Reading, writing, understanding

“It was Heidegger who rendered phenomenology hermeneutical.” Are you still here, Jim? Jim wrote here, once, “I adore Heidegger”. I just about understand that sentence, have some understanding of what phenomenology is, or hermeneutics, though I am unclear about how one could be the other. And then a shaft of light: Heidegger describes understanding as the human’s fundamental way of being-in-the-world… the basis of human knowing in general.

Afraid to go out, afraid to go in- I have not been meditating, because I fear it, and then yesterday felt moved to, so did. And this morning I felt moved to so did and found my pain and sadness, at the heart of me, it just hurts. Being with it, being conscious of it, was what I had feared and why I had avoided meditation, and why I may avoid meditation in the future. And yet just sitting with this pain the emotional accretions to it cease to matter. There is the pain and sadness, and there is the terror and sense of incomprehension and powerlessness which they evoke in me, but if I sit with the pain the terror disappears. Perhaps I am still powerless, I don’t know. Perhaps, I am not. Perhaps, I will meditate.

Become blind during contemplative prayer and cut yourself off from needing to know things. Knowledge hinders, not helps you in contemplation. Be content feeling moved in a delightful, loving way by something mysterious and unknown, leaving you focused entirely on God, with no other thought than of [God] alone. Let your naked desire rest there. . . .

I have been reading. I love the idea of the Oxford “Very Short Introductions”, books about 120 pages long on all sorts of topics. The one on Existentialism has required my concentration, reading slowly, re-reading paragraphs and chapters, and that concentration seems a worthwhile practice to me as I sit at home. Maybe I should take notes. It seems a less frittery way of spending time than others open to me. I wish they were slightly easier, but there are concepts new to me which may be as lucid as possible. It fits this section, on how an inkling may grow to an understanding, how it might be aided by others, shaped by words. I have experienced such learning before.

She may be there this weekend. I hope so, hope not. I have spoken at her twice, both times imbecilically. (If you’re reading this, I don’t mean you.) She is utterly alien to me, beyond my comprehension, of fabulous intellect which I intuit may create loneliness in crowds like there will be. If she is there it will be her gift to us. If I dare approach her, not for absolution for my past idiocies but to say


as a gift not a request or a pawing attempt at robbery- an attempt at I-thou-

could it possibly result in communication I could bear? Though my communications so far, impertinent though they were, have elicited reactions so that I have seen her slightly better. What is the best that I want?

That intellect should win respect from all, but merely being female exposed her to insult and contempt, over and over again, probably still does.

Another person will be there, also alien to me but with whom I have communed, in Tate Modern, making the art we contemplated together dance and sing and give up mysteries. (If you’re reading this, you know who you are.) I so desperately want to commune.

Faced with the possibilities of Bad Faith or Authenticity, explained by Sartre as mediated by Thomas R. Flynn, I will occasionally make progress, slower than I would like, wanting instant communication and finding attempts failing over and over again. But then in meditation this morning, fleetingly, I managed to communicate with myself.

Sensitive souls

He might not be good company, he warned me, as he hardly slept at all last night. His mind was racing. He had bought The Guardian, and was enraged about Carillion- the payouts to the fat cats, successful only at filling their pockets; and the fact that “George Gideon Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury” had been connected to hedge funds which had started short-selling the company before its profit warning in the Summer. Possibly George had passed on information; he has little value otherwise. He explained short-selling to me: I knew it was betting that a company’s share price would decline, but he told me that the hedge fund borrows shares for a set fee and a set period, sells them, buys them and hands them back before the end of the period, and if the share price declines it makes money.

I tell him that even asleep his company would be pleasant to me, I like him so much. I would drink my tea and play on my phone. And that his choler could hardly be more bad for his health if you added an “a” on the end. And that I go to sleep with In Our Time on the I-player, four restful voices saying interesting but not too interesting things about Xenophon, gravitational waves, or the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum.

My other way of going to sleep when awake in the night was to stop thinking of worries, and rehearse summaries of Doctor Who plots.

