Words of warning and welcome:

This is very much my blog, so don't be surprised if this doesn't follow accepted patterns and norms. It is a place where I can be anonymous and honest, and I appreciate that.

It will deal with many things and new readers would do well to check out the "Story So Far" Page above this and the "New Readers" tag down there on the right. Although there's nothing too bad in here there will be adult language, so be careful. If you think this needs a greater control, please let me know. Thank you!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Beer Review

Hello! Yes, I am actually writing and posting a beer review on Christmas Day. I am that mental. But, it's been a bit of an odd one. No pressure, Tilly has done the duty regarding cooking, cleaning, dish-washing... basically all the crap stuff, and I've been on children watch. Which wasn't that hard. Not my forte, but not that hard (I'd've preferred cooking and cleaning if I'm honest, I love doing roasts).

Anyway, tonight I am reviewing Courage's Imperial Russian Stout. Which, if my reading serves me well, is a popular style of brew this year around where I am. I have never seen the like before and so I did ask for a selection of Christmas beer and I got it. Yay!

This comes in a tiny little bottle (275ml) and so straight away you know something about this beer is going to be different. It's also 10% ABV - apparently so it didn't freeze when exported from Britain to Murmansk back in the 1750s. Finally, it also conditions in the bottle for up to 13 years, presumably so that it could last once it arrived in Russia without having to make numerous resupply trips over wacky stormy seas (yes, thank you KLF).

I can claim no knowledge of the veracity of the historical story. However, on opening I can say that the pressure is high and so the head is vigorous and feisty. No whiff of CO2, implying that this was conditioned well and not with added gas in the bottle. The aroma is heavy and malty, with hints of chocolate and wet wood (no, really), and there is a smidge of citrus if you're looking for it, which I was. After the head has died down a little you can get close to the beer itself.

First sip is very chocolatey, reminds me of the Triple Chocolate Stout that I reviewed ages ago, but not so much that it overpowers things. Pleasant sparkle to the fizz with tones of citrus fruits, but these are mild like apples and pears rather than oranges or lemons, mostly one gets the malt and the weight of the beer. This is, I suppose, like Stout ought to be, heavy and malty and interesting. If you met this sip on the street you'd either strike up a conversation and take him home to meet the parents or else you'd quiver in fear and worry that you'd appear somehow less than human by mere comparison. Second sip is much the same, implying good staying power. You can feel the strength of that 10% ABV though, this is not a sessionable ale, but that's why it comes in dinky little bottles.

Overall, this is a heavy, winter warming beer. It's one you'd best enjoy on a cold evening, huddled round a crackling open fire keeping the frost at bay. Wrapped in winter furs, hunted yourself from the wild woods, telling tales and singing songs with good rough company. Don't shave. Don't shave anything for a few days. Don't wash except in water from beneath cracked ice. Then get that fire going, huddle, talk in low voices, laugh long and with feeling, and crack open one or two of these as you smile and joke with your companions. It will be worth it.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

Like I said, it's not my blog until there's a
bridal picture in it.

Just a brief note to say a huge Merry Christmas to all of my lovely readers and followers. Also, most especially, to those wonderful people who have offered support, insight and general niceness to me and others throughout the previous year.

Personally I shall celebrate the arbitrary date given to the birth of the avatar of my favourite imaginary friend who runs the Universe but, whatever your flavour of belief (or lack thereof), I hope the present season finds you well, happy and in a nice place.

God bless us all!


Sunday, 22 December 2013


Sharpe's Totty - Jane Gibbons, who will
become his wife out of gratitude, wise
up and then attempt to destroy him.
Sharpe's Regiment on the telly, good ole DVDs, and no take out. We were visited by spirits thr- uh, a friend of mine from University and his family. They are pretty much the epitome of the mainstream that we, as a family, eschew with our silly ideas on home-schooling/educating and vaguely leftie politics (I'd claim anarchistic but for the fact that I am part of the power establishment as a teacher). It was a good day, all told, and the Sharpe on the TV was a nice enough end to that. So, after it finished, I replied to the wonderful comments left by Rhiannon (see her blog for some stunningly uplifting and positive stuff lately) and Calvin who have done what people such as they do best - make me feel nice and good about myself.

As I am dutifully looking up dressing services (another post methinks) as suggested by Rhi, Tilly pipes up having discovered a post on Facebook from a fellow non-mainstream parent about make-up. They were talking about how they have shown what it is and how it works to their daughter - talking to them without wearing make-up about how make-up is a mask people wear etc. Now, Tilly's beef with this was that, if people want to wear make-up, they should be allowed to. The way, she says, to deal with it, is to be frank and to be honest. Whilst she would discourage our two from wearing it she would buy some in if it turned out that it was a big thing for either or both of them. She said that the main issue was, and I'll try to quote exactly, when something became powerful in the negative, that is, when one did not do it. "I have no problem," she said "with people doing things they want to do, but I do if not doing it makes people unhappy with their identity".

Societal constructs.
Given our previous non-conversation when round at her cousin's (Sierra and Pik) I pondered for a while before putting forward a two-pronged response. 1. that personal choice about things like make-up doesn't really exist and is, itself, a perpetuation of societal artifices and 2. if it were really about personal choice we would see more men with make-up and such on. What's good for the gander and all that. I then explained further that if she, Tilly, were to be forced to go without make-up for any prolonged period of time it would have a detrimental effect on her identity and who she thought she was. Tilly disagreed, with pretty much every point, arguing for 1 that if we were to subject everything to the analysis then it becomes meaningless to associate anything with society and so we ought to simply not bother (I disagree on the grounds that genderised stuff like this is harmful and said so). With 2 she argued that if the Boy wished to wear make-up she would have no trouble. the unspoken addition about my predilections being abnormal and her lack of support for them was not voiced. Of herself, Tilly simply said no.

