Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Desert Island Discs VI

I know I am moving around quite a lot, in time, in genre and in general but bare with me, there may be no logic but I'm sure something will emerge.

Regular readers will know that my wife is very important to me, we may be separated but we are still friends, and I know that she knows me better than any one else and will always be honest with me.   I am slightly the older, but not by much so when we got together it was reasonable to expect some overlap in our record collections, I think the only thing we both had was a single Shakatak record.

I don't expect everyone to share my taste for orchestral and wind band music, but JUST ONE RECORD!  I liked King Crimson and Yes, she liked Donny Osmond and David Cassidy (I should say I prepared this post a few days ago, with this morning's news that David Cassidy is dead some how makes it a bit more poignant) .   We subsequently did find contemporary music we both like and agreed not to play the other stuff to each other.   It took quite a lot of exploration before finding some orchestral music that we both liked, and it was a surprise to find that it was Mozart.   I have never listened to a lot of "Classical" music as there are no tuba parts! I tend to the big romantics, but when we heard the Mozart Clarinet Concerto it hit the spot for both of us.  Now whenever I hear this piece I always think of my wife, and these days when ever I think of my wife it is with affection ~ of course now we are separated it's lot easier ~ and she will always hold a very special place in my heart, whatever the future may hold.

Mozart - Clarinet Concerto [Sharon Kam]

Monday, 20 November 2017

Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) 2017 Today!

Today, the 20th November, is the Transgender Day Of Remembrance, I will not be attending an event today as I have to conduct a rehearsal this evening. In Croydon we had our event on Saturday, once again I had the honour of leading that event .

There is so much I could say, so much that others have written, I will limit myself to three things, first, this is a video put together for today by my friend Stephanie Robinson, she sang some of her songs and introduced this video on Saturday. It is quite harrowing, but then that is really rather the point.

Next I would like to share a story that one of our guests shared on Saturday. We were very pleased to both have the correct and previous Mayor of Croydon present, showing both their personal and their official support.

As we approached the end of our event the Mayor asked if she could share a story from her own past. She used to be responsible for a number hostels around London, a young female resident of one of these hostels was getting back onto her own feet, working at her profession as a pharmacist, getting on with life and being very popular with the other residents and staff.   One day a group of about seven men came into the hostel forced their way into her room and took her away telling the receptionist that "Mr Patel was going on holiday back to Pakistan" all her clothes were left in her room, but she and those men were never seen again.   Although the Police were called nothing has been found.

Finally I would like to share with you a couple of pieces from my script for the day.

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), has been celebrated worldwide every year since 1998.

On that day, 20th November, we memorialize the people who have been killed that year, by murder or by suicide as a result of their perceived transgendered identity. 

Those people may have been transsexual, intersex, cross dressers or others, or they may have been mistaken for someone else. But their lives were ended because they did not conform to the gender roles that other people expected of them.

The TDOR began on November 28th, 1998, to honour Rita Hester, whose murder on that day kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999.
Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

And then after all of the 325 names have been read out, and all but one of the candles lit

A long list of names, over 300, all trans or gender diverse people killed in the last year. And there will be others who died unknown, in a land where there aren't active civil society organizations that record these things. I light this candle to memorialize them.
Children murdered by their parents. Partners killed by their spouses and lovers. People killed just for being trans in public, in some cases with the tacit support of the state. Others outcast by society, Sex workers, migrant, people driven to involvement in gangs.

Beaten, stabbed, run over, shot, dismembered and fed to wild animals. Tracked down by family members they’d escaped from, because of, you know, “honour”!

Please, now join me in a minutes silence as with this act of remembrance we express our solidarity and remember these victims, knowing that in many cases they were disowned by their own communities, families, and native lands.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

This week leading up the International Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) is also meant to be a week focusing on Transgender Awareness, it seems particularly apposite then that yesterday for the first time in ages I was subjected to some transphobic abuse as I was walking into town to play for the switching on the Christmas lights. ~ It was a difficult gig made all the harder thanks to the stupidity and lack of awareness of some rather dull school boys. ~ I have made a complaint to the school, and would like to think that some action will result ~ I would like to!