I feel that I am able to listen and sympathise, and possibly mock a little. He waves his hands about, and I mirror him. He asks me not to, then says “I’m stimming”. At which I apologise and stop. I wish his choler was less, though, at things he cannot affect. Choler with an “a” will come in ten years, if the Tories win the next election and Brexit happens. He is so gentle, withal. I have rarely seen him angry at another person (it was me). He was reading about Dolores O’Reordan, and it mentioned the Warrington bombing. And his photographic memory brought up the face of a boy who was killed then, and he started crying.

Are you still here? My Moral is for you: such sensitivity is a gift, though also a burden; and when two sensitive souls come together usually it is a great joy, though sometimes it is terribly painful.

Or, See me! I am like you! Please let me know, if it is you.

I don’t want to take cash out, and I notice I have not enough for a bus fare. Then I pay with my credit card, and notice after I have been overcharged by £5.70- so she repays me in cash. Pleased by this synchronicity, I walk in the supermarket, and hear Petula Clark. Forget all your worries, forget all your cares- Oh! Do not play something which will move me!


You loved me. “Dearest” and “Beloved” are the best translations I can find for “Cariad”, as a form of address. I got the job in Wales to be close to you, as well as to get away from Oldham, where teenagers were picking on the tranny. I had been going to you every weekend for two years. Four years later I got the job in England to get away from you. I had only applied for jobs in England, not in Gwent.

We were still speaking on the phone, just about every night, until August this year. I felt you let me down; probably I let you down. After I lost that job, practically we were cohabiting for eight months, yet I still had to keep on my own flat. I was still visiting- Christmas two years ago was the last time. The phone calls were boring, and it was hard to think of anything to say: we could moan about Quakers, or talk of your beautiful cats. Then we just stopped.

I have just had your Christmas card. You always sent them at the last moment, but this is prudently early so I may return one. “Hope all is well. Love.” It had me in tears of bitterness, rage, frustration, regret. You loved me and your daughter got in the way, and now she is just about your only social contact, apart from Ocado deliveries. All your enthusiasm, drive and energy going to


Mine too, of course.

In September 2010 I had the realisation that my mother had always done her absolute best for me. She was not God. She controlled me completely, because she could do no better. My rage at her melted, and now I know “forgiveness” is the wrong word, for there is nothing to forgive: I love and honour her, though I only got to that point fourteen years after she died. With you, I have just found my pain and resentment anew- yet I do see, you always did the best you could, which, considering our shared curse and your other difficulties was pretty impressive.

It is unresolved. I might phone you. I wish you well. I never loved you with that aching yearning I can feel, yet you impressed and delighted me and I was quite happy to form such a partnership as we could; and now I do not know how either of us could gain anything by further contact.

Though since I wrote that, we are back phoning occasionally.


Right now my life has all the challenge I can bear. I have limited the challenge: often, I spend four or five days in the week alone indoors. I am not satisfied with it. I am bored and resentful, and the siren thought that I deserve more than this crosses my mind, though I have no claim on anyone. I have judged myself harshly.

I have always done my best.
it is as it is


I rebuilt my friendship with him, and he confirmed that he had got more angry than he needed, and I am very happy with my gentle way of approaching, asking forgiveness rather than offering it; for that friendship gives me pure delight. I know him. I know all I gain from him, so am willing to give a great deal; and the giving is getting, the giving is delight. We find a way to be together, which is not always possible.

Faffing II

Ostensibly, we fell out over my immorality. His position was there were no absolute moral laws or absolute moral values. I think you agree with him. My contempt for him knew no bounds.

It is such a beautifully written email that I treasure it: had he devoted the same energy to praising me, I would frame it on the wall. It starts, I fear that your lawyer’s mind is far too supple and devious for me to cope with; it is, indeed, beyond my ken. A good Scots word, ‘ken’ – one I thought you might appreciate. The friendship had seemed deep, perhaps too deep: one of my theories is that we had got too close, and this frightened him, so he had to pull away. He pulled away with great vigour.

Four months after, I emailed to ask if he had forgiven me, and he emailed back to say yes. What sort of Christian would I be if I could not forgive, assuming there was anything to forgive? Our friendship appears to be on a similar footing to before: we met for coffee, and discussed such things as altruistic and pro-social behaviour with particular reference to closing the door against the cold draught, now its spring is broken, and Doctor Who. I am delighted, glad I made the approach, and happy to frame it as asking for forgiveness rather than asking if he had got over himself. He is brilliantly intelligent and beautifully empathetic- for an Aspie, the latter requires calculation rather than mirroring, and his calculation is subtle and effective. It is a friendship I value intensely. But the breach of it was just faffing.

