The listening ear

“People tell me things,” he said. He has a sympathetic manner, and simply by not interrupting or gentle prompting at the right moment might get me to tell all my woes, but I got the feeling telling him was not entirely safe. Might he use what you told him? Why would you tell people these things anyway? Because it is a relief. You get it off your chest. You feel better.

Samaritans can talk to a supervisor after a difficult call about what they have heard. While listening, I needed to empathise, to feel with the other. After hearing, I always found I needed to shed their pain. Sometimes I was like a dog shaking myself on coming out of water, and sometimes it took much longer. Once I needed to talk to a friend for two hours. And sometimes it was as if they had a bottomless pit of pain. I would listen, and it would be as difficult as the most painful story could be, and I gave no relief.

Why would you do that? I liked it. It made me feel useful. It was a thing I felt I did quite well. It made me feel good. I would always rather say I do a thing because of what I gained from it- it made me feel good- rather than claim a good quality. Perhaps I am a loving soul, perhaps it is a sign of lovingness to want to do this for people, but that seems to me a story I tell about myself rather than a perception. “I am a good listener” is an idea to alter my conduct, or make me feel guilty when I do not live up to it. There is no life in it. In a particular moment, I want to listen and earth distress. It seems to me to be good right at that time. There is the life.

It also seems possible to me that someone might want to listen, because that feeling of being useful might make them feel better. Three of us at the trans club- the Baptist minister, the trainee Unitarian minister, and me- heard a trans man begin to tell his difficulties, and we all leant forward in unison, with our concerned listening faces on.

People offer to listen. There’s a way of saying “How are you?” to which the only acceptable response is “Well, thank you” unless you are really distressed, in which case you still need their consent to be a shoulder to cry on. Lots of people use “How are you” as a conventional greeting and are not interested in any answer. And there’s a way of saying “How are you?”, dripping with sympathy, begging to hear your most intimate thoughts.

And it is good to phone a friend. I share what is on my mind at the moment. She listens, asks some questions, does not sort my problem out but may say something useful. It is reciprocal. I do that with H occasionally. She has just moved house and is settling in. The couple she is staying with are really nice, welcoming and friendly. I am glad to hear it.

If you offer to listen to me, you take the risk that my hurt is too much for you to bear. If you are in a fragile state, perhaps it is better not to search me out and offer to listen. It is not my fault if you are perturbed by what you hear. But remember that I do not need you to make me feel better. My response is my own.

I wanted to communicate the depth of my distress, and I did so by curling on the floor in a foetal position. That was where I was at the time. I am not feeling that bad all the time. So it was a clusterfuck, two fragile people colliding, and if either had been less fragile at the time there would have been no problem. Not my fault, though, and unfair to blame me.

Do you like to listen, or find unburdening to someone does you good?

Bath

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treating me like a woman

It is nice to be looked after.

I do not like that road, for cycling. Cars go fast, but it is narrow, and they pass a bicycle without leaving enough room. I thought I could jump the kerb and go on the footpath. Then I did not, and shot head first onto a patch of grass. Most of my weight went on my left hip, which developed a swelling as if my skin were tights, and I had put a cloth pad inside my tights. It is still painful 36 hours later.

I was mortified. “Only a fool falls off a bicycle without assistance”, I thought. I read that, and believe it, and want to make excuses like I was frightened of the cars and made a split second decision badly. The other Marsby road is closed, completely ripped off the Earth’s surface in parts for house building, so I went on the road where the cyclist died.

I consider I could have pedalled off then, but sat on the grass for a bit to regain equanimity. A man stopped his car, wound down the window, and asked if I were alright. I am completely ashamed of falling off and I say I am. Yes, I am sure.

Then a lorry-driver stopped. She got out and came over to me. She looked concerned, asked if I was OK. I could not meet her eye but tried to reassure her. Yes I am OK. Thank you so much for stopping. A woman driving a car stopped and also came over to me. She is caring. I am ashamed.

The lorry driver said, “She’s fallen off her bicycle. The lorry driver didn’t cause that, for a change”. I hasten to reassure the other driver that it was not the lorry driver’s fault. Yes I am OK, still unable to meet eyes but OK. “I have to check for concussion”. I don’t think I’m concussed, I did not bang my head just my hip. I am still ashamed for falling off, and not really liking the attention, but I see that it is caring and sweet. One might like it. They are women caring for a woman who is hurt. I should not just pretend it is nothing, as a man would.

