Niagara and Vesuvius

I wait for R at the bus stop. A woman at the end of the shelter says, loudly, “No heating or hot water! How are we going to live without heating and hot water?”

I thought, I can tell you this, and got out pen and paper to take notes. The man near her seems to be phoning quietly to sort the matter, but she, despairing and angry, cries out in response to his quiet tone, inaudible to me. Then she takes the phone and harangues the other, possibly her mother.

It’s because I am racist. It’s because I am fucking English. We cannot judge the depth of wickedness of her racism, but clearly she does not know words to mitigate or conceal it, and possibly does not understand the charge. She listens a moment. I told them all that! I can’t have the baby there. She [social worker? Landlord’s rep? Housing officer?] says they want us out. I don’t know why they’re doing this. They wrote down all I said and I signed it. I don’t know what I signed. They reported us to the landlord before. They said we didn’t share the fridge. They make up bullshit and report us for nothing. They smoke in the room! £480 a month for that one room! No heating and hot water as well. They have come in to Swanston in an attempt to sort things out but apparently it has not worked. He takes her by the hand and pulls her away, along Church St. She does not seem to be resisting, only dilly-dallying.

I have lunch with R, then go to get the bus home. I am to talk to Tina at 4, but the bus does not come at 3, nor at 3.30, and though it should go the other way from the same stop, it does not. So I go for a taxi, which costs £11.50 plus 50p tip. I am pleased with this. My increasing frustration with a little anger moves me to solve my problem. I can afford the occasional taxi. I treated myself to the bus because when I cycled yesterday I was really cold, and this morning it was drizzling. I get the only taxi at the rank; another comes just after, and is taken almost immediately.

The frustration moved me to sort my problem out, making a clear judgment of the situation- no bus will come in time- but anger is pointless. At whom? It is not the driver’s fault. There is nowhere to express it and no fight or flight to use it on.

And then I talk to Tina and it seems pointless. I cannot see a way of bettering my situation. The standard ways- get a job, get voluntary work to give me something worthwhile to do, repulse me. I like writing for my blog, with minimal editing, minimal judgment. I cannot see a way of bettering my situation. I do not want to write for publication elsewhere. At the bus stop frustration drove me to action but my frustration now makes me miserable without action. I beat myself up- I should be able to find something better- but forgive myself as well. I am miserable and inactive. Is it a “sense of entitlement”?

I had a moment of joy, seeing trees through the taxi window.

I quote Modern Love XXXIV by George Meredith.

Madam would speak with me. So, now it comes:
The Deluge or else Fire! She’s well, she thanks
My husbandship. Our chain on silence clanks.
Time leers between, above his twiddling thumbs.
Am I quite well? Most excellent in health!
The journals, too, I diligently peruse.
Vesuvius is expected to give news:
Niagara is no noisier. By stealth
Our eyes dart scrutinizing snakes. She’s glad
I’m happy, says her quivering under-lip.
“And are not you?” “How can I be?” “Take ship!
For happiness is somewhere to be had.”
“Nowhere for me!” Her voice is barely heard.
I am not melted, and make no pretence.
With commonplace I freeze her, tongue and sense.
Niagara or Vesuvius is deferred.

I am both these characters, locked together in my misery. Rage and flooding tears are alike useless.

-Can you remember when you first felt these things?

I can remember first being conscious of them, but not of first feeling them, presumably in childhood. So I say, No.

-Can we just stop and fix another time?

-Then, tell me more about the dark side. “Contradictory chaos” sounds human. Not managing feeling but allowing it. I know you strive for gentleness.

So, what? Gentleness is not who I am? Not all I am, or not me at all (so being trans, “feminine”, is illusion)? I hear, strive for gentleness and think of ways in which that could be a bad thing.


I do not want to be judged
because I cannot imagine myself not being found wanting
Even though others say things like, you have been a breath of fresh air and I realise the difficulties that you have faced and overcome.thomas-lawrence-mary-anne-bloxam

Monkey mind

I want to be cherished. I have to cherish myself.

