After taking my clothes off in front of you, how should I start a polite conversation? I only used the changing facilities, a cramped crowded room, once: after that, I always drove down dressed. I don’t think I thought about it at the time, it did not register as peculiarly unpleasant, and it felt a bit of a risk to be leaving my home dressed female, but I only used the changing room once.
I found the Ebstorf Map here, and it bowls me over. The header picture shows Scotland at Jesus’ feet, on the edge of the World. Sometimes I find faces in illuminated manuscripts indistinguishable, sometimes strangely expressive of I-don’t-know-what. East is at the top of the map, and Eden is East of India.
I think I met Barbara at my first visit to Northern Concord. A wonderfully generous, kind, and deeply hurt woman, she quickly became a friend. She proposed wandering the streets of the Village, and visiting the other pubs, and though even Concord, unfamiliar, didn’t seem a particularly safe space yet, I went.
Jerusalem was always at the centre of the World. It is just east of Italy: I can work out few of the names and the arrangement is strange, but I see Sicilia. Are those Greek islands? The Mediterranean is hardly wider than the rivers.
Others became my friends, all of whom decided to transition. I realised that we had approached friendship from an unusual angle: normally you would start talking about indifferent subjects, and the weather is the clichéd English choice, then what we think, what we feel, getting deeper as the process worked. At the club, we talked of cross-dressing, which was deeply significant for us, emotive, personal, and to make a friend we still had to do the work of building up a relationship. When her son was diagnosed as autistic, the minister was so relieved, as her wife had been accused of causing his strangeness by her coldness. She was not to blame.
I had an aborted conversation this week. The man was introduced to me as an author of science fiction. I said I liked some science fiction, and named Iain M Banks, though not Octavia Butler or Margaret Atwood. It was a weak gambit. He said yes, Iain M Banks is quite good. I drifted off. I have no idea whether he is internationally famous, or unpublished. So here am I talking of the Ebstorf Map, a thing I find beautiful and wonderful, hoping to entice you into concord. Don’t you find it fascinating? What do you notice in it? Here at the far South is Africa. I note the people there are naked, and pale skinned.
Though Jesus is quite dark, and the colours may have faded over eight hundred years. That’s His hand, over the encircling Sea. Conversation is a risk: We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.
I really enjoyed meeting you, in probably the worst way to start a friendship with my friend’s wife. I got undressed- that’s the best metaphor I can think of for a counselling session in which I decided to participate fully, showing my divided self, all the different voices within me, to someone who is pleasantly professional. Revealing herself would not be therapeutic. So now I may meet you socially, and have to find some way of making your acquaintance. I feel I am at your mercy, which I find uncomfortable, being a controlling person.
The Ebstorf Map, an alien and familiar way of seeing the World. Is it not glorious?