Sex work as a choice people make in trying to survive capitalism within a sexist, cissexist, racist society.

January 27, 2018 1 comment

I would have to think hard to count how many of my friends either do now, or have done, at some point done sex work. and almost all of them are nervous about letting people know because of how judgemental folks attitudes towards their mode of surviving capitalism, sexism, cissexism[0], racism and other intersectional[1] oppressions are. there’s so much shame around it :( so much whorephobia. stereotypes of sex workers as naive, immoral, vapid, stupid, vulnerable, unable to make decisions about their own bodies. as if every person surviving capitalism doesn’t have to make hard choices and compromises about what they do with their time, energy, mind and body in order to pay their rent and bills. and for many this is literally the best choice for them. does the person cleaning toilets get same judgements?

I felt it strongly around the comments about that ukip leader’s racist girlfriend. so many of the articles and comments seemed to centre, and be titilated, that she worked as a glamour model. because that brought in people’s prejudices and stereotypes. here’s an easy exercise – be honest with yourself, and imagine a glamour model or other sex worker. think about what you think they are like, what their background is, education level, interests, knowledge of current affairs and politics. their sexuality and how (outside of work) consent to sex would be likely for them.

now know me. think about what qualities you think i value in friends. and take i have upwards of 30-50 friends who i know to do sex work now or in the past. there is huge variety in the sex work my friends do, but a lot of it is that most stigmatised as “street prostitution”[2] and it definitely includes “models”.

and all these interesting, smart, wise, clued up people who are my friends have taken the decision that for them sex work is the best way to survive capitalism and all the intersectional[1] oppressions.

i mean i wipe people’s bottoms for a living – does that seem any better? ;p

To survive in capitalism means having to have some level of income. And we all make compromises about what we do with our time, bodies and brains in order to get that income. None of us would keep working in the way we do if we got a windfall. We’d probably still want to do something meaningful, and maybe that would mean volunteering somewhere. But it would be different to what we do for work right now. Because we are forced at some level to do that work because we need to pay the bills. We make a choice (ideally) from within what society offers us in the way of work. Many of us have multiple options, and from within that we choose based on the payoff (wages) vs the hours, arduousness, how interesting the work is, how much it fits in with the rest of our life etc etc. For some people the best choice for them is sex work. That gives them the best payoff, and they maintain some degree of freedom and ability to control how and when they work. They are choosing between all the work options they personally have and deciding that sex work is the best out of those options.

Think that sex work is degrading? First off, why? Is sex innately degrading to those on receiving end (ie mostly women or men who “bottom” for other men)? And anyway lots of people’s jobs involve tasks society has deemed degrading. What about cleaning other people’s toilets? Or the way service sector workers are treated?

Feel that nobody would choose sex work as it is dangerous and harmful to sex workers? In that case why would anyone ever choose to work in “forestry, farming and fishing” which has highest incidence of workplace injuries in uk[3]?

Sex workers must be stupid? Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour) is an easy counter example[4] as someone who started in sex work to support themselves through their PhD. Or countless of my friends. Again, who do you think I have as friends? There are countless sex workers within that population.

What all of the people I know who are sex workers have in common is that none of them are white, cis, middle class men. Almost everyone I know who is a white, cis, middle class man has a reasonably paid job that he chose to do from amongst many *career* options. And note that even the fact that he got to have a career is notable – that implies some level of interest. Do you think your supermarket checkout assistant chose that because they’re super fascinated by the price of groceries? How many middle class, white, cis men do you see cleaning toilets or stacking shelves for their working lives?

Can you accept that because of how intersectional oppressions operate within our current society, many people don’t have huge numbers of awesome, tempting job options to choose from? And within that, sex work might actually be the best choice for them?

So given all that, can you become aware of your prejudices about sex workers? About who they are and what they’re like? And then think about how that prejudice, if unexamined and unchallenged, might spill out into comments you might make about sex workers. And then how this could project shame and judgement onto sex workers, when actually they’ve just found the best way they know to survive within capitalism and a sexist, racist, cissexist society.


[0] how society is set up to take the gender of those who are not trans (ie you, if you’re not trans) as more real and valid than a trans person. and therefore all the shit that trans people have to go through. its similar to how sexism treats all women.

