our poor slighted banner.

We left it too late, too late leaving,
Too late arriving, and too late for
Turning home. All is emptiness.

We are so mortal, so pervious
To the final cold, loss frozen
Forever into our barren faces.

Richard Pierce

14 January 2012

A shorty award interview

Several of my fb and twitter friends were kind enough last week to nominate me for a shorty award in the author category. Naturally, I entered into the full spirit of the thing, and filled in an interview form. It says quite a lot about me, so I thought I might as well post it here.

What's your best tweet?

That's an impossible question to answer. I hope it wouldn't be something trite.

What are six things you could never do without?
Family, writing, reading, music, sex, cigarettes.

How do you use Twitter in your professional life?
I tweet about subject matter related to my soon-to-be-released book. I also tweet very occasionally about my charitable work.

What's your favorite Twitter app?
Any one I manage to use. Showing my twitter feed on my web site and blog is the most recent one I've used.

Twitter or Facebook?
Twitter gives me a broader constituency than facebook and is quicker to update.

What was the funniest trend you've seen?
No idea. Many trends aren't actually that memorable.

What feature should Twitter add?
Can't think of any, because the retweet button is the same as a like button. Ah, an easier way to follow conversations between people.

Who do you wish had a Twitter feed but doesn't?
People still living - I can't imagine. Dead people - Audrey Hepburn and my father.

What are some words or phrases you refuse to shorten for brevity?
None. Although I do shorten words occassionally, I try to construct my tweets in such a way that I can say what I want in complete words. R

Is there someone you want to follow you who doesn't already? If so, who?
I'm not really into celebrity or reflected glory, so not really. @johnprescott would be nice, because I admire him.

Have you ever unfollowed someone? Who and why?
I've unfollowed inactive accounts, the names of which I can't remember. If some1 says something I disagree with, I won't unfollow, but argue.

Why should we vote for you?
Because you want to, not because you think you have to. It would be nice to win an award, but it's better to be respected.

Terms you wish would start trending on Twitter right now?
Global taxation, global currency, global peace, global respect. And, selfishly, #deadmenDW

What's the most interesting connection you've made through Twitter?
They're all interesting, because twitter is so multi-faceted. As a writer, connecting with readers is the most stimulating aspect.

Hashtag you created that you wish everyone used?
I didn't create it, but my publisher did - #deadmenDW

How do you make your tweets unique?
I'm not sure my tweets are unique, but I never tweet anything I might regret, & I always respond to direct tweets & always will.

What inspires you to tweet?
Never the need to vent, but always the desire to share and communicate.

Ever get called out for tweeting too much?
Once on fb when doing my radio show, tweeting every track I played, which cluttered some folks' fb feeds. Sorry, that's the way I broadcast.

140 characters of advice for a new user?
Lurk, pick those you follow with care. Choose interesting people to follow rather than celebrities. Tweet about thoughts not bowel movements.

How long can you go without a tweet?
As long as I have to.

What question are we not asking here that we should?
I haven't come across what's your favourite colour or what's your favourite music yet.

How do you imagine Twitter changing?
Greater capacity and less crashes. Connecting even more people. Becoming an everyday tool rather than a toy for geeks and youngsters.

Who do you admire most for his or her use of Twitter?
@onlygeek A local activist bringing local issues to national and international attention, a supporter of civil rights & libraries.

Who is the funniest person on Twitter that you follow?
@mock_ing_bird. She has a wicked sense of humour, and is not afraid to make fun of herself. R

What is one of the biggest misconceptions of Twitter?
That it's a waste of time.

Why should people follow you?
Because they want to. Because I don't tweet so much as to get irritating. Because I can occasionally produce a well-turned phrase.

Can you name some one-of-a-kind Twitter accounts that you follow?
@jensstoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway, tweets surprisingly openly and honestly compared to other politicians & follows many ppl back.

How do you decide what to tweet?
Tempered impulse and things I think will be of interest not just to my followers but to everyone. R

Why'd you start tweeting?
I wanted to see what it was all about, and I wanted to find new ways of interacting with ppl I'd met online, & with potential readers.

Has Twitter changed your life? If yes, how?
Yes. It's brought me closer to many people, has broadened my horizons, and made me look at myself in a different light.

What do you wish people would do more of on Twitter?
Praise each other rather than themselves.

How will the world change in the next year?
The economic climate will worsen; there will be more civil unrest; more ppl will be digitally connected, tho not sure if that's a gd thing.

What are some big Twitter faux pas?
Being rude, being racist, being sexist, spamming, tweeting without thinking.

What will the world be like 10 years from now?
10 years older, and still a long way away from peaceful and prosperous, unfortunately, and too

10 January 2012

Running Away

Had we done things differently then
Would now have changed?
A word in another place,
A transposition of a scowl for a smile,
A hand up instead of a push away?

Time drags and festers
In the open wound of memory.
Each junction becomes a dead end,
And every road leads to the same place,
Alone in front of a mirror

Where we cannot hide from ourselves,
And all truths are shown.
No faith, no philosophy nor ideology,
No dogma,
Saves us from us.

8 January 2012

Being Father II

This has been a difficult week. When considering this post, I realised how easy it is to write certain things into fiction rather than baring all as real people. Because when we put our experiences into fiction we can hide behind our imaginary characters, because we know that you, our readers, know that we know you think everything in our books is autobiographical, when it actually isn't. Or is it?

My son had his heart set on going to a particular university. He didn't get in. It stopped us in our tracks, tears were shed, black holes of future contemplated. If I had wanted him to succeed for my sake, it would have been easy for me to put this disappointment to one side. But because I wanted it for him, for the amazing man he is growing into, it has cut me deeply, and I have been paralysed into inaction in almost everything I do, because I keep going back to the dream we both had for him, of all the things he wanted to achieve at that particular place. And now the dream's done, and we find moving on really difficult.

The point is - there are always new, seemingly insurmountable, obstacles in parenting, each challenge a new one we haven't encountered before, one we've received no training for. Even those of us who have been parents for nearly twenty years aren't experienced enough to deal with these problems easily, completely, perfectly. I feel I've let him down. I feel like I should be healing his damaged heart, but I can't find the medicine anywhere, but I haven't got the skill to. All I can say to him is that there are other good universities out there, that he shouldn't jack everything in now, that we've got to look forward instead of regretting the choices we made. But it hurts, because he hurts, because I see the pain in every difficult movement of his body, hear it in each scuffing step on the stairs and each sigh behind his closed door.

But this will happen over and over again in our children's lives, that they will have their hearts broken - in education, in work, in love, in family life, in friendships. And we, as parents trying to be good parents against all the odds, we won't be able to help them every time, we won't even be able to help them once, because they have to get through these things on their own. Because we aren't them. We can't lead their lives for them, can't lead our lives through them or let them lead theirs through us. That doesn't make it any easier, any more painless, but I guess it's the way it has to be.

I wonder how much pain I caused my parents, how much they longed for me to get the things I wanted, and how bitterly they wept into their dark bedroom when I didn't succeed. I wonder how often they worried about me when I'd finally moved away from home, when I was living it up somewhere and they were sitting at home, in front of the telly, Mum in her comfy chair, Dad in his rocking chair, holding hands, waiting for the clock to move forwards to the next day when they could reasonably hope for me to call them, or for the postman to stick a letter from me through the letter box. And were probably disappointed and doubly concerned.

The thing is - it doesn't end. Once we have children, that's it. We are tied to them for life, committed to our emotional vulnerability. We will always bleed when our children do.

3 January 2012

Being Father

I started writing this post in Marmalades in Norwich yesterday, but my Android phone let me get no further than the title, for some odd reason. I wanted to write something while I was with my youngest daughter, and while my second-youngest was swanning around the town with a couple of her mates (and me on alert with my mobile in case she needed me).

There is so little time nowadays for us to be real parents. What I mean is that we have our hands so full with providing, with caring, with all those everyday things which wear us down, that we have no time to be humans with our children, no time to smile and hug and grasp at some cold empty time to fill it with the warmth of just being, of giving something special to those who are special to us.

I have tried, this Christmas holiday, to make up for those failings of the modern father I am, the man with a day job and that second job as a writer that pulls me away from the dinner table too soon and back into the study with the one light on and the strange worlds I create and populate and live in. I've tried not to have much screen time, tried not to compulsively check my emails, tried to log out of twitter and fb, and not think of the characters stranded in the narrative of my latest book, but just to sit and talk and play and be Dad. I hope I have succeeded, even just a little.

On New Year's Eve, I did play the waiter to the four women in my home (wife and three daughters) while my son was out pubbing. I set out trays of nibbles, poured orange fizzy into champagne glasses for the girls and Cava for Marianne. Two sets of women in two separate rooms watching different films, and me flitting between the rooms, topping up glasses and bowls of dip. I loved it, and, when the New Year came and all five of us sipped proper, cold champagne, it was special and real and not routine.

So, back to yesterday. I love shopping, and I love shopping with my daughters, so I quite happily spent lots of time in Lush, and Alex quite happily spent lots of time with me in record shops. For elevenses, we had hot chocolate and shared a fruit scone (and went back to the same place for sausage rolls and water at lunch), and she was all wide-eyed and smiley at being a grown-up with Dad, and being treated with respect by the lovely people in Marmalades, and being able to watch the people go by outside, and talking about them in descriptive language, and characterising them, and memorising them. That impressed me.

All my children impress me, because they are growing into independent individuals, making ideas of their own, and not remaking themselves in my image or Marianne's image, or the image of the world. Although, at times, of course, at their early ages, it can be difficult and frightening for them to do that.

This is, by its very nature, by the very nature of the relationships I'm writing about, the people I'm writing about, a very fragmented narrative of a post. I always think we're a dysfunctional family, always rant about setting our own standards and not being guided by others, often disappear in a grump or in a fog of Black Dog depression, into my study and scribble bleak verse. But then I sit at the dinner table, breath steady, mouth full of wonderful food, and listen to them, all the other five in my family, and the tales they spin, and the debates they have, and see their eyes shining with mirth or consideration or inspiration, and I think, oh, yes, this is what it's about; this is what it's all about, being Father. Because it's all about them, not me.