Being liberated

This is who I am. This is what I want. No experience “made me like this”. No-one investigates what made someone heterosexual, and gay people strongly object to, mock and ridicule, and have managed to drive to the margins questions of what made them gay. Nevertheless there is widespread certainty on social media of what makes us trans, as if anyone who is not normal must explain themselves and find a cure.

Nothing made me submissive. I just am. But, being submissive, my experiences have profoundly affected me.

I was going to write a post about how my mother controlled me, except I have written it already– with many of the same stories I was thinking of including now. I do not have many stories, or memories. It just was. I noticed it was different from how other people appeared, but did not rebel until years after my mother died. There was love between us.

Part of my self-liberation was meeting this mother in a Citizens Advice Bureau. I told that story repeatedly, of how she controlled her son, and how it drained him of all motivation, and thought, mine was worse.

I had a line I had practiced, to end incapacity benefit interviews. I said to the son how I know it is stressful to lose your benefits, but we will appeal, I will be with you, and we have a good chance of success at the tribunal. And she repeated it to him, as if he needed a translation, draining it of all the respect and reassurance I put into it. “Mr Languish knows how stressed and upset you are, and knows how stressful you will find the appeal…”

I lost my own desires in my mother’s expectations, and so I drifted through life, stressed, miserable, distanced from my emotions. The Monster lurked in my unconscious, motivating me through fear, so that when I worked at something I pushed myself to exhaustion yet never acknowledged how hard I was working. So I broke and remain broken. But I clung to the thought, my mother was worse, though it made no sense, as I had been well-cared for as a child, with no cause to complain– and so started on a journey leading to meeting my inner Light, the Real Me. More and more, I manifest her, and still after doing all that work on myself around being controlled, I am nearly in tears of horror writing about it now.

And now I meet someone, who understands my kind of submissive. “I love how you soften,” she says, and sensations ripple through my body, which feels as if it is not my own. This is who I am. It is better to find out at 55 than not at all. She has shown me my capacity for submission and surrender more clearly than I ever saw it before, and shown it might bring me joy.

It frightens me. I think of the dominant man Andrew Griffiths. Why did his wife, Kate, not leave him earlier? Well, often women don’t. Possibly he broke her spirit. Possibly, she loved him, or could not imagine a life without him.

Nancy loved Bill Sikes, and he killed her. Kate Griffiths escaped, and has a burgeoning career. It seems better to me to be alone than to be made into Andrew Griffiths’ servant, but I would feel differently about particular strong women. It is much harder to be objective when it’s you. A friend told me, as an empathetic person she could be subsumed by a man, and needed a partner who would affirm her in her selfhood, rather than take control. She was warning me. She saw it in me. Uli dropped me, as D suited her purposes better.

This is who I am. It makes me vulnerable. “Though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,” I cannot be other than I am. It is so difficult to be human!

hard and soft transphobia

Some people are obsessively transphobic, eternally thinking, writing and preaching about how dangerous trans people and “trans ideology” are to women, children and society. And some people are a bit transphobic, enough to keep me wary of everyone.

How many would follow “of course you are a woman” or “I accept you as a trans woman” or “I’m not transphobic” with But?

-but you look a bit weird
-but I understand why some people don’t think you’re a woman
-but you might frighten someone in a changing room.

Generally they are accepting, or perhaps tolerant. It’s not because she’s trans! I use the pronouns she wants and everything! But her voice/wig/personality just gets to me. Their desire to seem so, to themselves and to others, gets in the way of their being accepting. They stop being accepting when something goes wrong.

Someone might say, “well, I never liked her” and be highly resistant to the idea that me being trans had anything to do with that.

Being trans is rarely the sole problem, in any situation I find myself in, and it always makes things slightly more difficult.

This article in Ha’aretz discusses research on a similar phenomenon in antisemitism. 2.4% of people are virulent antisemites, and 30% hold one or more antisemitic opinions. So the endless arguing, raising all sorts of issues, might make some such opinions acceptable. I’m not transphobic, but- trans women should not be in women’s prisons/refuges/sports events. Are underlying mental health issues properly treated? (No, the psychiatrists don’t have the time). Will they regret mastectomy in a few years’ time?

