Merry Christmas, with Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Anticipating, slightly: the Epiphany is 6 January. I have not seen this tapestry, but found tapestries of his I have seen gorgeous. This fabulous thing is 3.77×2.58m.

Only his mother, in her maiden bliss
worshipped the Beloved, with a kiss

His Annunciation has the Angel descending from on high
and the woman not abashed

I note it appears to follow the rules of perspective found in the Renaissance, and the vanishing point is a star.

Resurrection II

My friend did not think the new debt initiative was necessary. People get themselves into muddles. Why not talk to the CAB or the landlord if you can’t pay your rent? I found myself agreeing with him. When I was with the CAB we helped with bankruptcies and insolvency agreements, and with debt budgeting. One or two were on their third bankruptcy, and a trickle of people would come in with a document saying that bailiffs would evict them the following day.

I went into the meeting room and sat down, wondering why I had agreed. People don’t talk to landlords because of denial, powerlessness and shame. If I didn’t go out again and say that to him it would get to me all Meeting. So I went out and said that, and he agreed; and he talked of a good landlord he knew of, helping people through their Universal Credit difficulties.

My landlord is a cheery chap, and he comes round to prune the bushes in the back yard, or poison the tarmac. And just before he moved my neighbour had lost the key to open the windows, so his windows could not be opened. He told me the landlord had said, oh, that’s alright, they could replace the windows and take it out of his deposit. He borrowed my key.

My friend agreed. We are not on opposite sides of this. We both have a nuanced understanding; but he names the possibility of talking to the landlord.

In meeting, I thought that is where I am, a sense of denial- not dealing with the problem- powerlessness- unsure how I can- and shame- it is My Fault! I have a crushing loss of confidence. I don’t have faith I can sort myself out, and Know that if I attempt things the other people I need to work with will block me, even though intellectually I know that is ridiculous. Last year, something happened to extricate me, which I could not have expected: this is not Micawber’s “Something will turn up” but something may turn up.

And I had an image, shadowy to me now, of Resurrection.

I am still at war, opposed extremities battling within me- “denial, powerlessness and shame” v Resurrection. I am simultaneously in Hell and Heaven, both part truth part fantasy, together a wider view of Truth than I can compass altogether so I divide it. Hope and Love, rage and terror. Meditation may help. Spoken ministry, not mine, was of being in community, bringing our entire selves, emotions, even tears, to Meeting.

More Burne-Jones. This object, of silver and bronze leaf overpainted with gold, is fabulously beautiful. I sat looking up at it, seeing the light reflecting on metal which the picture cannot reproduce. The “grey ladies” are young and beautiful, apart from their eyelessness, which is clearer, and more disturbing, on the original.

The Latin is a synopsis of the Perseus myth. That greave is impossible- showing the beauty of the leg’s shape, in shining silver.

Being misgendered

-Are you finished with these, sir?
-I’m female.
-I apologise.

I am still irked by that. She could not see my face, I think. My waterproof jacket is fairly unisex but fastens the feminine way. That wig, again, is clearly a woman’s wig, the woman’s side of the line, even if it’s fairly close to the line. It’s a well-marked line.

Now, I am thinking some day I will have the energy for the follow-through:

-I apologise.
-Well, don’t “Sir” people unless their gender is clear! There’s no point in having “All-Gender Toilets” if you misgender people!

It didn’t really- well not really really– bother me until later, when I was in the Turner Prize exhibition, which this year is all video. They are close to documentaries, in parts. Naeem Mohaiemen’s work is a history of the Non-Aligned movement, worth seeing from beginning to end, though it is on three screens and has the feel of looking at an art work. To me; some commenters said that’s not art that’s documentaries.

Charlotte Prodger’s work is 33 minutes long, and consists of video taken on her phone, with bits of her diary read as voiceover. She had had a job near Banchory, and I wondered if anyone else in the room had been there, or at least through it, like me. She is lesbian, at least sometimes she presents Butch, and part of the voiceover says how at the ferry terminal she was washing her hands in the toilets and a party of women came in, and one went out again to look at the door, then said “I thought I was in the wrong one for a moment”. And how wearing it was when people asked her who her girlfriend is. “Is she your daughter?” Eventually she said “She’s my friend” and thought, now I’m closeted as well.

