Friday, September 24, 2010

I got a phone call this evening from someone who withheld their number.

It was a young woman's voice. She told me my daughter is pregnant and then hung up.

The malice of certain individuals baffles me. I can see no reason for wanting to do such a thing.

Someone once phoned me late at night, when I was very ill nd on the waiting list for heart surgery, addressed me by name and told me my TV licence hadn't been paid and that if I didn't pay at once they would send round bailiffs to collect it.

You could understand that as a clumsy attempt to extort money; but to tell me my daughter is pregnant/ Do they imagine me to be some kind of Victorian parent who will fall about in outrage?

Does the caller know I have daughters? Or is she just phoning at random?

There was no trace of laughter in her voice, or malicious pleasure at upsetting me.

I was out for a walk the other day and passed St. Triduana's well - a Gothic structure built into the hillside of Arthur's Seat. It's covered by a grille, which someone has pushed through and then taken the trouble to push a plastic mineral water bottle through and so spoil the sight of the spring within.

This sort of act tends to be called "mindless" by the press, as if it's enough to throw an insult at a piece of destructive behaviour and then move on in self-righteous indignation.

But nothing is "mindless". There's a reason for everything: and we need somehow to understand it.

But in tonight's tiredness, I am completely failing.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Last night, about this time, I became painfully aware of the beating of my heart.

When I went down to rest, and measured it, it was going at 139 beats a minute.

I won't tell the full story now - too tired - but I want to note this renewed sense of life's fragility.

And the absolute need to do with our lives everything we must and can.


Friday, September 17, 2010

There was a strange hush around my end of town yesterday.
Most of the roads had been closed off for the visit of the Pope, which left the place strangely and rather beautifully peaceful.
At least until the helicopters started buzzing overhead.

I was still feeling very ill with the flu, and so didn't quite have the strength to drag myself out of bed to walk down to the end of my road to see him arrive at or leave Holyrood.

I don't find him an attractive man, or very much of a draw; and I so loathe so many of his opinions I had no desire to see him.

But then this morning, when me and my dear partner were making love - I was obviously feeling better! - I couldn't help but think afterwards how much deep joy and delight there is in giving and receiving profound pleasure, pleasure in company with the one you love.
And that is sacred, as my play says: and the sin is not in "indulging" that pleasure but in denying it.

In that sense the Pope and all those suffering men who surround him are doing themselves the profoundest damage.

And spreading that damage around the world.

What a tragic historical mistake, what a wrong turning European culture took. Starting with Plato, and the absurd separation of soul from body; and those damaged men in the desert, understandably retreating from the world in terrible times, but with so dangerous an ideal of asceticism to spread about the world.

And there's the Pope, the heir and leader of that dreadful tradition: here in Britain and saying things.... that I find myself agreeing with.

When he points at the connection between the current financial crisis and terrifying moral vacuum at the heart of capitalism.

When he talks of the importance of the spiritual dimension in human life.

How tragic that at the same time he should be so appallingly misguided.


Monday, September 13, 2010

A wild day of wind and rain.

I had an impulse to ride in it, and went on what turned out to be a futile journey.

I had to pedal back against the wind, and the rain which was often falling in sheets.

Often in winter this rain is horrible in Edinburgh; in the cold wind, it becomes impossible to face it.

But today it was almost warm; and a somehow exhilarating and reassuring reminder of the coming of autumn.

Many articulated lorries round the back of Holyrood house, all carrying high definition TV cameras; and a huge marquee being prepared for the press. All in preparation for the Pope's arrival on Thursday.

I have heard he is a shy man. These visits must be a kind of torment.

I think of him today, preparing himself. He must be frightened. He is 83: he must be tired of it all.

I remember at his predecessor's museum, besides John Paul's bicycle and canoe and collection of exquisite dresses, there was a series of photographs that traced his decline from handsome, exuberant, charismatic man to someone in the most dreadful agony: destroyed by the strains of his position.

I remember the picture of the Archbishop who denounced me: how sad and frightened a man, as if overwhelmed by the weight of his robes.

A cruel system, I suppose, can only sustain itself by making the cruellest demands on its leaders.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I was surprised when I got home from church to discover that a member of the Orange Order thinks I should be arrested for what i wrote yesterday.

I'm sorry he found it so hateful and threatening. It's not one of my best entries, it has to be said, but I don't think it's so bad as to be a criminal offence.

I didn't want to promote hatred against his order; it seemed worth reflecting on the hatred and fear its music inspires in me.
And put that in context of the wider currents of hatred swirling round the world just now: hatred for Muslims in Christian countries. Hatred for Christians in Muslim countries.

Hatred deliberately fomented by unscrupulous politicians. The "Tea Party" movement in the States. Sarkozy inciting hatred against the Roman in France. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer inciting hatred against those on benefits.

Hatred against the Pope.

The hatred the Pope and his church incites against the likes of me.

The deepest traditions of every religion agree that hate is not conquered by hate. Hatred is only conquered by love.

To love your enemies? Love those who hate you?

When I was a boy, this was one of the passages my Christian teachers would kind of skate over, as being "too difficult".

The other one they tended to skate over was the one that condemned the pursuit of wealth and riches.

But its maybe these that are the most important things he had to say to us.