I was thinking, I despise myself. But no: it is just that angry thoughts about myself cross my conscious mind from time to time. There is no “I” that despises, just occasional thoughts, anger in the brain manifesting as angry words in the conscious mind; there is no “I” that is despised, just some of my actions and thoughts. There is “I”, a physical animal, body including brain, which is one being, the despiser and the despised.

I want to be valued. I have to value myself.

Having someone who valued me would relieve me of the task of valuing myself at the cost of dependence on that other. Mutual interdependence is no bad thing, and it is good having wee top-ups of reassurance- or even appreciation!- now and then; and I can practise valuing myself. Notice the self-talk, and turn it round.

So I have to be valuable. Fortunately, I am valuable!

I would have liked to be any way but this; I valued other ways of being and not this. As I get to know how I really am, I see it is beautiful. More and more, I tell myself that, noticing other self-talk and turning it round. Cogito ergo sum does not mean that everything which crosses my mind is worthwhile.

I love putting things into words to provoke, persuade or entertain. I was chatting to the bus driver in the coffee shop. She was full of questions. What do I do. I told her of writing and being published, including my photographs. The first time I went into a supermarket dressed female I went in a ball gown with hooped underskirt. More questions.

-You’re full of questions! Tell me a story as good as the ones I have told you.

She is 46. She married aged 24, and has been married 22 years. She has a daughter who has graduated and is now working at the infants school, and a son who is an apprentice. She has been on the buses for eight years, and before that had several jobs. She made scotch eggs at —‘s for a time. She was a silver service waitress. So I told her I did that just once, when there was no-one else on. There was a couple eating together, and he won lots of brownie points with her. She looked on him with Love in her eyes, as he responded with infinite patience as I cocked it up.

Coming out, as a father

He started talking almost before he got to the bus stop. He loves the heat. He works on a removal van, he’s got one job today then he’ll enjoy the sun. He hates the way people complain about the heat when they’ve been complaining about cold and rain the rest of the year. I agree. I like the heat, and this variation is fashionable among the English this year, who like to agree as well as talk about the weather. He is a sweet enthusiastic man, who says how lovely it is to go up through the Rec then the woods and down to S- Lakes. You don’t need to go away! I enthuse. Yes. The sun on the water, not a beach exactly but-

He goes there with his son. His son’s a really lovely boy. He’s not boasting, it’s not that he’s saying he is a brilliant parent or anything, but his son has a lovely personality. The bus comes and he starts the same spiel with another woman. He loves heat. He hates people complaining. He has a lovely son.

He’s got this bouffant thing going. That’s the fashion nowadays I suppose, says the father whose hair is short. She says she hasn’t seen him for years, would not recognise him now probably.


I didn’t catch the next bit, but the boy is gay or bi. The father whispered, and if he did not want me to hear I am pleased that he did not read me but bothered that he would be ashamed. The boy said he looked at boys, and felt- The woman says you’re learning who you are, finding what you like, at that age.

“I tell him, ‘I’ve got your back’,” says the father, definitely. He repeats it.

I talk to learn what I think about things, to see how it feels to articulate particular opinions, and to find what others feel. He could be testing the waters, finding out whether others are homophobic, talking himself in to acceptance of a thing which disappoints or frightens him. “I’ve got your back” is how I would hope a father would be, and it should not need said unless the son is in trouble. There is such progress! And we still have a way to go.

Langrenee, Echo and Narcissus

Bad Men

There is a man at the front of the top deck. People who want to sit at the front of the bus are usually quite sweet: who else would want that experience? I sit across from him. The other bloke sits further back, and they start chatting.

He snapped his thumb a few weeks ago. He’s got to wear this splint another two weeks.
-How’d you do that then?
-Fell off me bike. I didn’t know I’d done it.
-It must’ve been painful, I said. But no: he lost the feeling in that side of his hand years ago, in a car accident.
-Did it all bruise up? I asked. He went to the doctor and they sent him to the hospital immediately.

Cannabis farms should hire one of these buses, he says.
-Only when it’s sunny.

His mate’s sister moved to Spain. Million pound villa, four floors, he’s been there. Her bloke does the airport runs.
-Where you working now? Whitworth’s?
-No, I’m back on removals. Easiest job I ever had was leaning out the back of a lorry putting cones down on the M1. Danger money.