Is this what I do to Tilly?
Intriguingly, in a dispassionate analysis at any rate, Tilly became quite fierce and angry very quickly in our discussion. I suggested that we stop as it was clear that I had struck a nerve without meaning to. Well, only partly, I am aware of what nerve I struck. She agreed. After some frosty silence she suggested, again quite fiercely and with an angry tone, that the reason she was angry was with herself that she was not making her meaning clear. I, knowing where the conversation was going, simply said that I could see her meaning and where she was heading. It has been left there.

ADDENDUM: a rather heated discussion later and Tilly says I "always make [her] feel shitty about [her] choices" because I push the whole aspect of challenge. It actually is the same conversation but with a different topic.

The double standard is fascinating.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

It's a meme thing

Did I mention I wish this were me?
I did?
Oh, well, shucks.

This popped up on my primary persona's facebook feed and I thought I would give it a pop there. Then, having done this and being the wanton attention-whore that I am, I thought I would post it again here with more honesty injected and some extended answers. Now, I realise that no readers of this blog will be able to compare the two entries, but I shall, and I suspect that comparison will be interesting because I am nothing if not slightly narcissistic and self obsessed.

I am also on my second pint of home brew for the evening. We went to a play at the local theatre and the Boy showed that he is really not ready for that kind of thing - much noise and wriggling about and twatting people with cars - and that was slightly irritating. Not as much as me falling asleep while putting him to bed last night after a day out to a stately home (I hate stately homes, really, I mean, I know I can learn stuff from them and whatnot but the extortionate price that one pays for entry has me balking. Tilly knew well enough to hide the cost until we were there) and thus missing an evening that I had intended to spend with a beer and blogging.

It may be worth doing this again at roughly this point next year too. After all, this is approximately the second anniversary of this place and the warmth from lovely people has barely abated. Even if I have got a tad wearing and repetitive.

Anyway, if you wish to read the rather boring meme thing from facebook, click below!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

To be human...

So another short post but, hopefully, a different one. I was perusing on youtube and saw the videos that I shall finish this post with. And, you know what, I want to do the ones where people throw themselves out of aircraft or off mountains and buildings. I want to do parkour and ride mountain bikes down ridiculous courses.

Oh yes!
When I was in primary school, aged about ten, we went to an out of bounds centre in the Lake District. A group of us went on a ghyll scrambing expedition (basically, you climb up a waterfall/beck that comes down the side of a mountain). Now, we were young, so I guess it was pretty tame. But, at the top of one of the waterfalls, the instructor asked for volunteers to dive into the plunge pool. Of course I put my hand up. I figured that the instructor had said it was safe, when would I ever get another chance? I remember that I had to just jump before the worry set in. I remember the thrill, liberation and freedom of being in the air and I remember the shock of landing. It was awesome. It was beautiful. Later in that same trip we went caving and there was a cave so low that none of us could raise our heads, there was the mini-cave that was just large enough for ten year old me. I was the only volunteer to crawl through it. So that I had to refind the party when I got to the other side because no one wanted to hang around. Yes, I was that annoying crazy kid.

And seeing these videos makes me want to do it again. The video thumbnails have bugger all to do with the content either.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Mental images are odd things...
What did Morpheus call it in the Matrix? Oh, yes,
residual self image.
It's been a while. I've been marking and it's coming up the end of the year. There is much that is positive at the moment, very positive. My immediate boss continues to shower praise from above (though, interestingly, he revealed to me that his favourite nickname for himself was 'the smiling assassin' - what was it I said he was at the beginning of the school year?) and steal most of my initiatives - but the latter point is well-known by those he attempts to impress with them, so well-known in fact that my immediate boss has started making a joke of it. So, that's actually a good thing.

I've been involved a lot in the football but my right thigh has taken such a pounding that it still hurts, like I've pulled a muscle or something, and that sucks I guess. Girlie has been out to drama, the Boy is obsessed with Temple Run and even Tilly is looking happier. We all have the same annoying cold with coughing but that can't be helped. I have bought and distributed Christmas gifts to my work colleagues for the first time in... uh... for the first time and attended so many Christmas meals with staff that I wonder how I ever ate anything other than pub-food. It's been a busy, but very positive, few days.

Speaking of good things...
I remain hard on myself, of course, as Leslie pointed out earlier. I should remember that, in being harsh with myself, I am automatically harsh with all whose outlook that I share. It certainly isn't meant that way.

There's more marking on the way, well, it's already there and waiting actually, but that shouldn't be a bad thing either I suppose. Aaaand now it's very late and I should be in bed. So, a quick post from me tonight just to touch base.

Saturday, 14 December 2013


In my head, this is actually a possibility.
How shit is my head?
I have been observed and I have been found, for the first time since my job interview, to be 'outstanding'. It was a pretty pedestrian lesson but the write-up was effusive and complimentary. I mean, it was by the Deputy Head, and she has written things like "ha ha" (twice) and "I'm giggling thinking about it" and "you are a credit to our school" in it. I'm somewhat bowled over and not used to that amount of praise. Even the fact that I haven't really been keeping up with marking has been explained away for me by the observer! Indeed, apparently I have something of reputation for being an interesting teacher (despite my kicking of one set for bad essays) and a generally positive feeling all round. I have also been blown away by the quality of some of the student-run stuff in the school. They did drama that was of a very high standard (the Great Gatsby condensed and shown as a homosexual love story, for example, with a sympathetically serious main storyline wrapped in clever jokes) and there is a singing competition that the whole school takes very seriously. I have been recruited as a judge for this and this has been a cause for celebration by my immediate boss who always enters and also takes this seriously indeed. How different!

