December colours by the lake

Out at 8.30 to enjoy the sunshine, meditate, and consider step four. At -3º, the usually squishy mud is hard underfoot.

The frost is beautiful. What are my characteristics? I am controlling. I am passive. I judge myself very harshly. I have very low self-esteem.

I am kind. I am truthful.

This may be the best photo of the moon I can take with my camera without a tripod. The only “defect of character” I want God to remove is my inner conflict. All wrongs stem from that.

The most powerful thing I can do is Assent, or Commit, to something.

I find these beautiful.

Mark Nepo:
The only way beyond
the self is through it. The only
way to listen to what can never
be said is to quiet our need
to steer the plot.

The self, or ego, might be a mask for the real Beyond. It can be contrived and ridiculous:

Contrast the swan, which is simply itself.

On my retreat day, a man aged 83 shows his masculine control with questions to help priests find other careers:

Who am I?
What do I like to do?
What do I do well?
What would I like to do better?
What would I like to learn about or try?
What do I know with certainty that I do not like to do because I have already given it a complete trial?
Where can I look to learn more?

Choose motivation that helps you reach what you want.

These questions are meaningless to me. I desire to spend time with beauty. I dislike that Mark Nepo verse: I am in the true self, looking back at the controlling parent, wondering what is good in it?

I want to be able to mask.
I want to be able to mask when I need to,
without thinking about it too much.
I do not want to be masked from myself.

What I love, what I seek, is Beauty.
Delight shall be my guide.

More questions:

  1. Autumn. What seed was planted when you were born? What was your birthright gift?
  2. Winter. What is dormant inside you?
  3. Spring. What (or where) is the ground in which you can grow?
  4. Summer. What is growing abundantly in your life? What is ready for harvest?

Maybe I will consider them later.

The controlling parent controlled too harshly, and the inner true self rebelled. I need to let go of the rebellion.

New anti-trans commissioners at the EHRC

Kemi Badenoch has appointed two new commissioners to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The minister “for” women and equalities continues her institutional capture of the now-misnamed EHRC.

Kunle Olulode MBE has been working against the rights of Black people. He was a commissioner on the Sewell report on Race and Ethnic Disparities, widely derided for minimising disparities and the difficulties PGM face in Britain. The Sewell report does not mention LGBT people, as if black LGBT people did not suffer discrimination.

Arif Ahmed MBE has been working against the rights of trans people. He gave evidence to the House of Commons Human Rights Joint Committee that freedom of speech meant the rights to say Trans is Bad without any consequences. Download two pdf documents. The Committee did not publish a report.

In June 2020, working with anti-trans campaigner Selina Todd, he gave evidence that the freedom of speech of “left-wing” “feminist critics of transgender ideology” was inhibited.

Trans is not an ideology, any more than gay is an ideology. Trans, like gay, is just how some people are. The ideology is of the anti-trans campaigners, denying that trans people have the needs we have, and alleging we are a threat to women and children. They should be allowed to voice these opinions, just as they should be allowed if they wish to claim Jews are a threat to women and children. Then they should suffer consequences for uttering hate-speech. Hate speech inhibits freedom of speech by suppressing the speech of minorities. However Ahmed, Todd and the first-named author of that evidence, Nigel Biggar who is a theology professor, wrote that the offensive speech should not be sanctioned. Instead, those complaining about it should suffer.

The evidence attacks Advance HE, an international higher education charity, for its trans equality policy statement, which says,

“The curriculum will be checked to ensure that it does not rely on or reinforce stereotypical assumptions about trans people, and that it contains material that positively represents trans people and trans lives.”

Ahmed is in favour of anti-trans stereotypes. He forced his Cambridge college to host a speech by discredited anti-trans campaigner Helen Joyce.

The evidence also attacks Stonewall for opposing anti-trans speakers who deny that trans people exist as the gender we say we are.

The evidence creates a false opposition between freedom of speech and equality and diversity. There is none.

I am always glad when haters share good news. Biggar et al write, “Universities are keen to sign up to Advance HE’s and Stonewall’s initiatives. Membership signals their commitment to equality and brings financial reward,” as if that were a bad thing.

Ahmed demanded that the Government refused to fund UK Research Innovation (UKRI) until it ceased to recommend membership of Stonewall Diversity Champions, and required universities to prioritise “free speech” and “academic freedom” as they defined it, over gay and trans rights.

In his further evidence in February 2021, Ahmed said students had demanded a college sack a member of staff. But, the member of staff was a porter, not an academic, and Ahmed produced no evidence he was actually sanctioned.

