Looking at these paintings, I at first thought the difference between them was the photographic reproduction rather than the painting itself.

I studied the strange way the carter is riding one of a pair of horses, the group of three figures, the markings on the flank of the central cow. Eventually I saw how the rainbow is further from the tree in the upper picture, which is in London, than in the lower, in Munich. Only then did I notice the greater relative height of the lower picture. The greater clarity could be a trick of the reproduction. Colours are not always perfect.

I wondered at recreating such a complex scene. Sunlight strongly picks out the trunk of one of the trees on the right, and in both paintings the trunk is a similar shape. The upper one is much larger, 53″ high rather than 37″. Did the artist paint the same scene, happy to paint the same people, cows, trees, in order to demonstrate different light? The London picture seems to have a clearer, colder Northern light, and clearer detail, in faces and leaves.

The painting was a few decades before Newton’s work with prisms. I note the colour of the rainbow and wonder at it, I must look at what colours I actually see, rather than merely expect, next time I see a rainbow.

Only when I am writing this do I see the lower picture is the copy, not Rubens but “after” Rubens. Even then this site ascribes it to Rubens. Suddenly I see the two pictures differently. The clarity, I now assume, is greater technical skill. The upper picture is simply better.

Behold, the man

More Ecce Homo pictures.

Rubens, Ecce Homo

At first I thought Rubens had got it completely wrong. His Jesus made me think of frown, and wrinkled lip, and stare of cold command- quite the wrong passions for the Passion. And then I saw this Christ as holding your gaze: demanding to be seen, as a human being, but any challenge is in the viewer. We may project, but Christ accepts. Pilate is defeated. He wants to release Jesus but politically has no power to.

Willem van Herp, Ecce Homo

You would expect a Dutchman of the time to give the Romans Spanish helmets. The soldiers mock, jeer and prod, and even the dog challenges, and Christ sits, powerless- the crossed wrists exemplify that for me- yet straight-backed. This is art as resistance.

Bosch or follower, Ecce Homo 1590s

More Bosch. Below there is tumult, and in the upper left- many possible stories there.


A man died in an industrial accident in a car factory. The machine was referred to as a robot, and because it was first tweeted by Sarah O’Connor, a journalist, the angle was that it was a death like in Terminator. I read of this over Naz’s shoulder, and commented that it was ridiculous. He agreed, and was happy to chat.

It is an industrial accident. We only hear of it because they have an angle to horrify us. Our conversation moved onto Greece, with whom he has no sympathy- “They have maxed out their credit cards. They want to continue spending on their credit cards.” I mentioned Keynes, and he said it was a balance. Greece should sort out its tax system. Our in-work benefits were too generous: simply take people out of tax, which is better than one system to take money off people then another to give it back. He knows people who have lived on benefits for decades, and he thinks it wrong.

I started talking about my experiences in Oldham, but when I mentioned arranged marriages he cut me off. He has an arranged marriage with someone from India, it is just his culture. He is a successful businessman, his brother has a business, his father has a business. Other people should be self-reliant.

Disagreeing, I do not want to convert him but hear why he feels this.

At Charing Cross I listened to an obese man stating quietly but determinedly what he would do, and bemoaning being 26 next day- so old! Then Lucy and Nick sat down. Lucy is cis. Nick is painfully thin, flat chested but petite, with a feminine face. He needs T. She does group work, art with mental health, dementia and learning difficulties among other client groups. She bemoans how difficult it is to get everyone’s name, and how important.

-What do you do?
– I connect with people. Like I’m talking with you now.

She accepts that, not everyone might. Our conversation moves to wild swimming and how lovely it feels, so I tell her of Loch Caolisport, how it is so shallow so that it warms in the sun.

Oh, that is so lovely! Lucy starts to rhapsodise. Imagine how beautiful, to just relax into the water, out in the open in the sun, far from the shore yet able to stand up… Nick, how do you think swimming outside would differ from being in a pool?

Nick grins shyly but says nothing, and I realise she is here as a paid escort rather than a friend.

Stuart Lorimer is quite friendly. He orders blood tests, and I am typing now having waited forty minutes for a phlebotomist and anticipating at least another hour, at the rate they are going. I thought he would discharge me, as I do not need surgery.

