Confusion and clarity

Klee- Oriental pleasure garden, in partG was excited by the first meeting of the Green Party in Swanston, and wanted to do something for it. Oh, remember Advices and Queries- don’t work too much? What is it? Eventually I find the quote:

Attend to what love requires of you, 

which may not be great busyness.

I have not actually read Advices and Queries for a long time, and sat with it at the start of Meeting, in love again with its sonorous phrases:




Are you?

One thing which makes it beautiful is its clarity. Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? I have always sought clarity. I sought it in the law, though in practice I found pseudo-clarity, like this:

Work done in expectation of payment means more than a mere hope that payment will be made at a future date. There should be a probability rather than just a possibility that a payment will be made. If a person reasonably expects payments for work done then the condition is satisfied. However, if the person knew before starting the work that payment was unlikely to be made, the remunerative condition is not satisfied.

That’s the Tax Credits Technical Manual. If you specify every possible situation, the thing which must be done will always be clear. However, in my experience Real Life brings hopeless confusion to it, and the desperate efforts to answer every question merely increases complexity and confusion- as if confusion were the real goal, with the apparent clarity only an excuse to blame others for it.

It seemed to me in meeting that the answer is Love, not Fear. If I did that job I am considering applying for, or A’s job, in fear, I could never assuage my fear. Am I doing it right, and is my job safe? Am I caring properly for the thing entrusted to me, and is it safe? Yet if I did it in Love- what will build this up, what will make it more beautiful, I could get endless joy from it. Then K ministered, and said how pleased he was to go to the Green Party meeting- I was delighted to see him there- and of his desire for a politics of hope.

I had a lovely meeting. Love, not fear. Then we had our business meeting, and S resigned her membership. On Friday, S and I had had coffee together with Quakers, and discussed what more she could do in the Society, so this was a shock. After, E asked “Are you alright?” and I started crying, angry that I was so upset. I should not be emotionally labile like this after the endocrinologist adjusted my hormone dose.

It seemed to me after that I have created my safe space in my living room, and the Quaker meeting, and I explore other potential safe spaces such as Greenbelt, yet even in the Quaker meeting I am not safe from painful change I cannot control.

Sketch 7, Draft 1

1927_Klee_Variationen_anagoriaThis is not what I do. This is not who I am. This is not what I believe. But it might be. And that might be good.

When do you change your mind? There was a time when I was absolutely certain of my former understanding. Now I know different. In between came a series of experiences challenging my earlier view and opening me to a different one, then confirming that different understanding. I have moved from right to left, Caliban to Ariel, rationalist to mystic, self-denial to self-expression, and in this experience my old way fractured from top to bottom, and green shoots of new life poked through.

Noticing everything is bliss and danger, distraction and- I notice everything. I see the marks on the floor from the wrong kind of training shoes, the bars on the walls and the ropes from the ceiling, the sound my footsteps make, Anthea’s footsteps though I do not see her, no, I glance at her then drop my eyes. The sports hall expands, its ceiling the sky, its walls miles away, and I sit on the floor, resigned to whatever might happen. The way of being in me which would have been dismissive, judgmental, denying any possible value in this is silenced by my pain, but I am not, yet, a believer. I fear, but have sufficient trust in Anthea’s good-will and ability to hold the process that I go along with it. I see no alternative.

Anthea creates a flowing circle of healing energy around me so that only the highest and finest energy may come through, and asks me to focus on my chakras, a concept new to me. What colours do I see? I have no mind’s eye, so if I close my eyes cannot see anything, such that if I imagine a room I will imagine a verbal description of it. She insisted, and I plumped for red.

“Imagine your coccyx uncurling beneath you, extending downwards into the Earth. It roots you in the Earth, in our Mother Gaia, and energy from the Earth flows up for your healing.”

I try. I really do. I imagine my coccyx warily pushing down into the Earth, but it pulls back, unable to trust.