The lorry driver checks the bike. She thinks the front gear is jammed, but when I pedal off it is fine. I thank her profusely, smile at the other woman, they drive off, I pedal off.

One is rarely in need before strangers, especially in my withdrawn and isolated state. I would certainly not seek such a situation out; but it was lovely.

Beauty of the shopping centre

The shopping centre is open. There is not enough parking mid week, and long delays getting out of the car parks. And it is by the Lake, where you can walk. Two rows of shops face each other, and I could not find a shot with any attractiveness at all, but where you walk to the Lake, by the coffee shop, under the House of Fraser restaurant, it pleases my eye. There is an effort made.

I like these curves. It’s not just a shelter from the rain. More appears as you walk round, moving towards the lake. I like the lines.

The board walk, benches and shelter- as if it rained a lot round here, the water company increase prices and say we are in drought- move us from joyless spending and acquisition to the beauty of the lake. There are paths, and some wildlife might not yet have been scared off.

The curves together are lovely. The colours are autumnal. I like this view, and worry that I have damaged my camera sensor. I must have had the sun or a very bright light in shot.

Trying to find a shot of the front of the shops, which are just standard dull shopping centre, I hovered behind someone emptying a bin. I explained what I was doing, and she enthused about the goose, the way its head is carved, its feet folded up beneath it. It is beautiful, and it is a pleasure in her job: she sees it daily, and has got to know it. “Come and find me, and show me what you took,” she said. But I only took the sculptures.

We are on the board walk. The wild ground is rigorously fenced off, behind fences and bars.

Trans community

There is no trans community, and I feel that is a shame. We could benefit from supporting each other, in person not just on line. Trans readers, I need your help: how to create trans groups in real life?

Léne wants to start supportive groups, and also work with local services to ensure they meet trans folk’s needs. She used to be a social worker, now works in a school, and has contacts with the local council, which pays at least lip service to equality, diversity and the special needs of particular communities. She is holding a launch for the service next month. She also wants to open support groups for trans folk. Her interest is that her daughter transitioned recently.

Léne was in a pub recently with a cis friend and a trans friend, having a drink and a chat, when a man came over to ask if the trans woman was a man or a woman. They told him to go away, but he insisted, and grasped the trans woman’s upper arm. She went last night to report this to the police as a hate crime. The woman who interviewed her did not seem sympathetic, asking her why she thought the incident was motivated by transphobia. Well, taking someone by the arm is asserting power over them, the right to challenge their presentation, and saying they are not welcome. Léne’s parents were “Cape Coloured” from South Africa, and she says “Trans is the new Black”- no-one in a pub would say something like that to her, though they might have, in the 1980s. She is fifty. The racist would be challenged by someone else in the bar, and in the end the bar staff ejected the transphobe, who said he was only asking a question, and would not let it go.

Léne, short for Marléne, has been badgering the council for two years to consider trans people, and eventually wrote to my MP. He put her in touch with the appropriate council person, who said it was on the council’s website- so well buried that Léne could not find it. She has talked to the police, social services and housing, but had less success with trans people. She wanted to have three meetings in different towns this week, half-term, and had to cancel two for lack of interest. Two people had said they were interested but then messaged her to say they could not come. At another meeting, only I turned up. I looked at her draft website. It started, “statistics show”. That would appeal to a government worker, interested in measurable outcomes, but not necessarily to trans folk. Human stories interest me. I thought I could help bridge the gap: Léne could talk to service providers, I could approach service users. We have common goals, the desire for things to go smoothly with satisfaction on all sides.

So we had a lovely chat. We really hit it off. I feel I have made a friend. And there is no “trans community”. Some people get together for political activism. We don’t have the motive of the gay and lesbian communities, and several things to put us off: when two or more trans folk are gathered together, we are more likely to be clocked by cis people. Other trans folk remind us of the difficulties of transition, which we want to put behind us. And we don’t always like each other: we have this important thing in common, but otherwise are diverse as any other human group. The bits we cannot accept in ourselves we despise in each other.

