The men’s sharing circle

I went to the Grove, where there are thick logs to sit on and drums to play. The man leading the group says this group is for Men, but I say my Y chromosome is as good as anyone’s, and he ceases to object. I am in my purple dress, pretty sandals, wig and make-up; I am not trying to fit in.

There are not enough drums, so I pick up a washing up bowl and try hitting it with the flat of my fingers. Not loud enough. I use a dry twig, which makes a more satisfying sound, and drum off beat, or attempt a slower beat so that my strokes sometimes are just after the others’ beats, sometimes just before. It is a way into the silence with others, just listening to the beats of all and making my own. Sometimes I am investigating different noises the bowl can make, sometimes thinking about my strokes, sometimes just in the group activity, mixing beats. The Grove is beautiful.

I cannot fit into roles defined by others. They imprison, squeeze, constrict, suffocate me. I have to carve my own role, breaking rules, being inconsistent, selfish- at best spontaneous and creative, at worst like a toddler screaming all the louder because he has just received what he was crying for a moment ago. I have to make a lot of mistakes to get one thing right.

The group leader, a big man with a strong baritone voice begins to speak, and I could almost lose what he was saying in the incantatory repetition of the word Men… Men… Men… Their group is based on the ideas of Richard Rohr, and leads Rites of Passage workshops.

We split into two groups, nine in each, and share. Our two questions are, why we are here, and what is our darkness. The rules are to speak from the heart, and listen from the heart- not to spend time while others are speaking planning what I will say, but to pay attention to the other Men in the circle; then to speak spontaneously. This gets easier as I age: I have practice, and I care less about how I appear and more about truth. I have space to observe others. Of course what they said is confidential.  I want to honour my femininity as a male way of being, to flit between the Man and Woman in myself, and unite them, and to expand my expression, my understanding, and my options. I don’t say all this there, I say it now.

What is your darkness? My darkness is a tiger, pacing angrily in a too small cage. The image came to me then, spontaneously as I spoke it. In the right places, letting go of the inner censor can produce wisdom. My darkness, the parts of myself I cannot permit, are power and strength which I can use if only I can open that cage. The tiger seems frightening, and is untrained, but holding the cage shut takes effort I could use elsewhere.

I do not want to disrupt this Men’s group, but to contribute to it. I come not to mock but to affirm, to speak truth as best I can, to state positive, good, opportunity, reality rather than the Bad. Rohr preaches on Noah’s Ark- God invited everything in, clean and unclean, predator and prey, male and female, and locked it in together. I used to think it was about balancing all the opposites within me, but slowly I have learned that it is actually “holding” things in their seemingly unreconciled state that widens and deepens the soul. And if I am here, listening and speaking, I am a threat and a promise to the group, just as I am in the Red Tent, just as every group member is.

The Red Tent

The Greenbelt women’s space is for all who identify as women. I asked permission to enter, and was welcomed, at least officially. For the opening session, they ask us what we want from women’s space. I say I want to explore the tension between the femininity I choose to express, and the womanhood of most people here.

The name “Red Tent” is not particularly welcoming for trans women. Of course it refers to menstruation; a woman asked if it were linked to the Red Hat, but that is separate, named from Jenny Joseph’s poem. The Red Tent creates a space for us to honor our blood cycles and womanhood journeys. Yet there is no objection to me here. That could be a legal thing, I cannot think it would be a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” to exclude me. Others wanted to discuss The Handmaid’s Tale, and time is set aside. And given that reproductive physiology is such a huge part of most people’s experience, it is reasonable to make it a defining matter for women’s space.

We hear that some men object to there being a space solely for women. Ribald catcalling ensues. We can tell them there is a Men’s Journey group at 11am on Saturday, and 11pm on Sunday. Later, I saw notices up about this in the Red Tent: a feminine taking care of others’ feelings, while asserting their rights.