Ahmed complained that the Cambridge University proposed free speech policy sought the power to prohibit speaker events that threaten student welfare. Again, he wants the power to say what he likes- that I am a threat to women and children, for example- without any consequence.

He misunderstands free speech. He says people are frightened to say they supported Brexit. The only sanction they face is ridicule: Brexit has damaged the economy more than Covid.

Ahmed will join other commissioners, including the EHRC chair Kishwer Falkner, in working against trans rights. Badenoch named Alasdair Henderson deputy chairman (sic) of the Board. Henderson was a barrister involved with Keira Bell’s case against the Tavistock GIDS.

To calm me down a little, here is a photograph of a beautiful place.

The Crime of Father Amaro

Father Amaro is a sex abuser. Paula Rego painted an avenging angel. Here is my version:

Where would I find a sword for this version, but the Bifrost Guard at the Lakes? They will train there weekly from now on. Here is the armourer and compère.

He explained the different arrows to me. Why does it have a pyramidal rather than cone point? I worked that one out: to cut through chain mail. A cone would apply force to the ring evenly, a pyramid applies force to four points around the ring. He also had an arrrow with a cage for a cotton wad: a fire arrow.

Why does the sword have a hollow running down the centre of the blade? To make it lighter. I got that one too- he said it’s nothing to do with a channel for blood to flow or to make it easier to pull out of a wound. The hunting arrow has two barbs- as the beast runs away, the arrow catches on trees or undergrowth, and tears the flesh further.

Then they did their fighting demonstration, with much shouting. The photos do not show their movement: they look as if they are standing round. The movement was quite fun, but they were taking great care not to hurt one another. To get feeling into a shot, I would want to take it from below, as if about to get killed.

Breaking the rules in the art gallery

Thirty pieces of silver, by Cornelia Parker, is utterly beautiful. I sit on a stool, contemplating it. The wires glitter in the bright light. Some of them are taut, some are loose, where one of the pieces of flattened silver sits on another. Because the wires are so long, when they sway like a pendulum they swing very slowly. They move, gently, in the air currents generated by people walking by. I looked at the narrow passages between them, and thought, how lovely it would be to walk through.

I was almost ready to do this when the Tate worker came in.
-You know, I really want to walk through it.
-Yes, he said. That’s almost like a corridor.
-I can’t do it with you there, I said. You couldn’t go round the corner so I could?

I looked round, and he was, indeed, moving into the next room so he could not see me. In a state of total relaxation I sidled through the beautiful thing, taking care not to touch the wires. Unfortunately, right at the far end a flattened fork got caught in my skirt, and pulled it up. A woman plucked it free.

Then I saw the guard again. He is an artist: he makes sound sculptures. He also does painting. He makes constructions of plywood and other materials, with a speaker inside, and plays electronic music he composes through them. I told him I write poetry. He said literature is an art form anyone can practise: you need no materials beyond memory.

I asked him if he would photograph me dancing through it again. He took my phone. I spent a moment readying myself.

I am centred and collected.

I am just about to move through the sculpture

when he says no, he can’t let me do it. Oi!

Or perhaps, as I am a story-teller, I chatted to the guard for a bit, but got a friend to take the pictures and embellished my desire to walk through into a story of how I actually had. I would hate to get that lovely man into trouble.

Also yesterday, I met a woman who asked me a few questions. I decided to answer rather than deflect. She then told me, in a tone of voice she would use as if it were obvious, as if she expected me to agree, that women do not like men in women’s toilets. She does not like male cleaners in women’s toilets. It’s the cleaning companies trying to reduce costs. She told me about JK Rowling at great length. Women must not be erased. I thought her spectacularly rude, but also impervious to any argument, so I simply let her monologue until we had got where we were going.

Positive and negative

Is it good to think positively?

I seek serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and might find it in denial. I will die, but it is not good to dwell on the fact. Before courage to change the things I can I need motivation, made of belief and desire. Desire is a site of my inner conflicts, between what my heart craves and what I have been taught I ought to want. What belief is beneficial?

Looking at any past experience, I would seek all the good in it: all the delight, all the learning, all the evidence of my good qualities or value, or the beneficence of the world. I evolved to fit, here. The world does not revolve around me, but is not out to get me either.

Denial might be a good thing. I read that giving birth is the greatest pain a human can experience, and some women who have done it more than once report forgetting the pain. We construct narratives to understand but also to cope with experience- “Yes it is painful but it is worth it”.