When I transitioned I decided I would make my community in normal society. I left the Northern Concord and the Sibyls behind, but more recently when I have spent time with trans folk I have relaxed. I am with my kind. It’s a good feeling. Sharing experiences might strengthen us and give us tips.

Trans people- where have you found trans community? And would you like to spend time with other trans folk?

Quaker Life

On the train, I sat down as usual without particularly considering the other people in the nearby seats. It was crowded. Then I noticed the woman opposite me is trans. She has her own hair, but the makeup, nail varnish, clothes and way of being is instantly recognisable, to me, as trans. Hair on the backs of her hands is the final confirmation. I wish we could acknowledge each other, as you might seeing an English person in Kentucky, say- but the Rules say no.

Deborah joined me, and asked how H was. I have no idea. I have not spoken to her for years. Our friendship was broken, really. I heard from Helen that she was unwell, and even more isolated. It’s an overused word, but that is tragic. I sat near someone famous, and asked an impertinent question: “Why would you be invited to the Queen’s funeral?” She had been discussing buying a hat for it, just in case; she would not get much notice. She answered stating her position rather than her achievements, and I realised my question had been impertinent. In the week since, I have thought of how I might have smoothed over my faux pas, just as more normally one thinks of witty ripostes. A few days later I saw a meme of her face on Facebook.

I had seen another name on the attendance list, and wanted to meet her. No, it’s not the famous one, she spells her surname differently. I am disappointed, but we chatted away like normal people. Another woman met me in Loughborough in 2003, when I was again making myself noticeable: that week I saw the second opinion psychiatrist about the operation. She remembered me, I did not remember her. It is a pain not remembering faces or names.

I was thinking, I must justify my presence here. I must make a sufficient contribution, though my own learning and recreation is a worthwhile benefit of my attendance too. I think I have, enough. I said that to Alan and he recognised the feeling, either having it himself or having heard others state it, or even being empathetic enough to understand immediately. I was discomposed and feeling dislocated, uncomfortable, at war inside myself, inauthentic, something. We gathered in a small group, and I thought I need to be here.

I am here.

And I was, just like that, until we left.

The way into presence in Woodbrooke is to go into the garden. I went outside, and stood with a tree, watching its leaves shiver in a light breeze. I was I, and it was it. There is so much beauty there. I turn a few degrees, and then look at what is in front of me. And Iain wound me up talking of trans issues. I may have worked that out. Anyway, I went to stand under the copper beech- the trunk is a yard in diameter with a notice saying “Copper beech”, I would not have recognised it- isolated from the rest of the garden by hanging branches and watching the leaves fall, a few every minute. So I regained my equanimity just before the sessions started again. I consulted within myself to see if I should walk out or even request help calming down, and found I could manage. He came over after to ask if he had been right to let me go or should have followed, and I was wound up again. I am still quite labile. Yes, I said, he chose correctly.

I spoke to a gay man who does ballroom dancing, and has high heels so he can see what it feels like to be led. Then he went to a workshop on women leading, and spoke to an apparent woman, no sign of transition, in sweater and jeans. He asked if she would experience leading and she/they said “I don’t identify as a woman”. That is the way ahead. We are all human.

Taunting God

Why should a conversation turn into a competition?

“Free Archaeological display” said the sign on the trailer, so I wandered in. Before I had got to the top of the stairs a pretty woman in her twenties came over and asked how I was doing. The display is about Umchester, only a couple of miles away. There is a video and some display boards. What do I think? A man of about the same age followed her.

I tell her of the mosaic at the Lakes. Not a picture of a God, or anything, just an abstract pattern- but still quite impressive, we agree. I am interested, I say. I watch the odd documentary on the TV.

-Don’t believe everything you see. If it’s [name] switch off immediately. Later, it emerges that his documentaries are about alien beings building the pyramids. A little hurt, I protest that I can trust BBC4. Channel 5 is a little dodgy.

She works with the public engagement team in London. She does not know much about Roman Britain, she is an Egyptologist by specialisation. I feel the need to show I know a little, to move the conversation to a higher level.

-So if I dropped a name like- I don’t know how to pronounce it- Khasekhemwy…
-That’s early dynastic period, isn’t it? asked her colleague doubtfully.

