Thursday, July 30, 2009

30th July
my body feels like a sounding board: a delicate, sensittive instrument to pick up,resonate with, and amplify all the joys and tensions I am feeling at this time.
And because I stand at the edge of agreat journey, I feel both happy anticipation and great tension and fear.
especially in my right hip: which manifests in stiffness and pain.
because part of me fears going forward, and would stay still.
yet I must move: move through the pain.
Move forward in hope.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

29th July
Wednesday's I go down to a gym in Leith for cardiac rehabilitation.
There's a core group of us, every wednesday, who get into the gym for a reduced price and row on imaginary rivers, cycle up imaginary hills, walk along imaginary pathways, and run along imaginary tracks.

To rehabilitate our hearts.

There's a kind or comraderie to this, because we have all faced death, and we are all engaged in warding off her further attentions.

And maybe it's because this activity brings me face to face with my body's decay, and reminds me of my fragility: that i am so aware of the old people in this still rather poor part of town.

Of the grizzled prostitutes in hot pants, the old men smoking in pub doorways, the isolated old women struggling along woith their shopping bags and zimmers.

All engaged in the same ferocious, isolated, and largely uncelebrated battle: against decay and dying.

Such a fierce, lonely battle, with its setbacks and victories. Its acts of cowardice and heroism.

A battle uncelebrated in this death denying world.

And I wonder how it will be possible, whether it will ever be possible, to create a voice, devise a language to record and celebrate it.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

28th July.
I've had such a happy day.
I had to go to Glasgow, to see GLASGAY about my JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN which they are putting on in November.
And on the way there I found myself writing so productively new scenes for LA PRINCESSE DE CLEVES, which I aim to finish by Saturday.

It turns out the Daily Mail has been sniffing around the Tron programme, where the show has been announced... and today published an indignant piece about the GOMA exhibition. The Pope himself is very incensed with it, apparently.

Somehow a real pleasure to anticipate the show...

And then I went to GOMA and saw the exhibition, some of which members of the Transgender Writing group I led have contributed some beautiful images to. And felt so proud of them.

Last year I took part in the "Hidden City" poetry event in Glasgow. I was taken to a secret sire, asked to write a poem inspired by it, and performed with a group of other poets performing their work.

I'm doing it again this year; so i went to the site, which I cannot describe, and stayed there a while.

And then sketched out the poem on the train home.

And spent the afternoon typing out the new scenes.

Before, this evening, being visited by someone I love.

It occurs to me I am living the life I dreamed of.

I hesitate to write such a thing. i feel, in an old superstitious way, as if I am inviting misfortune.

But i want to bear witness to this: and to my thankfulness.


Monday, July 27, 2009

A sad thing about the neighbourhood in which I live is that more and more of it has been given over to 'buy to let' property.
Including the house next door.

A couple seem to be living in it, with their baby.

They're hardly ever seen: and the house has every curtain and blind closed and shut down tight.

But every now and again I hear them. I hear their washing machine; and sometimes I am sure I hear a woman loudly crying.

And a man angrily shouting, sometimes; and then I think sometimes I hear the sound of a blow.

My daughter said: You think she's being battered.

And yes, i do.

And she adds, with utter matter of factedness: it happens in one out of every five relationships.

And there's nothing you can do, she adds: unless they make more of a disturbance.

Perhaps if I saw her, I think, and there are signs. But I never se her. It's as if she's kept hidden away.

I remember when we were younger, in our fierce feminism. Our determination to build a world in which such things did not happen.

I remember the book i was going to write - "Man and the Woman Inside" - in which i was going to argue there's an internalised drama in every man in patriarchy. That they ("we", then) are taught to despise and distrust the feminine aspect of ourselves. To suppress and deny her. And that the violence involved in that inner process is often reflected in the violence against women in the outer world.

But as it turned out, I could find no publisher.

And I think of the book Susie did write and did publish - "Making It Work" - now sidelined and neglected and forgotten.

How angry we were at the older generation, at the mess they had made of the world and handed down to us.

How arrogant we were. How sure that we would do better.

And have we?


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yesterday the last survivor of the first world war died.
And all the cliches were trotted out, about how we will never forget their sacrifice.
His name was Harry Patch. What happened to him in the trenches was so horrible he was over a hundred years old before he could bring himself to speak of it.
He said very firmly and clearly that we should also honour the Germans; that nothing was or could be gained by war that would justify the suffering it causes.
"We will never forget" says the Prime Minister, no doubt with the greatest sincerity, at the same time he justifies a war which shows he has, in fact, utterly forgooten. Even before the pious words have come out his mouth.
"We will never forget" says the newsreader. And the next item is the new of another British soldier killed in Afghanistan. Because, like the Prime Minister, we have completely forgotten. Forgotten without even being aware that we forgot.
The news reader reads out the name: a picture is flashed up on the screen.
And we are told we will never forget.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

I have a friend with terminal cancer. Of the kidneys. She has a life expectancy of 18 months.

She applied for early retirement on health grounds: and has just been refused.

Weasel words from the Scottish Public pensions Authority both acknowledging her disease; and yet denying it. Making a spurious argument that she could still work.

She is a drama teacher. Common humanity, common sense, common decency would all argue that she cannot work again. That she should be allowed access to her pension: which, at the end of the day, represents her money. Something she has saved for.

This breathtaking piece of vileness was accompanied by another letter from the Department of Employment telling her that in their view she is still fit for work and her allowance will be "adjusted accordingly".

And I have a memory of believing once that we lived in at least a semi-decent society.

I had a meeting not so long ago with a senior nurse responsible for introducing a concept called "Compassionate Care" in various "flagship wards" in the Lothian's hospital system.

