The Trans Woman’s Wife

About a thousand years ago I wrote a play called The Trans Woman’s Wife, about my experiences of being married to someone with gender dysphoria. ‘What is it like when your husband doesn’t have another woman but is another woman?’ was the strapline (at least I think that’s what they call it but that might only be for films.) I can’t remember if I sent it to the BBC – I probably didn’t because I don’t think it’s ready yet and in any case opportunities for new writers are shrinking year on year faster than the government’s moral compass. Writersroom is virtually the only place to submit and their windows are only open for a short period every year. However I have just found a site called Upload where you can send them anything at all, so I’ll probably give that a try.

I am trying to practice non-attachment to results in this regard and finding it extraordinarily difficult. Non-attachment is a yoga practice (also a Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist and probably Christian idea too) where you try to detach yourself from the fruits of your efforts. Nowadays we tend to judge our efforts purely by the outcome but yoga says that the effort is its own reward. This sounds like something my Grandma used to say and I found it very annoying because I want the rewards. I want them badly. Don’t we all? But I can see the point, because if you’re happy with what you’ve done it doesn’t matter what others think; you’re not tossed about on the winds of public opinion.

I’ve only really attempted radio plays because I don’t think I’d be much good at the stage variety. I have a good ear for sound and dialogue but I don’t have a sense of ‘the theatre’ – of the space people perform in and what something looks like on stage. So I’ll leave that palm to Alan Bennett and carry on doing what I’m doing.

SPOILER ALERT Speaking of Bennett, we went to the cinema at the weekend to see ‘Alleluia’, a film about a geriatric ward based on an AB play. This was enthralling to watch with a great cast including Judi Dench, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Tovey and Derek Jacobi. The Bethlehem ward, known affectionately as The Beth, is under threat of closure from a government which doesn’t see the value of caring (sound familiar?) The place seems idyllic; caring and supportive with all-inclusive activities such as singing and games. It made me yearn for a time when people had the time to care. But all is not as it seems; the nursing sister played by Saunders, is quietly bumping off some of the patients by injecting morphine when they get too old. Judi Dench’s character, unwilling to take part in a TV programme that’s being compiled, is given a tablet to record her own views. In the process she accidentally records the sister injecting the morphine – and everything becomes unravelled. It’s a story of murder but what stuck with me was the caring of the staff – even the nursing sister – and the fact that they had the time to do it. Jennifer Saunders was a revelation in this straight role and though there were massive stars in the cast there was never a sense of there being starring roles. Everyone was more or less equal and everyone had a voice. It made me nostalgic.

I think I’ll send the radio play to Upload. That’s if I can get it into a PFD format; it seems particularly resistant to assuming that shape just at the moment.

If anyone would like to read the play please comment below and I’ll attach it. NB please note that copyright has been legally established – not that any of my readers would dream of passing my work off as their own. Just saying…

Kirk out

Wild? We’re Absolutely Livid!

Now this is what I call a proper documentary. Intelligent, unintrusive commentary, no inane chatter, very little done to camera and no incessant recaps. I refer of course to last night’s Wild Isles, David Attenborough’s latest (and last?) docuseries. It’s lovely to see a work on Britain for a change and as ever the photography is stunning. The ‘how we did it’ section at the end shows just how much work goes into a few minutes of film. This is utter dedication and love and it puts some so-called documentaries to shame.

There’s controversy about the last episode, though, in which he talks about how much damage we are doing to the environment. This is reportedly going to be streaming on iplayer rather than broadcast live, and some people suspect that the BBC has once again caved in to pressure from right-wing Tories on this.

There’s a theme emerging here, what with the Gary Lineker fiasco, though that seems to have been resolved now; the BBC have reinstated him following the disaster of Saturday night’s football coverage, given how much support Lineker got from colleagues and players.

This was very heartening to see, and the more it happens the more the government seems out of step with its own people. Amazing how we didn’t hear a word about free speech from the usual quarters; makes you wonder whether, had he tweeted in support of the government, he would have been disciplined in the same way. It looks very black (or blue.)

