I’m Completely Potty!

One thing I’ve noticed since we moved, is the number of pots we have.  I’m not talking about garden pots or saucepans or casserole dishes: I’m talking about pots I personally have created.  I used to make them by hand at Manor House Neighbourhood Centre, a truly wonderful community centre with a creche, a pottery studio and a tutor.  Sessions were very reasonably priced and I used to go every week and enjoy chatting with Lucy, Claire, Zoe and all the others.  It was really interesting to see what others were making and eventually the house was filled with pots I had made.  I spurned the wheel – too mechanistic – and went instead for hand-building, usually coil-pots or pinch-pots.  Coil pots are the traditional African type made by building a shape with sausages of clay, either in a single spiral or by laying circles one on top of the other.  When the shape is complete, you get a metal scraper and scrape it into the shape you want.  It’s amazing what different forms you can get out of one basic coil-pot: I’ve got fruit bowls, toothbrush-holders, jugs, cooking pots and pencil-holders all made from coil pots.  The other form I used to like was the pinch pot.  These are very tactile: you get a ball of clay and make it as spherical as you can; then you get both thumbs and stick them into the centre to make a well.  With fingers and thumbs you keep working the shape round until you get the exact form you want.  I’ve got loads of these and they hold all sorts of things from paper clips to guitar plectrums, from pen-drives to drawing pins.  I haven’t got any pics so if you want to see you’ll have to come and visit.

See you soon!

Oh, it would be great if you could also take a look at the herbal blog – mandysmeds.wordpress.com – and let me know what you think.

Kirk out

Well, and How Am I?

Thanks for asking, I’ll try to reply.  Usually when people ask me how I’m doing I say ‘how long have you got?’ because it’s really difficult to summarise in a few words.  I could say ‘I’m doing OK’ and that would be true – at least, it wouldn’t be untrue, but it doesn’t feel like the right answer.  It expresses little about my real state.

Well, actually today I’m feeling rather depressed; so much so that I’m thinking of doing a fast when Lent comes around.  Not the usual fast – skipping a meal, giving up chocolate, renouncing alcohol – but a newsfast.  I have decided that listening to the news is bringing me down – not only that, but reading everyone’s take on the news plus the anecdotal stories, blogs, rants, videos and links that people put on Facebook, is really depressing me.  When I’m not depressed I’m full of impotent rage – and what with all Mark’s stuff it’s just too much to cope with.  Every day; I become more and more convinced that the world is full of greedy, self-serving people; that the NHS is crumbling, that our political system is cracking, that the environment is deteriorating and that the benefits system is in meltdown.  I feel even more gloomy than I did during the Thatcher years, and that’s saying a lot.

As for Mark’s stuff, I still haven’t come to terms with it.  I keep feeling an urge to call him Mandy (probably because everyone else does) but I’m resisting because it seems like giving in and accepting that he’s now a … what?  What exactly IS he?  I’m still confronted with that question and I’m no nearer an answer.

When I ask him he says he’s definitely a man because it’s impossible to change gender.  But then he wants to live as a woman, being called by a woman’s name and wearing women’s clothes and all the rest of it.  So I don’t understand how that works.

Add to all this a son who can’t get up in the morning and won’t get on with his college work and that makes for one fed-up woman.

Like I say, how long have you got?

Kirk out


New Mark, New Mandy, New Blog

I’ve started a new blog for Mark, promoting the herbal business.  It’s a new start for him; having moved to this area he is dissolving the partnership that was Mark’s Herbalists and setting up as Amanda or Mandy.  Strangely enough, I don’t mind this so much: it seems sort of appropriate to have that name as a herbalist so maybe it will chime with the public too.  I think he should do better in this area as well as the population are likely to be more in tune with alternative therapies.  I went down Queen’s Rd today and asked in the local shops and many of them take posters for free, including Green and Pleasant, the health food shop:


I guess it would compensate me in some measure for all the freakiness if he could really make a go of it here.  It was always a struggle before: people didn’t seem to know what herbalism was or how it was different from homeopathy.  Or even whether it was different from homeopathy.  Incidentally, have you heard the one about the homeopathy patient who died from an accidental underdose?

Ha ha ha.

So: herbalism is not homeopathy.  I shall be blogging about that as Mark/Mandy’s proxy: I think it’s probably best if I do the communicating as Mark’s stuff is far too technical.  So I shall give information about what herbalism is, what it isn’t, and what it can and can’t do.

Anyway, please take a look at the new blog and tell me what you think:



Kirk out

And What Am I Doing?

