Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Monday, 28 July 2014

Not a Lot

Well as I suggested in yesterday's post I decided that it was just not fare on the rest of society to keep so much gorgeousness hidden at home, so after a light lunch I popped up the road to visit my favorite hostelry.   Sunday afternoons at the Grape and Grain are graced with some pretty cool Jazz, and it is always popular, what I had forgotten is that is also often graced with the presence of my brother and his friend having a Sunday Lunchtime pint or six.

To their credit after a small sign of initial surprise both of them behaved immaculately, and I had very pleasant hour or two.   And, this seems to be a bit of theme that is developing.   For me going out is now normal behaviour, and for just about everybody I come into contact with it is also just normal.   Putting on a dress and going to the pub, or shopping, a rehearsal or whatever is now just how I am living my life.   In a way I miss the excitement, the feeling of risk when going out, but on the other hand I am so much more content with my life now, authentically expressing how I feel.   Interestingly I find that I am beginning to feel more uncomfortable on the odd occasions when I butch up and present exclusively male.

I was meant to be doing this the other evening when I went to meet a friend for a couple of pints and then dinner.   As his son had friends round he did ask that I went as "him", it was a hot night so this still meant jeans and a tee shirt (as that is virtually all I have they were fem ones) indeed it was so hot that I had also abandoned the very idea of socks.   It was only when I arrived that I realised I still had my pink nail polish on.   It was too late to worry about that so I went into the Pub.

My friend was already there with a couple of his neighbours I had met before, the wife is also a gardener so we always have a lot to talk about, at one point I heard her husband say to my friend, "oh come on we'll just leave the girls talking about their dahlias"   In just the same way that one of my old friends now always calls me Paula, even on the phone, I find people are beginning to think of me as female.   All this before I start any treatment at all.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

A bit of an Itch

Last night I played a concert with the Biggin Hill Concert Band, we played an interesting a varied program, and played it quite well.   For me the major challenge came from survival as there was a lot for me in all the pieces and I was the only tuba, indeed as we would say it was " a bit of a smack in the face"   Having said that there was one arrangement where the tuba part was so badly written that I knew I could get nowhere near playing what was written and so had to just play what I felt fitted, I think I got away with it.   This band has only been going for two years and has got off to a very strong start, they have a new conductor taking over in September and it will be interesting to see if she can take them on to the next level.   There is certainly lots of potential, they just need to recruit a couple of players in key sections (like the tuba!)

I enjoyed the concert, and the drinks with friends afterwards, everyone has been totally accepting, indeed there is one couple who play in this band who I have known for years, I have to say that it is greatly to their credit, that on all occasions they have got my name and pronouns right, and been more than happy to sit and chat and buy me vast quantities of beer!   Now the novelty of being out performing as Paula is wearing away I find that I am quite comfortable and am just enjoying the opportunity to be authentic in an area of my life that is so important to me.

Looking in my diary I now find myself in the very odd position of not having any performances scheduled until September, I shan't know what to do with myself.   Indeed I find myself now sitting and writing this while watching the home nations being knocked out of the Rugby Sevens at the Commonwealth Games and wondering what I am going to do with myself afterwards.

I have got so used to having commitments and obligations that to have a whole Sunday to myself, followed by a week with no commitments other than a single rehearsal on Monday is actually rather confusing.   I think I may have to go out later, if only to have the opportunity to show off this dress.   I tend to think of this as my Marilyn dress as it reminds me of that famous scene from "The Seven Year Itch" I know I could never look that good, but this dress does help me feel it! 

It's just not fair to have this much fabulousness and to not share it.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Mostly Harmless

A while back I told you all that I had written to a couple of the bands I play in warning them that from now on they would get Paula.   I have subsequently attended rehearsals with both bands, and got little or no reaction from anyone.   One of the conductors did stumble a little over my name, once, with a slight pause before remembering the to add final "a", and one older trombone player did ask me how my transition was going.   I was happy to tell that so far it was all OK.   All in all both occasions were pretty uneventful, and sometimes that's just how I like it.

I will playing a concert with the Biggin Hill Concert Band on Saturday, which I aim to enjoy, before having what currently looks like a concert free summer.   Checking my diary I now have no performances booked until September, and that one may well clash with one of my daughter's performances.   This feels most unusual as I so used to playing on band stands, fetes and the like throughout the summer months that six weeks without a concert could give me withdrawal symptoms.

