Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Saturday, 19 January 2019

New Year; New Starts; New...........

I'm feeling rather annoyed, I had drafted most of this post the other day and was just tidying it up when my computer crashed, it appears that I hadn't saved it so now I have to start all over again!

Waiting with my friend "Stripes"
As promised I am looking forward. I'm looking forward to getting back to work ~ it'll still be a while before I will be able to, or will need to be throwing lawn mowers in and out of the back of the van. I'm looking forward to making music, and I'm looking forward to finding out how life feels following my recent surgery. I suspect that it will be both very different and very much the same at the same time.

Prior to actually going into hospital I will now admit to being very worried, both about the sheer scale of the procedure and whether I had made the right decision. I had weighed up my options, taking into account my age, any anticipated future relationships, and what I still hope to get out of life. I felt I had made a rational logical decision, but that didn't stop me worrying.

Also the only surgery I had had before was for peritonitis when my appendix ruptured at the age of eight or nine. I am a total wuss when it comes to these things so the very idea of surgery was more than a little scary.

Typical Hospital food
My wife and daughter came into hospital with me that morning and stayed with me till I got taken down to theatre. I was, and of course am, so grateful for their support and love, especially at what must have been a very difficult time for both of them as well as for me. As usually happens none of the things I was worried about happened, and despite a moment where I thought "OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE" (pardon my shouting) which quickly passed I have to say I am very content with the outcome.

As I know not all of you are interested in the clinical details I will pass over them, and leave it at, I will need more time to recover physically, but it is also taking a bit of time working out where everything is, as some of the nerve ends are now in different places and it is taking a bit of time working it all out. I will observe, however, just how well I was looked after, all the staff were wonderful, and the food was excellent.

It's not really that surprising that between eating rather well, and almost total inactivity, I have put on rather a lot of weight, just over a stone (14 pounds or about 7 Kg) in the last month. Given that I have another 5 weeks to go before I can go back to work it's not going to be easy to shift.

So my first aim for 2019 is to shift that extra weight I've put on.

The next is to deal with my blood pressure problem, It was quite high before but I was just concentrating on being OK for surgery, it was fine all the time I was in hospital, but I will have to keep an eye on it. Indeed I have been called into the local Hospital to have a monitor fitted for a day.

A more enjoyable ambition is to go to more concerts that I'm not playing in. At least I can get off to a good start on that, tonight I will be going to a clarinet recital given by a good friend of mine. Jay is an excellent clarinetist and a fine musician so it should be a very good evening.

Pretty simple, but maybe not too easy.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Almost up to date

My last post I wrote about my travels and my adventures last summer. It really was quite a summer lots sun, a lot of music, a lot of time with friends. Maybe not as much time as I would have liked with family but a high point was the weekend in Amsterdam with my Daughter.

At the beginning of the Summer I went on a short tour with the Croydon Symphonic Band and then towards the end of the summer I had my trip to Amsterdam. Last year for the first time in decades I took out an annual travel insurance. Again for the first time in decades I had a fortnights holiday to come in September. Two weeks in Malta was a bit like a dream coming true.

Valletta, capital of Malta and 2018 European City of Culture
I have a sort of time share there for one week a year, I have carried a week forward for a couple of years so last year we had a whole fortnight. I love Malta, the place, the people, the food, and the architecture. having that extra week meant we could take our time, just chill out in a bar or by the pool as well as making our cultural and tourist trips.

We made some friends there and generally had a great time, we had some wonderful trips including a round the island cruise and a couple to just spend time in Valletta and Medina. With one thing and another we didn't get to Gozo and Xlendi Bay this time, so the plan is to carry forward another week and have a fortnight again in 2020.

Xlendi Bay in Gozo, one of my all time favorite places

A couple of posts back I wrote about my dealings with the GIC (Gender Identity Clinic) it is was only in the last quarter of the year that everything started to go right. Indeed it was while we were on holiday that I got a phone call from Parkside Hospital to tell me they had received a letter of referral from the Clinic ~ 13 weeks after the appointment where I was told I was being referred. It was very refreshing to deal with people with the time and inclination to be helpful. I had my first appointment with them a few weeks later, the second a couple of weeks after that. Indeed exactly ten weeks after that first phone call I was in Parkside hospital preparing to go into theatre for surgery. Just to reiterate that ~ It took Parkside three weeks less to process, explain, examine and operate than it took the GIC to type and send a letter.

