Explaining ourselves

We got to the villa, large and well-appointed, which we got cheaply because of being slightly before the season. The owner welcomed us, and showed us round. He introduced us to the three big dogs- as we walked through the town later to the café, there was a dogs’ chorus. Be friends with your burglar alarm: he wanted them to get to know our smell. “If you have any questions, please do ask,” he says, but we have no questions for him. Really, we want him to leave.  His parents in law are the next house, overlooking the garden. His English seems excellent, with little foreign accent.

We are shy. We do not want to explain ourselves. “They are shy of you, because they have Asperger’s Syndrome,” I could have said. I am shy, because I am Trans. We can pass as normal if we interact as little as possible. Why on Earth would we want to pass? Because explaining does not necessarily make others friendly- they might be put off by our odd manner, but might be mocking or hostile if they knew what we really are. Or even exploit us! And- I am worthwhile to know, but not trusting. I want you to spot that, imagine I might have good reason for it, and work to gain my trust!

Self-hatred is very useful for being able to pass. I have no right to be as I am, and the hostility of others is only to be expected. Or, you despise them, you put on an act for others. The main cause is fear. We pass because we fear you.

One of us ate something which disagreed with him, and as soon as we got home he was copiously sick in the gutter. There is a hose in the car port, and I hosed it down the drain. Later, the father in law came over. “We wondered if you are all alright? We saw he was sick in the gutter.” This could be friendly concern, and I experienced it as checking up on us. What are they doing wrong? Make them stop. Even, punish us in some way. We just want him to go away. No, no, we’re absolutely fine, there is no problem at all, and we say this not meeting his eyes, looking shifty. I fear, loathing the thought, that I come over as submissive.

I did think, later, of going over and asking for help, taking both at their word, getting to know them a bit, letting down my guard, approaching directly not circumspectly. Are there any tourist attractions for our friend, who has huge difficulty with stairs? I am a human being. Every human being has idiosyncrasies. I should not be judged for mine.

There is a large pile of wood, and a fireplace between the living room and my bedroom, with glass doors to each. I get a fire going easily- just call me the Pyromage! It has a strong draw, but we have more difficulty getting heat out of it rather than going up the chimney.

The kitchen is lovely. Twice we had sausage and mash, and twice we had pizzas. The trouble with passing, of living in fear of and at war with the world, is that you have less energy to explore how the world’s beauties and gifts may delight you, or to make it delight you, for you do not realise you deserve that.

National Palace of Mafra

What can we do to entertain our friend, when he can hardly walk half a mile? We drove him about a bit, but sitting in the back I was completely bored. He did not seem much better. We parked by the Atlantic, and he said, “You get out, I will stay in the car”. “We could go to Mafra,” said the other, doubtfully, and I said,

“Why would we go to Mafra? What is there possibly to see in Mafra?”

So we went back to the villa. Such is the problem of not having the proper references to hand. I thought it would be a town with a caff and a few shops, rather than the site of the Baroque palace of João V. We went there on the last day. Unfortunately, our friend could not climb the steps, so had to sit in a caff while we went round the palace. In the ticket office, I met a couple I knew from Nupton Quaker meeting. I don’t like João V. His great palace had a monastery attached, as if that made it alright. We saw a bare cell with a desk, almost a reasonable size of bedroom, which I thought might be bearable for a moderately ascetic academic, but realised that was for the abbot when we saw the dormitory. Monks had a recess, but not a closed cell. How strange, to be immured and institutionalised here while the King enjoyed his hunting! You would be part of the Christian framework which made his every excess acceptable before God, in the convenient fiction everyone went along with.

I don’t like it, still, with this bird tethered. You can have your photo taken with it for a fee. It spreads its wings periodically, either nervously or because it cannot balance.

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A sign of the great piety is this bizarre sculpture. The bloody neck and fallen head shocked we Quakers.