I went off to eat, and as I ate a woman sidled up to me. “It was brave of you to speak like that,” she said. I don’t think it brave, myself. I was participating. There is no point in being there otherwise. She said she knew someone who transitioned, and “he” said (I am fairly clear she means AMAB) “he had transitioned with a small T not a capital T”. I get what she means. There is no good way of asking that question, but this sidling round it is horrible. I don’t answer, but don’t ask if that should make a difference to the Red Tent. It’s not as if we were getting undressed. We ate together, then went for a drink, and talked more. I insisted on buying my own. I would not accept a drink from her.

After that, I had to go back to the Red Tent. I would not be chased away. We are in small groups discussing, and a younger woman talks of children learning of sex through porn, and sex education being solely biological, mechanical, rather than about relationships, or even about pleasure given and received. An older woman talks of being a minister, and having her leadership subtly disrespected. Where a male minister would be “charming” she is read as “flirtatious”. She wondered about mentoring younger women in similar roles. Two black women talked of more content here to attract black people. Then all my group but me left, and I was left sitting in the middle of the floor, with everyone else round the sides. I felt a bit exposed, but fed back to the larger group what they had talked about. A minister in another group gave her take on the matter, as clearly I had not understood.

-Oh, and we talked about sex. (laughter).
-Did any group not talk about sex?

It’s evening, and getting colder, so I put on my tights, then walk out.

Transphobia IV

My mother said, “They want to be disgusting because they are disgusting”. She was talking of homosexuals, a word she could hardly bring herself to say because the thought was so revolting. The thought may have been more revolting to her than the actual person would be- I hope so- if you cut us do we not bleed? Moral disgust is like physical disgust for rotting flesh, activating the same brain area. I can’t be certain. This is one of those filters which prevent some people seeing the humanity of others. Perhaps it would have prevented her. She was a product of her time and circumstances.

“Trans women get a sexual thrill from fooling others into imagining they are women”. Really? Is that all, do you think? Do you know anyone like that? Trans women are people with particular feminine characteristics. Of course not all women are soft like this, but it is an accepted gender expression for women, when we were too frightened to express our femininity as men. I do not have ovaries, but if the law and society call me a “woman” I can express myself as I am. I am not fooling anyone, but expressing myself.

Radical feminism, when it addresses transgender, is a conservative movement. It is femmephobic. When a person identifies as female, what is being defined as female? Is it the breasts? Lips? Ass? Slim waist? Small hands? Batting eyelashes? Flirtatious smile? Long hair? Finger-nail polish? Eyeliner? Lipstick? Submissiveness? Thighs? Heels? Demureness? A want to be taken care of? A want to be adored? Cat-called? Beautified? Idealized? Softness? Quietness? Well, what is wrong with any of that? (Except catcalling). It’s not for everyone. It is for some of us. I would put it more positively, the desire to promote reconciliation and smooth conflict, and not all of those apply to me. If there were not such social pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, perhaps no-one would transition, but right now it is my way to be feminine.

Just as the conservative says, men should not be like that, so the radical feminist’s revulsion comes from her idea that no-one should be like that. We are disgusting because we want to be disgusting. No, I am this way you don’t understand and don’t want to be because it is how I am, or as close to that I can get with the ways of being and expressing myself in the world that I see available. You are not like that yourself. Hooray! Your way of being is beautiful, and I support you in expressing yourself, and oppose the forces that would oppress you. That writer objects to feminists being empathetic to confused and vulnerable people [us]. Empathy is wrong, as it sees us as people trying to live our way in the world, rather than as subhumans or enemies.

That “radical feminism” is conservative because it preserves gender norms. Rather than being freed to express our gender and subvert patriarchy, we would be shamed and bullied into presenting male, and be unable to express ourselves.

As it is conservative, women promoting this view write for conservative publications such as Standpoint and the Federalist, a publication not afraid to promote conservative lies about climate change. Just as they lie about climate change, they also lie about transgender, claiming we imagine all gender non-conformity is transgender.

