DP:’I hope you don’t mind, but…’


We permit this kind of thing at our peril…

This start to a sentence, along with its non-identical twin – ‘I know you’ll understand…’ – rarely delivers good news and is, all too often, an attempt by the speaker to justify (and have you forgive or make excuses for) poor behaviour.

As someone with a reputation for being kind, a good listener, sympathetic (and, thus, to some, a carpet in human form) and understanding, I have had more than my fair share of such semantic blows.

I want to make a strong point this morning: By agreeing, by soothing, by ‘understanding’, we are giving the green light to insensitivity at best, outright abuse at worst. Worse: By allowing the transaction to go on to its inevitable next part (in which the betrayal is spelled out), we are enabling this kind of behaviour.  By giving the other the benefit of the doubt, or by attributing our own, usually beneficent, motives to what is being said, we allow boundaries to be snapped – often with no comeback in later days, months or years.

What we need to recognise IMMEDIATELY with this kind of thing is that it is RHETORIC. It is a form of mind game. It is not, in any true sense of the word, an apology. By starting sentences in this way, the speaker is actually closing the gate to anger, to expressed sadness, to any true acknowledgment of the wound to be delivered. By agreeing that we do not mind, or that we do understand, we are choking off our right to fury, to an argument, to any kind of rejection of cruelty.

It is very difficult to throw an effective spear into the midst of such a starter, especially when it tends to be delivered in a reasonable, even caring, tone of voice.

So, sometimes, we just have to be cold and hard and unsympathetic and analyse what lies behind the honeyed words: Absolute determination, by the other person, to get his or her own way; complete inability to see anything wrong in the act of betrayal, the let-down, the covert unpleasantness which lies, like a vicious wasp, in the jar of honey.

I wonder if the deliverers of this kind of nonsense actually convince themselves that they are doing nothing wrong; that their egotistical need to get their own way is completely fair as long as they couch it in ‘civilised’ language? That those they are about to walk all over are so flattered by the apparent sweetness that they do not notice the heavy boots stamping down on fragile body parts…

The only way to put a stop to this approach is to recognise it for what it is and go in hard sooner rather than later – even if we end up stigmatised as unfeeling bitches, heartless sods or totally unsympathetic wazzocks.

‘No,’ we need to say, ‘I don’t understand.’

Or, ‘No, that is not all right…’

Eventually, we will have strengthened our own boundaries to such an extent that we are able to see, with utter clarity, what was always missing from the ‘conversation’: Any genuine apology or sense of wrong-doing on the part of the other. Because, mistake you not, these starters are inevitably an indication of a sense of superiority in the other, and an equal sense that we are inferior, to be used, nobodies whose main virtue is our understanding and our openness to abuse.

Asking nicely does not make it right. Hooking our understanding, by means fair or foul, does not make the shit delivered any less smelly and horrible. After all, if we express lack of understanding, or say it not okay, WE become the baddies, don’t we?

And that, frankly, says it all…



Imbolc Rite – and Not Having to Pretend…

One of the many things I love about my friends here is the lack of artifice and absence of the tight corset of social obligation in conversation. It is so refreshing.

Yesterday was an excellent example. I have been suffering from a flu-like virus since mid-January and it comes and goes according to its own whims as far as I can make out. The emotional side-effects are, in most respects, even worse than the respiratory distress: I feel exhausted, down in spirits and extremely irritable.

Last night, I had a delightful Imbolc gathering here, and invited eight friends, five of whom were able to make it.

All day I felt under par: Tummyish, full of rage, miserable as sin and so knackered that I conked out on the bed for two hours. Fortunately, I had already made a lasagne for the post-ceremony pig-out, and the house was pretty much set up and ready.

My guests arrived and, instead of the, to me dire, social pecking noises (which grate like beaks on soft facial skin and turn slight irritation into homicidal fury), everyone confessed to feelings of pissed-offedness almost immediately. We all felt fed-up, or cross, or sad, or just out-of-sorts and under-the-weather.

And yet, out of that honest revelation of feelings came wonder and bonding and magic and truth. The rite itself was incredibly beautiful and moving. The feast afterwards was great fun – and we carried on talking and laughing until gone midnight.