However the point of interrupting my little series is not to wallow in self pity but to talk about TDOR, why it is important and what we can do about it, or at least what I am doing about it! My friend Anna-Jayne has written extensively about this on her blog here,  much more eloquently than I can, but all the time that people are being killed, battered, beaten and insulted simply because of their gender expression, or indeed their perceived gender expression, then we need to honour those individuals, remember them and condemn the society that allows this to happen.    Many, indeed most, murders of Transgender people remain unsolved, probably because their is not the political will to make sure they receive adequate investigation.   When we light our candles we are not just remembering victims, we are demanding equality of safety and justice, we are calling for justice and respect.

In Croydon I will be hosting an event on Saturday (tomorrow the 18th is the nearest Saturday to the actual day on the 20th November when in Croydon we have traditionally held our event) The Council have allowed us use of a room in the Town Hall, the Mayor will be in attendance, along with members of the Met Police and the Council, "the great and the good" will agree that it is terrible and that it can't happen here, but those outside on the street know that it can, and that it does.   This is primarily an event by our community, for our community to morn and remembrance those victims of the last year, but it is also our chance through a solemn act of remembrance to bring the plight of trans people around the world to those who can make a difference.

We will be holding our event in Croydon Town Hall from about 2:30 for a 3:00 p.m. start.   We will welcome everyone from the Trans community, supporters, family, and friends.   We will have a mixed bag of readings, music, and a short film as well as the act of remembrance itself, if you can please come along, show your support and your compassion.   I do, and get involved in a lot of things throughout the year, but I suspect that this is the most important.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Desert Island Discs V

Last year I took part in the BBC Great British Amateur Orchestra series, and indeed in the first episode was one of the featured artists.   This was a great experience  even though "We was robed!"   While I was slightly uncomfortable with the competitive aspect of the show I was more upset that we didn't get through to the final even though we were Cleary the most technically competent orchestra, and even more upset that the music we were given to play after this, the first episode did not include the brass. So although I was featured in the first episode along with the rest of my section I took no further part.

First challenge was "The Symphony", we were given an extract from Tchaikovsky's sixth ~ the Pathetique.   I was really pleased to get this symphony as it is one of my favorites, and has a great Tuba part, I was less pleased when it became apparent that we were only going to play a short extract from the last movement.  True a searingly emotional extract but none the less a short extract taking out of a massive context.   I wanted to play the whole thing!

Of course when we look back on Tchaikovsky's life this was an eminently sensible, if a little obvious choice for our orchestra.   It is now pretty much generally accepted that the symphony deals with Tchaikovsky's struggles with his sexuality and whether he is prepared to live a dishonest life denying his inner being.   Indeed it is often taken as being a prelude to his suicide, if indeed it was suicide ~ sometimes I wonder if we read too much into pure music, but we have both angst and triumph, joy and sorrow, what makes this symphony so dramatic is that it finishes with the sorrow and angst, in the minor key, with the joy and triumph expressed in the third movement.

I would be lying if I were to deny an affinity with these feelings, but once again I could not have explained why when I first came across the piece back in the 70s ~ I would then have said that what appealed to me were the big romantic melodic lines, a great tuba part (especially in the third movement) and suburb, masterful orchestration.

We start about 49 minutes in, my interview is around 17 minutes in.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Desert Island Discs IV

What can I say Danny Kaye ~ Tubby the Tuba!

We had this in my father's record collection (of about 30) when I was a small child it had a great impact on me, I felt for Tubby alone and misunderstood, and even then I loved the sound of the Tuba.   I'm sure that this is one of the reasons that when I had a chance to learn an instrument the tuba was my first choice.

Mind you I still want to dance with the pretty tune, oh and sometimes I do sit on it!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Desert Island Discs III

The two things that have consistently played a major role in my life, since way before puberty into what I like to think of as my middle age (although some would say that boat has sailed!) are music and gardens.   I got my love of gardens and gardening from my Grand Father, my Mother's Father lived with us for several years up until I was about 10   The garden was very much his domain and I loved to spend time with him.   My parents were quite happy about this as it gave them time to cope.   My Mother was looking after my Father, myself, my two Brothers, and my Grand Father, and in those days I do mean looking after, she had five shirts to wash and iron ~ every day ~ and of course that was before automatic washing machines. Meals to cook for six people and all the housework to do.   After I started at school she went back to work as a teacher, at that time there was a shortage of qualified teachers so there was a lot of pressure on her to return.

