Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

50th Anniversary!

I should have posted about this a while back, but other stuff got in the way and it all sort of got away from me.

This is the 50th anniversary of the founding of my beloved Croydon Symphonic Band. We're having quite a year already, last month we played the first of our special 50th anniversary concerts at the Fairfield Hall ~ although we may think of this hall as a local Croydon facility it is actually still one of the best Concert Halls in the Country, if not Europe! ~ we may not fill the 2,000 seater auditorium, but we generally mange to get a few hundred which is great for all of us. Next month we will be playing at the finals of teh National Concert Band Festival and then in June we will be back at the Fairfield for the second of our Gala Concerts, when we will be premiering a new work by a major British Composer! It is all very exciting.

One of the things that makes this band so special for me is how long I have been friends with some of the other members, not only have we been in this band for ages, but some of us were even in the Schools Band together. Maybe to save all our blushes I shouldn't work out exactly how long some of us have known each other!

Of course it's not all old farts like me, our music appeals across generations and it's always fun to be with young people, although I am finding that some of my "young" friends are now celebrating their 50th birthdays, and there are plenty of members of teh band who weren't born when the band was started.

These photos were all taken during the final rehearsal on the platform at the Fairfield, by a professional photographer we engaged, just this final one is of the actual performance ~ and yes that is a harp in a concert band!

We have two more concerts this season, and I'm hoping that one of my pieces "Transitions" will be played at one of them.

Monday, 20 March 2023


 I wrote here about the difficulties I was having trying to get some of my music published. I understand that it's hard enough to get somebody to put out performers content, but for those of us who work in sheet music it is a real challenge. Indeed I have now pretty much given up and have decided to self publish through the "Arrange me" and Sheet Music Direct on-line wing of the enormous Hal Leonard organisation. This is actually quite an easy process, but although this makes my music available it does not give it any publicity, that's up to me!

So I have created an extra page for this blog which I've called "My Music", I think this is an imaginative name since it is a page which will feature music! on your desk top the link is just to the right of the page, on a phone it's on the pull down menu just above the posts. Please take a look, at the moment there are just three pieces there, that is all I've published so far, but there will be more shortly. I've included a video sample of each as well as a short description and link to the site to buy. I plan to add more as soon as I have prepared the sheet music ready for publication.

I would seriously welcome any feedback (almost) as much as I will welcome any sales. I don't expect to get rich on the proceeds but just like any artist I want others to be able to appreciate what I am producing ~ it feels pretty pointless writing the stuff if nobody every gets to play or hear it!

Sunday, 19 March 2023


The outside of the Church
My last post left you all a little bit up in the air, for the really perspicacious of you yes I was in Paris. The Church we played in on the Friday was Saint-Etienne-du-Mont a church with a fascinating history dating back to the 6th Century, the current building is largely Gothic with large windows and flying buttresses, but as I was only there after dark it was the interior stone work that I really appreciated. As I was only involved in one piece in the concert I had plenty of time to appreciate the setting as well as the music ~ I also had plenty of time to get freezing cold! Not quite what I had in mind for a trip to Paris in the Springtime!

The interior of St Etienne as I never saw it ~ in daylight!
Right next to the Pantheon and close by the Sorbonne the setting is a notable as the Church itself, and right in the cultural heart of the city. Despite being so close to such big tourist draws we still managed to find some good traditional French food for our pre concert dinner, and then afterwards adjourned to a local bar, where we enjoyed some of the local  beverage!

Notra Dame du Liban with
the Paris Rainbow Symphony Orchestra
For our Saturday concert we moved venue to Notre Dame du Liban, built in the 19th Century it was a lot more comfortable and certainly less cold. Still in Gothic revival even though less spectacular much more accommodating! A large and imposing interior with a strangely unassuming entrance, we could have easily walked past without noticing. 

A bit like my own London Gay Symphony Orchestra one thing that is really noticeable about the Rainbow Symphony is that the average age is quite young ~ especially for an amateur orchestra. These days I've got to an age where I don't want to be part of a group where I don't raise the average age! From preference I certainly want to spend more time with people younger than me than with others around my own age, so this helped make the week a lot of fun.

