Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 20 April 2017

My Office Today

A new Gravel Garden I built in Penge
Rhododendron in Beckenham

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

It's all in the Name II

Gloria Monday on tour in France, 2011
I had always promised myself if I ever bought a Ford Transit I would call it Gloria, so when I did, I did! My second Transit was also called Gloria, but by way of differentiation she was Gloria Tuesday.

Gloria Tuesday was not such a good van as Gloria Monday, and never really managed to gain a place in my heart. So when she gave up the ghost and I had to buy a new van I was not too sorry.   That was when Dannie came into my life.    Dannie is a much better vehicle, more powerful, better suspension, better steering, more comfortable, just a slightly smaller box on the back.
Dannie the Vito

As far as cars go I have had several and very few have warranted names, Jade the Singer Vogue, Minnie the Hillman Minx ( my first car) are the prime examples, but when the little Seat came into my life last year she was crying out to be named, listening to BBC Radio Four's adaptation of Graham Green's Monsignor Quixote last year it became obvious that she had to be named Rocinante!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

It's all in the name

"Jade" at the Singer Centenary Rally
I am very good at giving good advice, but maybe not so good at following it, especially my own.   I have often observed that I am actually very good with money, as long as it's not my own, I am pretty much the same with restraint!
Mrs T

One of my many pieces of good advice is not to give inanimate objects names; it will only lead to an emotional attachment which then makes it more difficult to make rational decisions concerning them.   Cars, motorbikes, musical instruments can all appear to have characters which lead to them having a name, but they are still just objects.   I know when I sold my beloved Singer Vogue known as Jade it was a big emotional wrench, I still miss my tubas, "Honk" and "Mrs. T".   To me it seems foolish to voluntarily put yourself through such emotional turmoil, especially for a thing!

In which case I have to wonder why I have ended up with a Tuba known as "Big Shinny" and another call "Baby Besson", perhaps even more foolish is the car called, Roccinante, the van called "Dannie" and perhaps worst of all a brooch called "Berwick"!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

It is easy!

While I appreciate that the sentiment is hardily new, but, I have been really busy! Every thing in every garden is growing, and with the mild weather we have been having growing well.   This always seems to be my busiest time of year, with a combination of customers realising that fences have been damaged and winter tiding not done, along with all the usual spring work of grass cutting, lawn raking, rose and other shrub pruning.   This tends to be a time when I am working my socks off, and not yet reaping the rewards. I trust that they are rewards delayed by my invoicing system, but it can make April a hard month!

Add to that lot an unusual amount of musical work ~ I always call it work but very little of it turns a profit ~ and much of my discretionary activity has fallen by the wayside.

It is easy to be pessimistic, as I say I seem to have been working all the time, yet am no better off, As a Nation out education system is a mess, and the Governments solution appears to be to take us back to the 60s with selective schools. We all know that our health system is falling apart yet even Nurses are thinking about strike action as they get yet another below inflation pay award.   We widely accept out Police Officers as heroes, yet even though they will put themselves in the way of danger to protect us,  their funding is also being cut, so there will not be enough trained Officers to man the thin blue line.   We have to wait longer to get our pensions, pay for our Children's music lessons and university education, at the same as we are further impoverished paying for our parents care.

Over successive elections we ~ the electorate ~ have chosen the type of Country we want to live in, one that doesn't care about the needy, chooses not to pay those who serve us a decent wage, not to fund education or health. In short we have become a society where money, personal wealth, is valued more highly than public service, or indeed people.

It is easy to be pessimistic, yet then I remember that today is Maundy Thursday, the day when we remember Christ sharing His last Passover with his friends, the Apostles ~ what we call the Last Supper and the basis of our Christian Communion.   The day when Christ knowing what was a bout to happen, freely went to his sacrifice, the sacrifice that bought our freedom. That allowed us direct access to God tearing down the Temple Curtain, that served the sentence for our misdeeds so that we could live in freedom.

Last night I watched the Cohen Brothers film "True Grit" I had always enjoyed the original John Wayne and wondered why we needed a remake, however I found in an excellent film, indeed a better one than the original.   One line in particular struck, when the young girl said, in live we have to pay for everything, everything has a consequence ~ nothing in live is free, except God's Grace.

So yes it is easy to be pessimistic, and I am afraid that if we are not careful we will "all be going to hell in a handcart", yet I choose to be optimistic, I know that we can enjoy God's love, and that we can receive His Grace, if evil can be defeated then so can selfishness, apathy, and, greed. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

March Stats

YIPPEE!! I have lost a (little) bit of weight, I am now just over 12 and a half stone, only about half a stone to go before I am where I want to be.

So not many posts in March, what have I been up to?

