Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Friday, 21 January 2022

Is this acceptable?

I had a little breakthrough the other day, I went and watched a rugby match at my old club, and I really enjoyed the game. It must be the best part of 20 years since I last went and watched them, it's been on my to do list for a few years but events always seemed to conspire to prevent it. Now I've broken my duck I will be going back, in a couple of weeks they have another league match so I'll go up for that, and maybe see some old friends (and by now they will be old!)

Kyle Sinkler, England Prop
Thinking of rugby it tends to be the major point of discussion when I meet up with my Brother, we both played for the same school, club and often team, so there's a lot of common ground there. A few weeks ago we were musing around historic racist comments by high profile sports people, and looked back on our own past. When I first left school and joined the club I think we only had one black member, he was a good player and seemed to enjoy the "Banter" of an all male beery club environment, we all knew him by a racist nickname, and used it, to his face. I am quite sure that much of the "banter" was of a racist nature as well. As we thought about this we agreed that we were both sorry that we behaved in this way, we agreed that we definitely would not now, we agreed that we would not have and still do not perceive ourselves as racists, yet we had behaved in a racist manner. Should we be punished or called out for our behaviour 45 years ago? 

Maro Itoji
Just a few years after this, the same club, the same people, but we now had five or six black members, and the times had shifted, it no longer occurred to anyone that the sort of behaviour that was normal in the 70s would be acceptable in the 80s, which begs the question, why do some leading sports people still think that this might be acceptable in the 21st century?

I suppose that because it doesn't impact on my life I tend not to think much about racism, I probably think more about transphobia and misogyny, yet racism is still an evil that penetrates all aspects of life, Sophia has just written about racism amongst trans activists. I know of racism in the world of brass bands and orchestras. I recently listened to an excellent documentary on BBC Radio 4 about racism in Yorkshire County Cricket Club. We hear about racism in football, in tennis and I'm sure it is endemic in other sports as well.

Courtney Lawes
Sport is a reflection of the society we live in, which makes me think that so must be the racism, does it pervade every aspect of society? is it worse than it was? or are we now more aware and less tolerant of prejudice?

Certainly overt racism is no longer socially acceptable the way it was in the 60s and 70s, I no longer see racist comedy on the television, I see people of colour in positions of authority, in politics, in the media, actors and sports people, yet I still hear about use of racist slurs, casual racism as well as the sheer hate of the "other" as exemplified by the far right white supremacists. But is that a reflection of how people think or just of what they say. We still have the far right, they shout loud, but who are they speaking for, what sort of a following do they have? Just how big a problem is this?

More questions than answers I'm afraid.

I've used photos of three of England's finest rugby players of colour partly because they are all easy on the eye, partly because they are excellent examples to young men growing up, and party because the six nations is coming up and I will be writing about it soon!

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Well that went well!

A Tuba

The other day I was walking round to my car, when I heard some nice bass playing coming from one of the houses, I stopped, I listened, I thought. Sounds like a tuba to me! so what are the chances of two proficient tuba players living on the same block? I plucked up my courage and knocked at the door, I young man answered, looked at me quizzically as I tried to explain that I'm not mad, but had heard someone practising. Turns out it wasn't a tuba at all, but an electric bass ~ since I play both you'd think I could tell the difference.

An Electric Bass

A couple of times I have been congratulated on my imitation of an electric on tuba, but never the other way round! My excuse is that somehow the sound felt "organic" rather than electronic, either way he was pretty good.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Time to get angry!

 Wealth of world's 10 richest men doubled in pandemic, Oxfam says - BBC News

If this article on the BBC website doesn't make you angry, upset, or simply incredulous then I'm sorry to say it but there's something wrong with you! The inequalities highlighted are incredible, that even while the World is suffering and struggling wealth simply attracts wealth, power attracts power, while almost everybody else gets poorer.

But, I will admit that the first thing that struck me when I first saw the head line was that they're all men!