It hits me yet again, a fundamental truth not just concerning ritual magic, but life generally: It is not the mood we enter the ‘stage’ in; it is the willingness to tread the boards regardless of inner gripes and grumbles, tears and tumbles. It is having that connection with, and trust of, others that makes such a huge difference; that absolute knowledge that, if our smiles are thin and our bodies full of viral ache, we are accepted exactly as we are at any given time – and that the familiar condemnation of social awkwardness, lack of cheer and spectrum-level bluntness is entirely absent from the occasion.

The virus remains. I have woken feeling delicate emotionally and slightly feverish physically. I am not going to pretend that the Imbolc rite has banished all woes. But I can feel the early churning of plants coming back to life; I can sense Spring waiting in the wings; I can delight in the longer days and increasing light – and, perhaps most importantly, I can recognise that there are no laws concerning what is right or wrong emotionally – that the seasons of our moods vary from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, moment-to-moment and that the greens, golds, whites and purples of Spring can be misted over, snowed and rained upon…and still survive, still blossom in gathering sun.

A Blast from the Past: Profusion of Blood


Memories elide, like inadequately pronounced words sieved through a cleft palette; stunted meaning chunks out, or scenes which lie atop one another, resembling slaughtered and rotting animal remains in an abattoir.

The blood is profuse – in both cases. In the first, the child, screaming, is wrapped in a tartan rug; large red droplets stain the white linoleum of the hospital corridor. The ambulanceman who carries her, clutches her tiny body to him tightly as if this can stop the relentless haemorrhage, the heavy sogging of the family’s summer picnic surface.

A second child, even younger, abandoned breathless on a high bed, watches, in wide-eyed terror and hears the echoes of that unknown wounded one’s frantic pleading and crying, does not understand the thick red waterfall growing behind her – just sees what looks like another little girl’s entire volume of life-blood staining the floor.

Later, the asthma-child gathers, from fragments of adult conversation, that the blooded one had fallen, awkwardly, when straddling a high wall – and had severed parts meant to be kept private: Her battered flesh a greater horror for being, in some way neither could then understand, sexual.

Bloody profusion revisits seven years later when the mother, swathed in a turquoise and green dressing-gown, begins the agonising and murderous-looking process of a late miscarriage – and, before the ambulance arrives to take her away, the now-pubescent daughter sees the scarlet back of the nightwear and the metallic heat of blood spilled so abundantly on the upper landing.

That the blood comes from the same place is an unfortunate coincidence; that life-long scarring in one case, and loss in the other, are the end result a double blow to a shaky psyche – and a terror, which lasts for decades, surrounding pregnancy and birth; a stuck place only released by the successful birth of her own child twenty-seven years after the second incident and thirty-four after the first.

For many years, she fears that she has imagined the quantity and vicious brightness of blood; that it has become caught, like the drainage jars carried behind toddlers in the hospital, and exaggerated out of all proportion. She tells herself that she could not possibly have witnessed her own mother’s embryo-expulsion beginning its gory journey.

But, three years before giving birth herself, some instinct – For healing? For facing up to this fear – grabs her, and she finds herself designing a tarot card which features a young woman, standing straddle-legged and naked, blood pouring from between her legs upon the mountainous landscape of West Wales. The image is shocking, visceral – and, although it remains on a page in one of her many journals and Art books, she has barely looked at it since.

Memories both dull and sharpen, and truths become caught in the vastness of childhood horror – a land in which spillage of blood is always unstoppably profuse, and sexual symbolism becomes entangled with Wasteland wounds and legends of the Grail.


Emotional Support…Peacock!

Yeah! Just what I want most when I am feeling down in the dumps: A fucking great preening bird, clicking up and down the aisles of Easyjet’s latest flight, tossing its admittedly rather fine feathers, making that Godawful noise these birds make (the kind of back-of-the-throat grating that sounds as if they have just swallowed a knackered hurdy-gurdy), crapping all over the fixtures and fittings, hogging both toilets (in order to peer yet again in the mirror) and, basically, creating about the same level of emotional support as a long-range missile.

Mind you, the image made me laugh so much, I nearly recycled my toast and Marmite on the spot – and people’s hilarious responses on Facebook (a friend was all for including her pet Charolais Bull on the next available flight) have done much to cheer up the pissingly awful belt of rain unleashing itself all over Glastonbury.

Let’s face it, this endearingly daft idea is no worse than many other side-splittingly weird and wonderful things we see on the News and read in the papers on a daily basis.