Is that phone 4G?
-No, it’s an old one.
He’s thinking of getting a tablet. The police took his phone, computer, tablet, but couldn’t prove anything, so he just got done for criminal damage. £700 fine, he’s paid it off now.
-They should give you your stuff back after five years.
-They came to the door once with these smelly old trainers, I told them they weren’t mine, I didn’t recognise them. I put them in the bin.

He had a six month driving ban.
-Someone dobbed you in, didn’t he?
-Yeah, I don’t know, Why would anyone do that? I don’t mind what people do. Still, he didn’t need his car and it saved him money.

The estate could just kick off when it’s hot. (Actually I’ve found it peaceful for the last five years, and hope he’s just trying to shock me.)

-I think I’ll have a cold beer later.
He tells his mate he was on Pubwatch, so banned. Then he went in the Old England- up by—.
-Skinhead pub. I was banned from that for three months, then I went last week, got in an argument, got banned again.

At the station there is the Security Announcement: keep your belongings with you at all times, report anything suspicious to the police.
-You wouldn’t want to bomb Swanston, would you?
-That’s just what I was thinking, she said, and we were away. She was working in Debenhams when the IRA were bombing everywhere. She had to check her department every night before leaving, but they said if they want to bomb they’ll put it in something you won’t even notice, won’t think it suspicious. They had six bomb scares in five years. It was hard getting people out of the restaurant. “I’ve just ordered my dinner.” Yes, madam, but there’s a bomb scare. You can stay if you like but I’m getting out. Then places which sold furs had those animal fanatics threatening them.

I asked her how she would vote. Vote Leave, she’s decided, she’s not listening to the arguments. England was better before we went in, we were better with the Commonwealth. She’s in housing association sheltered housing, there are fourteen studio flats empty because people don’t want them. She’s frightened they will fill up with refugees, Poles, Lithuanians, Syrians- it’s terrible over there, all those different religions. Her nephew went into Iraq, and he said, now we’ve got the tiger by the tail and we’ll never be able to let go.

How did you vote in 1975?
I don’t remember the vote, then, it made no impression on me.

Miro, untitled etching

Management trainee

Why would anyone not want to sit at the front of the top deck of the bus? Some might not manage the stairs, or dislike the leg room and amplified shaking: but the View! It’s Wonderful! If anyone feel too sophisticated, or want to blend into the crowd, that is their loss.

I noticed the young blond woman’s phone call. I want to tell you about it, but I can’t, because I’m on the bus. No, I’m on the bus. I don’t want people hearing. I’m On the Bus-

I will be with you at least three hours as if pleasure in company was to be measured in time, not intensity, and as if one measured out such obligations. I owe you a birthday present, it’s this leopard top, it fits me really well and would fit you too… no, I wear it over a vest and it looks really good…

College was really good for me… That was the point when she began to seem artificial to me. It is not necessarily untrue, but it seemed a stock phrase, the kind of thing one would say, and it might cover any number of resentments and unacted desires.

Unusually, it was she who started the conversation. She noticed a toy car and xylophone dumped by the side of the road, and remarked on it to me, and we agreed that it was wrong to use the verge as a litter bin. It was one of those xylophones with different colours for each note. “I had one of those,” I said.

This moved the conversation from what every good person disapproves of- a safe conversation- onto Music. Fortunately, there are platitudes which everyone can agree on for this subject.

-Without music there would be no singing and no dancing, she says.

-Music relaxes you after a stressful day, she says.

I tell of that woman at Greenbelt, and how I loved her performance and how my emotions resonated with it. She tells of a Chinese child, she thinks seven years old, who played the piano wonderfully on The X Factor, even blindfolded.

-You were thinking of what you just said to me, weren’t you? This is perceptive of her.

She says, weird is good. Weird is Wonderful. “If someone calls you weird, say thank you, and if they ask why you said thank you say ‘because you just called me wonderful’.”

That does not quite work. One can be weird in a bad way, and if it is a stock phrase which she trots out on particular occasions, shorter would be more elegant. She may be too young to get “Search for the weirdo inside yourself” as an M People reference.

