Monday, 19 December 2011

TV Dinners, Swans and new Friends

Work continues to occupy way more of my time than I’d like it to. But there have been pleasant interludes.

The Christmas TV dinner at Billie and Kathie’s was great. Sally came along as well, and it was really nice to see Tina, Laura, Julia, Nikki, Billie, Kathie, Katie, Jan and everyone else …

The Surrey Swans meeting at the end of November was fun as well. Good to catch up on things with Emma and others. A few new people have been able to get along as well which is really nice … even someone that actually lives in Transylvania has been along a couple of times now.

Several weeks ago I received an email asking for some information about the Surrey Swans group.

I'm very shy and nervous and not very confident as I’ve not been out before … I really want to start enjoying my TV life …

Since then Rachel’s had a meal with Sally and myself and is looking forwards to getting along to the Surrey Swans meeting in January next year. It was really nice to meet Rachel… and a privilege to be one of the first people to ever meet her. It will be really nice getting to know her better.

The hotel is booked for Sparkle 2012 and hopefully a few of us will be able to get along to Pink Punters sometime early in 2012,

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Matthew Chapter 1: Family history, prophecies and a virgin birth

Here is the beginning of my account of revisiting the Bible.

As I’ve mentioned previously, in my early youth I was an atheist. At the age of 18, as a student, I became a born again evangelical Christian.  More recently I’ve become more of a sceptical kind of agnostic. I’ve also reached a position in my life where I’ve been able to accept and enjoy my own trans or mixed gendered-ness. My opinions and feelings on male and female sexuality have changed a lot.

For a year or more now I’ve been meaning to see if Jesus, Christianity and the Bible still have things to say to me.

As a start I’ve spent some time reading and thinking about the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel. There’s a copy of it here.

In a way it’s tricky.

Who wrote it? What motivated them? Is it trustworthy or true?

Different people say different things about this. I’ve read things that have discussed this.

Like many things in life, there’s no absolute and incontrovertible proof one way or the other.

I’m going to try to read the whole gospel without worrying too much about who wrote it or what their motives might have been. I’ll try and just read the words to see what they have to say to me.  

It begins with a list of what it says are the ancestors of Jesus.

Actually they are ancestors of Joseph.

Soon after the list of Joseph’s ancestors it goes on to say that Joseph wasn’t actually the father of Jesus.

So it’s strange that the ancestors should be classed as ancestors of Jesus. According to this passage at any rate, they aren’t biological ancestors.

The list of ancestors is interesting. Some well known and revered names … Abraham, David, Solomon. None of them perfect. All fallible. A name that seems is given prominence is David and mention is made of Bathsheba.

The story of David and Bathsheba is almost like a soap operatic tragedy. I just read through that again … it’s here and continued here. It’s hard not to get side-tracked from looking at Matthew’s gospel at this point. David did such an awful thing. And it’s hard to understand what God was up to in it all … it seems that God punished David by killing an innocent baby.

Then there is the story of the virgin conception. Joseph didn’t believe it until an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.

It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t generally happen, so I can understand why he’d find it difficult to believe. And so do I.

I suspect that most Christians that believe in the virgin conception do so because they are Christians rather than the other way round. People don’t usually become Christians because they got convinced about the virgin conception. It was something else that convinced them about Christianity.

So it was with me when I believed it.

To some … to many… it’s a critically important truth. The thing that allows Jesus to be both Divine and human.

There’s mention that the birth of Jesus came about the way that it did in fulfilment of prophecies made in the Old Testament of the Bible.

To me at the moment, the genealogy isn’t so important. Nor the idea that the birth of Jesus was in fulfilment of prophecies. Nor the concept of the virgin birth.

The passage maybe raises more questions than it gives answers. Life seems to be like that as well. It seems to be there to set the scene and define the credentials of Jesus.

I’ve read that Matthew’s gospel was especially aimed at a Jewish audience for whom all of this would be significant. But is it true? Did it happen that way? Does it matter if it did or didn’t? If it didn’t happen that way … did the person that wrote it know … what does it say about their motives and integrity?

It would be kind of nice if an angel were to come along and explain some of it to me. Or just say to me that it’s how things are. Or that God is there and that all will be well. So far, at least as far as I know, this hasn’t happened to me.

I’ll try and be open to the possibility … but it’s not difficult to be sceptical.

It’s encouraging, in a strange sort of way, that some of the people mentioned in the genealogy are as noteworthy for their shortcomings as they are for their successes.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Mortality and beliefs

Recently one of our pet cats lost the use of her back legs all of a sudden. She was 18 years old. We paid a visit to the vet and, as we expected, there was no treatment that he could offer other than to put her to sleep.

The incident raised all kinds of thoughts and feelings.

Sooty was Katie’s (my younger daughter’s) pet. Katie came home so that she could be at the vets … to be able to say goodbye.

I so much wanted to be able to make things better.

The decision to allow the vet to inject the lethal dose of chemicals wasn’t easy to make … even in a situation when no kinder alternative seemed to exist.

She lays half paralysed

Yet able to warble in her own special way

At the touch of a hand or a whisper

Gentle caresses and words of comfort

As the needle delivers its payload

Ultimately helpless

We are all slaves of time

Events like this make me wonder about life and death.

Over the years my views on this have changed. From atheist to born again Christian to agnostic to I don’t really know.

Last weekend I was talking with a friend about how once life seemed to include a lot of black and white issues. Rights and wrongs. Whereas now there seem to be many shades of grey. Which reminds me of a song Where do we go from here? that was part of a Christian Musical called Lonesome Stone way back in the early 1970’s.

Last Christmas I read A new kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren at the recommendation of Dani. I was surprised by it … offering a possibility of some kind of a return to some kind of a belief when I’d thought that there had been no way back.

I’ve not made much progress on that front up to now, but I’m thinking about it still.

In moving from a position of atheism to being born again I was influenced heavily by Christians that I met at university who were connected with The Navigators. There was a great deal that was good about the experience.

More recently I’ve found the concept of belief in God to be a whole lot harder. The reasons for this are mixed. They include gender, sexuality and, I guess, rationalism.

As I’ve been able to accept and be happy with my own feelings of mixed gender I’ve not really revisited the beliefs that I once held.

And so … perhaps now I will.

There are a lot of different approaches that I could take.

For now I think it will be similar, in some ways, to the approach that was recommended to me back in the 1970’s … a look at the gospels in the New Testament of the Bible. Some of the things that Brian McLaren says in his book fit into this approach as well … he suggests that the way to understand the Bible is to start with Jesus … the Gospels … rather than attempting to understand Jesus and the Gospels by reading the rest of the Bible first.

But, there will also be significant differences.