Prejudice links to status, and I have noticed myself patronising less privileged people, to keep them in their place. I am in a state of conscious incompetence, noticing when I enforce society’s standards rather than what I would like to be my own. I want to treasure real value but still judge by worldly standards. So I would say I am not racist, then notice myself reinforcing colourist hierarchies.

-we weren’t bad people, we just did bad things.
-is there any difference?

There is. I seek to change. How much difference there is depends on how successful I am. I will cure myself of these habits.

I am also low status because I am unemployed. People notice my clothes, and judge me for them. I was patronised in the library, and looking back I am mortified to see it was late September, it bothers me so much still. So I went back after The Testaments was published, they have several copies, and I ordered it.

When the email came to say I could pick it up, I did not for a week because I could not summon the motivation. I went down on Monday, and the same woman said the book was not there, and she would bring in her own copy so I could get it on Wednesday. I appreciate the generosity. I was disappointed she was not there on Wednesday. I wanted to indicate my educated status. I have been thinking up clever things to say about the book, so that when I take it back I can show how sophisticated I am. How pointless! It is not that I want this person to like or admire me, but that I want her to see my positive status signifier, the ability to appreciate literature, rather than my negative ones, old clothes and being trans.

At the CAB I advised a man who irritated me by coming with an abstruse question on pension contributions and entitlement and his constant refrain, “Are you wi’ me? Are you wi’ me?” He had done his research. Of course I was with him, I thought, as usual I was way ahead. I looked it up and may have got it wrong.

Status indicators stop us seeing people. Low status indicators may produce irritation we could never name, so assign to other causes. If someone with Cotard’s syndrome comes up with an explanation for why they can talk to you consistent with their delusion of being dead, you know they are fabulising. It is harder to spot when they fabulise to make consistent explanations with their belief they are not transphobic.

Everyone is transphobic. Society makes us so. I have internalised transphobia. It is constant hard work to rid ourselves of prejudice. Until being trans is as normal as being Black should be, everyone will be a little bit transphobic.

Memories and reflections

Two memories from my employment tribunal practice stand out. In one, the Respondent forged three letters which, if believed, were a defence to our claim. We sought a notice payment, and he forged the contractual statement of terms and conditions, to show the notice should be less. But the Claimant had retained her T&Cs, showing the date she started work there.

He would rather go to a hearing, spending considerably more on solicitors, than pay her her due under the law. He lied and cheated. And through her responsible action, I wrote a delicious letter to his representatives- we will settle now for payment of the claim in full, but if you go to hearing we will seek costs and press for perjury to be investigated. He paid up.

She had angina, and he had sacked her after six weeks’ sickness absence. Had he left her to cope with the changes, and learn how a GTN spray affected her, she could have gone back to work shortly after. The stress of the tribunal application stopped her recovery.

And the other: usually a defence to a claim would be accepted late, as it is in the interests of justice: the Claimant’s loss is only a few weeks’ delay, but if the defence were refused the Respondent loses their right to be heard. The motion to accept the defence late is usually a routine, with a pretty apology for lateness enough. I found the arguments why it should not be accepted late. I wiped the floor with them.

As I typed that paragraph I spoke two of the arguments I had used aloud into the empty room, with passion in my voice, controlled contempt suitable for the tribunal room. I remember them in detail. Eight years later these things still matter to me.

I am occupied, in my retreat, in my reclusive existence, with the nature of humanity. How do I see myself in my world? Those stories form a huge part of it. The wicked will fight like rats in a sack, without humanity, quarter, or thought of justice, for their own wrongful interest; but sometimes through luck and brilliance Right can win. A recent story I heard of a court action confirms that: a man resisting to the last moment, only caving when he saw the right must win.

I retreated from the monsters. I could create the brilliance and have the luck only intermittently, and the losses that I saw as My Failures, My Inadequacy, My Wrongness crushed me.

I am concerned above all with safety. There are monsters out there, which can hurt me. I sought safe spaces. Quakers seem nice enough, and I formed an ideal of what a Quaker meeting should be, a false view less and more than what it is really, of people conforming to an ideal humanity rather than being their whole humanity. Quakers were my safe space, then I found during the election campaign that Labour party members, campaigning, were good people too.