It is now only five weeks since that surgery (it will be another six before I go back to work) I feel as though I am making an excellent recovery, I'm still sore but getting better and feeling very happy with the outcome so far. As far as I can see things are just going to get better!

Next time I shall be looking forward!

Monday, 7 January 2019

I'm still looking back

Summer was fabulous, not just the weather that was stunning, but I also had a fabulous, very busy time. I spent most of my working hours wearing shorts and a sun top, I've still got a bit of tan, and even though there were some days when it was simply too hot to work on the whole I loved it. Of course it was very stressful for a lot of plants and many lawns suffered badly. It's no good watering once the drought has started, good roots are needed and that means watering lots not too often throughout the year.

Playing in Parliament Square for Processions
Apart from work I had the usual load of concerts, and activities, taking the lead amongst them this year was playing for WOW Brass for the London Processions

It was a very hot day, and I suspect that I might not have been the only one who started to regret the decision to wear black!  It was wonderful to play brass band music with so many other women, but it also underlined the simple fact that there is still a lot of prejudice in music, especially around which instruments it is suitable for a woman to play. Whilst we had plenty of trombones I was the only Bass Trombone, and for a band of around 80 we could only muster 3 tubas, and they were all EEbs.  There is still a lot of work needed to encourage girls to take up some of the instruments still perceived to be male. Instruments do not have gender they have character, they have sound, and the have roles, these can be male, female, both and neither. ~ On this note on Sunday I will be attending the first WOW Brass Development Day, I may not get to do much playing but I'm still looking forward to it.

With my new friend at Croydon PrideFest
The other big event was Croydon Pride. As I am a trustee and part of the planning committee we had lots of meetings, lots of stress, and lots of work in the lead up to the big event. Croydon Pride is very much a year round organisation with events going on most months, but of course the Pridefest is the big one.

Once again it was a wonderful sunny day, thousands of people turned out and I think everybody had a great time. Of course Pride is not just an excuse for a great party, it is still also a protest, all the time any part of the LGBT+ community is being oppressed we need to stand together and make it clear that it is not acceptable. At the moment it seems to be Trans Women who are most under attack (for any number of reasons Trans Men are not being singled out for the same levels of abuse). I have been trying not to dwell on this too much here as plenty of others are much more engaged than I am, but, when we get regular abuse in National Newspapers, Radio, TV, and Parliament it is difficult not feel picked upon. I hope that 2019 will be better, but in all honesty I don't expect it.

At Amsterdam Pride with my Daughter, 
the coolest person in the City
Croydon was not my only Pride, I marched in Pride in London (so I wasn't aware of the furore at the front until the next day), I marched in Trans Pride Brighton, and I was on the shore watching Amsterdam Pride ~ I think I have written pretty extensively about all of these at some point here so won't go on too much about them now, each was fabulous in their own way.

Amsterdam was a great trip with the fabulous London Gay Symphony Orchestra we played a great concert, we enjoyed the parade (on the canals!) we laughed so much we cried, we also discovered that Amsterdam is maybe not quite as inclusive as we thought, it was very much a Gay Pride and since neither my Daughter or I consider ourselves to be white gay men we felt a little left out and withdrew to our hotel.

To my shame I got to very few concerts I wasn't playing in, but outstanding amongst the ones I did get to was seeing "The Sweet" playing in Oxted. I loved them in the 70s and I still do!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Still looking back

In my last post I was looking back at the first part of last year, somehow my work diary tells me that I was not very busy, and I didn't have much in the way of gigs, but since I still have unwatched films I recorded in January 2018 (I know I watched a couple yesterday!). By the time March came round normal service was resumed as the sun came out and I played concerts with orchestras, wind bands, brass bands and jazz bands, indeed in total I think I played in six performances, there was also a Croydon Pride event, several meetings, the Transgender Day of Visibility; and of course WOW

What there was not in March was an appointment with the GIC (Gender Identity Clinic). Looking back I see that I have been under them since December 2014 but it was only late in 2017 that I finally made a decision concerning the surgical options that were being offered to me.   Right from the beginning of my transition I have been determined to only address the next question, so at first the question was whether to transition at all, then to be full time or just on occasion, later it would be about seeking medical help, hormones, name changes, degree of visibility etc. I had always thought that I would not opt for surgery at all. To be honest I am a bit of a wuss! my identity has never been centered around my genitals, and I'm not anticipating any sort physical / romantic attachment.