I’ll be looking at it from a different angle … with a different set of life experiences and different expectations.

My views on gender and sexuality are different than they used to be. I know that will affect how I interpret and understand things.

In a way it will be a backslidden Tranny perspective on what it all says. And to some people maybe that makes the whole exercise futile and meaningless.

But as a backslidden Tranny I’m hoping that it will mean something to me.

I don’t know where it will lead me … closer or further away from a belief in God.

But it’s something I feel that I need to do.

If you’re reading this I’d value your comments, thoughts and feelings … from whatever perspective you make them … so please comment.

Tomorrow … or soon after … I’ll begin reading the gospel of Matthew.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Chris While, Julie Matthews and a Letter to the President

On Monday Sally and I went to see Chris While and Julie Matthews at the Nettlebed Folk Club.

We both enjoyed it a lot. The music was great and it’s special to have a chance to get to hear some of the background behind the songs.

The songs … a mix of brand new and old …. evoked a whole range of thoughts and feelings.

Some of the things I remember from it …

The opening song was an encouragement to try to see beyond whatever the hassles of the moment are … to believe that things will get better … and a celebration of what can be the beauty of life.

A song by Julie Matthews … Hope Springs … you can see and hear it here. I think I maybe mentioned this once before. Julie wrote it in memory of a friend that died of cancer one Christmas eve. The friend was in her mid thirties and had hoped to live into the January so she could be there for her daughter’s first birthday. But it wasn’t to be. And yet, somehow, people find hope even in the midst of despair.

A song from Chris While, Steady Breathing that you can listen to a little of here. Chris wrote this after spending time with her sister prior to her sister’s chemotherapy treatment. That was eight years ago and things are good.

Julie sang a new one that was inspired by her feelings relating to some things she had heard and researched relating to the 9 – 11 remembrance things that happened recently. She mentioned that there had been no room for the rescue services at the gatherings … that almost as many firelighters have died since 9 –11 as died at the time … from illnesses that they likely contracted because of the work that they did in dealing with the aftermath. And that survivors who are dying because of the work that they did have no health cover … there’s some information on this here. Julie said that as she found out more about this she needed a way to release some of her anger. And part of this was to write a song about it … Inconvenient Heroes.

Another song … I’m not sure of the title … but the words I apologise  featured heavily in it. One of those songs where I think just about everyone, in their honest moments, will think … yes … that’s me as well. The smallness of the two words and the way that they can sound like lies even when spoken sincerely. The way in which we hurt each other. Made me cry. Not unhappily. More out of a sense of empathy.

Walking at lunchtime yesterday I thought about apologies and sorrow. Mistakes we make. How it can take a lifetime to build a trust but only moments to destroy it. How easy it is to say something. How impossible it is to un-say it. It seems as though there’s a built in inevitability in life that people who are close to each other will sometimes hurt each other. And there is ever a need for apologies and for forgiveness.

Another thought and feeling provoking song sung by Chris that I don’t know the title of … the sadness and pain of a relationship where people have grown apart and don’t really see how it ever got to be that way … to arrive at a place where “everything we say seems to be goodbye”.

A lighter hearted look at the circles we seem to run in … spending so much time diggin’ holes and filling ‘em in.

It was a really great evening. If you ever get the chance to go and see them … go ahead and do it.

Today I was walking and thinking about the fire-fighters in the USA who have no healthcare and are sick because of the work they did after the carnage of 9-11.

I thought that there’s not a lot I can really do to solve the whole problem. But maybe there is someone that can.

So tonight I spent a few minutes sending an email to him at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

These are my words:

Dear Mr President,

A few days ago I was at a concert here in England. Julie Matthews introduced a song that she had written that had been inspired by the recent 9-11 commemoration events.

She had heard that many fire-fighters had died and others are desperately sick because of the valiant work that they did in helping deal with the aftermath. And yet, many of these men and women are without healthcare.

Julie said she had written the song as a way of helping to come to terms with the anger that she’d felt at hearing of all this.

I believe that irrespective of party politics you are a man who always wants to do what is right.

Please would you do all in your power to see that these men and women and their loved ones are taken care of?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

There’s a lot more that could be said, I know. And I don’t know that it will make much difference.

In the end, though, if enough people say the same thing politicians do sometimes take heed and listen. And, actually, even though I don’t agree with everything that President Obama says or does, I do believe that he wants to do what is right. It’s just not at all easy knowing what is right.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Bitter sweetness

The past few months have been a mix.

Life is a mix.

A holiday walking in northern Italy. Engagement of our elder daughter. Younger daughter starting afresh at university. A cousin diagnosed with cancer a while ago approaching the end of this life. Our closest friends being told that they must change their beliefs and convictions or be unwelcome at the church they have been involved with for over thirty years. Long, long hours at work.

The leaves are falling from the trees. Winter approaches. And, in the words of Chris While, the night is stealing from the day.

Today as I walked I wondered what it is that ultimately wins. Life or death? There was a time that I sang along with the hymns that talked about death having lost its sting. I tend not to sing hymns any more.

Life, death. Beginnings, ends. Bitter, sweet.

Maybe each needs the other somehow.

There is, I think, no safety in life.

As Simon and Garfunkel sang ... a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries. But neither do rocks and islands smile.

To love, and to be loved it seems, is to find purpose and meaning. And also to lay oneself open to pain.

It seems to be the way that things are.

While I was in Italy I read through the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible.

It’s kind of well known in parts:

For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Ecclesiastes is full of contradictions. Wisdom. Foolishness. Hope. Despair.

A bit like life.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Creation, Evolution, Lies and Truth

Over the weekend I read and then heard about the things that happened in Norway.

And things happening in Africa.

Sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic about things.

I also watched some religious television. Dr Grady McMurtry was talking about Creation versus Evolution. There’s a clip of him here if you’re interested. It’s not the programme that I saw … but gives you a feel for the things he believes.

 

It’s worth checking out his background from other sources as well though … for example here.

I only caught part of the programme. He was reading from the New Testament – Romans Chapter 1 and seemed pretty much to be in the process of making a case against the idea of evolution and in favour of the idea of creation.

Once I would have agreed with some of what he was saying. But not all of it.

Right now, to me at any rate, his arguments seem to be somewhat disingenuous.

Why? And does what I think matter at all?

Well … it matters to me. And putting the thoughts into words helps me as well.

So here goes with some of Andreas thoughts on Creation, Evolution, Africa, Norway and Fundamentalism.

Some scientists are convinced that there is no God. Evolution is maybe then the only way the universe could have happened. Christians are enemies. Religion is the enemy.

Some Christians are convinced in the literal truth of the book of Genesis in the Bible. Creation is the only way the universe could have happened. Evolutionists are the enemy. Philosophies with roots outside of Christianity are the enemy.

