An Evening In

I can’t believe it’s over a week since I last blogged!  It’s been an eventful week here in lizardyogaland, what with the sunshine tempting me outdoors most of the time to write and dream and practise poems and garden; and what with my father-in-law not being too good which means that most days, Thing has been over in Loughborough.  We have to make time tomorrow though because it will be our 23rd wedding anniversary!!!  We haven’t made any coherent plans but I guess we’ll find something good to do.  On Wednesday, however, as it’s my birthday (not quite 60 yet)

(long pause for sobbing into hands…

Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god)

we are going for a meal and then to the cinema – the Phoenix, a proper cinema unlike these huge megaplex places which feel like supermarkets and where they shove you so full of adverts and trailers and thrust popcorn and enormous fizzy drinks into your face until you feel ill.  I shall tell you about the film nearer the time – but it looks really good.

In the meantime I’m feeling slightly alone and small.  This morning was good – we went to Tomatoes and did the crossword as per, with Tony who’s my crossword buddy.  More and more people have been joining in with this though and at one point I vacated the table to get a cuppa only to find my place taken by a usurping wannabe crossword-completer!

Errol, how could you?

So after that I came home and straight out to mooch around the local Arthouse scene, where local people open up their houses to exhibit local art.  There was some good stuff – pottery, sculpture, painting (mostly painting) and crafty things and I had a chat with an artist who based his images on graphics and then transposed the ideas onto canvas using oils; an interesting mix of modern and traditional.  And in all the houses there was not one thing which struck me as bullshit – no lengths of yarn stretched across the room and entitled ‘Blue Day’ or something much less sensible.

There’s a lot of art I like although not being a particularly visual person it can be an effort to look at it sometimes.  I like Grayson Perry a lot though.  He has a series on Channel 4 about extreme masculinity, where he goes into environments which are hyper-masculine (cage fighting, the floor of the Stock Exchange, that sort of thing) and then produces some art about it.  The interesting thing was that after the Stock Exchange visit which he decided was all about men trying to prove themselves, he produced a giant penis – but the penis was quite rounded.  So it looks as if he can’t be hyper-masculine even when he tries.  Anyway, here’s the programme:

Other artists I like are Anthony Gormley, Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois.  Hang on, those are all sculptors, aren’t they?  I think they are…

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


Do Not Adjust Your Poet

That title, I have to say, has nothing whatever to do with today’s post: it just came to me in the middle of the night and I thought it would make a good title for a poetry collection.  Not, probably, the one I am assembling at the moment for a competition:

nor the one I am re-doing as a pamphlet which already has a title (The Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge) – but possibly a slightly whimsical or political collection.


A propos of that, I had a rather nasty comment on this blog yesterday.  Mostly commentators are polite, witty, respectful and interesting; but I do occasionally get the odd abusive comment.  These will not be published – and I will usually suggest to the commentator that if they would like to make their point again without being rude or insulting, I will be happy to publish it.

But! onwards and upwards… for Tuesdays are concerned with prose, and I have begun a non-fiction work which is a memoir of forgetting.  (LOL).  If this sounds a bit paradoxical, it illustrates the paradox of my life for the last five years since hitting (or being hit by) menopause.  I have forgotten everything: streets, routes, maps; people, people’s names, people’s children’s names; what I did yesterday, what everyone else did yesterday, what Katy did; what I watched last night, last week, last month – in short, my whole life is a continual forgetting.

I am interrupted by Mark asking if I can read Urdu.

‘Not in the slightest,’ I tell him.  Then I think for a moment.  ‘But I do know that the little dots are vowels,’ I say triumphantly.

‘No, they aren’t,’ he retorts.

See?  I don’t even know what I know.

Aaaand back to the post… so, it’s quite helpful to me to be writing this memoir and if, when it’s done, I can publish it, it will hopefully be useful to others.

One thing I do remember from yesterday is that at Philosophy we talked about Descartes (or ‘Day-cart’ as everyone seems to call him.)  My knowledge of Descartes was previously confined to one phrase – albeit in three different languages:

Cogito ergo sum

Je pense donc je suis

which of course in English means ‘I think therefore I am’.