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“Soft porn again,” I thought dismissively. Still, it’s all a matter of taste. I like the men grovelling before an enthroned woman, in my featured image, it’s far more my thing.

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Men on the murals are being tortured.

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-What do you think this is?
-An instrument of torture.

Well, it’s clearly a game. I wonder how it works.

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It’s a hunting lodge, and you might see this at Atholl Castle. I would hate those chairs. It delights in cruelty.

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It delights in cruelty, and the appearance of learning.

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The attached church has six separate organs, with six separate consoles, around the transept. They have recitals monthly.

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In the afternoon we went to Cascais, where I tripped off to the Paula Rego exhibition, tempted by “sexually vulnerable women and animals, and men dressed in women’s clothes or with the heads of fish”. I did not read the small print, that it is closed on Monday, so wandered round the park, where I found this folly.

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In the free Town Museum some of the English is translated picturesquely: they had an “Outbreak of tourists”.

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This Moorish fortress-town, still with Moorish street plan, is stunning. We picked it almost at random returning from Fatima- we had been advised to pop into somewhere as we drove back, but almost did not, lacking enthusiasm.

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The defensive structures are impressive. English and Welsh castles are all ruined because they could not cope with Civil War artillery yet were still used as fortresses in that war. I am glad that did not happen here. In 1580 a Spanish coup took over the country, but in 1640 Portugal achieved independence again- as a Scot, I am delighted by that, and their English alliance is a mirror image of our Auld alliance.

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These are the remains of the International Chocolate Festival, a delightful idea. The fifteenth is this year, 10 March to 2 April.

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We walked round the walls. I would not have enjoyed it with more tourists about: passing, with one pressed against the wall and the other close to the drop was mildly unpleasant. Would there be safety barriers if this were in England, or would walking be forbidden?

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We climbed that high turret. I did it just for the photo, and without a safety barrier felt a bit ill. A small girl blithely ran up the stairs, letting me take the wall-side. Later on I found a woman, clearly overcome by the experience, walking very slowly down two yard wide stairs to ground level. She leaned on the wall for support.

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Note how these graves are all lying on the surface. I wonder if they are on the bare stone, and the bodies lie just below those low sepulchre lids.

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We stopped off for a coffee, and I bought my only piece of tourist tat, of course a pendant.

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Holiday portraits

I like photos of me. So there. On holiday I find wonderful backdrops to set off my beauty, and am relaxed so photograph well, mostly.

This is the backdrop I liked best, in the grounds of the Pena palace, Sintra.

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The flowers set off my delicate feminine beauty. My face relaxes. The lens was set too wide for the next one, but I look slightly impish, which pleases me.

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Battlements, even fake ones, make a good backdrop. Sintra fake, Obidos real.

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The lens was set too narrow. I wanted more building. Oh well. He questioned it, I said it was how I wanted it, the communication or dynamic was wrong. I am acting here, and not well.

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Lisbon Cathedral

I really want you to look at my header photo. I have not seen a beggar like that in Britain. At least the Cathedral chapter allow her to be there, unlike St Paul’s Cathedral.

There are more decorative churches in Lisbon than its cathedral. Its facade is almost bare, its columns unadorned.

lisbon-cathedrallisbon-cathedral-from-the-galleryThe guide book said it was not worth seeing, with just “a couple of tombs”, but it has grandeur. I was glad to be there, after the great difficulty we had getting there. With few tourists it has a more peaceful, even holy, atmosphere than Jheronymus.

Here are the tombs. I love the dogs, and the thought of reading and contemplating while awaiting the Resurrection.

lisbon-cathedral-doglisbon-cathedral-readerThe West window is easily interpreted? Twelve apostles and Christ at the centre, smaller than they, for some reason.

lisbon-cathedral-west-window-1 lisbon-cathedral-west-windowI paid to go into the cloisters, which are being excavated. Some of the buildings uncovered are Roman, some Moorish, and there is a Roman sewer.

lisbon-cathedral-cloister-excavationsOutside, the trams shake and judder up the steep hill. They are a tourist attraction, he went to ride one while I was in Belem. Notice the English. I had not realised how quickly my camera battery would run down, and took the rest of my photographs on the phone.

lisbon-cathedral-tramThat beggar, again. Leaving, I handed her a 20c coin. She kissed it. I did not, as the Pope advises, look her in the eye and touch her hands, wishing her “Bom dia”- I looked away, embarrassed.

