Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I woke about 2am.
The CPAP machine that keeps me breathing as I sleep had gone wrong again. It felt was if it had been pumping at too much pressure: there was soreness around the base of my eyes (where the air, under pressure, had escaped my face mask) and a feeling of oppression in my chest.
Couldn't sleep.
But I rewrote THE TREE OF LIFE as the sky slowly lightened in a beautiful dawn.
Later I phoned the Sleep Clinic and arranged to go out to the new Royal Infirmary to get a new machine.
I was a bit early, and to fill in time obeyed an impulse to go to the back of the building, where the car park is.
It's not a beautiful car park: but I remember soon after my heart operation being allowed out the ward for a walk, and slowly, painfully dragging myself out the back door into the weak sunshine.
It seemed unutterably lovely.
On the way back, I'd bumped into my consultant cardiologist: and he'd said how good it was to see me out of bed again, and walking, and looking better.
It was the kind of thing, he said, that made his job worthwhile.
I wanted to revisit that spot today; and then, strangely enough, as I was walking into the sleep clinic, I bumped into the same man again.
He was on his way to the coronary care ward opposite.
He's a good kind caring man, and I like him.
He also likes my plays. he mentioned the last one he'd seen (EVERY ONE) though he couldn't remember the title, and couldn't even remember a thing about it.
He was embarrassed about this, and I teased him. I hope it came across as affectionate.
Thinking about the work I'd been doing in the early hours of the morning, it all made me smile.
There I was, imagining I'd been doing good work to make the play interesting and provocative; but there he was, a dedicated man, overworked and I guess pretty exhausted.
And what he looked for in the theatre was perhaps more the chance to sleep...


Monday, July 26, 2010

George Monbiot on the "war against the motorist":

"You can see the victims of the real war that's being waged – the war against road safety – in every hospital and mortuary up and down the land. Seven killed, 71 seriously injured, every day. About 120 children killed in Britain every year: 120 families plunged into lifelong grief.

Every two or three weeks I visit a spinal injuries unit in which a close friend is confined. He wasn't hurt on the roads, but many of the other patients were. Every time I walk though that hospital I see the broken bodies, the shattered hopes, the endless complications, both physical and psychological, caused by the war being waged on the roads. You will see something similar in wards which specialise in the loss of limbs and eyes, the smashing of faces, the crushing of brains. This is the closest most of us will get to seeing the aftermath of war, a shattering of lives that bears no relationship to what Penning so crassly describes as the war on the motorist.'


Sunday, July 25, 2010

25th July
there were over a hundred people in church today, and an air of general celebration.
To outward appearances, many of the congregation are very conventional, many of them elderly. And I really shouldn't continue to be amazed at how open minded they are, how welcoming, how warm.
But I am.
This coming Saturday I am due to be performing a reading of JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN in the church; something that moves me profoundly; and so many people came up to me to say they were looking forward to coming, or regretting the fact that they could not.
They all totally understood the significance of what i am trying to do in a way i have never encountered before.
the church aims to be inclusive; and totally is, in an impressive and profoundly moving way.
Some, but not all, of this is due to the amazing minister, Fiona, who as ever led a very beautiful service.
Meantime the Church of Scotland, the Anglican, and the Catholic church are all convulsed over the issue of women bishops or priests; and homosexual bishops or priests, in a way that does nobody any good and is profoundly damaging for all concerned.
Watching Fiona it's so obvious that to deny so gifted an individual the right to her vocation is absurdly self-destructive.
I think of all those locked churches i encountered in France: locked and disused because the priests are no longer there to serve them.
Unlike my enemies, I make no claims as to God's thinking.
I have no need to. The evidence is right there in front of our eyes.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

24th July
I went swimming today.
For a transsexual, this is one of these activities that "norma"l people take for granted: but which for us is immensely complicated.
Almost everyone feels a certain anxiety about stripping off in public; and that anxiety is the worse for us.
The trappings that we use to enable us to pass in the day to day world without risk of attack are stripped away fro us;and because we are in a situation where everyone else is also in a state of anxiety, there's a real risk of exposure and hostility.
The anxieties and self-consciousness of the general population tend to get redoubled in us.
With the result that mostly we don't use gyms or go swimming at all.
(Or else, like me in the gym, we have to resign ourselves to not being able to use the changing rooms or showers afterwards)
So the sessions for trans people organised by the LGBT health centre are a total godsend.
It is such a joy to be able to swim in safety, without self-consciousness or fear.
The pleasure I took this afternoon....!
Just a simple pleasure in being in the body.
Which for most of us, most of the time, is so immensely difficult...