Consider the risks taken and the effort required to transition, then continually just living and expressing feminine after. The sexual drive is strong, but we take those risks to be our true selves, not to get a sexual high. Who would want to be aroused all the time? My transvestite friend had a week of it, and was sick of cross-dressing by the end. He could not wait to get his acrylic nails off. He dressed to arouse, in short skirts, I wear practical as well as pretty clothes. That is perhaps why he could not make the imaginative leap to see that transition was right for me. The conservative man feels disgust for me, the radical feminist feels the same conservative disgust. Men should not be like that. People should not be like that. I am Human! See that I am Human!

Conspiracy theories

Diana Windsor was not assassinated. She would not have died had she been wearing a seatbelt. She might not have died had the chauffeur not been drunk. An assassin might have mingled with the Paparazzi following her, whom the chauffeur had goaded, but the French investigation concluded they were not near her vehicle at the time of the crash. Her heart was displaced to the right during the crash, which tore her pulmonary vein.

A facebook friend shared a conspiracy theory about this yesterday, that an MI5 “hitman” had confessed to the assassination. It is two months old, debunked the day after- Snopes points out the image of the “hitman” is an Australian with a different name. The Daily Star, not the most reliable newspaper but not one to entirely make a story up, saw fit to refute it. And yet a site trawling for clicks from repeating others’ stories as their own repeated it, and my friend shared it. No stake through the heart will kill such rubbish. The original source shared a similar story about a CIA operative confessing to blowing up Building 7, which collapsed because of a fire.

I expressed contempt first, then debated the matter- why the story was clearly false, why this mattered- and ended up in exchanges of abuse.
-You’re rude.
-You’re stupid.
Sometimes this is fun, but it does little good.

My friend said assassination was a matter of opinion, and possible.

Why should this matter to me, or indeed to anyone? The world is filled with conspiracy theories. The most pernicious group lie, climate change denial, need not be a true conspiracy, or a plot, only various people with an interest in others believing a lie telling that lie, and paying others to tell it. They nod and wink at each other, and produce articles and reports, but don’t particularly plan. An amoral expert can get money by showing willing to tell the lie. Lots of people believe stuff that is not true. It takes away energy from dealing with real problems, and may enervate people from seeing the things they can change, or reduce their trust in common action through government, which they imagine is corrupt.

I got angry, and wasted a lot of time on back-and-forth. But then, I have a lot of time.

I am depressed, and want to give you an idea of my thought processes. Why would I be angry? Because it is Wrong to share lies like that? Well, no, there is too much wrong in the world to get angry about. So it must be some flaw in me. I am a controlling person, who seeks illusory safety in an illusion of control and gets angry when people near me don’t play by my script. I find other people being independent of my fantasies extremely threatening, and this arises from being completely powerless and under threat as a small child.

Or, I need to understand myself and my world so try to fit this into one clear story of myself. But that thought is not clearly right, in fact could be completely adrift from The Truth. I speculate like this because I Respect the Truth (good) or scrabble around for illusory safety (bad). Or, a moment of irritation at something stupid led me to comment “FFS” and it all went downhill from there.

I cannot know myself, and so will never be safe! I am drowning in illusion!

I am depressed, more than usual. Often, depressed, I have thought I was being rational, seeing clearly, and thought of a post on how controlling I am. Well, I am: I stay indoors, because I can be just about in control here. I don’t know how useful my speculations are- normally more useful than now, I hope-

but I know this spell of depression will end.

This will end.

Knowing that is an improvement.

Of breasts and trans men

Breasts have huge cultural and personal importance. I remember the delight of a friend, on hormones just before I was, on finding her nipples were sensitive. I enjoy the sensitivity of my own. I will never suckle a child, but that is not their sole purpose; they are sexually selected, attracting gynephiles. Other mammals have nipples, but not breasts.