I thought, whose pictures should I show after Degas’ milliners? Why not Luca Giordano, I had shown his pictures before. I did not think until I was looking at the Wikimedia Commons page that my theme should be naked women attacking from the sky, in one case using her breast as a water-pistol. I hope this theme delights you as much as it delights me.

Luca Giordano, the triumph of Bacchus, Neptune and Amphitrite detail 1Luca Giordano, the triumph of Bacchus, Neptune and Amphitrite

My immorality

To see oursels as ithers see us…

I fear that your lawyer’s mind is far too supple and devious for me to cope with; it is, indeed, beyond my ken. Oh dear. So our friendship is over, and he does not want to see me again. He continues, his position was there were no absolute moral laws or absolute moral values. I think you agree with him. My contempt for him knew no bounds.

Our disagreement was about tactical voting. In 2010, at the election, the Tory majority in my constituency was 1,951. At the by-election, the Labour majority on a much reduced turnout was 7,791. I read somewhere that the likelihood of a Tory victory was 12%, a suspiciously precise figure and too high for my liking. The other candidates are unlikely to win. I proposed voting Labour, because the Labour candidate is preferable to the liar.

R resigned from the Green Party because he was considering voting tactically in the neighbouring constituency. He thought it dishonourable of me to consider voting for another party while remaining a member.

Well, I don’t. I don’t want a Tory MP, so want to use my vote in the best way to prevent that. My reason for voting Green would be that I favour their policies, and want to improve their national vote share, not because I think I could elect an MP. I also support the party with my membership, being part of the “Green Surge” and such leafleting as I have been doing (not a lot) in a neighbouring constituency. I am unsure whether my favouring the Greens is Moral, in the interests of the Country, or merely self-interested.

So I looked at him on Tuesday, as he expressed his disgust for my considering voting tactically, and wondered whether to explain. He counselled against, as it might increase his disgust. He thought of walking out, there and then. I thought of lying by stating that I would vote Green, definitely, or even changing my voting intention, but something, whether pride or morals, made me dislike these ideas. His email ending our friendship came on Thursday.

I find this deeply hurtful and inexplicable. I thought of phoning my friend with the Aspergers husband, but that would do no good: it is not because of Aspergers, nor can she necessarily get me a handle on how he will behave. I want him to back down on this, but can’t see any particular way to make him so will not respond.

The considerations are so small. My vote will have negligible effect, and I am unsure I want a Labour MP: Labour needing SNP support would be better than a Labour majority. Yet it matters to me, and I do not want to be told what to do.

I emailed the woman who ended her friendship with me, and had a moderately friendly exchange of emails.

The green sofa  *oil on canvas  *65.4 x 92.4 cm  *signed b.r.: J. Lavery

Uses of friendship

File:The Gates of Paradise by William Blake -3.jpgMy beautiful, talented and vibrant friend has emailed twice, and I have not responded. When we met last month, we hugged and I was delighted to see her, as well as reserved. She said, “Call me”, and I have not.

We met two years ago at a weekly drama improvisation. After, we went to the pub, and shared stuff, and said motivational positive-thinking wisdom stuff at each other. She came to see me at my stand-up gig, and we ate afterwards. Then we did not see each other again.

So her email in October was delightful, and yet I did not respond, by email or phone, and it occurred to me that I was ashamed to. I had been talking of performing, and all this wisdom, and I am in a cul-de-sac, not having given birth to a dancing star or whatever.

One gets the impression that Robert de Saint-Loup really cares for Marcel, and Marcel does not entirely reciprocate. Sometimes Marcel uses his friendship: he wants an invitation to the house of a woman; he wants a message conveyed to Albertine after she leaves him, and he wants to micro-manage how that is done, indicating a lack of trust in the messenger. He observes Robert’s love for Rachel as a writer might.

At one point I had two friends I saw weekly, and shared deeply. I have generally had one who would hear my woes, and now I have one 396px-The_Gates_of_Paradise_by_William_Blake_-1 who chunters on boringly about her issues, so that when I talked of my father’s funeral she moved onto another subject quickly, in great detail. Don’t worry, it isn’t you. She is pleasant enough when I have nothing better to do- most of the time.

