Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Friday, 29 June 2018

I miss it

I know I must sometimes sound like a cracked record, going on and on about how busy I am, while all that busyness is my own fault because I simply can't say no.   Well at least I can't say no to something fun, exciting, or important, and of course when something is all three of those then why would I want to.

A while back I was asked to take part in a event happening a couple of weeks ago we were going to put together the first ever all women's brass band for "Processions". For those of you not living in the UK Processions was a major participant art work marking the centenary of women first getting a vote here. It involved thousands of women processing through the four capitals of the UK; Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, and London, carrying embroidered banners, and with lilac, white and green scarves they formed a giant suffragette banner through the city centers.

In London we formed a Brass Band to play in Parliament Square as the women's Procession arrived, we only played music by women composers and of course all the musicians were women. I think there were about 70 of us in all, all ages experiences and abilities, we had a total blast (pun intended) and all agreed that we want to do it again. I think we had about seventeen trombones and three tubas, I would have loved to play tuba but was the only Bass Trombone so once again I ended up as a bit of a Tigger!

Of course there is always a down side, and with a rehearsal one Sunday morning and the event the following Sunday that meant two Sundays when I missed Church, then this week I was playing at a service at another Church so it is now three weeks since I last managed to get to my local Church ~ and I miss it. Now that I have found a loving community who appear to be accepting, worship in an idiom I understand and have solid preaching I don't want to get separated from them.   This Sunday is the LGSO concert where I will need to be in Town for an afternoon rehearsal, but at least I should be able to get to Church in the morning!

Photo credit Sam Benjafield Photography

Thursday, 28 June 2018

I'll hate myself later

It's one O'clock on Thursday afternoon, this should be working day, I have stuff to do, work, washing up, housework, laundry, finding my car key! yet I am sitting at my desk surfing the interweb "wasting time".  Indeed getting dressed would be a good start!

Last night I played in a concert with my wonderful Croydon Symphonic Band, I even had a little solo in Stuart Johnson's Circus Suite. During the interval I was introduced to a lady of senior years who was so pleased to find a woman playing the Tuba, she was struck by how unusual it is to see women playing these instruments (we also had a very good, very young woman playing trombone) and breaking gender stereotypes. 

Then there is Sunday's concert with the London Gay Symphony Orchestra, I am genuinely excited about this program, even after around 45 years plying orchestral music every now and then a program will hit me as truly inspiring, this is one of those! Tickets are still available, buy in advance a save a few pennies!

All this after playing in a service, a concert and a rehearsal on Sunday, an evening rehearsal on Monday, and an evening meeting to speak at on Tuesday evening. I have already written about Saturday's inspiring conference but, all this while trying to work as well.

I found that after this succession of meetings, rehearsals, and performances I just needed to crash out and take some time out.   I have been making mistakes, yesterday I lost my one and only car key, I need to find that or spend a lot of money and time sourcing a replacement! Tuesday I got a parking ticket, simply by not following my usual process, I need a break, but don't have a holiday booked till the end of September.

I should be concentrating my efforts more on making Croydon Pridefest even more brilliant than it -was last year, At the same time I am already starting to work out how we can make next year even more inclusive, especially of some of the more marginalised groups within the LGBT+ community.

I will hate myself later for getting behind with work, but just now I need the time and the space!

Monday, 25 June 2018


For many of us we are now entering the period known as "Pride Month" we have events going on at least every weekend for the next few weeks, between Croydon Pride; Pride London and Trans Pride Brighton I have those three events themselves I also have an LGSO concert next Sunday (which will be absolutely wonderful) a Croydon Pride Mix and Mingle event on Tuesday along with various planning meetings, rehearsals, parties and medical appointments.

The weather looks like it is set to stay warm and sunny but I'm not sure how I'm going to fit in the time to go to work, I really should be at work as I write this, but after a busy weekend I'm having a late start today.

But I digress, what I am feeling proud about is Croydon! I know a lot of people never think about Croydon at all, and then others will simply think of it as Chav Central, but for me Croydon is a vibrant multicultural society, it is largely inclusive, mostly friendly and something is always happening.   On Saturday I attended an all day conference on Gender Identities in Children and Young People it was aimed at professionals working in the field, and was largely a signposting event, but also included good information on what is available for young people, an all too short session on ethics, some performances by Gender Non Conforming local young performers and some short case studies. A lot was packed into a single day, but it was so good.