She starts telling me of Unas. He had unique poetry in his Pyramid Texts, saying he would use the bones of the Gods to scour his pots if they did not obey him. I said I would Google, and I have:

397: Unas is the Bull of Heaven, who (once) suffered want,
and who has decided to live on the essence of every god,
who eats their entrails when they come from the Isle of Fire with their bellies full of magical charms (HkA.w).

398: Unas is a well provided one, who has absorbed his spirits (Ax.w).
Unas has appeared as this Great One, lord of those who are at hand.
He sits with his back turned to Geb.

413: Lo, their soul (bA) is in the belly of Unas, their spirits (Ax.w) are with Unas as the broth of the gods, cooked for Unas from their bones.
Lo, their soul (bA) is with Unas, their Shadows (taken away) from those to whom they belong.

Fuckyeah. Badass or what? I can’t think of any other literature about Gods treating them with such disrespect. “Later kings are back to grovelling,” she said. The ceiling of his tomb is covered in lapis [lazuli] with tiny golden stars for the night sky, she says, with the awestruck tones of one who has seen it.

-Does that survive in the Books of the Dead?
-No, they are very respectful. She quotes a bit. I should read Miriam Lichtheim, she tells me. She loved those works, with transliterations, literal translations word by word then prose translations. “Is it Licht [as in “loch”] or Lisht?” she asks her colleague, but he does not know. Her teacher said Lisht. I google again, and find these are substantial academic works.

I like Gilgamesh, I said. “There is nothing new under the Sun”.
-You can quote it? said the man, impressed. Well, it is a fascinating quote, “Nothing new” in the oldest story we know.

In London many of the objects unearthed are Victorian. She finds them quite interesting. Her colleague is not interested in anything newer than Georgian, he says. He drifts off.

I look down at the displayed objects. There is a coin, a black disc I would not have thought was metal without the context, and the broken pin of a brooch. “You should volunteer!” she says brightly.

-Mmm, in a ditch with a brush.
-Not really, a trowel more often. Though there might be human remains, we would use a brush then. Sometimes people use mattocks. It is very good exercise, she says, winningly. I imagine volunteers with mattocks and archaeologists like her with brushes doing the interesting stuff, sometimes showing it to sweaty, muddy volunteers.

I don’t know how this one started, but we were on Romans in Britain including black people, from Africa, and I remarked that there were Emperors from all over the Empire, but not from Britain. She said there were rulers in Britain. I made myself clearer: there were Emperors from North Africa, or Syria, Emperors of Rome, but none from Britain. She said Britain was a Roman concept, not a concept from before Roman rule.

-I don’t know how I am failing to communicate. There were Emperors from all over the empire, Emperors of Rome, from Syria or North Africa, but not from Britain.

She tells me that was about being closer to trade routes. And when I say that the tribes before the conquest had no writing she said just because none survives does not mean that Boudicca could not write her own language. On African soldiers on Hadrian’s wall, she says the concept of black slaves is a modern concept, we think of slaves coming from Africa; but I meant that the population could move around the empire, and would not all be white.

I want to share poetry with her so ask if she has heard of Hafiz. She has not. I quote some. It is translated by Daniel- but I cannot remember “Ladinsky”, his surname, until later. She goes to talk to a man who nearly fell on the stairs. “You could go down the ramp,” she says helpfully. He had not seen it.

Jewish translator, I say, but she is engaged elsewhere.
-Jewish?!

Greenbelt encounters

I got recognised. “You did a talk last year, didn’t you?” asked the person sitting next to me. She had enjoyed it. How wonderful to make an impression on someone like that!

I really enjoyed meeting Kirsty. She was walking up the path as I was leaving my tent for the Eucharist. We talked deeply, enjoyed the sun together, and without irony she expressed admiration for my wisdom. I can’t remember anything we talked about. I saw her again just as I was leaving, and we hugged warmly. She is a lovely person, and found me a lovely person. With another, I enjoyed getting my reference understood- I had “seen a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand”.

At Greenbelt, we consecrate the bread and wine together. We are worshipping, we become one body, but we need no priest or leader to do that, just the whole group of several thousand people. I raised my hand in blessing of the bread and wine- the priest’s physical action is much like a healer channelling Qi- and we share it among ourselves. We danced and we sang and we heard a teenager preach through a speech device she programs through eye movements, as she was starved of oxygen at birth. She quoted Daniel 7:9-

an Ancient One took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.