There are still plenty of things I want to see and do in Paris, I do have a bit of a thing for ecclesiastical architecture, so I would still like to visit Saint-Denis and Sainte-Chapellle. Notra Dame is still shut after the 2019 fire ~ I have been there but would love to go back now I'm older. But the great thing about this visit wasn't being a tourist and visiting the historic sites, it was about sharing the joy of making music, making new friends and renewing some old friendships.

The delightful Mathilde and Corinne
A tuba section I'm not pretty enough to get in! 

Saturday, 11 March 2023

My Office today

Well yesterday actually, although concert was so late it felt like this morning by the time we left.

I will be playing very much the same concert again this evening, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Rainbow Symphony Orchestra, but in a different venue. ~ should be fun. 

The one "fly in the ointment" is that I brought all the wrong clothes with me and was freezing last night! 

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Yes I'm Angry

Yesterday I may have come across as a bit angry, there's a good reason for that, I am! I was brought up to be proud of my Country, I am old enough that when I was at primary school most of the map on the wall was still coloured pink (representing the British Empire), we supported a "poor" school in an African Country that has since changed it's name after getting rid of us ~ the colonial power. We were taught that the British Empire was a force for good and that colonialism was our gift to the World, spreading civilisation and Christianity. When we travelled abroad (yes we were lucky) we couldn't help noticing that on the whole British people dressed better, had better cars, our houses were in better condition and and our roads were certainly better.

Of course some of this is a reflection of the rather comfortable life I now realise I was leading, the aftermath of the war was another major factor, Northern Europe took an even heavier battering than southern England, and took longer to recover and rebuild ~ none the less I grew up with a feeling of superiority and pride.  Now I see our water companies pump raw sewage into our rivers, our Health Service is in crises, our police are undermanned and failing. Our local authorities are broke (I live in Croydon) which means that social services, parks, libraries, social care and other essential services are on their knees. Our roads are full of pot holes, our cost of living is going up while fuel companies and overseas utility companies rack in the profits. We are experiencing strikes within the National Health Service, from teachers, university staff, transport, refuse collectors and more. I hear of working families dependent on dependent on benefits and having to use food banks ~ of course I'm angry.

Of course others of my generation had similar experiences and we now look at our country and feel ashamed. The difference is some of us know we can do better by moving forward, by embracing the potential of a modern multicultural Britain. By investing in people, in services, in infrastructure. We accept that to have a better more caring society we need to contribute, after all we only get what we pay for! Others seek others to blame, they look back at a white heteronormative Britain and think that is what made it feel better. They don't want to contribute but they do want to exclude.

I often complain about the marginalisation of trans people, about the paucity of the medical care available, but the truth of it is that many minorities are being marginalised and unsupported, people with disabilities, people with mental health requirements, LGBT+ people in general and of course people of colour. This is all part of the "Othering" going on, of finding somebody else to blame. To not accept our own responsibility for situation we find ourselves in. That is teh background to our Government's latest attack on immigration ~ and I suspect that they know it won't work they just want to play to the lowest common denominator in the electorate, feed the hate distract from mess.

So yes I'm angry, I'm angry that my own Government has made me ashamed to be British, I'm ashamed that we have abandoned any pretence of liberal humane standards, I'm ashamed that we've created a society where working people can't afford the basics of life. I'm ashamed that so many just don't seem to care. So yes I want to support those who do speak out in any way I can, whether it's ex-footballer Gary Lineker, pop star Feargal Sharkey (campaigning about water pollution) or ex rugby star Ben Cohen taking a stand against bullies, you have my support (for what it's worth)

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

He's still a hero

Today I was planning to write a bit about how big, or small a part of my current life being trans is. Or in other words do I think of myself as a woman or as a trans woman. I still think this is an interesting question and one I want to investigate here but something has come up that I really want to talk about.