Foos-ball. I am not a sportsman.
Nor a sportswoman.
Nor a woman.
Then there's the football group. We meet up and they play football whilst I run around being vaguely ineffective and shit at passing, dribbling, shooting or, you know, anything connected with football. Sorry, it's soccer for those of you from the USA. We followed this last week with a meal out and a trip to the pub. They are all teachers at the school in which I teach and one of them is my immediate boss. He got rather drunk but this was shown by him praising me effusively (again) and saying that he was glad of my appointment and that I was fitting right in. All of the group is pleased to see me, maybe because I make everyone else look good at football, but possibly also because they are friendly people. How very different!

Yay Community.
Around where we live there is a genuine community feeling too, so that people in the shops are friendly like where we used to live but there's another feeling there - I call this community. In the pub we went to last night there was a genuine feeling of that. It hadn't been updated in terms of decor since the sixties or earlier but there was a real sense that the owners had spent their money wisely and that the local community were appreciative of it. The rumour is that the local oldies go there for lunch, for example (the food did seem reasonably priced) and that one day one of them did not appear. The landlady went round to the missing old person's house to find out that they were ill and temporarily house bound. Naturally the landlady brought a lunch round and shared it at the old person's house. This is community. It's an old mining area and an industrial heartland and so I suspect that has something to do with it. Vive la difference!

Eh, the body is grey, but these are close enough.
Taking my advice from Facebook, as you do, I tried the pushing Tilly up against a wall and kissing her thing. It seemed to work insofar as I wasn't pushed away but she wasn't feeling 'amorous' and so it ended in snuggling. In the meantime we have received my mother and father (separately) as visitors and so I have been wearing some knickers for confidence. It has been nice and I have enjoyed the experience again, as one would expect, and not in a sexual way. They are the 'frillier' ones with pink lace trim and a grey body. It has been nice.

Thursday, 12 December 2013


Is it my blog without a wedding picture every now and

Eh, the extra connotation of pink on boys as a
gay thing is arguably as bad as the original
pink = girls assumption.
I have heard and seen more and more about the equalisation of colour and choices in early childhood. The idea that there are no feminine traits or masculine traits, there are simply things that children do and the way in which they behave. The boys who do not mind, or actively seek, pink; the girls who are tomboys; the boys who wear tutus and dresses and so on. The Boy does this too, and my Girlie, both often behave and enjoy things that are outside of the societal norm attributed to their physical gender to the extent that it has me questioning what femininity and masculinity are beyond a societal expectation that we learn. Certainly I would argue that what we see as these things is highly coloured by what we are told they should be by the generations that went before us rather than something that is set by birth and by nature.

Juana Galan and an army of women turned
the tide in Napoleon's invasion of Spain as
recently as 1805. And women were in the
home and nowhere else? I think not.
My understanding of gender politics through History tells a similar story. Contrary to what the Industrial Revolution likes to teach us (and, in particular, those bastard Victorians) men and women did not operate in terribly different spheres for much of human history. Certainly there was a distinction in some areas of Church (and I include Judaism in this) whereby the Priesthood was a definably male arena, but even this had much in the way of female participation that has been ironed out by the Industrial Revolution. For the most part, ordinary lives appear to have been rather distinctly genderless, in that roles that were open were open to either gender. Historical records of prehistoric peoples encountered by more modern observers suggests that people displaying traits of more than one gender were often minor celebrities or assumed to be spiritually stronger than those who did not. The fact that such points come up in just general reading around the subject suggests that these attitudes and ideas are rather common.

She looked like this.
Tonight, I was on the phone to my mother and she happened to mention the saga of me cavorting for the amusement of a girl in primary school. Most of my friends would go home for lunches and I stayed at school, meaning that I was invariably bored and lonely at lunchtimes. At first I remember playing alone or just being lonely. I would stand in the sunlight in cold days and make-believe that I was solar powered. I would sit on the low wall between playgrounds and cry. I would sing to myself out of line of sight of other children. However, at some point in juniors, I happened across three(?) girls who I always assumed were younger than I. I drew upon storytelling and would put on a play for them with silly voices and the loosest of narratives (I was between seven and ten, let's not assume too much here). My mother suggested that this was because I fancied someone at that age. If I can recall my motivations correctly I don't believe that it was like that. As far as I can remember my own intense loneliness and boredom coupled with my general desire to please and be praised to give me the impetus to 'play' for the benefit of others.

A happy teacher.
Yes, I guess I can claim that now.
At work the praise continues, which is nice but bad for my ego. I have barely been there a full term and long-serving teachers are pointing NQTs, trainees and colleagues to observe me and my lessons because of the good press I get from students. Apparently I am well known by staff that I have never met through the reputation that I have with students for being engaging and interesting. This, though flattering, is dangerous stuff as I can already feel myself taking greater risks with what I do and how I teach. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Feminism is weaker here than at where I used to work, as is tolerance of most things. For one, students here still use 'gay' as a derogatory term. I didn't realise how much that had been eradicated in where I used to work, I haven't heard the term as a derogatory term for about four years! Then there's the sexual dimension. Where I worked, we joked about it, but the school was remarkably accepting of homosexuality and trans* in general. Where I am is more... mainstream, in that attitudes are not as accepting nor as understanding as I am used to.