God- in a wheelchair!! She was delighted to find God in her image in the Bible. God is us, and we are God: God is trans as well, the Father gathering us under Motherly wings. We are acceptable before God.

As I was packing up my tent, a man was walking by on the path, so I asked him to help me roll it up. “Are we folding it in half?” he asked. No, we are folding it from one end, about 2’6″ wide folds, then rolling up the folded tent. It is so much more efficient when you have one person each side, folding it inwards, dashing back and forth to do that is a pain. I roll the tent round the inner tent and the poles, but officiously he started to roll it up by itself, ponderously, forcing out the air. He was taking charge, diminishing me by looking after me. “You’ll have to dry it out later, or it will be smelly,” he warned. Well, that’s my decision. The rain had dried off in sunshine, the underside was not damp, I thought, it will be hard to roll up again if there is a breath of wind. He was talking down to me.

In the marquee, where the actors were preparing for their show, I looked over the shoulder of one into the mirror. Yuk. I have an old wig on, it is squashed flat, and its look displeases me. I push vaguely at the front, then move away.

“You’ll need to spend some time on that,” says a woman. She judges I have no idea how to present my hair, and starts to educate me. I could push it behind my ears, she tells me. That means I notice my own grey hair, and it looks more like a hat plonked on my head rather than my hair, I feel. What I said was, I was self-conscious about the tabs above my ears. “Oh, nobody notices those,” she said. My concerns don’t matter. She will show me what to do. She showed me in her own hair how it was fine around the temples, and how she had had to draw it forward to conceal that. I back-comb the front of my wig with my fingers, and it plumps out a bit. “That does not look too bad,” she says. It’s good enough. I want to take it off, possibly will drop it on the floor, and did not want to take my human hair wig. I don’t need to look impeccably groomed. I still got recognised, and given the microphone to speak from the floor.

University of Warwick

The university is beautiful. In the Arts Centre, there is a huge theatre for lectures and conferences, taking 1300 people. The lobby floors are paved with dark grey stone with bright pink veins through it, as if someone had spilled ice cream. Under a glass lantern in the roof, I bend to examine them.

Walking to it from behind, there is a passageway. I consider the shape of the buildings and the way my perspective changes as I walk through, the pale blue panels on the walls, and find it beautiful. I want to pause to appreciate it as I approach it.

The Humanities building, from the 1970s, is quite ugly, just a steel frame with concrete slabs for walls, rows of them, rows of windows from waist height to ceiling on each floor; but it is on four sides of the “Meditation garden”, with trees, a fountain, a waterfall, where two or three times I sat and chatted. It is all about the encounters, few of which are planned, really.

Not all the open air sculpture is worthwhile, but I love this:

I thought it looked like something to go hand over hand on an assault course or playground, someone thought it looked like a rollercoaster, the cage disturbed some and delighted me. I approach it from the campsite. I take a slight detour to the Arts Centre, passing three trees which seem perfectly spaced as I walk past. Studying here, one might habitually bring sandwiches to eat on that bench.

This figure was controversial, as the head is covered with a sack.

It could be a person blind to reality, rather than a prisoner.

I did not take my camera, generally. I did not want to be looking out for pictures all the time. I went into the Woodbrooke tent to find leaflets on the Vibrancy in Meetings project. They were on a table next to one with construction toys on it, and a complex model Ferris wheel, where I met Alice who was stringing sparkly beads onto plastic twine. She is six. The 5 year olds were handing out strips of fabric to think about refugees, and she gave me one. “She was handing them out, earlier,” said her mother. She wanted to glue a star to the twine, so I set to carving a groove in the back with my penknife. It did not quite work. She made me a “friendship bracelet” with sequins, and the following day demanded to know where it was. I said it had fallen off, so I used it to decorate my tent.

I met Liz, whom I met at the spiritual healing course years ago. I suggested we exchange healing, but ended up simply receiving, lying in the chaplaincy. She said I had a good strong link to spirit through my crown, and she spent some time drawing the Qi downwards through my body to my feet; and as before with her I felt the warmth of her hands, at my forehead, even though she was not touching me.

