Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 30 April 2015


Photo from nearly two years ago!
Zips are a blessing and a curse, can be hidden or exposed as a styling feature, but without them many of the garments we love to wear simply wouldn't work.

My favorite mauve dress has a small zip at the back as a feature, however I do find that some zips are a challenge to do up, Stana has a solution, but of course the ultimate solution is to get a man to do it for you ~ after all they have to be useful for something!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015


I often think about yeast, although probably less often than I think about products that are a result of the action of yeast!   The main use of yeast is for us to utilise two of the side products of fermentation. Carbon Dioxide and alcohol.   Of course some of my favorites use both ( basically Champagne, not alcoholic bread!)

I have even been known to use yeast as an illustration of the perfection of Creation, God has used evolution to develop an organism of such utility it is hard not believe that it is part of a plan.   In bread yeast gives us the texture that makes bread good to eat, and in the cooking the alcohol is destroyed.   On the other hand fermentation makes dirty water safe to drink (the origin of beer was to find a safe way of drinking impure water), yet when the alcoholic strength of beer or wine rises to a suitable level the alcohol itself kills the yeast which will then settle out to the bottom of the liquid.   I know this is a little like the Babel Fish argument but basically I don't care!

One of the things about yeasts is that it penetrates into every part of grape juice, or dough, that way it can change every bit of it, Jesus recognises this when he warns his disciples against the "Yeast of the Pharisees" and Paul uses the same illustration in 1 Corinthians when he encourages us "Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch".   There are aspects of our lives that are like yeast and do work through everything that we do and are.   For me I want my faith to be like yeast, Christianity is not something I do on a Sunday morning, to be of any real truth it has to be something that penetrates every aspect of my life, there can be no areas where I am not Christian, nowhere where I should not talk about my faith, no time when I am not a witness to Christ's love.

In the much same way, since starting my transition I cannot (or at the very least will not) deny being trans, while I accept that everything is not about gender, it does influence and inform everything that I do.   I may not wear a Tee Shirt proclaiming myself as a Trans Woman but the realisation that that is what I am touches everything about my life, just like yeast permeating all of the dough.


My first thought on realising that today we are confronted with X was hat I should have saved yesterday's post till today and made a lot more of the Marimbas association with the Xylophone, with Xylo meaning wood.  

The more obvious alternative given my particular interest, would be to consider XX and XY Chromosomes, and how simply possessing one particular sex chromosome is not the sole determining factor in gender. How there is research going on which is showing that there are physiological factors in our gender that are not related to those chromosomes, and indeed simply being female does not of itself ensure that one becomes a woman.

However an election leaflet that fell (or maybe slithered) through my letter box changed that.

Here in the UK we are in the throws of a General Election, we will be electing the MPS who will choose our net government, and it still looks as though no single party may win.   This does mean that for once more attention is being shown to the smaller parties, the nationalists parties, the Green Party and the thoroughly loathsome UKIP.   It seems to me that an election can bring out the worst in some people, and I had thought that UKIP were the worst.   Their policies and motivations all seem to be based on fear, or at very least hate of the "Other"

At least UKIP try to hide and apologize for the more hateful attitudes of some of their candidate, it seems as though the (previously unknown to me) "Liberty GB" party choose to celebrate and publicise their own hatefilled stupidity.

We keep hearing about how this election is all about the economy, which party will manage it best, who will reduce our deficit in the most secure way.

Let's remember it is also about what sort of a country we want to live in and how we relate to our neighbours.

I should apologize to my readers for inflicting disgusting this piece of ordure on you, I stress that I am just using it as an example of how dangerous and how hateful some candidates can be, not in anyway to give them a platform.   I expect Jim Dowd the labour candidate to win in my constituency I hope for a decent turn out for Tom Chance of the Green Party, that Martin Powell-Davies of the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition saves his deposit and shows that there are still some socialists about, but most of all I hope that everyone realises just how loathsome and hateful Liberty GB are and that not even George Whale's family vote for him.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Got Wood

Last Friday I thought a really good subject for today's post would be wardrobes, I could wax lyrical around the what clothes mean to a trans woman, How although the clothes may not be the point they are an important aspect of, not so much our self identity, but of how we demonstrate our identity to the world at large.   I could also play around with a few light hearted comments about the differences between men's wardrobes and women's wardrobes ~ but then the weekend happened.

Cellia, our cover girl for Sunday's Concert
It was a pretty good, and pretty busy weekend, a Ladies' breakfast at the Church on Saturday morning, a concert with the lovely Lambeth Wind Orchestra in the evening.   Then on Sunday after Church in the morning it was a straight dash up to town for the LGSO Concert.

A very interesting concert it was as well.

As a heavy brass player I do quite often only play a small (but perfectly formed) part in concerts, it is the nature of the instruments I play that they tend not to be in constant use, a fairly usual concert would be to play in the Overture and then the first and last movements of the symphony.   On a good day I might get to play in the last movement of a concerto as well.   Last night's concert was a bit different, not least because we didn't play a symphony! (I know it is a symphony orchestra but that doesn't mean we have to play one every time!)