And maybe the same is true of some of the followers of some of the other religions.

Myself. I think I am agnostic. I don’t know if God is there. If the level of my commitment to agnosticisms seems unconvincing … well that’s probably because I’m not convinced.

As an aside … did you hear about the agnostic dyslexic insomniac? He would lay awake all night wondering if there really was a dog.

Sorry. I heard that one at a Christian meeting I was at many tears ago,

In the days when I believed in God I was never in the camp of literal Bible Believers. I would say that I was a “creationist” … but not the kind that believes that the Earth is only thousands of years old. Which maybe means that I wasn’t actually a “creationist” at all.

Back to the letter that Paul the Apostle wrote to the Christians in Rome and to Grady McMurtry.

He seems to be firmly in the literal creationist and anti-evolutionist camp.

My Bible quotes are from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV). At the time that I’m writing this you can read the first chapter of Romans here. There are some Christians who view the NIV Bible as being a work of the Devil (take a look here for example) so here is the King James Version (KJV) of Romans Chapter 1 which some people believe to be the absolute literal Word of God.

Well … in the part of the TV programme that I saw, Grady seemed to be presenting the stuff in Romans chapter 1 verse 18 onwards as some kind of an attack on people that believe that evolution happens.

So where it says:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

he seemed to be saying that it was evolutionists that are suppressing the truth by their wickedness.

To me it all seems a lot more ambiguous than that.

I don’t think that it’s true that:

since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made

When I look at the world I see a whole mix of ambiguous messages. Beauty. Ugliness. Life. Death. Joy. Sorrow. Peace. War.

Another thing I watched at the Weekend was the movie The Invention of Lying. This scene expresses some of the ambiguity of it all. If you haven’t seen it then do watch it.

 

There was a time when I would have tried to understand good and bad as follows:

  • God made all the good things
  • we turned away from God and that resulted in all the bad things.

Now … maybe that is the case.

But either way … looking at the evidence around me … it’s not at all clear to see God’s invisible qualities in every aspect. You have to be picky. And that pickiness isn’t easy to do without some kind of faith.

It doesn’t seem reasonable to blame people for misinterpreting nature or misinterpreting some religious people.

And then, back in Romans we have:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Which begins with an unfair kind of statement, because they didn’t really know God in the first place – so how could they knowingly exchange God for something else?

Grady chose to emphasise a few particular aspects of this stuff – giving the impression that the teaching of evolution is directly responsible for the following “facts”:

  • there are more gays and lesbians in the world
  • there are more murders – mainly because he views abortion as being murder – and because society at large allows abortion then it has legalised abortion … and this is a direct result of the teaching of evolution
  • more children disobey their parents

You know though? In my own heart when I read the words from Romans I also think about the way that religion – and that includes Christianity – has persecuted people. Mistreated women. Mistreated children. Accepted slavery. Subjugated entire nations. Used people. Abused them. Killed them.

And you know … there are gay men and lesbian women that love their partners in a way that is every bit as wholesome and “good” as partners in any heterosexual relationship. There are gay and lesbian relationships that are about love and not all about shameful lusts. There are people involved in heterosexual relationships … even religious people … even Christians … that have no fidelity, understanding, love or mercy.

And you know … there are people in churches that are gossips and slanderers. That believe that everyone who thinks evolution happens is foolish, futile darkened and given up by God.

And there are some who believe that evolution happens that think that all Christians are hypocrites.

Grady says that if you read the original Greek the words that Paul uses to describe these foolish people are actually much stronger than those that are used in most English translations of the New Testament. And he then uses the stronger words … the justification being that they are not his own words … but those of the Bible. So it’s ok to say them. Even if they are rude and offensive.

Some people would say that in the past, Religious control freaks have frightened people into a particular kind of behaviour. Frightened into heterosexuality. Born and destined to remain 100% male or 100% female. Some people believe that changes that are happening now are a result of freedom from a kind of tyranny. A freedom that allows people to be themselves.

Just today I had an email from someone that said:

I have been dressing in secret for as long as I can remember(probably since about 7 or 8 yrs old)

For most of that time I have felt that there was something wrong with me and that I was not a proper man, and have tried to stop dressing (even throwing away all the clothes!). However I am now starting to realise that it is part of me, part of who I am, and I now want to embrace and enjoy my newly discovered other side, and hope that by meeting with other people I my come to terms with everything more easily.

And I know exactly how he feels. And I know a lot of other people that feel the same way. And some of them go to Church. And there are churches that have no problem with it.

It’s this that makes me sure that I could never go back to the place that I used to be as part of the church. Having to hide my thoughts and feelings.

But maybe one day I could become involved again in a church that was more concerned with treating other people in the way that Jesus treated people rather than in discussing creation versus evolution and arguing over the infallibility of the Bible.

A few of the things that I am sure about:

  • Fundamentalist Christians that have an infallible view of the Bible and think that people who disagree with them are all fools are mistaken.
  • Fundamental evolutionists that think that all people involved in religion are idiots are mistaken.
  • I don’t know the answers.
  • I hardly know the questions

Dealing with the hatred and fear that seems to be evident in the acts carried out by a man in Norway.

Working out a way to allow people in Africa to eat and drink.

These issues matter more than the literal truth of the Genesis story.

The argument that not teaching Genesis as truth inevitably leads to teaching evolution which inevitably leads to wickedness which leads to hatred and fear and starvation and death doesn’t ring true to me.

People can be decent human beings and not believe in creation.

People can believe in creation and be inhumane.

Some people that are not Christians can be more like Christ than some people that are Christians.

In the end, though, to know what Paul the apostle really thought mattered most you could take a look at this … just to help restore the balance a little.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Sparkle, Lynne Featherstone and Government Policy

9:00 am Saturday 9th July 1011. Premiere Inn, Portland Street, Manchester and the alarm on my mobile phone sounds.

I carefully remove the bandage from my arm … it comes off without having stuck to anything. Hardly hurts at all.

I decide to wear something with long sleeves to cover up the bruising and keep it clean.

It’s gone 10:30 by the time I’ve shaved, made up and dressed.

Tina sets off to visit Amy who’s staying at the Britannia Hotel a little further down Portland Street.

My elder daughter lives close to Manchester and we’ve planned to meet up.

I send a text and head out of the hotel. Almost raining but not quite. The Paramount (a Weatherspoons pub) is just a few doors to the right.

I order a Latte and sit by the window. After a few minutes Sarah arrives. Soaking wet from the rain. She gets an Americano and we sit and chat a while.

Eventually we decide to search for something to eat and eventually find ourselves in the Via bar. I show her the scene of the previous night’s bumps. See how narrow the steps are on the inside of that bend?

