Day out

I went into the men’s loos. They smell awful- they don’t use the same floral air-freshener as the women’s. Who knew?

I got oil from my chain on my hands, and wanted to wash them. There is no soap in the women’s loos. The friendly cleaner explained that replenishing of the soap had been contracted out to PHS, a service company, and there was no soap in the station to refill it. He suggested I could go into the men’s, as the place was quiet. No soap there either.

He then unlocked the disabled people’s loo, so that I could wash my hands there. That’s not under the same contract, so there is soap there; however I noticed the disposal unit in there had the same PHS logo. Neo-liberalism in a nutshell: poorer service, greater cost.

I told this story on the train, where three of us round the table chatted and one sat silent, and there was the sound of conversation from all the carriage. Something in the air. The woman asked me if my bike was safe and I said once I had left it unlocked at the station for a day: no thief had bothered to check, or noticed. She has had four bikes stolen, but wanted to cycle to the station before work, as parking was £9.50 a day. Get a cheap reconditioned bike. When she started at work in the 90s they typed memos for internal mail, which would take two days to be delivered then two for a reply. As email increased, her line manager, who was in Miami, was copied in on every email she had- for support rather than surveillance, she thought- and broke down under the strain. Even on her day off, going for a meal with a friend she used to work with, the only former colleague she has ever kept in touch with, she has to keep checking her work phone. She is in contact with people from all over the world. Scandinavians are happy with a reply within two days, Russians want a reply immediately, even if it is 5am here. “Do you work?” she asked. God, do I look unemployed? Hardly a rentier, no-one would retire on my income willingly. I write a little, mainly on spiritual matters. I tried to explain Quakerism, to an avowed unspiritual person. “Spirituality” is one way of putting it. Some people might call it “life lessons”.

The man, a widower, volunteers at the Nupton theatre. As a volunteer he gets to see the shows. His wife died, and he had to get out of the house, being retired.

To the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition with H. There are thousands of works, including two complementary prints, each of three columns, light-dark-light and dark-light-dark, each an edition of 20 for £1200 each. £48,000 for at most a week’s work: one might produce several candidates, then print off a favourite. The income could support you for a year, while you made any art you liked.

Here there are two figures, about eight feet tall. I don’t know what the core is, but the exterior is fabrics. They are gagged with tights, with £20 notes stuffed into their mouths. One is male. One has breasts, but the forehead and chin look male, and the hips narrow. They are horrible. I don’t like the blowsy, sagging shape of the breasts, a bra visible. I talk to a stranger about them. Yes, it could be one of my lot.

To the Royal Albert Hall for my first Prom concert since 1986. After the Berg violin concerto, the conductor stands with his baton poised. Often with a quiet, contemplative ending there is a period of silence, but here it extends for an age.

To St Pancras, where I play the piano for the first time in months. There are three people round it: the old man says there are often more at this time of night. He often comes to play, living about a mile away. He says “She’s classically trained,” of me, appreciatively. “Is that Chopin?” asks the woman. Yes, the C Minor prelude. I haven’t played the piano for months, but can remember this.

Why haven’t you played? Too depressed. Too lacking in energy. And now- they changed my meds! I had an experiment with nine days of Norethisterone, synthetic progesterone, and had a wonderful high on it and colossal downer after. So now I want to experiment with taking it for longer, and see if the increase of energy continues. She says it never does. I hope it will.

He plays by ear. He plays the tune of Summertime, and stabs vaguely at other notes. Sometimes he makes useful chords, sometimes not. I sing it, baritone, I want to play with gender. No-one minds.

Coventry Cathedral II

Coventry Cathedral is the most humane building I know. We enter through the shell of the bombed, burned out building, yet even here there are signs of restoration: that king to the left of the window, and the angel face

are too sharp for centuries of wear. There is the shell, showing the work of the Bombs and the fire, and also faces, people amid the devastation.

These people

have such wonderful erect necks, unbowed though their bodies are mangled.

These people kneel to each other. There is no sex in this embrace, but surrender-

They bury their eyes in each other’s shoulders, in trust and togetherness.