Men fight battles, women wage war.
Yes. Of course. Right.
Over the last few days Tilly has had another friend over (there was a visit over the weekend from another too) who has stayed in the spare room. She is nice, we shall call her Vanessa, and polite. Her and Tilly go a ways back (no, not sure how far) and they share a number of tastes in the historical fiction vein so they ended up watching The White Queen last night on a kind of marathon. This brought up much in terms of the power of females in medieval times in the British Isles and the matriarchal nature of clan structures in the fringes and possibly in the main areas of towns and cities too (though the latter is hard to trace).

Subversion in societal artifices.
All of these things make me wonder what the motivation really is for me dressing the way I do on occasion. I rescued the wig that Tilly was throwing out and added it to my horde. But why? If expectations of femininity and masculinity are artifices created by society and, more to the point, relatively modern and unnatural, then what does that suggest about cross-dressing? On this basis, the need for it to be specifically feminine would suggest that what I do is equally artificial and relatively modern, predicated on modern society's perception of gender roles and social genderised mores. If I had been born and lived in another time period then it is highly unlikely that my desires would remain the same - further suggesting that what I do is unnatural in that it only occurs in my present position and in the present time. By that reckoning cross-dressing as I understand it, use it and enjoy it is a peculiarly First World activity. My own motivations and predilictions in another society would have resulted in different behaviours. That would imply that Tilly is 'right' to reject my cross-dressing as abnormal and not worthy of actual discussion - what would there be to actually be discussed. Or, and this is the semi-frightening part for me - cross-dressing cannot be separated from GID.

In this analysis then, cross-dressing is a natural stepping stone or watered down version of the feeling that one is in the wrong physical body. After all, clothing is one of the most societal artifices that I can name and so there is no real need to feel that clothes must be designed for the opposite gender. I can trawl through human history and find times and places where any female attire was male and vice versa. So, my urge and desire to cross-dress cannot be motivated purely on the basis of 'girls get better clothes' or 'forbidden fruit'. This only really leaves the desire to fulfil a role and position that society has deemed as feminine. If that is the case then the natural part of the urge, that is, the part that is not learned (and my musings on this suggests that there is such a part of what I do) implies that what is really going on is jealousy on some level. That I actually do wish to be united with a physical form that matches my internal feelings on the matter. This, in turn, suggests that on some level I consider myself mentally female, hence GID. In that case, my protestations about my male parts would be a case of Juliet protesting rather too much and the danger, worry and thus disgust espoused by my spouse would be not only understandable but almost expected. I would not be the man she fell in with at all, I would, in fact, be a woman who had hidden herself from Tilly rather well (and from herself too). I would be more Joanna/Rebecca than the male persona I inhabit.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Brace yourselves!

As hinted at in my last post there's been a lot on this week. What, with visiting Tilly's cousin, not getting all of my work done generally, two colleagues off ill (at different points), realising that my hair is too damn' long and buying a set of bracelets it's been pretty non-stop. The first thing is the bracelets, I suppose and I ought to explain that as this is a place of honesty after all.

Apart from the chain, of course, I'd
happily have this style.

Toby would suggest capris.
A long time ago, when I first confronted the fact that I was cross-dressing without having the cover of it pleasing someone else (my mad-ex, Toby, always said I looked good dressed and so I used to make-believe that I did it only for her benefit), I posted that I was cross-dressing and sought to get to the bottom of it. Several helpful people offered views on things but it was a big thing that I wasn't stealing clothes of other people (I think most people assumed I was still at University, I wasn't, and sharing a house, I lived alone). So it was, being autistic, that it became a big thing that I really only ought to dress in my own stuff, stuff that I bought or that others had thrown out. I failed in that sometime last week. I succumbed to the temptation to try on some of Tilly's bracelets that she had left in the kitchen one morning. And the feeling of them was electric. It lasted only about ten minutes but it was completely indescribable. It put me in mind of the incident that started this whole blog going in the first place and how I felt then.

Of course I repeated it. and, much like the first incident in this blog, it wasn't as powerful the second time. So, after a while, I took them off. And one of them broke. It was an elastic based one, cheap costume jewellery from a fancy dress shop, with metal beads that hid the elastic. They were flat with a simple concentric circle design on each one. It was already pretty weak, fraying in places, and very loose. It just sort of went when I took it off. Nary even a ping, just finally gave out. Not too much pressure just reached its last. I narrowly escaped suspicion in that, and that's not really right, I know.

If I looked like this when I felt like this I probably wouldn't
feel like this.

That's, like, the inception of comments about an image.
At the same time, both children have been ill in the last week and I have spent most evenings in work until late. A parents' evening on the Wednesday, marking on the Thursday and then tonight I was out with the people who play football (interestingly, all male). So Tilly has been doing most of the parenting and failing to get the house in order. She's been frayed and irritable, the children have been sharing a bed with her whilst I've been sleeping in another room. In fairness this is hardly different from the situation normally, we share a room rather than a bed these days and never go to bed at the same time. Mostly I'm already asleep by the time Tilly goes to bed and, in the morning, I may be lucky enough to see one or both children but never Tilly before I go to work. Essentially I'm still living alone. In typical passive-aggressive style I have thus failed to feel all that guilty about the bracelet.