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Laura and Billie join us after a while. Then it’s a short walk to Sackville Gardens where the official Sparkle opening happens and met up with Tina.

This year the Government Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone was invited to opening and spoke for about 8 minutes. Hers she is saying what she said. It’s worth listening to if you’re interested at all in transgender rights.

 

Lynne mentions this in her own blog at http://www.lynnefeatherstone.org/2011/07/sparkle.htm

We listened to some of the music. This is The Strawberry Elephant Experience. The bass guitarist (wearing the hat) is Didi who sometimes visits Surrey Swans.

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This is the Pink Punters bus in the background:

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This is a little of Frillerz – I thought they were pretty good.

 

And here’s a variety of folk in the park. Some wearing rather more in the way of clothing than others Smile

 

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And here is what makes Canal Street … well … Canal Street, with the Rembrandt Hotel to the left:

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And here’s Laura making her way towards us along with a wisp of Billie’s hair in the background:

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Eventually we set off back to the hotel and get changed for the evening. I only have one other thing with long sleeves … so tonight I’m all in black.

 

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We eat at the Red Chilli restaurant on Portland Street.

I’m a little amazed at how many inebriated people there are on Portland Street at 7:30 in the evening. They’re easy to spot since they are the ones that make idiots of themselves by making stupid comments.

In the restaurant the manager and staff make us feel extremely welcome. People take no notice of us … until all around us they begin to cough and splutter as the waitress places food onto a very hot sizzling platter.

The rest of the evening is mostly chatter and a few drinks. We end up at the Via bar again and I am especially respectful of the steps.

I hunt out the ladies loos.

“There’s a bit of a queue” says the girl in the queue.

“Oh. Are you the queue?”

“Yeah” she says. “And I bet you … whichever one becomes free first has no toilet paper.”

I smile.

A door opens and she sets heads for it explaining “… well I guess I’ll just have to drip dry.”

Next morning Tina and I meet up with my daughter Sarah again for a while. We have breakfast and a drink and talk and talk. The people at Weatherspoons take no notice of us.

The journey back home is a slow one … traffic pouring out of Silverstone where the British Grand Prix was raced slowed things down somewhat.

However … I did have a really nice weekend.

Roll on Sparkle 2012.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sparkle 2011, Stobart Saddo’s and things that go bump in the night

9:00pm Thursday July 7th 2011. Sparkle starts tomorrow and I need to do some packing.

The plan is to take just enough clothing for the weekend.

So how much does a girl need to take to last from 2:00 pm on Friday until 2:00 pm on Sunday?

Two suitcases later and the best laid plans have gone awry. One is full of clothing the other with shoes, makeup, hair, costume jewellery, boobs and stuff.

Friday July 8th, Tina arrives at about 9:45 and soon we’re en route to Manchester.

All is goes well until round about midday.

The SatNav bleeps.

There’s a 2 minute delay a few miles ahead.

No sweat.

Four minutes.

There are red brake lights in the distance and no exit between them and us.

Bleep.

Twenty eight minutes says the SatNav as we draw to a halt.

Twenty eight minutes becomes an exclamation mark.

The SatNav knows as little as we do.

“Maggie Sam” says Tina.

“Maggie who?” says I.

“Maggie Sam. The lorry.”

A lorry is a truck.

“Which lorry?”

“The Eddie Stobart lorry. They have girl’s names.”

“They do?”

“They do.”

So ... whether you like it or not ... here is some background.

It seems recently there was a television program devoted to the Stobart Group. The web site (http://www.stobartgroup.co.uk) says:

The Stobart Group is the UK leader in multimodal transport and logistics solutions. It is one of the most recognised and strongest brands in Britain, best known for its iconic Eddie Stobart trucks. Today, Eddie Stobart is the name behind a road haulage fleet of some 2,250 trucks and over six million square feet of cutting-edge warehousing facilities. By size, Eddie Stobart has the best vehicle utilisation in the industry, helping to maximise efficiency and environmental benefits.

A few minutes at http://stobartsaddos.com/ or http://www.clubstobart.co.uk shows that Eddie Stobart spotting is a serious business. And for a mere £15 membership fee you can get a list of the names of all of them.

Here is what one looks like:

image

Wikepedia says that this is Sandra Ann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eddie_Stobart_lorry_Scania_R420_Sandra_Ann_PX07_BXK_in_Plymouth,_9_August_2007.jpg ).

We haven’t met.

BBC Radio 2 informs us of a jack-knifed lorry on the M6. There are long delays.

We nod in agreement.

Approximately two and a half hours later we pass the scene of the jack-knifed lorry. The lorry is long gone, but the road is in the process of being cleaned up.

By now Andrea is suffering from StobartSaddo syndrome. The tally so far includes:

  • Maggie Sam
  • Carol Ann
  • Cheryl
  • Melissa Nicole
  • Jacquelyn ... I don’t remember her other name

Arrival at the Premiere Inn on Portland Street is at about 4:00 pm.

Tina pulls into a loading bay in a side road.

The road markings say ‘Loading Bay’. A little sign says ‘Lorries only’. Another says ‘No unloading’.

The suitcases get left in the luggage store and the car goes to the car park.

At about 6:15 we set of for the Taurus on Canal Street where we’re meeting up with a few girls for a meal. Laura and Billie arrive not long after.

We eat, drink and chat.

Tina and Laura:

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Billie and me:

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After eating we take a short walk and spend a few hours in Eden. The bar that is, not the garden of.

It’s quite pleasant even if it isn’t paradise.

Tina is impressed by the Wainwright’s beer. Billie kinda likes it as well. Laura has a Bud. I have a Carlsberg.

Billie goes to the bar.

“Where’s the Bud?” ask Laura.

Laura sips the Wainwright’s and doesn’t seem to be quite as impressed as Tina. You should have seen Laura’;s face a bout 10 seconds before this picture was taken.

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Laura goes to the bar.

Billie decides to go for a walk.

We sit and sip.

Laura tries phoning Billie:

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Andrea gets out the umbrella and wanders up and down Canal Street on a Billie search.

Next stop is the Via bar. It’s an unusual kind of place. Looks like any other bar from the outside. But if you walk in and head for the back the interior looks as though the inside of an old church building has been transplanted into it.

We find some seats and I head for the bar.

Down a couple of steps. Then down a couple of more.

All of a sudden as I turn a bend on the stairway the ground disappears.

Oh my.

Right hand grabs onto the banister.

Bum hits the ground.

Left arm slides along the edge of the step.

Bump. Bump. Bump.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

A guy at the bottom helps me to my feet.

I smile sheepishly. I think.

