Saturday, December 21, 2013
A story for the solstice
THE SHEPHERD’S STORY
A hard year we’d had of it.
The weather all upside down, autumn in spring, winter in summer.
Crops failing, lambs scanty and weak, and no decent price to be got in the market.
A sense, a deep sense,
A sense things were bad, they couldn’t get much worse;
And yet a sneaky feeling of something actually very much worse just around the corner.
And now this deep cold in the darkest part of the year.
It was Alex first saw it.
Everyone agreed it was him.
Him, her... It.
And someone sniggered. Fred most likely.
Not that we’ve anything against Alex. Well we had, some of us had, but not me.
I’d nothing against him at all. Nothing.
Except this sense I could never get away from, somehow,
This sense there’s something not quite right about him, if you know what I mean, Something of the girl about him, there I’ve said it, though maybe I shouldn’t, and I kept wanting to ask him...
Only he’d look at me just so fierce and defiant like that to be honest I just never dared.
Anyway, it was him who first saw it. Or him, or whatever, and that’s what got me started.
We were sitting together, him and me, apart from the others
Cause they were just grumbling as usual beside the fire, rotten fire they were all saying, When all they had to do was get up and put a wee bit more wood on it,
And I get so tired of telling them,
So there we were, just the two of us, companionable like, (and you can say what you like, Fred Skillings!)
And it was all peaceful and nice somehow and then he said, quietly,
Always saying “Look”, our Alex, and it’s usually about a star he keeps going on about, and we say “You and your stars” and “you’ve got stars in your eyes”, which Fred thinks is incredibly funny, and I was just about to say something similar when.
When I saw it.
Only I didn’t just see it, you didn’t just see it, because it didn’t just light up the sky, it was like a great lamp lighting up your whole body and mind
“It’s a fecking angel”, Fred shouted, excuse the language, “Don’t look at it! Whatever you do, don”t look at it!”
And we all did, of course, everyone did.
“Don’t trust it! Never trust an angel”, he kept on saying, “They’re just bad trouble they are” But you had to, you had to look. You had to trust.
Because whatever this was you knew it was right,
“I trust Alan Titchmarsh”, Fred was saying, only he was saying it to himself.
Because we had all gone.
It was Alex who first said it.
“We’ve to go down to the village to look at a baby”, and normally we’d have told him not to be daft.
But we just set off, because we knew he was right, and we all walked arm in arm somehow, the best friends we’d ever been,
and as I walked along it was like music
and this voice like singing
singing not in words, but if they had been, words, they’s have been something like saying “Change is coming, big change, and if you just go with it all will be well”,
and it wasn’t a man’s voice, and it wasn’t a woman’s voice,
it was a voice,
glory, pure glory,
sing speaking in the very marrow of my bones.
Then we came to the place, nowhere special, just a car park. a cheap tent thrown up on the verge, by the heaps of rubbish,
and homeless people who’d soon be moved on.
And we all felt uneasy, “what were we doing here?”
and then I caught the light in the young woman’s eyes.
Suddenly there were limos, and beautiful people,
dropping on their knees in the mud and the garbage.
And the woman smiled, like she was expecting us,
and then, so we could see him, just lifted up her child.
We all knelt then.
Even Fred, who’d crept up to join us and
Well it was just a baby, that was it, just an ordinary baby
and there really was no reason to be that awestruck and amazed.
Or so we told ourselves, get up you idiots,
You’re all making right fools of yourselves.
That was just the usual voice, yattering away in my head
only this time I took no notice of it
until it just faded off to silence in the end.
I don’t know how long we knelt there
and sometimes I think we never left.
Part of me is still there, always was, always will be.
And I can’t tell you what it felt like
one minute it was there and next minute it were gone
and people say well what did he look like?
You saw him! You saw the saviour of the world!
Well he looked like a baby.
Did he have much hair?
What were the colour of his eyes?
And I. I don’t know.
Oh you’re rubbish. You’re rubbish at describing.
And yes you’re right I am
but it wasn’t about his hair
or the colour of his eyes
or even he was going to do anything to save the world,
I mean, speaking personal,
I think the world’s past saving
but at the same time
but at the same time it was just
Don’t worry, Alex says,
when he sees me struggling,
You’ll get there.
You see in a way it wasn’t about the baby being anything special.
And not about her being a boy either.
Looking back, I think he was a girl at the same time.
It was just
and as we all knelt down in the mud we remembered
we had been babies ourselves,
open and loving and curious
and there, somehow, just there
and we can go back there any time
and that’s what he meant, later,
when he told us about the queendom,
or the kingdom, whatever,
and me and Alex got together that day
and that was a surprise
that was amazing
and after that we had a baby.
and that was even more amazing.
And Alex, still working.
there he was
a pregnant shepherd out in the fields
and no-one said a cross or a nasty or unpleasant word.