Instead, on a trip to get some basics we were running short on, I detoured and got a set of three pearl-effect bracelets. On elastic, so they are tight around the wrist, with one of them having a chain of five slightly larger beads to set a centre. All three have black metal loops around the 'top' beads that I assume are there to attach things to (I'm thinking artificial flowers and the like). I wore them to bed and loved the feeling. Wearing them again this morning was similarly good and nice.

This is actually reasonably close to what my hair looked
like out of the shower. Except my fringe is sadly shorter
than that.

I am vaguely jealous of this nameless woman.
Is that sad? I think it's sad.
At the same time, after the football, I took a shower and noticed in the mirror (this was in a private staff only changing room, so I was alone, the house does not have a shower) that my hair is now longer than Tilly's in places. Indeed, a little styling and I had a slightly right of centre parting that looked almost feminine. The hair at the back is long enough that it has begun to curl round to the left naturally and it's long enough to be tucked behind my ear. I confess that I kinda like it. It may feel too long and irritate my ears and get in the way of my collar but this has to be the longest I've manged to let my hair grow in, well, forever I think. I don't know. Last had it cut in July so, quite possibly, the longest it's ever been. I know that, at some point, I'll have to get it cut but, for the moment, I'm happy to put that off as long as I can. With one of the headlights out on the car and a noise that suggests a hose has come loose in the engine I may have enough of an excuse to forego hair cutting in favour of catching up on marking whilst the car is being fixed tomorrow. Barbers will be shut on Sundays and then that's another week bagged.

Tinsel now adorns our hallway, there's a tree in the living room, and arts and crafts leavings litter the dining room table. I do appreciate what Tilly is able to do with the children, I would not do well doing arts and crafts with them and I hate Christmas decorations, but that doesn't dull the feelings of antipathy here. This is very much my problem, I can't ask others to go with me on this. Like my desires in the physical realm of sex, they are odd and they are unusual enough that I am the one that should seek to change to fit rather than expect others to work around me.

Right, I am going to finish my beer and go to bed. Sleep well if you read this at that time, otherwise I simply bid you a good day.

Beer Review: Old Intentional

It's been an odd week. After the madness of my failed marking and the discovery that my students have found my beer blog I have had little time to really get into blogging of late. Given my last entry that's probably for the best. However, it's Friday, I've played football, my arms ache and I'm having a beer.

Tonight I am mostly drinking Derby Brewing Co.'s Old Intentional that comes in a natty bottle with a purple label evoking various parts of Derby's skyline, and not all of that is terribly flattering.

There's a definite smell of hops, not the sharp citrus of cascade or the pungent aroma of maris otter nor the fiery spice of fuggles but it's there all the same. Puts me in mind of raisins and grape and strawberries in Pimm's of a summer evening. Colour is a nice chestnut with a thin head that arrives with a great deal of vigour and then dissipates just as quickly. First sip is hoppy, the bottle claims delicate hops but I call foul and say they run the show, above a smooth malt and the barest hint of a yeasty tone sounding softly in the background. Picture yourself in a Tibetan monastery, somewhere in the distance there is a singing bowl being sounded, that's about the influence of the yeast and it is a good effect to have. Carbonation is light and carefully handled, I've had the bottle a few weeks and the conditioning has done it some good from the feel of things, and there is a satisfying amount of fizz without being overwhelming.

At 5% ABV it's firmly in my normal drinking stable and the wealth of taste in it makes me think that this is of good quality. There's a body to it, a kind of warm thickness, the sort of feeling you would usually associate with a familiar coat that you dig out to wear in winter after a long summer and find bus tickets in the pockets along with a receipt of meaning and a tenner that you forgot you had sometime in late February the year before. In the same way this is a beer that rewards your hesitancy with rich flavour and an improving aftertaste. It's probably not a sessionable beer but one that you have with food, I'd suggest a nut roast or a vegetable curry to get the necessary 'bite' that this would soothe over, and that is no bad thing.

Most pleasurable. Enjoy with a hearty meal at most times of the year, but not high summer, and have a brace. One to have as you eat and one to have as you dissolve into the inevitable after dinner conversation where one puts the world to rights. Actually, it's almost a fashionista beer and one that would suit Terri, for example, down to the ground (the label may even allow for matching accessories).

Monday, 2 December 2013

Blog-based therapy?

Way back when there was therapy and it was CBT. And, on the weekend I was clearly being a tit. I should clarify that I did not deliberately set up any viewpoint, much less Tilly's, as being "bloody ridiculous". I did, however, set up multiple methods of viewing transvestism and transgenderism and challenge each and every one in a Devil's advocacy. That is, knowing that unquestioning support for trans* is contentious I set up the views against it/them in their various guises and offered challenges to each one. Some of those challenges were what I would consider sensible and some were not. At no point did I seek to denigrate any opposing views nor the central tenet. My aim was to maintain debate and to get some good challenges in return. I was not disappointed, but my audience seemed politely swayed (that is, they were too polite to challenge me without knowing more, it is a topic that may resurface).

So, tit-ishness clearly a part of the weekend and the memory of CBT Chair Work combined when trying to the Boy to sleep on that Saturday night to create an internal conversation. I intend to record this, and see where it leads, on here. However, to avoid being so boring that people have aneurysms, I shall post it behind a line-break thingummyjig.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Friends who don't (know)

This actually looks like Sierra, come to think of
it. It also happens to be a painting of a Boer
woman during the Boer War 1899-1901.

There were several points over the weekend
when Sierra made it clear that she sees her role
as a traditional Boer wife. Something, for a
Feminist (she is), I found fascinating too.