Ah- an Epstein. Nothing but the best here! He seems too proud to me. I have wondered what we read into that face.

This cathedral is filled with Words!

Hallowed be thy name in THE ARTS. God be in my senses and in my creating
Hallowed be thy name in SUFFERING. God be in my pain and in my enduring

It is worthy of that prayer. Here people have suffered, and have vowed that no other human should suffer. In the East end of the church, where the altar used to be, lies a bishop, who died in 1922, who rebuilt the church, and holds it, whole and strong, in his hands. Note the swastika on his mitre, at the time an unobjectionable, even Spiritual, symbol.

It is the way the land was, but we descend stairs going from the old to the new building. You ascend stairs to the older chapel at Fatima, physical labour to reach God, but descending is both going down into the dark and an easy motion, for God accepts us as we are. We enter on the South, and move towards the North, where the Sun never rises: we see God in the darkness, in all that suffering, God always with us, even in the worst we may bear. So keen had we been to photograph the old church and its new inhabitants that we entered a minute before last entry.

The South Wall. I love these engravings on the glass. They look thoroughly Mediaeval, and modern. As engravings, they can be livelier than the statues on the entrance-wall of cathedrals usually are. I love those exuberant musical instruments.

On entry, there is that glorious huge stained glass window on the East wall at the South end, letting the light in as to any church, but here above the Font, a bare rock with the shape of a shell carved into it. How wonderful to be admitted to Christ’s flock in all that Light!

But as we journey towards God in this church, we go North, into the dark. We pass more words:

A new commandment I give unto you + that ye love one another as I have loved you

Christ in majesty. He is seated, but that is not how knees would look in a chair. A friend thought it looked like the abdomen of a beetle, but to me he has wide, child-bearing hips: this is the closest the artist, in the 1950s, could get to the Christa, the female Christ. Beneath, from the back of the church, we see him hanging dead. Here it is from closer up, visible through bars from behind the High Altar:

The nails from the burned out cathedral are at the base of the Cross.

There is more lovely stained glass on the West wall:

This chapel is East of the high altar. Through the Crown of Thorns, we see the Angel Gabriel ministering to Jesus in Gethsemane, while to our right the disciples sleep.

There was a tour, and I dodged into the chapel. I wanted to take photographs, but just then I wanted to kneel. Then the tour guide pointed out the sleeping disciples, and I was so moved I had to go to see them.

After, the guide and separately one of the tourists, or pilgrims, came up to me to apologise. They had not meant to disturb me. I wanted to reassure them, I did not want them to regret, so careful, here, we are of each others’ feelings. The guide told me that when someone in the cathedral needs to speak to a clergyperson, they bring them here, and the weight on their hearts always lessens.

This stained glass is in the Chapel of Unity in the South end:

I love the light and dark, the long passage through solid concrete to the window, whose light suffuses the space between. It is the opposite effect to the North-East chapel, which is all glass, all light. But both are round, a symbol of the equality of Christ’s children.

Out. I find myself sympathising with Lucifer, under Michael’s feet. His feet are chained but his arms are free, but behind his back in surrender; and that face!

I don’t understand this figure, high above the cathedral. Perhaps I should not expect to understand everything at first glance.

Mental Health in our Meetings

When I told a friend of that road-rage incident, she commented that I had done well to hold myself together through the Meeting for worship I went to immediately afterwards. After a strongly emotional experience, I find a measure of calm, then find the feeling welling up in me again, as with my fantasy of that man attacking me, and me thumping him. I anticipated that so was not shocked by it. The fact that he was actually unable to harm me makes me feel safe, and that feeling came to me in Meeting too. It felt like the Ministry which was for me alone. In Meeting I had sat mostly still, though not unmoving, and almost entirely quiet.

I may lose my income on Monday, and if so I am not sure what I will do. I imagined myself standing in Meeting and saying “They want to take away my fucking money. I need my fucking money.” The fantasised meeting is not the real meeting, but I wondered if that would be seen as disruptive, assuming I did not resist an impulse to share my terror. Abigail has to be managed. The meeting must not be disrupted.