In fact, I rather take to the bringing up-to-date of one of the great Biblical stories: Just imagine – an Ark in the Sky (plane, to you and me!) and all les animaux queueing up, in twos of course, patiently (ha, bloody, ha!) at the Security Gate in order to be x-rayed (lest they have swallowed the odd Condom filled with heroin or brought some noxious disease – Peacock Plague for eg – in their various bills, crops, cloacas and others bits and bobs!), their luggage to be opened, checked and sneered at – and then to be let loose in the concourse to run riot, mob the Duty Free shops and clog up the bogs!

Where was I?

Fuck knows!

Oh yes, about to board Easyjet Flight Noah1 with the known creatures of the Earth. Getting the buggers seated would require the patience of Job. Seatbelts? Christ on a bike! That’s another three hours gone! And the safety instructions would take hours too because everything would have to be said at least five times, and half the passengers would have eaten their safety masks well before take-off.

The cockpit would need to be locked throughout otherwise you’d get bison barging in and getting underfoot, elephant causing the plane to dip alarmingly, monkeys looking for fleas in the Captain’s hair – and sodding peacocks peering through the front window, pecking at the glass and looking at their reflections in the instrument panel.

What with the in-flight entertainment (species eating one another, joining the Mile High Club, throwing up all over the shop and biting the hard-pressed staff), the Patriarch in understandable meltdown and Ham, Shem and Japhet standing around like shop dummies doing bugger-all, this would be the journey from, and into, Hell!


Don’t give me bloody peacocks!!


Women and Anger: A Taboo…

I allowed anger through in this piece – and did not control the order and rigidly enforce the inner logic of my thoughts the way I usually do. It may well be patchy. I don’t care. Rage is not tidy. It is not coldly logical. It is red and jagged and physical. I think this is why so many – men and women – fear anger: They cannot order it safely through the mind, nor can they control it. It is wild and scary – and some people would rather lock an angry relative up in a psychiatric ward than face their own deepest terror (of insanity) in the mirror.

Why is it that signs of fury in women are deemed almost sinful by some people? Why is it that any rage emanating from female lips and body and wildly-gesticulating hands is akin to hormonal imbalance – or, even more worrying, madness?

This is the excuse misogynists use to keep women under control. These are the weak weapons of so-called logic inadequate males pull out in order to assert their own dominance. Real men don’t need such oppressive techniques.

My title was chosen deliberately and with malice aforethought. Never said I was nice, now did I? You see, there are still a poisonous minority of those born with a penis who view all girlies as either Madonnas or Whores – and appear unable to distinguish between the largely made-up (or at least vastly exaggerated) effects of hormones upon a woman’s behaviour and the whingeing (by definition trivial, pointless and self-indulgent) moans of whores (which, according to the worst of men, is most of us!).

So: Woman angry? Time of the Month. Woman bloody furious? Menopause. Woman swinging shovel threateningly? Lunatic.

Turn that round, however, and start each question with the word ‘man’, a very different story comes out, doesn’t it? And not one which casts aspersions on the man’s sexual proclivities (or lack thereof) because, as we all know, the rules are very different for blokes, aren’t they? You don’t get whores in Manland; you get STUDS (fellow wick-dippers to look up to because they have plunged more often than you have, Woof!).

Men, it seems, are expected – and, therefore, allowed – to be aggressive and loud and angry and pissed off and threatening without it reflecting in a negative hormonal sense upon them. A fella with surging testosterone is admired as he swaggers down the street, balls so full of spunk that he can barely walk. No one says to him, when he slams a hand hard down on the table top (breaking Granny’s precious hundred year old tea set), ‘Time of the Testy month, is it?’ Although, there is, let us face it, a bit of a clue in the word ‘testy’!

Why is it that men’s hormonal response is seen as thrusting and purposeful and assertive and powerful – and women’s as dangerously mad, irrational, pathetic and weak?

Why is it that women are only allowed their anger in tiny controlled bite-sized portions, and then have to apologise endlessly, make reparation, admit they are pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal or plain barking bloody mad?

Why can’t we just blow a gasket without having to explain afterwards which part of the endless fucking dreary female cycle we are in?! Why can’t we be allowed to get utterly furious just because? Just because some bastard has pushed us too far, or some bitch has bad-mouthed us once too often, or life has been a stressful shitty series of apparently endless years and we have had enough, no hormonal cracks necessary, thank you very much!