I speak my pain. I am begging that psychiatrist. “Do you have any idea what I feel? What did you do to diagnose? Can you not see that I am female?” Then I speak my anger at my mother. I imagine her on her death-bed, in the middle of that sports hall, and I prowl round it screaming at her. The foam is on her lips. “What did you mean, you still have work to do? Did I ever smile? Did you ever smile at me or touch me?”

I hear the Carpers at the back of my head. There are three of them. Anthea tells me to sit them in a chair in front of me, then bring them into my heart and love them. At this moment I realise:

I can channel the healing energy of God.

The first is like a baby whom I can pick up and cuddle. The second has a chalk-board and chalk, to lecture me. The third is black, a mass of energy. I need to make friends with it, as with a wild predator. I need to integrate, love and calm these aspects of me.

God’s Love is intimate.

At Anthea’s suggestion I have a shower then go to bed. In the shower I feel the healing energy of God channelled through my hands.

This piece comes from the Writing 201 course:
What’s your angle;
intros and hooks;
finding your key moment;
setting the scene, putting it into practice.

Here is the whole piece, most of the sketches tacked together in more or less the order I want, but needing quite a bit of editing.


Jugglers 1Sally’s car was in the garage, so she sat outside- she worried if Tracy came round she would just drive past, not seeing Sally’s car. Sally had gone to bed early, but having breakfast at 9 worried that she had not had time to do her housework that morning. She shoved a mop round the wood floor and got a stool to sit on just before Tracy arrived. Tracy insisted she would have knocked on the window even though the car wasn’t there.

Tracy talked about herself, mostly. She’s not on the sick much, but when she goes sick she takes a long time off. She was off 5½ months once, she came back just before half pay started. She had a meeting with Helen and her daughters on Friday night.
-No use? asked Sally.
-And then some. They just shouted at each other. Helen has such a short fuse. She shouts at Tracy, too. Mind, the daughters would wind anyone up, all the time it’s not what she wants, it’s what they want. Helen was complaining Tracy talks about her.

Jugglers 3Tracy asked about Sally’s Welsh course, in Harlech, and her painful hip. It’s bad in Sally’s knee and all. But after Elaine came, Tracy and Elaine just talked between themselves. Elaine had been out for a walk on Sunday, and had a seat outside a pub. The man came out of the pub shouting at them not to sit there. Then he had a bucket of water which he threw out, nearly splashing her. If he’d thrown that water at her, she told him, she’d have emptied that bin on his head. He was really stressed, she said, “I felt sorry for him”.

Jugglers 2-Didnae show it, though. That earned me a sharp look but not a sharp reply.
-He said, those stones are free over there.
-Did you get a cup of tea or anything off him?
-No, and I wouldn’t now, he’d probably spit in it or piss in it. He was really angry, he was really stressed. There were no people there, it’s gone dead quiet since he took it on, he should give it up.

Elaine went to see Tom Jones in Colwyn Bay. Tracy’s friend had been, but it took her 2½ hours to get away after. It took Elaine 1½ hours. Elaine goes into great detail about the transport. She could have gone to the train station (Railway station, Sally corrects her, fruitlessly). They had to walk all that way. Then a bottle ‘a wine was £20, just ordinary wine, £2.75 in Aldi. I’m not buying that. Still, everybody was buying it. They do, don’t they. Tom Jones was really good, and on for two hours, she didn’t think he’d be on that long. She hadn’t heard of anyone with him, they were on The Voice and she doesn’t watch The Voice.

It’s her 35th wedding anniversary coming up. She’s not going to celebrate it, nothing to celebrate.
-You could get drunk to forget, I suggested, helpfully.
-No, I still have to go to bed with him at the end of it.
-Now the children have left you could use another bedroom?
-I have six bedrooms, I could use another bedroom if I wanted.

Elaine went into a hospital which was the dirtiest hospital she’d ever seen. She told Pauline to wipe her feet on the grass when she left. There was sick on the seats. Sally and Tracy make yuck faces.