[1] intersectionality is how one person is affected by all the different oppressions within society – class, racism, sexism etc. so for some oppression they might be privileged, but they might be oppressed by another one. for example a working class, white, man who uses a wheelchair is oppressed because he’s working class and disabled, but is still better than a black woman in the exact same situation. but worse off than a middle class man in a wheelchair.

[2] though mostly they don’t do it on the streets anymore due to how the internet has changed how sex workers meet their clients




2017 personal retrospective

January 1, 2018 1 comment

This has been a year of reassessment of projects and priorities, personal development, and reshaping of what I put time and energy into. Much of this is ongoing, rather than neatly concluded in time for a new year’s retrospective. But I feel at peace with where I am right now and that I am midway through a lot of current personal projects and reassessments, and that’s ok.

In May/June I had an unpleasant debacle with a flatmate who was moving out. Mostly I haven’t discussed this publicly, and (being a believer in drama minimisation and not dragging people into fights where avoidable) I’m not going to give much of the details from my point of view in this post. However they did decide to bring a lot of mutual friends into our disagreement, lied and misled them* and some did decide to make judgements purely from listening to their side of the story, and are gone from my life. Additionally they weaponised an internal grievance procedure and have (at least temporarily) got me removed in a particularly nasty way§ from the local political organisation (Glasgow anarchist federation) which I have been a member of for 10 years.

Overall I feel super positive about what this has resulted in however. A lot of people were super there for me, and I feel my friendships deepened, and I lost some crud. Like many things that you fear, once you actually are in them, its oddly liberating. They tried to cause maximum damage to me, within the small subculture we share (radicals and queers in Scotland and wider). And that kind of playground politics I hate and dread, yet I actually found an inner strength and peace even in the middle of it. An acceptance that the people and groups who want to believe I’m some greedy landlord can ostracise me as they like, but that I have enough inside me, and wonderful people around me, to keep on keeping on. I feel more free and light because, not despite, the entire fiasco.


The ex-flatmate clusterfuck, combined with a bunch of thinking and feeling about politics to lead to a major and ongoing reassessment of my political activism and commitments. I’m still going through it.

This year has seen TERFs in UK increase their visibility and organising to attack trans rights, specifically the gender recognition act. They had an anti-trans intervention at the london anarchist bookfair and a bunch of nastiness and splits have resulted when even folks who are not anti-trans didn’t understand the necessity of challenging TERFs and removing such oppressive politics from our spaces.

However even without all that, I’ve been feeling a need for reassessment on what I think I should be doing politically. The context is so so dire (climate change, wars, brexit, austerity, racism, militarised borders), whilst we have hopelessness and inaction in the wider class. So I have resolved to spend this externally imposed break from the group I have been most politically active in for 10 years in order to do some reading and thinking and discussing what is useful for me to do now in order both to alleviate some of the suffering in the world as well as challenging the root causes. Climate change is particularly urgent and important but I as yet have no clear idea what to do, and that is one of next year’s priorities.

Open University

I have started studying again, because I enjoy and miss it. Open University courses are fully funded in Scotland and I’ve been loving the level 1 maths course I’m doing, and plan to do more. I am looking at doing various maths, physics and electronics modules, not for any formal qualification (I already have a masters…) but because I love learning.


I am not closeted about my mental health so if you feel uncomfortable reading about such things, look away now!

I have variable mental health, probably related to various traumatic incidents that happened over my life including sexual assaults, 4 months in Palestine with 2 friends killed in front of me, violence of the police / state to me and those close to me, and awareness of horror in the world; the deadly, man-made brutality of borders killing our fellow humans for the crime of being born elsewhere, climate change, the occupation of Palestine, disregard for human life or any accountability for man-made disaster in Bhopal that is still causing suffering over 30 years on.

My GP has been great – very supportive. For several months when I was unable to work due to PTSD he signed me off, and has also referred me for help when I’ve needed it. However even though I rarely have acute symptoms anymore, my life is a balancing act and my mental health is a major reason I only work part-time. Also I suffer from chronic insomnia, poor memory/recall, emotional blunting, and “brain fog”. During Vince and my otherwise amazing LEJOG bike ride in 2015 I resolved to start “feeling” again as I felt like life was happening without me being in it, or remembering it. So I returned to my GP for help. When a short course (12 weeks) of counselling only started to touch on helping me, I was passed on to a more long-term service. Since May this year I have been getting weekly psychotherapy which is open-ended (initial time-frame is 2 years). It has been very intense and difficult and draining. I am super lucky to have amazing support from loved ones during this challenging time.

