Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sometimes it can be really difficult

Some of you may just remember me writing about a small car accident I had back in January last year, the damage to the car was no more than superficial, (however it was written off as it was such an old banger!) and nobody was hurt, at all! The whole thing was settled very quickly and amicably, indeed what impressed me most was quick, efficient and friendly way it was all dealt with.   I replaced the car and considered the incident closed.

Now, over a year later I am getting hordes of unsolicited phone calls from "Ambulance chasers" trying to encourage me to make a further claim for personal injury.   I am refusing as there was no personal injury and just about all have left is my personal integrity.   I have had it suggested that since the car was written off it must have been a considerable impact, I have been told that I must have experienced some discomfort following the accident, I have been told that I may be unwise to not claim the "thousands of pounds owed" me.

It is never easy to resist the temptation to try and get money for nothing, and when, like me, money is in short supply it is even more tempting.   However I am holding out, I keep asking for the phone calls to stop and I will not claim for injuries I did not sustain.   Ultimately every one of us who insures a vehicle pays for this profiteering, I suspect that these sorts of fraudulent claims now represent a major proportion of the insurance premiums that we all are obliged to pay.

I'm holding out but it's not easy.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

I think I'm Broken

No not broke, even though I may that as well, but broken!

Due to weekend rehearsals, performances and recordings I realised yesterday morning that I had in effect been working every day for the past nine days.   I was tired and my enthusiasm levels were low, I was encouraged that spring had sprung and that I had the work to do, indeed even this week I have slightly more than will actually fit into the time available.

Then yesterday half way through cutting a large area of grass, I can't bring myself to call it a lawn, the weather changed, it started to drizzle. Since I was half way through I decided to carry on rater than leave the job unfinished. Then it started to rain, but by then I had to finish.7

Result, less than tidy, but cut grass, and a sodden Paula!  Now I was tired, stiff and wet!

Getting home I got showered and changed before trying to dash off to another rehearsal. I say tried to dash, it was as much as I could to walk to the car. A muscle at the top of my leg seemed to have ceased up, I was like an old woman, if I had walking stick I would have used it. As the evening wore on it only got worse, by the time I was home it was really, really bad. I decided to go to bed with a couple of iboprofen and not bother getting up in the morning, taking the morning off.   Of course that was when I found out I had run out of iboprufen, so I used a heat pad I have and retired to bed.

Following my own advise I didn't get up till around midday, which did mean I had the chance to listen to an excellent  program on Radio 4 on gender diversity in Rock music; if you are at all interested in diversity, or rock music a fascinating listen!

For centuries musicians have defied gender boundaries to create some of the most evocative and provocative art and music.
Journalist and culture critic Laura Snapes joins the dots of a fascinating musical history that encompasses musical icons such as Ma Rainey, Little Richard, Lou Reed, the Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones and Madonna, and looks at how today's musicians use music and performance to express who their own gender and sexuality.
In recent years the issue of gender and identity has been a hot topic in the musical landscape and beyond. From niche publications to tabloids and political debate, issues surrounding gender identity and how it influences both personal and social life have been widely publicised.
Amid the deeply complex personal world of gender identity and the often ruthlessly myopic world of the music industry, a new generation of artists are using music for fearless expressions of their gender and sexuality that break beyond the archetypes set by their forebears.
Rock Transition speaks with artists such as garage maverick Ezra Furman, Canadian pop stars Tegan and Sara, musician and author CN Lester, and musician and activist Ryan Cassata to understand why music offers an exciting platform to express and explore gender identity and sexuality - and asks how these artists can resist being marginalised and commodified by an industry keen to capitalise on a hot topic.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Warming Up

This is a special week for me, this is the first week this year when I have worked five days! Yes that's right I have actually worked a full week.   And, that's after a weekend where I had an all day rehearsal on Saturday followed by a meeting in the evening, and then another all day rehearsal on Sunday followed by an evening performance.

Then this weekend I have been recording with the rather wonderful Heroes Band.

All this means that I am feeling rather tired, but also very satisfied.

Of course this means a couple of other things as well, one is that I have been doing some pretty fantastic things, like last weekend I was at the Royal Festival Hall playing at Mirth Control, the big finale to the Women Of the World Festival.   OK this year couldn't quite match up to last year playing with Sister Sledge, but we did have Bjorn from ABBA!

