Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday 5 October 2023

I Can't Stand Much More Of This

Over on her "Condo" my friend Cyrsti has been writing a bit about what it means to be trans, this sort of makes a nice change from the crossdresser blog post of  "I had a lovely day out dressed as...." or the many blog posts about the process of transition. I know they all have their place and can be interesting ~ or at least I hope they do as I've written enough of them myself over the years. I suppose this is a reflection of how feel now that my transition is more or less done with (I'm not sure that it will ever be complete!). Back in August 2011 when I first started Paula's Place it is was somewhere for me to relate those early experiences of going out, it quickly became the medium for my musing on gender, in many ways a friend I could talk to about the things I couldn't talk to others about. So yes I have written more than my fair share of post about what clothes I wear, the various processes of transition, coming out and of course going out!

More recently I had been writing more and more about things that interest me, Politics, Music, Gardening etc. Being trans does have an impact of some sort on pretty much everything I do, it changes my point of view having experiences as both male and female, it changes my accessibility and of course it can change the attitude of others towards me. With everything else going on in my life I just sort of got out of the habit of writing about things, instead I have been doing them.

Lots of music, a little gardening, and rather excitingly some motor sport! Of course I'm still interested in everything I have ever been, I've just not felt inspired to write much for the last few months, but something has changed.

Here in the UK our current governing Party has just held it's annual conference, we've had speeches from all the leading members, and the uniting factor amongst them all is full engagement in culture wars. We've had xenophobia from our home secretary and foreign secretary, we've had class hate from a former prime minister and transphobia and mendacity from all of them, including the current Prime Minister and Health Secretary. As long as this Government is in power no trans person in the UK can expect fair treatment. The PM has denied our very existence, and the Health Secretary has proposed that we should not be treated by the NHS as being our true gender. Over the last few years there has been a steady ramping up of the anti trans rhetoric, I have often said that it is just a very small but very vocal minority of haters ~ but as the Government itself has taken a transphobic stance it has given legitimacy to the bigots.

I'm not hearing any of our leading opposition politicians calling out the bigotry, and that lends it even more credence. The only dissenting voice I heard at the Conservative Party Conference was one gay, party member tried to call out Suella Braverman's transphobia as she tried to challenge such concepts as "trans ideology" and "White Privilege". Like most people most of my friends will share many of my views and opinions, as I go about my day to day business I am met with very little transphobia, but I can't help but notice that it has increased over the last few years. Maybe not to an everyday occurrence, but it has increased. Not so much the casual mistake, but the deliberate hateful comment ~ mercifully so far not for me the physical attack we all fear, and some experience.  We all fear because the chances of this happening to anyone of us is increasing all the time. Today we have had the latest annual hate crime figures released, over the last year hate crime overall has reduced ~ largely because of the way the figures are collected which will exclude the more minor instances ~ but even so the figures for hate crimes against Transgender people has increased by 11%

I lay the responsibility for this firmly at the feet of our Government. Their rhetoric legitimises the bigots and allows them to feel justified in their actions. When Government Ministers equate trans people with sex offenders then no surprise that we get attacked. When the PM denies the legitimacy of our existence then no wonder we are abused. Sure the words hurt, but the actions that those words lead to injure!

As Lawrence Fox and his chums are realising at the moment, while we may have freedom to express our views, there are consequences to what we say. Sometimes those consequences are for the speaker, like Lozer you could lose your job, sometimes like Graham Lineham people just stop hiring you ~ but often it is others, the people attacked words who end up suffering the consequences as they are physically attacked as well! I hope and trust that this is just a "moment in time" and that it "too will pass". I hope and trust that in the future we will look back on the 2020s transphobia as we now look back on the 1980s homophobia with incredulity and disgust, but while we are having to live through it, well, it's tough.

I needed to rant, to express how dreadful I think this Government are, to vent my frustration, and this is my medium. Now I have written again maybe I will be back with some more enjoyable news, but for now, if you have been, thank you for reading!

Thursday 13 April 2023

Manchester Gold!

This weekend I will be travelling again ~ I seem to have been doing quite a bit of that recently with a trip to Paris a few weeks ago, then after that a trip up to Lincolnshire to see my good friend P. I don't think I've seen her since she retired and moved. Although I think her husband may have got a bit fed up with our constant natter it did make me realise just how much I had missed our chats and our lunches! It also made me realise just how far I have come over the last few years.

But getting back to my upcoming trip to Manchester, this is a very different type of excursion, I will be traveling with my band ~ Croydon Symphonic Band ~ to play in the finals of the National Concert Band Festival. This will be our tenth appearance at the finals (which are by invitation), of course just being there feels pretty prestigious, but in many ways the level of award says even more. So far we have received (I think) at least six awards at Gold or higher standard, so in some ways getting anything less could be seen as failure! One aspect of being a community band is that we are non-selective, and in the case of CSB whoever turns up plays ~ this means that we rarely have a stable band for even an entire season, the instrumental balance is more down to demographics than musicality, and we never know what standard we are going to be at, all this makes the job of our Musical Director rather challenging and must add to his stress levels. It certainly says a lot for his abilities and his musicality that we have been able to play at such a consistently high standard for so long.

With Big Shiny after playing
at the 2015 finals
As well as a musical challenge the weekend should be a lot of fun. The plan is to travel together by coach, all stay in the same hotel and eat dinner together before some free time to find a suitable local hostelry. Sunday will be devoted to music and the return journey. I'm really looking forward to spending more than a couple of hours with my band friends, it's on trips like these that we build on our relationships, and it's those relationships that make bands work well together.

