Saturday, June 02, 2012

Keeping on


Strange days.

Wednesday in the geriatric ward. Jean says “You’ve got to get me out of here”. The woman next door is weeping silently. The woman opposite is calling out, over and over again, calling out to all her family: “john. Where are you? Come here. Come here! Betty. Where are you?..” And Alan. And Phil. And Joan. and “Mum. Where are you? Mum? Where are you? Help me. Help me...!”

And Jean’s distressed because someone’s taken her last skirt and they’ve put her in trousers. And she so hates trousers.

All the week’s phone calls have finally conjured up a social worker, who wants to do her best, and a conversation with the consultant, who wants to do her best, and all the endlessly patient and hard-working staff, they all want to do their best.

“Where are my red shoes?” asks Jean. And “Why aren’t I at home?”

And she shoots me a look of hatred.

Her daughter did the same, my life’s love, when she had to go to the hospice because we couldn’t look after her any more.

And I couldn’t bear it.

That morning I’d been at “One Day In Spring” David Greig’s beautiful, intelligent. angry and heart warming compilation of Middle Eastern writers, and had loved it, loved both the actors. Sara Shaawari, the very talented young woman, was performing there because I’d introduced her to Oran Mor, and I was trying to hang on, hang on to this tiny positive act, and next morning I was in Glasgow.

In a rehearsal room of the Citizens theatre, we’ve been asked to make a four minute trailer out of “Sex Chips and the Holy Ghost” to see if it can be made for television, and here I am, deeply deeply involved even though ten? fifteen? years ago i gave up trying to write for TV, but I want to do this, partly I understand because I want to do what I can about the way transgender people are portrayed on TV, but the responsibility of all that is just so enormous.

In spite of that in the evening I find myself writing the script, a bit incredulous, as i sit in a cafe before going back to the Citz to see the double bill of Beckett plays.

This is surprising also because way ago, early eighties perhaps, I saw a season of late Beckett’s in the Edinburgh Festival and loathed them.

Despised them with all the fierce arrogance of my younger heart.

“An aesthetic dead end” I knew for a certainty. Felt sure I could do better.

This time I’m converted. Beautiful production. And I’m older.

Maybe my bus pass also gives me access to this world, coming closer to death, and especially with “Footfalls” I am so with the beautiful gifted Kath Howden, pacing back and forth, back and forth, I have to put a hand over my mouth to stop myself crying out in my grief and my terror.

In the tube ride back my travelling companion reminds me of Creative Scotland, and the huge and dangerous gulf between them and the artists they are supposed to be serving, and in the flat where I am staying I am linked to David Greig’s very wise response to it, but I haven’t time, I haven’t the room in my brain.

There is so much work to be done.

I type out the bit of dialogue, so different when it’s for screen, and next day we start to try it.

Me and David Walshe and Susan Worsfold, my lovely collaborators, and then in the afternoon Stuart Platt appears with his camera.

Something miraculous has happened. the dialogue works. Me and David are performing it, and when we look at the recording I don’t just look at myself and think “how ugly”.

I also like some of the things I am doing. It becomes apparent we could be on to something.

There’s another miracle: some of April’s form filling and phonecalls has made a place for Jean materialise in a good care home. In somewhere she actually wants to go to.

Next morning, today as it happens, a whole group of playwrights have signed a rather wonderful open letter in the Scotsman about Creative Scotlan, and for a moment i find myself in acute paranoia at not having been asked to join them.

Occupational hazard of being transgendered, I tell myself. All those years of feeling not male, not female, and therefore not human.

But it calls for coffee. It’s an emergency. I go across the Canongate to Starbucks where they sell coffee beans in bag, and the man behind the counter calls me “Sir”.

I hate these moments. the temptation is to be overcome by embarrassment and say nothing. But that makes me an accomplice in the silencing of my own being.

I say: “Sir’s not right” as politely and as firmly as I can. The man smiles and says he’s sorry.

Later David Greig has set up a Twitter hashtag: #stworldclass, which is clever of him, and there’s an amazing and moving flood of posts of so much Scottish theatre has achieved.

It makes me very proud, and a bit intimidated, and I wonder if I should post some of mine...

And then remember that’s another occupational hazard of being transgendered. To continually do yourself down.

So I resist.

I’m glad I do: I am, and I think rightly, proud of what I’ve achieved.

I wrote once “I see writing theatre as an act of resitance”.

And still do. And still go on.

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