We played The Marquez Danson no. 2, the Concerto for Marimba and String Orchestra by Sejourne and The Ox on the Roof by Milhaud in the first half, and then Ibert's Divertissement and Firebird Suite by Stravinsky.   Personally I played in the Danzon, and the last two movements of the Stravinsky.   I may not have played many notes, but they were all important and added to the performance.   It also gave me the opportunity to listen, really listen to the orchestra, to one of my all time favorite pieces, and to an instrument I don't often get to hear live, but love.

The Marimba is a sort of Xylophone on steroids.  It has a wonderful warm rich sound and in the hands of a Virtuoso like Larisa Sceadei really comes back to life.   At one point it felt as though the whole Church was resonating with the sounds from the lower notes, all the wood in the building sharing it's song.

The Ibert Divertissement is not often played, but one of my favorite pieces for a long time, indeed the very first record (one of those old fashioned vinyl 12inch things)  was of the Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, the Ibert is on the "B" side, I still have that record and play it occasionally, yet I think this Sunday was the very first time I have heard it performed live.   Given that, and the unbridled license to let rip in "Firebird" it will still be the Marimba that I remember most.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Valley

This morning has been a good one, for me that is not always the case with Saturdays.   Saturdays are strange days for me, some are work days, some are days of driving to Cardiff, some are recovery days, and many are concert days. Today is a concert day but this morning was special.

Having only just joined a new Church I was overjoyed last week to be invited to a ladies breakfast today.  It was lovely to be totally accepted and to spend the morning with these lovely christian ladies, and the Eggs Benedict were pretty impressive too!   I had a lovely time, meeting new people chatting with them, and finding that another one of my customers is also a member of that Church.   The Church Hall looked marvelous with the tables all laid very nicely with matching napkins and tablecloths, the food was well presented and cooked by the vicar himself. We also had a good talk from a trainee minister who is about to be ordained.

If there was a theme to this talk it was about not ending up where we expect, this certainly resonated with me.   I had never expected, or planed to be where I am now, my journey has not followed any of the routes I planned at various stages of my life.

I think the major difference now is that I have handed over any long term plans to God, I am not making any decisions except the next one, and I am enjoying the journey in the Knowledge that God is alongside me.   This does not mean that my journey has not, and will not be taking me to some pretty shitty nasty places, but with God's blessing and the presence of the Holy Spirit within me those places can bloom.

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage
As they pass through the valley of Baca,
they will make it a place of springs;"
Psalm 84:5-6

At the end of the morning I was given one of the table decorations, I feel so loved, and blessed to found this Church, I truly believe that it is God who brought me here and I thank him for this.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Uniform ~ Concert Dress IX

I have been quite unsure what I will be writing about today, I am, of course, quite aware that I have been behind with a couple of posts this challenge, but I am unequivocal in my determination to uphold the challenge and complete every letter in a "timely" manner.

I think I just might have mentioned that I am busy at the moment, I have two concerts this weekend and for both of them the uniform is all black, and after such a busy time I had to pop home at lunch time today to hang out my  washing so that I can uphold the unity of our appearance. 

I am playing trombone for both so will probably opt for one of my LBDS on each occasion.

As ever I wonder just how much to dress up, or down.   I want to reflect my character, but at the same  time I do not want to detract from the performance by wearing a dress that screams "LOOK AT ME"   To be honest about it I am beginning to get a bit bored with the all black uniform.   So many bands and orchestras seem to be going this way that it is getting to be pretty ubiquitous; I am sure that with very little effort something a lot more interesting can be managed, and make the concert more of an event for the audience.

For me the all black is a bit dull and fails to be either informal or formal. I little splash of colour or at least a little variation would make us all look that much more interesting.   I know the audience are coming to listen rather than watch, but how we look is part of the performance.   We have moved away from white tie as it was irrelevant to most audiences, black tie has gone the same way for the same reasons (although I do like to see a man in a dinner jacket) I just feel we can do better than the all black ( without jackets or ties)

Of course the ladies can always add a little sparkle or "glamour" with the right choice of hosiery and accessories, but for the blokes, black trousers, black shoes, black shirt, ~ BORING!


I'm tired, as I said before I have had a cold which has turned into a cough and as a consequence I haven't been sleeping very well, so yes, I am tired.   But more than this I am tired of ends not meeting, I'm tired of constantly having to check my balances before I can spend any money; I'm tired of having to put off one debtor in order to satisfy another.   In short I'm tired of being poor.

Here we are in the midst of an election and I keep hearing candidates telling me how much better they are going to make my life, they talk of improving this and that, but I hear none of them telling just how tiring it is when things are not going well.   Just how much of a drag it is constantly fighting to make ends meet.   When there is not enough money there is a constant strain, a constant preoccupation with simply trying to survive.   I have heard our leading politicians described as a "Bunch of Posh boys who don't know the price of a pint of milk" I like this image, but underlying it is the reality of the new political class.   No longer are our politicians working people who are trying to make things better; ex soldiers trying to make a better country for those who fought for their country; or even individuals dedicated to an idea, an ideal of how to improve the lot of the working man.   They are alien to the majority of the voters they have no idea what it is like for the majority simply trying to live, and that may be why the majority refuse to vote for any of them.

On the upside I see that they are now seeking to support "Working People", last election it was all about "Hard Working families" in another five year they might have got round to people like me, the bone idle!