I am safe, day to day, retreated to my living room, but not month to month. All I have to do today is buy food, and if I do not I can do it tomorrow. And I am not providing for myself, so I am not safe. My income could be stopped any day now. And I find the safe spaces I sought are more complex than I knew, inhabited not by people following rules I thought I understood but human beings behaving in complex human ways.

I cannot predict what is going on. I can only see it. Or not see it, blinded by my understanding of what should happen.

So I look back on my experiences, and my perceptions, and try to force them into another framework of understanding. I face repeated set-backs. It could be recovering from my childhood, if I cease to see set-backs as I saw them then, as proof of my worthlessness, as the failure which kills me. The monster will get me and I shall die. Instead, I might see what I have lost, if I have lost anything. I have to see what is rather than react to what I imagine out of my complex internal illusions.

I have lost nothing. I have time, and my human gifts. Try again, fail again, fail better is the fashionable Beckett quote, now Keep calm and carry on, parodied from the beginning, is forgotten. Once more into the Breach! I am terrified, because it was so ghastly. I am depressed, which for me means seeing what I clearly must do, and having no motivation for it. Come on! I admonish myself. Action! Get on with it! I am crushed by my experiences. That was a source of judgment for me, proof of my worthlessness, though I assert- it really does not matter whether I underwent experiences which the most courageous, gifted and resilient person would find unbearable, or experiences a worthless, useless weakling should find unexceptionable- I am crushed by them. Can I create a new world?

I put the bin out this morning. It is sunny, and sunlight glistened through a long string of raindrops on the washing line. There is so much beauty outside my living room!

Hope III

Boldini- Berthè considers a fanKnow the past. Let it touch you. Then let the past go. Good advice from Octavia Butler’s heroine Olamina. Actually, it starts “To survive, know the past…”- well, it is dystopian SF. I thought of putting it as my header text.

I was crying this morning about the job I left in 2006. After various jobs round the CAB, I was going round the hospital wards, advising patients referred to me. Meanwhile, Steve, hospital service manager, was in a stand-off with Andy, chief executive. Steve said he was a manager, so should not be advising clients, and that it was unsafe to open the office when there was only one worker in it (though it was in the hospital) so if he was alone he would lock the door. Andy failed to provide any volunteer workers. I don’t know why, possibly there were other considerations, or possibly he just wanted Steve to give in and advise like Penny had. Meanwhile the hospital continually threatened to withdraw funding, including the funding for my wage. My job was fascinating, but often stressful and frustrating apart from this.

Let the past go. Of course, good advice, but how can I? My last four job-roles turned to shit, and it was not merely and entirely my fault. It will always be like that is what I take in to myself.

Let it touch you. I do not think about this a lot. I think I let it touch me at the time, my fear that funding would cease, my irritation at Steve.

I have goals, and given the exercise I wrote them out. Some, I even approve of.

To survive.
To control my space.
Not to suffer.
To see myself as a good person.
To do something worthwhile.
To form connections.
To learn and understand.
To accept and forgive myself.
To see myself and others as we really are.

What goals do you want in your life? was the question. These are not my goals, but I would like them to be:

To support myself without recourse to benefits.
To get stage time.
To write something more substantial than a blog post.
To learn new music on the piano, and polish and enjoy my repertoire.

Stage time is possible. There is a small amateur theatre in Nupton seating 83, to hire for £130 a night. I have no idea how to market my performance, though I could just invite an audience as I could afford £130, and that would be a good experience or useful try-out. Though I have only written half an hour, and am not entirely satisfied with that. Six minutes of it is good, and has had good audience reactions. I found memorising difficult. Having just found that theatre three days ago without having thought to look for such a thing before, I may start writing again.

I need hope. I want to put down this heavy weight, it will always be like that. Neil told me he just kept going. Fucking brilliant. Bully for you. I did until I couldn’t.

The inner critic II

I lie, of course, because I am ashamed. I do not want to avoid the CAB, as it is my way of meeting people, having an interest, exercising my altruism. I want to avoid having my buttons pressed. The problem is the strength of my inner critic.