One thing that struck me was the apparent need for events like this, we had counsellors from as far afield as Scotland because they have nothing like it closer.   Last year Croydon led the UK by flying the Trans flag on TDOV, this year the town has lead again with this conference. A I said at the end of the event, I was born and brought up in Croydon nearly sixty years ago, I am now the Chair of Croydon Pride, and I have never been more proud of Croydon than I was on Saturday!

Saturday, 23 June 2018


I know I have been silent here for quite a while, yet that is not what has prompted me to post again. As I was walking through Croydon town center today I noticed that an informal shrine to a boy who was murdered there last year was still in place, we have also had periods of silent remembrance for the victims of the Grenville Tower tragedy.

Every November I lead an event in Croydon for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, we include a minute of silent remembrance.   It has become a natural way of marking a tragic loss.

Across the Country we have observed a minutes silence for the victims of terrorists attacks in Finsbury Park, Manchester, and London Bridge.   these are all tragic events, the loss of life and disruption of others is terrible and deserves to be marked.

On remembrance Sunday at eleven O'clock we have a two minute's silent act of remembrance, this marks the time when the armistice for the first world war was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It is a time for remembrance of all those who have lost their lives in conflict, all those on either side, civilians and members of the forces alike.   When I was young the whole Country stopped at Eleven O'clock on Rembrance Sunday, the traffic stopped, all work stopped, church services stopped, all of London went quiet, on Crystal Palace Hill we could hear the field gun fired on Horse Guards.

As a Nation we went through a period when somehow all this didn't seem so important, traffic failed to stop, shops continued to trade, people just stopped remembering. Then our forces became engaged in other conflicts and these deaths became more personal again.   We all knew somebody in the forces and many of us knew somebody who had died in service of the Country.   We started to remember again, more and more people started to observe that two minutes silence, but the traffic still flows, trains and buses still run, shops sell and shoppers buy.

Now, please don't get me wrong, I do feel that these tragedies need to be marked, we need an opportunity to show our grieve, to share our sadness with others, those we know and with society as a whole. However, I also worry that at some level our outpourings of grieve, our collective acts of remembrance for all sorts of sad events, tragedies, somehow dilutes the major act of National Remembrance.   In no way would I want to stop people reflecting solemnly on loss ~ perhaps  I just want them to observe Remembrance Day better, perhaps I just want a little more proportion ~ perhaps I am just worried about nothing!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Accidental Activist

When I was about 18 I had it all planed, I had started my career, I was engaged to be married, everything was set! I fully expected to be a middle manager of a major corporation, married to a nice girl with a couple of nice children. I expected them to go to a nice school, and of course we would live in a nice house.   Since none of that has transpired I have to wonder what went wrong, I do have a child and she is totally wonderful, but the word "nice" is not one that immediately comes to mind to describe her.   I did get married but not for another couple of decades; but the point is that I now a self employed gardener and musician, I live on my own in a tiny flat and struggle to make the money reach the end of the month.   I could ask what went wrong? But maybe I should ask what went right?

So much of my life has just happened, I know I have made some unwise decisions but mostly I have just gone with what felt right at the time so much of what has happened has happened more or less by accident. ~ it now seems I have now become an accident activist.

When I first started exploring my gender identity a few years back I thought it had nothing to do with anyone except me and my wife, I thought I would just work it out and spend a few evenings playing "Dress up". That was never going to happen!   Well I came out by accident, I became public by accident, I became ostracised (by some) by accident.   I never planed to be oppressed, I never planned to complain, I was just brought  up not accept injustice ~ I saw some I complained and suddenly found I was campaigning.

Well, over the last year there has been a lot flak coming at the Trans community from various sources, they are pretty vocal and have even managed to get themselves onto the BBC, I have felt obliged to "up my game". I think the best I can to do is to be present, to be visible and show people that we (trans people) are not sexual predators, that we are a risk to nobody indeed that we are the ones who are at risk. Strangely much of what I have always done has become activist ~ As a musician I will be affirming my womanhood again this month playing in the band for "Processions" Central London, and in a few weeks I will again be leading the Croydon Pride Fest Parade.