There and I bet you all thought that T would be for "Trans" "Transition" or maybe even "Transgender"; but lets be honest that is only one aspect of my life.   Although it does take up quite a lot of my emotional energy just at the moment finances take up even more.   I am being messed about by an insurance Company who are meant to be paying me my pension fund, originally promised by the 20th April I am still waiting my funds and am now being told that I will have to wait another few weeks.   I am losing confidence that this latest promise will be kept and in consequence a feeling let down, betrayed and generally pissed off fed up.

By now I had expected to be able to re-enter solvency, instead I am still fighting off Peter in the vagues hope of keeping Paul happy.

Thank God for music!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Sax and Violence

If you have been really on the ball you may have noticed that both my last post and this one have been a little late, I have an excuse, and I'm prepared to use it!

Last weekend, as I recounted here I played with the fabulous Croydon Symphonic Band at the finals of the National Concert Band Festival in Manchester.   As I said at the time we all had a great time, well maybe I should be more exact, most of us had a great time.   There was one in our number who had a pretty torrid time, interspersed with awful and brilliant.   One of our star players and most stalwart members is our solo Alto and Soprano Sax player.   While I am a particular friend it is with no bias that I praise his musicianship, and his technical ability on his chosen instruments.   We have come to rely on him, and when his section is featured it is very much his playing that helps to carry us through.

So when he found that he had a stinking cold that weekend crying off was not an option.   A short philosophical consideration showed that it was better to give half the band a cold than to leave it to others to have to play the sax solos. Given that those who would have to play the solos in his absence are members of the medical professions most qualified to keep him going this all seemed sensible.

Having travelled in close proximity to him on the coach all the way to and from Manchester and shared a couple of meals, for the last ten days or so I have also been suffering with a streaming cold, which has now settled into a sore throat and chesty cough.   I have been finding it hard to get to sleep, and when I do I cough myself awake. I am tired, miserable sore and sorry for myself; I am very nearly ready to offer violence in revenge for this cold, but I'm too knackered!   This evenings rehearsal showed that I'm not the only one, several others have been suffering, and wwe all trace out colds back to that weekend.

However I still think my friend made the right decision, even if I have been one of the ones to pay for it, maybe the title shouldn't have been Sax and Violence, but Gold and Cold.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


As I am working through this years A - Z Challenge I wonder how many of my visitors are because of that, how many just happen and how many are regulars.   If you are all regulars then you already know a great deal about e and my situation, if casual visitors then one or two aspects of my life may be a bit confusing, well actually even if you know me really well there will be aspects of my life that you will find confusing as well.

This Blog started out very much as a gender based one, somewhere for me to confide my thoughts experiences and concerns around my gender issues.   Now I am very much out, and indeed living full time in my chosen gender the blog has become much more about general reflections on my life and life in general.

Most trans women have a special relationship with mirrors, just as we do with cameras, a we constantly check our appearance,   This not simple vanity, it s much more complex than that.   Just like the Wizard's wife we are seeking many things from our mirrors.   Certainly we have the same problems as any other woman checking that our hair is in the right place and that our lipstick is restricted to our lips, but we are also looking for affirmation.

I haven' done this for some time now
Affirmation that our outwards presentation matches our inner feeling; affirmation that we looking "convincing" that we are "Passing";  affirmation that we are "not frightening the horses"; affirmation that we are who we believe we are.

I will admit to having checked myself out in a shop as I walk past, and I have certainly caught other girls doing the same.   Maybe it will be a milestone in my transition when I no longer have that subconscious need.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Qoute of the day

About three years ago I gave up driving a car, I have a van for business so the car was a little bit of a luxury at a time of great financial strain.   At the time I had a Volvo and a nine year no claims bonus.   I have, of course continued to drive my van and have a little no claims bonus on that insurance, but that bonus can only be used on one policy at a time.

It looks as though I may soon be hitting solvency again and am hoping to once again buy and run a car.   I have always fancied a Saab, a 3 door coupe, I love the line I like the engineering and it is a hatchback that should give me all the space I want.   I have seen one I quite fancy at a price I can afford, but before doing anything rash I thought I would check the insurance.   I did the usual trick of checking on line, but to see if I could get a better deal I called the AA, the insurance brokers I had used before.

The nice young man I spoke with confirmed that yes, I did indeed have nine years no claims bonus, but was worried that since it was more than two years since I held any car insurance the various insurance companies they deal with may not accept it.   He checked and no they wouldn't, the best quote he could come up with was over £4,000! for a £400 car with a driver well over 50 years old who has been driving for nearly 40 years.   Sure I had a little accident three years ago, but they might as well have just told me to F*%k off!

By the way, on line quotes ranged from £650 to £800 ~ I don't think I will be going back to the AA

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Pelly Concert Orchestra

Today I am playing with the Pelly Concert Orchestra, a lovely concert Orchestra based in deepest Surrey.   They are a very nice bunch, very friendly and very welcoming, they also seem to have found a bit of a niche in the market as they play almost exclusively popular light music.   Whether it's Eric Coates, Russ Conway or John Williams this Orchestra is in concept the closest thing I have found to an ameutar Boston Pops.

Today's program includes two concerts, one for Families including such classics as Bob The Builder and Pirates of the Caribbean. Later we will play a more "normal" concert adding in some Khachaturian  and some Gershwin.   All in all I am assured of a wonderful, full day playing lots of fun music with some top rate tuba parts to keep me on my toes.