The paid job I had at Swanston CAB was poorly planned. I was supposed to advise parents at Children’s Centres about their benefit entitlement. The CAB thought the Children’s Centres would be eager to refer the parents, and the parents would be eager to see me. The Children’s Centres thought the CAB would refer clients whom I would see at the Centres, so bringing new clients to them. The parents showed indifference, mostly, and one support worker was deeply hostile- think of incident, rage and cry a bit, put it back in its box- so I saw far fewer clients than was expected.

Making an effort to see it positively, I can say: it got me to this beautiful place, six  months’ paid work, and I did some good for some clients. I had not really made an effort to publicise my services before, and I had that challenge. (At one show, with stalls for various services for the parents, few parents actually turned up, but that was not my fault.) I had to form relationships with the children’s centre workers, with varying results: I choose to think that with Lucy more important than with that hostile worker.

Seeing it negatively, as I did, I found it a failure, which was a judgment on me. My failure. That is the inner critic, which sees me as a bad and generally useless person. Just as the internalised transphobia is reinforced by the few transphobic people I meet, my inner critic is reinforced by the occasional harsh judgment of me by others. The problem is that as my inner critic is so fierce, I find it hard to differentiate those negative judgments of others according to whether they have value or not. Each feels like a complete rejection of me, and I react angrily and imperceptively. My judgment meets my angry denial, where I would be better to see things as they are, and feel and respond appropriately to this situation not past situations. And my inner critic disregards any hurt I feel at this as inappropriate, again stupid and useless.

I had the Minute of Disunity of Quakers, and my appeal against it, to deal with at the same time.

Now, I have been volunteering. I wrote about how I find it now, and over the last six months I have been thinking of how I can fit in there- do as I am told, basically, rather than formulate my own arrogant way, as there is only room for one way. Accept that. Now, I think, reduce my fierce reaction to criticism, because it is not a reaction to the real world. Find my own current emotional reaction. See clearly. Something I need to practise.

What can I do with this?

Weeping, again, this morning over something which happened six years ago.

My job role was funded to do a particular task, but my employer told me to do something different. I argued that I should do what we were paid for. My work was blocked, I was picked up over trivia- and lambasted over the actual mistakes I made- and we lost the funding.

In the CAB conference this year, I sat with two managers criticising the national organisation for working with another body to run a helpline rather than using local CABx to employ the helpline advisers. Probably, the national organisation made that decision because of the LSC phone line debacle six years before. I wrote about this a year ago. How do I process the experience, now?

It was horrible. It is one cause of my lack of confidence now: I thought at the time I could deal with the idiocies of any two of the funders, the CAB and the benefits system, but not the idiocies of all three.

I was right to make the argument that we should do the job we were paid for. And we should have done, having taken the money for it; what we proposed instead was arguably a worse service for everyone involved. Possibly I should have relented when  told “No”- the tasks I was given to do, by the people who paid me and were entitled to tell me what to do, were much simpler than the tasks the funder envisaged, and they found me another funding stream when that one ended. It was easier to get funding then. I would have been better off had I just gone with the flow. Seeing that, I might be better able to go with the flow.

I don’t think a similar mistake would be made now. And I might find myself in a similar clash of personalities. I hope, having more self-knowledge and self-respect, I might be less driven, better able to react, and more empathetic. That is important. I have done useful work this year.

Now I have shifted from negative to positive thinking, the question remains: can I trust the World and myself, despite this? I have to, is one answer, hiding away in a sulk is not a permanent solution. And- it was a clusterfuck, it is rare that so many things go wrong so completely.

Here’s a new way of looking at it for me. It is not proof of my general uselessness and incapacity and badness. It is a bad thing that happened. Despite that, I am a good person.


He that can’t endure

File:We Can Do It!.jpgHe that can’t endure the bad, will not live to see the good. -Jewish proverb.
Who wants heat, must endure the smoke. -Russian proverb.

I went to the Swanston CAB Christmas lunch, and think, I can’t go back there. I like the people, but not the situation. Beyond March, they only have £50,000 of funding in place: unless there is more that means seven jobs lost. Of course, that is always the situation in December, it just feels worse each year.