It was great to be with so many wonderful, talented women, we were told that the Orchestra was the best yet and that we sounded pretty fantastic.   While it may not have been the most musically satisfying experience I have had, but as a life experience it is hard to compare!

It also means that the weather has been pretty good; at the beginning of the week I was working striped down to my tee shirt working on my tan, by Friday I was wearing a tee shirt, pullover and body warmer!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

I can be really stupid

Especially when it comes to planning my time and activities.   I seem to be going through one of those periodic episodes of frantic activity, between WOW work, rehearsals meetings and recordings I am in grave danger of disappearing up my own fundamental! (C below bass stave)

My Office on Monday
I am sorry if I have missed blog posts, Facebook notifications or e-mails. I am sorry if I don't appear to be giving you the attention you deserve, I am just too busy!  I am writing this at home after ten in the morning, but I have already done two hours work and am just grapping a quick break before going off to cut grass.   In the diary having three things on in one day looks OK, but when one of them takes over 8 hours the whole edifice can come crumbling down.

And yesterday,
by the time we had finished, it was too dark for photos
Spring has definitely sprung, after a long winter I am now desperately trying to keep up with the pruning, weeding and grass cutting, I seem to have a lot of meetings planning summer events, and the Transgender Day of Visibility, and there is also a lot of music about .

Next weekend I have a couple of recording sessions, and then the weekend after that I have NO CONCERTS! The first time since the 21st/22nd of January!

Monday, 13 March 2017

My office Today

Well, not really an office, and not actually today,

Last week I started cutting grass, with one thing and another I didn't quite get round to saying how pleasing this is. almost as pleasing as my mower starting on the second pull, after sitting in the back  of the van for the last four months!

 I have had a stupidly busy but rather wonderful weekend, so mare of that later!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Normal Service is resumed

After the last couple of days I thought we could all use something a little less contentious, so here's a clip from my last concert with the LGSO. 

Delius' La Calinda from his Opera Koanga, I don't think we did too bad, especially since we had very little rehearsal on this piece as virtually all our time was taken up with Mahler 5.

We have played our last couple of concerts at St Giles Cripplegate a much bigger Church, with much less imprecise acoustics, even with all that extra space I still seem to get stuck behind a pillar.   When I play at the Festival Hall on Sunday whatever else might happen at least I know I won't get stuck behind a pillar!

Friday, 10 March 2017


Following on from yesterday's post I thought that maybe I should say a little more about some of my experience, I normally gloss over a lot with rather flippant comments like one of my favorites "Nothing makes you understand privilege like giving it up".  I will normally try to focus on the advantages of life, the good things I have enjoyed, I rejoice that I have had opportunities that most women my age will not have had, but that of course means that as a man I automatically had opportunities, privilege, that was denied to at least half of the population simply because they are women.

Way back in January 2015 I wrote a bit about this, about being a white middle class, middle aged, straight man, and giving it up, and, about the unfairness of World in general. Now I am going to be a bit more specific. As well as that post January 2015 marked the time I finally gave up trying to be male, as well as being truly fulfilling it was also a bit of an eye opener.   Until then I had been one of the masters of the Universe, I could go anywhere, talk to anyone, have any and all of my opinions (and I had plenty of those) taken seriously, I was allowed to dominate conversations and was an automatic choice to chair meetings.  Mechanics and Policemen treated me with respect, waiters assumed I was the one who knew about wine ~ and would be paying.

I then suddenly became much more aware of things I had been told about, but had never experienced.   I realised that going into a pub on my own may be risky, I was no longer allowed to feel comfortable walking into many places as a lone female, for the first time in my life I felt at risk!   I found that travelling on public transport I no longer felt totally secure, travelling alone on a bus I now choose to sit downstairs, on a seat where I can be seen by the driver. At times I feel suspicious of men who may just happen to be walking behind me on the same route, now I have to consider them as potential rapists.   Some trans women consider it a bit of a compliment to be "letched" at out of a van window or from a building site, I can assure that it very soon loses it's attraction.

