Saturday, 16 June 2012

Living with Dr Who

In our house we have a dalek on top of one of the bookshelves in the living room.  A medium size remote control dalek that has lost its forward motion, and can go only rather confusedly side ways.  But it rarely comes off the shelf; we spend a lot of time pointing at it, for Fluffhead, and saying: ‘What’s that?  What’s that?  What’s its name?  What’s it called?’  This is in an attempt to engage Fluffhead into the realm of the Speaker, rather than the incoherent occasionally specific Babbler.  (He’s a bit late in developing talking; though he understands everything.)  I have a smaller dalek on my windowsill of my book room.  It’s not mine, its Stanley’s (as is the other one), and I keep it forever next to a stuffed toy unicorn that is slightly larger.  To me, this originally random, and now left there deliberately placing, indicates the power in my mind of dreams over science and technology. Though I begin to see this is a false dichotomy.

We have all the Doctor Who’s ever released on DVD, and all the ones that weren’t or haven’t been yet, through one means or other.  We have a drive on the main computer called Dr Who, as it contains all the documentaries, makings of and various other bits and audiovisual pieces that are associated with the programme.  We have rare copies of the Radio Times from ages ago, in plastic covers, with Jon Pertwee velvetly gesturing, having just got out of Bessie. 

I used to think all this was rather cute.  Like Stanley’s other major thing he does in his spare time, collecting and building models (I don’t want to say obsession, as he thinks of loads of other things; yet its way more than a hobby), it’s a thing that takes up a lot of space and time (there’s a Tardis joke there somewhere), but didn’t really concern me.  It was one of those…things your partner does, that you don’t mind, but aren’t really involved in.

Stanley used to write for the old style Marvel Dr Who magazine in the old era (way before the new fangle-isation of the latest and ever younger growing twelve year old Doctors we have now), so not only does he have all the stuff, he knows loads of things about it.  He can nerdily correct anyone about any detail.  Whilst saying to me, as an aside, that he isn’t being nerdy, because he doesn’t subscribe to all that new stuff, specially all that stuff about Bernice, and the endless attempting, by fanboys, to correct continuity problems from the past, or replay and redo over incidents they didn’t like, from their own understanding of them.  To make it all better, and bigger.  He knows it for what it is, he says: A Programme He Likes.  That’s all.  Not a world, not a real universe, not a living breathing thing (which he seems to think you could be forgiven for imagining some of these other fanpersons behave as though it is).

Again, not really of any concern to me, really, I thought.  An interesting distinction, I thought.  I see what you mean.  I suggested, idly, one day a few years ago, that we have a Dr Who marathon (we are a couple of marathonhood when it comes to viewing anything; our twin nerds – and I freely admit Happy Nerd-dom about anything I like – sit peacefully entwined together watching many a boxset in our free time)[1].  This all went well through the early days of William Hartnell.  I used to get a bit annoyed with the bouffant haired whatshername being all teachery and posh.  But I loved the ‘Quite so!’-ness of the whole enterprise at this stage, it being one of my favourite expressions anyway. However, I had no patience with the BBC’s treatment of Patrick Troughton’s era, there being so few un-broken stories remaining to see.  I got all itchy and annoyed and stuck.  I insisted on moving on to the first Doctor of my childhood, Jon Pertwee, who I vaguely remembered loving for his flamboyancy.

I loved him all over again.  I wanted to be a scientist, like Liz Shaw.  I realised I remembered wanting to be Jo Grant, with her brilliant white knee boots, and her not really entirely ditsy but actually quite gutsy portrayal of a companion, when I was quite a small thing[2].  I thought the dinosaurs were brilliant – Stanley thought they were supremely poo and most badly done.  That’s just unkind.  (I come from a history of liking horror films with awful amateurish special effects, so I suspect I have a way greater tolerance of this sort of thing than he does).  I did fall asleep, repeatedly, during the Sea Devils.  But then, that was a very chase around story; not my favourite kind.  I had ecstasies re-watching The Daemons, and remembering I had thought of it as one of the first horror films I had ever seen; my mind somehow mixed it up, for years, with The Devil Rides Out.