Dwelling on the negative aspects of past experience might make me withdraw. I cannot bear doing that again. Denying the negative aspects of past experience made me withdraw, arguably: I denied them until they were unbearable. So positivity is not a safe space, a simple concept that will always do me good, but a tightrope.

And, we spend ourselves. My body is deteriorating, and doing something until you cannot do it any more may be worthwhile. Even if I avoided everything that will deplete or damage me, I will still die.

I want a positive narrative for My Life So Far. “My world became smaller and smaller until I was finally trapped inside a prison of my own devising.” I read that and was amazed at how it could fit me. I could be crushed under the weight of my own responsibility for my dire situation. Instead, I blame someone else:

I suppressed my true self for a false ego, because I was terrified of death. My parents imposed that ego on me because of their own terrors and their bad experiences. Despite generational trauma my true self survived, and I am discovering her, liberating her, letting her flower. I will continue growing into freedom. I will use my gifts for what I see to be good.

Self-blame depresses and enervates me. Blaming someone else and casting my own actions as unavoidable, or heroic struggle, will make me able to go on. This too is a tightrope, but I feel far from the risk of self-satisfaction stopping me from making an effort.

Considering where I am now: my situation is pretty dire. My CV is unattractive. There, positivity is worthwhile: make it as good as you can, by describing everything winsomely. The obvious action is to do some voluntary work to show I am capable of something. I don’t. Here I have no motivation for the rational choice. But when I want to write something, I do that first.

I choose to believe my feelings and my heart’s desire is a worthwhile guide to my flourishing. My priority is letting the feelings flow. This is being positive about myself. The negativity of my childhood- that self is bad and dangerous, hide it away- harmed me.

I need faith. I need to believe in myself and the world sufficiently to believe action might be worthwhile, and setbacks are not final.

A horse, and a cigarette advert. Is this place trapped in the early twentieth century? Woodbines are still available, and only new advertising is restricted by law.

Meeting a swan

Lunch was lovely. I had a large glass of wine, and when my friend decided she did not want to finish hers I had most of that too. Over two hours, I complained about my life to a kind, attentive listener. We were at the back of the restaurant, where the waiters barely looked, and it was just the right place, overlooking the water. Then, with me still a bit squiffy, we walked round the lake.

This is where canoeists can cross the path from the lake to the river. As we approached, we saw swans use it too. First there was an adolescent, full size but still with cygnet colouring, and then an adult.

I wanted to see how close I could get to it. It seemed happy enough for me to approach, and even curious.

Now it was getting a little nervous, so I left it alone.

Then we went round the dress shops. There’s social media, where we learn about the anti-trans campaigners who have captured the EHRC telling services to exclude trans women, and the Tories deciding that conversion therapy for trans people is a good thing really, they shouldn’t ban that. Please sign the petition. It’s gone over 120,000 on its fifth day. As with Ukrainian refugees, the Tory government has gambled on the sheer selfish nastiness of Tory supporters, and found the British people well to their Left. Then there’s real life, where we got chatting to Karen, and even swapped the dresses we had brought to try on. Two trans women in the women’s changing rooms! Kishwer, Karon, Akua, if you’re reading this: the cis woman was not traumatised. She was happy to chat.

In a stationery shop there was a notepad with headings: Goals was prominent, other blah, “rewards” at the bottom for you dutifully to record why the goal was important. Yuck. “My psychiatrist said goals are overrated,” I said loudly. Well, I love snippets of overheard conversation, so spread the joy. “One of my eight psychiatrists said goals are overrated.”

After, I worried about it. The swan would walk down the slope, as take-off for such a heavy bird is hard work. It does so slowly and carefully. It might not want to, with me hovering behind it.

St Albans Cathedral

A cathedral is a hodgepodge of styles, designed to intimidate, perhaps, at best to inspire with awe. At St Albans, the Normans tore down the English cathedral to build their own. Nothing says “We are the masters now” quite like that. And different parts are from different ages: the brick tower, the stone nave, then the newer, faced stone porch, tediously symmetrical. You enter the west door then, unusually, climb stairs to walk down the “longest nave in England”. The important people are at the far end. This is intimidating.

It’s not the highest nave in England, because of the Norman arches in the north aisle. They cannot support the same height. Yet there are Gothic arches in the South aisle. I found that weird, ugly and unsettling when I first saw it. I wonder how the builders felt, when news filtered through to them of the new, fashionable Gothic arch.

The earliest of the mediaeval wall paintings dates from 1215.

All are faded, some almost unrecognisable.