What will I be wearing? to order for the day is black bottoms and a plain coloured top, so I think it will be black dress trousers and either a pink or mauve blouse, depending how I feel at the time.

Friday, 17 April 2015


Or in this context actually it's more about coming out than going out.   For those of you who are not fully aware for a trans person the difference is considerable, but maybe not the same as for civilians.

For more years than I care to think about I was a firmly closeted cross dresser, I would dress up in private, and then admire myself in the mirror or maybe even take a few photographs.   This was fun, exciting even, but ultimately unsatisfactory.   Like most girls like me from time to time I would be hit with a feeling of disgust at what I was doing ~ I suspect largely triggered by the two factors of the knowledge of societal disapproval and the suspicion of sexual perversion ~ I would then decide to stop doing this, and clear out everything associated with the activity, clothes, makeup, photos, the lot! PURGING!

Of course because this is not an activity the need returns and we succombe, but still the private dressing up is unsatisfactory, there is the need to be seen by other people.   For some of the wilder transvestites I wonder if it is a need to be admired, for me it was a need to be accepted.   So I would start to go out, visiting exhibitions, going shopping, just popping out for a coffee.   Since I could not indulge my activities at home I would find myself going out more and more, and as I did it became more and more natural.   But going out is very different to coming out.

Coming out is the process of telling people about yourself, what has been your deepest secret, at times the source of shame and self loathing.  It is not easy.   Having said that in almost every case where I have come out to somebody they have been accepting, supportive and loving.   I suspect many of my friends prefer me now I am no longer the hairy bloke!  Yet it is still never easy, in most of our lives we still have some taboo, some area we can not go, somebody that for one reason or another that we find we cannot tell.  I don't yet know if that ever changes.

What I have found out is that coming out is not an action it is a process.   I started telling people over two years ago, and yet even now that I am living full time in my chosen gender there are still people I am having tell for the first time.   I think that everybody who needs to know, knows, and then I find I need to change my name on some other listing and I have to go through it all again.

At least with me the changes are pretty obvious, for my Gay and Lesbian friends it must be even worse, dealing with disapproval, denial, hate, is never easy even if it is just the potential.   What we tend to forget is that it is not just those of us who identify within the LGBTQ continuum who find that from time to time we need to come out, at some point almost everybody will have to.   It may be a mental health issue, it may be an illness it may be a relationship, we all have to have these difficult conversation, but it is better to have these conversations than to keep quiet.

There have even been situations where it has been difficult to publicly own my faith, just like Peter when he denied even knowing Jesus, but I thank God that he, and the rest of the disciples were inspired by the Holy Spirit to come out, for it is their work, and their faith that we are still building on today, and that inspire me to be bold and witness to my faith, even when it doesn't make me popular.


I don't know why I do it, I should know better by now, I am grown up, I can make decisions for myself, and lets face it I went through all this a year ago, so I did know what I was letting myself in for.   But here I am at silly O'clock on the night of the 16th of April writing a blog entry t match the letter N.

It's not as if I don't have enough on my plate right now.   Work wise this is quite possibly the busiest time of year for me, and of course here in the South East of England we are enjoying something f a heat wave, making work even busier.   Today I have cut grass; weeded out a bog garden; cleared an area to be re-planted, and consulted on building a screen and planting climbers.   I have also been to a band rehearsal, and tried to sort out some paperwork.

I am sure that many will agree with the sigh of exasperation with which I accompany the thought of insurance.   I hope to be buying a car again soon, I haven't had a car since 2013 when the last one got a bit pricey to run on my meagre budget, but things are picking up and I think I should be able to afford this little luxury.   I have spotted an old Saab I quite fancy for about £400, so I got in touch with the brokers I last used to see what they would quote for me.   I was told that I could not carry my nine years no claims bonus forward as it was over two years since I had been insured, so how much would they quote ~ £4,000.   I have checked online and had quotes from around £650, more than I would want to pay but a lot less than £4,000!

This all reminded me that I as I have now sent off the registration of my van and my drivers licence to get my name changed, now I had better sort out my insurance as well.   I phoned up my broker and told him I was changing my name, fine, he just needed the documents and would sort it all out.   He then went on to regale me with the story of how the last person who had changed their name had transitioned into a woman (not his words, I do believe he said something about a man in a dress!), deep breath "Well actually........"

Now I have to send him a copy of my deed of change of name, and also try to remember who else I have to tell, and try and get them all in the right order.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


 Departing from my recent apparent obsession with Sunday's Band Festival  today I am considering one aspect of another of my passions, gardens and gardening.   Even for the keenest amateurs and most proficient professionals there are always going to be difficult areas.   Those places where the sun doesn't shine as much as we would like, the ground is too dry, or too moist, difficult to get to north facing slopes, or dark corners between garage and fence.   I am a regular listener to Gardener's Question Time where questions about these difficult places are often asked, but rarely have I ever heard my stock answer come out as a suggestion from the team.