Psychotherapy reminds me a lot of the physiotherapy I had to have after my 2008 shoulder (rotator cuff) operation and subsequent 3 month immobilisation. I dreaded physiotherapy sessions – it was painful to slowly stretch open those muscles and ligaments in order to regain mobility and function. And like going to a gym, for couple of days after psychotherapy I am drained and achey and need rest.

Its definitely having effects, but I can’t yet see the end result. I can feel that things are happening and changing. I have decided to trust the process and give it time and energy for 2 years. Its a big commitment – I am arranging a lot in my life to make this happen. But the alternative is wasting this only life I have. Also I have the ability to put this time aside because I have some financial and temporal wiggle room after fulfilling my weekly commitments. So here goes!


I have a brand new nibbling! She’s a cutie. I now have four! Thanks siblings! :) Being an aunticle is very cool. This year I’ve had more time with the 4 year old, and the beginnings of building an independent relationship with one of the eldest with whom I had a fun day out. Trouble is they’re all the way down south, so this heavily constrains how much I can see them. One of my 2018 resolutions is to see them more often.

Personal relationships

I continue to be polyamorous with multiple sweeties in my life. There have been some comings and goings during the year, which all feel right and true to who we are. I feel super blessed to have wonderful delicious humans wanting to be close to me <3 <3 <3


Due to weekly psychotherapy I have had to curtail travel plans. I am still managing 3-4 monthly visits to see long-term lover in San Francisco bay area, mostly arranging them for when therapist is away or clinic closed anyway.

I had a fabulous 10 day cycle trip with awesome pal in Shetland over Summer solstice.

Other trips this year have been 2-4 day mini breaks close to Glasgow, eg Arran.

I feel a huge pull to be out exploring the world. Whilst I am having to hold off on that, I am saving into “future travel” bank account so that as soon as I can, I can fly off again! I want to feel the wind pulling me over the next pass, not knowing what I’m going to see next, what’s round the next corner. Free and living moment to moment to feel and experience and see as much as I can.



2018 resolutions / plans

  • See more of my niblings.
  • Continue to read and think about radical politics and what is useful to be doing.
  • Fitness / upper body strength.
  • Continue studying – currently looking at maths, physics and electonics
  • Finally get that ham radio licence!
  • Flat decluttering and address hoarding issues.
  • Continue to commit to psychotherapy
  • Multiple walking/biking/camping trips to explore Scotland
  • Continue to save money into both rainy day and future travel funds. 2017 was the first year I had to raid my rainy day fund (when ex-flatmate fucked me over) and that emphasised importance of having one.




* Ex flatmate claimed I evicted them by changing the locks on the flat. Omitting to say that:

  1. They hadn’t been paying their share of the bills for 18 months
  2. They’d become aggressive with me in April, and when I told them to not shout at me again (by email as this felt safer) they handed their notice in giving 2 months notice and asking me to write a letter evicting them so they could access social housing (I did this but only stated a moving out date, not that they were evicted)
  3. End of May, after I asked them where their share of May’s rent was they told me they were withholding it, leading to major financial repurcussions for me. They claimed I owed them money for the short amount of time they were contributing to council tax, ignoring the 18 months they hadn’t paid anything, nor that they had never given anything for broadband
  4. I changed the wifi password and asked them to stop using my kitchen stuff. A week later, whilst I was at work, they moved their stuff out and were not in the flat for 2 weeks.
  5. Early June, as they had not paid rent for well over a month by this point, and were due to be moving out a few weeks later anyway, and believing they had moved out as they had moved their stuff out, and the huge strain on my mental health that having this malicious person have access to my home was causing, I changed the locks and prepared to move on with my life.
  6. They then told people including my housing association, that I had illegally evicted them.


§ By email I was told I was to be removed from the group, and that the conditions for re-entry were to apologise to my ex-flatmate, and to lose the secure tenancy I have with my housing association. There has never been any criticism by them that ex flatmate unilaterally stopped the mediation process the group had initiated between us and had decided that instead of looking for resolution, they would to try and get me removed from the group for this personal dispute.