I have not been since 12 November. I just, well, don’t go. This week I did not go out at all Monday to Thursday, read a bit, blogged a bit, meditated a bit- kneeling in the ritual space rather than staring into space, actually, kneel down and start crying- over my cold, settling deeper into depression. I love the people. Well, they are voluntary workers: they want to give back to the world, and are also loving, creative, witty, erudite souls. And I hate the kind of advice I give: I hate the increasing meanness of our benefits system, and the  closing off of possible challenges to its decisions. Someone raised the subject of benefits and I started moaning, and I realised how much I loathe it. They loathe it too.

It is not only the uncertainty over funding, but the merger: we do not know about the reduction of service apart from that there will be one. And there is uncertainty about the audit, too: I get the impression that they do not really know what would make a good file record, and that is more important than a good service. Well, appearance is more important than reality, as you know.

OK. I have worked in CABs since 1993, this is what I know, and I can make that decision. I don’t want to go there again- I really do not have to, I just have to work out what might be better and get to go there. Age UK and the Royal British Legion also do welfare work, but charitable donations are down, and they are unlikely to be recruiting. What else may I do?

I am back to 1998, believing “Life’s a bitch, and then you die”. I don’t know what I might do. At the lunch, asked “How are you?” I even felt the need to justify myself, I am not there because I am depressed, and saying that upset me.

I do not need to justify myself in the eyes of any projection I might make on anyone- impossible, anyway- or indeed to any real person. I do need to support myself.

Projecting III

P1000422A P1000421little cry. I find that makes me more present.

I am pleased with wiping the shortcuts to Solitaire on my computer. I have grown addicted, I got wired on it, and I want to stop. I had a good weekend with friends. The trouble with this Behavioural Activation is that I don’t have anything I want to activate.

-What about looking for a job?
No. I don’t actually want to. I know I have to.

I hated that last job, and the one before I hated so much I walked out with the immediate intention of taking all my sleeping pills. Oh, various things. I started in the October, and then saw that they had had targets for the September but had been too sluggish to recruit me on time; and then the Enhanced Criminal Records Check did not come through until February, so one Children’s Centre refused to work with me until then. This gets a rueful smile from her. As a front line worker I am sure she has similar experiences of Management.

I start to tell her of a particular fouled up encounter, and cry. I feel I want to express anger, but this is difficult. I must explain to her that I am still in enough control not to get violent, I must check that she is not distressed by it. Weeping is OK, I can weep about it.

I realise I am projecting. This is my own stuff around my anger, part of the problem I have with feeling it is feeling unable to express it. And then I realise that it is a genuine prediction or understanding of how other people think and will respond- just not a very accurate one. It is one I created in childhood. Why is it that I can “put away childish things” in so many aspects of life, but have retained them in this?

She thinks I would be better with counselling. I could talk about relationships.
-You talked about that lady.
Oh! I had not thought of her today at all. Hmp.

Nicola needs rid of me. I am irritated that I should just be wound up and sent off. She goes for her next client, who has been kept waiting, and I stand looking through the glass in the fire exit, at the tree, trying to calm down a bit. Then I go to Tesco.

In the afternoon, I would like to walk along the river, but it is as high as in my header photograph. It has been higher, that is river mud on the concrete by the lock. Still it flows over the bank to create a marsh, and the overflow from the lake floods down the bridleway. It is as bright and beautiful as earlier this month, not a cloud, but much colder and wading is not a good option.

Could I think differently of that last job? I did not achieve what I was paid to achieve, because it was not thought out. And all that time the possibility of thinking positively rather than negatively percolated in me, and three months after I finished I committed to being positive. I hated that job. Can I think differently of it now?


Possibly it was just the beauty of the day, and- it feels like seeing the world from a different angle, liberating even enlightening myself. I have been analysing all day, thinking of blogging. At one moment I think, yes, I know this is Right, this is the Sanity called insane, it is beautiful, and at another I think I want reassurance, I want comments, I want to know I have been heard. Proust wrote We must constantly choose between health and sanity on the one hand, and spiritual pleasures on the other. I have always been cowardly enough to choose the former. I reject what I have named sanity, and choose what I have named insanity.