So it seemed that I had been one particular aspect of myself with the Vivacious one (who is straight, unfortunately) and I would have to ease in to being other aspects of myself.

-How are you?
-Alright. You?

and deep conversation like that.

A friend could reassure me that one particular view of myself is correct. A friend could do many things. Perhaps I should explore.

449px-William_Blake,_painter_and_poet_(page_28a)Having finally got the idea of the Mega-me, I thought I might actually do it. The brain cannot tell the difference between doing something in fantasy and doing it in actuality- our mirror neurons fire off replicating others’ feelings, and if we can create feelings of achievement we can go out and do the thing in reality. So I thought I would ask Quakers to participate in an improvised drama, and imagined friends objecting because it was silly. Useful to have someone to project on.

By horrible coincidence, two people I knew through karate have also lost a parent in the last month. They announced it on facebook. I did not want to- but did, today. I have hardly been posting there for a month. Lots of loving, warming comments from people I rarely see, Likes because I said how wonderful he had been, and I walked in the park feeling Happy, perhaps because of the mild air and beauty of the place, perhaps because of facebook.


If we respect each other, does our friendship need any other foundation? May 2000, I decided that I had to transition to female, I could not bear not. That was the Saturday. On the Wednesday, I went to the local TV/TS group, and sat with the trans women. None had jobs, one was studying, I thought their lives unbearable. So I decided I could not transition, I would make a go of presenting male. It was the Sibyls who showed me it was possible to live reasonably, transitioned, and especially F.

I saw her transition. She got a posting within her multinational company to another European capital, so when just starting to express herself female full time she was perfecting that other language and learning to drive on the right. We went on holiday together, once before I transitioned, and once after. She took me to Wimbledon, and on the centre court we watched Tim Henman and Pete Sampras. Tennis was her game, and she saw the skill in particular shots which seemed less spectacular to most of the crowd. It is not my game, I have never played and rarely watched it, and she paid me one of three compliments which I treasure: she enjoyed going there with me “because you’re interested in Life”.

I was transitioned, and we kept in touch by but then, it was me phoning, and almost all me talking about my concerns. “How are you?” elicited factual information rather than any real sharing, though she told me she would be seeing her daughter for the first time in years- how we suffer, for this thing which no-one would ever choose! Living with stuff which would be unbearable if you thought about it, we deaden ourselves to these pains.

So I stopped phoning.

I invited her to my ten year anniversary party, and she was having trouble with her emails so did not get the invitation on time. I phoned her, sent her a link to the photos, and just now got a Christmas e-card from her, a hideous saccharine thing of “Santa” coming down the chimney and leaving presents. Oops, I am depressed, I am not seeing clearly. A pretty, joyous animation with some touches of humour of Santa leaving presents, and flying off in his sleigh.

She kept one friend who had known her before transition, and apart from the Personnel department in England, no-one in the new office knew of her past. People do not see her transsexual history as they do mine- she told her best friend, who had not known. So, perhaps, she could not have me as a friend in case her secret came out, and did not want to talk to me to be reminded of her own transsexualism, which was now in her past.

We had respect! It is enough to found a friendship, unless there is something like this to break it. I felt such rage, I wanted to publish her name, photograph and a link to her business website here- a revenge at once mean, puny and misdirected. I wish we could be friends. And- I could resent all sorts of reasons for her to withdraw from friendship, but not that she was frightened and ashamed, for that is not her fault.


When they asked B who would be looking after her at this difficult time, she was surprised. She would be looking after herself. Then she thought, it will be horrible, but who? Then, on brief acquaintance, she asked me.

I was pleased. I am unemployed, and it would occupy my time; and it would be useful. I take pleasure in feeling useful. Also, it would be an opportunity to get to know B better. I have growing respect for her. In fact there is no person for whom I have had such fluctuating regard, from near contempt at first to admiration, then both over again.

I could have got the train, and it was quite a bit out of B’s way to drive me home, but her offer was perhaps a quid pro quo for the support I would be giving, and I was tired and grateful. Surprisingly, she has no satnav, and without really looking at the map she set off. We would head for the M 101. “That exit only goes the wrong way for us,” I said. She said that she just drove, and she was sure she would get there.