I am aware that it behoves us to be silent in Meeting, and test the spirit of a prompting to speak- be accepting of other’s ministry, and questioning our own. But it seems to me that I can endanger the Meeting- I would go into my head, into that small child who knows the rules and seeks safety in obeying them, and I would merely be silent for an hour, as in a waiting room. That could enervate a Meeting. Instead, I seek to be my whole self. Rather than suppressing feeling, I seek to permit it, to allow it to flow through me. This carries the risk that it may overwhelm me. My goal is to trust it completely, so that I do not block it, because I feel the blocks cause the problems; I learn to let go of the blocks, but a block might make me- quake, is the best word I can think of for it. I would show a physical sign of the emotion within. If Friends are distracted, I may distract them further.

I don’t want the Meeting to become the Abigail Maxwell Support Group, a sort of Circle of Support and more support, rather than accountability. I would be the cuckoo in the nest, diverting the energies of the Meeting from its service to God in the world. Most of the responsibility of managing my distress is my own. And I want to take the risk of being overcome, even of appearing disruptive, because otherwise I cannot take the risk of meeting God. If we need the meeting to be comfortable, then it cannot be alive.

Privilege is not an absolute. If it were, the epitome of white, male, straight cis privilege would be Donald J Trump, and he would not be the tiny, blustering man that he is without having been repeatedly traumatised. Yet it has some meaning. My friend showed courage in admitting one of his favourite psalms is 137, Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! I love it because when I became conscious of my feelings, in my thirties, I found they were anger, frustration, resentment and fear. I have never wanted to take a baby by the ankle and smash its head open, but I am glad of that level of anger being in the Bible, because it has helped me realise I might be acceptable to God. Then again I understand that most women and the vast majority of men, like me, have fantasised about murder at some time in their lives. He and I may both like it because we are both LGBT. Not everyone understands our love for it. My lack of privilege includes an intimate acquaintance with impotent anger, and a default fear of people, even of Quakers.

I am glad that Wanstead Quakers want it to be known that our Local Meeting is a place where all are welcomed and nurtured, including people who are transgender and non-binary. It will not be true unless my high level of anger and emotional lability, arising from my trans nature and past circumstances, is welcomed. I bear most of the responsibility of looking after myself, but if I get no help from my meeting there is no point in going. Jesus take me as I am- I can come no other way. I give help, too, when I can. I dare to hope that the value of what I give exceeds that of what I take.

On the first full day of Yearly Meeting Gathering George Lakey spoke at length of his experience of the death of his son- hearing of it, travelling home, meeting family, the wake, the funeral, his feelings (though very little of his son, and only one positive fact about him). I am glad he did, as it cracked me open, but a friend commented that anywhere else there would be trigger warnings, and organised support offered “If you have been affected by the issues raised”. I blundered off, and proceeded to disrupt a discussion group by suppressed but still audible sarcastic laughter when the man leading the group shared deep, spiritual things. A woman left the group with me and spent two hours hearing my anguish.

“I am here to take,” I told her. “Sometimes I need to take.” And then when she fell on the stairs I stood and looked at her rather than going to help her up. I am not proud of this, but it is where I was at the time. I saw her later and expressed gratitude for her support and regret that I had disrupted the group. She could pass that on to the group leader, who was from her Meeting. I also feel her listening, when she held me while I plunged into my own darkness, freed to take a full, positive part in the Yearly Meeting. Many people thanked me for my ministry to the main session, which seemed to move them, from which I judge that it was worthwhile.

In fifteen years as a Quaker, I have found many shoulders offered to me to cry on, and have often taken full advantage. In a discussion group on Listening, a woman shared that sometimes she does this, and takes on pain from the other, but the other’s distress seems accentuated rather than relieved by the process. (I have also listened to others and sensed this in them, a bottomless pit of hurt which can never be dredged.) She compared such people to vampires, sucking her energy. I like to think I am not merely a vampire. Yet, from my side of the exchange, it can seem that people are very keen to provide shoulders to cry on. It makes them feel valued and valuable. It is an exchange, not a gift- we both know we will enjoy it, and sometimes we go at it for the good feeling rather than for any lasting good it will do. Don’t offer support in order to feel valued, because the outcome may make you feel insulted and wronged.