There is paradox here. She (I checked her pronouns) is misgendered repeatedly, and the thought that a woman could be her partner is seen as remarkable, yet she is up for a huge accolade, notoriety in the right-wing press, and ¬£40,000 if she wins the prize. Highbrows like me, and the odd idiot who goes out and writes the comment “That’s not Art!” on the comments wall, (Actually that’s so stupid, surely it must be irony?)-

onywye, I am watching this Installation feeling intense powerlessness exacerbated by her frank admission of failing to respond to being misgendered, and the middle-class white straight men, well, it might just go over their heads. What’s this wumman on about?

On the comments wall, I took two pieces of paper marked in large letters


and scrawled, “Charlotte was misgendered in the CalMac lavs. I was misgendered in the Tate Gallery Members’ Room” on one and “I have the


to say I exist” on the other. Then I took lots of wee pins and stuck them all over these pieces of paper, skewering the word “Power” and each of the “I”s.

So there.

Waiting for the film/installation to start, I sat by a low table leafing through the books there. One is on queer art, another is a selection of the poems and essays of Audre Lorde specifically for the British market called

Your silence will not protect you

So now I have a book of Audre Lorde, to help me be an ally to ethnic minority people and, perhaps, help me survive.

What if I had shouted out in the showing that I had been misgendered? There were workers in the Duveen Gallery working with children, with suggestions as to participate in art, and when I said I too like to be playful the man gave me a pair of drumsticks. I noticed how the sound they made was different hitting with the tip or the middle of the stick, and investigated the sounds. I could break people’s absorption in the art work, and that distraction would be like Brecht’s alienation technique, they would see it in a new way. But the rooms showing the videos are carpeted, and I just hit the sticks together occasionally, very quietly. And if I had shouted, people would be too well-bred (or something) to show they noticed.

I had a fabulous day. I also spent hours with the Burne Jones exhibition. Pieces here come from the ordinary displays a few rooms away, and from as far as Stuttgart or Melbourne. Is not Madeleine Vivier-Deslandes utterly beautiful? There were so many beautiful things. There’s Perseus stealing the Graeae eye, on oak, and his armour is silver, and their dresses gold. The grey sisters are young, here. One has her pretty face and empty sockets turned to us. There’s a huge tapestry, of Gawain contemplating the Holy Grail and his two companions blocked by three angels from approaching. The trees are dark, and the wild flowers Botticellian. So, the Pre-Raphaelite descent into myth and fancy, before Freud, how ridiculous- except Madeleine is, perhaps, “chimeric, disordered and suffering”. All those buttons on her cuffs undone, and that bodice, so easily ripped. I went in ready for my irony to be exercised, and was entranced- and just a little disturbed. Just now and then.

Difficult business meeting

Meeting for worship for business is at least as important as the unprogrammed meeting for worship. In both we may encounter God, Reality, and the community; but in deciding among ourselves what practicality is Good, it is more difficult to retreat into comforting illusions.

Should people leave the meeting, when their nomination to a role is being considered? No, I say. It is very rare that anyone nominated is not appointed, though there is always the theoretical possibility. It wastes time to have people leave. I have had people speak against me behind my back, truly and falsely, and would far prefer them to have the courage to say it to my face. Having people leave is a ritual which does not answer the actual needs of the meeting, only an imaginary world where we might reject someone: we preserve our illusions by insisting on it. And in this particular case, we need a — for his meeting, no-one else will do it, so we cannot reject him.

I am heartily sick of nominations committee. Someone told me the AM clerk should not be on noms, as she could in theory appoint people from a little clique and have too much influence on the meeting. Fat chance. In three years I have had one conversation where someone was actually enthusiastic to take on the role: not on Quaker committees, but such things as elder/overseer/trustee. I hear the expressions of distress from people when I exert moral blackmail to take on the job- “No-one else will do it” is all I can say, but that does sometimes work- or when they seek release. “I have thought long and hard about this letter”- of course he has, he is conscientious and committed, and it has all been too much.

I am appointed to nominations until 31 December, and if the only alternative to me serving after then is my meeting not represented on nominations, I still prefer not to serve. Even though I know more members from other local meetings than most of my small meeting do.

However, when I proposed from the clerk’s table that the man only leave if anyone indicated his appointment was controversial, without any gap between them people rose to explain those nominated should leave. I feel bruised by this: there was no need for quite so much “me too” ministry. One said that guidance on right ordering should come from elders rather than the clerk: he explained over lunch that he meant to assist me by not loading that extra weight on me, but it felt at the time as if he meant I should keep my nose out of such things. Later in the meeting, he stood and started speaking before I had named him. I said, “—, would you wait to be called.”