Looking down at my stinging left arm, just below the elbow I see a patch of white shredded looking stuff.

But nothing that looks red. Apart from my dress. But the dress was red before the fall so I’m happy with that.

At the bar I buy a Carlsberg and a glass of lemonade. Then carefully head back up the steps.

Looking back at the arm it’s not just white and a little shredded any more. Red and purple. Grazed. But not bleeding. Just stinging.

Laura and Tina are eminently sympathetic. And don’t even suggest an alcohol induced injury.

The consensus is that I ought to report my little trip at the bar.

This time I negotiate the bend in the steps very carefully ... watching exactly where I out my feet ... making sure that I take the outside if the bend. On the inside the steps are very narrow. That’s the excuse that I’m sticking with at any rate.

The guy behind the bar escorts me to other bar where the first aid kit lives.

The girl behind the bar takes a look.

Ouch.

As the guy hunts through the first aid kit she has a cloth with antiseptic on it.

“This might sting a bit.”

It stings a lot.

The guy reappears with antiseptic wipes.

“This might sting a bit.”

It stings a lot as well.

It’s all very bruised but it’s pretty dry and there’s no blood.

A bandage is wound around my arm. A red one would go better with my dress. But I can live with the white.

I have a freebie drink and head back to join Tina and Laura.

Here I am complete with the freebie drink and the bandage.

P1040568_450x600

You should see the bruise on my bum. It’s huge!

Eventually it’s time to get some sleep.

Laura is staying at the Ibis. “Just turn left at the end of Canal Street then” I say.

“No ... I think I need to go right” says Laura.

“No ... Charles Street is off to the left.”

“But I’m staying at the Ibis on Portland Street.”

“I thought Billie booked the one on Charles Street.”

Laura gets out the map.

The x is on Portland Street.

So we all head for Portland Street and some sleep.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Surrey Swans

A few months ago Billie and Kathie who have organised the Surrey Swans transgendered group for the past five years or so announced that they needed to move on. They plan to keep in touch with it and still visit from time to time.

So a new organiser was needed or else the group would cease to be.

I thought about it a lot and talked it over with my wife Sally and a few other transvestite friends.

For me, the existence of Surrey Swans as a group has made a big difference. Back in 2007 when Andrea was born Fiona Floyd mentioned Surrey Swans as somewhere not too far from Windsor that was likely to be a good place for a “new” transvestite to get to meet people with similar life experiences. It was that way that I first contacted Billie and Kathie and went along to a TV dinner that they organised and then on to Surrey Swans for the first time. And Sally met here first transvestite other than me when we had a meal at Billie and Kathie’s. I now count some of the people that I know at the TV Dinners and Surrey Swans as my closest friends.

There’s a sense in which these days I need a group like Surrey Swans a lot less than I used to. If I want to put on a dress or skirt, makeup and a wig and go for a meal somewhere in Windsor or wherever then I can do that. And much of that it because Billie was willing to take a quite nervous Andrea out shopping one day in Windsor. I don’t so much need a meeting that’s specifically aimed at transgendered people.

But I know that there was a time that I did. And there are still people that do. And actually, I always enjoy myself when I go there.

So … I decided to volunteer.

And there we go. I’m now “it” … the organiser of Surrey Swans.

In all honesty it doesn’t necessarily take a great deal of organising. It’s kind of open ended. There’s an infinite number of things that can be done. But it can be kept quite healthy and active with much less than infinite effort … I hope .

At the meeting at the end of May I talked a while with Michelle and Laura and Emma about possibilities. Partly as a result of that there is now a new Surrey Swans website / blog that you can visit by clicking here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Sparkle, Enemies and Weddings

July and Sparkle 2011 are gradually approaching. I’m looking forwards to it a lot.

I guess the main news of this week is all tied up with Osama bin Laden.

I’m not making comments about the justice or otherwise of recent events. But I have to admit to having grave doubts that the world is any safer a place because of them.

There’s a Larry Norman song that I mentioned in an earlier post that sums up some of my feelings. It was written a long, long time ago when even I was young … sometime in the very early 70’s.

 

The Great American Novel
Larry Norman

i was born and raised an orphan
in a land that once was free
in a land that poured its love out on the moon
and i grew up in the shadows
of your silos filled with grain
but you never helped to fill my empty spoon


and when i was ten you murdered law
with courtroom politics
and you learned to make a lie sound just like truth
but i know you better now
and i don't fall for all your tricks
and you've lost the one advantage of my youth


you kill a black man at midnight
just for talking to your daughter
then you make his wife your mistress
and you leave her without water
and the sheet you wear upon your face
is the sheet your children sleep on
at every meal you say a prayer
you don't believe but still you keep on


and your money says in God we trust
but it's against the law to pray in school
you say we beat the russians to the moon
and i say you starved your children to do it


you are far across the ocean
in a the war that’s not your own
and while you're winning theirs
you're gonna lose the one at home
do you really think the only way
to bring about the peace
is to sacrifice your children
and kill all your enemies


the politicians all make speeches
while the news men all take note
and they exaggerate the issues
as they shove them down our throats
is it really up to them
whether this country sinks or floats
well i wonder who would lead us
if none of us would vote


well my phone is tapped and my lips are chapped
from whispering through the fence
you know every move i make
or is that just coincidence
will you try to make my way of life
a little less like jail
if i promise to make tapes and slides
and send them through the mail

and your money says in God we trust
but it's against the law to pray in school
you say we beat the russians to the moon
and i say you starved your children to do it

you say all men are equal all men are brothers
then why are the rich more equal than others
don't ask me for the answer i've only got one
that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son

It’s available to listen to here:

 

It’s strange how everything changes all the time and yet some things never seem to change. Just about the entire song is more relevant today than it was even in 1970.

It seems that we often still act as though the answer to the following question is yes:

do you really think the only way
to bring about the peace
is to sacrifice your children
and kill all your enemies

But really … we know the real answer is no.

One of the readings at the recent Royal Wedding included part of the following:

Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. Ask God to bless those who persecute you---yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says, "I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord." Instead, as the scripture says: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame." Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.
(Romans 12:9-21 GNB)

I don’t think there’s any latitude allowed for killing even some of your enemies in that. Not really.

I know, there’s a bit about God taking revenge for the bad stuff … but it’s clear that people aren’t supposed to get involved.

But of course … Paul the apostle couldn’t really have meant that to be taken literally could he? Everyone knows that you only have to take stuff literally if it’s anti-something … anti-gay, anti-trans-gender, anti-other-religions. How could something that looks almost pro-enemy be taken seriously.

Actually there were times when I was a Christian that reading those words would make me cry because I could see how far short from that ideal I fell. Reading them now they have the same effect. Learning to love people … even when you don’t like them … even when they hate you … now that just might be the way to bring about the peace.