Categories: politics

On not being closeted, the privilege to be out and open, and the resultant deweaponisation of “shame”

January 1, 2018 1 comment

lonely_closet_m65_b1_f6In multiple aspects of my like I’m privileged that I don’t have to be closeted. That’s partly a conscious choice; years ago a concerned lover tried to get me to edit down my social networking profile in case those I was involved in campaigns against (city council, rightwing popular media etc) tried to publicly smear me for being polyamorous, queer and kinky. I decided that if this did happen, I could and would stand up and say “yes this is me and I am not ashamed of the things I do with other consenting adults”.

Trying to hide these aspects of my life makes me more vulnerable – to blackmail, to being “outed”, to having to think before I post anything as to whether I am revealing secrets I need to keep hidden. I feel more in control of my own life by being out. It feels like one less weak spot.

Also it is a political choice to take advantage of my relative privilege and personal circumstances in order to be a part of de-stigmatising and re-humanising these identities. I don’t have children I fear I could lose. I am in a unionised workplace. I have a secure tenancy. I am not financially, or otherwise, dependent on my family. I could come out and feel ok that anybody who thus rejects me is someone I can live without.

There is one big exception to my personal openness – I am not out as polyamorous at work. I am consciously closeted about that. Not being straight is fine for me in my workplace – in fact I seem to code as queer so I have to actually come out as someone who also dates men rather than as simply gay. But non monogamy is definitely something I hide, and on the rare occasions when its accidentally come out – because I’ve slipped up and revealed conflicting details about “my partner” triggering questions – I’ve felt ostracised as a result.  Also I don’t talk about being kinky with most people anyway, as its mostly inappropriate to share bedroom activity details.

I’m writing this now as I’m doing a 2017 retrospective and I realise that some of the things I’m writing about are to do with my mental health, which is another stigmatised condition that I am lucky to not have to be closeted about. In general I can be quite private, but especially having realised that me being open about my mental health has helped allow others to talk about theirs, I am consciously talking about it. After all, if it was the year I’d had my big shoulder operation and had to spend 3 months with my right arm permanently in a sling, I would mention that. Why not that I’ve a long-term mental health issue which I’m having treatment for?

Anyway, I totally see it as a combination of my privileges to be out. That I am able to be independent and have arranged my life to not be at mercy of anyone else’s judgements, as well as to live in a time and place where it is safe to be open about my sexuality due to generations of brave LGBTQIA activists. So cheers to everyone who gave me the ability to not have this burden and vulnerability of being closeted, and may I use it to help others who are not so lucky.

Categories: politics

on the need to grieve the loss of a shiny, optimistic future to climate change. to take care of ourselves and each other. to accept loss. and to build compassionate, resilient communities, with the ingenuity to face dark times ahead.

December 11, 2017 3 comments
i wrote this quickly as a comment to a post re climate change. i’ve been thinking about this for a few months, and have had a few chats with people about it, but i’m still working things through. it seems almost blasphemous amongst activist circles, and probably mainstream, to talk about grief re climate change. like that is just accepting the status quo rather than acting to avert it.
06-770x425but i don’t think we have a choice. i think we need to let ourselves grieve, support each other in doing that, and recognise that we do have a major loss – the loss of the future we thought we had.
that is important to do because we are all human, all precious and special and deserving of care.
additionally, we need to be functional for the months and years and decades ahead. not still attached to our non-existant shiney future, like someone never moving on from a relationship breakup or bereavement. we need to accept that loss, and carry it with us as we take care of ourselves, our communities, all humanity, all life on this planet. we are at the beginning of a roller coaster ride and it is frightening and will require all of our ingenuity, resources, compassion, integrity and courage for us to make the best of a terrifying world. i know we’re all grasping for silver linings – here am i stopping my kneejerk grasp for an uplifting sentence but i need to fight that urge. grieving is not easy – that person is never coming back. it hurts like a punch to the gut, over and over, but then somehow you get through that. somehow the other side of grief is a life you can start reconstructing – always changed by that profound loss, but not always defined and constrained by it. and so must we, humanity, be.
benchmani think its not only ok, but necessary (imho) to grieve the loss of the future we were brought up to believe we had. and just like any loss – a relationship breakup, a loved one dying, a health diagnosis – going through sorrow and other elements of grieving sucks and hurts.
i look at people who have best adjusted to those losses, and i notice acceptance. they grieved, and they held that loss, and are able to keep living. those who have lost but not accepted, those still clinging to their dead loved one, or ex relationship, they seem in the worst way.
i do think we have to, probably all of us alive today, go through grief for the loss of a healthy planet, a bright future. i don’t think that’s wallowing. i think its painful and hard and feels terrifying.
yes we can and should do all we can to mitigate climate change, to organise our communities to be resilient and compassionate, to do what we can in the here and now for those facing horrific material and other insults; migrants facing militarised racist borders, disabled people and others facing universal credit and benefit cuts, those in palestine mown down for existing, just for some examples.
i don’t think that grieving is an option any more. i think refusing to allow ourselves to is negatively affecting our mental health and our ability to make progressive change. i think we need to be there for each other, to hold each other whilst we cry, to listen to each other’s pain and fear in a massage circle of emotional support. this is how we will build any kind of liveable world. denial is blunting us.