There are so many inequalities, between the global south and the global north, then between groups in each of those, men and women, black and white, but mostly between the rich and the poor. We often get upset by the oppression of the minority group we feel we most closely identify with, so a white woman may consider herself a feminist oppressed by men, while happily ignoring the racist oppression of her black sister. Yet, it is money that gives power, it is money that allows oppression, and all that money seems to still be concentrated in the hands of cis gendered straight white men. This doesn't mean that all cis gendered straight white men are rich oppressors, not be any means, but it does mean that for any one who isn't cis, white straight and male life is a little harder ~ or a LOT harder.

I don't want anyone to think that this is yet another attack on Cis, Straight, White, Men there are all too many in this country and others who fall into this category yet are in poverty, are struggling to work out how they fit into modern society, who struggle through education, who struggle through lack of economic opportunity, whose very life is a constant struggle. They are just as much part of the oppression by the rich as every other group.

Yes, of course we need to address all of these individual inequalities, certainly we need to address racism, homophobia, misogyny, islamophobia, anti Semitism etc. etc. etc.  and Yes we need to stop poisoning our planet, we need to find new sources of power, we need to find sustainable ways of reducing and disposing of our waste, but most of all we need to be looking at the big picture, the big picture highlighted by this simple illustration of inequality.

The rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor, they are concentrating more and more power in their own hands disenfranchising the poor. This is happening across the World, it is happening in every Country, in every City and every community. It's time to ask ourselves what sort of a World we want to live in, what sort of a World we want our children to grow up in. Those of us who get the chance to vote, when we have the opportunity do we vote to improve our own lives or the lives of the most vulnerable in our society, do we vote for our own tribe (as embodied by a political party) or for the good of the Nation? do we vote from prejudice or on the policies presented? It's time we realised that the vast majority of the World has a common enemy, economists, political thinkers and religious leaders have been telling us this for millennia, the rich are not our protectors, they are our oppressors! ~ and it's getting worse.

While I am thinking about getting angry the more eagle eyed amongst you might have noticed a new "Friend I like to Visit" on the left, I have linked to the blog of my friend Sophia. Unlike Paula's Place her blog tends to concentrate much more on politics, and politics as they impact on Trans People. I don't always agree with her, her style is very different to my own, but she is always well informed and insightful.

No photos, no cartoons ~ it's just not funny

Friday, 14 January 2022


 I recently wrote a post about Pioneers, siting the late April Ashley and Roberta Cowell, indeed I have been writing a lot more these last couple of weeks than I have for some time. I suppose part of that is simply that at this rather dead time of year work wise I simply have more time to write, and let's be honest I do rather enjoy writing. 

But I had fallen into the, "I'll just do something every now and then when I feel like" state of mind. Now a daily blog like Femulate or Cyrsti's Condo is a big commitment and not one I am prepared to make. But it has been brought to my attention that our blogs can be useful, not just some form of self serving self publicity. At the end of last year I got this message from a reader

I have read through your blog in chronological order. As this seemed the best way to understand your journey. I have wanted to message you before, but wanted to understand where you have reached before I thanked you or commented on something that may have been years out of date. 

I had wanted to send you support and best wishes at numerous stages of your journey, it was strange to realise that so much would have changed since a post was made. I have just come to the last post you made. Your range of post topics, openness and journey have helped me think and realise that I am not alone. Your music, friends, family, work and religion have shown me how balance and people are so important. I came to your blog in November after coming out to my wife, in October. She has been so supportive and understanding. Your blog has helped me to understand my depression and the weight is starting to leave my shoulders and my depression doesn't win everyday. I am finally allowing myself to look into my true inner self that I have been hiding for almost 50 years. Reading your blog has been so helpful. Hearing your experiences has made me understand so much more of myself. I wish you well with your life and future plans. I understand that you may not blog much now, but please know that your actions and posts mean so much to me.

This means so much to me, it makes me realise that I am not shouting at the wind, it has also served to inspire me to write more as I realise that simply by living an authentic life and recounting bits of it we can still inspire and make the path smoother.

Monday, 10 January 2022

New Toy

Again, I started writing this post some time last year at some point during a lock down, and never quite got around to completing it. Since then it has been sitting in the "Drafts" box waiting for some love. As I seem to be on a bit of a roll posting wise, at least until I go back to work tomorrow, I thought maybe it's time for completion. The new bits are in italics.

Some of my friends seem to think I have developed a dangerous habit of acquiring instruments, personally I don't think I have that many, and anyway the phrase "Too many instruments" is in my books an oxymoron.