Everyone knows that phrase.  But what I didn’t know was everything else he thought about consciousness – and now I can’t tell you what that was without referring to my notes.  Nope, I’ve looked and it’s too complicated to put on here.

Whilst we’re on the theme of prose, though, I was interested to hear that the winner this year of the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction was a biography of an Italian Fascist written in an experimental style.  The SJ prize is not known for being avant-garde, so I think the likelihood is that the experimental style is highly successful, so I’d be interested to read it.

Must go now as I’m trying to listen to Grayson Perry and that is not conducive to blog-posting.

Kirk out

Penny for the Treat?

I’m not going to wish you a happy Hallowe-en.  I don’t like Hallowe’en; at least, I don’t like what it has become – and I deeply regret the passing of Bonfire Night.  I do not enjoy the faintly menacing practice of trick-or-treating and I think it’s sad that people no longer make guys and burn them on bonfires after having fireworks.  No doubt the fire brigade would disagree with me; but I enjoyed the totally unhistorical and anarchic feel of Guy Fawkes’ night (unhistorical because Fawkes* was no friend to democracy but an authoritarian royalist).  But still – it was a lot of fun.  When I was a kid we always had a big bonfire and a firework display, and we’d make a guy out of one of Dad’s old suits and stuff it with newspaper.  Lots of kids would roam the streets with their guy in a wheelbarrow calling out ‘penny for the guy!’ – and with the money they’d collected they would buy fireworks.

On the radio, Grayson Perry continued with his excellent Reith Lectures on Tuesday.!/

He’s really got me thinking, and this morning I was pondering the art or science of photography.  Some whereas photography – some photography – has long been accepted as an art form, it also used to be a means of accurately recording events.  A photograph used to be accepted – by and large – as a record of an event or an accurate view of a person; and if you saw a photo of something you could assume it happened.

Now obviously there were problems with this: photos could be faked, but not easily (as in the story of the two girls who faked photographs of fairies: but this was not easy to do, whereas nowadays anyone with average software can photoshop a picture.  So it’s debatable whether photography is now anything but art.

But is it art?  I should probably ask Daniel.  I think his photographs are very definitely art:

Kirk out


*hey!  I’ve just realised the historical connection to Dumbledore’s phoenix there!

But is it Writing?

The highlight of my listening week has been the excellent Grayson Perry doing the Reith Lectures.  It’s worth sitting through the unbearably pompous Sue Lawley’s introduction to hear him (though if you listen on iplayer you can skip that).  To cut a swathe through the crap that is talked about art; from the ‘anything goes, so if I say the froth at the bottom of my coffee-cup is a work of art then it is’, to the classical ‘only traditional paintings hung on walls are art’ – and, worst of all, the ‘if it’s worth a lot of money then it’s art’ – theories of art: to cut a swathe through all that and talk some sense, is no mean feat.

Perry deconstructs this for us in a highly sensible* way.  He is both down-to-earth and intellectual and his manner is conversational, witty and unassuming.  So I urge you – if you have any interest at all in art – to listen.

He’s wearing a stunning dress there, too.  Although it does look as if he’s Sue Lawley’s puppet…

I’m glad we don’t have these arguments in writing.  Nobody says of a piece of work, ‘but is it writing?’  Yes, there are debates about what constitutes literature, and especially about what constitutes a poem, but people don’t seem to get to wound up about ‘what is literature?’ as they do about what art is.  And I suspect this is because there is something fundamentally democratic about writing.  Every copy of a book (first editions notwithstanding) is worth the same as every other copy.  And that’s what I like about it.

So, after all that I needed some light relief: and what better than Jennifer Saunders’ autobiography?  Starting quite literally with an egg, she tell the story of her career; meeting Dawn French and writing Ab Fab; going inappropriately dressed to awards ceremonies and making up speeches with Joanna Lumley; not getting rabies in India with Ruby Wax – it’s all terrific fun and very listenable.

So go listen.

Kirk out

*in both meanings of the word