And later Fred helped with the babysitting
Monday, December 16, 2013
Imagine John Lennon in Leith
I’m not sure why I bought John Lennon’e “Imagine”. One of those impulses.
Imagine there’s no heaven...
...and I’m back in the cottage just outside St Andrews where we used to live with our friends, Susie and I, and where we first lived together.
It’s easy if you try...
A sister of one of our flatmates was in the late stages of pregnancy and she had come up to stay with us while she had her baby.
No hell below us...
She was a single mum with a somewhat chaotic lifestyle and their mum, who was a very forceful woman and a committed Christian of the most traditionalist kind, had decided that Dorothy would give her baby up for adoption.
Above us only sky...
In those days (the early 70’s) there was still a certain stigma attached to being a single mum, and maybe that was why Dorothy was prevailed upon to give up her child.
She went off to the local maternity hospital, gave birth, and then came back to stay with us. Without her child; in the deepest distress.
We’d just bought John Lennon’s Imagine and somehow she’d appropriated it, and our record player, and played it endlessly, day and night.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do...
But actually it was, impossible, because we got so sick of the music and sick of her distress that we lost all empathy for it.
I still have the LP, all worn and scratched and with the glue no longer holding together it’s cover, and those memories, and now this strange electronic presence on my telephone that I’m hearing through headphones on the bus going down to Leith.
Nothing to kill or die for....
And in my head is the news of the conflict between Christian and Muslims in the the Central African Republic, and the systematic rapes in the Congo, and the endless cruelties of the Syrian war
And no religion too
And I’m down in Leith and I’m surrounded by cheque shops and betting shops and pawn shops and money lending shops, looking for a low cost loan you can trust, APR only 281.5%
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger...
And there’s the supermarket where you can donate tins of soup to the food bank and I can’t help thinking that somehow we didn’t imagine hard enough.
A brotherhood of man...
And we dreamed of that, to be sure, but more especially the sisterhood of women, and when we moved from our cottage to our commune on the Fife coast we tried to live it. Tried to create the cracks in capitalism John Holloway now writes about or live, too, as if in the early days of a better nation.
Our beliefs were so strongly about creating a different and better world and we knew change was essential and on its way and we assumed that ours was the direction the change would take.
Thatcherism we didn’t imagine, or the cruelties and injustice it created and which the present government in London perpetuates.
The beggars on the streets: we never imagined we’d see them.
In fact, I’m not sure anything has happened as we imagined. Neither the good things or the bad.
We never imagined a future in which Scotland would be voting for independence; nor did I ever imagine that I would able to live freely as a trans woman.
Especially not that. That was completely beyond my imagination: I was far too sunk in shame.
You may think I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one....
Dorothy recovered from her anguish and went back to her home. And became pregnant again. This time she found the strength to keep the baby, and became a loving and caring mother to her child.
I hope one day you’ll join me
And the world will live as one.
We couldn’t join you, dear John Lennon, because someone shot you dead. And the world we live in now is even more ill divided than ever.
And I think of the way the things we imagined would happen didn’t; and the way the things we couldn’t imagine would happen actually did.
And I think of the new life in Dorothy; and the new life in me.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Our Tribe and ma vie en rose
The plan was for us to watch a DVD of “Ma vie en rose” together.
This is a tender and beautiful film about a young child who knows he’s a girl and that all this being a boy business is actually a big mistake.
For Our Tribe to watch it together seemed like a good way to end the month of Transgender Remembrance (http://www.transgenderdor.org/) because Our Tribe is the place for LGBT people in our church (http://www.augustine.org.uk).
I love this film. It is so rare to come across any representation of our lives; and rarer still for them to be so positive and funny and affirming.
The first time I watched it I was in my usual state of isolation; watching it again with so many other trans people in the audience made it incredibly powerful.
I can’t say it represented my childhood because was astonishingly more repressed; unlike the film’s main character I had no sister and was strongly removed from all feminine contact from a young age. Including my own mother.
And denied all forms of feminine expression. Except, bizarrely, in the school plays...
But the inner life of the child in the film was most emphatically the inner life I would have had, if I had dared to.
It moved me so very deeply.
Mostly I am grateful for the person I am. Grateful to have loved as a man, grateful aboove all to have been the parent of two children. So grateful to be a grandma. Grateful to have found myself as a writer; and so grateful now to be able to live as a woman.
But watching this film I found myself possessed by the profoundest grief; by deep mourning for the young girl I never was and never now will become.
It was starting to overwhelm me.... and then the DVD broke down. I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.
It felt as though it opened a door into a part of myself that still needs exploring.
But DVD or no, we did what we needed to do.
We came together. We broke the bread. We drank the wine.
We remembered our dead.
And we celebrate our living.
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