We get off the bus.
-It was lovely talking to you. And- [twinkle] I’ll be listening to more music.

I don’t think she expressed any authentic feeling at all, but that last sentence just felt completely clunky, a technique of referring to what she had gained from our encounter needing a great deal of practice. Though I can see that if mastered, it would be a good technique to win people over. As she leaves I notice from her fleece that she is a Tesco management trainee.

Aphrodite Anadyomene at Pompeii, in Encaustic by Apelles

A suit of armour

I had not spoken to my neighbour. I said “Hello” when we left our flats at the same time, and he barely responded; and then I walked to the bus stop, and they stopped six yards back, and stared at their phones. I went upstairs on the bus, and went to open all the windows; they went upstairs too, and went to the front. Having intended to go to the front anyway, I sat down opposite them and said,

-You know, you moved in a year ago, and I would be far more comfortable if we spoke to each other.

He explained that the last place they lived was a rough area, and they keep themselves to themselves. They chatted, and I listened in, interjecting occasionally. She likes the pretty houses. What do you think of those?

-They look sort of- Tudor? She is unsure of the reference.
-Yes, that’s the intention, the white and the wood.

-Cats are at landlord’s discretion, she quoted, but you cannot have a dog. I would not want a dog, because I would not want to clean up after it, and you have to clean up after it.

-Well, you use a plastic bag, you are not actually touching the stuff, I said. It was the wrong thing to say. She started talking about organising the right photographer, and the right “make-under”. This is not a conversation I could take part in. “It is important to look around,” she says. “The reviews are no good because they are only going to publish the glowing ones.”

She sounds a bit obsessive- yet she is upstairs on the bus, looking out the front window. It is a deeply unsophisticated pleasure, usually for children, and I can’t get enough of it. And on a hot, sunny day? I sense a kindred spirit. She complained about him swearing- “Language,” she said, half rebuking, half wheedling, and I said “Peeved” is a good substitute for “pissed off”. She said “See you.”

I was sitting in the yard and met Andrew/ Andy as he returned from work. He is at the outdoor centre, as were the other tenants in that flat. I had not known it was an avowedly Christian organisation: he is with a “new frontier” church in Zhuzhkov- he is hesitant, as if he does not expect me even to have heard of his denomination. He is going now to prepare a Bible study on Job. I like Job, I tell him.

I must have a change from Cranach, but here is Venus and Cupid the honey thief. Google translate has mixed success with the Latin: if you know better, please share.

dum puer alveolo furatur mella cupido
furanti digitum sedula punxit apis.
Sic etiam nobis brevis et moritura voluptas.
Quam petimus tristi mixta dolore nocet

When a child steals a bowl of honey Cupid
Furano finger careful punxit APIs.
So too short for us and die of pleasure.
He is seeking a melancholy mixed feelings hurt

However, a search found this. And this.

The Radius of the Universe

There is a wonderfully confident girl sitting at the front of the bus. “You remember I got slapped, yeah? I got punched. Well the girl who did it had to go to hospital. Cos I don’t let anyone do anything.”

I think they are about twelve. The shorter one has black eyeliner painted out from the corner of the eyes and rosy blusher. She has not done her make-up well, but is practising, and will soon. She has a loud deep voice which made me fear they would mock my trans status until I realised that they are not interested in me. The taller one with a softer voice tries to join in but is mostly listening and learning. They look down on passers-by: that one is A’s boyfriend, no she dumped him.

The taller one has a problem with drafts at her window, and the shorter says she should board them up like her gran’s.
-I don’t want my windows boarded up.
-Well, you take them down during the day.

-OmiGod Miller? She had a toothache, she had a hole in that tooth there. She’s only three. No calpol. She took an energy drink and she said [mimicking higher, softer voice] Mummy, I don’t have a toothache any more.
You know what to do when she has a toothache, then. Give her an energy drink or pull her tooth out. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the dentist.

-I want to see the bus station blown up. [That was weeks ago.]
-Is this a one way system? [yes, it is.]
They are struggling to know about their world.

In Oliver’s, we have competition for the most erudite conversation- I heard no detail, but did hear a man at the next table mention TS Eliot. We win when Richard shows me the equations calculating the mass and size of the Universe:

MU =_______


13.8x109 light years.