Elaine and Tracy took Sally to the Post Office. So that is what support work is like. Tea and conversation. Sally doesn’t think much of Mental Health services round here, they’re useless.

Klee, arrival of the Jugglers

Summer Gathering (Sketch 5)

Efflorescence, Klee, in part“You are on a very long journey,” said the woman. Oh yes, Caliban to Ariel- but I did not have the words for it then, only the struggle and the anger. A week on a campus with Quakers was the perfect place to poke my illusions, and show me what matters to me.

We are an odd lot. We like to imagine ourselves calm and wise, so avoid the appearance of conflict; and “Plain-speaking”, so dive into it. I like getting to know people. Here is a man who has led a committee of twenty and 125 volunteers for two years fundraising for a statue of Walton in Oldham, where Walton was born; they have raised £3000, and would have been better spending their time in menial jobs for the money. I joined a couple walking across the campus, and when the wife went off to get coffee the husband said, “Do you mind if I speak bluntly? Are you having a sex change?” I could wish these people less perceptive, sometimes. They notice so quickly. One said it was obvious I wore a wig, because it was flat, not moving like real hair.

We were assigned small groups, to spend an hour together each day, but our two facilitators had not had time to discuss how they would run the group beforehand. A woman told me she had been playing croquet when “this idiot” came over and demanded her friend go to discuss the group. Of course she refused. I got irritated that we spent the first of our five hours together discussing how we might spend the time- I wanted more structure- but when Philip produced a conch for people to hold, so that one person would speak at a time, Peter picked it up and said he did not want to proceed in that way. Next day some were missing.

We hurt, and we open. Jeff was alcoholic until he decided he had to Be Himself or die. When I said I had avoided suicide by deciding that I must not hurt my father, a woman said how serendipitous the conversation was, as she sought to console her friend whose daughter had killed herself. So I shared about how angry I felt about the oppression of my kind and the lack of self-worth we feel, and how liberating transition is- like moving from monochrome to technicolor.

During the week, I went to Leicester to consult with Dr Khoosal, a psychiatrist. I needed a second opinion so I could have my penectomy and vaginoplasty. He told me I was not ready: I needed laser treatment to remove my pubic hair and speech therapy. He thought I should not have testosterone suppression. Until I sorted all this out I could not have the Op. When I finally brought myself to open his letter weeks later, I found he recommended surgery: he had seen my distress, and changed his mind. However I left Leicester unable to express my misery or anger. I curled in a ball on the floor, and my friend covered me with a blanket.

I met a woman who had transitioned ten years before. She told me that she had put transition behind her and was simply a normal woman- an enviable state, I thought. Then she moaned about her wife and about transition experiences: she still felt the same anger. I asked a solicitor in the Blue Group what was the effect of a decree nisi without a decree absolute after ten years, and she revealed she was the trans woman’s daughter. Despite all my sharing, she had not thought to tell me before.

Before transition, I had loved country dancing. I could get high on movement, music, touch and eye-contact. I travelled to Germany in a demonstration team. Now, trying it in an afternoon session, I got angry with the others bodging, and laughing at their mistakes and ungainliness- this can be so much more! Worse, I was embarrassed and uncomfortable dancing on the man’s side, and confused on the woman’s. I left early. On the Friday evening I danced in the closing Ceilidh. Yes, I see other people are enjoying themselves, and still feel angry. So I went to find Anthea, the healer.

Efflorescence, Klee, a bodyWe went into the deserted Hazlerigg ballroom. This Healing stuff really is ridiculous mumbo-jumbo- but having nowhere else to go, I go along with it. She places me in a golden circle of light, so that only the highest and finest energies may come through it, then asks me to focus on my chakras: what colours can I see? None. I do not have a mind’s eye. We both insist, and eventually I give up, picking red.

Can I imagine my coccyx extending downwards to root in Mother Gaia? No. I try to extend it, and it pulls back. The base chakra is tribe and family, or roots. Sit on the ground to root- but I cannot trust. I express my anger, not at Dr Khoosal, I am pleading with him: how did you diagnose? Can you not see I am female? Have you any idea how I feel?