If we can somehow find a way to hear them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hatred in the streets today as an Orange Order march played its hateful music for what felt like hours.
It works well, that music, at communicating hatred.
I had to stop myself marching out the house to shout obscenities at the hateful fools for what they were doing on this day of all days...
Hatred seems everywhere just now.
Hard not to succumb to it

Friday, September 10, 2010

I encountered a woman at the entrance to the Glasgow tube. She was trying urgently to connect with someone on her mobile phone.
Something was distressing her; I couldn't tell what it was.
And there was nothing I could do.
I bought my ticket and went on to the platform, just as the train was leaving.
The same young woman came down after me, and we stood together on the empty platform.
It didn't matter much to me, missing the train: but it caused her huge distress.
She was still talking down the phone as we walked straight past me, right down the far end of the platform.
Expecting no help. Seeking solitude.
But she was speaking loudly down the phone, full of anxiety and fear. Something happening in Govan. Someone barricaded into a house. Threatening to "pop" people. Armed police everywhere.
Her child was somehow involved.

The train came in, I made sure I was sitting in a different carriage.
This lonely fear and distress was just too much to bear.

I wonder what's happened to us, to make us so lonely.
To make us so incapable of asking for help from each other.
To make us so incapable of giing it.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

I sometimes wonder why I persevere with this, since I rarely get a sense of anyone reading it.

Perhaps its like a radio play; even though the audience is invisible, it still exists.

And even if no-one ever reads it at all, it still matters, because it helps me make sense of things.

And then every now and again, something unexpected happens, usually a chance encounter.

It happened the other day, when I was a little early for an appointment the other evening and went into a bookshop to pass the time.

It's not something I often do these days; bookshops used to be quirky, individual places, but have now almost all become supermarkets. And that saddens me.

But there I was, browsing, when someone came up to me and asked, Excuse me, but are you Jo Clifford.

And so I am.

And it turned out this person reads this blog, and wanted to say how much they enjoy it.

I was flattered as you are, and a bit embarrassed, as I often am, and left, feeling pleased with the encounter.

It somehow helped make sense of the dreadful tedious lecture I then attended.

That night I got an email from the person I had met, who had presented themselves in a perfectly plausible male way.

But they signed themselves with a female name, and said how reading these entries had helped her on the journey to become the person she truly feels herself to be.

I was touched and grateful. Memo to self: remember there are people out there. They do take notice. Everything that is said, matters.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Wednesday is the day i do shopping for my mother-in-law.
So I pay a visit to Mr. Sainsbury on my bike... and on the whole it's a pleasure.
There was a dad there with his daughter today.
He was in his late thirties, and walked with a limp.
It was clear he had one leg much shorter than another, and so had to wear a special boot with a heavily built up sole in order to be able to walk at all.
This had all affected his spine, which was a bit twisted, maybe, and a bit hunchbacked; and it was obvious from the look on his face that he had grown up suffering from a sense of exclusion, and a feeling of himself as being an ugly deformed person.
His daughter was about 7, maybe, and incredibly beautiful.
Lively, intelligent, loving being with her dad. She was proudly weighing all the vegetables they had bought on the scales and printing out the labels.
When you looked closely, it was obvious she had inherited her dad's features.
Which were, in fact, beautiful.
And she reflected his inner beauty back to him: and so he adored being with her as much she adored being with him.
It was beautiful to see in itself.
And all the more moving because I recognised in them what my daughters did for me.
And still do.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A difficulty I encountered when I firt started living as a man was how to introduce myself to people I had known for many years on a routine, rather dull, but utterly indispensable basis.
The Sikh family that ran the local shop. My neighbours on the block. The postman, My dentist. The bank.
I'm not sure why the bank was such a problem.
Perhaps because, when I was a young boy, my family were always teasing me about being 'hopeless with money', an 'absent-minded professor', and so on.
Or perhaps because I felt my dad wanted me to become a business man like hiself. Or at least i assumed he did; and I assumed he was disappointed in me.
Or maybe that was just one of his incompetent ways of reaching out to me; maybe it came from his usually frustrated and always clumsily expressed desire to communicate with me.
I know I so wanted to be accepted by him and loved by him, which I maybe obscurely felt would have happened had I been the girl he wanted.
Or maybe it has to do with the profound terror he instilled in me when he found me playing with the doll I stole from a neighbour.
I certainly remember the total terror I felt 11 or so years later when he came to see me performing as Lizzie in James Saunders' NEXT TIME I'LL SING TO YOU.
And all these memories coming from a simple fact: that it was the bank I found the hardest to enter when i began living as Jo.
Some years ago, I can't remember when, but certainly after Susie died, I managed to get the name changed from "Mr John Clifford" on all my cheques and bank cards and replaced with "J Clifford" which I've certainly been able to live with ever since.
And because I manage my account on-line I no longer get statements addressed to my male self though the post.
But the other day I got a new credit card through the post with "Mr J Clifford" printed on it and felt I really should complete the process.
So I made an appointment with a "bank adviser" whose name was Katie but who was wearing a name badge called "Fiona" and after sorting out the usual confusion over the phone ("No, I am not Mr Jo Clifford, but Ms Jo Clifford and I am a transsexual woman and that is why I still sound male over the phone") she was perfectly pleasant face to face as I turned up with my gendered documentation and the whole procedure was not nearly as complicated as I had feared.
But I came away with a slight worry as to what they might be saying about me when my back was turned; and with a vague feeling of having been made a fool of.
But that, I reflected afterwards, was almost certainly because the banks are ripping us all off.
And making utter fools of us all.


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