May 25th, 2001


Tuesday (part 2 of 4).

Tuesday was OK - having been online until about 9.30am, I slept until about 4pm and got up to check my email. Didn't have anything interesting, so I went to the shops - I had to buy a strapless bra to wear under my dress for the funeral. I don't usually wear bras unless I'm in the gym (when I wear a Shock Absorber sports bra) - my breasts are quite big, but firm enough not to move around much unless I'm exercising, so I don't need underwear that restrains them in any way - just something to stop my nipples rubbing against my clothes and getting sore. However, my usual little crop tops have thick straps, and the dress I'd bought for the funeral had very thin little straps, and there was no way I could wear the one under the other. I tried wearing the dress with nothing underneath, but I felt too self-conscious, and my nipples started to feel rubbed after only a few minutes. So I had no choice but to head for the shops.

The lingerie department of Marks and Spencer's sent me into a state of panic. I walked around there for 20 minutes, desperately trying to find something practical and non-frilly. I've commented before how uncomfortable I feel in femme clothing - and fancy lingerie is about as impractical as you can get. In the end, I gave up and ran round to Bentalls, where I've bought underwear before. The Bentalls lingerie department is staffed by 40- and 50-something women, who've probably seen everything. I found one and explained what I needed. She sent me into the changing room to get measured, looked me over, noting my simple black underwear and Doc Martens, and returned with a plain black cotton bra with just a small rose motif in the centre. It fitted not perfectly, but about as well as any underwear has ever fitted me. And despite being very tight (necessary, due to the lack of straps), it wasn't anywhere near as tight as bras I have tried in the past, which have always triggered anxiety in me (I have asthma, and as a result can't wear anything tight around my neck or chest as it makes me feel as though I can't breathe). I was extremely grateful, though I just said "thanks" rather than being effusive, paid and got the hell out of there.

I wandered into Computer Exchange, then went home to eat pasta and salad. I'd been planning to spend the evening writing an email to someone who I've owed an explanation of some important things to for more than six weeks, but my concentration was non-existent. In a wild attempt to avoid having to write anything, I made some phone calls to friends, and then I found myself bothered by the mess in our flat, and decided to clean it all up. Richard came in at about midnight, and I was still cleaning (I sent him straight out again with six bags of magazines for recycling), carrying on until the place looked, if not tidy, at least habitable - by which time it was 3am. We had various other things to do before the funeral (such as ironing clothes and taking all the labels off them), so we ended up not going to bed until 4am. My back was aching like mad after lifting and carrying so many books and magazines, but I figured I'd get a hot shower in the morning, and that would ease my aching muscles.

Wednesday (part 3 of 4).

Richard's alarm went off at 7am. I woke up, thought "I'll get up in six minutes", and promptly fell asleep again. Usually, Richard's alarm goes off every six minutes, but somehow he'd managed to hit stop rather than snooze, so it didn't go off again. I don't know what woke me up, but I'm glad something did - I opened my eyes again at 7.40am, and practically leapt out of bed cursing (and then, cursing my back, which was creaking most uncomfortably). Didn't even begin to get my shower - we barely had time to get dressed. Amazingly, we got across London and into Paddington with five minutes to spare before our train was due to leave. I never want to do that again.

The journey to Chippenham was entirely uneventful. We arrived there mostly on time. There were plenty of taxis waiting in the station forecourt, so we picked the first one in the line to take us to Devizes. The drive took about 20 minutes, and it would have been quite scenic if we'd been in the mood to appreciate scenery.

We met the other funeral-goers in a hotel reception room. I started to feel very panicky as there were too many people there that I didn't know (friends, rather than family) so I was a bit clingy to Richard, which he didn't like at all. It got to about 11.20am, and everyone started movingoff towards the church - just Richard's dad and Anne and us were left. I almost started crying then, but managed not to, as I knew it would set everyone else off.

I'm not sure what I want to say about the funeral itself. I don't really feel right going into details here. Suffice to say that the service was short, and appropriate. Someone in the row behind me had a wobbly voice, and sang in a most operatic way during the hymns. Possibly the same person kept commenting during the prayers, which annoyed me slightly (a prayer saying, essentially, "may she rest in peace" doesn't need some member of the congregation going "Yes, yes!" all the way through it), but that's a problem I have with Christians of the hallelujah type rather than anything else.

We came out of the church into bright, bright sunshine. Richard's dad commented how this was the first time he'd cried in 39 years. Lots of people came up to say how sorry they were, and Richard handled it quite well (I hugged him lots and made supportive noises as much as I could). Then we walked up to the cemetery for the burial. The priest did more priestly things, a police helicopter buzzed overhead, and Richard's grandfather almost fell into the grave. Luckily Richard's cousins were able to catch him before he did.

