Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Friday, 20 November 2020


Today, the 20th November, is International Transgender Day Of Remembrance. Much has been written on many, many websites, blogs and social media about this, yet very little will have been written in mainstream newspapers, there will not be a piece on the BBC ~ or indeed any other broadcasters ~ news bulletins.  Yet over the last year there have been reliable reports of 350 people murdered, simply because they are, or were thought to be, transgender. 

This frightening figure needs a few caveats, these are the reliable reports that can be substantiated through official records ~ this means that where the gender identity of the victim is not recorded and in the public domain that victim is not included. Clearly the number is much higher, unless you can believe that in the whole of Africa there was only one victim of transphobic murder, unless you can believe that only 2 trans people were murdered in Russia, unless you believe that there were no victims in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yeman, Iraq, Iran and Turkey then the real number is much higher.

TDOR 2020 data taken from Trans Murder Monitoring shows that:

  • 350 trans and gender-diverse people were murdered, 6% more than in the TMM update 2019;
  • 98% of those murdered globally were trans women or trans feminine people;
  • 62% of murdered trans people whose occupation is known were sex workers;
  • People of colour make up 79% of the 28 trans people murdered in the USA;
  • 11 trans people murdered in Europe; 50% were migrants;
  • 82% of all the murders registered happened in Central and South America; 43% in Brazil;
  • 38% of the murders took place on the street and 22% in their own residence;
  • The average age of those murdered is 31 years old; the youngest being 15 years old.
It feels strange that this is ignored, just doesn't enter on the public consciousness, these last few years here in the UK we have heard so many strident, yet miss informed, attacks on Trans people (mostly trans women!) that get the attention of media, indeed many of us suspect that these attacks are actually fuelled and encouraged by our partisan media. Surely it must be time for this to stop, surely it must be time that we like other minority groups got support and protection from our media and our Government ~ but no we have the exact opposite, the Government's vacillation and then refusal to act in accordance with their own consultation on reform of the GRA and the media's support of transphobic attacks by both celebrities and professional hate mongers alike has led to an environment where we are now the last minority that it is socially acceptable to hate!

On the whole we do not ask for much, we want to be accepted as who we are, we want people to understand that we are the experts on who we are, we want to be left in peace to just get on with our very normal lives, we want to be allowed to live!

Sorry, today no pictures, no jokes ~ today it's just not funny.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Back to March

Young Hopefuls
OK, so here in England we have entered a second lock down, not as severe as the first one but still enough to stop the music! It's made me think about all sorts of things. Like many people I suppose this year has concentrated my mind and led me to a lot of introspection. A few years ago one of my friends from way back in our youth orchestra days observed that somehow we had gone from being the hope for the future to has-beens without actually achieving anything of substance in between. I know just what he meant and at the time I couldn't help agreeing with him. Now I'm not so sure, I'm getting so much enjoyment/fulfilment from conducting that I have been reassessing my whole musical life. Although playing is great I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I am a better musician than instrumentalist. Technically there is much that I would like to be able to do that is beyond me, but I am finding it so invigorating to be able to help others produce a better performance.

I miss my rehearsals and everything about communal music making, but I think most of all I miss performing. At heart I think I am a bit of a show off, I like to be the centre of attention, I like to be recognised and acknowledged. This is reflected not just in my music making, but in pretty much every other aspect of my life. I will often find that I am the "front" for organisations I work with and I enjoy that!

2014 in Croydon Central Library
Normally by this time of the year I would have played 20 - 30 performances, many of them I should have been conducting, We would have had Croydon Pride, we would have celebrated the Transgender day of Visibility, who knows how often I would have spoken and been photographed. I believe the last two events I spoke at were around the LGBT History Month back in February ~ since then it just feels as though life has been on hold.

In any normal year I would now have been preparing for the Transgender Day Of Remembrance, TDOR, this will be the first year for a long, long time that this will not have been marked with an event in Croydon, as I seem have led every event since 2012 I was planning for 2020 to be my last, but given this years hiatus I suspect that I may well do at least one more. One thing is for sure, for the foreseeable future I am sure that there will be a continued need for the day to be marked and murdered trans people to be remembranced.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Now for the Hard Work

President Elect Joe Bidden
I've just heard the news that Joe Bidden is the USA President Elect, whether you think this good news or bad news will of course depend on who you were supporting, however, I strongly suspect that if you are reading my Blog you will have been rooting for Bidden. I was very pleased to hear him making all the right noises about reconciliation, governing for the whole of the Country, and re-engaging with other Nations. If he can carry this off then that will be great.