If I do get any nasty symptoms I hope that they will receive a prompter response than I am getting from Charring Cross GID, my GP filled in and sent off all the forms and my initial bloods back in April, having heard nothing from them I 'phoned in June to check that everything had been received, I was assured that it had and that I should have been sent an introductory information pack.   Of course I have had nothing so I was assured that they would make sure that one would be sent out to me.   Having still received nothing I 'phoned again this morning, and got an answering service, I left my details and await a call back!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Feeling like a Little Kid

Many, many years ago, way back in the mists of time, I was young, free and single.   I had a job and some money in my pocket - even better I had paid holidays!   After much persuasion I agreed to go on holiday with a friend on the back of his motorbike.   We were going to attend a 24 hour bike race in the South of France. I will admit that at that time the South of France was more attractive to me than the bike or the race.   In many ways that couple of weeks was a life changing experience, not least because I came back a race fan, and determined to learn to ride a bike (the following year I rode there on my own bike!).   Interesting though all this is, it is not what I want to write about today, it was what happened after the race that came to mind when I was thinking about how to write what I want to say today.

After the race we left the circuit not having had a proper night's sleep for about three or four days, inevitably we had an accident, equally inevitably my friend had decided to save money by not taking out insurance, we had a broken bike, slightly broken bodies and no cover.   We had no choice but to try and effect repairs as best we could and get home as best as we could.   Remember my friend had broken ribs, and I couldn't ride, at the time I was also a good couple of stone heavier than him, this all turned out to be something of an endurance test.   The journey home took a lot longer than the journey out, each morning we would check over our bodge repairs (twist grip stuck together with lolly sticks, torch taped to the forks as a head light etc.) each night we would stop, find an hotel for the night and indulge in some natural pain killers (beer), and it seemed as though every juke box in every bar we stopped in would be playing Elton John's "I'm still Standing".

Today is the first anniversary of my wife and daughter leaving me, how do I feel? well I'm still standing!   I have managed to honor all of my commitments, I have reduced my non mortgage debt by over £3,000, it's been really tough but I am just about keeping my head above water financially.  I have just entertained my Church Home Group with a barbeque.   I am now much more honest about who and what I am, I have started the process of transition and am now undertaking the vast majority of my music making and much of the rest of my life as Paula.   I am slowly changing the house around so that it is "mine" rather than "ours" I am increasingly active in both my music making and within organised LGBT groups, so I guess I'm looking like a true survivor.

But each time I take my daughter out, and have to drop her "home" to somebody else's home, not mine, then my heart bleeds and a bit of me dies.   Each time I see my wife across a crowded room (sorry but it really does happen) she looks happy and fulfilled, I'm pleased for her, but I hate not being part of that.  The truth is that I still love her, and expect I always will, and it hurts being excluded from her life.   So feeling like a little kid.   I think I understand that song a little better now.

I have embarked on a journey that will at times feel like it goes through battlefields, there will be casualties, there will be highs and there will be lows.   Sometimes life's beach, and sometimes its a bitch.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Last Night of the Pelly Proms

I had a great day Saturday, achieving several firsts, not least of which was playing in the British premier of a work by a major international composer.   I was with the wonderful Pelly Concert Orchestra playing in their "Last Night of the Pelly Proms" concert, a fun interesting and varied program meant I could enjoy listening to Amanda Lake playing Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending as much as I enjoyed playing Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance no.1 and Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs. Since this was the Pelly of course things could not quite go the usual Last Night way so we did play Rule Britannia, but the Russ Conway arrangement! Played on this video as it was on Saturday by Mike Thomson

Musically interesting, time spent with friends, coping with a power cut in the middle of the concert and low flying jets from the nearby Farnborough Air Show during rehearsals should be enough from anyone in any one day.

I also had a bit of a surprise.   When I first played with the Pelly they were my first musical venture as Paula with a civilian group and I was rather worried that I would meet somebody who knew me exclusively as him, I have now played  a few times and was quite relaxed, so was rather surprised, and just a little flummoxed to meet an old friend from the All Souls Orchestra was playing the Double Bass, directly behind me.   As ASO is a Christian Orchestra as soon as I saw him I was worried about how he would react to my transitioning - I care because we have to work together within the orchestra for the greater performance.   As ever I had nothing to worry about, he admitted to surprise but that was as far as it went, no disapproval at all.

