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Friday, 23 July 2021

Now We are Six

 Now we are Six

Or so an email today from Tumblr informs me.

Who remembers – or still uses - Tumblr these days? But apparently it still remembers me, enough to send a birthday message at least. And a reminder to update or verify my account.

Tumblr must have been my first attempt at a blog, or least until I got bored with posting badly photoshopped pictures of Susie and used it for posting bits of artwork instead, and then abandoned it in favour of Blogger where I had more control (theoretically, anyway) over the mixture layout pictures and words. And there on and off (sometimes for quite long periods) I have remained.

But Susie is six? At least as far as her appearance in the blogosphere is concerned. My first Blogger post is dated 19 July 2015 . Perhaps there should be cake, and candles. (Actually, there should always be cake., although I’m prepared to forego the trifle.)

And I wonder if some of those early posts will prove just as embarrassing as seeing your baby photos when looked back on from the grown-up perspective of being six.


All change!

Feel your body melt
Mum to mud to mad to dad”

 [points to anyone who identifies the quote.]

The Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zhou) once dreamed  he was a butterfly, and when he awoke suddenly he wondered if he was now Chuang Tzu who had just dreamed of being a butterfly or a butterfly now dreaming he was a man called Chuang Tzu.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to describe Susie as a butterfly, except perhaps in her flightier moments, or her rare, fleeting appearances in the garden, I think I sometimes know how Chuang Tzu must have at that moment of feeling still suspended between two different states: that of a light carefree butterfly and the solid reality of mundane existence.

It’s a feeling that lingers in that hour or so when the last traces of Susie have been packed safely away out of sight after receiving a phone call from L saying she’s on her way home, and before she comes in through the door, bursting to tell me all the news of her day out. In that state I am neither completely one thing nor another. I am no longer Susie, and I’m just starting to miss her – especially the feeling of hair against the back of my neck once more, but I have not yet fully adjusted to being boring old S again. 

(For myself, I will not be asked about how my own day was, or what I did, unless the answer contains no reference to spending the best part of it as Susie. While her existence is acknowledged in this house, it is not open to discussion.)

That context switch from being Susie back into mundane life can sometimes prove difficult, especially when you’re busy editing your answers before you speak.  This is something that came up in an LGBT+ Ally discussion at work. Self-editing your responses when your boss or colleague asks about your weekend because you’re not comfortable being out at work  takes a lot of mental effort that is basically wasted - and constant non-committal answers have the danger of making you seem aloof, distant or stand-offish. That wasted mental effort, and the strain it imposes, is part of the reason the company I work for has a strong Pride LGBT+ network and encourages and supports people who want to be out and open at work. It’s not totally altruistic: All that wasted mental effort, they judge, could be better used thinking about work and contributing to company goals. But it is a move towards a win-win situation. (That is, if you actually like your work.)  

Although here I perhaps ought to confess that despite being on my workplace’s Pride committee, I am not out myself as trans / bi-gender, even to fellow members of that committee. That time may still come, but it still seems a big and potentially irrevocable step to take, despite all the reassurances about diversity and inclusion, after 40 years of being in hiding.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

A Bridge too far.

 While not entirely surrounded by water like the fabled Seven Bridges of Konigsberg problem*, the village that I live in is bounded on one side by a canal and on the other by a small river  and by a couple of small nature reserves at the top and bottom of the village. 

(*well, famous a handful of mathematicians and students of graph theory anyway.)

There are around five bridges (I can never keep track) mainly on the canal side, plus two or three locks that allow footpath access to some of the neighbouring villages on the either side.

When I first started venturing out in the early mornings as Susie, sometime in mid-2019, it was often those two nature reserves and trails that I headed for, where I could walk for an hour or two and not encounter anyone apart from a few intrepid joggers and early morning dog walkers. (Later, as I grew more confident, I would look forward to these chance encounters and even stop for a brief chat or make a fuss of a playful dog.) 

I've only ever done the full route (some 12 miles) once, which proved to be a bit of mistake. Probably as a result of dehydration and tiredness, I took an awkward tumble on the way back. The next day I found I couldn't put any weight on my left foot, and was still hobbling about painfully for the next two or three weeks, and which put paid to any more excursions for the result of summer.

After that I decided to take things in more relaxed and manageable chunks, taking  in just one side or the other and two three bridges at a time. At some point I decided I should bring a camera with me and record of photo of Susie at each of those crossing places. 

Then just as I was getting more comfortable and confident about those weekend morning walks, along came covid and the first lockdown, which put paid a those excursions for a while, since it's very difficult to maintain 2m distance on a narrow towpath from someone coming in the opposite direction without diving into a hedge or ending up in the canal, neither of which are guaranteed to enhance a lady's dignity.

Indeed, it's only recently that I've restarted some of those morning walks again. So here's a reminder of those pre-lockdown days when a chance encounter on a morning walk was an opportunity to exchange friendly greetings or a few word rather than avoidance and concerned looks. Hopefully we will be able to return to those days before too long.

same coat, but different hairstyle: blonde for a change.

[edit] apparently the bridge in the photo above is called a wight bridge, where a small island (wight) splits the river into two for a short stretch before it rejoins later downstream. Also the bridge I crossed to get to a neighboring village where I once spent a delightful afternoon in a church sale as just another lady from a nearby parish. See back (in black).