The Entombment

I love her face. She is in the moment, concentrating on the task in hand, and her misery does not get in the way. The necessity of completing her task may give her some relief, by giving her something else to think about.

She is practical and loving, in mindful presence. She is not unfeeling, but her feelings do not get in the way.

Wikipedia identifies these as Nicodemus the Pharisee and Mary of Clopas. Nicodemus has the same look of loving practicality, looking at the beloved, now lifeless face. Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome, below, stifle tears and cries.

Jesus’s mother with downcast eyes holds his hand, supported by John, the Beloved disciple, whom Jesus told to care for his mother.

Each face has thoughts and feelings readable and relatable on it. Fifteenth century artists used the stories in the Bible, which everyone would know, to show real human beings responding to real situations. In Marys’ grief they could feel their own. I can use the picture to find my complex relationship with feelings, of those acting or watching. It is linen, fragile, and faded from original brilliant colours.

National Gallery

Am I too trusting? Probably.

One of my myths, my stories for understanding who I am and how I came to be this way, concerns The Adoration of the Magi by Pieter Bruegel. When I was 18 I had a poster of it on my wall, which I got from my father’s magazine. It was a pose, to show I am an intellectual, and I hated it. The people are so ugly!

Here is a higher resolution image.

However after living with it for a few weeks, I saw it differently. I saw looks of wonderment on the characters’ faces, and loved them. They were ordinary people, amazed at the miracle of the Incarnation. And, I reached this understanding in a moment of inspiration, when the painting changed utterly for me, in an instant!

I had my first Art epiphany with an Epiphany.

So I was shocked to read the National Gallery companion guide, which argues the painting is a satire. “The crowd has eyes only for the rich presents.” I had to go and see, and I asked H to come too, to check.

And, yes, indeed the people are looking in awe and wonder at the gifts. One might be looking at Caspar, who is Black, and one of the soldiers looks out at us, but the soldier in the middle is definitely looking at the gold, and not the baby.

Still, I think it is a gift, always to think the best of people. It takes a lot to convince me they are not well-meaning, community-minded souls. Certain Tory MPs have convinced me, but they had to be revolting to manage it.

Fortunately in the same room is Jan Gossaert’s treatment. These Kings have a proper attitude of reverence.

In another, the people seem to be going through a tedious court ritual, going through the motions, rather than seeing God Incarnate. Or, perhaps, in a dog eat dog Italian court they cannot show any sign of weakness or feeling.

We liked the Botticelli, though. A fully clothed woman and naked man is unusual. And the Justus of Ghent is just my thing- a man kneeling at a woman’s feet, even if she is the personification of rhetoric. This is meant to be seen from below: when I sit on the floor and look up at it, I see it better.

There is so much beauty here! It delights me. These paintings 1250-1500 in the new wing are designed to evoke feelings of awe, wonder and reverence, and in me they do. When I want to leave, arted out, I have to stare at the floor to avoid being distracted.

Extinction Rebellion VI

When the police are cutting people’s lockons, it doesn’t half smell. I watched them at it in the morning and afternoon. Several phone photographers were cranking round the police lines. “Pity she won’t stand somewhere else so we could get a better view,” said one, as the sparks flew. Those plastic shields would have protected us. I don’t know whether the police provided the protester’s visor and ear protection.

“What are Quakers then?” asked the policeman. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion V

I start my day protesting with something beautiful. Today, I find a piano on the road south of Nelson’s Column, and play Einaudi.

I am so relaxed after this I ask someone to take a picture of me at the piano, for the blog. But this is not a holiday or festival: she says there is a need for people to be sitting in the road, to avoid police getting traffic going. I go over to see if I can do anything. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion III

It was a bit of a shock to find Lambeth Bridge clear with traffic flowing freely. The police have been harsh. There are a few of them standing around on the corners. One says “Hello” as I come past, and there are some behind me now, with their night-sticks hanging. Someone said there were armed police about. Continue reading

Truth and beauty in London

This man has found what he loves, and can devote time to it. His t-shirt has the words “eat, sleep, practise” written on musical staves, and he is playing a Rachmaninov prelude on the St Pancras piano. I stop to listen which discomposes him, and he gets the chords wrong. He stops on a tonic chord, and apologises in a slight foreign accent that he has not been able to play for ten days. I reassure him that though he lost the line of the piece, he managed to create a musical ending. He went on to Mozart.

I can pay either my electricity bill or my Tate membership renewal, so this may be my last trip into London for a while. And it is so lovely I may spend the money I cannot afford. I cycled to the station in warm sunshine, and got to Meeting just in time. I am surprised to find an all-age worship. I have a leaf made of card to write or draw on for the central tree. I sit beside my gay friend, and notice “And Tango makes three” on the mat in front of me. I read it. It is beautiful. After we agree there is nothing anyone could object to in it. Yet people do. Also there is this lovely cushion:

In Meeting, children play with stickers and glue in the centre, which has no table today. I sit aware of the beauty of the children and their absorption. People read what they have written on their leaves, and I feel able to say daffodil ministry- “he has found what he loves”. One says the words spoke to her.