Then I am back at my mother’s death bed. I look down on you with the foam on your lips and scream at you. What did you mean you still have work to do? Did I ever smile? Did you ever smile at me or touch me?

I hear the Carpers at the back of my head. There are three of them. The first is like a baby, I can pick him up and cuddle him. The second has chalk and a blackboard, to teach me. Anthea says I should help him write out his feelings, then burn the paper. The third is a mass of energy, a black hole destroying light. She says nothing. I try to touch her hand, to make friends as with a cat in the garden. I need to integrate, love, and calm these aspects of myself.

Anthea suggests I have a shower and go to bed, and in the shower I find myself channelling healing energy through my hands.

Efflorescence, Klee

Sketch 4

Abstraction with reference to a flowering tree, Klee, lightOn your seventieth birthday, Dad bought you a dozen roses, and placed them in a vase on the window sill. He thought, after, he should have bought them earlier, as he did not think you noticed them, but they were for him rather than for you. He sat downstairs or busied himself, and I sat by you reading- The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman, about how von Kluck catastrophically turned away from Schlieffen’s projected encirclement of Paris. I sat there, and you lay on your back, with your arms above the covers. Perhaps I misremember that detail.

The day after, you were unconscious, and I sat beside you, reading. You started to foam at the mouth in the evening. Dad came in, got distressed, and tried to wipe the foam away. Then you stopped breathing.

Elaine came over and the GP visited to check details for the death certificate. I thought I should be upset, but it seemed I was not: I was unconscious of feeling anything.

Around that time I decided “I do not want to be a sad, lonely pervert- I want to be a happy, gregarious pervert,” joined the transvestite club, and met other trans women. Before, I had felt such disgust for myself that I would buy clothes and soon after throw them away- I sought aversion therapy because either trying to make a man of myself, or cross-dressing, would be bearable but rapid shifting between the two was not. Four years later, though sure I would be sacked on some pretext, I realised that I could not bear not to transition.

More than once I lay curled up on the bathroom floor weeping “I am Not a man” and it was your voice I heard The Carpers. From the back of my head on the left, they said,

Stop this.
You are play-acting.
Stop being so childish.

Abstraction with reference to a flowering tree, Klee, darkI kept my job, and in April 2002 I left the office in a shirt and tie and went to have my ears pierced. The following Monday I went in to work as Clare.

A year after that I went to the week-long Quaker “Summer Gathering” in Loughborough. We Quakers are an odd lot: we like to imagine ourselves as calm and wise, so we do not manage conflict well.

[How much build-up to do? How much detail? Lots of feeling in that week- man says “You’re having a sex change aren’t you,” people tell me how quickly they read me, I go Playford dancing and am confused dancing female and distressed dancing male, desperate to make the moves absolutely correctly and angry when others go the wrong way. What and where to expand into scenes, when to conflate disparate material in my journal into single scenes, how to show feeling with dialogue or description…]

and while there went to Leicester to see a psychiatrist: I wanted a second opinion, recommending that I have a vaginoplasty. The psychiatrist told me I should wait, but then saw my distress, and when I opened his letter weeks after receiving it I found he recommended the operation. When I talked in the small group at the Summer Gathering about how I felt, I did not realise that one of the others in my group was the daughter of a trans woman. She told me much later that she had not come to terms with her father’s transition, perhaps because her father had not either.

I sought out Anthea, a healer, and we went to the deserted Hazlerigg ballroom. I am quite happy opening my chakras now, but was not, then.

I imagined you on your deathbed, and walked around it, screaming my rage and hatred at you.

Sketch 3

Klee- A young lady's adventure in partI must be careful lifting you out of bed. Painkillers dull constant pain, but sudden shocks can still break through. You are weak, and need help with each step.