So the curators have set projectors, which can indicate on the site what the original might have looked like. Between restoring with new pigment and covering over the original work, and leaving the faded originals, this is brilliant and beautiful. A touch on a tablet, and she is transformed.

This is “The Leaves of the Trees”, a touring artwork inspired by Covid.

This is the latest art added to the cathedral:

The shrine was broken up, and used as infil when the East end was walled off. When the wall was taken down, it was rediscovered. It has just been restored, with a new canopy. You can see the precise way it was broken, with pillars cracked and repaired in the same place. Here is the reredos.

That’s the best nourished dead Jesus I have seen. His head could be bowed in prayer, rather than death.

Here is the sculpture, which the priest would see, facing this altar:

It is Victorian restoration: the older screen was empty of statues. At the time, crucifixes were illegal in Church of England churches. The Reformers got at the older sculptures:

And here is a Chantry chapel, a bribe to God to get a rich man out of Purgatory early. What is so oppressive as religion enslaved to the interests of the rich.

Norwich cathedral

Norwich Cathedral is filled with Dippy the diPLODocus, and ropes, barriers and closed doors to distance it from the rest, which still has church-like aspects. My train was delayed, so I went to see the cathedral. Everywhere there are signs saying “No entry to Dippy here”. Gawpers are directed to a specific entrance at the south west corner of the cloisters, then through a guide with pictures of dinosaurs and parallels with the climate catastrophe, and finally into the nave. I associate the DIploDOcus (?) with Roman arches, because of the Natural History Museum.

I wanted my picture with it, and the man left out the head.

Initially I had no idea of the illustrious guest, and found a way in through the South door. Why can’t I get into the nave? I want to see the cathedral, not some dinosaur. A volunteer on guard at a closed door into the nave reluctantly let me through, telling me he should not really. The effect is to divide a museum, the nave, from the holy bit, transept and choir, which is normally big enough for any Sunday services. Yes the nave should be a public space for the city and landward areas, but why close off the worship bits? The restrictions inhibited my relaxation into timelessness. I went out into the cloisters, and there was another barrier, aimed at shooing the pilgrims to Dippy’s relics out. Again, the man there allowed me to step over the rope.

This is what a cathedral is for: commemorating important people.

This is a very important person indeed. His crest has a helm, meaning that he went out slaughtering peasants, and a coronet, meaning he told mere barons what to do. I have no idea who he was. I prefer the roof bosses:

The cloisters could be timeless, a place for aware contemplation. See, there is a labyrinth. There are also Dippy-seers, and photographers. I did not quite get in the mood. I feel a bit resentful.

Here are some dark works about refugees:

This one is trans- breasts, but no hips. Jesus was crucified at “the place of the Skull”.

I like this art work, an engraved door with lines from Eliot. It is hard to see the whole thing, but I take it by the handle, and move it back and forth to examine it. In the chapel I find some contemplation.

Ely Cathedral

The lady chapel has a powerful feminine energy, focused by a human Goddess above the altar. I love it.

Elsewhere, though, the chapel shows signs of Reformation: the original pigment on the figures, and the way their heads have been struck off. Beware men with hammers who know the Will of God. They will pick up guns if they can.

These hundred glass feathers, Solace by Layne Rowe, are inspired by the pandemic.

Cathedrals should commission new art. Here is Mary Magdalene recognising the risen Christ:

and here is Christ in Majesty:

In the chantry chapel, endowed by someone for monks to say masses endlessly to get him out of Purgatory quicker- hope he’s not in Hell, chantry-magic does not work for the damned- there are other alcoves without a figure.

This is the Octogon, at the centre of the building, above the altar. The nave is visible.

If I had not photographed it, I would not have seen how enthusiastic these thurifers are. With a long chain, the censer would normally not reach a higher angle than a swing pushed by a careful nanny. With a short chain, held by a priest, it can reach the horizontal, but never this high. Mercy!

The nave ceiling was repainted in the 19th century. Here is Christ in Majesty:

Here is a far more conventional Mary, left holding the baby:

I don’t like tombs in cathedrals. Christianity should not be about death and the dead- we are not ancient Egyptians- but I have a soft spot for this reclining bishop. He looks comfy:

This is the West porch. All its alcoves are empty. I wonder if they always were. See also where part of the building has fallen or been demolished, taking away symmetry, and how even the doors dwarf that tiny human, and my bicycle:

The arches both sides of the nave show their age:

The face of this chap on the floor looks Mediaeval in style, but I don’t think he would be that well-preserved if so: