Midsummer Camp

Despite some initial problems with the venue, Midsummer Camp is on for 2012, Daniel tells me. Hurrah.

I was putting up my tent when a voice from behind asked if I wanted help. I turned, smiled and said yes, and A. realised suddenly that he had something else to do somewhere else, and left. I am far too ready to jump to the conclusion that “it is because I am trans” but perhaps it was, in this case: the quite beautiful A. cast a spell over at least two women there, climbed into their hearts and went whistling on his way.

Cooking over wood fires is a serious risk for wigs, I have ruined two with sparks, so I was in an old wig, no makeup, jeans, shapeless raincoat- and a child said, “Mummy, is that a man?” Then Mummy explained that some men want to be women, so have a sex change, which is not how I would put it. Later, J., who is seven, said to me, “You look like a man”, which got to me a bit.

Then, later in the week, I passed him on my way to the dancing tent and he said to me, “you look like a woman now”, which six months later still makes me smile in joy. And I think of that child, whatever Sins of the Fathers were visited on his mother, it seems she is not passing them on to him. Cycles can be broken.

We were camping, in four circles, cooking communally over fire, dancing, doing comedy improv, singing together, with sharing circles each night. We built community. We had a Midsummer’s night ceremony, dressing up, singing and dancing round a fire and burning things which we wished to get rid of. I wrote “Negativity” on a piece of paper and burned that, and ten days later was plunged into my War.

For my US readers, you could come to the Edinburgh Festival, over 2000 shows in three weeks with international orchestras, theatre and opera companies; or perhaps do London, the historic sites, galleries and theatres- or you could come to Midsummer Camp, and meet the people. Live with us, and find in what ways we are different, and what the same.

I became aware that some of us there are Jewish. We had a Shabbas meal at sunset on Friday night. Which made me think of integration, and difference, and equality, and acceptance- celebration- of distinctiveness. In Recherche, Bloch is a Jew, introduced with this disgusting speech:

You can’t walk ten yards without stepping on one! Not that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool enemy of the chosen people, but hereabouts there’s a glut of them.

The Jews are separate, with their own snobberies and hierarchies, and now Bloch, a snob, attempts to get in with the Marquis de Saint-Loup, Marcel’s friend. St-Loup, who effortlessly manifests yet despises aristocratic manners, thinks himself a Socialist and reads Proudhon, is mortified at Bloch’s social solecisms, and blushes sympathetically on Bloch’s behalf. One of these is to refer to the lift in the hotel as a “lyfte”- he knows he should use the English word, but does not know the correct pronunciation. From such tiny things is Otherness established. No wonder Bloch hates it, and tries to deny it! But I do not like Proust’s portrayals of Jews: they are ridiculous, and their Jewishness is part of their ridiculousness, and their unpleasantness. Yes, Proust makes aristocratic origins ridiculous too, but it is not the same.

I do not know what to make of Hugo Rifkind, a Jew, journalist, and the son of a former Conservative Foreign Secretary, remarking in The Times on the Jewishness of Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, as a thing setting him apart from the strata of British society now. Rifkind claims he is a part of that society himself. For me, the absolute moral imperative is to think of Us, always Us and never “Us and Them”, and to celebrate diversity and difference within the in group.

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