For the men re #metoo – learn about, discuss, and model good consent

October 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Seen lots of posts from men saying yes they want to be good allies to women and trans people re #metoo but don’t know what to do. Maybe something men could do is to learn about, discuss and model good consent?

For the past few years I’ve made a habit of making the first move – I realised that if I didn’t the only lovers I would have, out of the total pool of “we find each other mutually attractive” would be the ones that were also confident enough to make the first move and knew that I was interested. Even as someone who’s not particularly attractive, its been going super well. Of course I get rejections – but I take them as a positive – that means that people feel safe to say no to me. And there’s not been a single instance where a yes or a no has damaged our friendship.

In wanting to be more confident in making the first move I was also very concerned that nobody would feel harassed in any way by me.* Also it is super important that whoever I am engaging in shenanigans with actively wants it too. So instead of asking “Can I kiss you?” I ask some version of “Would you like a kiss?” For me as someone socialised as a girl/woman in this society I will say yes unless there is a clear reason for me not to. My desire is secondary to someone else’s. If you’re in my house and you ask if you can do something (eg smoke), I would have equally found it challenging to say no! You’re a guest! Of course you can do that. If you ask me instead “Would you like me to smoke in your house or would you rather I went outside?”, then my brain will actually think that through and I will admit that yes, I’d rather you went outside. The first option would have led me to just suck up the discomfort and let you smoke and deal with the nasty smell afterwards.

So since I thought about this I resolved that I would always ask someone if they wanted physical intimacy with me, not just if I can do it. And its actually quite sexy to do this. I enjoy the buildup of physical tension and vocalising this just makes it feel hotter. Plus I can be reasonably confident that the interest is mutual.

Secondly, I want to make it clear to anyone I am interested in physically, that there are no repercussions for saying no, now or in the future. Our friendship does not require my access to your body. If at any point you’re not in the mood for shenanigans, or want cuddles and kissing but no below waist interaction, or whatever, that is all fine. You will not face any physical or emotional pressure from me. Your body autonomy is important. I want whoever I am with to want me too. I have had all the shitty ways that men are socialised to respond to rejection. The sudden lack of interest in friendship. The moody responses. I’ve been yelled at and physically assaulted. I refuse to do this to anyone else, and I want them to know that their “no” has no repercussions.

Thirdly, I will not have any physically intimate interactions with someone who is in any way compromised in their ability to consent. This could be because of a power differential. But most often because they are not sober. If you have had alcohol, weed or any other drug to the point where you are more likely to have sex than when sober, than I would be taking advantage of you to go along with that. I’ve seen men circle around drunk women like moths round a flickering flame – and this is purely because they know she is more likely to agree to sex with them at this time. That’s not active consent, that’s gross. I would rather wait til you are sober and know that you have actively, mindfully, desired to become intimate with me. Having had someone get me stoned and then have sex with me (we hadn’t even kissed before) when I was too high to talk means I will always be super careful with other people around substances.

Also relevant is the context for making an advance. I will endeavour that you will always have an easy out. That you won’t feel reliant on my continuing good will for a place to sleep, or introductions into social circles etc. That I will explicitly say that my good will does not require you being interested in intimacy with me.

Fourthly, I will be honest with you about me. You will know I am non monogamous and my sexual health status, such as when I was most recently tested. In terms of the former, it is important to me that you make an informed decision to have sex with me, and don’t assume that this means we will have, ever, an exclusive monogamous relationship. We will also have a discussion about safer sex, and we will go with the highest common denominator – you want barriers for everything, fine.