Rehearsing for a Trombone Quartet
I have had my beloved Yamaha Bass Trombone (Precious) for about 30 years now, in some ways I feel as though I should be thinking about a replacement, but it is possibly the best instrument in my collection, and a replacement would be excessively expensive ~ maybe that could be an aim for a retirement present. 

Then I have my two tubas, a vintage Besson New Standard EEb which I have customised to make it a bit quieter and easier to play. Known as Baby (short for Baby Besson) as it is a bit smaller than a contemporary EEb I love this instrument, although she is now a bit bruised there are some pieces that she's just perfect for. 

Big Shiny
Until recently my Conn CC was known as "New Toy" but since I've had her for over ten years she is now known as "Big Shiny" For the last few years this has been my prime instrument for both orchestra and concert band, she has a big sound, looks great and I find the rotary valve tubas easier on my back than upright ones. The down side is that she's not really a professional standard instrument, this shows in the quality and thickness of the brass, the outcome is that as well as a few intonation problems, she dents way to easily, and if I really give her "the beans" the sound will "crack".

That's the serious selection, then come the toys! Not really toys but the ones I really can't claim any great level of proficiency on. I have been messing about with Bass Guitars for a few years now without gaining much in the way of ability, maybe there's something in that old adage about old dogs and new tricks. Last year I got given the best birthday present! A lovely sexy black five string Ibanez electric bass. I was gradually getting better, but find it difficult to practise on my own so my progress has stalled.

Partly because I have been having so much trouble getting used to five strings, I have now acquired a black four string Ibanez as well. It is lighter, slightly shorter scale and takes lighter gauge strings ~ all this adds up to much easier to play, but not as full a sound. I have gigged on both and can see the strengths of both, so I think they are both "keepers".

Then there is the Euphonium, an old unlacquered Besson Westminster, I know how to play the Euphonium, and I do have one ~ that does not make me a euphonium player! It is not just about proficiency on the instrument, I feel it is also a state of mind. I like to hide at the back playing a supporting role, otherwise I will have my back to the audience when I'm performing. I suspect euphonium players need to be a bit more of a show off. They are great solo instruments and get all the best bits in both Brass and Wind Bands. It's great fun every now and then, but I would never neglect my Basses in favour of euphonium ~ that means my scruffy but serviceable old Besson is quite good enough for anything I'm going to do.

I always maintain I do not play Tenor Trombone, so why do I have one? Well in theory I am just looking after it for the Croydon Brass Band, It's a fairly old but very nice Yamaha Bb and F (in the Conn 88H copper bell style) It is very nice, and I do play it every now and then, usually in an orchestra where the part is more 3rd tenor than proper bass. I also have a pBone, you know, just for shits and giggles.

After this lot it just gets silly, I don't really know why I have a Cornet, a Violin, a recorder and various bits of percussion, they just seem to turn up.

Too many? no! That's why I'm a very happy bunny to have just welcomed into the family a lovely big five valve B & S CC, and can I just point out that this is no "Toy", and that it is Big and it is Clever!

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Starting How I mean to continue

2022 has got to be better than 2021 surely, last year here in the UK we started with a lock down, no communal activities at all, certainly no communal music making, and I really missed it! 

We simply don't know what this year has got in stall for us, so I'm not making any resolutions I might not be able to keep, instead I am giving myself some new year "Graces", I'm going to try to be good to myself.

I know I enjoy a bit of exercise, so I will take some ~ when I can. I will devote some time to friends, I will also devote some time to myself ~ both are important.

I will carry on my work with Croydon Pride, after an hiatus of two years caused by the pandemic we will be back in July 2022, maybe not bigger and better, but still essentially Croydon, still free admission, and still fabulous.

But most of all for me, I want 2022 to be a year of music! I want to play music, I want to listen to music, I want to write music, and I want to support up and coming local talent!

To mark just how I feel about this I started 2022 as I mean to continue, on the first of January I braved the cold and public transport to travel up to London to play for the London New Year's Day Parade (well actually a non parade as it was a static event between The Mall and Pall Mall) to play with the "City of London Brass Band". This was pretty much a scratch band, I don't think I had ever even met any of the others, we had certainly never played together as a band before. There was no rehearsal just straight in and perform, admittedly to a small live audience of a few hundred, but also to a live stream of millions!