We stayed in the cemetary quite a while. Richard's aunt came over and tried to say helpful things, but what she said came out a bit wrong. She said "She's at peace now", but that made me feel so angry - Richard's mum wasn't not at peace before - this death wasn't a welcome release after months or years of pain, it was totally unexpected and unnecessary.

On the way back to the hotel, Richard's brother-in-law Mark and one of Anne's friends stopped to play Poohsticks in the canal. We dawdled as long as possible getting back to the hotel, because we weren't sure that we could take the invasion of Old People. Refreshments were laid on, but there was nothing that I felt certain I could eat (there were some sandwiches with just cheese and cucumber in, but they'd been on the same tray with the fish and meat sandwiches), so I went into one of the hotel restaurants to get a meal, and ended up having a really good conversation with one of Richard's cousins.

After a few hours, most people had left, and so we went back to Richard's dad's flat. Mark and Anne and Anne's friends were there for a bit, and then they left, leaving us alone with Richard's dad. We had a really good conversation about what he was planning to do in the future. He concluded that he'd probably be moving to Poole to be near his dad and Uncle Hug, and we said that was good for us as it's easy to get down there. Then he drove us back to Chippenham station, we had tea in the station cafe, and got on the train.

On the way back we felt very melancholy and thoughtful. I did some thinking by myself, and some with Richard, and reached a few interesting conclusions, but more about that later...

Warning: this post contains strong language.

About 2 hours ago my mum burst into my flat in floods of tears. She collapsed on the spare chair in the computer room, and sobbed for a full five minutes before I could even go near her. It transpired that, whilst the front door and most of the windows in the flat were open, my father had been shouting at her at the top of his voice, calling her a "whore" and a "pox-ridden cunt".

She then went on to say that he'd damaged her cooker on purpose, and seemed genuinely more upset by this than by what he had been calling her. I said "Mum, you have the weirdest sense of priorities of anyone I've ever met". She said "It'll cost 200 pounds to replace that cooker, and he'll have to pay". I replied, as gently as I could, "Mum, it's only a cooker - it doesn't matter. You know he'll never pay for anything he damages, so don't worry about it".

Gradually, she calmed down, and I fetched soft toys for her to pet until she was calm enough for me to touch her. Then I held her in my arms and rocked her until her body was no longer racked by sobs, and the crying had died down to just tears.

She said "All the neighbours will have heard what he said. We've already had one lot of neighbours move out because they couldn't stand it." I said "It doesn't matter what they think. They're not important. You're important."

I said "We have to get you into counselling. You've got to learn that this isn't normal, and get some of your self-esteem back."

I said "You've got to get your divorce sorted out". She said "But I can't afford it". I asked her "What value does money have, when compared to your life? We've got to get him out, so that he can't damage you or your property any more".

I said "Look, sometimes strong words are acceptable. It's OK for a gay or bisexual person to call themselves 'queer'. It's OK for a black person to call themselves a 'nigger'. It's OK for a woman to use the word 'cunt' for her own genitalia because she happens to like a nice earthy word for it. But it's not OK for a man to call a woman a 'cunt' as an insult. It's objectifying you. You're not an object, you're a person, with feelings."

She said "He calls me Cunty", and broke down again.

I said "I don't understand what happened to you. You're a strong, confident woman - I know you are, as I'm like that and I must have got it from somewhere. How has he managed to knock all your self-confidence out of you?".

I said "I know you had self-confidence once, as you had a good job - and you gave all that up to get married and have a kid. I'd never do that." (She earned the equivalent of �60,000 a year in modern money).

She said (and I've never heard this before) "I didn't know he was going to make me give up my job".

I told her "What he does to you is as much abuse as when he hits you. You can't let it go on."

She said "I can't get the mortgage transferred to my name. I don't earn enough money." I said "Richard will help you - he'll buy part of the mortgage for you. He loves you, he wants to help you."

She said "I thought he didn't like me". I replied "Of course he likes you - he's not [my ex, who didn't like anyone]. He's just not prepared to go to all the trouble of getting the mortgage if you don't go through with the divorce. Neither of us are going to help you if you don't start helping yourself."

My father is an abuser. My mother is a victim. She's not strong enough to get out of the situation, so it perpetuates - it goes round and round and round. I'm the only child of the couple, so I get dragged into it on a regular basis. I try to stay out, but I can't allow someone I care about to be hurt like this.

I wish my grandfather was still alive. He would have stood up for my mum against my dad. Instead, my grandmother takes my dad's side in all the arguments. She says my mother should stay with him because he is a good husband who provides for her (He hasn't given her a penny since I turned 21 - he doesn't even pay his share of the bills). She won't even begin to believe the extent of the abuse, and my mum would hardly say the word "cunt" to her mother, or be able to explain what it means.

Richard's dad laughed when I described their family as "sane and sensible". I tried to explain, by saying that they're "mad, but in a harmless way. Whereas many members of my family are vindictive, and they're all busy stabbing each other in the back." He sort of understood that, but just barely. Richard's parents barely exchanged a cross word in 39 years together. My father has spent 30 years destroying my mother.

aftermath (part 4 of 4).

Some conclusions that I reached whilst travelling:

  • I had noticed over the past couple of days that I can talk easily to members of Richard's family, without the feeling that I'm having to make smalltalk. I'm sure that quite a few of Richard's family members, who've known me a few months, know far more about me than most of the members of my own family who've known me since I was born. I realised why it is that I am not close with my family, even though I have often tried to be.

    My family - either on my mum or my dad's side - don't read books. They simply don't. The ones who read at all read "red-top" tabloid newspapers or the tacky weekly women's magazines that sell for 60p. From what I remember of my visits over the years, none of my family members even have books in their houses, with the exception of my nan, who has a bookcase full of books that were left there when her children grew up and moved out. My dad has perhaps two or three books that I have given him, and my mum has around 20.

    Whereas Richard's family all have entire houses full of books.

    I don't want to be an intellectual snob, but I have no idea what to do with people who watch hours of television every night instead of reading. Admittedly, these days a lot of the reading I do is online rather than in print, but it's still reading - taking in information and learning from it. How can I possibly relate to someone who doesn't read?

    There's other things there too - I feel that Richard's family will be much less judgemental than mine would be when they find out about the various ways in which I don't conform to "normality". But I suspect that open-mindedness comes from doing more reading, which brings us all full circle...

  • In some ways, I think I'm more upset about Richard's mum's death than Richard is. I know why this is - firstly, that I was already in the middle of a reasonably bad patch of depression when I heard about it, and secondly, that I only had a few years in which to get to know her. Richard had his whole life so far in which to enjoy being around her, but I'd only just met her. I have this feeling of having lost a terribly cool person that I would have liked to spend a lot more time with. I don't meet terribly cool people often enough to be able to just discard one when one comes along, so I'm feeling an enormous sense of loss.

    I don't mean to imply that Richard's not upset about his mum - of course he is - he loved her heaps. But in some ways he seems to be coping so much better than I am, and I suspect this is why.

  • I felt deeply weird attending a Church of England service for the first time in several years. The last time I remember going to church was in my second year at university, which would be more than four years ago. I hadn't realised it had been that long.

    I stopped going to church, and vaguely stopped identifying as "Christian" because I was deeply unhappy with some of the policies of the Church of England. I'm queer and poly, and I'm pretty sure that I'm queer and poly because it's the way God made me, and I'm not happy belonging to a religious group which says that I'm a sinner for going along with the way I'm made instead of fighting my impulses. I believe that the pleasure humans get from sexual expression is a gift from God, and I'm not prepared to listen to my religious leaders tell me that I'm a sinner for wanting to do something fun that makes me feel good and doesn't hurt anyone.

    Yet, despite the fact that I don't feel welcome being a member of the Church of England, I felt welcome in that actual church. Richard and I both like to look around old churches, and feel the awe and the power of them. I feel that old churches have a very strong presence. Going into the church felt like coming home.

    I realised from this that I'm actually deeply uncomfortable in my present "lack-of-a-religion" state. I haven't actively looked for another group to belong to since I decided I didn't want to be C of E any more. I thought a fair bit about the Quakers, but although identifying strongly with some of their beliefs, I still didn't feel quite right. Recently, some of the more interesting posters on alt.poly have been explaining Judaism, but that's not generally a religion that people convert to unless they're marrying someone who is already Jewish, and I think it would be difficult to become a Jew having been a Christian. Also, I feel that I would like to share my religion with at least one partner, and Richard doesn't have particularly strong Beliefs, and isn't a particular fan of religious ritual.

    However, Richard is talking about getting married soon, and I've always thought of marriage as a religious commitment. I would like to be married by a minister of a religion that I am a member of. I feel weird that Richard's mum, who wasn't a practising Christian, got buried in a C of E service.

    Some time ago, a number of people recommended the UU Church to me. I looked into it, decided it would probably be a very good fit for me, but couldn't find any congregations near me. This time, I went to Google, and actually found the website of the British Unitarians. It seems that there's a couple of churches a reasonable distance from me, and we could possibly go there soon.

    I would like to have this resolved as soon as possible, because so many things are feeding my depression at the moment, and any insecurity just makes it all so much worse...

I feel better for writing this all out. Richard actually asked me yesterday if starting this journal had helped me at all, and I told him that it had, a lot. He said "I thought so". Thrashing through my feelings is much easier when I actually write them all down. I'm going to have dinner now, and go to bed.
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