A suit of armour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, a search found this. And this.

In the town

Wig part 2: I locked up my bike, and a man came to admire it. He thought it classic, I just haven’t bought a new one since 1986. I knew it had dérailleur gears, but he knew the precise type, and told me what was the last lightest, strongest steel frame before graphite superseded it. So I got my wig out, took off my helmet, mopped my brow and put the wig on. He has exactly the same mud-guards, he said.

What is the done thing, to be policed by looks and comments? Putting on a wig is clearly OK.

Thence Olivers. I am privileged to have an Aspie friend, and we discussed spiritual experiences. A fairly standard one is feeling a sense of connection with all the World, feeling one with it and aware of it. I explained this with the analogy of a bird, its head on one side, with one eye looking for worm sign, the other aware of 360° around and every angle of elevation, to be aware of any threat. Humans normally are paying attention to our thoughts, or paying attention to one task, our eyes focused on that one object, like the worm-sign. So when we become aware of everything, our response is awe. He tells me that he is constantly aware of his surroundings, the conversations of the others in the coffee-shop, and near a 170° view (mine is closer to 100°).

Sitting outside in the sunshine, I met my new neighbour, Chris. Steph has left for the only slightly brighter lights of Zhuzhkov. He has a bantam look, appearing in a singlet, showing heavily tattooed arms, an ornate black cross on his right upper arm. The punch-bag and golf clubs are his, he does not have room for all his stuff.

-What’re you reading? A touch nervous, but not apologetic, I tell him of Paul and the Faithfulness of God by NT Wright, seeking to show the culture, Jewish Greek and Roman, in which Paul wrote and what his world-view and assumptions were. “Quite in depth, then,” he says. He is glad to move next to a Christian. He is a Pentecostalist. He works as a delivery driver, away from home about twelve hours a day, and notices the intervention of God everywhere. He did a delivery and the man gave him a torch advertising his business. He stuck it in his pocket. Later that day, he found another van stuck in mud, and helped the driver get it clear. This meant he was late, and had to do his last deliveries after dark- but he had the torch. He would have been struck by God’s blessing, on the other he helped and on him with the torch, “But now I just go, ‘Hmm. Yeah’.” He smiles. Another friend said, “Coincidence”. He gave up smoking ten months ago: in front of the congregation, he threw away his cigarettes. It was a blessing for them.

I say how Quakers are quiet, but we are both led by the Spirit.

Side chapel

Curtain twitching

Anne Ryan, no. 650Should I open the window? “No, officer, I am not eavesdropping on you, it’s the terrible Summer heat the cooking smells in here.” Alternatively, I could go out and ask them to move their cars from my parking space. There is a police van and car outside. When they move from outside my window, I open it to hear more, but only catch the odd word. It is the tone of voice I get, the professional policeman telling the truth to the scrote who is not listening well enough. No sign of a forced entry.

Other police stand under the overhang, out of the rain. There are five of them, in their yellow jackets, looking bored. An ambulance appears, with a brief sound on the siren, but sits outside.

Stubborn woman, your Mum, Brandon, says Ben’s voice.

Finished up going to St Mary’s for about a week, says a woman. Something about “Crisis team”.

Steph walks into the ambulance. Will they section her, I wonder. There was something about “if this happened outside on the street…” I saw her this morning, and we wondered if it was going to rain, and was my washing safe on the line? Steph was drying hers on the radiators. Odd, though, that she looked out the door as soon as I opened mine, as if she wanted that chat. Brandon walks into the ambulance but walks out immediately and the doors are shut from within.

The police van leaves, with two men, as if they had expected bother but it did not happen.

I came over about two hours ago, says Ben. A bottle and a half…? She had a couple of glasses, and she lost the plot. Lost the plot.

“She’ll probably want a fryup in a minute.” But Steph’s mum gets into the ambulance, and it drives off with Steph.

It’s my own problems I should be worried about, I suppose, but it’s not just grim fascination. I feel some sympathy.


Kaisersesch_PilgerbrunnenWhat blocks loos? Women do. Well, obviously. They flush away baby wipes and sanitary towels- “women’s things” is the formulation the theory uses- which do not break down, unlike loo roll and faeces. I heard this from Mick, and Steph heard it from Dyno-Rod. Steph got very angry, as the high pressure hose which went down the man-hole cover, forced away the blockage, and sprayed a little water on my loo seat and the floor before it, sprayed faeces on her bath, tiles and shower screen. We don’t know who called them out. It wasn’t Primal Scream, the landlord’s agents. I had called the landlord, and heard at 9pm that something had been done when I heard Steph expressing herself forcefully at two men with rubber hoses, who beat a quick retreat.

Here is a clear male v female divide, with me on the female side in loyalty and interest.