This is what I want my music making to be in 2022, fresh, brave, and exciting!

I'm playing my unique EEb tuba "Baby" a vintage Besson New Standard customised to my personal preferences.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Are We Nearly There Yet

Inspired by an almost throw away comment on Yet Another TransGender Blog (YATGB) about the need of a cross dresser to be seen I have been thinking about why I need to be affirmed by others. How I have changed over the last few years, and how that has been reflected in the blog. Just the other day I was musing on how few selfies I now take, and certainly how few I now share compared to when both Paula and Paula's Place were young.

For many years my cross dressing was a furtive thing, back in the days when the World experienced me as a man, I felt I needed to hide, to deny, to be secretive. My dressing would be limited to when I was at home alone, or occasionally furtive late night expeditions at remote or unfrequented locations, regardless of just how dangerous this actually was. I was more afraid of ridicule than I was of assault!

Giving the World every chance
But it was always hard to repress the urge to go out, to display my finery to the world, to let others gaze upon my fabulousness!

I think that perhaps the key is in that phrase "The World experienced me as..." I wanted the World to experience me as a woman, I still do. Not as a trans woman, nor as a cross dresser, but simply as a woman. To that end I needed to go out to be seen in the World, to perform, to shop, to socialise that way, and only in that way could the World experience me. Now it will be no surprise to any one who knows me that I can be a bit of a show off, I'm not shy of a photo opportunity, neither will I let the chance of getting up on a platform and talking pass me by, so I gave the World every opportunity going to get the full experience!

These days I'm still not shy, but I realised the other day that I mostly live the life of a heterosexual lady of a certain age and background, for the way most people interact with me, and most of my activities that is simply who I am, and how the World now experiences me. My trans history is largely irrelevant,

To a certain extent I no longer need the affirmation of my gender from others as much as I used to. Now I am much more settled in my gender identity, I no longer get my sense of identity from my perceived gender, these days I get my sense of self, of identity more from other aspects of self. From my music, my composition, my work, my relationships. And, this is just as much a part of my transition (or maybe more) as hormones, surgery, or clothing choices. I'm not at all sure that my transition will ever be completed (simply too much baggage) but these psychological changes actually seem to me to be largely the object of it.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

I Did It My Way

 I started writing this post way back in January last year (2021) it feels as though not a lot has changed since then, but of course in fact we are in a much better position, a year ago we were locked in, all activities, music, sport, and socialising were all closed down, and worse we couldn't see an end. Now we have vaccines, as a population we are building immunity, we can now look forward to a world where we can live with Covid, and live life as we choose! The 2021 bit is in italics.

 Looking at the heading of this Blog I see the strap line says something about the "Experiences and Adventures" well like everyone else I certainly haven't had too many adventures recently and little in the way of new experiences either. My last few posts have been much more personal musings rather than relating adventures! 

Looking further back I see that I have related quite a lot about my work in gardens, shared a lot of information about concerts, going shopping, holidays, photo shoots, a few jokes, and even trips to the dentist! Certainly a lot has changed, with me and the World at large since I first started up Paula's Place way back in 2011 Back then I was just breaking out of the closet, and it would seem that I was quite obsessed with clothes, and shoes! In those days I was certainly self identifying as a cross dresser, it would be another few years before I fully accepted myself as a transgender woman. Along the way I have shared some of my coming out experiences

In all there have been over 1,700 posts (now 1751) , over 650,000 (now over 720,000) page views as I have monitored my transition, my relationships, Paula's Place has been my confidant, an outlet for self expression and of course a way of keeping in contact with friends I can't meet up with; and there we have my main reason for trying to reenergise the Blog, at this time when we simply cannot meet up with friends and family we all have to have other ways of keeping in touch. This is my way!

It has been a strange year, but at least I have actually managed a few adventures, and have certainly had a few experiences. It is both a joy and a source of amazement to me that I can still have new experiences at my age, that there is still so much music I haven't played or heard, so many places I haven't been and so many people I haven't met.

