(Almost) Three Years Happy

thorns

It’s a little early to be celebrating this anniversary. Really it falls in the autumn, the anniversary of the day that the dark clouds vanished and the game of ‘depression Snakes and Ladders’ was over. But I feel like now is the time to celebrate it because the ‘lockdown’ was as close as I’ve come since then to getting lost in the gloomy underworld again. I have clung on to my happiness by my fingernails, and with the support of my loved ones. ‘Lockdown’ started three years, almost to the day, from when I left my husband and the life I’d lived for 15 years in what felt at the time a last-ditch attempt to make a life that would satisfy me and make me happy, a life that was worth living. In those three years I’ve travelled, volunteered with amazing projects, seen myself reflected back to me by strangers, and worked hard every day to nurture and maintain the green shoots of that life, and to grow them into a fulfilling present and an exciting future, to be honest with myself and others, to be free of my past.

It seemed that 2020 was going to be the best year I’d had in a long, long time, and the future shone bright before me. ‘Lockdown’ squished that present and future, with the loss of a whole season of live events that I and a friend had spent many months planning, booking and organising. The whole performing arts sector now exists in this state of uncertainty, indefinitely. And it was the third time in three months that an opportunity to move on and move into my own home fell through, after three years of living in other peoples’ houses (or a tent!). It knocked me sideways. I floundered. I stepped on a Snake and slid downwards several levels in the game. It was very hard not to become ego-centred and hopeless at first, to avoid the feeling that ‘the Universe doesn’t want me to be happy and fulfilled’. Spoken word and poetry became too painful for me to watch, read, or even think about. I keep finding little sad, lonely and hopeless poems from that time that I don’t remember writing scribbled in odd pages of my notebooks.

There were times when I and my new boyfriend found ourselves living together in very close quarters, there were times when we had to social distance again and I had to cleanse all traces of him when he left after a visit sitting metres apart in the garden and I wept. Home was fraught with everyone’s anxieties. I worried about the safety and well-being of loved ones in care homes. It was sunny almost every day, so as a person with super-sensitivity to sunlight and warm temperatures, I had to stay indoors.1 Social distancing and even the emptiness and peace of the ‘lockdown’, although pleasant to my Asbergers’, did not really do my mental health any good.

I felt frozen and bereft and I fell into Twitter, often spending the whole day in there. I found stories from all over our world, stories that, for the most part, horrified or enraged me, and made me feel powerless against an ever-expanding soul-less and psychotic system that steals from the poor to give to the rich, that lies to our faces outrageously, that simply does not value life or believe in fairness. Like millions of us around the world, I wanted to be out on the streets holding these bastards to account. Instead we were all indoors, looking after ourselves and each other, as we always end up having to do since the ‘representatives’ we ‘elect’ to look after us actually want us gone. I began to feel that the contribution I had been making to my community was not enough, that nothing ever would be, that my own life and ambitions did not matter in the face of this crisis, and simultaneously, that I was powerless and incapable.

I watched every documentary that Adam Curtis has ever made. I understood the concept and progress of ‘hypernormalisation’ and it helped me get a handle on, and see through, the endlessly confusing, contradictory and downright false and ridiculous statements and actions of our government and others around the world. They are designed to create that feeling of fear, horror and powerlessness, so that we just give up trying to unravel the Gordian knot of bullshit and corruption and instead buy ourselves some sense of security and autonomy from Amazon or a mortgage advisor. So that we choose EastEnders over the real people that live in our real community and the hard work it takes to interact with them meaningfully and co-operatively.

My beloved and I did some small ‘actions’ that helped us feel less powerless, that we were raising our voices outside of social media. I began to write again, and managed to surmount my fear of being on video to share some of those poems with my creative community. I started playing the guitar very very badly again, and singing songs that helped me express some of my thoughts and feelings. But still, I felt paralysed and simultaneously responsible for changing everything bad happening to us: isolation, death and disease, untrustworthy governments and corporations extending their surveillance of us, billions funnelled into the accounts of the super rich and the corrupt while people starve and get evicted in the middle of a global pandemic, legislation that enacts draconian and ill-defined powers for states and their police forces, environmental disasters, indigenous peoples encroached upon, brutalised and murdered … I could go on and on and on. What on earth could I, a single, deeply flawed organism, possibly do to change all of this? And then my health, and my right knee (the one I took for George Floyd), gave way entirely.