He slapped his wrist and said “Bad Boy,” mock angrily. That was not what I said. Possibly, it is how he sees himself.

Calling for the elders to specify right ordering is not calling on some ideal font of wisdom, but calling on the two actual people who happen to be there. Eldering is better done in private after a meeting.

I wonder about bringing up right ordering as an agendum. We know all this stuff, after all. We also recognise the depth of worship in a meeting. Burne-Jones, the Mirror of Venus featured

I am unsure where I am with this

I am unsure where I am with this. Perhaps writing will make me clearer. What should I call it? I thought “Procrastination”, but alternatively “Whinge” or “Whiny teenager”. “Bullying” is a possibility-Burne-Jones, Princess Sabra led to the dragon

Every month I anticipate Area Meeting with concern, then during it generally feel I am doing well, and after feel tired from the concentration. Every month, after, I receive an email from Ruth: this is what you did wrong this time. Sometimes she rebukes me in meeting: I should alter the minute to include the name West Scotland Area Meeting. “The name was in the draft minute that I sent you”, she said. I did not say, I do not need draft minutes from you, nor that the additional name was unnecessary.

Where am I with this? My attempt at posting jocularly has failed. I feel belittled. I feel bitter and resentful. It is not going to overwhelm my self-control, but resentment stays as an itch, a sore. I still feel that my self-control is locked down too hard: I carry on by denying the feeling, at the cost of it lurking in my subconscious. My ideas about Being Positive get in the way, too: it is hard to admit an uncomfortable emotion, and a difficult to resolve situation. I find myself unsure whether I should be applying serenity or courage, and feel as if I have neither, so take refuge in passive-aggression.

With the tabular statement, she sent a post-it note: “Abigail- Please sign & send to Recording Clerk ASAP. I photocopied the two sheets so that you have a copy for minuting in January.” I did not deal with it before, and my procrastination lesson is that one does not need to do the whole thing at once- add to agenda, draft minute, etc. I am procrastinating this, and unsure why: it is one thing to put off drafting a Questionnaire which I imagine will do no good and be badly drafted and be Yet Another Failure, another to put off posting a form which has already been completed.

So on 27 Nov she emailed, Please can you let me know whether you received this and if so have you sent it to Friends House?  If you remember, we didn’t get it right last year! On Saturday 6th she wrote a reminder, copied to Ian my assistant clerk, and on Sunday spoke to Annette asking her to get in touch with me about it. Poor Ruth, having to protect the AM from my incompetence!Burne-Jones, the Princess tied to a tree

So where am I now? I feel my problem here is what I tell myself about my uselessness, inability to improve situations. I am more powerful than my inner critic will admit. I need to develop more constructive habits. Etc, etc, all the usual stuff. For the moment, perhaps, having a cold will serve as an excuse. At least I have a slug for my post, now.

Upset was very upset this morning, and so I analyze, analyze, here. How did misery announce itself? Bursting into tears. This pleases me. Far better than to get irked and irritated and depressed. I almost felt fooled by myself, led slantwise to understanding. As a last attempt to cure epilepsy, the corpus callosum may be cut, but before, each half of the brain is anæsthetised in turn. Sometimes they have different personalities. It felt, this morning, as if I were being led by pictures to an understanding, by- an unconscious I? The other half of my brain?

Think about that incident now. A tribunal hearing concerning a trans woman. I do not think she would have been sacked had she not been trans. I failed to get that over to the tribunal. How do I feel about that now? Not particularly proud of my own performance, though I did as well as I could; fellow-feeling for her, in her deep hurt- No, I am not weeping. It happened, it was. This morning, I got up to go to the CAB, and in the shower burst into tears over it. I was as miserable as I had been on getting the judgment- I burst into tears in the office- though it was four years later. Then I thought of U, and wept over that, and cursed myself for being still so upset- if we had only then ever been honest, only communicated-

I am too upset to go to the CAB. I could talk to C about how I felt. I will ask to do that.

I got C’s email cancelling our meeting five days ago. And- I felt not a lot about that. And now it gets to me- was it because I was like that when we last spoke? I get the idea of clear communication, but still find myself in co-dependency with friends: I will look after them, and they in turn will see what I need, though I do not tell them, and look after me. If I think on it, I can get beyond that, look after myself and state my needs.

I began thinking about that email. How would I approach C? I statements, a “paranoia”- stating this is how I feel, without any judgment on how you have acted or how that feeling might have arisen.