This just meant that I spent more time with my Grand Father, and therefore more time in the garden.   I wasn't consciously learning from him but simply by spending time I learnt how to prune, how to mow grass, the importance of keeping the edges tidy, and of course planting combinations.   I have now developed my own style of gardening, but that initial love comes from him.

All Saints Upper Norwood
Study by Pisarro
I was a singer until my voice broke, singing in the school choir, the Church choir and indeed I took a leading role as the King in my school's production of the Twelve Dancing Princesses ~ that will reveal my identity to about 50 people!  

I go into all of this because my next piece of music is Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring . Our Church was an impressive building in quite a large Parish, along with an excellent organist and a decent choir we were very popular for weddings. unless the bride expressed a preference our choir master would always trot out this anthem for us to sing during the signing of the register ~ sometimes we would sing it as often as four times on one Saturday afternoon ~ and could get paid up to five shillings for doing it!

Singing was my introduction into music, I loved the creativity and self expression it allowed me (although I would not have been able to express it that way then) as a rather fat clumsy child it was also something I could do well, and for me this piece sums up that time, and my love of choral music in general.   Unfortunately, but inevitably, adolescence kicked in and along with everything else my voice broke and I had to stop singing.   Soon afterwards I started to learn the tuba and have not sung seriously since ~ maybe when I retire I might get a chance but I suspect that my singing career was short but glorious!

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Desert Island Discs II

Well after yesterday's big heavy romantic symphony today's choice is going to be something more than a little different.   David Bowie released the album Man Who Sold the World in 1971 but given that I would only have been about 12 at the time I'm sure that it must have been quite a lot later that I heard this track.   I know one of my brothers had the album and at one point played it incessantly.

While I was certainly attracted to Bowie's androgynous look it was very much the music that appealed to me, in particular the keyboard work of Rick Wakeman captured me.   I have never been a great follower of "Pop Music" and songs have always been problematical for me as I so often struggle to understand the lyrics, something about the bleakness of the message behind this song, appealed to me at the time, and has stuck with me ever since.

Certainly it also brings back memories of a certain time in my life, when I was hitting puberty and feeling very confused about the whole thing.   However hard I tried I couldn't work out who and what I was, or how I was going to fit into the world.   I can't remember ever making a decision but somehow I came to the conclusion that I would have to fit in with "All the Mad Men" and play their game and pretend the best I could.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Desert Island Discs I

For those of you not totally familiar with the BBC Radio 4 Program, Desert Island Discs is a long standing interview program in which the guest is invited to choose the 8 records that they would want to retain with them if shipwrecked on a desert island.   The host and guest them chat around the chosen discs to illuminate interesting things about the guest.   There have been many interesting and famous guests, and quite a few equally interesting, but less famous ones.   My idea is to list my eight discs, and explain a little of why I have chosen them.   If I reveal something of myself in the process then so be it.

Camille Saint Saens
I must have first come across the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony about 1974 when I was playing with the Croydon Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.   First coming across a work like this as a rather confused, or at least conflicted adolescent meant that I was totally absorbed into all the romantic implications, the angst, victory, the glory and the despair.   For me this is the epitome of the romantic symphony, displaying everything that the form should.

It also brings many memories with it, not only of playing with the Youth Orchestra at Croydon's (currently closed) Fairfield Hall, but also with the London Charity Orchestra and the All Souls Orchestra at London's Albert Hall.   It is a virtuosi piece of orchestration and when the full power of the Albert Hall organ is unleashed the full impact really hits you.

If you don't know the piece listen here

Because it is so popular it can easily begin to feel a little hackneyed, but given the chance to listen to the whole thing rather than just extracts from the last movement it really does reward, and there will be a chance to do just that when my Orchestra the wonderful London Gay Symphony Orchestra perform this Symphony on the 8th July at St Giles's Cripplegate

Monday, 6 November 2017

Cabbages and Kings

One day I will learn the art of diary control, just because there is nothing written in the diary for a particular hour does not mean I have nothing to do!