Then we did Tom Baker.  I was surprised to find I mourned Jon Pertwee for almost the first 3rd of watching Tom – the Actual Doctor of Most of My Childhood.  And Therefore Clearly The Best One, for me.  But the scarf helped.  The hair helped.  The mad eyes helped.  I wanted to be Leela – so loyal, unafraid and clear about so many things.  I wanted to be the second Romana, calm and clever and pixie like in her so often Victorian style clothes.  I was content to watch Shada even though it was broken.  (Still one of my favourites.)  Apparently I made my first nerdy Dr Who comment during this stage of the watching.  Apparently, I watched one story or other, and turned to Stanley, who didn’t like it much at all, and said, ‘Well, it’s no Talons of Weng-Chiang, but it’s alright, isn’t it?’  I had to laugh hearing myself come out with that.  Ehem.  I can never remember the name of my favourite story here – is it Seeds of Doom?  The one where a mad – and completely correct, in my opinion – person wanted to get rid of humanity, so that plants could retake over the Earth, as less of a danger than us.  Terence Stamp, was it, playing the mad person?

Then we got to Peter Davison.  Oh dear.  It was too much of a shock.  Just as in my childhood, I completely baulked at the new Doctor.  I watched the first 3 or so stories, getting ever more grumbly, before I came to a complete stubborn halt.  In childhood, I do believe I just continued growing up, or whatever it was I had been doing (reading the collected works of James Herbert or something).  As an adult, I was nagged a bit about consistency of viewing, and then we moved on to some other marathon (I think we were re-doing Space 1999, at that point).  I just couldn’t get past the low key cricket outfit, the blondey mellowness.  And all that slightly sickly bumbling about at the beginning of the run.  And the way the entire story styles and look of the programme changed.  I was informed by Stanley this was due to the beginning of the John Nathan Turner era.  I made mental faces at this man, for ruining my good buzz.  I mourned Philip Hinchcliffe and all that nice gothic-yness that had been going on for a while with Tom Baker’s Doctor.

Then Fluffhead, started getting nerdy about 6 months ago, the way tiny children can do.  When they want the same story read fifty times (this is how they learn: repetition, the orderliness of the same things appearing at the same time endlessly etc – you have to have the patience of a saint when reading).  We had a lovely run of re-watching Robin of Sherwood (my own personal English nerdfest) quite a few more times than was reasonable.  Then I wondered what else we could watch when indoors, that was in nice small segments.  When Stanley had Fluffhead, he always put Dr Who on, and the titles seemed to calm him, every single time, from any kind of unhappiness or tantrum.  I don’t know if it was the time tunnel effect or just the brilliant music (which I don’t think I will EVER tire of – and woe betide anyone fast forwarding through the titles and making me miss the music).  So I put on some Jon Pertwee, and some Tom Baker.  Fluffhead loved Robot, and Carnival of Monsters.  He would run up to the screen and keep pointing at the Doctor. In every scene, I had to re-identify him.  And the companions.  He seemed to really like Sarah Jane’s smiley face.  But Stanley had all the Dr Who’s in order, in a large bookshelf we had covered and hidden the front of, with weighty poster frames.  Because Fluffhead had loved the whole lot too much in the past and they were in danger of being broken with the stampede of loving little feet and tearing mashed potato fingers.  So one day when he was sleeping, I quickly disassembled the whole defence system, and grabbed a random large handful and rebuilt it back.  This being rather an afterthought, I was annoyed to find I had plucked out loads of Sylvester McCoy.  I had never seen any of those.  No idea who he was at all.  Oh well.  It was out, Fluffhead was up…

So I put Sylvester McCoy on.  And went a bit mad.  