I could, if I allowed myself, get angry on a regular basis. I try not to because it’s not good for my health and it doesn’t achieve anything – but I must say the government works very hard to rile me; between interfering with the BBC and Rishi Sunak’s ridiculous swimming pool (never mind that he’s paying for it, what about the carbon emissions? Bastard bastard bastard!!!! Deep breaths, deep breaths… it is very hard to stay calm these days. I’ve just been round the supermarket and noted how many prices have gone up yet again – after paying £20 for a miniscule amount of petrol which would have cost me a fiver just a couple of years back. So yes, no wonder when I think of Wild Isles I want to say ‘wild? We’re absolutely livid!’

Word of the day: skimpulse – when you suddenly put something back on the shelf because you’re worried you can’t afford it.

Kirk out

Chatting about Chat

I realise the title sounds a bit Alan-Partridge but bear with me. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about ChatGPT but I didn’t know what it was. And now I do. I expect you’re way ahead of me here, but apparently ChatGPT (what does the GPT stand for, I wonder? I could look it up but I cba…) is fully abreast of this blog. Well, whaddayaknow? It gives a very nice and quite flattering precis, saying: ‘The blog contains a variety of posts on topics such as writing, poetry, books, personal reflections, and spirituality.’ (Note the Oxford comma there.) ‘The author seems to be a published author, and some of her posts contain links to her books or reviews of other books.’ It goes on to say that I feature creative writing and posts about mental health. It’s quite gratifying – or would be, if this were a real critic rather than a bot, but perhaps I should be flattered anyway. Maybe bots are harder to please? The only problem with this review is that ChatGPT is convinced that I’m Vivienne Tufnell. I’m pretty sure I’m not Vivienne Tuffnell – at least I wasn’t last time I looked – so what the hell? Who the hell is Vivienne Tuffnell? Perhaps I should adopt that as my pen name from now on…

An interesting typo that came up this morning was ‘wordcress’. I leave it to your imagination to figure that one out.

Kirk out

I don’t know where that coloured thing came from; it just happened. And now it’s gone, so you don’t know what I’m talking about.


I’m thinking about money. There’s never enough of it, some people have far too much and don’t know what to do with it and we spend half our lives thinking about it, but what is it? I’m writing a story at the moment about the collapse of money; not the economy but money itself – a situation where money no longer means anything therefore nothing can be bought or sold.

In this scenario the banks have disenfranchised so many people that they’ve given up on making money and started to form small communities. In these communities resources are shared and the more people join the more resources are available. In the end the only people using money are the very rich who finally find themselves in deep doo-dah when money itself collapses and everything they own is suddenly worthless.

In a way this is a utopian vision but in another sense it’s something that could happen because of the way banks are going. It’s also been inspired by ‘Bullshit Jobs’,

on how many jobs are pointless and despite being well-paid, serve no useful function at all. There are examples in every area of life but the one that often occurs to me is government; in my youth there used to be about 20 minsters in the cabinet but nowadays we seem to have a minister for almost every aspect of life. It’s a gravy train: it’s bullshit. Meanwhile those doing useful jobs – nurses, sewage workers, cleaners – find themselves being squeezed on every level. Caring doesn’t pay any more, and it’s not only in the ‘caring professions’ that caring happens – the chief objection to doing away with, say, ticket offices in stations is not that a machine could sell the tickets but that the staff deal with multiple unexpected human problems every day. As for doing away with guards on trains, the prospect is horrifying. A friend of mine who was once a guard told me of all the human situations he’d dealt with over the years, from dealing with drunks to helping deliver a baby. This society sucks, and why? Because nothing matters unless you can put a price on it. We need to do something about this, and I’m not convinced that electing a Labour government (though I really do want one) is the answer.

What is?

Answers on a postcard please (or comment below).