No photos of my Concert outfit, but this is the dress I wore for rehearsal, it is cotton and very cool, it also has a very full skirt, helping to stay cool, but also protecting my modesty while playing.   I have found myself wearing this a lot over the last couple of weeks, it has definitely become one of this summer's favorites.

Saturday, 19 July 2014


I know this is turning into a bit of a mantra, but busy busy busy!   Yesterday was all work, and on Thursday I had a meeting with Rachel and Patricia abou the future of our Group, we have decided that as there don't seem to be any other groups in the area we will be covering all of South London and will have to change our name and publicity appropriately, this may sound a bit serious and heavy but it was a very pleasant evening, involving much wine and a barbeque.

Right now I am about to head off into wildest Surre for a rehearsal and concert with the wonderful Pelly Concert Orchestra, amongst other things we will be giving the British Premier of the Leroy Anderson Piano Concerto.   I am a quite excited and just a little nervous as I have yet to see the music, but they are a lovely orchestra and lovely people so I am sure that yet again they will give me any help I may need.

I will write more on this later, but right now here are some picture I too on my phone on Thursday, all these were in customers' gardens on that one day.

Sometimes I love my job!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Coming up Roses

There is always a lot of stress involved with being self employed, especially when the outgoings exceeds the income, but there are also some very serious benefits. Right up at the top of the list is writing your own diary, if I am working too hard it is my own fault, so every now and then I try to book appointments with myself to just relax a bit.   I haven't done that in a while so when today's job got postponed it was nice to use some of the time for myself.

I sat in my garden with a cool drink and enjoyed!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

We Alway Knew You were a Woopsie

I feel as though I have been putting far too much effort into not posting here this week.   I know I am very busy but it should only take a few minutes and a little gin to get the creative flow going.   Instead I have been working, rehearsing, performing, working, tidying up my own garden and house, working, attending meetings, working, doing the laundry, and did I mention working?

Well last Wednesday I played a concert with the only band I am actually a member of, it was a good concert, we played an excellent program well, and I think all of the band and the audience enjoyed themselves.   We use the Fairfield Hall in Croydon which is a wonderful hall, but so big that even with several hundred in the audience it still looks empty, the other two problems with this hall are A/ the bar doesn't stay open after performances, and B/ the artists carpark is a bit limited.

I was a little late arriving and so ended up blocking in every other member of the band who drove.  Now I know Gloria is not a slim girl but there was simple no way of fitting her in without jamming everyone else.  This meant that as soon as we had finished I had to move the van out the way so rather than just coming home I arranged to meet a few friends at a local hostelry for some post performance refreshments.   The friends who made it to the pub ended up being three girls, two of whom have meet me and the other knows. Interestingly although I was in (something approaching) drab they all treated me as though I was just another girl.   I rather enjoyed this and take it as a great compliment.

I have observed that I often find my femininity leaking and that my current drab is often a bit fem, but I have no idea what anyone may think about my "new style" since nobody has said anything.    I had a call from one of the bands I recently came out to via e-mail, assuring me that I was always welcome and could I play with them on Sunday? I went to the rehearsal last night, and no one batted an eyelid, no one missgendered me, and everyone just treated me just right, in some way it made me wonder if everyone is already quite aware and has just been waiting for me to get around to telling them.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

More of a Process.......

I find that at the moment I doing two things I am slowly beginning to understand that both of these are processes rather than single actions, or decisions.   I mentioned that a couple of weeks back I rather dramatically outed myself to me friends in ne of the bands regularly play with.   Relating the story to some of my gay friends the next day I observed that I was learning that coming out was more of a process than a single act.   They looked at me as if I had just floated down on the rain and (mostly) managed to restrain themselves from a "Well Duh" reaction.   I had just realised something that they had known since infancy, but short of taking out advertisment in The Times I am going to have to tell my story a lot of times, and it will become increasingly difficult to remember who knows how much.

As with coming out I have only now really started to understand that transition is also a process.   I have heard girls say, "Right! I am now ready too transition" as if the next morning they would wake up totally female with none of that pesky maleness hanging around making life inconvenient.   Well of course we all know that it's not like that, but  there is all the difference in the world between knowing some thing and knowing it through experience.

Now I am right at the beginning of both of these processes, but yesterday I took what I thought were a couple of giant bridge burning steps (see I can mix metaphors with the best of 'em) on the same day I made an announcement on Facebook about my name, reverting to my original surname, and sent out a couple of e-mails to the leaders of another couple of bands I play in.   Some members of both of these bands have already me Paula, and I am sure that the rumour mill has been active, so I wrote these e-mails to advise them that I am Trans and that from now on I will be undertaking the vast bulk of my musical activity, rehearsals an concerts as Paula.