But was Trump a cause, or a symptom? There is so much antipathy around the World, so much strife within countries, my own is no exception. We have still to negotiate Brexit, even our own governing party appears to be fundamentally split on how to manage the pandemic, who to support? how? and how much to lock down. Of course we have always expected differences, what seems to have changed is the vituperation expended on opponents ~ I was so pleased to hear Joe Bidden say "they are our opponents, not out enemies" we could do with a lot more of that!

Of course I have my own areas of interest, I have lost a couple of big fights, and I expect that I will lose some others as well, in general I try to understand my opponents point of view, and once I have lost I will try to work with them for the best possible outcome. Brexit is an example I will not ostracise my Brother because he voted the other way to me. I, and the parties I support accept that that battle is lost, we now need to work to ensure that our fears are not realised ~ human rights, worker rights, freedom of movement for both people and trade, and of course the peace of Northern Ireland.

There is another issue that has raised it's very ugly head over the last few years, this one I find it harder to reconcile myself with, or indeed to understand my opponents point of view;- I mean transphobia and homophobia. We thought this war had been fought and won, but there has been a back lash, a back lash that becomes quite personal when it your own very right to be yourself that is being challenged; when it is your own personal rights to live life honestly and to the full that is under fire; when it is your own fundamental rights to life, a family life, freedom of expression, and if you happen to be American the pursuit of happiness! I hope and pray that with this election, the Brexit Referendum, we can put these passionate divisions behind us and once again work collectively to promote the rights and welfare of all citizens, here in the UK, in the USA and around the World.

As we approach the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), the day when we commemorate the hundreds of trans people that we know of who are murdered simply because they are transgender, let us remember that it is nice middle class presentable people like those nice young people pictured above who encourage this violence, it is they who are bent on creating a society that will force people to lie simply to protect themselves, to be subject to oppression, violence and s even death!

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

I've been a bad girl


Actually this post is all about apologies, mine, to you!

Because I have been such an unreliable blogger for a while now I hadn't realised that I had switched on "Moderate Comments" when I was getting a lot of spam. It is only now that I am negotiating the new Blogger dash board that I just discovered that I wasn't being ignored, I just wasn't checking in the right place.

So, if you have commented on my blog I have now moderated comments over the last year or so and they should now show, but most of all ;- 


Monday, 2 November 2020

We Play a concert, and then it all stops!

 2020 has been tough on everybody, but for musicians it has been very hard. For much of the year we have been unable to rehearse, and performances have just been out of the question for the vast majority of us. I'm very much one of the lucky ones, as a gardener I have been able to carry on so at least I have had some income through the year.

Over the last couple of months rehearsals had started up again and various groups were even thinking about how we could perform again. Then on Saturday the Government once again put the Nation into lock down. In all honesty I can't say whether this is necessary or not, I am no expert and don't have the time or the inclination to read all the advise, I just do as I'm told! 

So Sunday we had our last Allegra Concert Band rehearsal for a while and tonight it is the turn of Croydon Brass . It hurts a little that this will be the second time I have had to shut both the bands I conduct down; the band I play in hasn't even been able to start up at all since March!

On a more cheerful note yesterday my Orchestra did manage to record and video a few pieces played by members of the Orchestra which we are presenting as our Autumn virtual Concert. It was an interesting challenge to record while socially distancing, it was all done in smaller groups but we still managed to utilise all the sections of the Orchestra and make some interesting music. I was particularly excited to play "Water Music" by Malcolm Arnold, he writes so well for brass this was a real treat.

The first part of the concert can be found here and here 

Unless your computer speakers are a lot better than mine I suggest you use headphones! 

Thursday, 29 October 2020

My Office Today

 There was a time when this was my favourite time of the year, the rugby season had started and the ground was getting softer, hay fever season was over, and my bands would be building up to a concert. Well that's all changed now, I don't play rugby anymore and nobody is putting on concerts! Instead gardening has turned from being a hobby to a business and the short, wet days have a big impact on ability to work, and my general mood.

I'm writing this now as I look out of my window at yet more rain, even if it stops raining I can't see that I will be able to get any work done today at all, that'll mean every day so far this week has been weather effected!

But not everything in the garden is dull and wet, there is still colour, joy and plenty of work to get done.   Although a lot of the work I managed yesterday was just cutting back ivy, I still managed a bit of planting and did it in very pleasant surroundings.

This garden is rapidly turning into one of my favourites,  having been laid out by an enthusiast it is far from low maintenance but has so much to recommend it, as well as a strong structure there is very good varied planting giving real round the year interest.