I was used to feeling safe, secure and self confident.   It was a bit of a shock to experience the reality of being a woman in London in the 21st Century ~ and for a girl like me London has to be one of the safest cities in the world.   I am getting used to the idea that my views and opinions are not quite as valued as they used to be, I am getting used to the idea that men now consider it fine to talk over me, and that I should sit quietly and patiently listening to them.   I am quite sure that most men do not even realise how privileged they are, this is just the world they have been brought up in, I certainly wasn't! Add to that a Grammar School education, Rugby club member and Chartered professional status, I simply assumed that that was how the world worked, I was going to have a good life and that was my entitlement.  It never crossed my mind for more than a few minutes when it was brought to my attention that the world did not work in the same way for women.

I do now experience much of the subconscious oppression society imposes on women, I can only begin to imagine what it is like for people of colour, with disabilities or even different beliefs.

This is why I will be supporting Women Of the World (as well as a chance to play at the Royal Festival Hall), why I am a feminist and why I am a socialist.

I could , and probably will, write much more on this, but for now that is quite enough for one post without pictures! Normal service will be resumed with frivolous posts and cartoons soon!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Dear Jenny

The last few days there has been a lot of fuss in and around the Transgender world about an article written by Dame Jenni Murray for the Sunday Times, I have just read it and I can understand why some trans people are very upset about it.   However I do suspect that they are a lot more upset than the article really warrants.

Just as Jenny starts her article with a clarification

"Let me make something absolutely clear at the outset. I am not transphobic or anti-trans. Not a Terf in other words. That’s trans-exclusionary radical feminist, to use one of the often-confusing expressions that have entered the language in this age of gender revolution."

Maybe I should make it clear that I am a regular listener to her on Woman's Hour and generally enjoy her broadcasts.

This is an opinion piece and there is some question as to whether since Murray is a presenter of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour she should not be expressing an opinion on topics that the program will cover, and, where she should show, and represent the BBC's, impartiality. Certainly I would now find it difficult to listen to her host a discussion on Trans matters on Woman's hour without assuming that she favoured one side of any argument.   Given that I am a long standing fan and listener to Woman's Hour this is a substantial realisation.

Dame Jenni Murray
It is a well written, considered piece, and some research has clearly been done, just as I would expect from a journalist of Jenni's stature.   The fuss centers around Jenni's assertion that having lived life as a man, it is impossible to transition to become a "Real Woman", indeed it is with this phrase that I (and oh so many others) take issue.   I will agree that as a trans woman there are many of the formative experiences of most women that I have missed out on, some with regret, and some with glee.   Until relatively recently I have had no direct personal experience of misogyny, I have known of it, and indeed seen it, but it is only since my transition in my 50s that I have experienced it.   I have never known what it is to experience child birth (first hand ~ being there and watching is not the same) or indeed menstruation. Quite clearly I have not been through the process of growing up as a woman, and so do not have those formative, shared experiences that many women my age will have.

Having lived as a man I have known male privilege, more than that I have known white middle class, middle aged straight male privilege, and let me assure you Jenni, nothing makes you understand privilege like giving it up!

As it happens I do consider myself a feminist, I became a feminist not when I transitioned, and not when I started to suspect my true identity, no I truly became a feminist (rather than simply a sympathiser), when my daughter was born.   I wanted to be able to tell her to follow her dream, to assure her that she could be anything she wanted to be and not have to keep my fingers crossed behind my back.  I want to live in a society where when I tell my Daughter to be true to herself it is considered to be good advise.

A real woman
So am I a real woman, well the simple answer is that I am a woman (after all that's what it says on my passport!) and I am real. If I were not real I wouldn't have to pay my credit card bills, so there is a down side.   Does that make me a real woman? well in my book it does, but I think that must depend on the definition of a "real woman".   Jenni worries that a couple of the trans women she has interviewed were not aware of feminist principles or history, she worried that these two were unduly concerned about clothes and make up, and cited the example of one of the very rare people who de-transitioned. Considering this as evidence that we are not real women.

Unfortunately many Cis Women are equally ignorant or unaware of feminist history, the battles that have been fought, won, and lost, many are unduly concerned about their clothes, make up and appearance. that makes them no less real.

As far as clothes and make up go maybe I need to explain that these are even more important to trans women than Cis women, especially for those of us who transition later in life. Not because we are brainless Barbies but because we are aware that like any other woman we will be judged by what we choose to wear, every aspect of our appearance will be analysed and criticised, perhaps even more so than our Cis sisters.   Then add to this minefield the two aspects that we have not had the years of practise, development and learning of our sisters, and that we also have more that we choose to cover up, it is perhaps more important to us that our presentation is appropriate and that we, who are so often considered oddities, will fit in.    I have friends who have been women all their lives and they are also concerned about their appearance, that makes their womanhood or their opinions no less valid.