Mind you, as she pointed out, it's her choice
to be so.
We visited Tilly's cousins this weekend, but they count better as friends, as part of the beginning of the Festive season. And they are good friends. She, we'll call her Sierra, is very like Tilly - physically, mentally and in personality - and he, we'll call him Pik, is a bit more retiring and respectful than I, a much better husband in many ways, and terribly South African, well, Boer. She's very Anglican, high church like Tilly, and he is, well, whatever flavour Boers are. I suspect Prot but I suspect more Lutheran than Anglican. They are a younger couple, he is fully seven years my junior, but accomplished. She a failed teacher but excellent civil engineer and he a occasional photographer and powerful civil engineer in another company. Their house is a new build and is very well made - to their specifications - and they are both lovely people.

On the evening, whilst Tilly was on Boy duty (we took it in turns), I started a conversation about prejudice. We'd been discussing gay marriage anyway and all agreed that we disliked the Fundamentalist opposition to them and the general literalist view of the Bible. After all, the Bible may be literal, but not in any English translation and, then, not quite as people like to think when they either hold the view or assume that every Christian is a literalist. I, of course, veered into the territory of transgender, as is my wont these days, and we discussed the findings that suggest that homosexuality is encoded, and thus not a mistake, and the fact that transgenderism also appears to be a product of biochemistry based on genetic encoding - leading to the statistical study suggesting that three in every thousand births are biochemically one gender and physically another. We also passingly touched on the idea that binary gender is a relatively modern societal invention rather than predicated on physicality.


This church is a good example of the paradox of
Anglicanism, actually, ostentatiously open but typified
as being closed and full of unspoken 'rules' that are
foreboding and off-putting. Like the debate about Women
Bishops, for example. It's part of what makes me a proud
but frustrated Anglican-flavoured Christian.

We wear our confusion openly.
I knew I was treading on thin ice, and I knew that I was deliberately leading the conversation around my current issues. Sure enough, when faced with open-minded people, I challenged how far that held. If Sierra was respectful of TG and TV would she be is Pik were to reveal himself as such. Here she demurred as he would not be the man she fell in love with, he would have been living a lie and thus her trust would be shattered - nothing to do with the TG or TV element, she assured. But what, pressed I, if it had always been thus, if Pik had always acted non-masculine (and here we all agreed that the terms weren't terribly helpful, but approximated what we were driving at) and had never hidden it, what then? Alas, before we reached a full answer the conversation changed. I had not really registered that Tilly had returned. The conversation thus went down new tangents and was not returned to.

The train wins.

It always wins.
On the way home today I asked, as I do, if I dominated conversation. Tilly had been under strict instructions to kick me if I did dominate, as I do when nervous, in order to prevent me being a dick. She replied that there was just one instance. I had broached and pressed a subject that she was uncomfortable with. Apparently she had returned earlier than I registered. Much earlier. And I had not really registered that she had taken part, briefly, in the cut and thrust before leaving and going elsewhere. She returned and attempted a second derailment and succeeded. It would have been like, she said, her raising TV as a derogatory thing and making light of it knowing what my issues are. She couldn't laugh along in our jocular conversation.

A Christian monopoly?

Worryingly, this actually exists.
I did not point out that the conversation was not jocular, it was deadly serious (but friendly so peppered with humour), nor did I point out that had she done so she would have provided ample evidence of the issues of prejudice and chauvinism we were putting under the spotlight. I chose the issue I did partly due to my own stake in the issue but also because it is still very much on the fringe of things, in a way that gay marriage, though remaining contentious, isn't amongst the people I count as friends who are Christian. That is, I very much know who is in which camp now, we all understand the issue and each other's take on it. Indeed, most Christians I know who are also friends are happy to let it carry on - none of us is marrying gay people after all - but with differing views between toleration and support. I err, for what it's worth, to the latter insofar as I don't recognise marriage as being a Christian monopoly nor what people think it is. I've talked about this before and I digress. The point is that trans* people are more contentious and, despite this, 'safer' as very few people I know know that they know someone who is trans* - even I don't know which term, hence the * moniker remains. So, it is a 'safe' contentious issue in which people aren't watching what they say. I thus find it fascinating and would even if it didn't directly affect me.

Put another way, Tilly was made uncomfortable because she felt it was directly about us and I was discussing it because I was able to, as I have always been able to, ignore the fact that it had any bearing on us. I rather suspect that the promise to discuss the issue as it does pertain to us was a hollow one, but I think I knew that anyway.

Does this need a caption?

Am I the work surface or Dr Cox?

Well, I am a cock.
Tilly feels that I raised her POV and made it out to be, in her words, "bloody ridiculous". I confess that, when analysed, I do find her POV on this matter "bloody ridiculous" and that if she were to raise my POV on anything and declare it as such I would either defend it or I would give way based on the strength of argument. Indeed, such things have happened. Some defences are successful, some not and some areas I give way in, still others remain to be thrashed out fully. In all things I stand to be convinced. Hell, this time four years ago I would have been unable to label myself as trans* at all, I don't think I even knew the term, I just knew that now and again I liked to wear clothes designed for women. Ten years ago I had worn knickers once and the rest was idle speculation. Fifteen years ago I was aware of things and knew 'transvestism' but didn't even know that there were people who felt they were born in the wrong body, biochemically or otherwise. Twenty... you get the idea.

Brick walls make my head hurt.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Toccata and Fugue

In Dee Minor (see what I did there?)