I was right back to three years ago, in a bed, in a room feeling powerless and hopeless and alone. So I got out of that room. The four walls and the closed door, so precious to me; my privacy, my space and my control, which help me stay sane in good times, are also my nemesis. Just like three years ago, I had to get out of my room and the energy that I’d created and experienced in it. I moved in with my beloved, and it took three weeks of sleeping and eating as much as possible, of avoiding social media and calling people for conversations instead, of taking slow little walks in nature and foraging in the verges, for the knee to recover and my teeth and gums to stop hurting, to get some energy back and to move out of a place of fear and loneliness. During that time the hits kept on coming and my frustration was no less. For every square forwards I moved on the board, it seemed I paid with having to sit out a round or two. Snakes snapped around my heels and Ladders were snatched away. There came a crisis, triggered by a sad event.

I sat one night a few weeks ago, unable to sleep. My head, my heart, my belly were full, were churning. It was 1.30am. I got up and dressed and went to sit in my car, the only place I have all of my own. I knew a poem was brewing within me and I had to be alone to write it. I had to be near the sea to write it. Serendipity finally intervening, I found that my knee was recovered enough for me to drive, and that travel restrictions had been relaxed enough that I felt that I could drive somewhere. What happened is this poem. And that night it all began to change, to move again. I am wild, I am free, I am loved. I have choices. I’m lucky, privileged, blessed. It took another long drive a couple of days later and a long heart-to-heart with my beloved for me to relax and really feel all of that.

We understood that the world has changed. And that it’s not for a few months, but indefinitely. That you might make plans, but that the ‘lockdown’ might well come back, and scupper them again. That the social issues that upset us the most are not going away, but will in fact worsen. That the soul-less are inexorably devouring the world and everything living on it while we fight each other in the streets and the supermarkets and online and bombs keep dropping like a rain that no amount of sunshine can drive off.

And we understood that we have to create our freedom inside ourselves. That, horrified as we both are by this new world, we have to make spaces within it to love, to enjoy, to connect, to play, to laugh, and to tell the truth. That if we can’t, then the virus of hypernormalisation has infected our minds and the soul-less have power over us. That if we can, we might be able to share that freedom with others, and help them feel it too.

Because actually nothing has really changed at all in this new world. No matter how much security you think you have, it is all an illusion, which could be blown away in a hurricane or even with a sneeze. The future always is and always will be unpredictable. Change is inevitable. Shit happens.

Snakes and Ladders.

And in the face of this, the answer too remains the same. Get that egg boiling! Resilience is going to be the key to avoiding the Snakes in the post-COVID 19 universe. Resilience and critical thinking. And critical thinking has to start with ourselves. Before we can truly assess with an open mind the tide of information the modern world bombards us with, we have to aware of our own biases and habits of thinking and feeling. We have to work to free ourselves from them, to respond to things as they happen, as appropriately as possible, rather than to react to things out of habit, fear and ignorance. Learn how to shine the light upon yourself and then turn that light upon the world once it is bright enough, and you will see further and more clearly. It’s not easy and it’s not work that’s ever really over. It has to be done every day. All the time. Relax and accept that you are changeable, along with the flow of life itself. That you are enough, as you are, that your unique combination of genes and experiences and tastes and quirks and talents have never been seen before in this universe, and never will be again, so express them in a pure and unpolluted way. Build compassion towards yourself and then shine that, too, onto the rest of the world. We are all flawed. We are all perfect. No-one knows what’s ‘really going on’. No-one. And that’s how it’s always been.

Let’s fight the power. Love each other. Build free and truthful spaces and share them with as many people as we can. Become as self-sufficient as we can, spiritually, emotionally and practically. Let’s divest ourselves of the old tired divide-and-rule power games and see that only if we have a revolution of the heart can we bring down this soul-less Snake and stop it from dragging us down into the underworld that we create with our own minds. Let’s find those bloody Ladders, and help each other up them, into the sunshine and fresh air.

04.04.20

 

fall

And so another moment

In which life is swept away 

The rug pulled 

Revealing that we were standing on thin air the whole time 

 

Another test of my resilience 

I don’t know if I have much more of it 

It’s hard to know why to try 

Again and again 

And lose again and again 

 

I keep going for other people 

Though I’d like to just lie down 

Lie down forever 

Somewhere far away 

And just stop trying altogether 

 

Accept that nothing ever 

Will come to fruition 

And that the world beyond this 

May be so changed 

That simply surviving together will be the best that we can hope for 

 

We are dust motes 

On the wind of life 

Existence will provide they said 

But no-one seemed to realise

That Existence provides 

Tragedy and cruelty as well as joy and abundance 

 

And all my brothers and sisters on this Earth 

Who have no safe shelter 

Who will be sacrificed 

To ideology and venality 

I weep for them until I cannot bear it any more 

 

We are just small and fragile animals 

Getting up again 

Time after time 

Laying down another rug in thin air 

And standing on it 

 

Forgetting the trick played upon us

Forgetting that the only thing we have is each other 

That love and friendship are our only security 

Will we forget again 

Once this is over? 