I want to know why would I be taking hormones, now. He says purely to stave off osteoporosis. Perhaps I should have challenged him, because they seem to have an effect on energy and lability. He refers me to Penny Lenihan, when I thought he would have discharged me. I quite like coming into London, but am unclear why I would want to be here. He gave me a feedback form, and I wrote that everything was lovely.

Rubens, the descent from the cross


On Friday, during the partial eclipse I was tempted to look at the Sun.
I had heard the warnings.
I looked at it, and my eyes smarted.
I was still tempted to look at it.
What’s this deferring gratification thing? Weighing a glimpse of the sun as a crescent against the chance of permanent damage to eyes, I am still tempted!!

I then spent much of the day with the Three Guardians puzzle. Before I came up with the right questions, I spent hours with wrong questions and what various answers to them would mean. I am very pleased with having the right answer, and having thought of a fourth guardian which answered randomly, like a coin-toss, could answer that more complex problem with between five and eleven questions. Probably I should have done my washing, and in the beautiful sunshine a walk round the lakes might have been more relaxing, but working on that puzzle was the immediately gratifying thing.

A hug felt sexier than an ordinary friendly hug, and was followed up with an email addressed “Dearest Abigail”. She would be in touch, she said. Over a week later, I am on tenterhooks and wondering if she is messing with me, which feels cruel: that “dearest” touched my heart. I create theories of why she might deliberately hurt me, which feel possible but unlikely; but likelier the longer time goes on. Why would she would want to mess with me? Becoz I is trans, or because I had irritated her in some way I cannot imagine, or randomly without reason. The thought that she might not be in touch because of shyness or vulnerability in her came to me only later.

In The Last Battle, the dwarves go into the barn which is actually the gate of Heaven. The children see Heaven with its beautiful scenery getting more beautiful as you go further up and further in, but the dwarves see only a derelict barn with stinking old straw. So the children pick flowers for the dwarves, and the dwarves react angrily: Why are you shoving straw in our faces?

I came across “thetruthisstrangerthanfiction” on Violet’s blog. He is creationist. I find the complex, interlocking explanations of all the evidence of the age of the Earth fascinating and beautiful, and he finds them repellent: the desire to keep a meddling God with His meddling “morality” and call for “repentance” etc., is the real motivating factor at play behind the scientists’ rejection of young earth creationism, rather than the search for Truth which I perceive. Then again, his flowers- a literal interpretation of Genesis- are mouldy straw to me.

I want to persuade him. He is not persuadable, because he is immovably convinced that he has something better (as, mutatis mutandis, am I). I put long comments on his blog, rather than walking by the lakes or doing my washing. I wrote on facebook, to acclaim, I do not need you to be other than you are to validate who I am but one benighted stranger on another continent and a woman who may be hostile seem to indicate otherwise.

What I want may not be what is best for me.

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Stable states have equal marriage

From the Failed States index, the most stable states:

159 United States: marriage in CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, RI, VT, WA, 8 tribes
160 United Kingdom: marriage in Scotland, England and Wales
161 France: Marriage
161 Portugal: Marriage
163 Slovenia: Civil unions
164 Belgium
165 Germany: Civil unions
166 Austria: Civil unions
166 Netherlands: Marriage
168 Canada: Marriage
169 Australia: Civil unions
170 Ireland: Civil unions
171 Iceland: Marriage
172 Luxembourg: Civil unions
173 New Zealand: Marriage
174 Denmark: Marriage
175 Switzerland: Civil unions
175 Norway: Marriage
177 Sweden: Marriage
178 Finland: Civil unions

Poor Belgium! Not long now, I hope.

Agreement challenge

File:Rubens, Peter Paul - Hercules and Omphale - 1602-1605.jpgWhat can I find of interest or value in Pousto’s blog? I first saw him in this post on Why I do not support “homosexual marriage”His analysis argues that Christians should campaign against it, though he sympathises with Libertarianism. It promotes a culture of death, harms children, infringes on the rights of Christian business owners to discriminate, and is a slippery slope to polygamy. It redefines what marriage is, and only God can do that. So I commented, sarkily, and got a surprisingly courteous response: I took a quick glance at your blog and saw that you are more than capable of critical thought. I don’t mean that to be a snarky comment. I mean it as a compliment and as a basis for further conversation.