I felt led by something unconscious, part able to communicate, perhaps only able to communicate poetically, obliquely, through pictures the conscious part of me might understand. How do I feel about that ET case, or U’s “lets be friends” speech and what led up to it, now? These things are past.¬† How do I feel about C’s email? We have sorted it, happily. My great sadness, putting me in tears and unable to face the CAB, I am sure was to do with my fears around C and not those other matters at all, yet it entered my consciousness through thoughts of them. I had not been consciously so upset about C.

Woman’s Mission

George Elgar Hicks: Woman’s Mission was painted in the 1860s. The central panel, companion of manhood, is in the Tate, their exhibition “Victorian Sentimentality”. The other two panels, guide of childhood and comfort of old age, had been thought lost but the last was acquired by the Tate in 2014.

“Mission” sounds onerous, but the childminding is made to look delightful. The mother’s face, looking down on the child, glows like the sun.

Supporting the husband as he hears of his bereavement, she has wonderful nobility but no particular financial worries.

She comforts the old man, patting his hand and listening to his fretting, but does not look as if she cleans him up.

Now, a taste for art galleries is Highbrow, but these works are pretty, for the growing middle class rather than the educated aesthete. So they had a lower status than other Art. I would not necessarily have seen that in the paintings themselves, had I not picked it up somewhere. I note the scene captured as a camera might, which requires technical skill. I needed the black edge of the letter and envelope explained to me, too. The husband in his manly grief is supported by the loyal wife.

I find the paintings lovely and unchallenging. They are pleasant to look at. They are “genre paintings”- scenes of everyday life, and now a curiosity: what might they have said to the original viewer? I wonder, rather than, what do they say to me? What do I learn of the Victorian bourgeoisie, rather than what do I learn of life?

From “Companion of Manhood” I went into the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, and spent some time looking up at King Cophetua as he looks up at the Beggar-maid. I am moved by it, now. It speaks to me.

There is lots more art here. Do you like Boldini? What of Reggianini?

Saint Michael

Here is Saint Michael defeating the Fallen Angels:

Luca Giordano, Michael defeating the fallen angels

And here he is trampling Satan:

What strikes me about both paintings, and other representations of the Archangel, is the gentleness on his face as he tramples and stabs his enemies, God’s enemies. There is no failure of purpose, no regret, no questioning, and no anger or malice. He does what he has to do.

More on Jung later, but whether or not I have the idea of an Archetype right I wish to find that Michael in me, the single purpose. Part of my journey towards it is the karate practice. The tension in the block or the blow only comes in at the end. I should be relaxed while making the movement. It makes it faster and more effective. My thinking and exerting get in the way.

When doing a “Plank”- balance on elbows and toes, head body and legs straight, in order to strengthen the core- muscles around the waist, abdomen and back- I fight to relax, to let my unconscious and my body choose the optimal muscles to do the task. Tensing up merely makes me fight myself, and increase the labour of it.

Though in kumite I need to maintain a strong guard, to prevent it being knocked out of the way. Even then not tense, but ready. Watching the young brown belt dance this morning was so beautiful, I was lumbering after him, it is the strength in the ankles maintaining the movement which gives this lightness. And I need to loosen the hocks behind my knee in order to kick with more power: touch my toes, and stretch them.

I dreamed of a tiger. It had nothing else to eat, so it came for the people: me, and the Natives. (I am politically correct, my dreams are not.) As I was between the tiger and the natives, it would attack me first. I felt Pity for it- it would be a maneater, hunted down. Then I woke up, without the sense of nightmare, and thought of Durga riding on the tiger, and that saying from Thomas. I should eat it. Other races may symbolise the Shadow: these weak, cowering, terrified Natives are mine.

At the Quaker meeting this morning, I looked at Julie, in her pink shawl, pink pedal-pushers, pink sandals, soft brown curls reaching to her shoulders and framing her face, and felt such pain and regret at how I have always felt so wrong and inadequate, not a proper man or a proper woman, something different and less. There is a place for my deep femininity, I am not Wrong.

Peter ministered from Rowan Williams: When you’re lying on the beach something is happening, something that has nothing to do with how you feel or how hard you’re trying. You’re not going to get a better tan by screwing up your eyes and concentrating. You give the time, and that’s it. All you have to do is turn up. And then things change, at their own pace. You simply have to be there where the light can get at you.