We had previously been watching these in between other things; if Fluffhead sang or burbled at me (as he more or less does, all the time), it didn’t really matter if I missed bits, as these were old stories I was familiar with.  If I missed loads of exposition, or dialogue, again, not a problem, we would likely re-watch it later anyway, or I would just enjoy the colours and running about the countryside (or sewers or tunnels or whatever).

But right from the very first story, Sylvester was different.  He seemed to just fall into the role naturally.  He fitted in with the startling lack of money and sometimes downright daft plots and characterisations with no problem at all.  He was theatrical, funny; he had a very sympathetic face – both angry and compassionate.  I had no problem with Bonnie Langford, as other people seemed to have had.  She was cheerful – hey: I would love to be a cheerful person; I won’t besmirch the Chipper Fairy Woman. 

Suddenly I really cared if Fluffhead did that unerring child thing of yelling JUST when some very important thing is being said very quietly indeed, some important bit of exposition.  I found myself not getting through 2 full length 6 parters in a day (as we could previously if it was raining outside), but barely one story of less episodes.  I would watch it, then go back to where we got lost and just do it again, till I felt I got what was going on.  Whilst attempting potty training (what a lovely mess that still is on the rental carpet, sigh), reading and re-reading Tabby McTat and all the other books of Fluffhead’s, doing the laundry in a different room, and listing and preparing Amazon and ebay sales etc.  The universe was working with a Sylvester McCoy background.  I started dreaming about being Ace.  What a firey girl!  What a lot of possibilities she had!  What lovely character development – and not just in the way they wrote it, but mostly in how she acted it, as she went along.  I give credit to those two, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, for making the Cybermen and the Daleks bearable and even interesting for me, for the first time.  I generally have terrible trouble with villains that want world domination and demand ‘Destroy Them!’ with regularity.  It’s just boring.  I loved when Sylvester ranted at the daleks and mimicked their tones and wants: ‘Limitless rice pudding!’ he mocked.  I laughed out loud.  Exactly!  I even got past some pretty dodgy misuses of Norse Mythology, my other big obsession this year so far.  I mean – the Gods of Ragnarok????  …Had absolutely no relevance to that circus story, as a myth.  And The Curse of Fenric could’ve used the mythology so much better; but is forgiven for being a very good looking production, and just interesting on other levels. (And the Target novelisation makes it make a lot more sense, too.)

I was very happily confused during Ghostlight; laughed through most of Silver Nemesis, enjoyed the scenery in Delta and the Bannermen, and wanted to be a cheetah person (‘ride, sister, with the blood of your enemies in your mouth…’) in Survival.  I loved the way they ended the whole thing.  I like low key endings (or else endings where there’s a shoot out and everyone, absolutely everyone, dies[3]).  It was good the way he put his arm round Ace, and they just went off back to the Tardis, to …travel about more.  That was nicely done.

And Extremely Annoying.  Ending it just when I had totally fallen in love with the two main characters.  And when it had all gone rather Gothy again here and there, too…maybe John Nathan Turner ended up just where he didn’t want to be, and all those changes he made seemed to lead back to the same sort of darkish shining that he meant to change all those years back…but I was happy with where it had gone, where it finally had ended up.

And leaving me to have to go back to…Peter Davison.  The funny thing was; once I did (and I had to admit hookdom by then), I didn’t find him so bad.  I rather started to enjoy his quieter Doctor.  I realised that I quite liked a lot of his stories: I think Enlightenment is a most interesting idea (and my goodness Lynda Barron is bosomly brilliant in it!); I thought The Visitation was excellent; I really liked The Awakening too, and wished it had been longer (rarely I wish a Dr Who story longer; I usually think they could have mostly been improved by being a bit shorter, like most Stephen King later works).  There are more, loads more.