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The hilltop palace at Sintra

The undeserving rich, the moneyed elites of Portugal, looked at Brighton Pavilion with envious eyes, and built it on steroids.

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I love this place. I find it fabulously beautiful, and am delighted it exists; and appalled at the thought of living within miles, as it dominates the countryside. The king can get that thing built, even on that hill top, with all the labour involved, and just live there. Viva a revolução!

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All the tourists are about, and everyone is taking photographs. In the upper storey of the courtyard, below, I saw three together, all with cameras glued to faces, and they dispersed just before I could photograph them.

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The exterior is fabulous, the interior less so. When this was being furnished, sculpture had moved on from this cheap soft porn. The undeserving rich can have execrable taste.

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I find the chapel disturbing as well. The luxury-ascetic of it, such a rich depiction of death by torture. Christianity is full of paradox, the church saying the Magnificat- “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones”- while sucking up to the powerful, who pray in places of such adornment- how could anyone of any imagination get this place built then put a chapel in it? Serve God or self-indulgence, man- but you have to choose.

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Ability and disability

He can feel overwhelmed in large crowds, and even with four people he is uncomfortable, preferring no more than two others. I was wrong to say that is “almost an advantage” of a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, but I think I was on to something: the diagnosis can help him recognise the difficulty, and accept it, where without a diagnosis a sense of inadequacy and self-hatred might make him deny it and try to fight it, and only get more flummoxed by it. And the diagnosis can help others accept it too. I would rather someone simply accepted it, realising that it is within ordinary patterns of human diversity, noticed it and allowed for it, but if he explains it to someone and that permits them to accept it, that is something I suppose. Not everyone will say, “Oh, go on! Don’t be silly! You’ll love it when you’re there!”

Introverts unite! We’re here, we’re uncomfortable and we want to go home…

This is part of a healthy teenage, to recognise such limitations and enforce boundaries to self-protect around them. If your boundaries are accepted they need not be overly rigid or protected with anger, and you can push them a bit, try things out, and be helped if you find it too much. If you recognise your gifts, and they are accepted, you can use them to help you flourish as a gift to the community. I have not quite finished my teenage yet.

Then again, we wanted to go to the cathedral. Initially we just parked any old place, and found a caff, and planned what to do next. “You’re going home tomorrow,” I said, “so I think you should get to decide what you want most to do”. I am not sure he had thought of it. He suggested the cathedral. The guide book had said this was dull, but we assented. Getting there was difficult.

Because of physical difficulties he could not use the Metro. He could not descend stairs, and anxiety stopped him using escalators. We might have difficulty with buses. I noticed there was car parking about half a mile from the cathedral, and suggested we park up and walk there. They had lunch in a restaurant, I sat outside with an apple, biscuits and Nutella, in the square by the Military Museum because I had spent too much on lunch previously. There was a busker, some trees and statues, lovely architecture, and a bus station.

Then we set off towards the Cathedral. It was not easy. The tiny cobbles on roads and pavements are uneven to walk on, pavements are narrow and roads are steep. Then again much of Portugal has steep hills, and many cathedrals are surrounded by narrow streets on mediaeval street plans. I find it picturesque. Half way, he needed to go to the toilet and spent ages in a caff.

I sympathise with the graffiti artist, and my photographing it like a pleased tourist is a similar gesture back.

lisbon-near-the-cathedralAnd one of us pointed out the orange trees. I am glad to be somewhere so foreign: the architecture, the way of covering facades with ceramic tiles, and the oranges:

lisbon-cathedral-orange-treesAfter, we waited by the cathedral while one of us went for the car. We could not all have walked back.