I put that too strongly when I first published this post. Being heard is unburdening for me, a huge relief. My inner critic bullies me as I unburden- I am being self-indulgent, this is not real, I should be tougher. The next day from publishing, I am not sure. Sometimes it can go wrong. I have listened, and felt I am earthing pain, like an electric charge passing through and out of me, but I have to let it go. I could do this, consciously, and move on. Once, after hearing a schizophrenic woman, the process of letting go took me two hours and involved seeking the help of a friend: that woman’s distress had evoked my own.

As this angry, labile, vulnerable, benefit-claiming, moderately depressed Quaker I want to be welcome all the time, not just when I pass as a quirky, middle-class, spiritual, highly educated and intelligent Normal-person. Please do not be self-sacrificial. Maintain your boundaries, and care for yourselves. So, tell me when you think I am pushing it, taking more support than I really need or that the meeting can offer, before Something Bad happens, and you exclude me in anger and blame me. People so often leave things unspoken, or assumed, but it might help to discuss the boundaries, to bring them into the open.

I have so much to offer you!

The public trans woman

I stood and spoke to a thousand people. I had seen you, entering late and walking deliberately round the back of the opposite balcony: you always catch my eye. I shared the ardour of my heart, for my ardour is strong and beautiful, and (wonderful as these people are) my words could add to their life and health. I am here. I have things to say. Listen to me. I delight in what I said, and how I said it, and at the same time I want the good of the whole group. I want to serve. Perhaps I cannot judge: I can only be myself, show myself, and that will have the effect it will. What I said was loving and generous, for I am loving and generous.

I am very pleased by this paragraph, too. There is the tincture of self-doubt and criticism in it, but I feel it is appreciative and truthful not a self-aggrandising over-reaction.

I sat, and was strongly moved by the experience. The woman next to me offered her hand, which I held as I recovered, then returned to her with thanks.

In the afternoon, I was sitting outside the Arts Centre with new friends when a woman came up to me. A relative of hers had transitioned, and she wanted to know how to treat her, and how to think about her. She asked if I was willing to talk, and I was, because I want to help her and her relative. And there are problems with this. I am not at all the representative trans woman who will tell you how all trans women think: the understanding of trans you get from me will get in the way unless you are willing to discard immediately any part of it which conflicts with how her unique individuality interacts with her unique experience of transgender. Possibly it is better to hear from a stranger than your relative the basics of pronoun use and dead-naming, it is wearing to have to keep explaining that, but even there her relative and I may disagree.

Even here, in the blessed space of Yearly Meeting Gathering, among Friends, where deep connection is possible in a moment’s meeting, there is something slightly off in her approaching me like this. She asked. I consented. I want to help. But it is my Life, burden, perplexity, truth, not a public property for others to learn of a social phenomenon, even though I chose to stand and talk about it in front of a thousand people.

In the evening was the Ceilidh, and I sat near a doctor. She told me how she had gone with a trans man to educate a group of doctors about transition, how ignorant they had been, and how amazed: they thought the man was a male actor, they had not known a trans man could pass so well. It is a way of starting a conversation. I had sat at her table. It is her interest, she is an ally, she had something valuable to share; and it is my life. I told her I do not think transition is the final answer, and certainly not the operations which sometimes go with it- they are part of the doctors’ desire to create a Solution, clear definite and apparently Scientific, and laypeople’s demand of that from doctors. That ended our conversation. Because it is her professional interest, and my life, and it does not respect me for you to bring up my most sensitive part, even when I have talked about it publicly, however strong your goodwill towards me. She may not have noticed her presumption, only my curtness.

This is the North-East chapel of Coventry Cathedral. The inscription on the plinth says, “I am among you as one that serves”. I love the light in here, the crown of thorns which could tear flesh, and the way the congregation is a circle round the altar, one body of equals.

Trans discrimination II

Why should discrimination against trans folk be unlawful? Because it stops us from thriving, and so stops us using our gifts to the benefit of all. People are weird. Our weirdness and difference is a source of strength. Accepting the idiosyncrasies of each frees everyone.

