Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 20 September 2018

My Office Today

The latest in my ever popular series of photo entries which just show how much nicer my working environment is than yours!

This giant Yucca at one of my customers' has been responsible for many a stab and slice on my hands, arms and legs over the years, but when it does this I can almost bring myself to forgive it.   After the long hot summer it has now come into bloom, the white flowers showing really well against the Sumac tree just beginning to colour up for the Autumn.


At another of my favorite customers there is the most enormous Fuchia, it stands at least eight feet tall with a spread to match. In the spring I will be cutting it down to a more manageable size, but for now it is simply magnificent.


Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Camera can Lie!


Way back in July at Croydon Pride I won a makeover and photo shoot with a local studio,  Hello Gorgeous.

I have just had a big birthday, indeed I have just had a very BIG birthday! So as part of my celebrations I took up my prize and had my professional photo shoot, this involved having some make up done and bit of styling to my hair and a lot of photos. I was encouraged to take along a couple of favorite outfits so I set aside something a bit slinky so that maybe we could do a couple of "glamour" shoots. I then studiously left that bag at home, so I just  had the suit I wore.

That suit is of course more than fine, it was chosen for me by my daughter, I am not sure I would have bought it myself but I find a absolutely love it.  I like the length, the tailoring and the combination of fabrics. Somehow it seems to make me look even taller, and (a very good thing) slimmer!

I think I look rather strange without my glasses, but that is just what I am used to. the photographer, a lovely young man called Z, insisted that we try a few shots without my glasses He felt I looked fine without them, and was having some problems with reflections, and in the end I had to agree that a couple of them made it into my final selection.

I quite surprised myself with ho much I enjoyed the experience, in the past when I have done anything like this I felt very self conscious, my movements have been a bit mechanical, I simply could not relax and definitely did not enjoy the experience ~ however nice the photographer! I think my friend Justin almost despaired of getting any sort of shot that would be usable when he tried!

This time I relaxed quite easily, I could follow the photographers instructions, my smiles were genuine, even if some of the poses I had to adopt felt anything but.


Given that my previous phot shoots were in "a previous life", I can only assume that this is a symptom of how much easier I feel with myself, my new found real self confidence (as opposed to the act I used to be pretty good at), and an added contentment with my body and my looks.

This is all quite timely as both the Brass Band and the Croydon Pride websites are about to undergo some updating and it will be nice to have a proper "publicity" head shot for them, and hopefully I will need a good photo for a concert program again at some point.

Monday, 10 September 2018

I'm still here!

Yesterday I attended the "We're Still Here" conference on Transgender rights and more specifically the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. It was a fascinating day, I was able to ask some questions get better informed and catch up with some friends I don't see as often as I would like; and not a few of them reminded me that I need to post here more often!

There was a lot of serious discussion, there were also a lot of laughs ~ my sort of a day!

The more I think about it the more I want to see the Gender Recognition Act amended, I know that here in the UK we are a lot better off than in many Countries in as much as we can change our Birth Certificates, our Driving Licenses and Passports, but I don't think we should be content with not being the worst! In such large advanced Countries as Ireland, Malta, Portugal and Denmark trans people can change their legal gender simply by making a legally binding declaration. They don't need to get confirmation of a medical diagnosis, they don't need to provide evidence of living in their true gender for several years, they do not need to get the permission of their spouse (even when separated from said spouse!), they do not need to spend vast amounts of money on legal letters, medical letters, fees and administration. In many ways I do not think that the proposed changes go far enough, but I will settle for them for now.

We are still at the consultation stage, this has gone on for far too long already, it has been the reason behind much of the hate filled aggressive opposition that trans women in particular have been experiencing here over the last year or so. I hope that if the Government receive lots of  replies to this consultation urging they go ahead with the proposed changes then a lot of that opposition will be silenced. We can return to being a civilised accepting Country and get on with finding a way to remain part of the European Union.

What ever your views on "Brexit" (I find it hard enough using that term, I am certainly not ready to it use outside of inverted commas) I would urge you to respond to this consultation.

More information here https://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk/assets/media/Mermaids%20Guidance%20Pack_Responding%20to%20the%20GRA%20Consultation.pdf
Here https://www.stonewall.org.uk/gender-recognition-act
and Here https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/gender-recognition-act_uk_5b3b9603e4b09e4a8b27d807

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Wednesday

Sic Transit Gloria Mundy

I have had a lot of vans, it all started way back in the 1980s when I had a couple of ex British Telecom Dodge Space vans. They weren't great vans but they were cheap and served their purpose, the second got used more for transporting competition motor bikes around than work, but it was fun.

Then after many years I found myself as a self employed gardener in need of a van. I started off with a couple of Renault Extra vans, basically a Renault Clio with a box on the back.  these served me well, the first I enjoyed, it had a small petrol engine that revved and revved, was great fun to throw around corners and was green!.  The second was just a tool for getting my tools to where I was working.

There came a time when these vans were just too small for my work and I needed something bigger, I saw and then bought a Ford Transit. I had always promised myself that if I ever bought one of these I would call it Gloria, so I did!