Breasts can disappoint their bearers, as too large or too small. A friend said she had envied friends’ larger breasts, when younger, and the way they drew men’s eyes, but they could cause back pain, and weigh you down. NHS reductions are available, not just for trans men. Getting the bra off in the evening could be a huge relief. As one whose eyes are sometimes drawn below chin level, I can report that sometimes quite small breasts- even bee stings- can catch my eye. I am embarrassed. I would rather keep my gaze at eye level, or look down or away, but sometimes I catch myself-

I appreciate that woman’s feelings. Her breasts had suckled her children, and given sexual pleasure, and the thought of losing them appalled her; and that is not how everyone feels about them. They get in the way of people seeing a trans man as he wishes to be seen, treating him as he wishes to be treated. So men bind their breasts, enduring the pain, sometimes more than is healthy.

The surgery is chest masculinisation. It’s not mastectomy, a removal, but creation of a manly shape. I can entirely understand wanting to be seen as a man. I too want my external appearance to match, culturally, my gender. For their eighteenth birthday my friend’s father bought them a man’s suit, and I share their delight in recalling/imagining the experience. It is not the same as my own delight, but mirrors and complements it.

Gender norms and enforcement have changed over fifty years. Women are no longer expected to be housewives; girls are more and more rigidly princesses in pink. One way to escape those norms is transition. If you find the norms oppressive, why on Earth can you not sympathise with others who seek a way to escape them, even if you would not choose it yourself? “Her chest was hollow. It was horrible.” It is the height of arrogance to define others’ feelings and actions by your own. We all do our best under difficult circumstances. You are unlikely to know better than someone what is good for them. They are delighted. Their chest looks just as they want it.

My own breasts have been a bit of a disappointment. Only this year, fifteen years after transition, have I begun regularly wearing a bra with no padding at all. I would welcome divorcing femininity from female, allowing everyone to find their own precise gender, without the conditioning and repression both sexes mete out. I am sure that would profit some of us far more than it profits others, and I don’t think all the outliers choose to transition. But, as things are now, we need the choice.

Celebrating femininity

Is there anything in femininity beyond oppression of women? Is there anything positive in it? Is there anything which might be real in an AMAB person, that she would use transition to express her true self, as we generally imagine we have done? I am still thinking of my sternest, least forgiving critic, whom I will never persuade, and her strong arguments, and trying to convince myself that there is, that I have gained something by transition to balance its costs.

I pick on a will to co-operate, and to support, and aversion from competition, which hurts feelings. People have observed women who are not feminine in this way: Eric Berne’s game “Let’s you and him fight” considered a woman provoking battle, as Helen did without counting the cost. And Jesus wanting to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings is feminine in this way. But I am talking of femininity, not how women are. I see it in me, as a thread throughout my life, and think it is beautiful. I have enjoyed court victories, but mainly when I felt I was fighting injustice, exercising an impulse to protect. And having blundered into litigation work twice in my life, I wanted to settle fairly rather than fight.

Arguably it comes from oppression. The NYT had a powerful argument for that: a man sexually assaulted Taylor Swift during a photo shoot, and after she thanked him for his participation. That automatic thank you, smoothing away conflict, at the cost of subservience, self-doubt, even self-flagellation, is instilled into girls and women. Her mother worried she had raised her to be too polite. Possibly it arose in me from caring for my mother’s feelings- yes, really, possibly my mother made me a pansy through wanting too much to make me a “proper boy”.

Also in NYT I read of Michel Foucault’s (or Theodor Adorno’s) term subjectivisation — a phenomenon in which individuals subject themselves to a set of behavioral regulations, and by doing so, acquire a sense of their own identities. My critic has studied and written on Foucault. This is the opposite of Richard Rohr, where today I read The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Surely Foucault would see subjectivisation as a bad thing, a way of creating some sort of false self. For my critic, my “femininity” is an act, a pretense, a thing apart, though for me my whole existence.