What can be weighed against that? A feather against a gold brick. Some people are transphobic. They find us repulsive. They want to say that, they want a nice, predictable world where everyone, but especially some groups such as fat people, queers, and immigrants are restricted, controlled into conformity by oppressive speech, and given a ghastly time.

Don’t compare your sin to my skin said Black evangelicals, who opposed gay liberation. There are so many overlapping oppressions. Trans folk are divided against ourselves, as if the bigots would tolerate a particular group of trans, if the others did not spoil it for us. Fighting ones own oppression is such a grievous task; and not everyone has the personality to sympathise with others, even when their problems are so similar. Do you think he can hide his nature? Jimmy McGovern’s hero priest in Broken asks the Afro-Caribbean man who despises his sister’s gay neighbour. We can, but it costs so much! None of us can escape who we are.

I demand that level of sympathy. All are broken, all are oppressed, all must work for the freedom of all; and when you realise that, you can be free.

It is not a free speech issue. You’re a man, really has little value as speech. Why would anyone want to be rude to me? To exercise power over me, to oppress me. A pointless, thoughtless cruelty for the sake of it. What do they gain? A fraudulent sense of their own correctness, understanding and control- but they don’t understand or control anything, not really.

The freedom that matters is the freedom to live your life as you choose. Freedom of speech has value where it allows people to work out new ways of living, but not when it restricts us. I harm no-one by expressing my femininity. I should not be deterred from it by the fear of not getting a job, or housing, or services. There is no value in being able to say to another, Ew! I disapprove of you!– unless that person is doing something which clearly harms someone else.

I wonder how this relates to Nietzsche’s conception of the strong and the weak. I feel, expressing myself female, particularly weak and vulnerable, yet feel that is closer to his Hero than to his resenting lesser men, who conform to a conventionality defined by others. It is not the same- I do what I must, what I may, not what I Will. I seek a world where none are weak, where no-one need to conform to anything but their true nature.

Cycling while trans

After a wonderful day, I got to the station at 12.15. It is lovely to cycle in a light summer dress, but not at night in the rain, so I put on my waterproof jacket. That’s quite hot, and I don’t want my wig rained on, so I put it in my handbag. What could go wrong?

I expect to take about forty minutes at night. It is lovely with the roads so quiet, even against the wind, even after such a storm that there is a lot of standing water on the road. I am almost home when there is a barrier across the road, with a police car behind it, and a diversion sign. Oh dear. That’s a long way round, I think. I asked the police officer, politely, if I could get through as it was such a long way. No: the storm has brought down power cables, which are lying right across the road. They have called for someone to come and remove them, but don’t know when they will come. I could wait if I want, but it could be half an hour. I go down the side road.

When I get to the dual carriageway I see there is no ramp down leading westward. I had forgotten. As it is quiet, I go down the footpath beside the exit ramp. However when I get to the bottom I see there is a barrier across this road too, again with a man in a van to prevent anyone sneaking through.

-Do you mind if I cycle through? It’s a long way round, I am not sure of the way through Zhuzhkov and the road through Marsby is blocked.
-Yeah, go on, mate, he says, just mind out when the lorries are reversing, yeah?
-I’m female, I say, but he makes no response to that.

At one point I am cycling over hot tarmac, enjoying its rich aroma. At another I pull into the side to let a lorry reverse past. Again it is lovely in the quiet, with almost no traffic going the other way. The wind is against me but not too much. There is little drizzle. I slog up the hill from the roundabout and get home in about twice the time I thought it would take.

The more people there are about, the more likely it is that someone will read me and object to me, but most people don’t mind. This bloke, seeing my male pattern baldness and hearing my voice, nevertheless behaved reasonably. I have been thinking about pride. What did I do- how would I conceptualise it? I begged to be allowed through– no, I asked, with my tone of voice indicating the only reasonable course would be allowing me through. Or, pride in appearance- practicality is more important. The dress was comfortable, in the day-time. I met with setbacks and dealt with them.

