Liberation II

“You’re looking very good today,” said the beggar. Just in case I did not understand the compliment, he continued, “I think you’re very brave.”

I had stopped when he asked me for 35p. “I’m not on the street or anything,” he said. “I can give you 35p,” I said, and started rooting around for the exact change. I had only looked at him so we would not collide on the street. I was feeling good, striding along in the bright warm sunshine, in a summer dress I love.

When he said that, I sprang backwards and put my purse away. I turned my back on him and was walking away as he protested, hurt: what was the problem, he was trying to be nice, he has a friend going through the same thing, he thought I looked good. At that I turned round, facing from a few yards away, and explained.

“Because it’s my thing, and I don’t want it remarked upon. Because it is a source of pain and misery for me, and a great deal of work.”

He continued to expostulate, but I had stopped listening.

On the platform, three people were Signing. I did not tell them how brave they were, going out on their own, and showing off their difference. Even had I known more Sign than the word for telephone, which has entered widespread use, I would probably not have interrupted.

Or the black woman I sat beside on the train, who reminded me to pick up my book on getting off- I had indeed forgotten it, so that was not impertinent of her. She is checking up for Lambeth council what services are still running, and which will take self-referrrals. I overheard her phone call, and might even have remarked on the closure of public services had we been going further. But not on her blackness and how that must give her special insight and sympathy with the Windrush immigrants so cruelly deported.

Sitting on the train, I wondered if I were taking the wrong approach. I should stand and say “Hello everyone, I am a trans woman.” And they would all feel better for my bravery, and empowered to accept their own idiosyncrasies. After, a little huddle would form of people wanting to praise me, and come out to me about the secret shame they had never shared with anyone before. I would absolve them, they would gain instant self acceptance, and then start writing their one-person shows about what it was like to be a person like that. Then ripples of self-acceptance would disrupt the Space-time continuum, and no-one would vote Tory ever again.

Lucy got it. “It’s privilege,” she said, which is hard to imagine in a beggar. He is arrogating to himself the right to define my existence, and comment on it. He has no right. Or, he is putting me in my place, and patronising me. I am so much more than “a trans woman”. Yet, if we could share our secret shames, how much freer we would all be!

I got the late bus home, leaving Swanston at 11.05pm. After years when the last bus left at around six, and given that the bus service is so quiet, so much of the time, I joked I won’t believe in it until I am sitting on it, and perhaps not even then. The bus from Nupton was ten minutes later than I thought the timetable said, and I don’t think I am that bad at reading timetables, so I feared missing it, and sat in miserable resignation, unable to affect my fate. But I closed a window with a satisfying snap, which motivated two women on the other side of the bus to close theirs, and then go down the bus closing the others. I caught their eye and smiled.

Red telephone box

Rose's picture 2After coffee, I skived off, and walked up the path. I found myself in Ladybower, wigless, in wellies and jeans with a detectable odour of manure. The road, single track on a steep hill, curved round between large detached houses. To my left when I left the path I see a red telephone box. Does it work?

It is quite unlike the phone box outside my flat, of the replacement design. There, children have taken care to smash all the glass and remove the handset. There is a groove in the metal as if someone has taken a hacksaw to it, but that was too much trouble. This has all its glass intact, and a working phone within.

phone boxThere is a notice dated 2009 saying that as people object so strongly to the removal of this Great British Heritage object, BT leave them, but cease to maintain them. Locals may sponsor the phone box. It is filled with cobwebs, and its coin slot has been blocked: one may use a credit card.

I walked up a hill, on a straight path through woods. At one point I could see Bamford to my right, at another there were blackberries- and it is the phone box I choose to tell you about. Filled with cobwebs? Well, two or three cobwebs were covered with thick dust. Either someone could have cleaned it, rather than organised a “Save our Phonebox” campaign, or no-one cared about this one.

I’ve been at the Proust again. I don’t quite get it, but it is something about the feeling rather than the surface mattering.

Outside Sheffield station is a huge water feature, water flowing over metal. I sat in the sun drinking coffee, with fifty minutes to wait for my train to Bamford, and a smelly drunk approached me. He started by saying he needed the train fare to Doncaster, but then tried a different track. Ten years ago he was a company director. He had a few problems. Look at that car-park? He could build it far better than that, by himself. He has great building skills. So he would start a company, I would own 51% of it, and if I put up £100,000 to buy land and materials he would double that in four months, building a house on it.

Another man came over a couple of times, to use his lighter, then hung about a few yards away.

I did not mind hearing the story. At the end I did not explain that I did not have even £1000, but I did say I did not have that sort of money. Not did I have any spare change for a cup of tea.

Back at Swanston, I lugged my case from the station to the supermarket, where there was a choir singing on the grass, or screeching, rather, with a rock-band recorded accompaniment. It is the weight of the case I was lugging, made me- angry, I suppose, for the energy or determination that would give me to carry it. That affected the way I heard the choir. On the bus I chatted to a woman who had endured six buses with her dog Razzle. The dog was now fed up and uncooperative. She would have driven him to the vet for his arthritis injection, but she had broken her foot. Now sitting, all the carrying at an end, I could listen and sympathise.

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