I looked at the BBC website and realised I liked more of the stories than I didn’t.  Stanley and I had a fight about The Myrka in Warriors of the Deep. (I think my relationships will ever and always involve arguments about things that make absolutely no sense to waste spittle on, for other people).  He maintained it was the worst pantomime horse monster ever; I maintained it was a charming large sea horsey thing and I wished it would come to tea and menace us, so I could stroke it and offer it a French Fancy or somesuch.  I do this to Fluffhead’s Cyberman toy too – it regularly has breaks in the whole World Domination Plan to have mashed potato, or a nice bit of chocolate; and we wrap him up in a muslin and put him in a shoebox to sleep at night.  As Fry would say, I have completely ‘un-cooled’ the thing.  (A lot of my reactions of this ilk are to do with Fluffhead – can’t have him being constantly scared of ‘monsters’ and aliens – so I call them ‘creatures’, a subtle difference, but its meaningful, you know.  Also – if he grows up with a healthy curiosity for lifeforms that look different to us, instead of a screamy 1960s companion type fear…what a better place the world will be, eh?!  The best way to deal with a scary looking ‘monster’ is to think of it as a cute creature – look at those lovely proboscis of that funny looking thing in The Twin Dilemma – bless its little face!).  Anyway.  We have agreed to disagree about the Myrka.  We have agreed instead, that Ingrid Pitt was not best served by either that makeup or that outfit.  She’s gorgeous and needed a nicer ensemble – I couldn’t even identify her from her voice, in that story, usually so distinctive.

Now I am travelling with Fluffhead through the mists that are Colin Baker’s Doctor.  I am not minding him at all.  He’s grumpy often, and arrogant.  He has very unsuitable clothes; but they are happy looking.  I hope he gets rid of Peri soon as she wheedles and I am thinking she is not really having a good time – people keep trying to kill her.  I shall be glad when the wheels of time move along and we get Bonnie Langford back.  When all this is over, I shall have to go back to Jon Pertwee again…Joy!

I found a way to do the broken (and too annoying to watch) Patrick Troughton stories.  As I have always liked him as an actor, and am muchly irritated that I don’t get to see his turn at the Doctor.  I remembered the Target novelisations.  I remembered I can buy on ebay as well as sell.  I frothed at the mouth when I saw how cheap the first editions still were.  Stanley despairs of the rate at which they are pouring into the house (he sold all his years ago).  I also found missing adventures, and new adventures and audio adventures.  I realised I could not only do all the missing Patrick Troughton, but extra Sylvester McCoys, and I could see how Paul McGann would have worked out, had he got to do more than just the (ehem lets not talk of it) film.  He’s another actor I adore.  So!  Worlds upon worlds opened up!

Stanley and I had another minor argument.  He doesn’t hold with any of the missing adventures unless they were from the season planned for Colin Baker then not broadcast, as well as a couple of others.  I have decided to be broader.  I will hold with stories rejected for any of the Doctors at the time of production and penned later.  And as for Sylvester and Ace…I’ll read and watch anything, and see what I think.  I got called an apologist for fanboys.  Regardless of pedigree.  I’ll make my own mind up.

Quite so!! 

So:  Dr Who world.  Hey!  Welcome the birth of yet another FanGirl.  Do I get a badge or something??

[1] I remember, with a sort of sniggery laugh, that I used to know a wonderful osteopath.  He was a Man of Action, a real world person, not the slightest bit nerdyfied. He would tell me, in surprised and unbelieving tones, of his flatmate.  Flatmate and girlfriend never really went out of an evening.  Flatmate and girlfriend watched Boxsets.  One after the other.  And discussed the ideas wherein.  ‘They never went out for a run, or anything…’, my osteopath would say, in tones of total puzzlement.  I used to try to explain the joy of gorging on many episodes of something, and not waiting for a week till the next bit (I have been known to torture myself through the entire lengthy TV transmission of a season of 24, or somesuch long thing, to wait for the boxset, so I can over do it in 2 or 3 delirious days of wonder.  But anyway.)
[2] Oddly, I always want to be a companion; never ever the Doctor.  I don’t want the responsibility I think.  I like being the person standing next to the person causing the action.  I’m not generally in life, the person causing the action.
[3] By the way, that was what was wrong with the end of Buffy, for me: everyone should have died!  How dark that would have been…That’s where Angel did it better; except they only showed one death and left the others to be imagined – whereas they should have showed all or none.  I.e. not killed only my favourite character and left the others to fight hopelessly in the rain, but unseen…(As you can imagine, one of my favourite Buffy episodes is The Wish.)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Requiem for Speech

Silence.  Or words.  ?