Kirk out

Broad Thoughts from Home…

It’s warmer here today in blogland – BBC weather says 8 degrees but it feels more like 12. I’ve entered a short story into the Bristol Short Story Prize (they have 50 free entries a month and I’ve nabbed one of those) and now I’m sitting here trying to think what it is that I’m thinking. I’m a bit miffed today because I keep putting on weight despite exercising loads and not eating much: by ‘loads’ I mean 5-10k on the exercise bike, a walk and yoga in the mornings, and by ‘not much’ I mean fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, salad or soup for lunch and a cooked meal in the evening (typically pasta and veg or something similar.) So judge for yourselves. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but I suspect it’s my tendency to get older with each passing year. I should probably do something about that…

I’m looking forward to watching ‘Nolly’ tonight.

This much-trailed series stars Helena Bonham-Carter and features Noele Gordon, aka Meg Richardson of ‘Crossroads’ fame. I never thought much about Noele except as a fairly bad actor but apparently there was a lot more to her; according to the divine Helena (heard on ‘Woman’s Hour’ yesterday)

she was a producer, a pioneer and a powerful woman in her own right, which was probably why she was summarily sacked at the age of 61. Bonham-Carter talks about women coming into their prime in their 60’s and as a 65-year-old I whole-heartedly agree. With child-rearing behind us and a lifetime of accumulated wisdom, it’s time to kick arse (I can’t help spelling that the British way) and I look forward to doing so.

Another powerful older woman I enjoy is Joanna Lumley. Though I (probably wrongly) thought of her as a bit of a pin-up in her youth, I have admired her since she was in Ab Fab, and OH and I have very much enjoyed her and Roger Allam in ‘Conversations from a Long Marriage’.

This is brilliant, so catch up with it if you haven’t already done so. Lumley got in trouble for saying a few weeks ago that women should be tougher and that her generation had to put up with a lot more harassment than we do nowadays. This is undoubtedly true, but it caused a meltdown on social media (obvs); however the Guardian has a much more balanced view

which broadly I agree with. I note that street harassment is liable soon to be punishable by up to 2 years in jail; and while I would welcome a reduction in the sort of crap I had to endure just walking down the street, I’m not sure this is the way to go. What we need is a change of culture – above all online: I was shocked to find out how many young girls are harassed by being sent completely unsolicited obscene images or texts.

So there we are – broad thoughts from home.

Kirk out

I’ll Be Back

Well I seem to be back, don’t I? I didn’t mean to be back, but one thought led to another and I decided just to put some news in a post and then there was a film I wanted to review and before I know it I’m blogging again. The French have an expression ‘en mangeant l’appetit vient’ – it is in eating that the appetite comes – and the same applies to writing. If I’m ever stuck for ideas I just plunge right in and put down any old nonsense and before I know it I’m in the flow again. This seems to be happening here too.

How many times a day to you think of Boris Johnson? I know, I try not to either, but sometimes he just insists on popping up, and I read today that he’s been seen in his old constituency of Henley

looking at schools and houses; which presumably means he’s thinking of standing in that constituency. His majority in Uxbridge (my old stomping ground, at least until I was 2, so I guess I should call it my old toddling ground) is not very large and I’m absolutely certain he’s not given up hope of running for PM again. Even Owen Jones yesterday was saying he thinks the Tories might have one last desperate throw of the dice and bring him back again. Johnson, of course, thinks he’s Churchill. Not even close, sunshine. Not even close.

Can you imagine, though, if they did? Four Prime Ministers in as many years, only one of whom was actually elected by the public. And if he thinks we’ve forgotten Partygate, he can think again.

Sometimes I despair.

To cheer myself up I get emails from Positive News

This basically does what it says on the tin and reports good news stories from around the world, particularly on the environment. It’s very salutary. We all have to take care of our mental health – to which end, I’ve started turning my phone off while I work, something I should have done before but didn’t.

Happy Monday,

Kirk out

Tár Very Much

(Warning – Contains Spoilers)

Last night at the Phoenix, a much-loved arts venue which has had as many reincarnations as its name suggests, we went to see Tár.