It seemed sort of ironic to me that later in the wedding they sang Jerusalem.

The first verse is as follows … with some answers that I’ve added:

AND did those feet in ancient time
walk upon England's mountains green?
[No]
And was the holy Lamb of God
on England's pleasant pastures seen?
[No]
And did the countenance divine
shine forth upon our clouded hills?
[No]
And was Jerusalem builded here
among those dark satanic mills?
[No]

The answers are nice and consistent at least.

And then there’s the second verse:

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
till we have built Jerusalem
in England's green and pleasant land.

Now tell me … can you imagine Jesus singing along with this? [No] is the answer I’m looking for here.

Actually, I really dislike this song. I guess I’m not a nationalist.

Friday, 29 April 2011

A trip into Windsor and an Exploding Nipple

Last Sunday Tina and I spent an evening in Windsor. Here’s Tina:

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and me:

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After getting changed Tina drove us into town. We tried the library car park but it was full and the passageway from there to Peascod Street was closed because of building work so we ended up at the Victoria Street car park.

We walked from there to Cafe Rouge and had a bite to eat. Then walked down to the bridge that crosses the river Thames between Windsor and Eton.

We tried to work out why the lights on the bridge were flashing on and off every so often.

We had a chat and a drink at the King and Castle pub on Thames Street. We were a bit surprised to see bouncers at the doors. But they didn’t mind us. I just took a look at the web site and discovered the following pictures … and yes … the first one is of the ladies loos … just in case you were interested.

We had a drink each and sat and chatted. We sat outside. After a little while the lights switched themselves on. A dim kind of glow and we found ourselves seated in the red light district.

As always, up to now at least, no one paid us any attention at all.

It was a really pleasant evening.

Later on I found myself thinking:

Now I know why the instructions that come with the boobs say that you shouldn’t sleep in them.

And no. I didn’t sleep wearing them. Honest. But I’ve had them a while … and on slipping one out from my bra discovered that the nipple had begun to erupt:

P1040263_1024x768

Well … ok … erupt is overstating it. But there is a definite oozing of silicone.

Just as well I have a spare pair Smile

TV Dinners, Burqas and Fundamentalists

The TV dinner earlier in April was really good – well … they always are.

TV is for transvestite rather than television. It’s an all-girl evening (TV’s and partners) that happens on the second Tuesday of each month. I get along almost every month. There’s usually a dozen or so people … the company is great, the food fantastic and the hosts (Kathie and Billie) wonderful.

One of the stories in the news recently had been the new law in France that effectively bans the wearing of the burqa in public places. It’s a strange thing in a way, since the only place anyone would actually wear a burqa would be in a public place, precisely because it is a public place.

The TV dinner’s often have some kind of a theme. We joked a little about how a Burqa theme might save a lot of time and effort … we’d only need a little eye makeup.

For my own part, I think I feel uncomfortable when I see people in the Burqa in public. But I can imagine that there are people that feel uncomfortable when they see trannies in public.

Mostly I think that my life philosophy is one of live and let live. If someone wants to wear the Burqa, then that’s ok. So long as they don’t expect everyone else to do the same. The same goes for guys that like to wear makeup, wigs and dresses.

It’s not many years ago that a man wearing a dress in public in England might have gotten arrested.

I think the thing that I find most difficult about fundamentalist kind of beliefs of almost any kind is the way that it often leads people to begin to impose their own version of living upon everyone around them.

I guess it means that I’m intolerant of intolerance.

Pink Punters, Larry Norman and Johnny Cash

Laura, Emma and I paid a visit to Pink Punters a few weeks ago. It was a usual kind of trip. Laura and I travelled together, chatting and listening to some Johnny Cash and Larry Norman.

Johnny Cash seemed better than I ever remember him being. I still like Larry Norman a lot. Back in 1973 a student friend introduced me to Larry’s music. I bought quite a few of his LP’s. A few weeks ago I bought the mp3’s so now I can listen to them all over again. The lyrics of many of his songs still move me.

After makeup and dressing we called in for Emma and had a meal at the hotel.

Then a bit of makeup tidying and a change of clothing and across the road to Pink Punters.

There are new conveniences (aka toilets) on the top floor. Complete with a very large polar bear (cuddly toy kind of … but huge) behind a glass cage.

Laura mentioned to me a few weeks ago that if you do a Google image search for Pink Punters that I appear there. And I do … as well as Laura, Emma, Nikki and Billie. No sign of the polar bear yet though.

Laura became a bit sleepy as the night progressed.

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The barman blamed it on the Budweiser.

We stayed until about 3:30. Another really nice evening.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

An evening with Chris While and Julie Matthews at Bournemouth Folk Club

On Sunday 03 April Sally and I spent most of the day in Bournemouth. We walked around a while, had a meal and in the evening went to see the Chris While & Julie Matthews Band at Bournemouth Folk Club. It’s a great venue … I wish it was closer.

To summarise … well … it was great.

The CD’s (in this instance I mean Compact Discs rather than Cross Dressers) are great … but there is something special about a live event.

For me it’s the chance to get a feeling for the people as well as the music. To hear a little of where the songs came from as well as what the words are.

Julie Matthews introduced one song. The original inspiration being tales of the Clifton Suspension Bridge near Bristol. Apparently it is amongst the most popular places in Britain for people  to commit suicide. Though in 1885, a 22-year-old woman named Sarah Ann Henley survived a fall from the bridge when her billowing skirts acted as a parachute, and subsequently lived into her eighties.[12]

From thoughts of this event came the song Angels Walk Among Us.

Chris While talked of a room in her home with pictures of family on the walls and of how she came to write the song Four Walls. She said it isn’t a happy song … but she felt better having written it. Julie said that this is one of her favourite songs from the Album Hitting the Ground Running. It’s one of mine as well.

Julie smiled and admitted to writing lots of sad songs. Quoting another member of the band she smiled as she said she’d been told that there’s money in misery.

And another song that spoke of hope even when all seems despair … inspired by the life of a friend that died from cancer just before the first birthday of her child. Julie mentioned that even as her life was ending her friend could still could smile. At the sight of so many friends and family gathered to see her she quipped “It’s so good to see everyone. I should die more often”.  

Chris introduced the song The Darkside Wood. It’s a song that sounds as though it will end in tragedy. It seems that a friend of Chris’s said that she couldn’t listen to it.

“Why?”

“Well it’s sad. They’re going to die.”

“Did you ever list to it to the end?”

“Well … no.”

Chris  sang Ghost of You with Julie playing keyboard. Sad. Intense. Beautiful.