Many herbaceous plants are still making a brave display, whether its late flowers or the turning foliage of peonies. Climbers like this Solanum Jasminoides  add both scent and display ~ this is actually one of my favourite plants, it's ever green except in the very coldest winters, has a very long flowering period and will happily grow through trees or trellis, excellent for screening where needed and so much nicer than ivy!

When planting up a garden it is so easy to forget timing and plant what's good at the time, what's in flower and being enticing at the garden centre, but having some thing to look at all year round is so important. 

In many ways gardeners are always looking forward, at the moment I'm pruning or planting for next spring and summer. Come spring I will be preparing for summer and the following autumn. Even in winter we do not stop, sure, during the short, cold, wet, winter days there is less to do, but we are always planning, always preparing, Maybe that's why gardeners tend to be nice, good people; perhaps we could do with more people in society looking forward and planning for a beautiful future.

Friday, 23 October 2020

To Blog or not to Blog

A few friends have adversely commented on my lack of blogging, it is a big commitment, and especially challenging when I'm busy in the summer. There is also always the worry that have I actually got anything interesting to say! Well this year has provided many of us with plenty to comment on, the Pandemic; our political leaders failure to deal with it; in the UK the Governments failure to live up to their promises and reform the Gender Recognition Act, the cancelation of Pride and so much more. To be honest I have just felt too busy getting on and dealing with it all to want to write about! Much of my energy has been taken up with simply keeping my business afloat!

I have been vacillating madly about whether I should restart Paula's Place or just leave in in dignified retirement, I am still not convinced! But primarily to satisfy a couple of friends, and to see how I get on, here goes!

To say it's been a challenging year has to be one of the understatements of the century! I suspect that pretty much everybody in the world has by now been impacted to some extent by the Covid-19 pandemic, of course I am no exception to that. I have to keep reminding myself that I am very much one of the lucky ones; I have been able to keep working throughout and while business, and therefore income, has not been what I would have otherwise expected Government support has compensated for that.  The challenge has come for me with the original ban on communal music making.  

Allegra Concert Band in rehearsal

I think that first four months was the longest I have gone since the age of 8 or 9 not making music with other people. Things are better now, both the bands I conduct are able to rehearse, even if we have nothing to rehearse for. It is difficult when there is no goal in sight, no performance to be working towards, but at the moment we're just so pleased to be able to be playing.   It all feels a bit strange, instrumentalists have to be separated from each other, which does affect the sound as well as simple things like turning over the pages! We have to have windows or doors open and I have to wear a visor, so yes it feels strange but not as strange as not playing did.

We're a long way from being back to normal, the Band I play in won't be rehearsing this year, and my orchestra can't yet play as an orchestra, only in sections, and I've no idea whether, or how we will hold Pride next year. But we are all learning, we're learning values, what really matters to us, we're learning the importance of human contact, we're learning what we can and can't do without, and we're learning about commitment, community, and consideration.

Friday, 15 May 2020

My Office Today - I did a thing!

In this strange world we now find ourselves in I am definitely one of the lucky ones ~ I get to go out to work every day, spend time outdoors in people's gardens and do something creative which I love.

A tree that's been there for some time, blocking light 
and shading the plants below it

Most days hold some surprises as every day is different, just as every garden is different, and many of my customers are spending more time at home, looking at their gardens and coming up with ideas for change. this is the photo story of one of those changes.

The canopy raised, but still too much shade
Canopy Raised, but still too much shade on the plants below, 
the house and the conservatory

Just the trunk left
Canopy totally removed, just the trunk left

All gone, more light into the house, and the bed below, the wonderful fatsia behind it can also flouricj now.
All gone, so much more light into the house and conservatory, and now the wonderful fatsia behind and the beginias below can flourish.

Friday, 10 January 2020

My office today

I started this occasional series of posts because I got fed up with hearing too many people assuming that we all work in offices or schools.

This post has been inspired by all those people who ask me what I do during the winter. These are the same people who think and talk about "putting a garden to bed". The garden doesn't go to sleep and there is stuff that needs doing all year round.

This week I have been cutting back ivy and tidying up a hedge. Next week I'm replacing a fence. There's all the dead herbaceous plants and ferns to cut back, the vegetable patch to clear, if it's not in production. Many gardens will still have leaves to clear and paths to maintain.

No, the winter is not a time for gardeners to stop work, just like every other season it has it's round of tasks, chores and joys, like those winter aconites I photographed earlier today.