Well, my dears – you may have spotted that whereas I used to blog every day like clockwork, since I moved I am not doing so.  This is not just because of Sorting Everything Out, it is because I have decided to blog only when I have something I really waant to say.  Hence the stuff about Mark last week.  This is still going on, of course, but since I have nothing really new to say about it I have not blogged any more.  I’m sure I will come back to it, but at the moment things are sluggishly moving on and slowly digesting so there’s nothing new to report.

But! in other news, I have had an acceptance!  This is the thing I wrote about twenty years ago which has been sent back, redacted, resubmitted, sent back again, buried in soft peat, reconfigured, cut, pasted, cut, cut and cut again – and submitted once more with the swearing of an oath that if they didn’t accept it THIS time it would be burnt.  (And burning a pen-drive is not pretty, let me tell you that.)

But they accepted it, thank god – although they’re going to do a little pruning of their own because apparently readers can’t cope with quotes of more than a line and a half from the original text (FFS) and so it will be appearing on the Thresholds blog at some point in the near future.  Thresholds is a group of writers who focus exclusively on the short story, and my piece was about a collection of stories entitled ‘Ideas above our Station’, of which, by the time I’d finished, I was heartily sick, as was the library of my continually renewing and re-requesting it.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print – except that I found out that some of the original limericks (ie pre-dating Edward Lear) were utterly disgusting.  No, I’m not going to reproduce them.  I couldn’t possibly…

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and all our furniture has now gone – to a lovely and very appreciative couple who might be interested in buying our old house.  How weird would that be?

Another Day, Another Acceptance…

I thought I’d better post something before you decide I’ve forgotten you all.  I’m still here – it’s just that settling in and writing the umpteenth draft of my novel have taken precedence.  the novel is turning out to be a tapestry or patchwork affair, where I insert bits here and there to build up a pattern.  Still, at least I have some inkling of what the overall pattern is, which is more than I did before.  So that is good.

We went to Tomatoes this morning and returned to the old house to find a most unwelcome letter informing me that I need to pay a penalty for driving in a bus lane.  Bloody annoying… the other post wasn’t too bad, though I am now entirely of Mark’s view that nothing good ever comes in the post.  Trouble is, not much comes via email either apart from promotions or updates on campaigns I joined years ago or petitions I signed last month or groups I am marginally interested in or other groups I am not quite uninterested enough in to unsubscribe… RANT ALERT

incidentally I can’t go on without commenting on the difference, so rarely observed nowadays, between ‘uninterested’ and ‘disinterested’.  Uninterested means ‘not interested.’  I am uninterested in golf.  Mark is uninterested in tennis.  Etc.  ‘Disinterested’, on the other hand, means ‘not having a stake in something’.  Such as a disinterested observer at a meeting or a disinterested view of politics.  So get it right!


However, today I did have an email saying a book review of mine has been accepted by Thresholds.  Thresholds is a site which specialises in the short story, and I have written the review about three times for them and FINALLY they have accepted it.  So that’s a relief.

As I write there is a rather tremendous thunderstorm over Leicester and it’s raining quite hard.  I’m glad it didn’t do this earlier as I cycled over to Tomatoes and back.  I am getting better at cycling; once I reach this stage of proficiency (incidentally I always wanted to do cycling proficiency as a kid but we couldn’t afford a bike.  Or else our mother thought the roads were too dangerous.  Anyway…) I usually think, ‘I must keep this up and get better and better.’  And invariably something happens to prevent me.  Usually a knockout bout of apathy…

But! since it’s too far to walk into town from here, and since buses are expensive, I will probably cycle more in future.  So long as it doesn’t thunder.

Incidentally, when I go over to the West End I pass a gym where I am treated to the surreal sight of a bank of people all cycling towards me and getting nowhere.  I feel vastly superior to these people as I pass by on my real bike, actually going somewhere…

We are doing a bunch of entertaining at the new house, having people over for lunch and dinner and all sorts.  On Wednesday we had eight of us round the table for dinner, and yesterday Mark’s mum came for lunch.  And tonight Mary and John will turn up bearing wine and will be served curry and stir-fry with rice and chappatis.

It’s great!

In other news, I am reading Joyce Carol Oates for the first time, and I have finished the Kathy Reichs I was reading for the second time.  Sadly I have failed to interest Daniel in her books for teenagers.  Daniel is UNINTERESTED in them.


Kirk out

Our Furniture Not Good Enough For You Then?

It seems that charities are getting ridiculously fussy about the furniture they take.  I thought I was being nice, all our remaining stuff to LOROS, but when they came they turned their noses up at EVERY single item, even though most of it was fine and just needed a clean.  I mean, for God’s sake!  It’s FREE!  What do they expect?  So now we’re back to square one with about half a dozen items still to go, not to mention the cooker.  Annoying.