Friday, July 23, 2010

23rd June
Listening to the "Leningrad" symphony yesterday; watching the Stalingrad episode of "The Eorld at War" today.
(A bit surprised at this sudden interest in the history of warfare)
The worthwhile question, i think, has to do with trying to understand the collective madness that makes such atrocities possible.
There is the madness of the leaders themselves - Hitler, Stalin - but the greater, collective madness that propelled such monsters into power and maintained them there.
Except, of course, it also pushed them into even deeper and more self-destructive madness
(Hitler waving his hand over the map at conferences, vaguely, without precision, and refusing to take practicalities into consideration. Saying he wanted to se "less professionalism" and more "Third Reich spirit" in his generals. Because they all opposed him. Probably it was this madness that in the end saved us, though at catastrophic loss of life)
The question is whether this spirit, this collective madness, which Tolstoy I think tried to describe (War and Peace) and Koestler too (Darkness at Noon)which has us all in iys grip and against which we seem to struggle in vain...
what monstrosities is it giving birth to?
And will it end up destroying us?


Thursday, July 22, 2010

They were playing Shostakovich's "Leningrad" symphony on the Proms tonight, and it was wonderful to hear it.
Less wonderful to hear the idiot comments about the dreadful difficulties the composer faced under Stalin and how was it possible to carry on composing under these circumstances?
With the unspoken assumption that artists in the West in the present have complete freedom to create whatever we want.
The complacency around our "freedoms" never ceases to irritate me.
This after a difficult day struggling with a sense of failure.
Which really is not justified.
But the symphony moved and strengthened me, I guess, because it acknowledged my fears at current atrocities and terrors and yet gave me hope for the future: a sense that light will somehow in the end prevail.
Which is exactly what it did for its original audience.


Monday, July 19, 2010

I was tidying the house yesterday when I came across a notebook.
My house is full of them, all at the moment in huge disorder: some are more or less irregularly kept diaries, some are books in which I have written the rough first draft of plays. Some are both.

This one was mostly a diary.

September 2005: I happened to open it at an entry where Susie was in what I thought were the last stages of her illness.

Because death by brain tumour seems a largely unresearched process, and since we had been told in August she had only days, maybe weeks, left to live, we lived in daily fear, and had no means to understand what was happening to her.

I'd gone to sleep that night and was woken up by the sound of her waking up and heading unsteadily for the toilet. When I went through to make up her bed, I discovered she had shat in it. And hastily changed it, because I didn't want her to know. She was horribly humiliated by such things.

She came back before I had finished, and pushed past me like a sleep walker, and fell unconscious. Her breathing became hideously laboured, and she started convulsing.

I thought this was her dying, and phoned the doctor. But because his was the first night of NHS 24, the doctor's surgery was no longer accepting calls. And I couldn't remember the new nhs number, and I couldn't find pen or paper to write it down, and all the time I was in total terror of her dying.

But when I did get through, the woman at the other end was marvellous, and told me what to do, and kept me together with her calmness and her knowedge and her professionalism until the ambulance came.

Which was another crisis, because the gate into our yard was locked, and I was torn between Susie and the phone and trying to find the key, and out in the courtyard in my dressing gown and nightie trying to explain.

But the ambulance people were good, and I threw on some clothes, and they took us to the Western. Where a doctor explained Susie was in status epilepticus, and her survival was problematic, and they had put her on a ventilator.

I should bring in the family, the doctor said, and I also said Susie would not want to be on a ventilator, I think somehow in the midst of my distress, and she said: "Susie has a fifty percent chance" and I said, we must take it, and phoned my two daughters and Susie's mum, and they call came.

It must have been about 1am.

I don't know when it was the doctor came back, and said "She's breathing on her own". Some time later they had tidied her up, I guess, and let us see her, in the ressuscitation room, a terrible inhuman space littered with so much equipment Susie herself looked very small and insignificant beside it.

But there she was in the midst of it all, looking and breathing so peaceful, and we each kissed her and told her we loved her and went home.

I think it was about 5am, but I was up again to be at the hospital for 11, and she was in an assessment ward surrounded by men, but that's another story, with all the screens around her, and with a eing attached to her nose in a vaguely punkish kind of way, but the ring was attached to a terrifying, huge, steel tube that they'd shoved down her throat to open her airway, and left in, just in case, I suppose.