I roll you onto your side, facing the wall, then bring your legs forward, bending at the knees. Your knees are over the edge of the bed. Lifting you under your right shoulder, I raise you into a sitting position. You can put your arms round my neck. I embrace you, and lift you to a standing position. You are facing the commode, so we have to shuffle round until you have your back to it.

Klee- A young lady's adventure, the other ladyWe step out of time into eternity. Two bodies are together, sensing each other. I am patient, happy in this moment to be supporting you. I will not rush, but take it at your pace. You relax completely. The pressure always to hurry up and get it done is gone. It is only a second or two, but in that moment I feel the certainty of Love. I feel it from you. I know that I communicate my love for you. Love flows both ways, and we are both aware of it.

I lift your nightdress at the back, to maintain your modesty as much as possible, and lower you onto the commode. Then I help you back into bed.

After you died, I decided that that would be my primary memory of you- one embrace in total Love. The other main memory I picked was you picking me out of Loch Lomond, wrapping me in a towel, and carrying me back to the camp site- I felt at the time I was old enough to walk, but chose to see your loving care in that.Klee- A young lady's adventure, the bird


This incident is important to me, and I wish to convey its importance. What of the accumulation of dry detail? That first paragraph yesterday has a lot of dry detail: I thought the contrast between the subject matter and the clinical way I conveyed it shows my character’s analytical nature- she is as much me as “Marcel” is Marcel. Then again I could omit the detail and convey that with yesterday’s second paragraph.

I don’t want to pad it out- dreadful idea- but I want to find detail which fits and works with it, or other ways to express it, and so strengthen my communication. I am also unsure whether to address the whole to my mother, or refer to her as “she”- swapping between the two is possible but does not appeal.

This bit has to go in somewhere: I carried a memory of her for years, of when I was told to show my piano-playing skills. I wanted to play one piece, she told me it was too simple, and I started to cry. She did not understand! I would have told that story with all my anger and resentment and incomprehension in She Didn’t Understand! Then in September 2010 suddenly it clicked. Oh, right- she didn’t understand. This was a moment of- forgiveness is a difficult word- acceptance of my childhood and my mother in which a great weight of resentment and anger drained from me. I want my reader to feel my relief, not just be aware of it.

Sketch 2

Paul Klee- Twittering machine (in part)My mother had her left breast removed when she was 63, around the time her back pain became unbearable. Later, she had bowel cancer, and though the tumour was removed she had complications later- “adhesions”, where scar tissue or the healing process creates a blockage in the bowel. Shortly after I moved to England, she developed liver cancer. She became addicted to the morphine, and for some reason her oncologist thought this needed reversed: he stopped her morphine, and she suffered from withdrawal. Then he found that while the chemotherapy was inhibiting growth of the tumour, it was not reducing its size, so she decided to stop chemotherapy.

I told my colleagues that she was dying using the peculiar jargon of our trade. “I have made an application for Attendance Allowance- under the Special Rules- for my mother.” When I said she had only days left, my boss surprised me by giving me as much time off as I needed. I returned home to find her in bed, a week before she died.

We wanted her to die at home. We had a friend from the church who is a nurse, and my sister is a nurse. My father and I were fit enough. After we made this decision I had a client suffering from back pain and depression after nursing his wife through terminal cancer, but we were sure enough we could cope. We had the aids we needed. First, Dad had had a stair lift installed so Mum could go up stairs; then a wheelchair, so she could go out. She was embarrassed by the wheelchair, initially, as she did not want to be seen in this weak state, but soon got to enjoy sunshine and different views, as she was wheeled around. And now, we had incontinence pads for her to lie on, and a commode beside the bed. I arrived a week before her death.

All of her was in pain, but she would rather get up to the commode. As would I, of course. Elaine understood the steps involved, to move her legs, then get her into a sitting position, then lift her up, then turn her to lower her onto the commode. As the expert, Elaine preferred to do this herself, and I did it only once. As I held my mother with her arms around my neck, before lowering her, I had a sense of Love, felt and communicated by both of us. But I did it only once.