For trans people Pride has become more important again this year ~ The Government proposed changes to the Gender recognition Act has been delayed, opponents have seen this as weakness and have increased their campaigning, as a consequence I find that our identities are being questioned more and more. I will be marching in London, and leading in Croydon because my identity is not open for other people to debate, because we still have to go through a quasi judicial process to be able to assert our identity, because we do not have equal access to work, to healthcare, to services, and accommodation.

I know that we are not the only oppressed group, I know that there is much else to campaign about, I never planed to do this it has just happened by accident, but by joining an oppressed minority I am now so much more aware of all the other oppressed minorities ~ as I may have observed before ~ nothing makes you understand privilege like giving it up!

Monday, 14 May 2018


I see it is a long time since I last posted, I'm rather sorry to say that when I have felt the urge to post I have not been near my computer, and when I have had the time or the proximity I have not had the urge! Possibly more self discipline is needed!

Since spring has definitely now sprung, I find that it is a little easier to lose a little of the weight I have been hoping to shift, work is much more plentiful and I can wear shorts while doing it. All round I am feeling a lot more positive about life the universe and everything. ~ Indeed as I have been known to observe I have no problems that can't be solved with money!

Yesterday I had a rather wonderful if rare experience, I met for the first time a long standing friend!   The wonderful world of blogging is a truly international one, many of my Blogging buddies are from other Countries, Australia, New Zealand, and of course the U.S.A.   This week one of my friends from the States is visiting the UK and we managed to meet up yesterday in central London.

The Banqueting House exterior
Mostly we walked around, talking about London and how it differs from the States, how different is to live in these different places, all mixed in with a bit of feminism and military history ~ we are a diverse bunch aren't we! Sophie wanted to visit Westminster Abbey, but being a Sunday it was closed to tourists. We did have a bit of a wander around outside and a look at the Palace of Westminster, then wandered up Whitehall.

And the inside!
To my shame I had never been inside the Banqueting House, so we stopped there to have a look round, what a stunning place! Well worth the entry fee. This is the only remaining part of the great Tudor and Stuart Palace of Whitehall, and of course the site of the execution of Charles I. I was aware of the execution and of the stunning Rubens' ceiling paintings. I don't think I was aware that this is the first Palladian building in the UK and the template for all those that came afterwards.

I feel that like so many other Londoners I never go into these places because they are just there, they are always there and just part of the furniture. Likewise I haven't been inside Westminster Abbey, or St Paul's at any point on the last 40 years unless I have been playing there.

We did manage a pub lunch in the St Stephen's Tavern and then later a quickie in "Half Way to Heaven", the first time I have been inside this popular Gay / Drag pub in day light!

It's always nice to meet friends, even ones I hadn't met before, Sophie is a lovely, charming lady, exuding all those positive characteristics that American can, I hope that this will not be the only time we meet.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

My Office Today

I suspect that a search of my blog over the last couple of years would find that the most used phrase would be "I'm really busy at the moment" t happens so often that I can only assume that I must like being busy. I could plead that the weather plays it's role, but I could say no! Being busy is not always a bad thing, being self employed it does suggest that at the end of the month I might end up with enough money to live, and as a musician I am so bad at practising that the more playing out I do the better.

It's so nice to be working now, with the sun out, and some proper warmth everything is growing, and it's hard to keep up, never mind catch up.   It is at time like this that I am reminded why I do what I do for work. Having gone through a pretty long and miserable winter, to come out the other side, feel the warmth of the sun on my body get my hand dirty and just enjoy the exuberance of gardens in spring, make sit all worth it. At the moment I am just enjoying all the jobs, even sweeping up, anything that takes my outdoors uses a few muscles and gets into the sunshine.

It only feels like a few days ago that I was complaining that it was never going to get warm again, I was fed up with being cold and having to wear so many layers, I looked i n my wardrobe and was incredulous that I had ever warn shorts at all.   Now I am wearing them once again, making as much of that potential vitamin E as I can!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Fresh Starts

It's been a busy old weekend, already and it's only just lunch time on Sunday!  Yesterday afternoon I went up to town for a meeting held at Bloomsbury Baptist Church by Two:23 ~ A Christian LGBT+ Network, it was quite inspiring and very informative. This is a group who as well as ministering to LGBT+ Christians, is working to make the wider Church more inclusive and bridge the divide that sometimes appears between the Church and some peoples identities.