If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a portrait of fictional orchestra conductor Lydia Tár starring Cate Blanchett. She’s a complex, unlikeable yet utterly stunning character, abusive yet humane and utterly devoted to her music. Yet she’s no cold caricature of a power-woman like, say, Emma Thompson in Late Night, good as that was; she loves her daughter deeply and goes out of her way to support her, she’s (generally) respectful to players in the orchestra – and yet she has a series of relationships with younger women who fall deeply in love with her and who she eventually dumps. One of these ends tragically and leads to her downfall.

She’s a complex character, and this is a complex film. Those who like simple narratives and clear morals will say that because she’s a powerful and abusive woman, this is anti-feminist – why not show her in a better light? Those who are anti-woke have seen a vindication of their views in one scene where Tár tears to pieces a young student who doesn’t listen to Bach because ‘cis white males’ are ‘not his thing’. Though she eviscerates the student in front of everyone, I think she’s absolutely right; surely we have to separate the man from the genius. I’m not in favour of toppling statues, just of giving more information about the people commemorated in them – and yet this is not a simple answer either, and that’s the point. In life there are no simple answers; we have to wrestle with things. Anything else, as Tár says, is trial by social media.

It’s a long film, nearly 2 3/4 hours, but I was gripped all the way through. The pace was slow and almost dreamlike despite some moments of high drama, but what I liked about it was that it was entirely different from the usual kind of Hollywood narrative. There are some puzzling non-sequiturs in the action, but these didn’t bother me as much as they bothered my friend; I just rolled with it. The scenes where she conducts are the best; I learned loads about orchestras and the role of a conductor and Tár herself is so magnificent, I could almost fall in love with her myself. Cate Blanchett is stunning and if she gets an Oscar it will be well-deserved. I’d go and watch it again tomorrow, and there are very few films of which I can say that.

The other film we saw recently was Empire of Light.

Again this was a stunning film with a female lead – Olivia Coleman – and again the pace was slow and dreamlike despite some moments of high drama. It centres on a cinema in Margate – the eponymous Empire – and was also filmed there: OH was quite distracted by knowing not only said cinema but also the man who ran it. I don’t think the manager in the film was based on Colin Crosby, however.

Coleman plays assistant manager Hilary in a classic Odeon-style cinema in the 70’s or early 80’s. We later discover that she has been in a mental hospital and been given a job in the cinema to help her rehabilitate. The cinema has a large and supportive staff and we get to know them all as the action progresses. Turns out the manager Donald, a married man played by Colin Firth, has a nice little number calling Hilary into his office whenever he needs a release (if you get my meaning) but things change when a new member of staff comes. Stephen, of Afro-Caribbean origin (this is only relevant later on when he’s the target of a racist attack) and Hilary strike up a rapport and eventually, in the gentlest way, fall into a relationship which is gentle, respectful and in every way the opposite of the sleazy knee-tremblers she endures in Donald’s office.

Even though the relationship doesn’t last it’s so refreshing not to see the typical Hollywood attraction between two people leading to them tearing their clothes off in the next scene. Hilary and Stephen do have a physical relationship but it’s so gentle and tender as they make love in a forgotten cinema screen in the attic, surrounded by pieces of abandoned scenery.

Toby Jones is also well worth watching (when isn’t he?) as the projectionist; this part, as well as the dreamy pace, reminded me of Cinema Paradiso.

This is another film I’d watch again, though I’d probably leave it a while. I think Tár, though, might make it into my top five all-time favourites, which are now (in no particular order)

La La Land

Withnail and I

A Knight’s Tale

Four Weddings and a Funeral



Kirk out

The Woman Who Almost Went to Bed for a Year

So there I am sitting in the cathedral and being mistaken for my sister as we both had the same hair (mine has grown purple since then) and wondering if I’d make it through the ordination. I wasn’t the one being ordained – though several people were apparently wondering if my sister had changed her mind and decided just to watch – so it shouldn’t have been much of an ordeal. But lately everything was an ordeal, even getting out of bed, and today I’d had not only to get out of bed but also drive for an hour along twisty country roads requiring split-second reflexes if a tractor should be coming the other way, find somewhere to park and discover where I was supposed to be sitting. Nothing was required of me for the next hour except to sit still and pay attention, but even that seemed a tall order. I didn’t know it then but I was on the borders of exhaustion, heading straight for Burnout Central.