Each day, usually in the morning, I will turn on my computer, I will check out the latest Girl Genius and then Go Comics  for the latest Chickweed Lane. only then will I turn to the news, usually the Times of Malta and the BBC websites. A particular story on the BBC struck me today "Gary Lineker to be 'spoken to' after comparing UK asylum policy to 1930s Germany" for those outside the UK our Home Secretary has just announced her plans to exclude any asylum seekers, economic migrants, or indeed any other immigrants coming to the UK other through "legal routes". At the moment there are a number of immigrants coming to our shore across the Channel from France and Belgium in small boats ~ although a lot less than are crossing the Mediterranean to our southern neighbours. These restrictions including deporting and refusing to process asylum claims from anyone arriving by small boat, but not only that, they will also be banning anyone arriving by small boat from ever being able to apply for asylum, citizenship or even residence.

Not a Government Minister
I will admit to being confused about what is meant by legal means for as far as I can see from many countries there are no legal routes of getting here to apply for asylum ~ in effect this whole policy is designed to make immigration illegal ~ regardless of our major labour shortage, not just nurses and doctors, but agricultural labourers, builders, and many other roles that the British simply don't want to fill. These are policies brought before Parliament by our elected politicians ~ supposedly the great and the good. On the other hand Gary Lineker is an ex-footballer and sports pundit.

There appears to be a bit of a power imbalance here.

Now I personally think that our current Government is morally bankrupt and that these latest proposals bring them and our Country into disrepute. I also strongly suspect that they (like the previous proposals) are illegal.

 I feel that the criticism of them is legitimate and well founded ~ but that's not the point here. This is an unbelievably cruel policy and Gary Lineker has simple said that. He is not paid by the BBC for his political views but for his knowledge of football and his ability to communicate that. He does not represent the BBC, it's views or it's political or news reporting. ~ Yet it appears that he is to be sanctioned for having views and stating them ~ surely that is a basic right of everyone, unless their job is to comment or report on behalf of an organisation.

I think the BBC would have some right to sanction Lineker if he were to comment against policy on a footballer, a football club or organisation ~ bit that is actually encouraged!

It is a sad day for the UK when our footballers have more integrity than our politicians and more moral fibre than our national broadcaster. The BBC has been under attack from teh Conservative Party for decades now and they are just running scared and are freighted of giving balanced impartial reporting in case they lose even more funding.

In a not unlinked news yesterday the BBC also announced that they will be disbanding the BBC singers as well as cutting the number of salaried posts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, teh BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. At teh moment we don't know how many musicians will be made unemployed by this, but it is yet another devastating blow for our national music infrastructure.

Tuesday, 7 March 2023


Yesterday I wrote about my little weight problem and how I had been inspired by a "Pearls Before Swine" cartoon, and then I lamented how I couldn't work out a way of sharing it. Well guess what? I've just found a way! so here it is.

It's strange where inspiration comes from, and where it takes us

Monday, 6 March 2023

A weighty issue

Today's post was inspired by Pearls Before Swine the cartoon by Stephen Pastis ~ I would love to show a copy of it here but Go Comics have got wise to that and have made it very difficult to copy a single cartoon, so just follow the link ~ In amongst the lots of things going on at the moment I have been booking my place in a lot of the Sprints for the Championship I'll be competing in this season, as we were talking about what little we are allowed to do to improve the performance of the car the subject of weight reared it's ugly head. We can't do much to save weight on the car, but I can (and certainly should) do something about the weight of the driver.

I have been feeling a "bit porky" for a while now, but have kept putting off doing anything about it, but having weighed myself and found my weight has crept up to thirteen and half stone (190 lbs or 85 kgs) I fear I can't put it off any longer. Indeed I was conducting a concert on Friday evening, went to put on my favourite black trouser suit, and found I couldn't do up the trousers! So, definitely time to act, now the next question is what am I going to do, diet? exercise? a bit of both? Given that Ideally I would like to lose about 25lbs what ever I do it's going to take time and effort.

Losing weight used to be easy, when I got that "porky" feeling I could just behave myself for a week and lose 7 lbs, no problem. These days it's not so easy and I suspect that has more to do with hormones than age. ~ as my ex has been known to observe "now you understand!"

There are very few things about transition that make my life easier ~ just better.

Thursday, 2 March 2023


A couple of times I have mentioned the stats we get from Blogger showing how many visits we get, these stats also show which posts have been visited. This week I'm a little surprised to see that four people have looked at one of my posts from April 2014, Euphonia, Euphonium, Euphonious, so I went back had a look at it myself. In that time a lot has changed, indeed almost everything referred to in that post has changed.