Go now if you really must

I wouldn’t want to hold the key

The keeper of this shattered trust

So go now if you must

Your finger’s on the window pane

Your silence speaks a thousand words

You start to say them then refrain

No accusations and no blame

Something’s better than nothing

Well I don’t believe that’s true

I’d rather lie alone with my sorrow

Than with the ghost of you

What is done is surely done

So while the door is still half open

Follow where you heart’s already gone

For what is done is surely done

Another song that I like a lot is Shadow of  my former self. It seems that the title was originally going to be I keep running into the shadow of my former self, but it didn’t fit onto the CD. Do you ever empathise with these words?

I can’t go to work, I can’t stay home
I don’t like crowds, Can’t be alone

And there was the chance for the guys to get in touch with their femininity and imagine standing in a line in a netball skirt and to sing along to Class Reunion. Julie explained how she’s been rubbish at throwing and catching. “Hey Julie!” came a voice. “Catch.” Of course Julie dropped it. “You’re still rubbish.” Said with warmth.

And there was … as the saying goes … so much more.

So … anyway … I spent the evening entranced by the bitter-sweetness of the songs. A mirror of the bitter-sweetness of life. It all ended too soon.

And … I do wish there were angels among us.

And maybe there are.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Walking in Windsor

On Saturday Billie called round at a little before 2:00 pm. Billie now has pierced ears. The new earrings are a lot more comfortable than some of the clip-on ones that are available … there have been occasions where after a night out my ear lobes have felt very tender … with little red circles imprinted upon them.

We spent a girlie few hours in Windsor. It was busy. Took two and a half trips through the entire car park to eventually discover an empty space.

We wandered around shops … had coffee at Cafe Nero … wandered around more shops … and had a little drink at The King and Castle pub on Peascod Street, visited the powder room then called into Waitrose to buy some food and headed back at a little after 5:00 pm. It was a really pleasant afternoon.

As is usual … no one paid us any attention. It’s times like these, though, that I realise it would be useful to have a few more longer skirts than I currently have.

Which reminds me … at the TV dinner on Tuesday last week I saw some pictures of Nikki wearing a long skirt. Amazing Smile I also discovered that when Nikki had been swimming it was a bikini. Though she didn’t rate having to wear a bathing cap as good kind of thing … and it seems that wigs and chlorinated water do not get along well together.

The news of events in Japan has been and continues to be awful. It somehow re-aligns perspectives. Makes the trials and tribulations of my own life pale into insignificance somehow.

In a way it seems to show how small we are … humanity hangs onto existence by the flimsiest of threads.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Westboro re-thought

Today I did some rethinking about my thoughts of yesterday

Should I have included pictures of people from Westboro Baptist Church?

Should I have blotted out the words on the posters and changed some of the rest of the text?

There was a time when I decided that I would remove the pictures. And some of the words. Well mainly the word fag.

But for now, I’ve decided to leave it as is.

I find the words these people use deeply offensive … because I feel that’s how they are designed to be in the posters.

Maybe they aim to shock people into repentance and salvation.

But they offend.

And the offense is perpetrated in public, in places that people cannot avoid.

I think … though I cannot prove … that most Christians are as appalled at this as are most others.

Over the years I have read the Bible. Done a lot of Bible study. Been to church a lot … a Baptist Church even. Heard a lot of sermons.

But … the stuff on the posters … it’s not there.

These people are advertising a god that is not present in Bible based Christianity.

Words are strangely powerful things. I thought about the words fuck and fag today.

It’s my guess that the folk at Westboro don’t use the former ... but are obviously comfortable with the latter. And the BBC as well, I suspect. One would be bleeped and the other wouldn’t. Regardless of context.

And Google. Try turning safe search on … and the word fuck isn’t found anywhere. But you can learn all about fag.

But … consider Amy Ray’s song Shame on you and the Westboro posters and web sites.

Now tell me … which word is most offensive?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Barbados, Life and the Universe

Last night was a TV Dinner at Billie and Kathie’s. Tina had recently got back from a holiday in Barbados. She had spent some time travelling around and noticed that the bus stops had names. There was an Andrea and a Tina. Kinda cute.

Today I had a mid afternoon / late lunch stroll.

Looking up into the trees … the sky mostly grey.

Was it going to rain?

Where am I?

This was a philosophical kind of question. A “what kind of a universe is this that I live in” kind of thing. Where did I come from? Where am I going?

Every so often I have these kind of thoughts. Once in a while I’ve written about them. Here are some of todays musings.

OK. What kind a universe is it? What are the possibilities? Here’s three of a potentially infinite number.

Number One

Maybe it just happened. It’s just happening. We’re born. We live. We die. That’s it. A new series started on the BBC … Wonders of the Universe. The first in the series was Destiny. Sixty minutes of professor Brian Cox.

image

Here’s the blurb:

Having explored the wonders of the solar system, Professor Brian Cox steps boldly on to an even bigger stage - the universe.

Who are we? Where do we come from? For thousands of years humanity has turned to religion and myth for answers to these enduring questions. But in this series, Brian presents a different set of answers - answers provided by science.

In this episode, Brian seeks to understand the nature of time and its role in creating both the universe and ourselves. From an extraordinary calendar built into the landscape of Peru to the beaches of Costa Rica, Brian explores the cycles of time which define our experience of life on Earth. But even the most epic cycles of life can't begin to compare to the vast expanse of cosmic time.

For instance, just as the Earth orbits the Sun, the solar system orbits the entire Milky Way galaxy. This orbit takes a staggering 250 million years to complete.

Ultimately, Brian discovers that time is not characterised by repetition but by irreversible change. From the relentless march of a glacier, to the decay of an old mining town, the ravaging effects of time are all around us. The vast universe is subject to these same laws of change. As we look out to the cosmos, we can see the story of its evolution unfold, from the death of the first stars to the birth of the youngest. This journey from birth to death will ultimately lead to the destruction not just of our planet, but also the entire universe, and with it the end of time itself.

Yet without this inevitable destruction, the universe would be without what is perhaps the greatest wonder of all; the brief moment in time in which life can exist.

Not so long ago I heard that really there are an infinite number of universes … some different … some the same … everything that was possible was certain to be happening in an infinite number of these infinite universes.

Now I’m told that actually time is due to end in a trillion, trillion, trillion … and a lot more trillions of years time. And time will end then because at that point nothing will be changing. And if nothing is changing then time isn’t happening. Obvious isn’t it.

But what about the other infinite universes?

I find this type of program a little infuriating in the sense that it answers no questions. Fair enough … it provokes lots of them which is great.  But the  blurb suggests that there are new scientific answers.

So … what did it say about where I came from and where I am going? A summary of the sixty minutes of science is … well … the universe started and it’s going to end. And the blame lies fairly and squarely with the second law of thermodynamics.