So for her, my discomfort in the masculine conversation yesterday, my pleasure in the feminine, would arise from this is not how I am supposed to be; for me, this is not how I am. If I admit the possibility of her understanding being true, that could be a feminine socialised self doubt, where women keep smiling, swallow their feelings, will not rock the boat, are not assertive, are subservient. Seen that way, from the point of view of a woman not naturally subservient who has asserted her right and been repeatedly attacked for it, I get that “femininity” would be revolting. She might note my occasional anger and competitiveness, and see them as my true, manly self. I can be very angry. “I want to control you,” I said to her, forcefully. I feel I was provoked-

and she could wipe the floor with me, then blame me, I deserved it

This is an increasingly competitive world. Twentieth century principles of the good society, caring for all its members and ensuring that all share the benefits of that society, have given way to neoliberal ideals of funnelling all wealth to a tiny minority of capitalists. Having to compete yet being forced into that subservient role against ones natural character would be revolting. Yet if society is not to implode, some people have to salve feelings, and to work for reconciliation and co-operation. I felt that was the real me, so far from how I perceived I ought to be, as a man, that I transitioned. To be who I really am, that is a price worth paying.

Mirroring

Here’s a guy fae Glesca, and I notice wee bits of Argyll creeping into my accent. More the lilt than anything. His is a mesolect, distinctively Glasgow but clear enough for any Brit, probably any native English speaker, to understand what he is saying. No, I’m not mimicking you, this is jist- how Ah speak, sometimes.

Here’s a man, unselfconsciously, unaffectedly masculine. A solid bloke. It is rather wonderful.

-How’ve you been?
-Fighting vaguely the old ennui, I said. And we were away, on mid-20th century musicals. He was in a group singing songs from them. He went to Kiss me Kate and quotes from “I hate men”- “He may have hair upon his chest, but so has Lassie!”

“Fish really don’t need bicycles,” I said.

I am more and more uncomfortable, here, mirroring, empathising, mimicking, whatever it is I am doing. I fled in resentment thinking, Don’t make a man out of me- we are blokes, talking in a blokey way, and I don’t want to. I am uncomfortable enough with my gender at the moment. I feel I am now a bloke, talking like a bloke, except in a wig and bra and a silk skirt and sandals with delicate straps which make my feet look pretty. At the time I thought it was how he was responding to me, treating me like a bloke, and now I wonder if it was me, mirroring or whatever. I want to be a me I feel comfortable with, so go and talk to a woman in a different style and register. We are again sharing about things that please us but now enjoying the other’s pleasure rather than subtly competing, around human contact rather than Cole Porter’s rhymes and word-plays, and this is far more comfortable for me. “May I have a hug?” I ask. Of course you may.

I cycle through the town. A man gets up from a table in the street, staring at me, advancing in a sort of Sumo pose, and grunting- not like an ape, as the ape would have more dignity. Had a million years of evolution passed him by? It felt shocking and threatening, and I wondered what was going on for him then. I was cycling late at night last week when a pedestrian decided to sprint after me. I pedalled faster to get away, again threatened. It has happened before. It is a drunk, boisterous man having a bit of a laugh, and if he caught me he would not know what to do with me, probably- it is a play threat rather than serious intended violence, I hope- and I am discomposed.

We looked at the blokes at the bar, and she said how unattractive they all were, how badly turned out in that uniform of jeans and tshirts, how stupid their masculine poses which don’t fit them, and this morning I was thinking how I am not a woman, how “trans woman” is only an approximation to Be Who I Am, how I do not fit, even how I might revert, though having grown breasts makes that difficult. From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves. In Meeting I decided I could not tell what was Real Me and what Ego-self, what Child or Carer, what the “Image of God” as Richard Rohr calls it and what the “small self”. I kept looking at the clock, and felt uncomfortable, beside this large, friendly man- Oh! How Wicked to be writing of people at the Quaker meeting! I am not, though, only about my reaction to them- and my comforting thought at the very end was, yes, I have to let that go, but only that particular plan for getting what I starve for, I don’t have to deny I am starving or let go of the hope that I might somehow, sometime, be satisfied. Now, this mirroring or mimicking or whatever it is- my strong presumption is that my characteristics are blessings, not curses, to be welcomed, cherished, appreciated, and used ever more skillfully and choice-fully. I can mirror, and I can-

be myself???