What it meant, at first, was a great deal of grief over actions which seemed trivially normal. Lunchtime- I have an apple, and oatcakes with butter and cheese, then tea. No. Have the apple first and then decide what I want. Instead of buttering the oatcakes, cutting each in half and putting 1/12th of the predetermined block of cheese on each piece (yes, really) I take an oatcake, butter it, cut cheese to put on it. Shall I throw out those last three oatcakes? No, I eat them dry.

Tea? NO. NO, NO, NO, ANYTHING but the routine. I WANT my own decision, now, in this moment. What do I WANT? Coffee. Because I don’t usually have coffee. OK. Filter coffee is a possibility, but it means walking a mile and back to the shop. Instant is OK.

Cleaning my teeth would be the routine. Pause. Check. My mouth would feel better if I cleaned my teeth. I will clean my teeth. The thing is that sanity, normality, routine is so close to what I would do were I free, and I do not want the routine. I want the experience of choosing what I want. Go to the loo before going out? More difficult, “Made you wee whether you could or not” as the poem has it, this is a very early piece of conditioning, the adults don’t want me needing to go while out. OTOH, neither do I, so even though I do not feel the need ATM I decide-

of my own, free, will

to go to the toilet.

Actually, not going to the CAB is probably relevant. I was awake in the night, and woke from a dream of U- I was going to watch a football match, she bagged the seat next to mine by putting a coat over it, (in my dream) (not a towel) I went off to find another seat. Good dream, greater independence, perhaps- with a feeling of lethargy. Play on the computer. Oh, I would really have to rush to get the bus. Can’t be bothered. I should phone Les at least to say I am not going. Play on the computer. It is 10.30, late to be phoning. I have finally lived down to their expectations, I have got in at ten and been really angry that they were briefing someone else on my ten o’clock appointment, they did not know I was coming- WHAT? My BUS gets in at ten! OK Abigail calm down. I asked for the appointment to be moved to 10.15, so I could just get in and not keep the person waiting outside if they was courteously early, and it was not.

After lunch, I go for my walk. I have not been round Stanwick Lakes for ages. It is a gorgeous day, hardly a cloud in the sky. There is a new crop in the field- how wonderful that Modern Capitalism gets the maximum use from the land!

Will there be any blackberries left? I have not been round here for so long. Most are shriveled. There’s one! I pop it in my mouth, and look for another, then realise. Oh. That one might be OK-



I could do with a shallow depth of field, really, I am sure this camera can do that but I do not know how. Hold it up for the sky as a background. A completely unnatural photograph of a natural thing. I realised that I had been so busy scanning for a blackberry that I had not appreciated the one in my mouth. Fuck, there’s profound, innit, something so completely universalisable to human experience.

I did find one. I put it in my mouth, bit, closed my eyes, appreciated. It was sweet and delicate. No, not just the ought to be pleasure, no, not a Revelation and Perfect Moment overwhelmed by sensation either. Just the full sensation of that blackberry.

The river is high, and the path is inundated.

I could go back, but in the beautiful sunshine- actually, the pools on the path, or the streams on the path, got steadily deeper.

My not wanting to go back got me to go forward though getting more and more wet.

Look at those geese, marching along the horizon, not quite like Injuns in a Western.

Close-up first.

From the other side of the river they are not even on the highest point, it is just a trick of perspective.

Even on Stanwick Lakes, those paths are submerged in parts. I wade, calf deep, and meet a couple. He persuades me not to go further by that path, to go by the grass path they came in on, and I get chatting to her. On the old railway, he stops so I can walk on, and I stop too, irritating him slightly- she is happy to talk.

What do I do? I tell her. I am not ashamed of it. I am trying to see the World as it really is, rather than how it has seemed, habitually. How do you do that? By paying full attention. She walked out of “a job I loved”, too, and does not ask what work I did. I note her tripod- did you get anything? No, he says, there have been so few birds with the weather, the migrants from the North should be coming but there are few of them, too. She used to walk miles in the town, with headphones on. You don’t notice, with headphones. In the town, she did not want to. She has learned to drive in the last year. She is now so much less fit than she was with all the walking. She thinks I look too young for a midlife crisis-

😀 😀

She is Sharon. I am Abigail. This is Frank- but he is not part of our conversation. There are lots of people here in the sunshine. I want a photo of a bird in flight. She finds it hard enough to find them through the binoculars. Well, camera in Burst mode, take a hundred and one might come out, I am relying on my equipment not my skill-

-and my patience. I need to do it enough before I will get the right shot. This is my best so far.