“They do not consider disabled people”, he said self-righteously. I wanted to say, no, you’re not thinking of others, of “disabled people”, you’re thinking of yourself. I was irritated by his inability, and by the restrictions it placed on us, irrationally feeling he could try harder. I wanted us to do things he could enjoy, and felt with these difficulties he should not have come to such a hilly place and spent some time planning what he could actually do when he got away. My acceptance is limited by how much I am inconvenienced.

He made a loud, wordless noise. “Just processing emotion,” he said, and I thought, how wonderful, to be able to do that and recognise it. I need to process emotion: I said several times how horrible I found Fatima, not because I thought he did not understand but in order to process my emotion. It is not just Aspergers.

He ate something that disagreed with him, and was sick in the car. At one point we were stationary in the fast lane of the motorway, fortunately in a traffic jam, as he was sick on the central reservation. And I noticed how he caught it in his lap, rather than the well of the seat, thinking this very considerate of him. Self-sacrificing, even. Generous. I can forgive a lot of non-standard behaviour for that.

I write of different people on different days.

Fatima

I hate Fatima. 

I was only half joking when I said I might have a religious experience and go all pious at Fatima. The place is designed to evoke that, most people are up for that, and I am suggestible. I had the opposite reaction. 

We had lunch in a caff, then approached from the South. There is a great deal of Catholic tat. 

Here is the new church, consecrated in 2007. 

I loathe it with a passion. It enraged me and I  needed to express that, forcefully. It is a windowless bunker. It is bearable inside, with all the light controlled:

It feels fascist to me. It is designed to make the individual worshipper feel insignificant. Jesus called me his sister, and every one of the hairs on my head is numbered, but here I am just one of the huge crowd. They have to cater for thousands of pilgrims but there must be better ways of doing it. 

We walked out the North side, and saw the other church, from 1957. Those things look like insect legs, or pincers. 

Christ is a gaunt insect, too. 

The other church is intimidating too, though a little less so. All those steps are unnecessary. Penitents go towards it on their knees: there are signs requesting we do not photograph them. 

Mass proceeds outside as we walk in. The stained glass is pretty. But all the art is the Stations of the Cross- an appearance of the Virgin should be a festival: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. 

I cross myself from the holy water stoup. The shock of cold water enlivens my senses to the present moment, and accepting the priest’s gift makes me more connected to the place.

Here is the tomb of a Little Shepherd, where people pray, or take photographs. I did both. Some leave gifts.  

Here is the totalitarian I blame for its totalitarian feel, especially shocking as it goes on about the fall of Communism.

The children photographed by him love him. 

The collonade is reminiscent of St. Peter’s plaza. 

Belem

To the cultural quarter. Tristão e Isolda is next week, alas. We miss it. The overcast sky is not ideal for photos, but the Centro Cultural is beautiful, clad in rose stone. I walk a wide stone passageway up to the Berardo Collection, alone in the off-season, and it feels empowering and liberating, not at all like the stark concrete ravine west of the National Theatre in London.

The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is worth photographing in any light, even a phone snap which I cannot edit.

All the cloisters are intricately carved.

People are doing selfies, which I find difficult:

The refectory has stories in pictures, which I do not like.

The church from the gallery.

It is a tourist hubbub even now, so I say I want to pray, and go into a quieter side chapel. A woman presses her forehead to an altar below a statue of the Virgin.

There are so many artists in the Berardo overview of the twentieth century! I will not comment as I fear sounding Pooterish. Here is the church from the water garden.

Sintra

I am in Portugal with friends. Though it has nothing to distinguish it but a stone cross and a lighthouse, tourist coaches come here, the most western point on mainland Europe. 

They get photographed with the cross. 

I would rather photograph the drama of the coastline.

You can get down to the beach, a little further north.