Mark’s face is recovering slowly from his argument with the kerb.  This of course was a physical argument – had it been a philosophical one he would have won by a mile – and he is showing a distressing tendency to be narcissistic and self-conscious about his appearance.  His face is swollen but it doesn’t look THAT bad – so I hope this is not going to be a permanent feature of the whole Amanda madness.

On a more positive note, I had a lovely visit to the optician’s this morning.  I was seen by a very personable young Asian man who told me my long-sight was getting worse although was unlikely to affect my daily life, and my reading vision was definitely worse.  Well, I knew that as my old glasses weren’t cutting it at all.

So by Friday some new glasses should be mine!


I note in the news that Jeremy Paxman has said we are all cossetted nowadays and should try a spell in the trenches.  Actually that’s not what he said: he said that would be highly undesirable, but the fact remains that most of us would never survive that experience as we’re all addicted to comfort.  He’s got a point: those of us who have cars and don’t walk anywhere; those of us who have (ahem) centrally-heated houses and workplaces and never climb a rock-face or sleep outdoors or even cycle a few miles in the cold weather, may indeed be cossetted.  But there are many people without cars (me) who wait at freezing bus stops or cycle or walk everywhere; people who don’t have centrally heated homes (me, until very recently) and as we know nowadays numbers of people have to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families.  So he can speak for himself as far as I’m concerned.  Anyway, rather than talking about war or the trenches, why not pick something much more positive?  Something like the Big Issue sleep-out or walking a long way for charity or doing a late-night drop-in cafe (as Mark does) or help out at a soup-kitchen or –

loads of stuff, all uncomfortable and all much more useful than going to war.  Mind you, I think if our leaders had to lead their troops into battle as kings used to do, we’d have a lot fewer wars.

(Pause for the image to sink in of Blair driving a tank in Iraq)

Kirk out

Shopping in Tilling and Breathing in Meeting

As I write the low-hanging sun is shining in my right eye: I’ve just been out and found it a hell of a lot warmer than I thought so progressed down Queen’s Rd discarding hat, gloves etc as I shopped.  I feel like a resident of Tilling* doing my little ‘shoppings’ with my shopping-basket, popping here and popping there, saying hallo to this or that person as I pass from Green and Pleasant (toothpaste and yeast, if you’re interested) to Sainsbury’s (nothing – the shop doesn’t impress me and one of their onions was mouldy yesterday) and round the back popping out near the Co-op (wine and blast! forgot the biscuits so was forced to pop into the corner shop where due to a cash crisis I could only afford chocolate.

And so home.  Mark went to counselling this morning where he did so well that he is now ‘signed off’: apparently he is so totally sorted that no more therapy is needed.  That’s good then… wish I was… on the other hand, last night he had an argument with a kerb resulting in a badly bashed-up face (nothing broken, but lots of blood and swelling) so he has gone to have a cracked front tooth looked at.

Yesterday I went once more to the Quaker Meeting.  This was good, on the whole, though marred by a horrid and insensitive woman who came up to me at the end.  I was feeling suitably chilled and imagined that she, like many others, had come to chat and to welcome me.  Not a bit of it.  She had come to complain.

‘I felt I had to tell you,’ she said, ‘that I found your breathing very disturbing.’

My breathing??

‘I had to move,’ she went on, in a prim and rather self-righteous way.

I stammered out something to the effect that I was sorry to hear it.  Frankly, words failed me.

‘I just thought I had to tell you,’ she repeated.

But why did you have to tell me? I thought as she retreated, having ruined my morning.  I was really quite upset and had a chat about it afterwards with some people, all of whom thought she was out of order.  I mean, for God’s sake, my breathing???  Apart from the fact that I have asthma and so my breathing is what it is, it’s not particularly loud.  I try quite hard not to disturb people and I even went to the lengths of taking the battery out of my mobile in case it went off, so I was quite hurt by her comments.

So *** you, fussy woman!  You’re like the princess with the pea…

And onwards and upwards, and so to a very pleasant afternoon and evening with Peter, doing yoga and experiencing the sheer joy of our dining-room table.

Kirk out

*as in the ‘Mapp and Lucia’ novels of E F Benson

PS Oh, and just to show you how civilised everyone is round here, on the way to the shops I had to squeeze past some cars and a couple coming the other way not only waited for me but smiled and said ‘You’re quicker than we are,’ and then in the Co-op someone who was before me at the till allowed me to go first saying ‘you’ve got less stuff than I have.’