I read Miriam, assigned male at birth, using a female name, who is attracted to men. One often reads such people claiming they are real transsexuals, and we gynephiles are sex perverts- “autogynephilia” is the jargon. However Miriam claims to be autogynephiliac, though she has not been aroused by the thought of herself as female, and regurgitates trans-exclusionist propaganda. In fact she claims to be male, and imagines all trans women are autogynephiliac.

Here is her TERF argument why I should not use women’s loos and changing rooms. She claims the word “TERF” is a slur, but trans-exclusionist, or even trans-erasing, is a literal description. Trans women are not women, they are males. Women are not responsible for protecting males from other males. If trans women (males) are allowed into women’s safe spaces, such as loos and changing rooms, this is a safety issue for the cis-women (Miriam the TERF uses the term “female”). Trans women are male, therefore dangerous.

Well, cis women are a threat in women’s toilets. Trans women generally aren’t. While Miriam’s argument has an appearance of rationality, and will no doubt please transphobes and trans-exclusionists, it does not relate to the real world. Making rules against trans women protects no-one. Why would a sex-offender dress female and lurk around toilets in town centres during the day, when he could dress male and prey on drunken women at night?

“Women are not responsible for protecting males” but women in my experience are generally very happy to accept me in women’s spaces, even lesbian or political women’s spaces. My genuine sympathy with Steph, and scepticism of that male argument, does not by itself prove that I am on the women’s side, but is one small piece of the overwhelming evidence that it is right to treat us as women. Picture from Wikimedia.

Other people

A_Gentileschi_Allegoria_dell'inclinazioneIf New York is the city which never sleeps, Marsby is the town which never wakes up. I was glad to hear that Steph has given notice on the flat, not because I want rid of her, particularly, but because otherwise I might wonder where she had got to. She wants to move into Zhuzhkov, because Marsby is just dead.

She grew up the other side of the Eagle’s Nest, in Alexanderplatz. Her mum still lives there. When she married, she moved over to this side, which is (very slightly) posher. She then had two children, who are now 25 and 23. Her husband divorced her, though she did nothing wrong; he went off and had the affair. He’s been remarried two years. I did not ask whether the drinking might be “something wrong,” but she tells me she is only drinking at weekends now. Her children tell her she sounds as if she had been drinking, but that is the stroke, last October. She was in hospital five days, and still cannot carry a mug of coffee with her left hand. Her daughter is getting married soon, and she worries about the top table, because they hate each other. Possibly if they sat at opposite ends.

-You are the mother, I say, but do not reassure her. I wonder if that is because she fears her daughter will prefer the new wife, or her father.

Have you been on holiday? She and her mother had a week at the Aquadrome in April, sharing a caravan. It’s only twenty miles away, but it is a change of scene. They took the food and cooked in the caravan. There’s lots of takeaways and a funfair. Her husband went abroad, but she finds flying too stressful. With the kids they would run off in the airport.

When she was last in Zhuzhkov the flat above and the flat opposite held drug dealers. I don’t know where the drug dealers are in Eagle’s Nest, at least I have not seen needles lying in the gutter.


After we successfully confronted the cows, we saw the main attraction: the Llama. It is 18, there used to be four of them, but this is the only one left, and it is old for a llama. Ben takes photos of it, and I got chatting by offering to photograph him with it- but it ran off.

He tells me he was a postman for thirty years from 1970. He has a scoliosis, because they had no trolleys then, and could not use a second bag unless the first weighed 35lbs. You reach in to a side opening with your left hand, which holds the mail for you to post it with your right hand. From seeing his back, the consultant correctly told him the bag went on his right shoulder, but though the risk was clearly well known no left-handed bags were available. Instead they retired at 60, as men over sixty had too much time off sick. Long after, he saw a twenty year old girl who gave him two things for inside his shoes, which relieved the pain almost immediately.

He told this at great length, and we were in the village. “Look, that car’s window is open,” I said. “Trusting folk round here”. He ploughed on with his story, and I interrupted occasionally: “Car window open!” “Parked car!” “Trusting!” To no discernible effect.

The beautiful local stone is formed of the desert sands of Pangaea.

Encounters II

St John on PatmosGood afternoon, said the traffic warden. Well, I know someone who used to be a traffic warden, she is a decent sort, why should I be nasty to him?

-I’m glad you’re here, keeping the road clear, I said. (Oops, no need to be sycophantic.)
-Horrible weather.
-Mmm. West of Scotland weather- rain, then rain so fine it could be mist.
-Oddly enough, I am dry under all this.
-They do say, there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. (You’re usually safe with a platitude). He nodded.
-No-one would be chancing it, with you standing there?
-Actually, they do, he said, indicating someone pulling into the Disabled space diagonally opposite.
-Have fun, I said, as he went over to investigate, though it could be a disabled person. You don’t drive along with your blue badge on the dash.