Until then I had given myself three options, Yes, No, and Not Now, I had been firmly going for the not now. I was worried about the intrusive nature of surgery, the possible complications, the amount of time off work and the life long maintenance. On the other hand I was not entirely sure about the benefits so on my Cost/Benefit analysis the costs outweighed the benefits. At some point during 2017 I became aware of the variety of surgical options available, and one of those options became slightly more attractive.   The more I thought about it the more convinced I became that this is what I wanted. So in September I had my first surgical assessment and the good doctor was very happy to put me forward for surgery. The protocol dictates that we need two referrals for surgery so an appointment was made with another Doctor for my second assessment. This second assessment should be within 6 months of the first, so I was given an appointment on the 31st May!

I won't go into all of the details but 6 letters, seven dates and innumerable phone calls I eventually saw my second doctor on the 13th June, not within six months, indeed not quite within 10 months.  Some of the alternative dates I was given would have taken it over a year and then I would have had to start all over again.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Looking Back

It's that time of year when we look back at the year that has just passed, and forward to the year that's just started. Even though I have been considerably absent from here for the last few months I seem to have quite a bit of time on my hands at the moment so I thought I would do it anyway.

At some point over the next few posts I will probably explain why I have time on my hands, but lets start at the beginning. January 2018 feels like a very long time ago now, well it is a whole year, checking in my diary I see that in January I played in exactly zero formal concerts, but I did manage a couple of informal gigs, one with the Jazz/Blues band I play electric bass in and one as a guest with a local wind band. I still did quite a lot of playing with open rehearsals, play days and regular rehearsal. January is generally one of my quietest work months so in 2018 like most years I devoted quite a lot of time to seeing friends, family and recovering from Christmas. I also managed to go to a pantomime a friend of mine was acting in. Looking back on my post of exactly one year ago I was clearly on a bit of a downer but getting over it. A couple of days letter I was complaining here about the treatment Trans Women had been getting in the press over the previous year. I can't say that it got better in 2018, indeed it got a lot worse, as a community we felt under constant attack, and that took it's toll on all of us.

By the 9th I was writing about my Brass Band, Croydon Band, and the exciting plans we had for the year ahead, well I have to say that at least some of those plans worked out very well. We had some great fun playing we ran some brilliant workshop days and managed to recruit some extra players along the way. We may not yet be quite a full band, but we are bigger than we were, and on Monday we move into a new rehearsal venue that will take up right into the heart of the local artistic community.

A lot of the next couple of months was taken up by Lent and Easter, concerts with Orchestras, Brass Bands, Wind Bands and Cross The Line, the Jazz/Blues Band I'm part of. There was of course one of the highlights of my year WOW, playing for the WOW Festival Orchestra is very special to me, and I really, really hope that I'll be needed again. I fear that as more and more young women are beginning to take up heavy brass playing I may well very soon be surplus to requirements.

Friday, 26 October 2018


Even when I'm not writing apparently I still get views, and messages. I recently received a message from one reader asking me to share a page they had written on safeguarding LGBT people. I'm sure it is a very valuable resource, but the link sent to me doesn't work!

Life goes on and is predictably busy, I have no less enthusiasm for writing than I have ever had, I just have had other priorities recently, I suspect that as the Autumn draws in, and the daylight hours decline I may just have a little more time, and may get back into blogging.

In the mean time please be assured that everything here carries on as usual, as the late great Glynn Vernon once said "I have two problems, not enough money and not enough sex"

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
and Here

Thursday, 16 August 2018


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.