Another reason why I am so keen to enjoy this trip is that if our Government follow through with the changes to the Equalities Act that were telegraphed last week, and which I wrote about here this could well be my last chance to enjoy this sort of thing legally. Given that the journey is likely to take about 5 hours, there's no way that I could go that long without a "comfort break", these proposed changes would make that unviable, I would be breaking the law if I used the "Ladies" and it wouldn't be safe to use the "Gents". With no guarantee of there being any provision of a gender a neutral facility  I simply would not be able to make the journey.

Then of course I don't know what provisions are made at the hall. Many venues provide separate men's and women's changing rooms, it would be illegal for me to use the women's changing room, instead I would be expected to use the men's ~ fine, unless anyone, including me, needs to use them as a changing room! I would be put in this type of invidious situation every time I left home regardless of having obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate and had Gender Confirmation Surgery!

So, if you haven't already, please sign this petition, with over 130,000 signatures the Government is already obliged to hold a debate, but the more signatures we can get, the more support that can be demonstrated for trans people the better ~ the more we can move trans rights away from being a debate!

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Yet another attack

I'll be honest, I'm getting tired of all this! When I read this article on the BBC website earlier (Wednesday 5th April 2023) I just wanted to leave this God forsaken Country and move somewhere civilised Law change could aid single-sex spaces - watchdog - BBC News

Whilst I can understand that this, like so many other stunts by the Government is all about deflecting attention away from their appalling record in just about every field, it does nothing to make it any the less bad. This is quite simply an attack on my right to exist! It is appalling that the EHRC and our own Government, the very people who are charged with protecting our safety are deliberately putting many of us at risk. ~ It is irrelevant that this will never be able to be operated even if it is enacted. Let me explain, if I have to go into hospital for some treatment that will involve an other night stay ~ I am admitted as a woman, my NHS records show me as a woman, my birth certificate shows me as a woman, a cursory medical examination will show me to be a woman. On what grounds is anyone going to be able to come to the conclusion that I should be put in a men's ward? Are all women to be subject to an internal gynaecological examination before having dental work done, or a broken arm reset? Who is going to make the call? what is going to happen to gender nonconforming cis women? Are we going to force trans men into women's spaces?

Clearly none of this has been thought out, but it does stoke the fires of the worst type of culture war, When I went out this morning and popped into my local shop I was confronted with headlines in all of the daily papers on display telling the world that I am not a woman and should not be treated like one ~ this feeds hate, anger and probably violence. We have already had one trans woman murdered and several others attacked in the UK this year ~ these are the people the Equalities Act is meant to protect but this crazy idea is designed to put them at increased risk. How many people have to be murdered, hurt, discriminated against before an Equalities Minister will do their job and stand up to protect us, the most reviled of minorities?

It feels deliberate, it feels like a concerted war, and it's not just feelings this sort of thing does have consequences, real life consequences for real life people. 

We know that this Government is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced, clearly the EHRC is now in the same position. We need leaders who will take a moral stand and will lead, we need an equalities minister who stands up for equality and we need an EHRC that believes in Human Rights and equality.

Yes I'm angry and that seems to be happening all too often recently, but can you blame me when my own Government is attacking my very right to exist within society?

There's not much I can do, I can write to my MP, but last time I did that Steve Reed didn't even bother to reply ~ he'll just toe the Labour Party line anyway, so pretty much the only other thing I can do is sign a petition, so I have, and I ask all of you to as well! If we can get to 100,000 signatures it will force a parliamentary debate ~ maybe then somebody will choose to make a stand.

Commit to not amending the Equality Act's definition of sex - Petitions (

On January the 25th the Government responded to it with

This Government believes in individual liberty. There are processes with appropriate checks to allow for those who wish to legally change their gender. Changes to the Equality Act are not necessary.

I wonder what has happened since then to make them change their mind ~ I know that the article and the statements are all stuffed full of anti trans lobbyist dog whistles, I know that  Kemi Badenoch and Baroness Faulkner are well established leading trans haters, but surely there must be some grown ups somewhere explaining to them the meaning of the word "equality" and that Human Rights are immutable and universal!

Friday 31 March 2023

I did a thing!

Today is the International Day of Transgender Visibility, so I think this is a good day to be honest. The last couple of months I have been struggling, for no apparent reason. I have been struggling to get up in the morning to do many of the simple things that we have to do just to get through life, washing up, laundry, house work, simple checks on finance etc. In consequence I have found myself in a bit of a mess. This by no means the first time I've been like this so I always used to think that I might be bipolar, but during this period I have had a few concerts, a trip to Paris and have completed a couple of my best arrangements yet.

I now think that I may be ADHD and that my "downs" are an aspect of that rather than full blown depression. Either way it is part of me and something I just have to deal with. It is nothing to do with my being trans, but it may well be something to do with my being a musician ~ I do seem to know a lot of musicians who are neuro diverse in one way or another.

One thing that always makes me "pull my socks up" and get on with life is performing. As one of life's natural show offs performing ~ being the centre of attention ~ is one of my big driving forces. Last night I had a performance, another go at Stand Up. I didn't feel very well prepared, I didn't manage to use many of the gags I had prepared but did use some I hadn't prepared. I'm not at all sure that my pacing was right, the delivery was certainly a bit laboured.

The concept was that I was meant to be the Easter Bunny, getting old, and worried because I had all my eggs in one basket. Maybe not my best, but I think I got away with it. But this morning I got up OK, have done a few things and am feeling as though I have more energy than I've had for ages. So for me maybe laughter really is the best medicine.

Video credit to Merlin Golder

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.