Mahonia is a very tough shrub that will grow almost anywhere, has lovely towers of bright yellow blooms (about now) gives year round interest as it is evergreen, the leaves are quite spicy so as well as looking interesting are good security additions around perimeters.   There are a number of varieties, from prostrate to tall and sculptural, I generally go for something in between, and as it is s easy to propagate I will often take cuttings, or layers from one garden to another (without being at all sure which variety it is)

Of course there are all sorts of interesting plants in the garden at the moment.   We are getting yellows from the last of the Daffs, Kerria Japonica, Forsythia, primroses, and in my garden dandelions! Pinks, whites, and mauves from Aubretia, Bergenia and Camellias, and tulios giving us the full rainbow!
Shrubs are all coming to life with Skimmias, Chaenomeles and Pieris all giving their best, and all the herbaceous plants and summer bulbs are showing above the soil.

Today I was out working this morning for the first time wearing shorts and enjoying the sun, I think it will only be a matter of days before I start to put out bedding.   I know the old saying about May being out, but round my way the May is now in flower so I feel safe.

All photos from my own gardens this morning

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

London Gay Symphony Orchestra ~ LGSO

There are many things that make the LGSO a very special Orchestra.   I suppose the first and most obvious is rather given away in the name. The Orchestra's objectives include;
  • Providing a safe and supportive space for musicians of all sexualities
  • Playing to a high standard, but still offering space for players of all abilities
  • Being adventurous and ambitious in our programming
  • Sharing our passion for orchestral music with audiences new and old
  • Making a contribution to LGBT life in London and beyond.
Even though I am quite sure that I am the one who puts the T into the LGBT here, for me the Orchestra did exactly what they set out to do, they provided me with a safe and supportive space to be Paula in the real world, doing the thing I love most ~ playing orchestral music.

I had been out a few times before joining the orchestra, but before that my outings had always been opportunities to dress up, playing with LGSO meant that I was going out for a reason, and it just happened that it was Paula going.   It was through this, being Paula playing at rehearsals and concerts that I began to truly understand that this is not something I do, it is something I am.   Even though I am the only Trans member of the Orchestra they have always been totally accepting (not always the case with organisations who claim to be LGBT) supportive and friendly.   Indeed this is one of the most friendly Orchestras I have ever played with, and all that has helped to make me the person I am today.

I have made some good friends, played some great music to a high standard, and have been made to feel very old.   One of the other most notable things about this orchestra is that the average age is pretty low.   Indeed in my section the second oldest thing is often my trombone!   For an old lag like me it is quite rejuvenating to be surrounded by really good, young musicians whose passion for the music has yet to be jaded by time and promoters.

Obviously I love this orchestra, and I want all of you to as well, if you can come along to our next concert on the 26th April and enjoy some stunning music played really well by some stunning people. you will not be disappointed.  You can even have a glass of wine during the interval!

Monday, 13 April 2015


I am very pleased that today's K can lead straight on from Saturday's J and Friday's I.   It may even be said that this K is a direct result of the J.

While Saturday was all about the journey and Sunday was very much about the performance, the weekend was all about friends.   Since this year we were playing on the Sunday we decided that we would travel up to Manchester on the Saturday, spend the evening there and then be fresh for the morning performance, before travelling back to London.   I had even hoped that there might be some time within the schedule to explore the Hotel's swimming pool.

We got to the Hotel around six thirty on Saturday so I pretty much only had time to clean up, get changed and go out to sample the local brew before having something to eat.   One of the great things about trips like this is that I get to spend a bit more time with other members of the band who maybe I don't know so well.   Even though we may have been playing in the same band for several years we may sit at the opposite ends and not actually coincide much; this is our chance to start to build relationships outside of our own immediate circles.   I retired to my bed earlier than some of the die-hard partiers ~ not least because after several pints of liquid and a substantial curry I simply needed to remove anything that involved elastic!

We had to leave the Hotel at 9:30 and both the breakfast and swimming started at 8:00 so once again swimming was not on the menu.   Arriving at the RNCM we had a warm up, run through and then onto the stage for our performance.

To be fair our performance was not flawless, and although we had a few moments of total glory there were also a couple of shaky moments as well.   On balance I suspect that this was the best we could have played these pieces while retaining any sense of perspective, or indeed a life!   As we discussed our performance after leaving the stage the consensus was very much that we should get a Gold Award. So it was with great pleasure but not a lot of surprise that we received our ~ Gold Award.

I should say that four levels of award are made, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum; at the area festival we received a Platinum award, at the finals although the criteria are the same, I suspect that the expected standard is a little higher.

Everything about the weekend went very well, so total Kudos to those who organised it all, Kudos to the band for the performance, and Kudos to our Conductor who put together the program, trained the band and lifted our performance on the day.

And if anybody wants to know the answer I came up with to Fridays question, content yourself with the knowledge that I was happy.

Saturday, 11 April 2015


we often think and talk about a process we may be going through as a journey, I might be said to be on several journeys at the moment, as I move towards being truly single again (not my choice); move on with my transition (my choice), and work at getting my drinking down to a more socially and medically acceptable level. But over the weekend I will be undertaking a couple of very real journeys.

I may have bored my regular readers with this already, but on Sunday I will be playing with the Croydon Symphonic Band at the finals of the National Concert Band Festival not only will we have the journeys to and from Manchester to contend with, but one of the pieces we will be playing is Paul Hart's Journey and Celebration (at this point I wanted to put in a link or embed a Youtube recording or something, but there just isn't one ~ yet.   If you really want to hear just what a great piece this is you can download a recording here. The other piece we will be playing in our 20 minute performance is Philip Sparke's Invictus

These are both technically challenging pieces for most of the band, indeed I count lucky myself that sitting at the very bottom of the band I have ended up with a part that is not too taxing, but still more than enough to keep me interested.