My life in 2020?
Used to be my favourite year, you know, and if this
was to be it I'm not sure I would be able to complain
very much more than I do now.

Well, probably about the loss of my family.
So, Dee was setting her discussion points, as she does on her blog, and asked if there was anything that people still wanted to do. It's 2013, it's been the future since 2000, and one has to ask where all the time went. I left University without indulging myself but having had my first very clumsy relationship and plenty of stalker-like crushes that my male privilege allowed me to get away with in a way that I don't think I'm entirely comfortable with looking back. I have met and married a wife, had a tumultuous relationship with a madwoman who seemed to like me. I have had two children. I have had four jobs, two at the same place of employment, and gained three degrees since 2000. I have bought two houses, rented six properties and lived in three counties.

Why so serious?

Yes Wendy, we all wear masks, in a
manner of speaking...
My Dad was over on the weekend. It was... a complicated way to make a visit happen, but my family are good at that kind of thing. We all make asses out of Uma Thurman with our assumptions but she is yet to come and kill us for it. Anyway, the point is that, after a slow start, my Father offered me acceptance. He's been 'proud' and he's said that he likes my workaholic nature already. Yesterday he offered acceptance. Why? I have a big house that is clean and tidy. I appear wealthy and well-to-do. And I wanted to tell him that it was a sham. Because it is all a sham.

My respectability, my job, my outward persona is all a big fat lie. I am downright messed up. I have messed with my mind so much regarding sex, for example, that it's hard to know where the part of me that is me begins and where the porn-obsessed part ends. What is action from me and what is a learned conditioned response. In terms of job it's hard to know what is an act and what is really me any more - even with a nice place and good students I have an odd duality that I have noticed before and seems to be increasing. Certainly I am noticing it more in the less stressed environment.

Made up, a figment, a dream within a dream...

In all honesty, what else is there?
I am an artifice and I don't truly know what or who I am. I am most at home playing a role. So at home, in fact, that I am beginning to wonder if I ever don't play a role. I want to say that when I was dressed those times earlier in the year and when I was renting for my new job before moving then I was closest to me. But I don't actually know what that means. I was closest to being myself when I was dressed in clothes that do not match my outward gender appearance operating entirely in secret? Seriously? When dressed for a role that is entirely made up, running scenarios in my head that were the most removed from my daily life I was the closest to being me?

Since 2000, well, more 1998, I have been trying to find exactly who I am. I have discovered precious little. I have plenty that I am not, but not much of what I am.

Except, well, in this case it is for boys.

Though, if GID is genetic/biochemical then what is it that
makes someone male or female?
Leslie, wise and supportive, asked what difference a diagnosis of GID would make. Perceptive. Like a diagnosis of Asperger's or Depression or Alzheimer's or Athlete's Foot it would help identify something that is purely me. Something that is a fact. A Fact. That is, something that was not influenced by my own sense of drama, occasion and a desire to challenge. Something like GID or Depression or whatever can't really be faked - at least, not for long and not with any degree of continuing accuracy, unless you are deliberately cheating and then the labels are meaningless anyway - I'm not sure that I could fake anything like that. I would have nothing to gain by faking that because who exactly would I tell? It would be for me. And if you cheat on something that only you care about the only person you cheat is yourself.

Hence my fugue. A bad lesson and a lack of marking and unresolved sexual tension with Tilly and a lingering sense of discomfort from my Father's visit combine and the result is this blog. Well, more kind of an ongoing thing, if you've been here a while you'll know that. And a question, the same question: what do I want?

Without a clear aim how can anyone bring down the Russian government?

Sunday, 24 November 2013


A while back the family went to have look in Little Narnia (no, really) and saw something that has stayed with us since then. It was a family trip to the YSP and we'd been a few times before. As we move to decorate the house with images and pictures that mean something to all of us Tilly suggested we get a few of these images in frames and hang them up. As I happen to share Tilly's love of these images and the artist, but for very different reasons (well, some of them are similar, we are both historians after all), I readily agreed.

The images are, of course, from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park installation by Yinka Shonibare MBE. We went along originally because the YSP was a favourite haunt of the children's, hence the moniker 'Little Narnia', and we weren't really expecting much from the main exhibition by this oddly named artist that I, naively, assumed must be pretentious and female. Not so. We were somewhat wowed by the use fabric and dress to evoke a time that both of us ought to find pleasantly familiar but that made me feel rather challenged. And I like it when art challenges me to think in new ways. As you can probably remember actually.

A Bull market?
For example, take Revolution Kid, the boy with the head of a bull calf. For a start, the pose is lifted almost entirely from the awesome Liberty Leading the People, thereby referencing a genuine revolution and the active role that youth played within it. Secondly, the gun is a replica of the gold plated weapons favoured by Colonel Gaddafi, bear in mind that this was made during and after the civil war in Libya. Then there's the fact that the bull calf is the head rather than any other part of the body - the attitude of the youthful revolutionaries personified and neither deified nor ridiculed, but noted and respected nevertheless. The clothing too, a mixture of late Regency (thus white history) and Dutch print fabrics associated with Africa, and so a comment on the hypocrisy of the West (the Dutch print fabrics were made from raw materials supplied by Africa and chiefly sold back to the people there at a much high price) in relation to the revolutionary activity. Also, one hand holds a Blackberry phone in twin recognition of the power of social media in the Arab Spring and the London Riots in 2011.