But its one thing me doing (or aspiring) to do all this in private. I know from personal experience that many people do not have this base level of consent practice. And what I’ve developed as my personal ethical standards around this has mostly been because of fuckups – my own or other peoples. We just don’t get taught what consent really means. We don’t talk about it or share our own practices.

One thing I really appreciate in the polyamory community is that there is a lot of modelling of safer sex practices. Regular testing and communication of results and risks is normal and expected. I don’t even think twice about bringing sexual health up with other people because I’m so used to it being a regular conversation.

I want the same around consent. I especially want men to be talking to each other about it. It might feel awkward, but you all say you want to do something in response to #metoo, and that might involve some initial discomfort. But I’m betting there is a lot of lack of knowledge and awareness. Nobody wants to admit to ignorance. “of course I always get consent” – because the alternative, in our binary world, is that you are a rapist. Well this thinking helps no-one. It stops people being able to ask questions, express doubts and concerns, work through scenarios, develop nuanced ethics.

So that’s my personal response to the many men who are asking “what can we do to help?” – educate yourself, think deeply and discuss with other men what good consent really means. I’m definitely not saying that my personally developed standards are the best in the world. I’m just trying to practice what I’m preaching and open up conversations about what good consent should mean.


* When I was a teenager I did not do this. I barely even asked for consent. At least one person I had sexual intimacy with, whilst she didn’t say no, I later found out did not want more than kissing with me. When, years later, I found this out I was obviously super shooken up and hence have put a lot of thought into ensuring I don’t make same mistake again.

Northumbria trip – Cove, Lindisfarne, Alnwick, Hadrian’s Wall and Flodden

October 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Wood stove with thoughtful lighting box full of tinder.

A sweetie and I both really needed a break so we came to Northumbria for a few days. I’ve wanted to go to Lindisfarne for years, so we’re staying in a super cute converted old caravan a few fields back from the North Sea overlooking Lindisfarne. The hut is tiny, but just to make me happy has a wood burning stove, and is so well thought through that the owners included a kindling box and matches! Its in the grounds of a converted church so we walk through the old graveyard to the back corner, where the hut is secluded away.

On the way south we wanted a picnic break and a place called “Cove” looked to be in the right place and probably scenic. Turned out to be this v cute village with an *18th century tunnel* to walk along to get to the harbour! And the caves off the tunnel had been used by smugglers! And the harbour was pretty and obvs super secluded. Great picnic stop and auspicious was to begin the trip with such a fun discovery.

Thursday we went to Lindisfarne. I love islands in general, and the tidal causeway was pretty cool. We went about 10 mins after the sea had cleared the causeway so the road was still wet from being underwater so recently. Saw the walking route, marked out with tall poles. The road causeway is relatively new (1960s). Lindisfarne itself has been inhabited for centuries, and I presume was before accessed by walking or donkey/pony and cart across at low tides. Must feel cosy and safe, or claustrophobic depending on your perspective, once tide comes back in and the tourists have all left, and nobody else will come (or leave) for at least 12 hours (not sure how long each day causeway is open)

Most of Lindisfarne is about the monastery and priory. Over the centuries between 2-10 monks at a time lived there, including St Cuthbert who found even that too metropolitan and moved to a couple of even smaller islands at various times! There is also a village with shops, cafes and a pub, 9 farms, a harbour with upturned boat shelters, and a medieval castle with proper defensive walls positioned on top of a rocky hillock. And whilst exploring around the latter (and admiring the much more recent scaffolding put up as part of a big repairs works) we came across a large 19th century lime kiln which was open to explore and climb in and out of the ovens! On the way back to mainland (we were last tourists to leave the car park) we stopped so I could run across to the walking route and climb onto the refuge built midway across the path because the fast tide coming across the flat estuary has caught so many people over the centuries. Its a rickety wooden structure with missing step on the wooden ladder, lowish walls, and open to the elements. Not a good place to have to wait out the high tide but better than the alternative!


Causeway with tide creeping back in.


Posts mark the walking route across to Lindisfarne. Tide is getting higher….


Great sign!