As I am sure you will understand the band has had quite a journey to get to this point, although we have picked up quite few high awards over the last fifteen or so years it doesn't seem that long ago that we felt lucky just to get a certificate for turning up!   This year we had to play at the regional Festival back in Early December last year.   Since then we have started a new term, have a few different players, some left, some joined, and have had to work up a couple of new pieces to festival standard (as well as playing a full concert!).

I am really looking forward to tomorrow, spending some time travelling with good friends, tomorrow evening when at least a few of us will probably be sampling some local brews.   Then I'm looking forward to Sunday morning when we play, I'm also looking forward to it all being over, hopefully adding some Celebrations to our journey, then the end of the journey, coming home and relaxing.

But then of course that will just be the start of another journey, and meanwhile all the others will be going on as well.

Friday, 10 April 2015

I've been getting it wrong ~ Concert Dress IIX

As I wrote here on SUnday I will be playing at the finals of the National Concert Band Festival, I have been practising (a bit) and will ensure that I am musically as prepared as possible.   We will be traveling up to Manchester together by coach tomorrow (Saturday) spend the evening together and stay overnight at an hotel.   Then the next day is dedicated to the festival and the journey home.

The dress code for our performance is the usual boring all black, regular readers will know how much I agonise about exactly how I will interpret that rather basic instruction.   I have worn LBDs, modest matronly dresses, fancy trousers, plain trousers, satin blouses, sheer blouses, even on occasion a polo neck sweater.   But a recent series of 9 Chickweed Lane makes me worried that I have been giving my considerations to the wrong garments;

This now leaves me with the question, of what sort of lingerie should I chose for Philip Spark and Paul Hart?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Horrid, hateful Builders!

Not very surprisingly I have spent the day working. I expect that is what most people spend their weekdays doing, my days tend to be a little different as I will see two or three different customers most days, this morning I spent a few hours with a lady of senior years, I pruned her rampant climbing rose and did a little tidying up before moving into the front garden to cut her grass.   It needed a bit more than cutting.

A few days earlier she had some builders round to put in a concrete plinth for a new shed, along with a step to make it easier for her to get into her main garden.   The plinth for the shed looked good enough, and for the step they had made up some shuttering and poured in concrete.   I can't say that I was particularly impressed with the finished item, it would have looked so much better if they had taken the trouble to use one of the matching paving slabs that was available there.   It would also have been a lot more useful if they had put it in a position so the shed door could be opened!

The builders had not bothered to put anything down underneath the concrete mixer, allowing cement dust all over the grass. I had to rake it all up before even more of the grass was killed, make repairs and then cut the grass.   It was only after I had finished that I realised that the had also poured their excess concrete onto the corner of a bed behind a couple of shrubs.   I was roundly cursing all builders! Their lack of consideration for anything except the job in hand and eagerness to cut corners to save a few quid!

At my very next job I bumped into the son-in-law doing some work there.   He is a good friend of mine, who happens to be a builder! He happily gave me hand, made a point of clearing up, and was noticeably meticulous about everything he did.   Talking about it we soon realised that it is not builders I hate, anymore than he hates gardeners, it is not even that our trades have different priorities, it is that we found we both hate cowboys who claim to be bonafides tradespeople, but don't do a decent job.   The trouble is that they bring the whole of the trade into disrepute.

So please, when you see the teenagers employed for minimum wage by landscape maintenance companies, just pushing around a lawnmower, or wielding a leaf blower so the grass cuttings go all over the pavement ~ they are not gardeners!

Game On!

Today we have got as far as the letter G, this has been by far the most challenging so far this year, and indeed, as difficult as any last year.   Not because G is a particularly difficult letter, nor indeed because I can't think of any Gs that are relevant to my life at the moment, just none that seemed to work with what I wanted to write about.

 I had more or less plumbed for G for Gardens as I spend so much of my life in gardens, caring for them, enjoying them and keeping them healthy.   I have over the last month or so taken on another three gardens, each of which has some interesting and unique features.   One of them has some pretty large lawns, a rose bed and some nice trees,   The only trouble is it also has some areas that have received no proper care for several years and I have had to put in a lot of extra work just trying to bring it up to a sensible starting point   I have also started work at a good friend's Garden, she has several nice specimen plants, that mostly just need a little care and freeing from the overgrown plants around them.   It is nice to work in a garden that is well laid out and has interesting plants, it is certainly a lot more interesting than spending a day cutting grass.

Today I have had a trip to the central composting site, and spent time at two gardens, at the second I raked several sacks of moss and dead dry grass out of the lawn, a horrible job but one that I know will pay dividends later in the year.

After a quick wash and change I was off to the final rehearsal of CSB prior to our  appearance at the finals of the National Concert Band Festival on Sunday. over the thirty years the festival has been going we have been invited to play at the finals nine times, and on five of those occasions we have be given the highest award.   Even though we have been there before, and have a certain level of expectation it is still a wonderful experience, and a real privilege to be part of this festival, and although the festival is not competitive, we still want to perform to the highest standard we can, and be given the highest award we can get.