I'm still discovering new ensembles and new instruments ~ my latest project is to write for a Bass Clarinet quartet, and my latest favorite instrument I don't play is the Bass Saxophone

This is "Sexilicious Get The Gas On" by Loud Noises

This is my new favorite band, I love the way the bass sax sits at the bottom driving the whole thing, they are truly excellent, I now want to hear them play live so much I may just have to hire them myself!

Monday, 3 January 2022

I'm a Tuba Player, you know?

The tuba has always been a but for jokes, the size, unwieldiness and sound just lends itself to humour. When I first said at school that I wanted to play the tuba the teachers thought I was having a joke, and tried to dissuade me, but I had already fallen in love, with the sound and the look of it!

By now I've sort of got used to being asked if I wished I'd taken up the flute, and people observing that it is a big trumpet, it never ceases to amaze me that people think they're original!

But, as a player of this finest of all instruments I feel some justification in telling tuba jokes, so here are a few of my favorites.

What do you say to a tuba player with a job? ~ Big Mac and fries please

How many tuba players does it take to replace a light bulb? ~ Three, one to hold the bulb, two to drink till the room revolves

How do you fix a broken tuba? ~ with a tuba glue

"Did you hear my last tuba recital?" ~ "I hope so!"

How many tuba players does it take to replace a light bulb? ~ None, we don't go that high

A school boy decides he wants to play tuba and his parents find a private teacher who hosts hour-long lessons at his house. The first day, after the lesson, he tells his parents "I learned how to play the note Bb today!". The second day, the same thing happens but the boy had learned to play an F. The third day he doesn't come home. The parents wait until an hour after he was supposed to be back and call the teacher, asking where the kid is. The teacher replies "He's at his first gig".

Two tuba players sitting in a car, Who's driving? ~ the policeman!

Definition of an optimist ~ A tuba player with a mortgage

And finally my all time favourite, a friend (and fellow tuba player) was conducting his final concert with a band just after my transition, he had asked me in to dep on tuba. To fill in a little time he asked the audience;~

"How many tuba players does it take to replace a light bulb?" ~ "None, real men aren't afraid of the dark!"

He turned back to the band to be greeted by a sea of open mouthed incredulity, he couldn't work out why "What?"

Sunday, 2 January 2022


 The recent death of April Ashley will have had some impact on many of us within the Trans community, I never met her, although I understand we have used the same electrolosist, but she still had a big impact on my life. I won't write about her life, or her impact on the community, as the BBC have already done that better than I could here. 

April Ashley
I remember hearing about her in the 60s, I think she was the first trans person I ever heard about, it certainly had a big impact on me. What she did made me realise that such things could be done, it wasn't just fantasy, yet it also seemed so remote from my suburban life, certainly the comments I heard from family, friends, and the media made it clear that such things were not for the likes of me. She was portrayed as a freak, a pervert and very much an exception. Where she should have been celebrated as a role model and pioneer she was decried as subversive. Yet because of her we knew! Even as I grew up and became increasingly socialised as a man learning to hide y femininity, I cherished the knowledge of April and others like her and hugged it to my breast.

Roberta Cowell, race driver!

Later I heard about Roberta Cowell another pioneer, and for me a local as well! Like April Ashley her life wasn't easy, but again she had done what she needed to do, and through her celebrity made us realise what could be done. That we had an alternative. 

Most of us may not aspire to be photographed by Vogue or to race single seater race cars, but the profile of pioneers like these two made us all realise what could be done, where they led it made it easier for others to follow. Just knowing that pioneers had already travelled the path made it easier for others to follow.

Being shy and retiring, but visible!
Under the current climate pioneers are still important, there are at least two families I have known for many years, many years before my transition, where one of their children has had to come out as trans, that they knew me has eased the path for those families ~ if nothing else they knew what being trans meant! 

Last year was the first year for many that I didn't mark TDOR with a ceremony, I'm not sure if I will again, but I do know I will continue to mark Trans Day Of Visibility, I will continue to perform, I will continue to be active, so people can look at me and think "well if she can anyone can!" As social pressures change, as access to medical support gets ever worse, I think it is ever more important that we help show the way, often just by being, by quietly getting on with our lives, showing that it is possible to be trans and live a normal life.