Kelley ministered on faith, grace and works from Ephesians 2:8-

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith ‚ÄĒand this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God‚ÄĒ 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God‚Äôs handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I ministered on trusting my human-ness, my Unconscious being, my body, my evolved creature-ness to do what I need to do, with far less conscious monitoring than is my wont. Perhaps that could be expressed as Grace rather than Works.¬†After, Andrew shared his Presbyterian feeling that charitable works should involve some sacrifice, so his time in Botswana was not proper charity as he had loved it too much. But God’s work should be fulfilling for us.

La Marquise de Citri

The Marquise had made a brilliant marriage, but detested people in high society so much that

Not only, at a soirée, would she pour scorn on everyone, but this mockery had something so violent about it that even her laugh was insufficiently acerbic and turned into a gutteral hissing.

Virtues can enable us to tolerate another’s failings. Lacking these virtues, the vices of others gave the Marquise great pain. She thought everyone an idiot, though she appeared more stupid than they.

She had so great a need to destroy that, once she had more or less  renounced society, the pleasures that she then sought after underwent, one after the other, her terrible powers of dissolution.

First she loathes social gatherings, then musical evenings and the music played- Beethoven, rebarbative!

Soon what was tedious was everything. Beautiful things, paintings, writing letters, in the end it was life itself that she declared to us was a bore.

It is important to me to find genuine pleasure. I may have seen anhedonia in a person, and it is not a pleasant sight. And Oriane de Guermantes suffers from the same malaise, though not in such a raging form. So, what gives me pleasure?

File:Burne-Jones ten virgins.jpg

Doing something which appears to be of use. Just after I was sacked as a solicitor, working my notice, I was sent after the Conveyancing partner who had forgotten a key. I drove eighteen miles to give it to her, and was amazed by the delight this service gave me: it took me time to recognise the delight for what it was. Now, I get some of that at the citizens advice bureau, and though we spend most of our time crafting the case record so that there may be not the shadow of a doubt that the query was answered fully and correctly- more important than engaging with the issue itself, especially as there is some confusion as to what the terrifying Auditor requires- I get a little of that pleasure, every time I go there.

Doing something which leads to my own self-improvement. There is a lot of work in that karate, and I enjoy some of the time there, though it is difficult.

Being present in the moment. Walking in the sunshine in the park, this afternoon, I saw a dragonfly alight on a twig, and fold its wings: the refraction of the light on the wings and body, and the strange, globular eyes, moved me. Paying that sort of attention takes awareness: at the moment I bring myself into it, self-consciously, with hand gestures which symbolise and for all I know manifest the refreshing of the Qi in me from the Spirit/Life-force/Whatever of the Universe. Paying that sort of attention to another human being might even give greater delight still-

And- that anger I posted on yesterday- these two posts come out of the same anguished weepy journaling session. I must give it my attention, and love, and even perhaps obedience sometimes, not for any ulterior motive but simply because it is me.

Love among the ruins

I was going by Birmingham, so dropped in on my friend R, and we went to Wightwick (say, Wittick), a National Trust property. It was built in the late 19th century, with all modern conveniences- electric light and central heating- as a pastiche of various architectural styles, to look like an old manor house which had been extended over the centuries, with sufficient clues that it was not. So, in the Great Hall, the minstrel’s gallery is at the far end from the main door rather than above that door; and the decoration near ceiling level has a kangaroo. It is not timber-framed, there are metal frames under brick. That entrance porch: if it were really Elizabethan, it would be at right angles to the building, rather than askew.

At the far end of that Great Hall is Love among the Ruins, a Burne-Jones painting of his lover Maria Zambaco. I found it so moving that I had to look away from it. For ruins, apart from that collapsed pillar and a few brambles, the buildings look surprisingly well-kempt, especially through that doorway, right. With the lighting, if the main characters are outside, it could be another world.

I found¬†the beauty, love and trust in that pose so complete that I could hardly bear to look at her. And yet: the man’s eyes are half-closed, and hers are open. Seeing or unseeing? Two entirely different interpretations.


The Aberdeen art gallery leant prints, and I lived with King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid for a time, looking at his love, and imagining a dialogue of the pages at the top of the painting. I like it well enough, still, to share it with you:

His Goddess he beholds!
until she speaks
What then? Does not the beauty of her face
have power to atone for accident of birth?
Her neck
her breasts
her air, simplicity
Her shoulders stooped, uncouth
                          her otherness
Unlike the finest ladies of the court,
who prattle poetry, her eyes, they speak
of poetry.
until her fair lips speak.
And so this moment she is worth them all.
What is to come can never that destroy.