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.

Dog women

I am still wrestling with what it means to be a man, a woman, a person, free… My week’s life experiences are grist to my mill.

I went back to the Paula Rego exhibition, and approached one of the women working there, sitting guarding the art. Dame Paula wrote, “Women learn from those they are with; they are trained to do certain things, but they are also part animal.” I don’t think that’s quite it; we act the part others write for us, but sometimes can be ourselves.

The worker, a young black woman, said “I turn my anger in on myself”. We shared what pictures we liked. I had gone in to absorb Rego’s anger as energy, but in that conversation saw so much more in her work. My desire was to reflect then reify in myself the attitudes of the women she portrays, their clarity and determination.

Then I told Phil of the exhibition. He had not heard of Rego. I joked that if he saw the exhibition he would be able to pose about it, and he took me seriously, saying he never sought to pretend to others. What, never? No. Seriously, never.

And I thought all I care about is how I appear.

Had my phone given the route when I wanted, I would have got the 4pm bus, but instead it stuck at “calculating route” for an age and I had to wait until 5.17. Then the bus stop the phone indicated did not have the number of the bus I wanted, and I thought I had the wrong stop. Then it was a few minutes late, and I was upset, thinking I might have to wait another hour. And my being irritated, sad, hurt, frightened, having an emotional reaction, surprised me. I tell you the circumstances to bolster the idea that my feelings were proportionate. It is not that I could not cope, or threw a wobbly, but that it made me feel something. And I resented my feeling. I should not feel irritated, whatever, because of that problem.

So there is my feeling, overwritten by the need to feel in control, or be uncomplaining in the face of confusing service. At best I treat my feeling as a problem, to be cajoled into sensible behaviour, at worst as an enemy to be suppressed.

To be, or to seem? I doubt I convince others anyway, I only pose in my own imagination.

Gina Miller wants to appear cool, calm and graceful even as she paddles like fury under the surface. Mmm. Never let anyone know you are discomposed, it would be a weapon to use against you. But, hiding again. Pretending. This is someone who has stuck her head above the parapet, and is doing her own thing. I am scarcely at the stage of knowing what I might want separately from the group, or accepting my feelings as a guide. Hide. Conceal- don’t feel.

I was angry when I read Richard Rohr:

“Our goal, therefore, is to learn . . . the curriculum of a truly spiritual life . . . grounded in love, mercy, tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, hope, trust, simplicity, silence, peace, and joy. To embody union with God is to discover these beautiful characteristics emerging from within and slowly transfiguring us…. ” I thought, there is the privileged white man speaking. My fuel is anger. But my anger does not manifest as cruelty. I show tenderness.

Except when I don’t. There was the Polish woman, and I took over the conversation then dismissed her. I would not have dared be so high handed had I thought about it. I realised what I had done after. Privilege, again?

I realise that I make mistakes because I do not realise how anxious I am to get a task done quickly and be over with. I think about it after.

I need to spend more time in silence with myself, perceiving realising and absorbing all this. With screens I am just involved in a tangle of feeling and desire, curating my appearance, getting confused. In the silence I loved this view of a snail:

Trans women in women’s spaces: the evidence

Trans women are not generally either a threat or a problem in women’s space. Individuals may be, but not trans women as a group. The evidence is clear. Unfortunately so is the vehemence of those who oppose trans rights.

Before a Parliamentary committee, Diana James of the Cornwall Refuge Trust said,

“We have had trans women through the women’s refuge and we have had transmen through the men’s refuge, and lesbian, gay and bisexual people through our refuge all the time.”

There you are. A charity willing to include trans folk does so easily. But not all are. Karen Ingala Smith of “Nia” takes a doctrinaire position that trans women are men, and because of this excludes us:

“We decided to do that because we decided as an organisation we wanted to protect single-sex women-only services as much as possible.”

Nia excludes us out of belief, rather than evidence. The committee commented,

“It was clear from her evidence that she believed that excluding people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment was the only way in which Nia’s service could be considered women-only.”

A lawyer will tell you that this bald public statement will discredit any case she makes that she has excluded a trans woman justifiably under the Equality Act. She is so filled with contempt for us that she does not care.

Janet McDermott of Women’s Aid represents a number of separate charities, which have different policies. There are power dynamics in a refuge:

“Domestic abuse is about an abuse of power and control, so all our practice has to be about challenging any hint of perpetuating coercive behaviours in residents in refuge and in our services. The services can be unsafe places for all sorts of reasons [ … ] because of racism, because of homophobia, because of different levels of access to privilege, status, power and so on. We have to manage those power dynamics all the time within our service-user population and in relation to looking at a new referral and how safe our service is going to be with its current service users for this new potential referral.”

Women’s charities have the skills to manage those power dynamics, and can exclude women, including trans women, if they need to. But there is no need for a blanket ban.

Women’s Aid are working to produce guidance for their members at the moment. Trans women who have used their services or have experience of domestic violence should approach them to tell of their needs. Any guidance should be based on evidence, rather than the prejudice shown against trans women by some groups.