After, I wondered if he had chatted because, standing there, I obscured the driver’s view of him. Surely that is too Machiavellian.


1.30am. I am awoken by banging on the door: Rapid knocks, then a pause, then more.
-Come on, Steph, let me in- (Steph is today’s pseudonym for my neighbour)

More banging.

Thuds, as the side of the fist. I could go, but I am not as quick in intelligence or reaction in the night, and want my wits about me. I lay there, a bit Madonna and Child enthronedfrightened, actually, but if he would break in he would have done it by now.
-This is the Police! Open up!

That’s an offence, imitating a police officer. More banging- I would say twenty minutes, but people are not good at estimating time in these circs. Eventually he went away.


9.50pm. Loud knock on the door. No, I am not answering at this hour. Then I see the hi-vis jacket and radio through the window, so decide I had better open up. I wish I had cleaned today.

-Are you Steph?
-No, she’s next door.
-We were told 69. Can we come in?
-No, it’s 69A.
-Have you seen her today?
-You’re worrying me, now. I haven’t seen her, but I was out the back and I heard someone in the house.

They go to knock on her door. It is none of my business, but I am glad to notice they have got in- without breaking in.


At the bus stop.

Martyrdom of St BartholomewYou see, when you’re seventy it’s just like when you’re twenty. You think you’ll live for ever, and you want to.
-OK. Say I told you you have twenty years of life left. What would you do with it?
They look at each other. “Mooch about, same as now.”


Hurrying into the town, I bid the postman “Good morning”.
-I’ll let you get past, Miss Flourish, I’m not in such a hurry as that.
-Oh wow! I would have thought you would remember street names, but remembering surnames is impressive.
-That is a high compliment, he said, from a member of Mensa.

Pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has just put a huge collection of images on line, free for non-commercial use.

Death of the Virgin

You have nothing to fear

HMRCOpen this fucking door, Now. If you don’t open this door I’ll fucking kick it in.

Well, I am glad it’s not my door, and glad it’s a woman’s voice as women tend to be less physically strong. A wronged lover? Shouting from outside, then from inside, recurred for about an hour. Next day, I saw my neighbour’s mother. “I don’t want to pry,” I lied. Well, I don’t just want to pry. “If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.” Her daughter Steph had been drinking for a couple of days, so they have taken her home for a bit. The mother was just there to pick up a few bits.

van Gogh- The Mulberry Tree, detailThere’s a large dark bill board to walk past on my way to the Meeting house, from HM Revenue and Customs, in the same series as the one illustrated: just one eye, peering over something. The fact that the eye is female, young and attractive makes it more spooky. “If you’ve declared all your income you have nothing to fear.” If you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear is an authoritarian lie, since snoopers can see wrong in anything: the Revenue investigation of my brother-in-law found £7.43 in unpaid tax, but cost him £1000 in accountants’ fees, in about 1990. 600px-Radiation_warning_symbol.svg

In the dentist, all the surgery doors have radiation warning symbols, and the dentist gave me a radioactive source to take into my mouth. I saw the x-ray on his monitor, and wondered if they have found a new way of exploiting NHS payment regulations. He sold me yet another new design of tool to stick between my teeth and remove plaque, told me my gums were receding and inflamed, and arranged to see me again in six months. I went off clothes shopping, and found Dottie P. had closed, and the tiny Clarks’ shop stock seemed much poorer than usual: well, there are always the charity shops.

(Are flat brogues in, this season? My suspicion is that the Swanston Clarks’ has last year’s styles at full price.)

Quaker stuff. We decided to nominate M to Outreach Committee. He has enthusiasm and ideas, not all of which will work out, I think. He went to his first meeting, and wants to share his ideas with the Area Meeting Clerk (me) by email, as well as the committee. He phoned me to say that they seemed a little lacking in conviction. The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity, I quoted. I did not say to him you have to sort it out among yourselves. I can’t get involved. Crikey, though unemployed I have a management problem. Then I got worked up about saying that to him but in such an indirect manner. Should I phone him back? Should I put it in an email? I want everything to be nice and everyone happy and working together and what if-

msc1aThen there was the Facebook at 10 film, which includes this photo, which shames me. Comment from U., feeling honoured to be in your review x, which wound me up far more because it still winds me up. I was pacing the floor, screaming, they could probably give me something to calm me down and I could get a job in Tesco, but I would rather be devoting all my gifts and intelligence to FINDING A WAY THROUGH THIS-

and F can scream, and be taken home and looked after

I want to scream and for someone, anyone, just to hear me.

Writing later: I threw a wobbly. I do that. I get that I cannot trust myself, my perceptions or my world, and this destabilises me. Five hours later I feel more stable if a bit fragile.