I don’t see much basis for conversation. He argues public policy. I am concerned for individuals, where he sees a threat. Not only do we disagree on every point, we express ourselves differently and perhaps think differently. So I proposed the Agreement Challenge. What could we find in each others’ blogs with which we agree?

The immediately preceding post has something of value for me. I had not heard of Ergun Caner, former Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, or how some things he said about his past were untrue. I am interested to read that the Southern Baptist Convention has no centralised power which could take action against Caner, but when Pousto says that the proclamation of the Gospel (I might say the advancement of Truth) is File:Peter Paul Rubens 024.jpgmore important than the survival of that particular denomination, I am in delighted agreement. It firms up a thought I have had about Quakers possibly dying out in Britain.

Scrolling down, I find a critique of a post on Presuppositionalism. That is a method of proclaiming the Gospel to unbelievers which presupposes the truth of the Bible. The presuppositionalist does not debate the existence of God, God just is, as revealed in God’s inerrant word; he says others have different presuppositions, from which only God’s grace will free them. I am reminded of Marx’s coinage, “ideology”. For Marx, “Marxism” was observed truth, and ideologies were false understandings opposed to it.

To me, calling belief in the inerrancy of scripture a “presupposition” and an attempt to follow the scientific method a “presupposition” makes some sense. If someone uses Occam’s razor to shave away God, no argument will convince him but an invitation to spend time in church might convert him. To Pousto, that atheist is entitled to argument, rather than assertion, or perhaps the Christian should not simply give up on arguments which might persuade an atheist, as a tool for conversion. For Pousto, if you presuppose the Bible, you then have to refute all possible other presuppositions- the Koran, scientific materialism, whatever.

His ending, though, illustrates our difference. Are these presuppositionalists not out to persuade the unbeliever? No, but to win him over. Aesop had something on this. No agreement, then: but at least something on which we might fruitfully engage, honing each other’s thought.

Then I find the teleology of eschatology. He sees progress in history. To which I say an unequivocal Yes.

Raw material saw the couple walking ahead of me in the park, then I saw them stopped at a fork in the path. He was standing on the main pathway, she on the causeway between two lakes. I overheard-

-You can go the way we always go if you like, I
(I can’t remember what she said precisely, will/ want to/ would like to are very different in expression)
“go this way”.

I may dislike being merely polite, but they were having a stand-off. It would have been avoidable by her saying, just before she turned, “I quite fancy going this way for a change, do you mind?”

This is a scrap of dialogue, how people actually speak, and a moment which by the rule of Show don’t Tell I would expand, as I could not say straight out that this is a trivial thing to row about.

-He opens his mouth to speak, then his shoulders slump.
-Have it your own way- there follows an Unselfishness competition, encouraged by Screwtape (ch 26).
-Without a word, he goes off by the usual way.
-Sulks or flare-ups may continue to the evening.

I thought, setting out, that there was no point looking for blackberries, but thinking about that couple I found my attention grabbed by one ripe one, among all the shrivelled husks. Unconsciously, I had been looking out for it, and when it appeared my conscious attention zeroed in on it. It had a sweet, delicate flavour. Later, I saw a mauve flower (“wild flower”, “bird”, “tree” is usually specific enough for me) and spent time with its shocking oddity among the November greens and browns. I turned the corner a man called his dog, and asked me a question.  I was more concerned about answering him- raising my voice still sounds male, to me, so- did I see the little dog do a shit? Er, no. After, I think how careful of him. He wants to clean up after his dog, and if it runs off he wants to be sure it has not messed somewhere. At the time I was concerned with other things. I saw him more clearly after. Or imposed different concerns and stereotypes of mine on him.


Should Scotland be independent? No. Given that we cannot tow ourselves out into the Atlantic, our trading circumstances remain the same. Now, we benefit from the Barnett Formula, and oil revenues are decreasing.

We will still have to negotiate with the English. But, now, some of the civil servants negotiating for Westminster are Scots, and others have affection for Scotland as part of our one country. Then, they won’t. We will still have to negotiate internationally, but have less weight.

Devolved, Scotland can have more Socialist policies, such as free residential care for the elderly, and no fees for university students to pay. Independent, Scotland might be unable to afford them.

This was going to be a full post, but I feel no need to say more.