One of the stand out things is that I comment that I will be playing "as Paula" this puts it firmly into my "still cross dressing but trying to work it all out days", in those days I was as concerned about what I would wear to a concert as what I was playing. Earlier and I would not have dared go out and perform, later and there would have been no "as" these days it's very much just me.

My lovely big B & S
5 valve CC. Still very much part 
of the family since
January last year
Then I notice I refer to the "London Euphonia Orchestra" as a new orchestra ~ well of course back in 2014 they were new, but now may consider themselves to be reasonably established. I played with them twice before I lost patience with the inexperience of the leader and conductor. This is one of those many musical groups which seem to be founded primarily to give one person the opportunity to conduct. For us conductors I know it can be difficult to get that first gig, but this is not the way to get experience. I remember at the final rehearsal for that first concert with them the leader was still trying to sort out the bowings (something which should have been settled five weeks beforehand) and the conductor hadn't worked out how to set up his stand! I am sure that both will have improved beyond measure by now, but at that point I didn't need to be the one training them!

I'm not so sure about orchestras but I often muse that there are too many concert bands (in South London at least) as there are simply not enough heavy brass (horns, trombones, euphonium and tuba) player to go round them all. I suspect that a large part of this is the number of bands again formed to give somebody a conducting opportunity. In the last couple of years I know I have played in at least four that fall within this category. I suppose I shouldn't complain, after they do give me plenty of playing opportunities!

Not my new Euphonium, 
but one quite similar
Maybe if we had a few less bands then the ones that are left would be full of players and not constantly trying to recruit or poach the few decent players of the more "esoteric" instruments in the area.

Finally, those instruments ~ I do still have that euphonium, but only for a few days, and the big CC has gone, replaced by an even bigger but much less shinny CC. I have bought the replacement for the old euphonium, and have today taken it in for a service and a simple repair before using it in anger. Once I get it back I will be passing the old one on to a friend.

I have also recently bought a new EEb tuba, I have mentioned it before but haven't actually shown any pictures, mostly because I haven't taken any! It is quite an unusual instrument a Besson four valve compensating instrument, but with front valves rather than upright. I have only ever come across one other tuba player using one ~ and I think that was probably a different model. Designed primarily as an Orchestral instrument it works well in bands as much as it does in the orchestra. I'll be honest I think I'm in love with it, it just seems to work well in every environment I play in, and looks as good as it sounds.

I still haven't taken any photos of it so here is a stock photo of the same model ~ isn't it pretty!

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

It's Never Too Late

I'm not actually picking up on the theme from my last post by suggesting that 64 isn't too old to start competitive motor sport, or for buying new instruments ~ because we all know that it isn't! I'm just going with the revelation that it's already the end of February and I'm not sure where those two months have gone. I didn't make any new year's resolutions this year, but that's not an oversight but a conscious decision, I'm simply going to carry on where I left off in 2022, I want to play music, do a bit of gardening, drive fast and go to more concerts I'm not playing in!

Christ's Hospital Band on the march
So far I'm doing pretty well on all of these (apart from driving fast!) on Sunday I went to a concert by the Christ's Hospital wind band ~ for a school's band they are exceptional especially bearing in mind that they are all (almost two full bands) drawn from one school! I first came across them about 50 years ago at the first National Schools Festival of Music. My band of "scruffy Herberts" from Croydon couldn't believe our eyes when they turned up. As I remember it we thought they sounded pretty good, even if to us they did look a bit weird! We did go on to win that Festival, and several others in subsequent years, but that first one was a shock to our collective system, seeing how the "other half" lived, and when it came to it how we could still measure up!

This month I've also managed a few days gardening, yesterday and today I've managed 10 hours, and to be honest I'm knackered!

I've also played a few concerts myself, the other weekend I managed three concert in three days on three different instruments. I think that might be a record even for me!

This photo isn't from one of the "epic three" but from the first of the Croydon Symphonic Band's fiftieth anniversary concerts, this one at the Fairfield Hall.