Then they have a shared lunch before AM. One tells me of the spiritual practice of being part of where she is. She is bounded by her skin, and her awareness extends beyond into the world. So does her action, fitting the moment, the real not imagined world, participating not resisting. It makes her come alive. I feel alive hearing her. I feel we are both finding our way into such a way of being: we see the possibility. For me it is a matter of letting go.

I stuff myself. I am not passing up a free lunch.

Thence to Tate Britain for the William Blake exhibition. In the Tube, which is terribly hot, I sit opposite a slim, tall, beautiful woman. The man beside me has tattoos all down his left arm, and a rose on the back of his hand.

With my mantra I am here. This is. I am I am bowled over by the beauty of the sun through the trees on John Islip street. How can I just stop coming here? It refreshes my soul! Yet I hope it is the practice rather than the place which renews me. I can find other sources of loveliness. See Heaven in a wild flower, as Blake said. Everything that lives is holy.

It is crowded, of course. I love a picture of Christ offering to redeem mankind. God, a man broad of chest and thigh, seems sunk in grief. Satan flies below, satisfied, awaiting his due. And Christ seems overjoyed. His arms are beautiful, spread out as if on the Cross yet as if for a hug, expressing joy. I love the theology of it, the grace of his body.

To the bookshop. No, I can’t afford books either. I still get one, of extracts from Proust using paintings to describe a scene, illustrated by the paintings. I wanted a reminder of Proust, and reading one paragraph on the goodnight kiss, on how his unexpectedly merciful father looked like a picture of Abraham, fits.

I am here. This is. I am. I am saying goodbye to it for a time, perhaps, and I take in the full delight looking over the Thames from the front steps. I stop and turn round to take in the view from the entrance to Pimlico station.

This is Life!

I hope the joy is in the practice of awareness, though it may also be in treating myself, going to a place that I love.

I chatted to a Filipina woman in the grounds of the gallery. She is here for a job, has an American accent, and was taking a selfie with the gallery as background. A woman held the handlebars of a child’s bicycle for a moment, then let go and the child wavered off, unsupported. I am now on the train, pausing to look out the window. I should get home before sunset.

I  had a kickabout with my neighbour in the back yard yesterday, my first this century, the first perhaps I have ever done for fun. She compliments me on my skills- “you must play!” Perhaps she thinks I am a cis woman. My skills are nothing for a man. I watch her keepy-uppy.

Being where I am without resistance, in aware presence, brings joy.

I hope.

The Cubic Structural Evolution Project

To get to the Quaker meeting I left the house before eight, and cycled up steep hills and into stiff winds. Then at the station the replacement bus was full, and a man had suggestions of what the incompetents managing the service should have done. Do we get compensation? Yes, but only £6.75.

A woman offered me a lift in her car. She’s off to see Romeo and Juliet, at Sadlers Wells, choreographed by Matthew Bourne. He always manages to surprise her with new ways of expressing story in dance.

“You’re obviously very creative,” she said.

Yes, that’s why I wanted to tell you of her.

“I’m not creative myself,” she said. I protested. You talk to your grandchild, don’t you? You’re interacting, sparking off each other. She agreed and enthused.

“The 9.42 will get me to my meeting on time,” I announced.

“No pressure, then,” she said. She got her silent husband to let us out at the drop off point before parking. If they rowed about her generosity they did it after I left.

On the train the big shaven-headed bloke in jeans and white t-shirt talked of going to Mass and his grandmother’s power of attorney. At Meeting I looked at the food bank box and thought of connection- mine with these people, through them with my fellow benefit claimants.

I had not known what was in the Turbine Hall, and went over to look. I had not intended to join in but got chatting to a mother and daughter who explained it to me.

“I want to go back to the bar,” said the mother.

“How old are you?”

“Eleven,” said the child, who looked younger.

Oh, she’ll be alright! No one will mind!

“You have to take towers down or there will be no bricks to build with,” says the mother. I joke about playing Godzilla and the daughter is horrified.

The future city is very beautiful now. Those are huge towers, wonderfully varied, from only a few different brick types. I have not really noticed adult Lego hobbying before. I was aware of its existence but only seeing what is possible in real life makes me alive to it. Children make structures at ground level, but I want to contribute and be Noticed. When the towers have taken so long to build, and such inspiration to imagine, how can I compete? I will build a bridge.

That’s difficult with the short bricks available. The round towers can only sit on the table, not build on bricks. I am Creating: constrained by my materials, inspired by other work. My bridge has a hinge in it, making it considerably weaker but more able to place between towers. It is irregular, Brutalist among these neo-classical forms. Inadvertently I knock the top off a tower as I try to affix it, and am abashed; but I do not have time to rebuild it even if I knew how.