It was tormenting her in her semi-conscious state, and I had them remove it, and then there were the usual fraught discussions about where to dispose of her in a system that was completely overflowing.

She kept saying, "Ask me questions", and I didn't understand, "Ask me. Ask me" with a piteous kind of urgency and it was only later in the day that I understood, when all was calm again and she was in a side room in a cancer ward: she wanted us to ask her questions like: "What day of the week is it?" and "Where are you?" and "Who is Prime Minister?" so she could answer them and prove she had not completely lost her mind.

All this came flooding back yesterday, with my back sore, and the tears coming: because all of it has been stored in my body all this while.

Later we moved the trestle she used as a desk and had installed in the upstairs room right after it was built, in 200 or so, and which has not been moved since.

My desk was just beside it; I suffer from an allergy to dust, and have frequently been sneezing as I sit to work.

And no wonder: the trestle was thick with dust, layers and layers of it. Because I had not dusted the space at all.

And I was horrified by this evidence of self-neglect: the paralysing inheritance of grief.


Friday, July 16, 2010

I haven't written here for a while.
Mainly because my private life has become profoundly private and no lobger simply mine to write about any more.
Which is a good thing.
And because my public life, my writing life, has been almost totally taken over by the effort of re-writing "The Tree of Life".
And there is something about this process which not only defies analysis, but which is actually damaged by the attempt to analyze.
The play ia slowly falling into place in its essentially mysterious way; and taking a form that has utterly surprised me.
Whether it will actually work it is still far too early to say.
Meanwhile I am spending quite a bit of time in Newport, in a house by the river Tay.
There is something totally hypnotic about the endless procession of this vast mass of water, backwards and forwards each day: in unimaginable volumes and with unimaginable force and power.
I worked on the play this morning, we had lunch, and then a rest, and then I walked by the river.
Along the shore line in the wind, under the scudding clouds, with the water rattling against the rocks, until I came to the Tay Bridge.
You can walk under the huge structure, and then along to the edge of woodland.
I felt such contentment, such a peace; and all of a sudden surprised myself by the thought that life could be always like this.
That the daemon that has driven me so unremmitingly the last thirty years or so could perhaps even now be finally at rest.
And i glimpsed a real possibility of happiness.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

We were staying over the weekend at a hotel in the Lake District where they made something of a feature of feeding the wildlife at night for the guests' entertainment.
I liked the hotel, and our tower room was very beautiful...
but there was something a bit wrong with beautiful wild animals being paraded for photo opportunities.
And so when on our second night the receptionist/manageress greeted us at dusk wearing enormous Daffy Duck slippers and urged us to join the others by the picture window in the lounge, watching the foxes and the badgers and listening to Dido, we demurred.
But went up to our beautiful fire escape overlooking the woods and the garden and enjoyed the sight of them just the same...


Friday, July 02, 2010

A tiny item on the news yesterday.
Carnage in Lahore. It was brief, because Pakistan has stopped being a story.
Which I suspect indicates that what is happening there is of huge importance.
It turns out 2 suicide bombers had walked into a Sufi shrine and detonated bombs packed with ball bearings among a huge crowd.
42 people killed, maybe 200 wounded.
It was the Data Ganj Baksh shrine dedicated to a medieval Pashtun saint, Rahman Baba.
People gather on Thursday night to dance, and to pray, and to listen to devotional song.
Rahman Baba wrote poems of great beauty in which he asserts:

“I am not a Khalil, not a Daudzai, not a Momand of an Afghan
I am a lover and I concern myself incessantly with love”

And more profoundly, reflecting on the holiest Muslim shrine:

“Greater than building Abraham's Qaaba
Is it, to heal the wounded heart of another.”

He is part of a different Afghan identity that we in the west never hear about: one the Taliban, also, must profoundly hate.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Today i went to see a cut down LYSISTRATA at Oran Mor.
It's the last of a season of 22 new plays this year.
What I love about their output is that it doesn't matter what the critics say; they have their regular audience who know their own mind.
And today there was a huge air of celebration about the place.
It was full, completely full: not everyone could get a seat.
And the bar was full for a few hours afterwards.
This is how theatre could and should be working, I can't help feeling.
And I met with David Walshe there, and Susan Worsfold, and we plotted our own show.
It's a creative place that allows such things to happen...


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