Some of you will understand that I did this with some trepidation, and just a little bit of excitement.   I have yet to receive a response from one band, I got an e-mail back from the other almost by return! Unfortunately it was an out of office reply so it now won't get read until next Thursday.

Friday, 11 July 2014

More showing off

A bit of a Bear Garden
Yesterday I wrote a bit about the Hampton Court Show the flowers and the gardens, but if you really want to know more about it there are plenty of much  more qualified commentators than me, so today I just want to say a little about the experience.   I suppose the first thing to say is that my friend S is has known me for many years, and we work together in gardening, she is quite comfortable with Paula, and although I don't think I ever warned her that it would be Paula going she fully expected her.

The trip started well when I was called "Young Lady", I'm not sure which pleased me the most "Young" or "Lady" throughout the day I engaged with several people, not just exhibitors or people trying to sell me stuff but other visitors as well, and throughout the whole time I was not missgendered once, indeed I am not aware of receiving any more or any less attention than any other middle aged woman in the same situation.   As a general principle I would say that gardeners are nice people, and are generally friendly, especially with other gardeners, so at a number of stands and show gardens I found myself in conversation with other visitors, swapping opinions, growing tips and information.   This is one of the things I like about this show, but this time it was all the more special.

Another observation is that since I knew a lot of walking would be involved I wore a pair of flat sandals, and as I walked around I realised that I was by no means as tall I often think I am, several ladies there were much taller than me, so on that count at least I certainly was not outstanding.   We did see people dressed in all levels of formality, from smart suits to jeans and tee shirts, the two of us fell in somewhere in the middle S wearing a very nice blue flowery blouse with a long darker blue skirt, I opted for white linen trouser a white top and pink linen jacket, however I only noticed one scruffy person, but then since that was Monty Don it was only to be expected!   This is a situation where everyone is more interested in the flowers than the people, the attention is quite rightly on the exhibits.

It was a long and tiring day, so on our way home we stopped for some refreshment at the Grape and Grain, only to find that almost as if as a special tribute to our day they had put in a new floral display, featuring S's favorite flowers (nasturtiums) all around their door.   So all in all an excellent, long, tiring, but ultimately very fulfilling day.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

On Show

On Tuesday my friend S and I went to the Hampton Court Flower Show, in my humble (well maybe not that humble) opinion this is possibly the best flower show there is.   Certainly I prefer it to Chelsea the only other major show I have been to.   The setting, the scale, and the overall quality of the exhibits is simply stunning.   Whether professional or amateur all gardeners will find something new, fellow enthusiasts, and many points of interest and beauty.

We left in good time to get to Hampton Court for around 10:00, traffic was surprisingly light until the very last bit, and then I managed to get a little confused and tried to get in the wrong car park.   The man directing traffic spotted that we were in the wrong place and guided us back to where we should have been.   In the process.   Not only was he friendly and helpful, but he made my cup overflow when he called me "Young Lady", I have never been called that before, I knew this was going to be a good day.

It is a sign of the quality of the show that my favorite garden in the show only got a Bronze award, I think the award does not reflect the quality of the design, but some small inequalities in the execution.   Any gardener would be chuffed to pieces to be able to put something together this good, but for an RHS show anything less than perfection is ruthlessly criticized.   Some gardens I loved, some I just didn't get and some were primarily carrying a message

Personally my favorite bit of the show is always the floral marquee.   This is massive, larger than most shows would be altogether, and contains 96 exhibits ranging from Agapanthus to Zonal Pelargoniums, via every type of ornamental plant except roses (roses have their own marquee!)   I had planed to keep my purse in my bag and not buy any plants, but I'm afraid my resolve broke and I got seduced by a pretty face.   A pretty face belonging to Black Eyed Susan, also known as Thunbergia Orange Beauty.   I could probably have bought a similar plant more cheaply from an on-line nursery, but this is one of the joys of Hampton Court is that you can buy direct from the grower, choose your plant while getting all the benefit of their experience and expertise.

I resisted buying any more Cannas but did succumb to the charms of another Dahlia, other than that I was pretty good.   S bought lunch as I had got the tickets, and we enjoyed one of the bands while we ate, in many ways there is almost to much to take it all in, but there are always some overall impressions and trends to notice, use of timber in the show gardens was noticeable, and trending plants seem to be eryngiums (sea holly) and verbena.