It is ungainly, detracting from the Beauty! No, it is a piquant or picaresque contrast, adding to the whole work. I hadn’t seen a bridge there before, but noticed someone creating one later. Future cities need bridges! Writing next day I don’t know if my bridge still exists, but my posts are web archived, and perhaps archeologists will find silicon with this photograph, just before the Sun as a red giant engulfs the Earth.

Then I go to gaze into the eyes of the Goncharova Christ, which is why I came to London. I can’t find it in a postcard or online- possibly like an icon it is holy, so restricted. The grapes on His vine are rich and strong.

I want to take a tower apart and put a slab of blue bricks in! It would not need to be large, and it would stand out like the Sun in Impressions- Sunrise!

With biscuits and cheese, and two cups of tea at Meeting, I don’t need to buy food in the gallery. I am with Christ and the Queen of Heaven when I am chucked out.

London Pride

The affirmation of Pride may live with me. Walking as people cheer is a wonderful experience.

I started seeing people on the train to London. That sequined coat is surely for Pride. Walking from the station to Portland Place I saw t-shirts with pride slogans, and felt I was there already. We met in a park, and settled in to worship, some sitting on the grass, some on a bench because of mobility issues. We are inclusive.

One introduced herself by her male name, then offered the female alternative as an afterthought or apology. We are rueful, often, taking our first steps of transition. It feels like failing to make a go of life as a man, or failing to be a man like other men can. Even now I feel some ruefulness though I have been living as myself for seventeen years. It is so difficult! Yet- this is who I am.

We go to point C near the front of the procession. We are behind a group from a university, students and staff together. The group behind has amps playing music of LGBT influence: I’m gonna make a supersonic woman of you….

As we march there is a constant sound of cheering. Some put out their hands to shake or high-five. Along the route announcers give the names of the passing groups and each are cheered. A man behind me takes the microphone briefly and gives their campaigning message. Gill knows about it, discusses it with them and this delights them. They are not alone.

There is a huge group of affirming Christians, some dressed as angels. The church will not drive us out.

We got to the end by 3.30, but some at the back were hanging around for hours and not finished by 6.30. That would be dispiriting, especially if you connected it with being trans.

I also think ally groups like L with the T are diluted if there are too many trans women with them. The point is that cis lesbians support us.

We went to the Westminster Quaker meeting house and hung out. A woman of Canadian origin told me that until she came to the UK she had thought sweets were for children, and had been amazed to see chocolates marketed at adults. And parents stuffed their kids’ faces with sweeties. Another told me when she says “I’m an immigrant” people demur. But she is, in the sense of a person born abroad, who has made her home here. The word immigrant has developed connotations of interloper, outsider, even untermensch, while as from the white areas of the former Empire she is seen as acceptable. It irks her. It irks me too.

I wandered off with Y for a drink. Unfortunately she had picked up a street bicycle, and now could find no stand to return it. Not could she ride it, as the streets were heaving. Eventually I waited sitting by a statue while she went off to find a place to leave it. I saw a man in full stage armour on a cycle-rickshaw.

Then we dashed round the Natalya Goncharova exhibition. I loved the huge peasant Christ, blessing with both hands. He shines. His gaze is overpowering. On the tube we saw drag queens in wedding dresses.

As I unlocked my bicycle at Swanston I chatted to a man in rainbow tights of how wonderful I had found the day, but what I mean about the railway carriages being mine is this. There was a man with a sash saying “It’s my Birthday” trying to get the carriage singing. We all know Wonderwall. He wasn’t too rowdy, as such men go; at one point he was chatting to a group of strangers, as they were all teachers. Quite civilised, really. But as I got off he apologised. Usually I find rowdiness threatening, but at that moment, even in aged wig with a rainbow streak still visible on my face, I felt invincible.

Pride in London

London came out to party. The city is mine. The railway carriages are mine.


I marched with Quakers, specifically the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity community.

It’s difficult to take photos when you’re holding a banner. We had two of these:


There were 30,000 wristbands issued for the March, but many thousands more watching. Some of the entertainment was in the audience.


The noise was too great to hold a conversation, and the affirmation was stunning.

Behind us was XXL, campaigning Save our Scene: against a developer taking over and shutting down one of the few remaining gay nightclubs. But why? Find a partner on an app then dance with the straights? That’s a Bear flag.


There were a few scattered Repent! campaigners, but at a corner lots of affirming Christians, some dressed as angels. I photographed that bloke because he was so beautiful.

There were lots of people with A4 signs saying “Trans people to the front”. Watch out for transphobes, alert people, block them from view and don’t engage, as they want attention.

I didn’t like the F-ck terfs signs, though. And one saying “I love my lesbian trans sisters”- I don’t insist on the word lesbian, which angers the terfs so much. Leave it for them. My sexuality needs no label.


I love the collonade and rhe pride flag. London old and new together.