So there you go.
Renoir, two girls in black

What I want

On the bus-

I love the front seat on the upper deck of the bus. I never tire of it, as we judder and clank round Blaenau Gwent Road or past the landfill, looking down at the houses and cars and across the fields and valleys. “You see things differently from up here” said the woman. Yes. She was telling her friend about her relationship: “I’ve been alone for so long- six years or more”. Her new man has been very silly with debt. “I just don’t talk to him for a couple of days, and he comes running.”

“If I fall on the stairs don’t laugh” said the friend. The other caught my eye and smiled shyly- and stopped seeming a threat. When she got off the bus she told the driver it should have a lift, and he agreed. Risking them hearing my maleish, trans voice, I joined their conversation: “You could have a vacuum tube thing, to suck you upstairs,” I said. “And a fireman’s pole to come down.”

“That would be fun,” she said, smiling again.

That is what I want. Human contact, finding how we think and feel alike, and joking together. Hugs and cuddles are nice too. Last night I was back in the thick of old anger and misery, of how I had wanted a friendship with Emma and she had at first seemed enthusiastic then snubbed me and how I had not understood why the change. Feeling connected and hearing warmth and then, not. And the same recently. Not understanding makes it worse.

What else do I want? To avoid situations where I feel out of control or threatened. The prospective interview at the DWP about the “support available to me”- trying to find ways of stopping my benefit, so that I must support myself- frightens me. Working terrifies me. If I am to change this I need sympathetic holding and tiny steps. So- “To feel I am doing something worthwhile”? No, actually.

I loved walking in the sunshine on Monday.

In the Autumn I would have been judging this. I am not, now. I might have been less sure of it, or conflicted about it, and am not that either.


I do not have to justify this to you, but it reassures me to justify it to myself.

I am Abigail. I no longer deny and suppress that, completely beyond consciousness; then I loathed, despised and feared it, and do not now do that, either; my contempt and anger at being Abigail, being that feminine, soft, gentle, peaceful, being who I am, lessened: now I do not even regret it.

I have emerged from a lifelong battle, and I am exhausted.

And the ways I have of understanding other people grew in the complex of lies I introjected to despise my natural organismic self; and they do not work. Being so intelligent, I pursued the impossible goal of understanding others: one may only know them.

I have had difficult experiences, and I fear the world. Then I read of the DWP’s deliberate programme of sanctions with the intent of destroying the benefits system as a safety net for vulnerable people. “There will be wars and rumours of wars”- the world has often been worse- and still I fear it.

And I rejoice that I feel that fear, and do not hate or reject it, and am not bullying myself, now, to fucking get on with it!!!

I am Abigail! At last, I am Abigail, and how cool is that?


The man who accused me of being “condensating” is now one of my myths. The claimant had been a heroin addict, and had had her children taken away. Yet she had come off heroin, and they were now living with her. Probably, her claim was not granted because the TCO did not believe her, though they did not say that. I felt she had accomplished a great achievement, though still in a vulnerable state- just like me. I felt his great hostility, and my powerlessness, and it became a symbol for me of what my work was like: miserific, and pointless despite all my effort.

Marge was probably a more typical DWP HEO. She was completely fair and I could persuade her on occasion. In my work, I had some success. But I despaired. It might be good to come out of my despair. Perhaps I could.

Jacques-Louis David, Portrait of Madame de Verninac

Petty crime

Hieronymus Bosch- The ConjurerRon at the bus stop. “In detention centres, they get the highest priority, for NHS, doctors and everything”, he moaned. Woman agreed. She used to work in the Swanston prison, and it was like a holiday camp.

The man complained about the police, who do nothing. In the shop where he works, shoplifters took £150 of goods and all the police would do was issue a crime number for the insurance. Notour shoplifters, he knows exactly who they are. The security guards in the mall are useless. He chased after a shop-lifter, and the security guard stopped him, for running. “Look,” he said, “I’m a middle-aged man, I don’t run for nothing.” It was no good. The police did get involved when he sold a phone to someone, she took it elsewhere to get it unlocked, the man charged her thirty quid then said he could not unlock it because it had been reported stolen. It hadn’t, of course. This policeman spent two hours trying to get his friend’s thirty quid back, which should be a job for trading standards.