Pride II

The pride and love I have for my country make me cringe in disgust when I hear the security announcements at the sleepy local station. Please report anything suspicious to a police officer or a member of the station staff. Why would a police officer be here? What like? Have they left a bag unattended? Maybe they put it down for a moment. Are they wearing a big coat to hide something? Maybe they have a thyroid problem. Are they avoiding staff and police?

Citizens! Study those around you with suspicion. Your prompt action could protect the Country we Love from Terrorists! Or, just turn it into Hell on Earth. See it. Say it. Sorted. The Dunning-Kruger effect in action- a police idea of a catchy slogan. Look, it alliterates!

Good to see them ticking the equality boxes. Terrorists can be female too! Or, the police informant with that large bag- is there a bomb in it? is not scoping her out to see if she is trans, but wondering if he can escape by drawing attention to an innocent passenger.

When I get to Tate Modern, there is a queue for the bag check. How dare they, really, how dare they poke and prod through my handbag? Why every single bag, making people wait? “Open the bag please” he says. Oh, fuck off. I do so with ill grace, and take my waterproof out on command. Then I go in to the gallery.

Here I can get into the holiday mood, relaxed, open, happy, in an instant, usually, but the guards and searching just ruin it. If I wanted to bomb an art gallery, where better than to run in and explode just where it is crowded, at that queue?

To the exhibition Art in the Age of Black Power. I much prefer this to “Queer British Art”- we queers were prosecuted and vilified, and most of that was suffering soft people oppressed by the authoritarian control freaks. Here I see Malcolm X portrayed in bright colour, a Prince, Black, Bad and Beautiful, a hero. Black people still get shot after being stopped for no discernible reason by traffic police- well, none of the gun death in the US is explicable to a European, all of it is abhorrent, but the racial prejudice in these killings is an additional dimension of vileness; and here people whose lives are under threat are Proud, standing tall and free. It is beautiful.

Sitting in front of that portrait I realise I am high on art and progesterone. It is a good experiment. My feelings are heightened, more immediate and more intense. And, usually when I am this out of my skull I am at home or with friends. I have to be aware of the possibilities of overreacting. That said, it’s a good feeling.

To the British Museum. Here, visitors are shunted round barriers so we slalom from the front gate to the side of the courtyard, even though there is no queue. Four security guards get us through, standing on a pedestal behind a desk so I must offer up my handbag.

It is lovely to see H. We see the Hokusai, wander off for dinner somewhere, and passing the Leicester Square ticket booth get tickets for An American in Paris, which is wonderful. By the third time I am resentful of having my bag prodded, but it is now a dull ache rather than anger. I am glad this is only occasional for me at the moment. It would take some of the joy out of life. I would hate to get completely accustomed to it, though.

Interloper at home

Everyone who experiences themself as a woman is welcome. So I went over for a chat, and am now on the constituency party women’s forum Facebook page.

And looking up at her, beside her friend in the “I am a Feminist” t-shirt I felt like an interloper. What do I have in common with these women? It is just nervousness, but I am wondering what it could be, a shared experience of upbringing, unwanted sexual attention or even a female body that locks me out, makes me Other. The trans are welcome thing is policy, not these women’s choice.

It is just nervousness but it feels real.

A few days later, to the Tate. In the Members’ room I hear two men talking of what makes you the same person as you were years ago and what if you could be uploaded to a computer. They are transhumanists drinking Schiehallion lager- drinking rather than climbing or dancing- and I say I think of myself as a process, rather than a being. I do not understand object oriented ontology, but I like the idea of no hierarchy of objects- no order of importance between quarks, individuals, biosphere. Transhumanists are individualistic, and he says the culture is. They go on to Fermi’s paradox. I say aliens are likely to be social. It is worthwhile passing on how to make a flint axe, or smelt iron, only in a social species. If they have developed space travel and not wiped themselves out they will be collaborative. If they have not destroyed themselves with weapons or climate change, they will be altruistic.

He tells me that does not follow. Just because it has happened with us that we are co-operative, does not mean aliens will be.

We are sharing ideas, but also competing. I tell them how interesting it has been talking, and go to the Farrelnissa Zeid exhibition.