Just a quicky

As regular readers may have worked out, sometimes my life gets quite hectic. Maybe it's not just me, maybe this happens to anybody who works, has a family, and anything else added on to that.   Certainly I seem to be on my juggling act again.   So much so that I don't seem to have had sufficient time to sit down and write a proper post about some of these activities, so on this occasion I will just let myself go with the flow, wait till I have made a reasonable size post and then continue with the next one.

It was a challenging weekend, Mum is in many ways getting worse, but then given that most of her difficulties are age related then that's not so surprising.   It must be said that it was very good to see my brother and spend a little time sitting talking with him.   All too often with all this busyness I find I just don't have time to sit and talk.   It does underline that I have spent very little time with my other brother, who lives so much closer, not by design on either of our parts, just through busyness.

I have been to Hampton Court, I have played another Concert, I have lots of photos, I am just a little short on time, I promise I will catch up soon!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Friends of the M4

I am back! I know I was away for a couple of days, but sill it feels like a long break and there is so much to catch up with, so many posts on the blogs I follow so many cartoons I follow, and of course the dreaded Facebook to catch up with.   I have two Facebook identities one for me and one for him.   I have 74 "Friends" he has 139 this is more a reflection of time han popularity.   I had 15 notifications he had 4!

SO yesterday after wrestling with the M4 for three hours I managed to hit Hammersmith just in time for rush hour, driving across London at 5:30 is never fun but yesterday I was stunned by the sheer number of mindless idiots who are let loose behind the wheel of a potentially lethal weapon.   Have all of these people actually ever taken a test?   Can they understand the risks and implications of what they are doing?   To the idiot driving a black Mercedes C220 weaving between lanes in Wandsworth yesterday I want to pass special congratulations.   The emergency stop I had to make to avoid destroying your car meant that my entire load shifted causing around a hour's extra work and the scattering of random items around my cab.   As a consequence I have made a resolution.

Next time someone does that to me I am not going to bother avoiding them I will simply allow the to drive into my van and let them buy me a new one.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

At the Buttery

I will be away for a few days, first down to Cardiff for a long weekend and then I will be at the Hampton Court Flower Show so may well not be posting for a few days.

In the mean time this amused me, oh and by the way, I can believe it's not butter!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Technical Difficulties

I had hoped that on Sunday night I would have been able to wear this dress, as featured on the front cover of the program and the advertising cards, unfortunately I had a little problem, or rather a couple of problems.   One of the things that makes this dress so spectacular is the back, most of which is simply not there.

Saturday night's dress
Now for most girls this
might present a problem of support or enhancement, however for a girl like me it presents a major problem of security!   I could arrange things sufficiently well to survive the photo shoot but feared that if I tried to wear the dress relying on tape or glue to keep the girls in place then I would end up picking them up off the platform floor!   Not a glamorous outcome.   Given that this dress was excluded from the selection and that I had a customer who is something of a fashionista coming my next choice was one of my more modest LBDs, around knee length with long full sleeves, and a high neck it is stylish and modest and very, very comfortable, but then I went and wore it on Saturday night.

So I ended up with my sleeveless black sheath dress, again this is very comfortable and just a little flattering (with some help from spanx) on the whole I think I looked OK but for once was very much overshadowed in the glamour stakes by the soloists and some of the ladies in the choir.

Looks like I may have to watch out for some more Ball Gown style dresses!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

bit of a Gallimaufry

  • This morning I came out to a female friend, who is also a customer.   I have only known her for a couple of years but we immediately hit it off as we share a number of interests.   

As I often do I showed her these few photos to show that this is nothing too sordid an that I can be reasonably presentable.
Her reaction was overall very positive, but her response to the photos "How dare you look better in a dress than me!"   Very flattering but not true.
  • This ad leaflet just fell through my letter box!
  • I didn't go to Monday's rehearsal of the band I played in and came out to on Saturday night, I understand that there was no mention of me or my outing, not sure whether to be glad or disappointed.
  • Last night I had a rehearsal for next Wednesday's Concert with my own band (I've been a member for over 30 years and the principle Tuba for most of that time), it struck me that this might be the last of their concerts that Pal plays in.
  • So far I have been asked to play at four different concerts all on the 19th July, each one in a different county!