Anger is human. It is vital. It is a force which operates equally in men and women. It is not intelligent enough to differentiate or judge. It just is. We are the ones who make these prissy and unhelpful judgements about anger. We are the ones who are so terrified of it that we confuse it with insanity and accuse those who rant and rave and scream and shriek (for legitimate reasons) of being off their heads!

Yes, I have a right to my anger. I do not hate men. It is the attitude we, as a society, have towards emotions that bothers me so much, and this prevailing melodrama of woman as hormonal Bertha in Forbidden Anger’s Locked Attic. It is so sodding patronising. What it is saying is that we women are open to ridicule and impatience and all the tiresome menopause jokes whenever we break away from maternal, nay marmoreal, calm and placidity and submissiveness. Break out the strait-jacket for any woman who so much as raises her voice in minor peeve mode! Jeez!

What a trough full of dingo bollocks!

I am raging because I am frigging angry. I am not on the rag, or having a hot flush or oestrogen-deprived or afflicted by bats in my belfry! Being a woman does not mean that any of the above are obligatory, you know!

Anger is sexless. Anger is a force. It is not different for men and women, though the ghastly dregs of sexist control in our world would love it to be that way.

The reason so many women struggle with expressing their own rage openly is this kind of unthinking prejudice; it is this endless assumption that a womb and bosoms and the ability to be a mother somehow means that we should be rocking offspring or chained to the ruddy sink or wiping bottoms or calming everyone else’s anger down – and putting our own explosive feelings last, lest we damage anyone else!

Why do women find it so hard to express their rage openly? Why do they slice their own flesh and pull out precious tufts of hair and feathers? Because they are ridiculed, humiliated, patted on the head, locked up and punished for any show of temper. Because their fury is not taken seriously. Because they are seen as screaming harpies rather than human beings with a legitimate grievance and the right to self-expression.

My advice – to both men and women? Stop blaming female hormones for everything – and look at the reality: Rage is usually brought on by the behaviour of another, or others – and, all too often, the hormone argument is nothing more than a cop-out, a refusal to take responsibility for being a damned irritating little tit (of either sex!).

I  am allowed to express my anger because I am me! My reasons should not be trivialised because I am female and possess hormones!


Other People’s Sadness/Bad News: A Nautical Metaphor…

If we are true friends. and committed loved ones, we ideally rock with another’s boat whatever the weather: We brace ourselves for the storms and vast waves of grief and illness, bad fortune and distress; we enjoy the gorgeous sun and calm of blue-green sea when times are good, health is assured and joy abounds.

There is beauty in storm. There are special ranges of exquisite colour and texture in the calm which comes after tempest.

If we expect, as our right, every voyage to be conducted in bright sun and easy sailing conditions, we are in danger of missing out, both in terms of climatic splendour and emotional depth.

Dips in our lives inevitably act as triggers to others – and the less we are willing to turn the stone over and face the darkness beneath, the worse these triggers are likely to be.  Another’s illness can easily trigger our own terror of pain and mortality, making us unwilling to face the sufferer. Their depression or anxiety can equally easy twang discordantly against the wire string of our own fears. Their need to withdraw, to be hidden and silent can irritate precisely because we are in denial when it comes to our own hermit-like qualities.

The need to pretend that we are fine when we are anything but; to rewrite the voyage so that it is calm, flat, sunny and delightful (when it is nothing of the kind) seems to be endemic – and those who buck this trend, who growl and gibber and yowl and yelp are seen as oddities, emotionally incontinent savages whom we wish (privately) would bugger off and screech somewhere else; who would get off our ocean and ply their piratical trade with all the other Over the Top Buccaneers. We wish (fervently and silently) that they would just get on and walk the bloody plank and let us drift on into the perennial light!

The accusation of feeling sorry for oneself, of indulging in self-pity (and, by implication, being a completely self-centred blight on the face of society), of expressing the universal emotions openly, of not snapping out of it to please others is used as a means of control – and, for all that we sneer at the infamous Stiff Upper Lip, are we not, most of us, guilty, at some level, of lamenting its lack in the overly emotional and wishing it were, like the British Empire, still a part of our lives?

We drive past other people’s coracles of misery. They become spectator traffic upon the waterways of the world. In many ways, they fulfill something of the need no one wants to admit to when driving past a nasty RTA. We condemn with ease. We analyse as if unhappiness were a rat staked out ready for dissection on a board in the school science laboratory. We feel superior to the weeping, or raving, exhibit we have just oared our way past. The slight frisson of pity makes us feel that we are better people.