She was married to an Iraqi Prince, who served as an ambassador till the revolution, when he took a rented flat. Aged 57 she cooked a meal for herself for the first time.

It is quiet. Which of these huge canvases is “My Hell”? I ask the security guard, who asks another worker. She has graduated from art school, like most people here. The security guard goes round the room looking at the captions, slightly embarrassing me, as I could do that myself. Rose and I follow at a more leisurely pace. I only asked as it is named on the introduction.

She wants to know what I think of the last room, so we walk through. The Princess’s style changed dramatically. I love those oblongs of resin, with things embedded- they seem so fragile.

What are you working on now? This is a personal question, don’t answer if you don’t want to. She is doing embroidery, of Lisa Minelli as Eva Peron. Lisa wanted the role but never played it. Eva had cancer, but still went campaigning- she had a thing made so she could lean but appear to stand. It is about stories we tell about ourselves and others- Eva’s ability to stand, Lisa’s about Eva, Rose’s about Lisa and mine about the picture. All untrue. It is taking her years.

Oh the sunshine is glorious! Outside is a work of art, that word repeated. I ask a woman to take my picture in it, and she is happy to.

To the pub. I get a pint and look quizzically at the front step. The door is narrow. Can Efrat get in,  in her motorised wheelchair? An Irishman asks if I would like to sit with him. He calls me “Darling.” I say I am waiting for a female friend. I go off to blog. Well, it’s a nice enough place to sit, and the live music is good. He goes to the toilet, and says to me, “Your friend not here yet?” No, she isn’t.

Efrat wanted to come here because it had an open mic, and she wanted to sing. Actually the blues band did not like her song so did not let her, and played boringly but at huge volume. Rather than talking, we typed on my phone. She was born in Beersheba, and though her English is good it is slow for her. We got onto whether people could live in peace in a state of anarchy, when it was time for me to leave for my train. She wore a ballgown decorated with classic tattoo designs which she bought in Camden.

I fit well enough, and know which sex I prefer.

ВПЕРЕД

That nervousness with women could be my pansy sexuality, the soft male deferential with women, wanting to attract the strong woman. It might even work! This couplet I find extremely sexy:

Boys are like rules they were made to be broken,
girls are like guns you better run when they’re smoking

Men and women communicating

Men talk to men, and women talk to women, she said. She meant on facebook, but it is true IRL as well, with parties sometimes dividing between men’s groups and women’s groups. Of course it is not a hard and fast rule, but there are ways people communicate, illustrated there.

I tend to get far more Likes and comments from women than men. I asked for reassurance- “Am I charismatic?” The seven likes, and eight of the comments, were from women, all affirming. The man who commented challenged me: “Unusual Quaker enquiry,” he said, then changed the conversation- There used to be an Essex based religious movement called the Perculiar People. Maybe a case for revival. He refuses then blocks the reassurance I crave.

I shared, Too hot inside to sleep, so I went to recline outside and watch the stars come out. I think the two brightest were wandering stars. Then the Bear appeared. But I could not relax enough to sleep there, so came in. That got no response from men, seven likes and ten responses from women, including one tip- sleep in a wet sarong. Previously she had only had to do that in India.

I share on politics, and one on Brexit had more men commenting than women. Two men directly challenged me: You’ve just backed Brexit by campaigning and voting Labour; and, Does lack of seats, or more accurately your desire to be on a winning side interfere with your thinking in terms of right and wrong? I responded to this accusation of immoral behaviour circumspectly- I said I don’t think so, and have reasons for my decision. It might be masculine to just reject it as an insult. I find men more confrontational, women more co-operative.

I shared a puzzle: I want to make a three dimensional jigsaw of arrangements of 1cc cubes, which has two solutions: one solid cube, and one larger hollow cube with the faces each 1cm thick, with no 1cc cubes left over. Is this possible? This appealed more to men, following the stereotype: unusually, more men commented, though women got the answer. (I may reveal the answer and reason in the comments, if you attempt the puzzle.) They went quite deeply into the mathematics, and introduced me to Wolfram Alpha. Women got it right first, though.

One share on equal marriage had 24 cis folk liking, and only comments from trans women, but that might just mean that most of my queer fbfnds are trans.