The terfs have played a blinder with the report, though. One “voluntary organisation,” basically three terfs and a typewriter, were quoted claiming:

that women’s organisations were worried that “invoking the single sex exemptions of the [Equality Act] will leave them vulnerable to costly and difficult legal proceedings, or cost them their funding.”

They did not even know that trans women, even with a gender recognition certificate, could be excluded. I could have told them that. The committee paid a barrister to do the same.

So what will happen? The Committee said,

“We recommend that, in the absence of case law the EHRC develop, and the Secretary of State lay before Parliament, a dedicated Code of Practice, with case studies drawn from organisations providing services to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. This Code must set out clearly, with worked examples and guidance, (a) how the Act allows separate services for men and women, or provision of services to only men or only women in certain circumstances, and (b) how and under what circumstances it allows those providing such services to choose how and if to provide them to a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.”

That guidance can be based on the evidence that individual trans women are safe in services, and need them, or prejudice and hatred. Trans women should approach the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make the guidance include us. The terfs will be spinning their tales.

It’s tragic because the report details actual difficulties refuges have, beyond complaining about a tiny number of harmless trans women. Some authorities are paying for gender neutral services, even though women’s need is much greater than men’s. These “women-led voluntary groups” could work on that issue: but then the hard right organisations would not fund them.

Ach. It’s a pain. I cycle to work between lakes I can hardly see, because of the trees lining them. It makes the wildfowl feel safer, and makes each glimpse all the lovelier:

Jesus in Milton Keynes

To meet H in Milton Keynes. Can Christ encounter a trans woman?

It’s 2 1/2 hours on the bus, but I have Audre Lorde’s poetry to read:

it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

A woman at a bus stop had left her husband after 22 years. Will you go back to him? asked the man emptying the bin. No, he beat her up. I congratulate her, and she says her family are helping her get stronger. Though he still lives in the town, and when he sees her gives her a dirty look as if she had wronged him. That’s worrying.

Milton Keynes has some really poor public art, I say. For example,

“What’s it meant to be?” H asks. An abstract sculpture. I suppose it is best in bright sunshine like today, with those contrasts between bright and dark. It would look different from hour to hour. (But I am writing after my encounter- I was sniffier before.)

After the Paula Rego exhibition we go into the park. I am still mocking, but beginning to take an interest. This is the Milton Keynes rose:

This, though, does not seem worth its prominent position:

But then we read that the Light Pyramid is sometimes lit to commemorate local or national events. On the way there we see the amphitheatre:

We sit in the shade of the beacon, talking of the good life and looking out over this heavily landscaped park.

I noticed the woman before I heard what they were saying. I got out my phone to take notes. Each chants a phrase several times, and sometimes in another language:

I cover this diamond in the name of Jesus.
This diamond is causing people sickness.
MK is covered in the name of Jesus.
Walk around in praise.
I soak this place with the blood of Jesus seven times.
Break every chain.
Holy Spirit have mercy on MK.
Grey Grace and Jeremy are praying to save Milton Keynes from Satan. I ask them for a photograph, and they ask why I want it. I pause for a moment. I want to say, because I too am a follower of Jesus. I wonder if this will mislead them, then decide to say it. They high-five me.

After, Grace prays over me. It is powerfully affirming. Though people gossip about me or I am confused, Jesus is with me. She speaks urgently, her hand on my shoulder.

We go back to the Rose, and notice the inscriptions. Some monoliths are blank, others inscribed. The stone is beautiful.

May 24th is Heartwarming Day, when John Wesley recorded “I felt my heart strangely warmed”. The second Saturday in June is Knit in Public day.

I find the art gallery beautiful, inside and out:

I love the primary colours, the steel, concrete and breeze blocks, the detail of it.

I am a little sad that Grace might not recognise my way of following Jesus, but do not want her to change hers, but to grow in it.

In the bus back I read a little, and practise my presence meditation:

I am here. This is. I am.

Paula Rego was wonderful. On the bus I read Richard Rohr quoting Peter: “He has given us something very great and wonderful . . . you are able to share the divine nature!”

Peterborough cathedral

Cutting it fine for my train, after lunch I dashed back to the cathedral. The sun would now be shining on its west end.

That lantern, and the “book” advertising that the cathedral is 900 years old, shows this view is not designed for the photographer. I cannot get the whole in the frame without those in the way. But the camera would not replicate the experience of seeing: you do not see it all at once, anyway.

The cathedral was begun nine centuries ago, and completed 120 years later. Then it was extended at the East end in 1500.

The newer part has fan vaulting. Looking from the East, you see the round Norman arches of the side aisles.

like the Norman arches, feeling solid, but the fan vaulting is beautiful. Finishing with the West wall,  the builders changed to the modern fashion for Gothic arches.

Around that  arch the carvings are simple and rural:

This is the view from the East end.

This is my favourite art work. The flash picks out her detail, but changes their visibility.