Atomised

jun23

 

When I come in

I have to scrub you from my skin

And it feels so horrible

Every time

 

Scrubbing away any trace of the air

That may have passed

From my lover’s lips to mine

Where once we shared breath

So joyfully

Our bodies do not touch

Our eyes reach out

Across the metres

But even our gaze

Feels too intimate, feels like it breaks the rules

 

When I go out

Performing the dance

And fearing the breath

Of my neighbour

Holding my own as we pass

Because there is not space enough

But the space that there is

Is vast

The distance grows between us

How do we come together now?

 

Last year we occupied the streets

And all over the world

We stood together

Raged together

Now we all rage indoors, alone

My life reduced

To a slab of rare minerals

Fifteen by seven centimetres

A tiny window on the world

A tiny mirror of my mind

 

It’s an addiction, an obsesssion

I cannot get enough

I am hooked

Hooked up, hooked in

Scrolling for indignation, scrolling for hope

I pay heavily with my consent

I pay with the highjacking

Of our wheezing politics

Which has died without a ventilator

In a cardboard box on the doorstep of the Apple Store

 

And since my hands are gloved

And cannot reach out and touch yours

All I can do now

Is the dreaming

The dreaming up of the world to come

I want to make a new world

Where we all hold hands again

But tighter than before

So no-one slips and falls

And gets trampled underfoot

 

Where that tiny window

Does not become my jailer

Or my narc

But still lets in the oxygen,

Lets in the light; and makes us space to be

Where we can breathe

This new, fresh air together

And feel the warmth and sweetness

Of another human’s speech upon our face

Like a caress, not a contamination

 

When I come in

I have to scrub you from my skin

And it feels so horrible

Every time

 

Video at: https://myshorten.com/K2t4 or https://youtu.be/le0T6K4ykG4

01/05/2020

workers_day_sharable2

 

May Day, May Day, May Day

This is a distress call

May Day, May Day, May Day

Can anybody hear me?

 

I am trapped indoors

With a man who beats me

I am out on the streets

Coz I can’t pay my rent

 

I am forced to work

In dangerous conditions

I am made to risk my life

To deliver Amazon parcels

 

May Day, May Day, May Day

This is a distress call

May Day, May Day, May Day

Can anybody hear me?

 

I have been told

To inject myself with bleach

I have been arrested

For being outside

 

My future’s being stolen

By liars and cheats

My government hates me

And wants me gone

 

I have to walk 200 miles

To reach my home

A fire is raging

Throughout the camp

 

I don’t have any water

To wash things safe

I am losing my mind

Alone in these four walls

 

May Day, May Day, May Day

This is a distress call

May Day, May Day, May Day

Can anybody hear me?

 

My planet is being attacked

By ravenous beasts

My brothers and sisters

Are struggling to breathe

 

My mother died alone

In a care home bed

I have been beaten up

For ‘looking Chinese’

 

My fear is being

Exploited for profit

I am being pursued

For a banker’s debt

 

I’m being mugged

For all of my data

I’m watching with horror

People dying around me

 

From out of this crisis

Hear me cry

May Day, May Day, May Day

Yes I hear you

My sisters and brothers

We cannot go back

To the old ‘normal’

Because it was broken

And this virus

Has magnified

All its flaws

 

May Day, May Day, May Day

Let it remind us

Of what we can do

What we have achieved

When we all strive together

For a better world

They may take our money

Our homes, our jobs

Our very lives

But don’t let them steal

Our love or our hope

 

May Day, May Day, May Day!

This is a battle cry

May Day, May Day, May Day!

Can everybody hear me?