I decided after she died that this moment of love communicated totally would be my most important memory of her.

I have a memory which shames me, which I have told no-one: sent to the town centre for a flannel for a bed-bath, I had a choice between one for an adult, undecorated, and one for a child, with Postman Pat on it, which was wonderfully soft, far softer than the other. I chose the adult one, for appearance’ sake, though she needed that softness. Perhaps she would have, too- appearance is important to us.

Then I sat, on her seventieth birthday, beside the bed, not touching her- reading, to pass the time.

Memento mori

Klee death and fireMy friend’s father in law was a drunken violent man who had bullied and assaulted his wife and daughters. He felt no love for the man. When he died, it seemed to affect my friend, who still declared his hatred, and it seemed to me that even though he was not bereaved in the usual way, he had been reminded of death. The death of another made him think of his own.

Another man told me that when he turned thirty, he had a clear understanding of his own death. He was going to die.

Someone wrote (AC Grayling? I can’t find it on Google) that if there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no believers at funerals: confronted with the fact of death we are unable to believe our fairy-tales- which may be why Rodney repeated so often about Dad’s experience of eternal life, now. Jackie Martinez in pinkIf we all believed it, he would only say it once, and if he believed it he might say it less. The funeral is a reminder of our own death, and for Rodney at 87 it will not be long.

For me at 47, it may be fifty years, and, perhaps, being alive and hungry, or frightened, or powerless, is more frightening than dying. I don’t know if that is true for me, though. I don’t know what I feel about it, and I don’t know what I might feel about it. In the moment of death there is the basic-brain response to seek survival, which may overcome the rational desire for death: so the hanged man desperately scratches at his neck to loosen the rope. I have desired death as a relief from burdens (I don’t, now) but a survival instinct would take over from that part of me which planned my death.

And then there is the state of being dead, no longer feeling or acting, though perhaps still influencing. I feel some resentment, actually: how could the world get on without me? It feels unreal. I remember thinking of my university carrying on without me- I realised it does, and turned to what was next.

I will die. I don’t know if the pain of a terminal illness is increased by knowledge that it is terminal, but the inevitable fact of death would simply be closer than it is now.

I don’t know what I feel about my death, and so put words to myself, seeking some spark of recognition. Possibly because it is unlikely within the next five years, and I do not plan ahead, particularly- five years seems a long way away- it is not real enough to me for me to feel anything, even though I can state I will die as a fact.

Burg und Sonne

Those discs. We spent some time looking at Le Rouge et le Noir.

Paul Klee - The Red and the Black

It is painted on burlap, which has been spread with plaster. Burlap is rough canvas, which sometimes is completely covered by the plaster, sometimes only whitened. I love it as a craft object, and have no idea why the dots should be so satisfying.

Here is Burg und Sonne. Aided by the image, my German misses the mistake of “mountain” to translate as Town and Sun.

Klee Burg und Sonne

Here is that Sun, a recurring motif:

Burg und Sonne

And- have the closest look, at the canvas:

Burg und Sonne 2

Paul Klee: static?

H found Klee’s work particularly flat and static.

Here is Battle-scene from the comic-fantastic opera “The Seafarer”. Before the exhibition, it was the Klee of which I was most conscious.

Battle scene from the comic-fantastic opera The Seafarer

That appears static, with the man poised to strike but still eyeing the Sea-Monsters up, while the creatures observe him.

And here is Dispute.


At first it could appear static. The woman and man facing each other (woman on the left, let me know if you disagree) stare each other out.

What made me think differently was the tiny legs. I imagine the triangles and quadrilaterals flashing on and off, too fast to see, making both fantastically bigger than themselves to overawe the other. It became a fight, all movement. Now writing, I notice what could be two arms, held back and up like a fencer’s or a scorpion-sting.

So I go back to the static Battle-scene. There is not a spray but two huge drops of Blood falling from the rearing Creature’s jaw.

What might the different coloured background, black round the Seafarer, white round the Creatures, convey?