He gets threatened routinely. The young woman in his shop was threatened with being gang-raped. He gets threatened with knives. Bloke came in to sell games for thirty quid, but needs photo ID. It’s the law, they get audited about five times a year on that. He produced an out of date passport. That is no good, it’s expired. So he claimed it had been accepted before (it wouldn’t have been) then pulled a knife.

-“Oh, come on. What’re you going to do with that?” I said. So he started threatening and swearing. But I’m a karate brown belt and an ex-nightclub bouncer, and the manager is a black belt.

One time, a bloke did swing at him, but he blocked it and hit back. Not long after, the man came back with the police, to have him arrested. He explained- a whole shop-full of customers had seen it, and the police asked if he would like to press charges. He declined.

The woman said that she had seen two “gypsy ladies” in Iceland, stuffing their bags, but when she stopped them the security guard took their side. I don’t expect people on my estate to be aware of the latest political correctness, but that smells a bit, to me. Why mention their origin? I did not challenge it.

I said I was going to the TTIP protest, and we got onto UKIP. He disapproves- but then, his wife is an immigrant. UKIP frightened the Tories at the local elections, and they decreed that he had to earn £26,000 for himself and £3,500 for each child before Immigration would accept that he could support her without being a drain on the State. She has leave to remain, but it will be reviewed in June and probably revoked. He wrote to the MP, got a signed letter back- pleasant enough, but saying there was nothing he could do.

He said he should stand for parliament. His platform would be introducing to schools lessons in defusing confrontation and backing down without losing too much face.

Hieronymus Bosch


Goth Model, photo by Wirklich1198I am a benefits scrounger, and how cool is that? While others have to work to stay alive, I sticks my flipping hand out and get all the money I need. You there, hard working family- you would not need to worry about your car MOT, or max out your overdraft every month, if everyone did their bit. It’s us scroungers that are the problem. Occasionally the DWP, representing the Good People, come down on me and say, Hey! You! Prove you are entitled. We think you are fit/ have too much capital/ are not actively seeking work. Prove it, or we will stop giving you our money! But I know the tricks, so I get away with it.

I got chatting on the bus with Leslie. People tell you such things! You’re far too intelligent for Eagle’s Nest, he said. Oh, you’re not so bad yourself. He could read in infant’s school, but it was really strange cos he couldn’t read at the end of primary school. Yet he had read all the listed books- the blue book, the red books, you know- and was on to library books. Then he failed his 11-plus.

He said something about a female relative who was completely bald, and I thought, ey up, has he spotted my wig? Then he said how he had a man’s name, Lesley is the woman’s spelling, but some women use “Leslie” and he even gets letters to Miss Leslie Bracthurst. I’m Abigail. Like a lady’s maid, he says- yes, Abigail Masham, Queen Anne’s maid. It’s quite a popular name now. Yes, it was distinctive when I was a child, I say.

He was off to Swanston for some thing for job-seekers: he would get his CV done. I told him the trick is to go in a suit and tie. They treat you differently. He hasn’t worn a suit in 29 years. It was Wave Gotik Treffen Leipzig 2011a wedding. Get one in a charity shop. The last time he was in a charity shop, he bought a basque. Now I am really suspicious. He was going to The Rocky Horror Show.

Deadpan. “Absolutely every man in the whole world gets a kick out of that, or wants to.”

I took tea in Oliver’s with Jayne, then caught the bus home, and Leslie and another woman talked of being on the sick. It took five weeks’ bed-bound, and three months house-bound, to convince her doctor she really was ill. They can’t find a physical cause for her pain. Now, if she is a person in trouble, that’s OK, she says she can’t work for the pain and it is credible, because physical causes can’t always be found. But if she is a scrounger, one of the Bad people, then she is obviously just trying it on. I liked her girly-Goth style, a top with a pattern of skulls and crosses, and a full-skirted purple velvet coat with embroidery on the sleeves.

Lesley’s CV had been printed out. “It’s all lies”, he said resignedly.