Medieval castle in background covered in impressive scaffolding

Friday we first visited Alnwick. Awesome 2nd hand bookshop in an old train station (booo train line closures, but slightly alleviated when they make good use of the infrastructure as in this case, or for cycle paths). Books were higher priced than i’m used to (if ever in glasgow and you like such things check out “voltaire and rousseau”) and seemed more organised for collectors, but really nice place to explore and it had a model railway going above and between the bookcases! Def worth visiting if you’re near by.

Hadrian’s wall made tangible the Roman empire – standing at northern most reach of the roman empire and be at a watch tower right on the wall imagining the soldiers looking out over “not rome” beyond. So many Roman ruins in such a small area. We also saw a temple for a god who sacrificed a bull from whose blood came all of creation. Could easily imagine religious services within the small, dark temple filled with the smells of smoke and warm blood from the sacrifices. And forts to explore with packed quarters for the soldiers and small towns which sprung up outside.


Temple of Midras


Watch tower at Housestead’s fort, part of Hadrian’s Wall, looking out over “not Rome” beyond.


At Hadrian’s Wall. For hundreds of years this was the Northern frontier of the Roman Empire, with “not Rome” to the left.

Saturday we meandered back, enjoying the flexibility of having a car and plenty of time. We explored yet more small roads with pretty villages and small towns, the buildings weathered and sturdy, made from blocks of grey stone. Seeing a brown sign we pulled off at Flodden. Of the battle, I knew nothing beyond the name. Reading about it whilst overlooking the valley where at least 14 000 people were killed in one day was heartbreaking. Stupid stupid wars. Such horror and death. Must have been, rightly, terrifying to have been standing where we were, looking across to the troops lined up on the other side, and knowing a bloody clash was about to ensue. A sign at the local church says it functioned for the dead on both sides, which at least was something of an acknowledgement of a shared humanity.

Categories: diary, islands, travel

Back in the SF Bay Area for a few weeks

April 21, 2017 1 comment

I walked to the bus station through the pre dawn light, pack on my back, with enough time to stop off for newly baked morning rolls in my local 24 hour corner shop. The freshness of the early Glasgow air adding to the euphoria I felt just for being on the road again. Its been a hectic and demanding month. I’ve had to organise and run 2 events (anniversary for Rachel Corrie and I hosted a passover seder for 10 people) which I’m finding really stressful lately. And had lots of housing issues to do with building work and incompatibilities in how my flatmate and I deal with things and prefer our household to work. Some of that was resolved the night before I set off, and all the events are over for another year.

There’s a peace I feel when I’m travelling. Contentment. Relief. Awareness of surroundings and mindfulness. The physical movement and momentum is happy food for my brain. Tensions lift.

And the early morning air, the songs of the birds, scent of slightly damp ground, all full of freshness and openings and new energy. A whole new day beginning. Happiness also at my life that enables me to do this, to head off on a new journey. That I purposefully live somewhere enabling me to bracket trips with 20-30 mins of walking between home and the mainline bus or train stations. I can breathe in and feel Glasgow during the transitions between home and away.

Both the planes from Edinburgh to Heathrow, and then the transatlantic to SFO were very empty, explaining why I got such cheap tickets. When the people in front tried to strike up conversation with me after I helped them with food and then displaying skymap for them, I tried to be polite but I couldn’t totally hide my irritation at them interrupting my precious alone traveling zone out. They were intrigued by my life – a home/work system that allows regular traveling and polyamory – which reminded me of how much of a bubble I normally stay in where neither are so unusual!

Last trip to Berkeley, in February, I enjoyed being somewhere that felt so progressive and safe for that. Last Saturday racists, alt-right and Trump supporters exploited their growing numbers and confidence to descend on Berkeley precisely because it is “enemy territory” for them and violently claimed both the university and the downtown. Obviously I never thought Berkeley was some utopian, anarchist stronghold, but this successful invasion by the rightwing underscored how powerful they now are. I guess it felt more intense for me because of being here so recently and feeling like there was some glimmer of light in the darkness that is rapidly overrunning the world.

I am primarily in Berkeley to visit a honey, and to get some R&R, rather than focusing on making political connections or participating in activism. However my sweetie and I will be on tomorrow’s march for science, and I will be visiting local spaces and collectives, and hopefully doing a bit of volunteering in the background. I’ll probably blog more, both about being here, and to catch up on last year’s trips and events.

Categories: diary, politics, travel