It may be slim pickings here for a little while.  My health scare seems to be rendering me somewhat mute.  For someone repeatedly told they talk ‘all the time’, or at the least, a lot, and who experiences themselves as only silent when asleep…this is a strange uncomfortable situation.  Too much thinking and running over possibilities that are frightening cause me to try to freeze myself to ice.  I wish to be Avon from Blake’s 7.  Cold, logical; above all calm.  I want to be the Ice Queen.  Instead, I melt, I flame, I boil over, I am…not quiet.  Except outwardly. 

I used to attend Quaker meetings, back in the early 2000’s, for a few years.  I am not going to tell you anything much about modern Quakerism (not here, anyway).  What I’ll say is: it was a monolith, a continent away from original Quakerism[1].  You do not have to be Christian to be welcomed and to become a Quaker.  Within their meetings I met atheists, agnostics, people of all the major faiths I am aware of – and I was there as a pagan, to add another.  The only place more liberal in terms of those attending in relative harmony that I have heard of, is the Universalists (of which I had a friend at the time – she used to annoy me by competing with me constantly whenever I mentioned Quakers, and saying her religion was even more liberal and accepting…Good, good, good for you.  Irrelevant.) 

The reason I mention this, is that for someone in love with words, with communication through words and their song direct to another’s consciousness…sometimes there is no comfort greater than silence, with others.

WARNING:  Deeply Subjective Recollections to follow: Do not assume I speak for anyone other than myself in what I say of my experiences

A Quaker meeting was a thing such as I have never before or since experienced.  After the going in, the being greeted, the chatting, you sit down.  There are often benches, hard wooden ones, or chairs, sometimes arranged in a semi circle or circle.  There is often a table in the middle or front of the room.  There are flowers, simple ones, sometimes, on the table.  Nothing elaborate or flashy like roses or lilies.  Often meadow flowers.  There might be a copy of Faith and Practice (the closest a modern Quaker comes to something they would carry about for reference like a Bible) on the table.  The room would likely be as unadorned as possible.  It would be as bright as possible.  Windows are important.

People file in slowly, as they are ready.  They sit, quietly.  There’s a little fiddling about, clearing of throats, till they are settled.  This carries on for about five minutes or so.  As each person settles, they get comfortable.  Some cross their legs, some sit straight and tall in their chairs.  I used to try and sit cross legged sometimes, as I can keep still in that position longer than any other.  (That was easier at retreats and such, where they seemed more ok with you sitting on the floor.)

Then comes the bit I would wait all week for.  The quiet.

There’s been much argument as to what Quakers are doing when they all sit together quietly.  I’ll tell you what they aren’t doing.  They aren’t all meditating separately, but in the same room.  Because that, whilst nice, is sitting zazen, and something else.  You are sposed to spend time and action to ‘centre yourself down’, ‘quiet down’, for the first few minutes of meeting.  But once you’ve managed this, you’re into doing what you came for. 

You’re listening.  You are trying to let your mind become as quiet as it can be whilst still being fully awake.  And then, out of that quiet…hopefully, will come, your own voice of wisdom.  Or someone else’s.  You are waiting to see whether you will hear anything worth saying to the others.  Or they to you.  Or, almost the most precious thing: if the silence itself will speak without words.

Which partly makes it sound like you are dying to speak.  The opposite is true.  If you actually do hear something in your head you imagine is worth saying or feels urgent, and it persists with you for a while (‘cos you don’t leap up straight away and start waffling – utterances are supposed to be kept shortish, succinct[2]), the idea of getting up and speaking in front of everyone, into such a Listening Silence, is…terrifying.  Even as the Quakers are the last people in the world to judge you for anything you might say.