I guess this universe has no god. No meaning other than whatever meaning we choose to give it. It points in the direction of nihilism. I’m not sure that I would class this as a wonder.

Number Two

Or maybe God made the universe? What kind of God? Maybe God made it to be fine and dandy. Maybe we messed it up. Maybe God is very pissed off at us. Maybe he (definitely not a she) goes to Westboro Baptist church. He hates America. Fags. Fag enablers. He’s not at all happy.

 

Hate and Hell. Served with a smile.

I guess it’s possible.

Perhaps its inevitable in one of the infinite universes?

But I think these people must have deep seated psychological issues.

I’m finding this surprisingly hard. To look at the smiling faces and read the words.

I’m finding it hard to not just conclude that these people must be sick in some way. Or maybe it’s that they are desperately afraid.

I guess what I think wouldn’t worry anyone much, since I’m pretty sure that the God that goes to Westboro Baptist church also would hate Andrea passionately.

There are other possible flavours to this God. Encapsulating the fears of a plethora of different groups on the extremist edges of  Islam, Judaism,  Christianity. To name just three.

Number Three

Or maybe God is working out some kind of a plan … and maybe God loves people. Maybe there’s a heaven. And maybe it will all work out fine and dandy in the end.

But I guess the evidence is more than a little ambiguous.

My thoughts and feelings on this issue don’t affect whatever the reality is, I know. It’s either one, two or three or something completely different.

I hope, though, that it isn’t a Westboro Baptist kind of thing. Nihilism has a soft and cuddly kind of aura in comparison.

I don’t know what the truth is.

But, my thoughts and feelings over recent months have been influenced by Dani … or at least the book recommended by Dani … A New Kind of Christianity. Of which I’ve written before.

Whatever the truth is … there is something special about the term Christ like. Without needing to adopt a whole load of additional set of beliefs, doctrines or traditions.

Not a long long list of “thou shalt not” statements.

Things to be and do. Not things to not be and avoid.

I’m finding myself leaning more and more towards the though that the way that Jesus dealt with people … cared about people … is a good kind of thing.

In the days that I counted myself as a Christian I felt the same.

What’s different is that I’m moving towards a position where I can feel ok about that even as a not-knower. And beginning to be ok with the idea of learning to be more like the kind of person that Jesus was … or is … just because he was a good kind of person … without having to believe in the infallibility of the Bible or that God is against homosexuality. Or a million other things.

Even if the universe is meaningless. I think there is value in this.

It’s a bit like starting all over again. But without having to hide a whole load of gender issues. Being able to try to be like that and also be myself. Without pretending to be someone else.

There’s a song by Amy Ray called Shame on you.

 

It includes the following lyrics:

My friend Tanner, she says y’ know,

“me and Jesus we’re of the same heart,

the only thing that keeps us distant

is that I keep fuckin up”

Whatever else is true, I think that is.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Fostering homosexuality?

Earlier this week there was a news item concerning a Christian couple that had been refused the right to act as foster carers for children. One of the articles about it is here

I think this article is a bit misleading. When it says:

because they are unwilling to promote a homosexual lifestyle to a child

I don’t think anyone was requiring them to promote a homosexual lifestyle. It was more that they were being required not to denounce it.

I think the article is unbalanced and unreasonable in some of its other assertions:

  • The fact that a view was mainstream until recently proves nothing
  • Strongly held religious views can just as easily be evil as good
  • Whether or not the views are directly relevant to the children or not isn’t necessarily the most important thing
  • Moral certainties are more dangerous than beliefs

But there are also problems and unanswered questions.

Is it ok to have these views and have your own children? Are you allowed to tell the children about your views? 

But you aren’t allowed to foster other children.

But can you teach them? So long as you don’t tell them what you believe. Do you have to be hypocritical?

Really, I think we need to learn and continually re-learn to accept the differences that exist in other people. Religious differences. Physical differences. Gender differences. Racial differences. Differences in thoughts. In feelings.

These people are allowed to feel the way that they do about homosexuality. Just as I’m allowed to feel the way I do about religion and gender.

What matters more is how they and I … we … deal with these issues.

How they would teach children they care for to deal with them.

What if a child that they were taking care of was gay? Or had a brother or sister that was? Or a friend. An uncle? An Aunt? Would they be accepting and loving? Or casting out? Or visiting prayer groups and demon casting?

The articles in the press that I’ve read don’t ask or answer these kind of questions. And so they seem to maybe be missing the point.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Windsor, Cafe Rouge, Johnny Cash and Dangly Bits

The other weekend Laura and I paid Windsor a visit. It was a quiet kind of evening. Laura arrived at about 5:00 pm. We chatted a little then drove into town. Parked in the Victoria Street multi storey car park and walked along St Leonard's Road a bit, up along Peascod Street, down Thames Street and into the Central Station and visited Cafe Rouge.

Here .. or there … we are:

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As pretty much always, no one paid us any untoward attention. The service and the food were great.

Eventually we wandered back to the car and drove back.

We sat and drank beer and wine … and a tiny little whisky until the early hours. Chatting and listening to music. Quite a mix. Johnny Cash … kind of Country and yet not Country.

And I have at last remembered that I have been planning, for a long time, too look up Johnny Cash singing Hurt. And here it is in the context of a BBC interview:

And here, just the song without the interview:

 

It is, as Emma said at Surrey Swans last night, a very moving song.

There was also some Indigo Girls and Chris While and Julie Mathews. And a whole lot of other stuff.

At one point in the evening we somehow got talking about Nikki’s escapades. Being asked by a girl at Pink Punters if she had a visible camel toe. Bra fitting at Marks & Spencer’s. And swimming.

The swimming was a new one on me.

In a bikini?

Laura didn’t recall the details.

But … what about the anatomy? Isn’t it even more of a give-away than the voice? You know? The dangly bits?

Not necessarily Laura informed me.

At this point Andrea is intrigued.

So … how do you mean?

Well, you just hide things away where they came from.

Uhm … so how do you mean?

Laura explains a bit more.

But doesn’t it hurt?

Don’t they … well … pop out?

We had drunk a few beers and glasses of wine between us by this time.

Does it really work?

Well … as they say … seeing is believing.

So.

Ok I believe.

The music carries on playing.

Well … I giggle … at least I didn’t take any pictures.

Laura is always up for a challenge.

So here you go. See and believe:

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Click here for the detail if you ever wanted to know. The English is a little quaint … though that somehow adds to the thing. Over 198,000 views and 108 comments, so someone somewhere is interested. Mainly in Poland, it seems.

There is a sense of understatement here, don’t you think:

During first tries, you shall be very careful.

I’m happy to agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment.