54. The Bravest Man in Montana

This, just for a little light relief, is a story from my time in Montana, USA back in the late 1990s. 

The majority of my male friends have always been gay. My first adult disco was at Nightingales in Birmingham around the time of The Village People. What a fabulous experience that was! Theatre, leather, chains and 12-inch remixes: entertainment and a full body workout every time (I am referring to dancing BTW).

In fact, most of my disco experience from the age of 16-20 was at Nightingales or Heaven. A bit odd because I'm not gay as far as I know. It was just such fun company and such terrific music. And I found myself a great hairdresser.

With all those gay men in my life you'd think I'd be better dressed ... Hem. Any suggestions gentlemen?

A bit of background on the story of the Bravest Man in Montana before we start: Jay, my ex, and I had bought a cafe in Bozeman. We got visa problems, so Jay was stuck in the UK and I ended up in Bozeman, alone, with three months to sell the cafe and get my dog, Didi, home without quarantine. That story is here. In that time, Charles, who was a member of my local Unity Church volunteered to help me to manage the café. He was lovely, kind, assertive with the girls and took the main weight off my back. I couldn’t be grateful enough and we got on like a house on fire.

Why was he the bravest man in Montana? Because in a Republican state of cowboys, Charles was a homosexual cross-dresser.

I only found out because I noticed one day that while he had ample black head hair, his legs, in their Bermuda shorts were smooth as a baby’s bottom.

‘I shaved them for a review I’m hosting,’ he said in response to my perplexed look. ‘It’s a practice run. Now would you be a darling and help me decide what I should wear?’

That evening, I took Didi round to his apartment and we waited in the living room looking at his caged finches while Charles got changed.

I wasn’t expecting a spangly royal blue dress covered with sequins.

It was a dress of very simple design - flattering to the woman of fuller figure as Charles put it - and he made it himself. He had also made a gold lame one which he tried on next.

We decided upon the gold one. It just seemed to add that particular je ne sais qoi.

Then it was the matter of which wig – the blonde, the red or the black. Each was tried on for my opinion and it was like working with my computer: ‘file not found.’ I had no suitable folder in my brain for this. My ego was frantically searching for a similar situation with which to compute what my eyes reported seeing.

‘Well?’ said Charles, with hands on hips and flamboyantly red-headed.

‘It’s hard to judge,’ I say tactfully. ‘Without your make-up on anything other than black looks rather funny.’

Charles gave me a big grin. ‘The beard doesn’t help, does it?’ he said.

‘Not really.’ And I have cracked up completely. We both roar with laughter.

Charles’s beard, like his hair was a rich natural black. It was wonderfully trimmed and shaped but it didn’t do much for the feminine image.

‘I think I prefer the black anyway,’ he said. He was right. The long, straight tresses did suit him, beard and all. Charles would have made a very pretty woman.

But the boobs. Oh God, the boobs! Charles had two sets of boobs: one was a simple padded bra manufactured for cross-dressers - and the other was a pair of inserts that he had made himself. The professional bra was good, he said, but it had no weight and didn’t move correctly. I handled the vast expanse of nylon which was broad and deep and at least a FF cup.

‘It’s a bit outside my scope!’ I said pointing to my own ‘B’ cups and laughing.

‘Well I’ve got to dress up to my size,’ said virtually circular Charlie. ‘They suit me this big. The problem is that they ride up and they just don’t move properly. Yours bounce properly when you walk.’

‘So I should hope!’

He showed me the second pair of boobs. They were the perfect weight and they had wonderful movement and were encased in nylon stockings with a beautifully made nipple to show slightly through the clothing. I took them in my hands, just about to make a comment on never having handled a woman’s breasts before. Then I fell about laughing. The boobs were scrunchy — they were made of bird seed.

‘I know it’s ludicrous,’ he said. ‘But it works!’

It did. Placed in the bra cups and covered by the golden dress, those birdie-boobs bobbed and flowed as naturally as mine as Charles gave me a demonstration of dancing. Behind him the zebra finches and canaries in his aviary cheeped indignantly.

‘Charles,’ I said. ‘Thank you for this experience. I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying myself.’ And I meant it. This was pure joy in its own funny way. And nothing I ever thought could or would happen to me in Montana.

53. Intimacy with God.

That's the title of one of Fr. Thomas Keating's books which I'm re-reading at the moment.

The first time, about five years ago, I didn't really get it but now I think I do and it's glorious.

What struck me today is his thoughts on illusion, concupiscence and weakness of will.

I had to look up concupiscence. It means 'ardent, usually sensual, longing.'

The illusion part means that even though we humans are what Keating calls 'irresistibly programmed for for boundless happiness in a way that is inherent in human nature,' we do not know where happiness is to be found.

The concupiscence part means that we seek happiness in all the wrong places—or too much of it in the right places (the latter as in over-doing it in addictions).

That's what 'repentance' actually means: to look for happiness in a different direction from the one we've been trying and which has failed us so often.

And to cap it all, even if we do find the path to true happiness, we are too weak-willed actually to do very much about it.

That's because it takes effort ... and it takes us out of the tribe/family/social expectancy. We are trained very early to need control, esteem and security at the cost of our joy.

A very simple example would be my Mum who, yesterday, was on the phone, wanting 'a result' from the intravenous vitamin C therapy. Trust me, Mum, I want a result as much as you do ... and I think that there is one beginning but I don't want to say too much right now.

But Mum's reaction to that was, 'Yes, but what am I going to tell people?'

She has done brilliantly coping with my alternative viewpoint so far but she really, really needs to have positive news to relay back to her church where they are praying for me. After all, it's her church; it has to work and it has to have results. Otherwise what use is it?

She can't necessarily see that the prayers, the healing and all the love that is coming my way (and I can feel it—I really can, it's palpable) are working. But they are working on my soul and bringing me closer to God.

Yes, my body will respond to that level of joy but in its own time.

But, on the phone, I feel that powerful call to say the 'right' thing; to reassure her that it's all working. To make her world better rather than mine. To sacrifice my truth to serve the truth that she wants. In my childhood, I was taught that this was the way to get approval and approval made me (temporarily) happy. I learnt to lie to get that approval because it was the only happiness on offer to me at the time.

But not now. I do not play those games any more. I can tell her quite clearly that there are signs that there may be some improvement but it is too early to be sure. She questions me closely so, instead, I tell her that my soul is healing.

She says, 'there's nothing wrong with your soul. I still don't understand why you, of all people, got this'—as in 'you're a priest and a good woman—and most importantly my daughter—so you shouldn't have this kind of challenge.'

Actually, I'm probably exactly the kind of person who will get this kind of challenge. I gave my life to God a long time ago and I am on a journey to keep giving it, and giving it, and giving it.

I can't not give my life to God. That doesn't mean I understand God because I don't ... but that I want to get closer, and closer to God and to let go of my need to even try to understand. I just want to be in the Kingdom. That journey doesn't end with faith. It begins with a loss of faith.

As Thomas Keating writes: "If God did not seem to disappear, how many of us would keep going [on the spiritual journey]? The worst thing that can happen to us is to settle in an oasis under a palm tree. Growth is the challenge of the gospel ... Spirit keeps inviting us to new levels of surrender, faith and love.'

He goes on to say (I'm paraphrasing here) yes, you thought you'd dealt with all that rubbish. But God is asking you to deal with it again at a deeper level; at a really wholly cleansing level. Are you woman enough to do that?

Yes, I am.

I know now that even if nothing I believe about the goodness and love and compassion of God is true, I will still believe in it because that in itself is the Kingdom of God. It's called Puddleglum Theology after the character in C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair. Puddleglum and the children are held captive underground by a witch who is lulling them with drugged scent to stay in the comfort with her rather than struggle to get back to Narnia [the Kingdom]. This is what he says:

'Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.'

I agree.

52. Snowdrops

I've been pretty obsessed with snowdrops this year. I've always loved them and it was a thrill last January to realise that the garden of our new home was carpeted with them.

I suppose it's not surprising as they are tough little flowers for all their seeming delicacy. They just keep flowering through snow, ice or gales as a symbol of hope over adversity.

According to legend, snowdrops became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winters would never end, an angel appeared. She transformed some of the snowflakes into snowdrop flowers, proving that the winters do eventually give way to the spring.

The name snowdrop does not mean 'drop' of snow, it means drop as in eardrop - the old word for earring.

I think, at the end of February, they should all be gone, but our garden is still full of them. Every morning I go out and walk around the house and look at them all. As I drive to the Moor with the beagles, I see thousands more in the woodland and around the houses en route. 

The joy is that even when they are gone, they will be replaced by daffodils and then by bluebells. Spring is coming.

Yesterday I took a new road home from the Moor just to see what was down there. I've seen it many—to a hamlet called Ash—but never taken that route. It was gloriously beautiful. At one point I drove through a lake of snowdrops around one of the most beautiful houses I've ever seen. It stopped me dead in my tracks.

Maybe we'll live there one day? Who knows. There is always hope.


51. Lion

Half-way through any conversation about the l-e-d (or, as it's also becoming known, 'The dis-ease Formerly Known as Nigel') people will ask, 'How is Lion coping?'*

Lion is my husband. We've been together since 2001 and we are best friends too.

Well it's hard to tell, even for me. For those of you who know about astrology, I can say 'he has no water in his chart' and that will make sense to you.

He's not much of a one for showing - or even feeling - emotions. As a Taurean, he shows his love in practical things. He drives me; he makes my juices for me; he puts out my vitamins every day; he washes up; he fixes the car... He tries hard not to mind that I don't cook the yummy, meaty food he likes so much and that I don't make cakes any more.**

I know he cares ... and we're one of those couples who always says 'I love you' and kisses with every meeting and parting ... and in his lovely gruff way, he lets me know how important it is for him that I survive and thrive through this. He's relieved that I am so much better in every way than I was; that must have been a horrible time for him when I was facing the fear and depression and the seeming-inevitablity of chemo.

He loves his kids deeply too but he's not the kind of Dad that necessarily lets them know. Part of that's the Northern upbringing and part of it's the age thing. When his daughter's wife died, he simply didn't know what to do to help and he hates feeling helpless.

Our friends all ask him how he is when I go to the loo (which is fairly frequently given the vitamin C and the juices) but he brushes it off; he's not good at talking things over.

When his best friend Jon was killed in 2006, Lion didn't cry. In fact I've never known him cry and I don't think he can ever remember it either. But he drove up and down the motorway from the Midlands, sorting out Jon's flat and his estate and his computers and he said that helped him to process the loss.

Not that he's ever found a friend like Jon again. Jon was the one-and-only friend of a lifetime.

Until now.

Well that's really for dramatic effect. He found Roger Martin a few years back when we were in Lucca, Italy. Roger and his wife, Barbara, from Kansas, USA, were new arrivals in our favourite Italian town and, coming across Lion at a map of the town, asked him to recommend a restaurant. That was easy: Francisco's down by the railway behind the Rex Hotel. So good that only locals eat there.

We bumped into them again that night over dinner ... and after that, Lion and Roger started emailing each other. Two years ago, Roger and Barbara came over to Britain and stayed three nights with us; we got on like a house on fire and an enduring friendship was born.

Roger and Lion have been talking on email about what's happening health-wise either side of the Pond and that's been a huge relief to me because I know there's an outlet for him if he needs it. And, a couple of months back, Roger invited us to join them for a week in France in May. I was a bit doubtful - not because I don't like them; I really, really like them. But what with working out how to get to Cyprus for Ariadne's christening and not knowing how well I would be and all the costs of the treatment and all that, I didn't think we could do it.

But of course we can. Why? Because this bit is for Lion. This is what he needs and this isn't all about me. He wants a holiday where he can drive down through France and hang out with his friend. And so many of you have already been so kind and helped via the donation button that I truly believe that Lion can have his dream. I will say a proper 'thank you' another day but I just wanted to tell you about this dear man, the love of my life, my rock and my best friend. And to let you know that I think he's doing okay ... and that he is one of the strongest reasons why I want to live.

*That's Lion as in 'Grrrrr' not as in Lionel. His given name is Peter but there are at least five Peters in our life so it gets confusing. He's Leo rising and has a mane of hair. And anyway, we just like 'Lion.'

** Luckily that bit's no longer true now that I've discovered Susan Jane White's cookbook The Extra Virgin Kitchen. I came home from London to her chocolate-beetroot slump cake - no sugar, no gluten -  and ate a piece straight from the freezer. It tasted like Haagen Dazs Belgian Chocolate ice cream.


50. Pictures of Dartmoor.

Our house is a little white blob on the far horizon.

Some pictures of Dartmoor - the bones of the land. I never knew I would love it so much.

When I went to give a talk in Exeter three years ago there was no late train back to Birmingham so John, the organiser, offered to put me up overnight at his home in the village of Throwleigh. When I woke up in the morning and drew the curtains I saw straight to Cosden Hill and my very soul sang 'I want to live here.'

Luckily for me, when I got home and mentioned the idea to Lion, he said 'then let's go and look for somewhere to live in Devon.'

This is on the way to Scorhill Stone Circle. Trees grow where they can here on Dartmoor.
There are Bronze-Age settlements all over the hills and dozens if not hundreds of stone circles dotted across the land. Scorhill is perhaps the most impressive when you're there but it does look a bit bleak in a photograph.

This is one of our favourite walks. Miles and miles of moorland riddled with streams crossed by ancient stone bridges.

Nine Stones Circle at Belstone Tor. 
Lion and I both loved it when we came down to visit and to see if it was feasible to move here. Everything unfolded easily and even though it has been a difficult year, it was lovely to hear Lion say, the other day, 'In spite of what happened to you, I still think this was the best move we have ever made.'

Dartmoor isn't responsible for the dis-ease, of course. But it is a lovely place to be while I discover what was. And that counts for a lot.

49. This Beautiful Land.

On Facebook I often write about my love for the place where we live - just on the borders of north Dartmoor in West Devon.

So it's about time I introduced you to it.

This is the view over our gate to Cosden Hill. It's ten minutes' drive to the moor proper and I go there most days with our two beagles, Dessy and Razzle. They are better known as Biggle and Thunderfeet MegaBeagle (Mrs) on Facebook where they both have their own page which is written by Lion.

Right now, over the gateway it is a cold artist's palette of dark greens, browns and greys. This land is slowly awakening to spring with the snowdrops striving and shining like white candle-lit bulbs in the hedges and all round our driveway. The robins threaten the chaffinches and the blackbirds out-bully the robins on and around the bird table while the other finches, the yellow hammers and the tits circle the sunflower seeds and nuts. The ever-cleansing wind caresses us every time we go out. A little too cold for comfort but it blows the cobwebs of the mind away. At least the rain stopped today.

Most afternoons I put on my thick anorak, and reach for my walking socks. Even before I get to the point of lacing up my walking boots, looking out my gloves and hat—the coiled energy of two excita-beagles in front of the Rayburn unravels and they start to bounce up and down the hallway squeaking with delight. 'The Moor, the Moor!' The Sox of Joy are always the clue – these are the walking boots' socks. If it’s a ‘lesser walk’ then it’s trainers with ordinary socks. That gets some bouncing for sure but not the Moor Ecstasy.

With a mixture of laughter and exasperation I herd them into the back of the landrover and we will set off towards the West for today's adventure.

There's one point where I drive down the road towards East Week, through the flooded lane and up over a hill, to the brim of a small valley, currently encrusted with snowdrops. There, the trees and Moor behind reveal themselves in all their beauty, completely differently every day.  Every single time that view unfolds itself, no matter what I'm thinking at the time, my mouth curves up into a smile as broad as Julia Roberts's.

Today, albeit briefly, there is a respite from the rain and the sky is cold turquoise with cirrus clouds flying. As we tumble out of the landrover at Shilstone Rock and begin the walk upwards, shaggy bay Dartmoor ponies forage between the patches the stumpy bronze bracken. The grass is still green – it has been so mild this year. And there are sheep all over the moor. No lambs here yet though there are plenty on the lowlands.

Everywhere there are still, clear pools of water - just like in the world between the worlds in C. S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew. Normally at this time of year they are set in hollows of black peat but this year they have bright grass at the bottom. Everything is ready for spring.

When I reach the pinnacle of this particular walk I can see miles of Devon farmlands and our house on the hillside across the valley. We have a wind-blown leaning tree just outside and that helps to identify it. It is so lovely walking without hat and gloves today and being able to see the bright yellow of gorse flowers. The weekend's sea of mud has already drained through and walking is easier again. So blessed to live here.

Some nights, when the weather is clearer, the starlight is so beautiful it sings through your heart and soul. Every evening I walk Dessy for half an hour before bedtime. When the moon is full, no torch is needed and you can see how people navigated their way to those Jane Austin Regency parties. But when the moon is waxing or waning, the stars come into their own glory.

On warmer nights, if I wake in the night, I sometimes wrap up warm and go out beneath the star-sprinkled sky prepared to lie on the ground and gaze and gaze upwards with awe and wonder. We have no light pollution here so you can stand or sit or lie and watch the sky unfold before you as your eyes adjust to the night. The whole Universe comes and wraps itself into your heart so you are part of the cosmic dust — completely caught up in the organic presence of it. Every minute, more icing-sugar wreaths of stars reveal themselves. One day I'll see Andromeda. Now we have the wonders of the SkyWalk app on the iPad we do at least know where it is...


48. Please Will You Help?

Today I've been very brave and put up a 'donate' button on this blog (top right hand side). Why? Because the alternative path to healing is a tad expensive and we could do with some help.

And even more than that, the path of healing includes joy - that is so important. And although Lion and I have done really well with all the expenses of healing this l-e-d we also really, really want to have some good times together too.

If you are enjoying this blog - and if you feel it's appropriate - I'd be so grateful for a contribution.

Yes, the dis-ease has enhanced my life - helped me to see things more clearly and release a lot of s*** and I truly wouldn't have been without it. It's a great teacher. But the goal is to release myself from it. That takes time and it takes cash because the NHS can't help with holistic treatments - let alone the Dartmoor Shaman!

I sometimes imagine my consultant's face when she got the email detailing how I was planning to deal with this dis-ease as an alternative to chemo. It's important to keep them in the loop but probably a tad challenging when the loop is a little like David's slingshot against Goliath.

She's a little on the conventional side (I say tactfully), not conversant with complementary medicine - didn't know what Shiatsu was for example - and thinks that 'you can eat anything you want; eat MacDonalds!'

Chemo has it's place of course and there are many who probably think I'm a dingbat. But at the moment I am a happy, healthy dingbat. And I want to go on being so.

Vitamins and all kinds of supplements, organic food, intravenous vitamin C and updates on my immune system with a VEGA machine are not cheap but they are necessary to support my body while I work on my soul. And that's costly too, with therapy, soul-retrieval, Journey work; homeopathy and Shiatsu.

But even more than that, the vital ingredient in defeating a l-e-d like this is happiness. And what Lion and I want more than anything right now is to go to Cyprus for the christening of our adopted son's daughter, Ariadne, in April.

It's on my 58th birthday - April 26th. A while back, I didn't know if I would make that date but now I know I will. And what better way to enhance life than by celebrating a brand new life?

Ariadne's grandfather, Jon, was murdered in 2006. Here's the story. He was Lion's best friend - almost a brother - for more than 20 years and a friend and colleague of mine for 12. I first met Jon's son, Tim, when we picked him up from Kings Cross Station to take him to identify his father's body. He sat in the back of the car, cuddling our beagle, Puzzle, all the way and still remembers the comforting warmth of her to this day.

From then onwards, Tim has been like our own son and I want to hold his beautiful little daughter in my arms and let her know that her grandfather would be so very proud of her.

Another chance at joy is a trip we're being offered to stay with friends in a gîte in France in May with the man who came into Lion's life—not to replace Jon because that can't be done—but to become his new best friend. I'll write more about that later but Lion is my rock and he needs his joy too (and I can't deny I'd love a trip to France).

And I want to continue my dream of being a comedian. As a beginner, you have to do dozens and dozens of gigs for free - and travel around the country. That costs too. Am I bonkers to be doing that when I'm 'meant' to be ill? Probably but bonkers is okay by me.

I'm now strong enough to work again - and we can cope with one ... maybe two ... of the four but not all of them.

Part of prosperity consciousness is not being afraid to ask. Ask, believing, and it is given, as a famous rabbi once said. So, please, if you want to, help us get the vitamins, the trip to Cyprus, the visit to Lion's supportive friend, the comedy gigs and the relief of knowing that we can be comfortable. Thank you.

In return I'll keep writing; and I'll keep working on becoming the spiritual comedian that I believe the world needs right now. And I'll dance for joy and raise a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice to you in Nicosia on April 26th.

47. Home.

Well, the vitamin C treatment is over. I have to wait and see if there’s any effect. I did think it would work and work immediately. But I also know I really, really need some time to rest and allow healing. I’m typing this on the train home to Devon with dusk falling outside.

Lion will meet me at Exeter St. Davids and I’ll probably cry a bit again. I do love that man and I so want to be home with the land, the beautiful moor and lovely South Zeal. And Soul Space meditation at St. Mary’s Church on Tuesdays with Kay, David, Paul, Jill and the others. And when I get back to the house, there will be an eruption of beagles and I’ll sit on the hall floor with them scritching and stroking and loving and getting covered in hair as we all whiffle and whine to each other.

Lion and I will have postman-shot pheasant casserole curled up together in front of the telly, a lovely long hot bath and sleep together again with the beagles in their own beds on the floor. Home. There is nothing like it.

On the train, the guard looks long and hard at my ticket. I say ‘They told me it was okay on Twitter this morning. I can show you the email.’

He says, ‘Well we’ve been told it isn’t. But never mind. If they told you it was, that’s okay,’ clips my ticket and moves on. Two minutes later he is charging a girl who forgot her rail card £60.

My life is filled with the Grace of God. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

46. Swanking at the Savoy.

Friday morning arrives at last. It’s been an incredibly busy week (aren’t I supposed to be resting God?). Every meeting has contained its blessing and some words said in either direction that were healing or helpful. There have been some challenges indeed but also the chance to be the catalyst in assisting two old friends to make-up from a quarrel that had led to a six-year stand-off.

But this morning, it’s goodbye to the dear Bish, who has given me a lovely icon of Elijah in his cave – the place where one retreats for meditation (which I haven’t been able to do here all week!) – and off to the Savoy to meet Q.

Who even went on the internet this morning to learn how to tie the perfect Winsdor knot in his tie!

We have such a lovely time. He buys me brunch instead of just tea and we both revel in the beauty and the excellence of the service. He’s never been here before but he absolutely gets it when I say this is my London office – with just a cuppa, you can hire this beautiful space for two hours for about £20 which is a lot cheaper and nicer than the Institute of Directors.

He’s a very spiritual man and he says that the whole issue is not about denying or hating wealth and beauty, just not being attached to it.

The Savoy has a ‘healthy breakfast’ which includes the famous egg-white omelet that film stars eat. Q has one and lets me have a taste. To my surprise, its quite nice...

He tells me about working with a comedian friend on a new chat-show pilot and about Jimmy Carr’s house (and staff) in Mayfair and Simon Cowell’s place. It isn’t gossip, it’s information. There isn’t an ounce of malice in this man.

The conversation weaves back and forwards between God, faith, the Church, comedy, family and hopes and dreams. Time flies. 

He promises to look at my YouTube videos and give me feedback. 

At the end, I say ‘I do hope we can meet again.’ He says 'yes indeed' and texts me later to say ‘Dorchester next time and we’ll work our way down.’ I have a new friend.

45. Food Fascism

Right now I’m a food fascist. One of those people whom, I’ll admit, I used to mock. Well not so much mock but to say ‘make jokes about’ would have been ending the sentence with a preposition and I do try not to do that when I can.

Not that I'm a grammar fascist, honest. If you happen to be one, you'll enjoy going back through these blogs and finding both places where I did end sentences with prepositions. :-D

Anyway, as I’m, technically, on a no gluten, no cow-dairy, mostly vegetarian etc. diet I now don’t eat the kinds of things that the food fascists don’t. But I’ve found that totally impossible while staying with friends in London. And almost totally impossible buying salad lunches from the shops. Everything seems to have something in it that I shouldn’t eat.

I’m fine with fish and chicken – though not every day. But it has been pretty much every day in London. Friends have cooked me chicken and fish or taken me to restaurants with chicken and fish ... or Indian restaurants where everything has milk in it or comes with rice (which has gluten), a pancake (ditto) or nan bread. They’ve cooked most of the food in the microwave – which you’re supposed to avoid like the plague on this kind of diet. The first night at the Bish’s his flatmate had bought us all pizzas ... which do tend to have a tad of gluten and cow cheese here and there.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not at all cross about any of it. I’m incredibly touched at the kindness I've been offered and I have eaten off the grid quite a few times this week, knowing that the love in the food more than made up for kicking over the restrictions. I know that unless you’re living with this diet you won’t get it. And I’m very lucky in that I’m just choosing to eat carefully to help my immune system. It must be hell if you’re celiac.

The last night with the Bish, it was just the two of us (and Johnny Depp). I cooked a veggie stir fry with leeks, pak choi, sugar snaps, broccoli, asparagus, garlic, ginger, chilies and fermented soy sauce. We had it with organic gluten-free pasta which two London friends had recommended and which doesn’t either stay rock hard or dissolve into mush and actually tastes like pasta.

It was scrummy and yummy and we cleared our plates and were very happy bunnies. And then he offered me a large Cadbury’s Caramel bar. Bless him. I love that man but at that moment I could have kicked him to hell and back.

No, I didn’t have any. And the apple was nice. Truly.

44. The Worry Bug.

I’m a bit of a worrier. Nowadays it’s only a bit of a worrier. When you have something huge to worry about like a l-e-d you either a/ lie down and die b/jump off a cliff or c/ start dealing with the worry bug.

Firstly it’s terror, not worry. Then it’s pervading fear. Then it’s worry. And then, if you’re doing the Work, its times of incredible joy, being in the moment and a deep pervading happiness – interspersed with worry.

Worry usually catches me when I’m tired but it loves ego disappointment too. At the end of three weeks’ intravenous vitamin C therapy, when there appears to have been no physical effect whatsoever at a very large financial cost, worry and disappointment are waiting in the wings to have a field day.

The last two days it’s been an effort to outwit them. Yes, meditation is the answer but meditation in somebody else’s house when you’re sleeping on the sofa in the only room other than the two occupants' bedrooms, the loo or the kitchen is a tad of a challenge. There’s the tube train of course. And the doctor’s surgery (though that’s full of interruptions). But it’s not ideal.

And the ego’s terribly, terribly good at resisting meditation right now anyway because before I get to that alpha state (let’s be honest, if I get to that alpha state) I have to wade through all the obstacles first and it’s much more comfortable to distract myself instead.

The Abraham teachings say that distraction is good – and I agree. If there’s a choice between worry or distraction, distraction’s the thing. But I want to meditate. And distraction becomes part of the resistance to that.

I had an interesting insight into the worry bug last night at about 3am. I’d woken up and couldn’t get back to sleep and found myself worrying about the train home. Yes, the doctor had cancelled his appointment and I could catch my designated train but I’d also asked First Great Western via Twitter if ticket restrictions were still off so I could, if necessary, catch a different train.

(NB this is being written in February 2014 – the time of the great British floods when trains were seriously disrupted and lines damaged and washed away).

They’d asked what kind of ticket I had, and said ‘yes’ and I’d planned to go home via Paddington instead of Waterloo (the journey’s an hour shorter) but at 3am my brain was certain that ticket restrictions were only off on train times and not on stations so going to Paddington was not on. And my ticket was with South West trains anyway ... not First Great Western.

Then beautifully and clearly in my head, an angel said, ‘Most people right now, would be worrying about cancer. You’re clear on that right now so, instead, you are worrying about saving an hour on the journey home. Have you noticed how you’re simply addicted to worry?’

I realized and the worry cleared.

And of course in the morning, I tweeted FGW and they said leaving from Paddington anytime was fine.

43. Is It Just Me? (Part 2)

Remember that at the end of the second week, the doctor couldn't make the Friday treatment because he was going to see his daughter?

This week he suddenly says that he'll try to get to the 2.30 appointment on Friday in time but he's got a doctor's appointment of his own and may be late.

So? Well, at our very first conversations I told him that I really needed to get away on time on Fridays as it was the difference between a £40 ticket and a £140 one.

This time, I gave the receptionist a week's notice that I would need a 2pm appointment if I was going to have extra amounts of vitamin C (it's now 60 ml a day) as the drip takes more time. That was vital so I could catch my train home. She said 'fine.'

But now he's going to be later than 2.30pm. I say 'but the appointment's at 2pm.' Dr. W has no idea about that.'

I check with the receptionist and it turns out that the timing was never checked with him. I am cross. There is also another sign of carelessness in the surgery this week but that is not my story so I'll leave it at that. But I am wondering how I managed to attract this.

I tell the receptionist that I need that appointment at 2pm or I will not be turning up on Friday and will have to miss the final treatment. And that I am very cross.

So, Dr. W says he will try and change his own doctor's appointment. He succeeds in doing so.

Good. I have stood up for myself. At last.

42. Goddesses and Stuff.

The Bish’s place is three stops further up the Northern line, in Finchley ... another of my old stamping grounds. Jay and I lived there for six months before we set off for Montana;my friend Bernadette and I shared a house there when Jay and I broke up and Lion and I lived in a house there for a year when we first got together.

I was planning to do a little bit of ghost-laying as I did in Dartmouth Park but there isn’t a minute this week to do any of it – which is interesting in itself. Maybe none of those ghosts need any attention? It’s obviously more important to be in the Bish’s place, chatting, attending meetings and services, watching movies together (I adored the Johnny Depp Lone Ranger no matter what the critics think) or being out seeing friends or having the treatment.

BTW if you're reading Bishop's Palace rather than place, I'd probably better correct you. It's a flat on the second floor of a house. 

The first thing that happens is that the A-lister (who keeps signing his texts with a capital Q by accident – it’s a letter near to his name) has to postpone Tuesday at the Savoy. To say he had a better offer is an understatement but the good thing is he’s eager to reschedule for Friday morning which is something to look forward to.

So I have a free morning. Do I use it for ghost-laying? Yes indeed but not in Finchley. I head off for a Date With God.

A Date with God is when you let God take you out and decide for you where you are going and what you are going to do (for more details of those are, see here). God makes it pretty clear pretty fast that we are going to the British Museum to  see Sekhmet.

As Goddesses go, Sekhmet is pretty darn ferocious. She brings destruction to the enemies of Ra and frankly doesn’t know where to stop. But she has both fascinated and scared me since I was fifteen and came to the museum on a school trip.

Now I’m an ordained independent Catholic priest I, technically, shouldn’t have much truck with Egyptian goddesses but that's the joy of the independent movement. I wouldn't call it interfaith but I'd certainly call it inter-respect. This particular goddess has turned up quite a few times in my life and this time, God is pretty insistent.

So I turn up in the Egyptian statues part of the museum in front of four statues of the lion-headed goddess, sit down on the convenient bench in front of them and wait to see what needs to be known.

In Kabbalistic terms, Sekhmet is Gevurah – the equivalent of the archangel Khamael – the sword of God. She is judgment, surgery, knives and sharp things. You don’t mess with this lady if you want to keep the contents of your skin inside.

She turned up last time I visited the Dartmoor Shaman so I’m not entirely surprised that we’ve come to visit and it’s very clear that I do need more of her energy ... and a razor’s edge of wit if I am to be a successful comedian – a Fool for God as the Bish calls it.

I’m not tough. Oh, I have a pretty fierce persona at times and yes I can stand up on a stage and risk humiliation but there are still aspects of my psyche that are very doormat. Sekhment is servant of Ra (the great God). She defends him against his enemies. I serve at the pleasure of the Holy One (to paraphrase The West Wing) and, in comedy, where there is so much hostility against God and religion, I am Sekhmet. I just have to let her in.

41. My Body Knows What It Needs.

Week no. 3 of intravenous vitamin C. So, today I was supposed to have 75 ml instead of 50 because we missed a day last week.

So at 50ml I started feeling a bit light-headed (I haven’t had this drip for three days) and the line simply came out of my arm. My body said ‘enough.’ God I love my body; she’s so wise and so clever.

And she will lose these lumps as soon as she is ready to do just that.

40. The Third Week

This week I’m staying with the Bish. He’s my bishop in our newly re-named church The Flower of Carmel. It used to be The Apostolic Church of the Risen Christ or, according to predictive text, The Apologetic Church of the Risen Crisp.
We’ve now amalgamated with a big American Church which gives us all the bells and whistles we need to step up in the world and be recognised – including the chance of studying for a legitimate doctorate, which is really exciting for me, and having parishes all round the world. And it’s definitely ‘Independent Catholic’ with capital letters and a lot of mysticism thrown in.
As ordained priests, we still had to apply to join them – very fair given that their seminary training is much more intense than ours was.  However, all of us who have jumped through the appropriate hoops have been accepted and welcomed in that uniquely enthusiastic American way which is both enchanting and overwhelming and more of us will do the jumping when they’ve got the time.
The name’s a bit of a challenge to me ‘Ascension Alliance’ – there’s a lot of New Age stuff about ascension that I do find to be rather WBX. But as the Bish says, ‘we were risen, now we’re ascended, so it’s in the right direction.’
Staying on the Bish’s sofa will be interesting. I’ve slept just one night there before. The living room is also his temple and it’s full to the brim with spiritual presences. Now that’s probably just as WBX to you as New Age ascended masters are to me but my experience from just one night was that it was quite a gloriously splendid place to sleep — in a ‘what the fuck was that?’ kind of a way. Interesting to see how I do four nights in it and who shows up to have a chat or – as may well be the case – to administer a good, healthy spiritual slapping.
Friends have come out of the woodwork in the last week or so – Londoners that is – so it’s going to be a pretty sociable week with morning coffee/herbal tea with people every day. I’m going to be knackered but I think I’ll enjoy it very much.
And on Tuesday I’m having morning tea with the A-list comedian from the Guildford gig. He asked me to suggest somewhere (he’s the one who knows London!) I ventured the Savoy and he said ‘glorious’ even though he’s  a hardened Northerner.
Why the Savoy? Because it’s beautiful, the tables aren’t sticky and you don’t get rushed out. I’ve used it as my London office in the mornings for more than a decade now. You can hire a corner of a delightful, quiet room with attentive service for two hours for the price of two cups of tea. Knocks Starbucks into a cocked hat if you ask me.

39. Is It Working?

I first heard of intravenous vitamin C when Henry was ill. It’s the brainchild of Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling and his colleage Ewan Campbell and although it’s controversial it is, finally, starting to be taken seriously. It doesn’t cure life-enhancing diseases – although it has cured some. It’s as effective as chemotherapy, but it doesn’t hurt the immune system in any way, shape or form.
When Henry was ill, it wasn’t available in the UK so he had oral vitamin C. That and a very harsh diet did stop the tumours growing. At one point, I rang Ewan Campbell in California and, bless him, he took my call and was very kind.
So is it working? I don't know. Dr. W says it won’t necessarily show until after the three weeks have ended. Well, let’s hope he’s right. Dear God, let’s hope so. I have a bit of a tendency to doubt things and it didn’t help when that new lump turned up in the first week of the treatment. But it did soften immediately and it's pretty much gone now.

I opened my TUT (Notes from the Universe) last Wednesday to read:

Maggy, it's working.

No, you probably can't see it yet, but I can. Wheels are now turning that have never turned before. Winds are now howling that have never howled before. And players from every walk of life are being drawn into place as if in some hypnotic dance. All because of you, your dreams, and your divinely stubborn persistence.

If I wasn't the Universe, I don't think I'd believe it.

    The Universe
Oh boy, did that help.

38. More a Clump than a Blog.

You may have noticed that I tend to put loads of postings up at once instead of daily updates. That’s because I’m writing most of this on the train up to and down from London. Once I’m back home that may change.
I'm taking my laptop to London for creative writing as well as emails etc. I could take the iPad but although that’s a lovely toy it needs a separate keyboard if you’re going to use it as a writer and that kind of takes away the point for me. 
I’ve got work to do as well – I’m ghost writing a book for a Kabbalist friend who has wonderful theories and ideas but lacks the common touch when writing.
Given that the train tickets at the moment are non-restricted and I’m arriving early at the stations to get the first available train, I’m getting to sit at one of the two tables in a carriage which means that there are people on the other side of the table.
This has led to some lovely conversations. Not bad for a hermit like me. On the way home last Friday I sat with a lovely Devon farming woman who has been on archeological digs in the Holy Land so we chatted horses, chickens, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Paganism and lifestyles very happily while also marveling at the flooded landscapes we were crossing.
This morning (Monday 17th February) my companions are a couple from 15 minutes the other side of Okehampton. They got me a black tea from the buffet (this is when I do miss cow’s milk but I’m getting used to it. I’m not really meant to have tea either but bugger it) and we got onto discussing horses somehow.
And they have a horse that needs exercising. It’s half an hour away and 15.2 hh which is perfect for me. This is the third tentative offer of riding for me – the other two were so helpful in making me feel happy last year but they came to nothing. This one may well work. And I so love to ride. I must follow it up.

37. A Year of Weather in Two Weeks

It’s the year of the British floods — and of course the complaints about the floods. We Brits do love to complain. Certainly the first two weeks that I have to be in London for the intravenous vitamin C there are downpours and gales. The train services have been brilliant given all the challenges that they have faced but I’ve got soaking wet and blown about on London’s streets which are littered with the skeletons of dead umbrellas. Ironically my hostess for those first two weeks, is better clad than I am. She walks her dog on Hampstead Heath every day and has waterproof trousers.
It’s much wetter and windier at home than it is in London but we just ‘do wet’ when we are in Devon. And on the second weekend of being home, there is one glorious day of sunshine and warmth. You know the kind of day - one when you can leave the back door open and the animals can potter in and out as they want.
I was a bit pathetic about the snowdrops when I first set off for Birmingham and London. They are so beautiful  and there are so many of them all through the garden. Most of them are doubles which are no more exquisite than the singles, just differently so. I thought I was going to miss nearly all of their beauty.
However they have lasted for these two weekends home and on this lovely sunny day I spend time just standing and looking at them and adoring them. I do pick some for the altar in the chapel and the living room mantelpiece but they are not the same once they are picked even though you can put a mirror underneath the vase to reflect their loveliness.
I have missed most of the prepared hyacinths though. But when I open up my office/chapel door I am assailed by the glorious scent of the last blue hyacinth still blooming. It almost knocks me over with sensory delight.
The next day it is over. 

36. Comedy Night in Kentish Town part 2.

Usually I have my act sorted word-for-word. It’s totally memorized apart from dealing with hecklers. But last week in Guildford I extemporized a little, dropping some and adding other bits on the hoof. And tonight I’m a lot less prepared in a way simply because I’m planning to do five minutes of audience participation.
And, as an experiment, I don’t tell them that I’m an independent Catholic priest, a heretic, or do very much of the self-deprecating stuff that so many comedians use. Instead I’m quite authoritative – as in ‘I know my Bible, let’s play a game’ kind of way.
Because of the torrential storms and wet, it’s definitely Noah’s Ark time and given that the UKIP Oxford councillor got all over the news for saying the floods were due to the government’s approving gay marriage, I do a session on how many of the Old Testament laws we have all broken, getting the audience to stand up and sit down and working out who’s broken the most laws ... and therefore who is to blame.
Some of the laws are palpably daft in this modern age - hey what am I saying? Most of them are. That doesn't mean they weren't valid then (given some caveats - see below*) but God is quite capable of updating stuff. People seem to think that God would never allow his creation to evolve but that's simply not the case. 
They like it – well audiences do love to participate – and they do seem to think it’s funny. I end with the ‘actually it’s all the fault of the vegetarians’ story and get good applause.
But for the first time there is active hostility directed towards me from two of the other comedians during their act and another (a physicist) somewhat pointedly over-disses religion and those who believe in it. So that’s interesting. It doesn’t hurt or deplete me at all and it’s probably because I haven’t quite presented myself as exactly who I am.
However, it does show how atheistic the comedy world is – and there are lots of anti-religion jokes going around. The only trouble with them is that they are ill-informed on the Bible stories (as if anyone but me notices!).
There is definitely a place for spiritual comedy even if it’s only to show that religion is simply the terms and conditions that cover the real heart of the great Love that binds the stars together.
I think that that faith is about seeking out the 70% organic chocolate instead of being content to chomp on the cheap stuff.
If you’ve got any sense, you know that the everyday stuff isn’t really chocolate at all but it gives you a quick ‘hit.’ It’s cheap and it doesn’t need you to think about it. It takes a real effort to get used to the richness and the the lack of cloying sweetness in the quality chocolate. And you can’t eat so much of it at any one time. It’s so much easier just to get a bar from the front of the stack... But once your tastes have changed and you feel the benefits, you don’t really want to go back.
Except for Christmas of course. And that’s a a Cadbury’s Twirl in the middle of the Green and Blacks. Utterly delicious but, once you’ve found the good stuff, not something you know you can deal with every day.
Hmm. I think I could develop that as a joke.

* Re homosexuality and the Old Testament, there is some good evidence (here is one example) that Leviticus 18:22 was a law against male cult temple prostitution - which was highly prevalent. As people were generally married six months after puberty there was very little (if any) loving same-sex relationship stuff going on so the law is not referring to that at all. 
Neither are lesbians mentioned - so gay sex between women is fine. Which I can see might be annoying if you're a fundamentalist teenage feminist and want to be an abomination on the same terms as the men...

Time For Some Not Fake Food.