I don’t know who I am.

Whisky, newly distilled

I drew myself as the Sun, shining. The words in my mind were Strength, Beauty, Right: I am right, righteous, I have rights, I am rightly made. This is the world I evolved in, and I fit it. Now I cannot understand the notes I took, but it was something about being the cat which low status people choose to kick: I imagine that poor transphobe thinking, “I may be going to prison but at least I’m not a pervert like that.” His attack comes from his own need, because he cannot see me as I am, only as he has been taught to see me, as a way of controlling any effeminacy in him. Because it is not about me, his attack need not affect me. I can let it go.

All my emotions are Right, or Appropriate. They are not always comfortable (here I am moving from appreciation to judgment- comfortable only for the ego, not the real self).

I trust what comes up in myself.
I trust what comes up in the World.
I do not have all the answers, but I have the ability to find them.

It is whisky, newly distilled, the first fire of it. Seeing my God-self is wonderful, and I need to learn to be comfortable in my new skin. I will reach a mature appreciation, different from this amazed delight. And it is True. I am Right, and I need merely appreciate that. That was two weeks ago, and I am building on it.

It was at Yearly Meeting Gathering, the Experiment with Light. I saw myself as God made me, beautiful and Right, without the ego-self which one creates to try to survive. Now, since then, I am seeing that ego-self more clearly, clutching its filthy rags about itself, and how poorly it serves me.

Also at YMG was a Singalong showing of Frozen. “How can she be seen as some sort of Feminist icon, with those big eyes and hair and princess dress?” she asked, and I thought, meet us half way. Those are not ideal, but seeing her characteristic which everyone else has seen as a curse, accepting it and rejecting their judgment, is strong and beautiful.

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

“That perfect girl is gone”- how we are taught to idolise the ego-self, which is never “perfect”, but enslaving. She has some self-doubt, wanting to do the right thing, willing to self-sacrifice rather than hurt, so inhibited from fighting back. And (spoilers) the act of true love which saves the younger princess is not True Love’s Kiss by the Prince, who turns out to be a bad lot, but an act of bravely defending her sister.

I love Top of the Lake- China Girl. Episode 4 shows how Puss, the egocentric, psychotic parasite, has enslaved Mary. She loves him, completely. He has first charmed and flattered her, fooling her into seeing him as an intellectual with an understanding of her parents’ hypocrisies by mocking them; he has convinced her that the prostitutes are somehow in the “Real World” which her parents avoid, so appealing to her teenage idealism. With mature adults he can only be a disgusting jester, his pretensions seen through, so he preys on a teenager. He rewards her servility with kindness or kisses, a facsimile of Love, and as he has reeled her in he gives less and she, desperately, gives more.

I believe in his power to degrade her. She feels he is wise, teaching her about life, and so tolerates being more and more humiliated. He says “I am going to hit you in the face” and does so, and such is his power that she almost accepts even that. I hope with the failed blow job she has realised how poisonous he is; she needed to reach rock bottom before realising that, because she now thinks herself a fool for being reeled in by him, and few people could admit that to themselves easily.