This evenings rehearsal was "difficult" but that just gives us the opportunity to raise our level of performance.   I think we are all looking forward to our weekend in Manchester and our performance at the Royal Northern College of Music Certainly we are all keyed up to give the best we can, and enjoy the exterience, so that is why my G for today is GAME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Game

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Finds and Fails

Easter Sunday is a very important, no the most important, festival of the Christian calendar.   Christmas is fun, Pentecost is fulfilling, and Good Friday is important, but it is Easter that makes all the rest fall into place, and show their true meaning.   Without the resurrection then none of the rest makes sense.   It is therefore important to me that I celebrate this festival properly.

Back here I touched on finding a new Church, well on Sunday I returned and had my hopes confirmed.   This week I did see my friend / customer there and sat with her, I also met a few more of the other members.   Everyone I met was very nice, friendly and accepting, the preaching is imaginative, but based on good solid orthodox theology, and the music is pretty good as well.   Last week it felt as if I had come home, this week it felt just the same ~ right!   I have come to the conclusion that God took me there, and I will honour that and continue to go.

Next week I won't be there as I have other plans, but that's another story.

Looking back over previous posts, I reckon it's time for a couple of updates, first amongst other things I wrote here about my drinking, I have started taking action, and starting this week I will be making sure that I have at least one alcohol free day each week, and limiting the quantity on the other days.   Yesterday was a booze free day so I am off to a decent start.

A few days before that I wrote about my weight, perhaps not unlinked, and my aim of losing over a stone in a month, well it doesn't look as if I am going to manage it.   I am still over the 12 stone mark so will be unlikely to get down to 11 stone 7 pounds by the weekends, however I will be very happy if I manage to get below 12 stone. I will post an update at the end of the week, however embarrassing.

Monday, 6 April 2015

E is for...............................

Today is Easter Monday, and as it is the fifth day of the A - Z Challenge today's letter is E so as I am a Christian it would seem to be appropriate to make todays post be either about Easter, or how I spent this one.

If you have been reading you will know that on Friday I played with some others members of the Croydon Brass Band for a Good Friday Walk of witness.   Although there were a good number of people on the walk and we made a decent sound it was very noticeable how little impact Good Friday was having on most people.   The shops were all open and seemed to be doing a good trade, lots of people were taking advantage of having a day off indeed this was the very image of a thriving multi cultural high street.

Previous years we have had a Police escort and walked down the road, admittedly holding up traffic and being a bit of an inconvenience, but not impact unduly on the shops and shoppers.   I understand that the organisers filled in all the official forms and paid the fee to Croydon Council to have the road closed for our walk, but apparently the Police no longer had sufficient funding to provide our escort, so we had to walk on the pavement.   Personally I think we could have still walked on the roadway with our own marshalls, but I was no making the decisions.

It does seem incredible that the Police could not manage to provide an escort for such a large portion of the local community.   Some see this as the increasing secularization of our society and the marginalisation of Christianity, and the same people of course also consider this to be a "Bad Thing".   I am not so sure, about either.   I suspect that as less people attend Church or claim to be Christians because it is socially advantageous, then those who do go to Church and publicly witness to their faith are more likely to have a genuine faith.   I also believe that if we are to have freedom to practise our faith then we need to provide that same freedom to others to practise there their faith.

I think I see this more as an example of how the government's spend cuts have gone too far.

After the walk I did drive down to Cardiff, and it was a truly awful journey, the roads were very busy with many, many families again taking advantage of the holiday to get away.   The heavy traffic on the M4 was punctuated with some examples of dreadful driving, probably brought on by the heavy traffic ( I wish people would remember that they do not get stuck in traffic, they are traffic), although I saw no accidents myself, there was one I only just missed and the outfall of several others.   Through all this I saw no Police cars, and I know that in Wales there are no longer any dedicated Motorway patrols.   I am sure that the odd Police presence concentrates the minds of drivers, and makes the ever increasing regulations more enforceable.   This is just another example of insufficient funding for the job we want done.

We are about to face a General Election where the main difference between the main parities seems to be the amount they want to reduce public spending by.   How little we can manage to get away with spending to provide the minimum levels of service.   We have institutes of Excellence, we have targets and aspirations to being the best yet are unwilling to spend the money to provide it.   Whether it's Education, Defence, Health or Policing services are being cut, and cut, until at some point we will find that just as with our infrastructure, they will be beyond maintenance and repair and will either be abandoned or need to be rebuilt.   Unfortunately I see no political will to invest ~ in services or in infrastructure ~ and although I am confident in the overall way society is moving I do worry about what sort of Country is going to be left for my daughter to grow up in.

So my E is not Easter but ENOUGH, I have had enough of these cuts, I want a government that will commit itself to spending enough to provide enough service.   I fear I will once again be disappointed.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Dating and the middle aged woman

These days more and more people are becoming single in their middle years.   Whether it's through separation, divorce or being widowed these newly single people no longer seem to be content to stay as singles.   I have no statistics to back up this assertion, it's just my observation as see people getting together, or at least trying to.