Perhaps the two trans women Jenni spoke with appeared unaware of, or disagreed with some basic feminist principles, this does not apply to all trans women ~ indeed at last year's Mirth Control at the end of the Women Of the World festival I was in the top ten on the feminist quiz!

I cannot forget, and would not want to, my life prior to transition, I cannot put aside all the experiences and people who have made me who I am today.   But once again I ask does all this mean that I am not a real woman?

I consider myself a real woman, my daughter considers me a real woman, my friends consider me a real woman. Maybe the problem is in the wording, to suggest that I am not a real woman, is to suggest that I am acting, playing dress up, not experiencing the reality of womanhood, indeed invalidating my very essence of self.   Well let me assure you Jenni that what I am experiencing is real, very real, and not always comfortable.   True I have not enjoyed all the aspects of growing up a woman, maybe a less offensive expression might be "Complete Woman".   I am real, but I will admit that lack of experience may make me incomplete.

The sooner we can stop this being a debate, and exclude the extreme activists on both sides then maybe we can make this discussion a constructive one rather than giving and taking offense.   I expect Jenni will be at WOW at the festival hall this weekend, I will be there on Sunday as I will once again be playing in the Women Of the World Festival Orchestra, the World's only orchestra made up entirely of real women, if you would like to talk to me between rehearsals and performance I would be happy to explain further just why I feel real, even if maybe not complete.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

I'm going to Spend, Spend, Spend!

Over the years I suspect that I may have appeared to be complaining excessively about my state of impecuniosity, and maybe I have.   I suspect that my up bringing did not prepare me for many of the things I have experienced as an adult.   I was brought up with the expectation that I would be financially secure, with a reliable, clean, pensionable career. My expectation was that I would head a family household live in a nice house with a nice garden and drive a nice car.   Just as my expectation was that I would be one of the rulers of the Universe (White, straight, middle class, middle aged man) this turned out to not be true!

Let me make this clear ~ I am lousy with money ~ at any rate my own, I'm fine with other peoples!

I am not a responsible planer, I do not set aside sufficient in good times to cover bad, and even though I am mostly in low paid work I am sure that with a  bit more effort I could earn more and manage what I do get better.   However as I approach my sixth decade I know that realistically I am unlikely to change now.   Winter is always the worst time for me, I am working less and potentially spending more, at some point each winter I will run out of money, usually about or around tax time!   This year it was a bit later, I managed to pay my tax without borrowing, I got through most of the winter, then last week it hit! I had no money!

I was close to panic, I had to get some fuel before I could work, I had to buy some materials, I had somebody working for me one day this week and had to be able  to pay her!

So after the my initial panic at the discovery, I prayed about my situation, then I set about sorting in out.   I can now see my way through, an invoice I had sent out has been paid and I have generally been catching up.   Then a few days ago I received a letter from NS&I apparently I won £25 in the October Premium Bond draw but never received the warrant!

I shall today send back the form to claim my prize, and while I wait for the cheque I shall contemplate just how I will spend my winnings!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Has spring Sprung?

Well today has dawned bright and sunny, maybe spring is here, I certainly hope so as I have a lot of work to get done this week. Not least of which is to finish clearing up after Doris the other week!

While I'm not entirely sure that Winter has given up the fight, as I go round the gardens I see many signs of spring, daffodil and tulip bulbs are showing, and many snow drops and crocuses are in full bloom.   Roses are budding (and getting pruned), the soil may still be cold and I think it will still be a couple of weeks before I start cutting grass, but, as the days get longer and the temperatures rise I feel myself coming back to life just as I see it in the plants.

On Saturday I played with the Sussex Symphony Orchestra we had quite a challenging program with works by Berlioz, Offenbach and Saint Saens.   I have played with this wonderful orchestra quite a few times now, under two different conductors, and I think this may well have been the best one yet.   The strings had really got their act together, and were playing with good intonation and were very together, the wind had more confidence than they have shown in previous concerts and the clarinets were simply fabulous in the "Fantastic Symphony"

The SSO in Rehearsal in All Saints Church Hove