Terrible beauty that I would so like to wear
Then there's How to blow two heads off at once (Ladies) which is one of my favourites. It wasn't actually at the YSP when we visited either time but I feel that it speaks to me more than do the other works. Here we have two female mannequin posed in a dueling posture with eighteenth century flintlock pistols. I love the fact that, because they are headless, it is impossible to discern emotion or how the participants are taking the stance. Are they seriously having a duel or are they playfighting with the idea that they will make up? Then there's the dress - inkeeping with the period of the weapons but again with the Dutch print fabric design that was explained above. In this case I feel that it enhances that style of clothing from the era and brings out the flamboyant nature of the time and the act that they are engaged in. Not to mention that, because these are women with firearms, we are subverting the commonly accepted view of aggression and honour even in the modern world. And I like that kind of thing. Obviously. I especially love the careful crafting of the clothing and the way that this theme is repeated in much of Shonibare's work. His love of the female form and of playing with cross-dressing (his short film on the death of the King of Sweden has women in the roles of both King and assassin for example) seems to speak to my own thoughts on the same. In a few cases I simply take joy in the representation that he offers of female garments.

Take these biting satires on the role of women and the powerful in the Regency and, by extension, in modern society as an example. He invokes the fantasy setting of a well maintained garden, clearly gentry owned and thus rich, aloof and powerful in a political sense. And he shows the baseness of the emotions associated with it. There are a number of pieces like this, with men taking women, women taking women and, interestingly, no women taking men. In the small amount of reading about them that I've done Shonibare says they speak about power relationships in the modern world as well as the historical world that he suggests with the dress styles and the way in which they are posed. Certainly it makes sense that, in the modern world, there are no women taking men from behind. Indeed, it very much a man's world now in a way that, beyond the gates of the ancestral piles and stately homes of the eighteenth century, it wasn't quite yet at the time. Obviously men were on the rise following the Enlightenment and Renaissance but women weren't quite pushed out of ordinary life and ordinary positions of influence and power just yet, that would have to wait until the Industrial Revolution kicked off in earnest. Given the proximity of that event to the period depicted one has to wonder if that wasn't a consideration for Shonibare as well.

Also, the noise from the water as you
looked around the whole room with
these things in plays an interesting

I was also very taken with the Four Elements where each element was personified in a different way. The man representing fire with a gas lamp for a head with a stance that suggests he has been surprised by an idea that, with a gas lamp for a head, he must have had. Or the water man who is pouring a drink that he can never have because his head is the tap that pours the water (and, ominously, has an Indian complexion). Or the woman struggling against a high wind for a representation of air, her dress wrapped against her legs and her body bowed against the pressure of the wind that blows in her face meaning that she must struggle against the tide. I love the parallel to Feminism, whether or not he meant it, and the way that there is the intersectionality of oppression hinted at with the pigmentation of the skin on this one (Shonibare ought to know, he's black and increasingly disabled). The one that really brought this home to me, though, was the one for earth. In which we have a figure in a posture reminiscent of strength and power in clothing that is all in 'earthy' tones and a deliberately vague pigmentation that could be anyone and anywhere. More to the point, the generally male figure has breasts and is wearing a long dress over a pair of trousers, which I love as a comment on how the Earth ought to be.

You see what I mean?
Earth is also the favourite because of that combination of masculine and feminine that is totally deliberately done. I could stand for a long time and just look at that individual image because of the power it holds in my own life. That longing to be both at the same time, but not in a sexual sense rather in a mental way. I've said before that I quite enjoy my male parts and the Earth mannequin is very much in a traditionally male posture, proudly wearing the trousers and tensing as if for a fight. I get the impression that this may be a comment on environmentalism than gender-politics on the part of Shonibare but I find my meaning in the latter. The addition of a dress train, along with the hint of breasts, to me embodies that longing that I sometimes feel. I have no desire to stay as a woman but I often feel that there is something missing physically in my chest area, no other way to adequately describe that, and the longing to wear clothes that are designed for women is well documented here already, so probably won't bear repetition now. At least, not while I'm discussing art and revolution. It also taps into my desire to see women more represented in my teaching and understanding of history because I feel insulted by their omission and left out as I often identify more with their trials and struggles than I do with those of 'Great Men' who usually dominate both the understanding of and the experience in History.

Terrible beauty again.
One wonders is that is what Shonibare
shoots for with much of his work. The most
classically 'beautiful' of his work is often
coupled with an underlying strand of pain,
misery or just plain cruelty. But even that
strand stands apart as almost
beautiful. Like a mushroom cloud.
Finally there's the ballerina on a mushroom cloud that was loved by the Girlie. I honestly don't know how best to interpret this but there is definitely something that keeps me coming back to look at it. The graceful beauty of the ballerina echoed in the deadly beauty of a nuclear explosion and then opposed almost at the same time by the terrible nature of that black cloud rising into the sky. The combination of death and the prettiness that is equally present in the young mannequin with no head - a life devoted to an art form that is increasingly seen as irrelevant and flippant but also that spits out the young when they become too old with little to support them and few transferable skills but the memory of their training and the money we hope they put away during their time as performers. That's for most, not all. It was that same transience that I caught when looking at works by Degas that captivated me in Sixth Form. That feeling that these women were not actually being represented for their beauty but for the fact that they would soon pass. A sadness over their actions and their futility, after all, Degas didn't know it but the First World War was coming to sweep away the life that he was recording. Shonibare does know it, he clearly knows his history, and has juxtaposed his dancer with war of another kind that would sweep everything away. And, obviously, there is something for me in the ballerinas. Duh.

If you haven't, he's worth checking out. So is the YSP!