Video here: https://youtu.be/aNbiAtEHqlg or Facebook/Taratronic

A Delicate Dance

jan13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the delicate dance that we perform around each other

That brings a tear into my eye

These little acts of caring

Like love across a two-metre divide

 

She stops around the corner to let me pass

I walk out into the road to give him space

To breathe freely, without fear

Polluting every waking moment

 

The bigger acts I cannot see:

The nurses and the doctors

The carers, and those making food

For other people without food

 

The people working round the clock in labs

To understand, identify and map

This pathogen. And all the people

Still at work so that the rest of us can shelter

 

And it all makes me cry, because, unlike the

Films and series on TV, we do not riot,

Attack each other out of fear and greed

Instead, we all of us take on this burden

 

We queue and wipe and wear a mask

And stand apart and some of us alone.

I choose to believe, because it makes me happy,

That’s its not just blind obedience and fear

 

That makes us do this; no – it’s love.

It’s solidarity. It’s the only thing we can do

Since the only ‘Safe Pair Of Hands’

We can rely on is our own

 

She stops around the corner to let me pass

I walk out into the road to give him space

To breathe freely, knowing that

This is a delicate dance of love

The Magical Heart

atisha2When my heart is full of pain

and fear and righteous anger,

it can be overwhelming.

It can feel like I’m drowning.

If I am feeling wise that day,

I will remember

Atisha’s transformation meditation

 

When the world is full of pain

war, hunger, prejudice and sorrow,

it can be overwhelming.

It can feel like I’m drowning.

Atisha’s transformation meditation

is the key

 

When my heart feels all alone

full of resentment, failure and regret,

it can be overwhelming.

Instead of drowning,

I try to remember

Atisha’s transformation meditation

 

Build compassion:

I breathe in – and with that air,

I breathe in all the hells, the miseries,

of all the creatures of the Earth,

including my own.

I breathe in all the darkness

into my aching heart

 

The heart is a magical crucible

heated with the heat, the light of love.

It con-fuses all things in the Universe,

distils life to its purest essence

 

Build compassion:

I breathe out – and with that air

I breathe out all the love, the bliss

the joy and benedictions

I can muster

to all the creatures of the Earth,

including myself.

From my magical heart

 

When we lose heart, lose love, compassion

that’s when we fail. We fail each other and ourselves

When we use heart

the eyes of love reveal another world

Every face a friend, every tree a sister, every bird a sign

And the air that I breathe in, so dark,

breathe out, so light,

surrounds me like a mother’s arms.

It can be overwhelming.

It can feel like I’m drowning

in love.

If I’m wise enough that day to remember

Atisha’s transformation meditation

 

https://kadampa.org/buddhism/atisha

Summer Uprising

xr

Take to the streets

And dance for your lives

Sing the pollution

From your lungs

 

Take to the streets

And raise your voice in protest

Whose streets? Our streets!

Whose planet? Our planet!

 

Take to the streets

Talk to everyone you meet

Eat and sleep together

Share the hope and the love

 

Because it’s love

That brings us here

We do not want

To see you harmed

 

And so

 

Take to the streets

Sing, dance, raise your voice

Wave your flags

And bang your drums

 

Because we love you

We stand in your way

Because we love you

We take to the streets

 

We are standing on the precipice

And we are dancing

We are singing

To save humanity

Shhh!

loudnoises

I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to keep my car clean
Telling me how to smoke my sweet green
Telling me how to paint a wall!
As if in my nearly fifty years
I’d closed my eyes and stopped my ears
And done and learned nothing at all

Oh, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to do my job
Telling me how I should love
Telling me how geology works…
Perhaps they think that I’m impressed
But, no, it just makes me depressed
That the world is so full of jerks

Yes, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to chop potatoes
Telling me what my mental state is*
Telling me how to write my novel
Why won’t they ask, or ever listen?
Coz probably I could give them tuition
On health or design or Greek myth or fossils

See, I know lots of things as well
That I don’t feel the constant need to tell
And when you bang on, and on, and on
Telling me things that are often wrong
Your superiority is what you’re proposing
Your insecurity is what you’re exposing

Yes, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me I should try a Mooncup
Telling me that my hormones are fucked up
Telling me that I’m unfulfilled
Go on, assume that I’m incurious
Very few things get me more furious
They’re lucky they don’t get killed!