How happy I felt when you said my song was “fantastic”! And after, when you dismissed my verses, I only recited more, desperate to be affirmed again. You are no psychopath. I love your bravery, intelligence, courage, fierceness, how you can feel such fear and do it anyway. Knowing you enriches me. I don’t think you reeled me in, or have wronged me in any way; it is my own response to you. I felt it when I first saw you, so I would have to control how you walk into a room if I thought you really had wronged me, and if I controlled you you would be nothing, rather than the glorious human being you are. You used me as a confidant, making me feel valued- it is an exchange, I like to feel my listening reduces pain. And you will never meet me half way. Trans men, “biological females,” are victims. How awful that she felt she had to cut off her breasts to escape the prison of femininity. Trans women, biological males, are perverted exhibitionists, getting a sexual thrill from fooling others into thinking we are women. So you say. I cannot be a victim, only a perpetrator, for you, as a biological male, even though you claim toxic masculinity oppresses all men. You loathe my performed femininity, that way I curve my hand, though none of this is conscious. To me, it seems it is just me. Still, I tried to please you.

I am continually surprised. How can you not appreciate me? Well, you don’t. The arrogance in me made me continually expect better, and my low self-esteem, the flip side of my arrogance, made me accept the taunts. Only seeing Mary weeping in her birth-mother’s arms, surely having finally realised how damaging Puss is for her and what a fool she has been, or what a human she has been, so different from her conception of herself-

She weeps and escapes. I must follow her example.

University of Warwick

The university is beautiful. In the Arts Centre, there is a huge theatre for lectures and conferences, taking 1300 people. The lobby floors are paved with dark grey stone with bright pink veins through it, as if someone had spilled ice cream. Under a glass lantern in the roof, I bend to examine them.

Walking to it from behind, there is a passageway. I consider the shape of the buildings and the way my perspective changes as I walk through, the pale blue panels on the walls, and find it beautiful. I want to pause to appreciate it as I approach it.

The Humanities building, from the 1970s, is quite ugly, just a steel frame with concrete slabs for walls, rows of them, rows of windows from waist height to ceiling on each floor; but it is on four sides of the “Meditation garden”, with trees, a fountain, a waterfall, where two or three times I sat and chatted. It is all about the encounters, few of which are planned, really.

Not all the open air sculpture is worthwhile, but I love this:

I thought it looked like something to go hand over hand on an assault course or playground, someone thought it looked like a rollercoaster, the cage disturbed some and delighted me. I approach it from the campsite. I take a slight detour to the Arts Centre, passing three trees which seem perfectly spaced as I walk past. Studying here, one might habitually bring sandwiches to eat on that bench.

This figure was controversial, as the head is covered with a sack.

It could be a person blind to reality, rather than a prisoner.

I did not take my camera, generally. I did not want to be looking out for pictures all the time. I went into the Woodbrooke tent to find leaflets on the Vibrancy in Meetings project. They were on a table next to one with construction toys on it, and a complex model Ferris wheel, where I met Alice who was stringing sparkly beads onto plastic twine. She is six. The 5 year olds were handing out strips of fabric to think about refugees, and she gave me one. “She was handing them out, earlier,” said her mother. She wanted to glue a star to the twine, so I set to carving a groove in the back with my penknife. It did not quite work. She made me a “friendship bracelet” with sequins, and the following day demanded to know where it was. I said it had fallen off, so I used it to decorate my tent.

I met Liz, whom I met at the spiritual healing course years ago. I suggested we exchange healing, but ended up simply receiving, lying in the chaplaincy. She said I had a good strong link to spirit through my crown, and she spent some time drawing the Qi downwards through my body to my feet; and as before with her I felt the warmth of her hands, at my forehead, even though she was not touching me.

I enjoyed Clarissa’s company. She was next to me on the camp site. Our first conversation was on non-theism, and only got deeper. She told me much of her life, and of a family she has housed in her town. She cares about the children like a grandmother. On Tuesday we met for breakfast, and were still talking at midday.

I raised a laugh from the Quaker Stewardship Committee, by saying my excuse that I was too spiritual to deal with all that money-stuff did not even satisfy me. I talked to a very sharp man who told me how trustees could still be liable if a charity, such as an area meeting, was incorporated, if they were reckless or negligent.

I went to H’s self-catering flat, where I met Liz and Ellie from Manchester. I had not known they had a son, Ben, now ten.