What does burnout look like? And why was I burnt out? Let me count the reasons: I had problems at home, problems with work, money problems and a father-in-law who took up virtually all of my husband’s time so I couldn’t even talk about how exhausted I was. normally I’d have recharged the batteries with a holiday but the said money problems combined with lockdown meant that I hadn’t had a holiday for three years. I was completely drained, but every morning I heaved myself out of bed because the alternative (I felt) would be to stay there like Sue Townsend’s ‘Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year’ ( and I couldn’t allow myself to do that. I was going to be a successful writer; I must work every day or I’d be dead before I got there. So went the nagging voice in my head, morning after morning until the day came when I was physically incapable of getting out of bed.

I phoned the doctor, running the usual gauntlet of obstacles – finding the line engaged, getting the recorded message and hanging on – and on – until eventually I spoke to a GP. Joy! She was one of the good ones; dedicated, interested and thorough (I wonder where she is now.) I would have a range of blood tests; liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and thyroid function. I had a chest x-ray which was a saga in itself as the first one showed some false positives and I had to go back. ‘It’s your nipples,’ explained the nurse. ‘You’ll have to wear these.’ We both collapsed in giggles as she showed me how to tape curtain rings over the offending nipples: it gave me a laugh at least.

In this way two or three months went by. I was sleeping till ten or eleven in the morning; a dead, drowning sleep, dragging myself out of bed and spending most of the day sitting. I resisted watching TV but barely had the energy to do anything else. Walking to the bottom of the garden seemed a marathon: I felt I was drowning in fatigue. Going upstairs I had to climb two or three steps, then rest. It took me half an hour to eat a simple meal. I was putting on weight through lack of exercise, and one by one like failed lottery tickets my blood tests came back negative. This time the doctor called me:

‘Do you think the problem might be psychological?’

I reeled off my list of problems.

‘I’m surprised you’re still walking around,’ she said. ‘Do you think you’d benefit from some counselling?’

I thought I might, so she put me on the list and on that list I stayed. In the meantime I carried on plodding round the house, picking up books and putting them down and watching mindless TV which fell out of my brain the moment the credits rolled.

Of course I had to stop work. I write full time but now it was as much as I could do to write a couple of lines each day in my diary. I wound up the blog for ever and basically, I lounged. I lounged in the bedroom, I lounged in the sitting room; when it was warm enough I lounged in the garden and lamented all the weeding I had no energy to do. And I waited to reach the top of the list for counselling.

In the end I was able to access some funding and get private counselling, using someone recommended by a friend. My counsellor was brilliant and I made a lot of progress; I’ve made much more since, thanks to the techniques she gave me. I’ve learned to control negative thoughts and believe in myself more, and at the start of this year I felt more positive about being a successful writer than I have ever felt.

I started work again last September after a year off. My pattern of work is very different; I don’t push myself to do anything and I enjoy life more. When I tell people I’ve been off work for a year with burnout, most of them nod and sympathise. They know what that’s about.

So that’s it, that’s me up to date. I’m working on some short stories at the moment; before Christmas I sent off a poetry collection to a publisher and I’m 30,000 words into a novel. And who knows, I might even start writing blog posts again…

Kirk out

It’s Good to Have Followers

Before I disappear altogether from the blogosphere I want to mention some of my followers. These people are the life blood of a blog, people who not only follow but also take the time to read, like and comment, so I’m going to mention specifically those who have consistently liked and commented on my posts.

There’s Beetleypete, a dedicated blogger whose blog features snippets from life in Norfolk as well as short story series and guest bloggers; Taskerdunham who posts about memories of Yorkshire life, Wilfredbooks, a publisher and book reviewer and Alex at mybookworld24, another book review site. There are many others who follow and comment from time to time and I have appreciated you all. Thanks for reading.

Kirk out