Bath

When I want something, I will work for it. At least when I see a clear path, effort to achievement, or trying a few things and seeing progress, I will. Or something. I see myself acting and achieving, and am surprised. Yvonne invited me to the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity Community gathering in Bath. I would speak, and they would pay travelling expenses. So I got up at 3.45, set off on the bicycle in the rain at 4.30, and got to Bath at nine. I wore jeans to cycle, and changed into a dress and suede jacket on the train. I did not bother to put on my wig before changing. The train is quiet and I did not hear anyone’s objection. A woman who works on the railway complained about a driver who has been off sick depressed, and was brought back into light duties, no driving, but is unreliable. I listened in.

On the train I met Richard, who had a camera round his neck. I asked if he had any good shots. He has been taking photos of trains, and got out his laptop to show me recent pictures. There are several of a ginger cat not doing anything particular, on a road, taken from above, and several from his walk along a canal- a bridge, a boat. I see no attempt to find an interesting frame or angle. It is a pretty view, so he snaps it. He has had one published in a specialist railway magazine, and several on a friend’s website. He hurries to write the web address for me as we approach my station, tearing a scrap from a receipt, but I have lost the paper.

I waited in Bath Abbey, the parish church. There is a “suggested donation” to enter, which I cannot afford, so I did not meet the eye of the woman standing there; but she spoke to me and gave me a leaflet. After, I said I love the fan vaulting. She only knows of one or two other places like it, which I find strange, as it is in the cathedral of her diocese; but perhaps she means the pendant, how the arch continues down to a point in mid air, where it stops. That is in Westminster Abbey too. I noticed this altar frontal with candle holder, the decorative barbed wire woven into the Crown of Thorns. Like the Cross, the instrument of torture, is made beautiful so is the barbed wire, the instrument of exclusion. It is disturbing. Jeffrey Dean said this poem in Ministry at the Quaker Life gathering, and it makes a similar unity. I felt joy and terror, at the same time.

At twenty, stooping round about,
I thought the world a miserable place,
Truth a trick, faith in doubt,
Little beauty, less grace.

Now at sixty what I see,
Although the world is worse by far,
Stops my heart in ecstasy.
God, the wonders that there are!

I was nearly asleep on the last train, which is only 10.26pm from London. Four Chinese young women wondered if this was the train to Nottingham, but the last train there had gone. A woman told them to get off at Loughborough, get a bus to East Midlands Airport, then a bus from there to Nottingham. Or get a taxi from Loughborough to Nottingham, which would be safer. That’s 15 miles, for five people. The train stops at Long Eaton, which is in Nottingham, a rather cheaper taxi ride, but I did not know this then, to tell them.

Camping

Durer, Salvator MundiThis morning at 6am, I stood in the field outside my tent with the sunlight through gaps in the trees, almost no wind, and a balloon from the nearby Ballooning Festival high above. I was blissful. I was In the Now. Om Shanti.

We had our camp social on Wednesday evening.
-Are you camping here?
-Yes, I said, pleased at the surprise. I decided to look as if I were not camping, in a dress and tailored jacket, silver high-heeled sandals and beautiful jewellery. The effect was lessened, later, when a man brought out his “rocket stove” and I put on my woolly hat. Sparks can ruin a wig. The rocket stove is a cylinder of insulation with a metal grate supporting the wood above the ground, and a chimney leading to the hob. The air flow makes kindling burn quickly, and all the heat goes to the pot, far more efficiently than open cooking fires.

Who wants to look as if they are camping, in jeans and shapeless hoodies? I was fed up with my alleged two person tent, which would only fit two people if they had no kit. Fed up with balancing on my shoulder-blades to pull up my jeans, I got a tent I could stand up in- the Vango Icarus 500, which sounds like a Harry Pooter broomstick. It’s last year’s model: this year’s has shorter sleeves for the bendy poles, and more hooks. Honestly. I mean to say. Tents are practical things for practical people, who go back to nature, and Vango attempt to make us buy the latest model. Fashion, in tents! What is the world coming to? Still, I got it with a reduction. Canny enough.

Durer, Virgin and child with St AnneThe chemical loos were disgusting. I heard one desperately pumped twelve times, and thought sententiously “What a waste of the chemical. You will fill the thing up.” Then a woman emerged, disgusted, mortified and distressed because her turd refused to fall from the flap. After a little thought I went to get a stick to push the matter off the trap-door. Several people are burning wood, it can’t be too difficult. However the man I asked wanted to know precisely why I wanted it, then explained that he was not the organiser, and introduced me to Rob, who co-ordinates Quaker camps. Rob had a stick, and the man started a verbose complaint, putting great eloquence into a trivial matter.

Our gas-powered shower, when it turned up, needed an electricity supply which we did not have. I showered in the sports centre. Bath university takes athletics seriously, and there are pictures of medal winners and Inspiring Quotes. I felt inferior and invisible among the beautiful people congregating by the door.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. TE Lawrence! Back to the Empire!