One of the notices was about Christian at Pride they will be walking at Pride in London again this year, I rather hope that I will be able to persuade at least a few of them to join us at our own Croydon Pride Fest I really want us to represent the fullest diversity of our community.

I am inspired by the work this group does, even as I long for it not to be needed, but one of the best bits was meeting a friend from my Orchestra there, he was on his first visit and was glad of a friendly face. It is quite intimidating to go to any group for the first time, I know, I have been doing that quite a lot in my own search for a Church.

I'm hoping that search may now be over, I'm not sure I'm quite ready to make that level of commitment yet and join, but this morning I visited West Croydon Baptist Church again.   If anything I felt even more welcomed and included than I did last week. As a life long Anglican (even if for a large part of that life I had no real faith) it feels very strange to be going to a Baptist Church, but that may be where God is taking me now, He has often forced me out of my comfort zone, indeed that is when He has worked most in my life!

I feel a new chapter in my Christian walk, and therefore my life, is just beginning, I don't know what that will bring, but I do know it won't be boring!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Spring Harvest time

I feel as though I keep writing about spring springing, and all that that entails. Of course for me the main thing is work really starts to get going again, even though I personally seem to be having a great deal of difficulty getting going.  

Looking at the weather forecast for the next week makes me realise that I may after all be able to wear my shorts and singlets again, as long as I lose enough weight to get into them OK. That of course brings on one of the problems most women are familiar with at this time of year; ~ Yes it's THAT time again.

Of course for some of us it is worse than for others, when I first started my transition shaving was a major commitment, not just my face but my legs, arms and body all needed pretty much daily attention.   These days after just over two years of HRT and even longer trying electrolysis it's not quite so bad.

With electrolysis most of my face is now pretty much clear my neck still has to be finished.   As for the rest the hormones seem to be doing their work and the general growth has slowed down.

I am very pleased to observe that these days my razors are lasting a lot longer. I have bought myself an epilator to see if that works for me, it is way too early to have reached any conclusions on that score, but I do know it hurts ~ the things we go through for our art!

On a totally different note, the more observant of you may have noticed that I have made a couple of changes to my links bar on the left of the screen, I have included a link to Trans Unite an on line facility to find a National or local Trans support or campaigning group.   I do hope that all my Trans readers are getting some support, if you're not please do, as this is far too tough to go through alone.

I have also promoted Croydon Pride up the list we're doing some great work, so pop over take a look at our site and sign up for the News Letter.

Friday, 13 April 2018

There's Something in the Air

The other day I wrote here about how I felt that Spring had Sprung! Since then the weather has not been great, a bit wet, a bit dull, a bit cold, all in all a bit sh£t! But the coming of spring isn't just about the weather and starting to cut grass.

There is also the impending Pride campaigns!

At the weekend I was part of shooting some publicity for Pride in London it was great fun, if a little surreal, we had a chance to be interviewed and give our opinions as to why we felt Pride is important to us, and had a few photos taken, of course there is an embargo on all the details, but the picture I'm sharing here was tweeted by Pride in London so I am assuming that this one at least is now in the public domain.

Indeed for me being in the public domain is very much what Pride is about, certainly that's why it's important to me. It's important to me as a Trans woman that all the time there are people who feel that our identity is a suitable subject for debate; all the time we don't get equal access to health care; all the time that we don't get equal access to employment, and housing then it is important that we have a public, joyful celebration of who and what we are, coupled with a protest that we are still not being treated equally.

The Chair of Croydon Pride at the
LGBT+ History month launch
That's why I am involved in Croydon Pride, we had our first Trustees meeting of the year last night, we reaffirmed that although Pride Fest on the 14th July will still be our biggest event of the year, we will be working for LGBT+ people in Croydon and the surrounding area all year round. We will be holding additional events, we will be facilitating other groups, we will be visible ~ so just like a dog's not just for Christmas, we're not just for one party in the summer.

We are very keen that we are fully inclusive, that we represent the full diversity of the LGBT+ community here in Croydon, as trustees we represent as much of the LGBT+ alphabet spaghetti as it's possible for four people to do, but we are conscious that we could do better. We are only just starting our third year, so far all our events have been successes, but we are not going to sit back, self satisfied and think we have it cracked. We need help, we need to communicate with the community, it's how to do that which is challenging.

So, can I ask you all please to go visit our website, sign up for our news letter, and tell us what you think, and what you want from us.