Taking a much younger Peter than older art usually shows without flash, I represent the natural light reflecting in his leg but not the detail of his face.

The Cross is from 1975. The gold contrasts with the skeletal figure. I did  not like that emaciation, but my friend feels he has a kind face.

She does not like the memento mori on one of the memorials, though.

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.

Three pigeons

In brilliant sunshine, I watched two pigeons try to chase each other off. Repeatedly they would move from the roof, to the telegraph pole, to the TV aerial, and back.

This looks like preparation for a blow in karate:

Here one strafes the other’s wing:

Attack from above:

The weaker bird flees:

And- the suitor approaches courteously. Alas! She flew off!

Joy in a gallery

What should be the mood of a museum visit? Is it like going on a picnic, to school, on a shopping trip, or to church? –Cynthia Freeland.

There’s a difference between English and US English here- she’s asking about what we would call an “art gallery”, a special space for looking at Art. My first thought was, it should be like a garden, where I move, relaxed, with beautiful and sometimes unexpected things catching my attention. And it should have good cake. What do you think?

An art gallery should enrich and expand our understanding of what it means to be human, the glory, jest and riddle of the world. It should have something to delight, intrigue, confound, provoke, enlighten anyone wandering in- any child, any person who has never seen art before, any connoisseur.

So it should be welcoming, to everyone. No-one should feel excluded. Any faint lingering traces of the idea that this is for educated people, for people with good taste, rather than for everyone should be expunged. It should be enticing. There should be eye-catching things round every corner, to draw you through. It should be mindblowing. We might have our understanding of the world completely changed.

I hope it could overcome resistance. There is resistance- “That’s not Art!” imagines that Art means technical skill in painting and sculpture, the ability to make a face look like a face in a photograph, rather than the ability to make a face that a person can read and feel with. There is fear, that these connoisseurs are looking at things I will not understand. Well, possibly- an understanding of the meaning of the colours in certain icons, or the symbols used to indicate saints- Peter carries keys, for example- can enrich viewing such paintings. Arguably, truly great painters have produced something new, and lesser artists copied their betters, and so some sense of the development of Art has value, but progress is not linear. Instead it is an expansion, in many dimensions, with people finding new possibilities and their idiosyncratic way, or revisiting the old and finding something new in it.

It should be a place we escape words. Words mediate our experience of the world, and come between us and the thing in front of us. You do not see what is around you because you are thinking. Words move through your mind, and you pay attention to them instead, even if they are the same words as flowed through you yesterday and last month. I love to escape words. It is an experience I know and value. There must be a wordless experience before there can be new words or new understanding. So I enter an art gallery with the intention of relating to some art object- probably many- and allowing it to communicate to me, without judging, or at least permit my mind to see possibilities in it without seeking to define them.

The child or adult entering a gallery for the first time needs a certain level of trust in the guide taking them there, or the society which values the gallery, to be open to such experience. So the gallery should do all it can to win such trust. Not understanding is OK- but the viewer must perceive the possibility of understanding, and a route to understanding, without too strict an idea of what understanding might look like.

I have strong memories of art in my teens grabbing my attention and engaging me. Then I saw that there was something that would repay my attention. Now delight is quotidian for me, enraptured by the flowers in a Burne-Jones forest, but also perception, being brought face to face with a man standing over his wife, just killed in war.

Go to a gallery! They are wonderful places!

The asset-strippers

I love the Duveen galleries at the moment. Mike Nelson’s The Asset-strippers fills it. Wooden walls and doors from factories make corridors through it. The machines are beautiful, and forlorn, not needed in our modern, services finance and consumerism economy. Knowing the prevalence of industrial deafness I would not want to work on such machines.

I see how important sharpness in the photograph is.

I also feel photographing inside the item, so that it stretches beyond the picture, makes my picture more intriguing.

I am happy to go along with the institutional definition of Art- art is anything shown in an art gallery, or even called so by an Artist. It may be good or bad art, morally or in terms of expressiveness, but it is still art. Richard Anderson says Art is culturally significant meaning, skilfully encoded in an affecting, sensuous medium. The skill, here, is finding and arranging things to be affecting.

Then to the Don McCullin. He photographed new corpses, with their relatives staring at them. He says he tried to catch the eye of the relative, to gain implicit consent for his work of documenting the atrocities. Just, no- I would not be consenting, I would be too shocked to take it in, leave alone to object. Possibly some others might relieve anger and despair on the photographer. He photographed people in Berlin, looking at the other zone, and homeless people in London. A man sleeps, standing up. He photographed a battle in Vietnam. I have seen half of it: I hope to go back to see the remainder. I decided to walk round the outer wall of the exhibition space, pay at least a few seconds’ attention to each picture, and more time sitting before some of them.

I met H on Friday evening. We ate in a Greek restaurant and went to Deborah Tannen at Tate Modern. I may get her poems. I cycled to the station, and was pleased to see my bike still there on Sunday evening.