The simple fact that we are all in this together, that the weeping person’s waterway and ours are identical passes us by with almost-insulting ease. We do not stop to throw a line, or a ring because, in our deepest hearts, we do not believe that the storm-tossed and lost deserve our help. They have created their own hell (we sanctimoniously declaim) and they can jolly well get themselves out of it, and show a bit of British Grit in so-doing!

What we forget is the bravery of these people: Their courage in setting out on a journey despite being ill, afraid, sad or angry. We forget the fact that there is no rule stating that a smile should be plastered on the face all day every day, and, more to the point, that there are no good or bad emotions. Our painting them black and white is a human construct and not in anyway an absolute truth.

A friendship predicated upon ‘I will be your mate as long as your emotions do not threaten me, as long as you behave and are nice…’ is not worth the patch of sea upon which it is endlessly spinning.

We all experience shipwrecks at one time or another. We are all boarded by pirates, cast away on islands of loneliness and sadness, grief and pain, illness and death. Tempests abound. They always have and always will.

Life is not an endless pleasure cruise – and, if we choose our life companions on that basis alone, I think we deprive ourselves of whole oceans of the potential journey and of companions whose depth can charge our own characters and whose emotional honesty can trigger our own humanity and creativity.

No Inkling: Workshop? No: Influenza, Chest Infection and Bed…


I had no inkling, when a slight cough greeted my awakening on Friday January 19th, that ten days of influenza and general misery would follow…

I should be in Scotland right now, enjoying the company of friends and sharing the second day adventure of a Ritual Drama/Magic Workshop.

I am not. Having been in bed for most of the past ten days, getting out and about in Glastonbury is currently a bridge too far, never mind anything North of the Border. I am not going to pretend that I feel New Age acceptance, Fluffy Bunny bollocks or that I am floating serenely above it all. I do not, and am not. The bout of illness has coincided with a vast blow from another area – and I am not going to insult any of my readers by adopting a Holier Than Thou/All Part of Life’s Rich Tapestry/There’s a Higher Reason frame of mind.

Never do, do I? Ain’t going to start now!

I feel unwell, though nowhere near as bad as I did on January 19th when the little viral sods starting swarming and multiplying their nasty heads off, or on the 23rd when the shock came shattering and splintering its way in, or the 24th when a big opportunistic bugger grabbed hold of my lungs and decided that a chest infection would be a lovely present for me to receive too.

I have felt like death inadequately warmed up since – and looked pale and wan too: Most unlike me; I have always tended towards the roseate, the bucolic, the rural milkmaid in full bloom look and so the whiteness of cheek has been pretty bloody unusual. Mind you, lack of appetite does not exactly promote a healthy appearance!

Full Monty, it was: The aches and the shakes; the shivering and burning; the incessant coughing; the sweating so profuse that my nightmares propelled me out onto a kind of latter-day Ali’s Ark, afrift in my own sputum and glandular extrusions, desperately searching for dry land! Deeply unpleasant!

Did I have a Flu Jab? Do Popes crap in the woods?! Of course I did. I always do. Made bog-all difference this time round, though I gather that the strain of flu boinging its way over from Climes Antipodean is a particularly vicious one: The metaphorical Plague Rat of the species, ready to bite armpits and groins and spread its buboes far and wide.

So, how did I feel at my worst? Having sped past the relative shallows of ‘rough as a badger’s arse’, sneered mightily at the trifling inconvenience implied by ‘coarse as a porcupine’s nutsack’, I have arrived at a land beyond that covered by animals and similes relating to their privy parts and just feel, or have felt, fucking dire, whilst also (in the infection sense) ducking fire…

That my dry sense of humour is surging back strikes me as a bloody good thing. Tears have been shed at the same rate as the rest of the liquid outpouring in recent days and my bed, more and more reminiscent of a swamp, may well need to be wrung dry by the hydraulic equivalent of a lemon squeezer.

Begone, Flu Virus! You have made your point – and some! Bugger off and annoy someone else, or slink into the Midden of Infectious Diseases which is all you and your egregious type deserve!

Yes, I should be in Scotland –  and feel sick as a toucan that I am immured in durance repellent instead.