There were always two schools of thought about the quality of meetings: one line went – there was no ‘ministry’ (the speaking) from anyone, and the silence was deep and calm between us all: something was here, in all of us, and it …but I get ahead of myself.  The other line of thought was that ministry was lovely to receive, maybe once or twice in a meeting, and to ponder, to let it fall into you and see if it spoke ‘to your condition’ at all, or if it was for someone else…

I used to like the meetings best where no one said anything.  Or where there was possibly just one or two very short ‘witnesses’.  They could be about absolutely anything.  People would sometimes get up and say a couple of lines from a poem, or a song.  They would occasionally sing.  Sometimes it would be a small anecdote, something that had happened to them.  Not complete with moral, but left bare, left ambiguous; left for you to make of it whatever you did.    Sometimes, someone told a joke.  The more Christ-centred Friends may read a verse or two from the Bible, or mention a parable.  Sometimes it felt like whatever was said, from one person, then into the silence, then later, another person standing and speaking – would feel linked.  Other times, it was as if the words came from two different universes of experience or tone.  It was all a mystery, and each person who spoke, or heard others speak, made of it whatever they did.  It was never rehearsed.  Or it should never be.  It’s supposed to be spontaneous.  What comes to you in the moment.  Or nothing.  If you don’t speak, you listen.  You listen anyway

The important thing, the everything, was that you were listening.  That if someone spoke: you really, really heard them.  I used to be of the mind that you would be listening so calmly and intently (often to the noises of cars outside, or the blood rushing in your ears, or the rustling of bags, squeaking of chairs) that someone could have gotten up and read from a phone book and it would suddenly seem extremely relevant to life, love and everything. 

The feeling of sitting, about 40 minutes into an hour’s length meeting, in a pool of deep deep awakened silence was amazing.  I would feel like the hairs on my arms were standing up, yet so peaceful.  I know for a fact that if I was in a room with anywhere from 10-160 people (meeting sizes differ everywhere) and they spoke and I with them, as normal, I would not have a good time.  I would find, everywhere, disagreement.  I would find people’s views that frightened, repelled or bored me with ignorance.  (I’m going to let my arrogance on that last comment stand, as honesty is important here.)  Yet in a room with those self same people, all sitting quietly, I felt we were all open.  That we were allowing ourselves to merge with one another slightly.  As if a corporate entity were being created, in the silence, which had pieces of all of us in it.  We allowed to pour out into the silence all the pain, the worry, the fear, and the hope, the joy, of the past week.  Without saying anything.  We listened to each other breathe.  I felt I understood people with whom I had never exchanged a word, a single word.  I felt their humanity, their flaws, their hopefulness.  Their possibilities, their limitations.  I loved them, and wanted to help.  I felt a better person.

One meeting, a man whose name I forget (which is shameful, since I loved his personality), stood up and said that he felt the experience of anything like ‘god’ that was his, was in other people.  Just other people.  Looking into their eyes, he saw divinity.  I never forgot that, because I agreed with him entirely.  He ‘spoke to my condition’. 

This is what I crave.  Right now.  Quaker meeting.  I want to go into a light room, sit on a hard bench, look at some simple flowers, hold my copy of Advices and Queries lightly and calm down.  I want to listen to everyone breathe.  I want to bear with my back pain, knowing it’s for a good reason. I want to feel that all the humans on the planet, starting with these ones, are my family.  Flawed, human, wonderfully present.  I want to sit in the quietness, and feel not alone.  I want to say nothing, and feel heard.  I want to listen to the silence and hear a hundred stories in the shuffling of an old man’s feet, as he twitches, because he has fallen asleep. 