Indeed I should be doing something else as I write this, but I'm sitting at home surrounded by drying laundry while my car battery is charging.   The car has been in and diagnosed, but they won't be able to fit my new alternator until later in the week, so this morning bringing it home it conked out, of course in the most inconvenient place, so now I'm charging the battery up before I can go and bring her home. My own starting problems will just have to be sorted with a combination of making sure I get more sleep, and sheer force of will. Maybe I'd better pop down to the shops and get a bit more will power.

On Saturday it was really good to meet up with an old friend, she was hosting a fireworks party for a few friends and neighbours  ~ a bunch of very nice people any of whom I would be happy to call my friends! We all had a lot of fun, a lot of food and some of us had quite a lot of wine as well.

My friend just introduced me as her friend Paula, and only one of them knew me in a previous life, and all went well.   It was only after the fireworks that some of the conversation got more serious and turned to the LGBT community, Pride and my involvement in both ~ the lady who introduced the topic was not displaying prurient curiosity ~ more natural maternal concern for her children (two of whom are part of our community and indeed came to Croydon Pride this year).   I was a little put out initially as I just wanted to enjoy some company and a glass of wine, but I put aside my irritation and settled into giving my little talk on what Gender Dysphoria means. I'm glad I did, as there were some people there genuinely interested and concerned, and it's my chance to undo some of the damage the Daily Fail does.

After that I was very happy to settle into my friends snug lounge, with just the two of us and a bottle of Pinot Grigio. having been friends for over 40 years we don't really have to worry about the normal niceties and ended up talking about husbands and wives, friends old and new, potential and past partners. Strangely there is only one other person I would stay up with talking like and they are the friend who led to our meeting over forty years ago.   These friendships are precious to me, they have stood the tests of time, of marriages, and of stupidity, and after every thing that has happened we will still talk for hours and share intimacies that I would never with any body else.

My friend's partner got up before we went to bed! I had two gigs on Sunday so had to get some sleep, but I think I might have preferred to have spent Sunday in my PJs slobbing about, rather than playing the Electric Bass, conducting the Brass Band and then having an Orchestral Rehearsal ~ when will I learn!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Life goes on

For a while now I have been feeling rather run down, certainly my get up and go has got up and gone, I find it rather hard to get started in the morning, but once I do get started I'm fine ~ I suspect it may have been something to do with my medication.   My car does not have that excuse!   For a while now it has been playing up a bit mostly the electrics, it now seems that I need a new alternator, it will cost me quite a bit of money, but should solve the problem ~ if only my could be solved as easily.

Yesterday I had my second rehearsal with the Croydon Brass Band since getting back from holiday, the first, last Monday was the best we've had since I took over a couple of months ago.   We had a good turn out and managed to get some real, useful work done on the music.   This week we had a lot less people, and no cornets so the rehearsal was not nearly as productive we have a performance on Sunday as long as everybody turns up it should be good. We're only playing for half an hour but we will be playing some music specially arranged for the band as well as some old favorites ~ It should be fun.

Before that I will be playing at our local hospice with my Jazz band, I haven't even got the bass out of it's case for about four weeks, so I hope I'm up to it.

Like I said yesterday I don't so Halloween, but I do do fireworks so on Saturday I will be joining an old friend for some bangs and sparkles ~ and maybe the odd glass of wine as well.

For some strange reason there is a certain, rather large, section of the media that has declared open season on trans people.   This does not give me undue concern for my own safety since most of the people I come into contact with are rational, yet it does concern me that there are still a lot of people who believe what they read in the papers.

I will not link to these articles or indeed quote them, I don't want to give such rubbish any boost or publicity, but I will link to a blog brought to my attention by a friend.   A very sensible, compassionate and simple explanation of why young people with problems should receive appropriate treatment from specialists.   It's not complicated, most things aren't, but just because they are outside our experience we don't need to be frightened.

Karen Pollock takes issue with the latest gutter press article about trans young people can be found here.