Last time I heard from her she said she was almost totally engaged in costing. Working out the cost of compassion, no doubt, in extra man hours. And also, no doubt, trying to justify that extra spend because it led to quicker recovery rates.

The crassness and the callousness of the world we inhabit so horrifies me sometimes.

How can i find words strong enough to condemn it? Or powerful enough, or inspiring enough, to form part of a movement, to improve it?


Friday, July 24, 2009

This morning our journey bgean in the mean-spirited reception area cum bar cum restuarant cum lounge of the Travelodge in Sheffield we were staying in, where they had Sky news on the television screen.
As they seem to, day and night.
It was about 9.10, and some economic figures concerning GDP were going to be announced at 9.30.
So they had some wretch in a suit on screen and were paying him to talk vapidity.
It was all speculation on what the figures might tell: growth or continuing shrinkage.

And then we had the journey home, in a train that didn't have enough carriages, and where the carriages they had didn't have enough space for the luggage, and so each stop was a constant soap opera of anxiety and stress and people were standing in the aisles most of the way and there were knots of men, drinking... and I couldn't help but be struck at how terrible we have become at the collective.

When a capacity for intelligent collective action is just what we need...

And tonight on the Channel four news the story about the economy was that the figures said it is shrinking, and everyone is hoping for a return to 'normalcy' and growth. Totally ignoring the fact that we have entered a time when growth is no longer normal or desirable because it is that which is destroying the planet...

Another item was about Berlusconi... and one of the few independent newspaper editors in Itlay was explaining that Berlusconi was still in power inj spite of the increasing squalor of the scandal that surrounds him because 80% of the Itlaian population get their news solely from the TV. And Berlusconi owns the TV stations, so none of this is reported and the mass of the Italian opopulation is therefore in a state of total ignorance.

And we tut tut about Italy... unaware that we are in a similar state. Because there will be economists that have a sane view of our situation. But they are kept off of our screens; and denied access to the media.

And partly, too, I understand this is my function: to do what I can to disseminate alternate, perhaps hopefully saner, views of what is happening.

Because ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is the road to hell and ruin.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm in Sheffield for my daughter's graduation.

It seems Sheffield teaches a good journalism degree: but it's terrible at ceremonial.

They used a shabby hall for an event that aspired to dignity and authority, but utterly failed to achieve it.

Watching it rather uncomfortably in my plastic chair I felt again all the anger I felt about it all, those years ago when I got my degree: in my shoulder length hair, refusing to wear a tie, I cut quite a conspicuous figure collecting my first class honours in Spanish and Arabic. In those days i never wore shoes either, so I wonder if I even tuned up in sandals.

I always hated the assessment process when I was teaching, and used to subvert it by asking my students to give themselves agrade. Which we would then negotiate.

They used to hate this process, and almost always gave themselves a mark that was less than their real worth.

But self-knowledge, the ability to judge one's own strengths and failure, is one of the most important skills education should be developing in students; and it's that which is utterly disabled by this nonsensical habit of imposing a mark on a student's work from outside.

And this ridiculous ceremony is like the apotheosis of this profoundly damaging, anti-educational practice.

I couldn't help wondering as i watched the academics, looking self-conscious and ridiculouys mostly in their shabbily pompous gowns, just how many of them were the same toadies, time-servers, mediocrities and bullies I encountered at QMU.

I wanted Susie to be there to be see it; she was so anxious in her last illness that her dying would wreck Katie's chances of getting a degree. And I suppose it's because she's so present in my thoughts that for he last couple of nights Susie has been so painfully present in my dreams.

And in spite of everything, it was a real pleasure to celebrate the success of Katie's good friends, and to thank one of her teachers - a good man called Foster - for inspiring and challenging her so much.

And I felt such pride in her, too: at what she's achieved, against a whole host of difficulties.

At the amazing, gifted, beautiful young woman she is.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

When i was teenager, I used sometimes to try to console my desperate loneliness by imagining that one day I would meet a group of women friends who would accept me as their friend. They would lend me their best dresses to wear, and we would all be really close friends together.

I don't think the fantasy lasted very long because I rejected it as being too absurd to ever come true.
But now it has, often. When i was in france the other weekend my lovely companion lent me one of her dresses so we could go out together.

It was a beautiful dress and I was so touched by her gesture.
So I'm struck by the melancholy in this photo: I wish i could have looked a bit happier. At least to show more appreciation to my lovely friend.

Perhaps Wilde was right when he said it was a great misfortune when dreams came true... But I think not. It's just that sometimes these moments of happiness bring up memories of long repressed sadness.

And set them free, hopefully, so they trouble us no more.


Monday, July 06, 2009

I never have much liked marriage.
Susie and I got married a bit unwillingly, for her parents' sake. We did our best to make it meaningful, but I wouldn't say it was the happiest day of my life.
the happiness came before.
And after.
Nowadays i feel more cynical about it all than ever. It seems to be yet another device for getting people into debt. Or inducing them to spend money they cannot afford.
A source of anxiety and distress.
A characteristic example of the way our society encourages us to focus on the things that don't matter - the ceremony, the trappings- and neglect the things that really do.
Love. Tolerance. Kindness. A deep sense of regard for one's self and the other...
And yet today when my elder daughter phoned me from Paris to say her man had just proposed to her, and that she had accepted... I found myself profoundly moved.
Weeping with happiness.
Nothing has changed, really: he's the lovely man he always was. She the amazing the young woman she has grown up to be.
I knew they loved each other, and will probably always try to live together.
So why this happiness?
Perhaps, simply because it's a declaration of love.
And we all need so much more of it...


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