I enjoyed Clarissa’s company. She was next to me on the camp site. Our first conversation was on non-theism, and only got deeper. She told me much of her life, and of a family she has housed in her town. She cares about the children like a grandmother. On Tuesday we met for breakfast, and were still talking at midday.

I raised a laugh from the Quaker Stewardship Committee, by saying my excuse that I was too spiritual to deal with all that money-stuff did not even satisfy me. I talked to a very sharp man who told me how trustees could still be liable if a charity, such as an area meeting, was incorporated, if they were reckless or negligent.

I went to H’s self-catering flat, where I met Liz and Ellie from Manchester. I had not known they had a son, Ben, now ten.

Day out

I went into the men’s loos. They smell awful- they don’t use the same floral air-freshener as the women’s. Who knew?

I got oil from my chain on my hands, and wanted to wash them. There is no soap in the women’s loos. The friendly cleaner explained that replenishing of the soap had been contracted out to PHS, a service company, and there was no soap in the station to refill it. He suggested I could go into the men’s, as the place was quiet. No soap there either.

He then unlocked the disabled people’s loo, so that I could wash my hands there. That’s not under the same contract, so there is soap there; however I noticed the disposal unit in there had the same PHS logo. Neo-liberalism in a nutshell: poorer service, greater cost.

I told this story on the train, where three of us round the table chatted and one sat silent, and there was the sound of conversation from all the carriage. Something in the air. The woman asked me if my bike was safe and I said once I had left it unlocked at the station for a day: no thief had bothered to check, or noticed. She has had four bikes stolen, but wanted to cycle to the station before work, as parking was £9.50 a day. Get a cheap reconditioned bike. When she started at work in the 90s they typed memos for internal mail, which would take two days to be delivered then two for a reply. As email increased, her line manager, who was in Miami, was copied in on every email she had- for support rather than surveillance, she thought- and broke down under the strain. Even on her day off, going for a meal with a friend she used to work with, the only former colleague she has ever kept in touch with, she has to keep checking her work phone. She is in contact with people from all over the world. Scandinavians are happy with a reply within two days, Russians want a reply immediately, even if it is 5am here. “Do you work?” she asked. God, do I look unemployed? Hardly a rentier, no-one would retire on my income willingly. I write a little, mainly on spiritual matters. I tried to explain Quakerism, to an avowed unspiritual person. “Spirituality” is one way of putting it. Some people might call it “life lessons”.

The man, a widower, volunteers at the Nupton theatre. As a volunteer he gets to see the shows. His wife died, and he had to get out of the house, being retired.

To the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition with H. There are thousands of works, including two complementary prints, each of three columns, light-dark-light and dark-light-dark, each an edition of 20 for £1200 each. £48,000 for at most a week’s work: one might produce several candidates, then print off a favourite. The income could support you for a year, while you made any art you liked.

Here there are two figures, about eight feet tall. I don’t know what the core is, but the exterior is fabrics. They are gagged with tights, with £20 notes stuffed into their mouths. One is male. One has breasts, but the forehead and chin look male, and the hips narrow. They are horrible. I don’t like the blowsy, sagging shape of the breasts, a bra visible. I talk to a stranger about them. Yes, it could be one of my lot.

To the Royal Albert Hall for my first Prom concert since 1986. After the Berg violin concerto, the conductor stands with his baton poised. Often with a quiet, contemplative ending there is a period of silence, but here it extends for an age. The I-player shows it is 24 seconds, but I have not experienced anything like it. Five seconds’ pause is rare.

To St Pancras, where I play the piano for the first time in months. There are three people round it: the old man says there are often more at this time of night. He often comes to play, living about a mile away. He says “She’s classically trained,” of me, appreciatively. “Is that Chopin?” asks the woman. Yes, the C Minor prelude. I haven’t played the piano for months, but can remember this.

Why haven’t you played? Too depressed. Too lacking in energy. And now- they changed my meds! I had an experiment with nine days of Norethisterone, synthetic progesterone, and had a wonderful high on it and colossal downer after. So now I want to experiment with taking it for longer, and see if the increase of energy continues. She says it never does. I hope it will.

He plays by ear. He plays the tune of Summertime, and stabs vaguely at other notes. Sometimes he makes useful chords, sometimes not. I sing it, baritone, I want to play with gender. No-one minds.