I love to exchange anecdotes and ideas
And I can keep talking for years and years
But I’m not out tonight to hear you lecture
Conspiracy theories and wild conjecture
The facts in your brain are a meaningless stew
Inspired and genius only to you

So I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me things that I already know
Telling me things I disproved years ago
Telling me all your urban legends
YouTube videos and pomposity…
No longer will I curb my ferocity
Mate, you’re coming across as a bell-end

Can we not have a conversation?
An exchange of information?
We might both learn something new
You from me, and me from you
Because, my dear, I think you’ll find
That’s the mark of a truly intelligent mind

Until then those men in my life can shut up
And stop telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

 

  • ‘state is’ and ‘potatoes’ actually do rhyme in my London accent, so there

The cost of dying

woodlandgrave

With the average cost of a funeral in the UK now £3,757, and the average debt taken on by families to pay for a funeral reaching £1,744, the funeral poverty crisis is worsening every year. Funeral costs have risen steeply (up to 30%), as simultaneously the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 and the government’s crushing ‘Austerity’ policy have tightened the screws on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. It’s a bitter irony that up to 200,000 deaths may be linked to ‘Austerity’, with a combination of food and fuel poverty, cutbacks to health, social and mental health care services, and suicide all contributing to this estimate. So many of us are now too poor to live, and also too poor to die!

Today it was announced that the cost of a death certificate has risen from £4 to £11. It may seem a small amount, until you consider that up to ten death certificates may needed to release the body, arrange the funeral, and access the estate. It’s yet another pressure on grieving family members already struggling to provide a funeral that reflects their love and celebrates the deceased’s life.

While it’s possible to apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment from the DWP if you are claiming certain benefits, the payment will only cover an average of a third of the costs, can take weeks to arrive, and if another family member is in work, or considered next of kin and is ineligible (e.g. if the next of kin is a child), the claim will be rejected. Desperate people on zero-hours contracts, living hand-to-mouth with no savings and no spare money for life insurance or pre-paid funeral plans, will not be eligible. Up to half of all applications are rejected.

So what’s the alternative? There’s been a steep rise in crowdfunding for funerals; in the first nine months of 2016, 2007 crowdfunding pages for funerals were launched, raising an average of £1,300 each. In the same year it was calculated that 1.2 million people in the UK had borrowed £576 million from payday loan companies to pay funeral expenses, landing themselves in a serious cycle of debt. More people are choosing ‘garden burials’ – literally burying their deceased loved ones in their own back gardens, which eliminates the costs of buying a plot, conducting a funeral service and digging the grave. While this has always been an option chosen by those with large estates, or those who want to keep their dead family members close, it’s still not an option for the poorest – you will need to own your own home and the land you intend to use as a grave site and fulfill certain environmental health conditions.

So, as usual, already hard-pressed and underfunded local authorities are being relied upon to provide thousands of Public Health Funerals in the UK every year. There are sad echoes of the ‘Pauper’s Funeral’ of the Victorian era here: burials (costing an average of £700) can be in shared plots with no headstones, these may be re-opened to inter further corpses at a later date; after council cremations (costing an average of £1000), ashes are often scatted in the crematorium’s garden of remembrance, and it may or may not be possible for the family of the deceased to take possession of the ashes. It’s not the send-off that most of us would wish for for those we love, adding guilt and shame to grief. Although councils can attempt to recover some of the costs from the estate of the deceased, in 2015 some local authorities were paying up £250,000 for Public Health Funerals, and these costs can only have been rising since.

Finally, hospitals may be having to cope with storing bodies indefinitely, if the family is caught in the bind where the body cannot be released without a fee (£1000+), but the social fund will not pay out until the funeral is underway.

It’s an emotive issue that most people don’t want to think about. It’s hard enough dealing with bureaucracy and arranging a funeral while you are shocked and grieving, without adding a lifetime of financial pressure (and a reminder of bereavement with every loan repayment) and the guilt of only being able to provide a ‘Pauper’s Funeral’. Those who incur debt to pay for a funeral will likely be unable to pay for their own funeral, either, meaning that this crisis will worsen in the future. If you are facing this issue, there is help and advice available online, or at your Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

‘Austerity’ is not over, it was never about reducing the deficit. It will never be over because it’s an ideology, not a fiscal recovery policy. Reducing our dignity, our sense of social security, and performing a sneaky and despicable holocaust of the poor, sick and vulnerable is what it’s about. If we cannot perform as tax payers/consumers then we are expendable. The ‘Victorian Values’ that Thatcher asked us to return to have indeed returned and it’s horrifying.

http://fairfuneralscampaign.org.uk/content/funeral-poverty-alliance

https://quakersocialaction.org.uk/we-can-help/helping-funerals/down-earth/how-it-works

https://www.royallondon.com/media/press-releases/2018/september/buried-in-debt-mourners-borrow-1700-to-pay-for-loved-ones-funerals/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34943805