Even now, I anticipated the bridleway to the lock being clear- it is underwater the whole length of it, knee deep in places. The water floods out of the lake, along the bridleway and into the river, and has flooded back the length of the path. Better not fall over.

It floods over the lock.

That sign is on the mooring place.

This is my world. “It is so nice to go for a walk in Stanwick Lakes”. It is GOOD to walk round Stanwick Lakes, which is not how it ought to be– dry paths and Beautiful Wildfowl-

This is my most Proustian ever writing, almost no action, all feeling- though he includes some of the illusions, and I do not know what illusions I harbour now- and I have hardly revised, and he almost certainly revised. My tagline is now “Young Marcel’s goodnight kiss” and I mean for me- I am lonely, and I crave reassurance not from an actual kiss from Mother or, later, from Albertine but from a net-book, which might give a new indication of a tenuous electronic link to another human being. Or may not, not even one page-view.

I took a pseudonym because I am revealing all about myself, and I did not want a potential employer googling my name and finding this.


My name is Abigail.

Pleased to meet you.

Why do I care? despair.

It got to me, going to Edinburgh, all the anticipation- how would my life change if I got that job, what would I make of it? All the effort. And then the refusal. I get interviews. I have usually got an interview for each application I have made. And then I do not get the job. After going to Edinburgh, I did little the following week. I found that thinking “I will do X at Y future time” had no meaning. Y time came, and I did not. The thought, I need to do X, and I have time to do it Now worked.

Two client meetings got to me at the CAB. I phoned the tax credit office, to find what had gone wrong with a claim, since on the basis of what the claimant told me she was entitled to more than £100 a week- means-tested benefit, her family need that to live on- and it had been refused. It is not particularly generous. She seemed vulnerable, and in need of an even break. There is a dedicated phone line for advisers, but the person on that phone line could not find any details of the decision. It took 29 minutes, as indicated by the phone, for her to give me the contact number of the man who made the decision.

He wanted my full name, the address and post code and phone numbers of my office to prove I was who I said I was. I asked him what had happened and he said, “Why don’t you ask her?” Because I want to know what your position is. He told me I was arrogant, and he did not have to speak to me, after talking over me. He found me “condensating”, and by that time my brain was fried. I knew he meant some other thing but the word “condescending” eluded me. It was as if, rather than checking whether someone is entitled, he was seeking out excuses not to pay.

I have a law degree and benefits experience going back to 1993. File:Goya Dog.jpgI asked about why a claim for a benefit with simple entitlement criteria and clear entitlement had not been paid, and I could not get a straight answer. I could not even find out what the dispute was.

Man this morning, slightly more complicated benefit rules applied, involving two separate claims systems. He had asked the jobcentre what he should claim, and been told one thing but not the £30 a week more generous alternative. There had been a half-arsed attempt to get the claim right, the less generous way, but it was not followed through. Actually, they were getting more than they were entitled to, but that means that absolutely all of it might be recovered at some point in the future, without deducting the amount they would have been entitled to. This started six months ago. What should be done now? What should be done about the past period, given the near-impossibility of backdating? Why did that particular payment stop? Why has that particular payment not started yet?

I came out, and started weeping in the loos, and our lovely Peruvian receptionist consoled and hugged me. Why does it matter so much to me? There is the mirage of a system with clear rules for clear outcomes, fit the rules and you get the money. But put it into practice, and that does not happen. I have made appeals on serious knotty points of law, and here am I helping with claims. People who are entitled are not getting what they are entitled. The man this morning had a responsible job and has average intelligence, certainly greater than some benefit claimants, as benefits tend to be for the most vulnerable people. And he needs a lawyer to sort his claim out. The system is mad.

Written 15 October.