[1] I also shan’t go into the schisms in Quakerism; the whole BIG DEAL, and it truly IS a big deal, between Non-programmed and Programmed Quakers, for example.  Look it up if you’re interested.  And if you care, my position is that Programmed Quakerism is wrong.  If it’s programmed, my friend, it ain’t Quakerism anymore; it’s something else.  Which is well and good, do that – just don’t mislabel it Quakerism.  I’m pretty sure George Fox and Isaac Pennington and others would turn in their graves.  I am being uncharacteristically strongly opinionated about this.  I DO feel very strongly about it.  But in a Quakerly way, at the time, I said nothing much about it.  (There’s a point there in my reaction then; about what’s wrong with Friends, for me, and one of the reasons I left.)
[2] …and it’s the Elders of the meeting’s job to ensure people who go off on one are gently urged that they have been heard (and for some ten minutes now), and to let us all absorb the words…This often failed of course.  It’s hard to stop someone, who is generally a bit disordered in thought – or they wouldn’t be breaking the idea of the meeting with huge far too long to be heard properly speeches – from talking if they are determined they aren’t done yet, and they aren’t being threatening in any way. (Which did also happen sometimes; anyone could come in. Anyone did.)  Sometimes people got the wrong end of the stick entirely, and stood up and evangelised their religion till they were asked to sit down.   (I was a Quaker for a while, but never a proper one, as I always wanted to stand up immediately and tell them This Is NOT What We Are Here For, when that happened…not the Quaker way, reprimanding people…)
[3] I will leave the main bit there.  Because that is where it should be left.  But it also needs to be said that I left Quakers because I had some big problems with them.  They never seemed to think poverty existed anywhere but in foreign countries (where they were eager to go help and they do good work), and members of their own meetings were sometimes in bad trouble, and not helped – in a group prizing a sense of community, I felt this hypocritical.  They had a rather Hampstead attitude to life: lots of do-gooding, social workers, teachers etc, Guardian readers – yes, I generalize something huge and hurtful.  This was how it seemed to me, me alone.  I felt their desire to be inclusive and some of their means of corporate decision making were…lazy, non rigorous, following a path of least resistance in order to avoid conflict – in terms of how it was supposed to be done, how I had read it and had it explained to me, and how it actually turned out.  It’s very difficult to explain this sort of thing.  I ended up feeling that much as I LOVED meeting, I was increasingly at odds with what many Quakers attitudes were, toward living life.  So I drifted off.  But I treasure a well done meeting, to this day, and crave it.  The way it can just happen…or be flat as a pancake…nothing like it.

ADDENDUM, 7.6.12:
Also - I was welcomed at Quakers, unlike anywhere else I have ever gone.  Don't let it escape you that me, the big Non Joiner of Things - actually JOINED Quakers, for a while.  (I'm now considered a 'Non Attender' at the 2 main meetings I was a member of, over the 5 years or so I was actively a part of things.  As in, gone, but not forgotten; welcome back at any time, no pressure.  That's what they are like.  They won't contact you if you vanish; but they'll remember you if you come back.)  Oh - and they don't evangelise - a Big Plus.  If you ask them what they're about, they'll tell you.  They will have posters outside Friends House, the main Quaker admin centre, in Euston, London...But they don't stand about trying to persuade you of anything.  There's never a single hint of damnation or anysuch unhelpful poodle, with them.  And I have rarely seen so many gay people happily accepted in one place that had a hint of Christianity about it.  A huge good thing.

I think I will always have a big fat soft spot for Quakerism.  Whether or not I ever attend another Meeting.  And I made 2 of my bestest friends there - Alias True, who has been with me through thick and thin over the ether, I met at a retreat there once.  Like me, he no longer attends, but both of us remember with fondness.  And Mr Hooting Yard himself (who has left a comment, as you see, about why he left), who is still a big presence in the BlackberryJuniper universe.  Though I had problems with Friends on some issues...perhaps a truth and proof of the pudding of it all is that I still have these 2 great friends, as a result: 2 of the truest people in my life.  Both a bit eccentric and bonkers, and both steadfast.  Hmmm.