A fbfnd from Texas shares a lot on US politics, from the Left. I am not doing research, this is mostly anecdotal, but she seems to have more female responses than male, and the confrontational responses are from men. A man from Corby who shares jokes and political stuff has both men and women commenting.

I feel you can tell the difference between men’s and women’s comments, though this could be because of nature or inculturation. Here is a test: I chose a way to find five comments from men on my posts and five from women, so that I did not choose any particular comment, as that might have biased the responses. I have randomised them. Can you identify which come from men, and which from women? I think you can tell the difference, even though some are quite difficult. What do you think? Comment below.

1. I like “who cares wins”!
2. this is us today, campaigning for Sophie Cook.
3. Was that through a letter box ?
4. Fantastic Abigail and thank you!!
5. Love it ( apart from hate tyrants…let’s learn to love everyone)….
6. Hate tyranny.
7. !
8. Yes, it will be very interesting to see what happens if Labour manages to win the majority. I can’t imagine that Corbyn wants to have anything to do with The Donald at all.
9. Dog must have seen red
10. Ouch xxx

Here am I, being charismatic. Three people hang on my every word. The exception is the radical feminist, who was alive to how men speak and women listen, and felt it still applied to me.

accidental good

I’ve been listening to some Ariana Grande.

A little less conversation and a little more touch my body

It is not aimed at me, but I see good in it. In the videos, the singer dances around in her underwear, but is clearly singing for female fans. “Dangerous woman” might even have a slight lesbian vibe. She sings that her boyfriend better shape up his ideas and consider her wants and needs. I am all for Millennial empowerment. This seemed a proper response to the Manchester bombing, to hear what the dead had gathered to hear, to spend time with what they loved.

Ministry this morning had a perfect shape. One spoke of Manchester coming together. I spoke of racial tensions: the picture is more complex than the stories we tell. Thesis- Antithesis: the synthesis was beautiful.

I lift up my eyes to the hills
from where will my help come?

He says the hills were the dangerous places, where there were bandits and lions. You might die. I had not thought of the psalm, whose words I know well, that way before. Ah. Complexity, darkness, comfort- in the Meeting.

I can’t remember what she said because I was interested in how, rather than what, she communicated. “It’s —— 4 ——-, written —– 4 ——” and she gestures in the air, writing the first word, the 4, then the second word. She repeats the gesture. “Oh, —– 4 ——” says the other, gesturing. They emphasise the 4 in their gestures. But both write from left to right as they would see it, in the air- so from the other’s point of view it is less comprehensible, seen right to left. I watch, intrigued. I would always, gesturing like that, use mirror-writing to be more comprehensible, and expect to get my meaning over immediately. You could say “The 4’s a digit”. We ended up absolutely clear, except that I do not remember what it was 4 what.

It’s worth listening to Ariana to understand how Millennials think. After all, when I am eighty they will be running the country, and I would like to not be completely confused. And, try to find something good in it. That is like in education, she says: however poor the student’s attempt, you should start with praise. No, actually, a teacher should encourage students, but this is different: you should find good in it because that is a better way to understanding it. If you are simply dismissive you don’t see it.

I share my joke. I am disappointed with it, because it works beautifully from a linguistic standpoint- the last word changes the idea round completely- but the concept is too horrible. So it does not work as a joke. Here it is:

I scatter lots of bird seed on my lawn. I do love to feed the cats.

One laughs, one does not. I hurry to explain that I don’t think it works, and that is the first time I have shared it.

The “Gifts reserved for age” in Little Gidding have haunted me since I first read them. In Meeting, a pastiche came to me, which I wrote down after to ensure I could remember it:

Things done right, and accidental Good
to show your “thoughtless bumblings” are virtue

Sometimes you can go into things in too much depth. We tell ourselves stories about reality, we have words and concepts, because understanding everything is impossible. Trying to understand too well may paralyse action. Know just enough to make the next step good enough. I am a good person really. Totally failed at life? From an absolute standpoint, possibly I have- no family, no job, no savings etc- but from a relative standpoint perhaps I have done alright- I am still alive!