One of my friends is particularly good at this whole dating thing, even though no longer in the first flush of youth she is a very attractive lady, whose bubbly disposition has come back to the fore since her husband abandoned her for a younger model (incidentally as so often happens the new model broke down, they're just not as reliable as the classics).   She has signed up to an on-line dating site and has had lots of response, some good some bad.   She flirts like a teenager (or probably better having more experience) has had a few dates and started a couple of relationships.   She is having such fun that she has been encouraging me to join in.

I have registered on a couple of "specialist" sites as the the others seem to have a very limited selection of genders to tick.   I have had several approaches, and indeed a couple of dates.   So far I have to say that I have had absolutely no success whatsoever.   I don't know whether it is that the admirers who use these sites are all creeps or whether it is just the ones I attract.

I also find that I have no idea how to flirt! Maybe this is another one of those things that I needed to learn and missed out on as a teenager, I am simply too business like.

However having said all of this I can't say I'm too bothered, there are more important things going on in my life at the moment, and as I frequently remind myself and others I am still married.

Friday, 3 April 2015


Assuming that everything goes to plan and I have harnessed the technology correctly, then by the time you can read this I will either be in Cardiff, or on the M4 on my way there.   While the rest of the world enjoys a nice relaxing long weekend, or makes the most of the extra time available to be part of the year's busiest gardening weekend. I shall be spending way too much time watching at tarmac go past.   In n way do I resent the time I spend with my Mother, indeed I would like to see more of her, it's the journey I resent.

Of the many marvellous road journeys we have in Great Britain I would suggest that London to Cardiff is not one of them.   When my Brother first moved there way back in the dark ages the Motorway only got as far as the bridge and after that it was A roads.   Once the drive across London got me onto the M4 (no M25 in those days) it was quite a pleasant journey.   Although rarely deserted the road was never busy, the Severn Bridge was an engineering prodigy and once crossed the A48 was a fun drive. One feature now long gone ut which I remember with affection was the Mole Grips factory at the side of the road had a big board which read "Mr Mole Says......" The slogan was often fun and it also told me that I was nearly in Cardiff.

Like Cardiff itself the journey has changed a lot, the big difference is that Cardiff has improved enormously, it is now a major political, cultural and business centre.   The old docks have been developed into a modern leisure and business center and the whole city has a strong pulse.   The BBC uses Cardiff as a production center and it is the home of Dr Who.

The journey on the other hand has just turned into a chore.   There is always too much traffic, what ever time of any day I travel.   The worst time is Sunday evening when the road is full of cars all trying to travel 5 mph faster than the car in front, which ever direction I am travelling I arrive feeling drained ad in need of a stiff drink.   I inflict this on myself today as I am was committed to playing this morning, and then again on Sunday morning, so my only real chance of seeing Mum is Friday afternoon / Saturday.

Lets hope that Saturday will find everybody in their Garden and the M4 will be nice a quiet. SOME HOPE!

Thursday, 2 April 2015


My appointment with the GID yesterday, went well.  This was just an initial assessment and so was mostly just them getting some details and background about me.   I did my best to answer all the questions honestly, even the one that most people lie about, the "How much do you drink?" question, this probably leads to as many lies as "Will you still respect me in the morning?", one of my friends who is a GP defines an alcoholic as someone who drinks more than their Doctor.

Rather than this I used the old Reginald Perrin answer, "Do you drink?" "Only to excess", the Doc was not amused! when I actually worked out how much I do drink and told him I realised that it was too much, and rest assured that he was not shy of telling me that as well.   I have been aware for some time that I should cut down but have now been told in no uncertain terms that if I want them to treat me then I need to show that I am making the effort and am reducing my alcohol intake.

Of course they also wanted some blood tests, I couldn't believe how many vials of blood they took, I am used to up to maybe two or three, but they just kept filling them up. Bottle after Bottle. I think they took very nearly an armful!  I lost so much blood that when I got home I felt as though I needed a drink!

Now I have to go and get my recycling sorted out, shameful though the admission is I have filled my recycling box up and don't have room for all the bottles, and so will have to take some over to the bottle bank.   I would like to point out though, that I did miss last weeks collection so it is actually at least three weeks worth of recycling I have now.


So April has come around once again (as it does) and the only April Fools thing I have heard or come across so far is this from Battersea Dogs Home . I enjoyed this, but it was not the highlight of my day.

On Monday I had a phone call from Charing Cross Hospital, it was the Gender Identity Clinic asking if I wanted to take advantage of an appointment that had become clear? could I get there for 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday? WOULD I? COULD I? to me these came under the general heading of stupid question, I have been waiting for around 16 months since I first visited my GP. I have been looking back through m old diaries trying to find when I first went to my GP for some help , and can't find the date, but I do know that the first appointment I had as a consequence of that was on the 22nd January 2014

I have now walked through that door, today I had my first appointment with the GID Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital.   This first appointment is very much about  assessment and I wasn't expecting any treatment to be forthcoming, I wasn't disappointed.   I now have to wait till August for my next appointment (unless of course I pick up another cancellation!).

I really feel as though things are now beginning to move again, I have started the name change process, I have had my first visit to the GID, and very soon I should be getting some financial relief as well.

In the mean time, because my life is so boring, I have once again taken up the A - Z Blogging Blogging challenge.  Each day during April (apart from Sundays) I will be posting something with e subject matter relating to consecutive letters of the Alphabet.