She got this car in 2010, and it has very little acceleration. I saw that she was changing up gear far earlier than I would have done. I have not told a driver what gear to use before, I have been content to let them drive- but not with B. I suggested that she could use third gear to pull away a bit. “Oh, I don’t think of numbers, I think of the position.” Er, push it forward. No! Not Fifth!

Off down the M 101 the wrong way. Well, at the end there must be a place to turn round. This was more difficult than I supposed: we were off down the dual carriageway in one direction, then back to get to the 101. We missed the 101 the first time, as she could not get into the correct lane, and doubled back twice more.

-My house is quite untidy. You won’t mind that, will you? She explains that there are lots of papers about, which she does not want tidied up as she knows where they all are.

I had hoped not to tell B of that, as I should be over it, and I would rather talk of other things, but I started to cry. And I told B all about it. Bloody hormones.

Next day B phoned to say that she had found a way of making her coming trouble far less stressful, and she would not need me. Though I assured her that I would let her make her own decisions and not try to manage her; and that I would be supportive, rather than bringing up my own stuff, she would be OK without me. She also felt the need to tell me that she was not lesbian, and she did not want us to get together. Well. I do want friends, but did not think of her in that way.

Mmm. What can one say? “I’m not lesbian”, they say, “and I do not want to get together with you.” “I don’t fancy you either” is harsher than I want to be. Possibilities:

“Can you be friendly with a man, and not fancy him? I can be the same with a woman.”

“I see you are an attractive woman, and- I don’t think of you in that way.”

Or, perhaps: “Hard luck- having sex with heavy, sweaty men rather than sensuous, fragrant women…”

Adverse reactions

I started work in that office years before I came out, and grew to like and respect J, who had worked there several years before me. She was perhaps a bit depressive, committed to the clients, without illusion about their virtue or capability or what she could do for them, keen to do something useful. “Action”, she would say, kicking herself up the butt, pushing herself on. We worked together well, sharing a dry sense of humour. She would hear me if I needed to emote about a client or situation.

Then in the pub after work, A was telling of his friend. Her ex-husband was a transvestite, and they split up not because she could not stand him cross-dressing but because he could not stand her laughing at him. It was the two glasses of mead talking: I said, “I do that”.

Silence, then they tried to persuade me that I was just fooling, and then eventually B said, “You know, I think he’s telling the truth”. As if I was not there.

It got round the office. The manager, who was keen on Diversity, said that now I had come out it would be a shame if I went back in again, and next time we went out for a meal I went dressed female. I got called “sir” by the waiter, but my colleagues were fine- even J. Then she told me, quite matter of factly, that she found me dressing female revolting. She did not want to be rude, but it was just too much. When I went full time female at work, we stopped talking to each other except when absolutely necessary.


I got friendly with Colin, also known as Fiona, at Northern Concord dos. There we were in our ballgowns, having decorous fun. He invited me on to his boat on the Norfolk Broads: his wife would not go with him when he cross-dressed. We would go round pubs in Norwich, and drive the boat around, and eat in country pubs. It was great fun.

Colin went away for long weekends as Fiona, and once decided to spend a whole week. He went around various friends, staying with me last. He had had acrylic nails applied. By the end of the week, he was heartily sick of it, and relieved to dress male again. What was exciting for a weekend had palled completely.

He was unenthusiastic when I told him I would transition. He thought I was a transvestite who had lost all sense of proportion. He told me of an accountant he had known, who transitioned and went to a hairdressing college course, who reverted after nine months. He told me I would have no friends, in a long, depressing dinner on Canal St. So I made a fantasy, and told him I would find an international solo musician, and tour with him as his muse. This never happened, but shortly after another friend took me to meet a pianist in the soloist’s dressing room at the Bridgewater Hall: which I found reassuring. Not everyone would reject me.

Just after I went full time, Colin agreed to take me to the theatre in Manchester. He would dress male for the evening. He brought a suit to wear: but only a pair of old trainers, as he had driven over in jeans. When he realised he did not have appropriate shoes, he insisted on going in drag. I parked a short way from the theatre and strode off in my sensible flats, angry, not wanting to be seen with him, and he tottered behind, protesting. I put him up that night, and then never saw him again.