This was a smashing van, again I enjoyed driving her and she was perfect for my business. On one occasion I drove her across France to deliver some furniture for a friend, and it was one of the most comfortable long distance vehicles I have ever driven.

I had some stickers made up for the bottom of the doors with her name on, my passengers were often asked if they were Gloria and they would have to say "No that's the van!"

When the London Low Emission Zone came in Gloria had to go, I bought another Transit, a Mk6 who quickly became known as Gloria Tuesday, she wasn't a very good van, let me down a few times and was all round a not very happy van!

After Tuesday I had a bit of a change and bought a Mercedes Vito, a lovely van, a great drive and a good workhorse, after a while she became known as Dannie, as in Dannie the Vito. Dannie came into my life just over four years ago, and had to leave again last month. At the last MOT I was advised that she passed that time, but simply not to bother putting her in again this year. I gather that there is only so much rust that can be covered up with gaffer tape!


For a very short time I bought another Vito but it broke down a week after I bought it, at that point it became clear that there was a lot of work needed, it would cost a lot of money straight away and then more for the next MOT. I concluded that it would just turn into a money pit and that I would never be totally happy, so passed on to my third Transit.

Please welcome Gloria Wednesday!

If everything goes to plan she should see me through to retirement. I am hopeful as my van history seems to alternate between good and bad, so I am very hopeful that Wednesday will work out very well. I think this is the first van I have had where everything works right from the beginning.

I feel that the exterior needs some embellishment I fancy a green coach stripe and maybe a flower and name on the lower door panel.

We'll see, first I need to sort out the back properly for work.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Hamster Jam

I've been told off for not writing enough, for being absent, for disregarding you, my loyal, loved readers ~ well something like that anyway.  Am I allowed to admit that I have been distracted, much stuff has been going on, I have been out and about, I have been acquiring and disposing of vehicles, I have played concerts and seen some fabulous things and some which unfortunately I will never able to unsee.

TransPALS goes to Amsterdam
Last weekend the London Gay Symphony Orchestra went on a short tour of Amsterdam, a short tour because we actually only played one concert. It was an excellent concert with lots of highly emotional lush romantic music, in a wonderful venue with excellent acoustics. We even had a large appreciative audience.

Large in two ways, we had quite a few people there, but since most of them were Dutch that also meant they were very tall. The Dutch are the tallest people in Europe, and it was quite noticeable walking around just how tall. For me it was rather nice not to be the tall one and have all the attention that goes with it.

The trip coincided with Amsterdam Pride (I suspect that may have been a consideration in the planning) so the Saturday was largely spent watching the floating parade, the associated evening activities did not appeal to me much so some of us went back to our Hotel and had dinner, and maybe a couple of drinks there.

With Mary Francis
All in all it was a fun trip and I have now added Amsterdam to the list of places I have toured but must go back to for a proper visit!

I though about getting Croydon Pride to pay my expenses as research, instead I settled for wearing my tee shirt with the Croydon Pride logo!

Amsterdam was my fourth Pride this summer, in many ways it was the biggest, it was a joy filled popular event, there were lots of straight supporters, lots of the shops, bars and restaurants were joining in, and there were rainbow flags everywhere, however it was very noticeable that there were virtually no other flags.  I could count the number of Trans flags I saw on the fingers of one hand, and there were no others at all!  At Croydon, and London (despite the problems) Pride was a truly inclusive experience for all of the LGBT+ community, Trans, Bi, Pan etc. are all included, affirmed and celebrated, I definitely got the impression that Amsterdam was very much a Gay Pride ~ something I had hoped we had left behind us.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Pride!

It's nearly a month since I posted, not because I don't care, I have often thought about a post, not because I have nothing to say, I have been very busy with work, with Prides, with Gigs, indeed with life. Making excuses to myself I have been telling myself that I have been living life rather than writing about it, but the two are not mutually exclusive!

This morning I have been working from home on some Pride stuff, and a bit of admin, and thought, yep it's time for a post!

Over the weekend I saw my friend Jenny another irregular blogger, we met up at Trans Pride Brighton, a fabulous sunny day, lots of friends, lots of interesting people ~ just a shame I had to leave early to get to the Oxted Beer Festival to see "The Sweet" one of my favorite bands from the 70s  I had a great evening with some good, close friends and also bumped into some other friends I wasn't expecting to see. Then on Sunday I was playing with the Lambeth Wind Orchestra at the Lambeth Country Show. ~ All in all a pretty fabulous weekend!



The previous weekend had been Croydon Pride, again a fabulous day, I felt totally vindicated for all the work we put in,, I was found wandering about the field talking to people at around 8:00 O'clock saying "I've found my people"

The turnout for the event and the Parade exceeded our expectations with about 1,000 turning up for the parade alone. As a mark of support for the Trans community after we have experienced so much hate this year my other trustees suggested that TransPALS marched at the front of the parade. It was great to be surrounded by Trans flags, and I was so glad tha this suggestion came from the others and not me.

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

Proud

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

Silence

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!