But What AM He?

Someone on Facebook has suggested that Mark could be called ‘Am’ for short.  This strikes me as very appropriate, given that I’m thinking about what the hell he Am…  What ARE he?  Someone else has suggested that nothing much has changed for me apart from Mark’s clothes and his name, but this is not the case.  An awful lot has changed.  His personality has changed – admittedly, mostly for the better, but it is nonetheless disturbing: there’s the make-up and the shaving and the nail-polish and the hiding of the Adam’s apple and and and…  As I said before, it’s not just cross-dressing.  He takes hormones three times a day, for example.  And the pace of change is quite rapid, too: just as I’ve got used to the status quo he goes and does something else.  Just as I’ve (sort of) got used to people calling him Amanda (or Am, or Mandy, or MandyMark), he goes and makes it all official by changing it with a deed poll.  So I don’t know what the implications of that are either.  And every time I get used to something happening, something else happens.  It’s kind of an onslaught.

But it’s not so much what HAS changed that worries me, as where this is all going and how it fits together. I know where it’s not going – that much is clear.  But where IS it going?  Are there more changes afoot?  And what implications does it all have for our married life?  If I’m not married to a woman what AM I married to?

What AM Mark?

Kirk out

Becoming Amanda

I have decided that it’s time for me to write about the stuff that Mark is going through, and more specifically, my response to it.  People have been very supportive: they regularly come up and say, ‘I bet no-one’s asked you how you’re feeling, have they?’ and I’m tempted to say, ‘in fact, everyone comes up and says I bet no-one’s asked you how you’re feeling, have they? – but I don’t, I just smile and thank them.  My stock response to this question is ‘how long have you got?’  I find it very hard to formulate a response, but I shall try.

Basically, I don’t really get it.  I have never really understood gender dysphoria and I don’t now.  Cross-dressing is one thing, but what Mark is doing goes far beyond that.  I’ve never had a problem with cross-dressing – I quite understand a man wanting to dress in more colourful or interesting clothes than those which are culturally available: Grayson Perry, Eddie Izzard etc – no problem.  But this is something else – and yet it’s not the whole hog.  I was quite clear that Mark could not change sex and still be married to me, but that was never going to happen.  He doesn’t believe you CAN change gender in fact.  He’s written a whole blog post about that:


OK, fine.  But what he’s done is to ask everyone to call him Amanda (close friends and family excepted and you can be sure there’s no way I’m calling him that), going as far as to change his name by deed-poll; and he continues to cultivate a feminine appearance (shaving body hair, painting nails etc) and take hormones.  So I don’t see how this fits together.  How can you be a man and yet not a man?

On the plus side, he is a lot happier.  So that’s good.  He’s also (and I’ve been complaining about this for years) a lot tidier, cleaner and more hygienic.  To be honest, without that change we could not have moved here without a hell of a lot more hassle as he would have resisted all attempts to make him throw stuff out.  But as it is he’s got rid of a lot of books and magazines which languished unread for years.  So that made me happy.

Also – and this is very interesting – he gets a lot LESS hassle from people in the street.  This is not just because we’re living in a much nicer area as it started when we were still in the West End.  The fact is, he used to get stares and cat-calls – and that has more or less stopped.


I’m guessing that’s down to him being a lot more confident, which he is.  Stuff that I used to have to do because he would get in a mental tizz about it, he now does.  So that is a great relief.  Mind you, on the negative side, we got talking to a bloke in our local last night who totally came on to Mark and seemed to be interested in a threesome.  So that was creepy…

Kirk out


What’s Up Doc?

And so to the doctor’s where we enrolled the other day.  The first surgery we went to asked us for photo ID and a utility bill to prove our address.  WHAT?  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  Fortunately we ran into Ian straight afterwards, and he put us onto a much nearer surgery just at the top of our road.  Off we trotted; they handed us some forms, asked us to fill them in – and Bob was most definitely our Uncle.

And so off I hoofed today for a persistent problem to be resolved.  I walked up to the desk and smiled.  “I have an appointment’ I said.

‘Have you arrived yourself?’ she asked.

i looked at her blankly.  What was she asking me?  Whether I had arrived under my own steam or been wafted against my will?  Or whether it was in fact I who had arrived and not someone else?  No.  She was asking me whether I had signed in via the computer terminal at the entrance.  I had not.  I duly did, and went back to the desk again.

‘Had you been arrived?’ she asked.

That kept me laughing all through my 20-minute wait to see the doc.  Then later Holly and I went to the optician’s where they were very nice and took their time sorting out some frames for her.

The house is getting sorted, and so are we.

Kirk out