Being Visible in Croydon Town Hall
Weight 12 stone 8 pounds
Weight lost 4 lbs
BMI 25.2 still over weight but not by much now
Days with no alcohol 31
Days Worked 22
Music Performance made 4
Recordings made 1 (over 2 days)
Court Cases attended 1
Funerals 2
Flags hoisted 1
Civic Receptions 1
Speeches made 1
EON Failed appointments 1
Rooms Painted 1

YEP, it's been a busy month

I had thought about doing the blogging A - Z again this month, but it's already too late, and quite frankly I have too much on to guarantee daily updates! 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sometimes it can be really difficult

Some of you may just remember me writing about a small car accident I had back in January last year, the damage to the car was no more than superficial, (however it was written off as it was such an old banger!) and nobody was hurt, at all! The whole thing was settled very quickly and amicably, indeed what impressed me most was quick, efficient and friendly way it was all dealt with.   I replaced the car and considered the incident closed.

Now, over a year later I am getting hordes of unsolicited phone calls from "Ambulance chasers" trying to encourage me to make a further claim for personal injury.   I am refusing as there was no personal injury and just about all have left is my personal integrity.   I have had it suggested that since the car was written off it must have been a considerable impact, I have been told that I must have experienced some discomfort following the accident, I have been told that I may be unwise to not claim the "thousands of pounds owed" me.

It is never easy to resist the temptation to try and get money for nothing, and when, like me, money is in short supply it is even more tempting.   However I am holding out, I keep asking for the phone calls to stop and I will not claim for injuries I did not sustain.   Ultimately every one of us who insures a vehicle pays for this profiteering, I suspect that these sorts of fraudulent claims now represent a major proportion of the insurance premiums that we all are obliged to pay.

I'm holding out but it's not easy.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

I think I'm Broken

No not broke, even though I may that as well, but broken!

Due to weekend rehearsals, performances and recordings I realised yesterday morning that I had in effect been working every day for the past nine days.   I was tired and my enthusiasm levels were low, I was encouraged that spring had sprung and that I had the work to do, indeed even this week I have slightly more than will actually fit into the time available.

Then yesterday half way through cutting a large area of grass, I can't bring myself to call it a lawn, the weather changed, it started to drizzle. Since I was half way through I decided to carry on rater than leave the job unfinished. Then it started to rain, but by then I had to finish.7

Result, less than tidy, but cut grass, and a sodden Paula!  Now I was tired, stiff and wet!

Getting home I got showered and changed before trying to dash off to another rehearsal. I say tried to dash, it was as much as I could to walk to the car. A muscle at the top of my leg seemed to have ceased up, I was like an old woman, if I had walking stick I would have used it. As the evening wore on it only got worse, by the time I was home it was really, really bad. I decided to go to bed with a couple of iboprofen and not bother getting up in the morning, taking the morning off.   Of course that was when I found out I had run out of iboprufen, so I used a heat pad I have and retired to bed.

Following my own advise I didn't get up till around midday, which did mean I had the chance to listen to an excellent  program on Radio 4 on gender diversity in Rock music; if you are at all interested in diversity, or rock music a fascinating listen!

For centuries musicians have defied gender boundaries to create some of the most evocative and provocative art and music.
Journalist and culture critic Laura Snapes joins the dots of a fascinating musical history that encompasses musical icons such as Ma Rainey, Little Richard, Lou Reed, the Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones and Madonna, and looks at how today's musicians use music and performance to express who their own gender and sexuality.
In recent years the issue of gender and identity has been a hot topic in the musical landscape and beyond. From niche publications to tabloids and political debate, issues surrounding gender identity and how it influences both personal and social life have been widely publicised.
Amid the deeply complex personal world of gender identity and the often ruthlessly myopic world of the music industry, a new generation of artists are using music for fearless expressions of their gender and sexuality that break beyond the archetypes set by their forebears.
Rock Transition speaks with artists such as garage maverick Ezra Furman, Canadian pop stars Tegan and Sara, musician and author CN Lester, and musician and activist Ryan Cassata to understand why music offers an exciting platform to express and explore gender identity and sexuality - and asks how these artists can resist being marginalised and commodified by an industry keen to capitalise on a hot topic.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Warming Up

This is a special week for me, this is the first week this year when I have worked five days! Yes that's right I have actually worked a full week.   And, that's after a weekend where I had an all day rehearsal on Saturday followed by a meeting in the evening, and then another all day rehearsal on Sunday followed by an evening performance.

Then this weekend I have been recording with the rather wonderful Heroes Band.

All this means that I am feeling rather tired, but also very satisfied.

Of course this means a couple of other things as well, one is that I have been doing some pretty fantastic things, like last weekend I was at the Royal Festival Hall playing at Mirth Control, the big finale to the Women Of the World Festival.   OK this year couldn't quite match up to last year playing with Sister Sledge, but we did have Bjorn from ABBA!

It was great to be with so many wonderful, talented women, we were told that the Orchestra was the best yet and that we sounded pretty fantastic.   While it may not have been the most musically satisfying experience I have had, but as a life experience it is hard to compare!

It also means that the weather has been pretty good; at the beginning of the week I was working striped down to my tee shirt working on my tan, by Friday I was wearing a tee shirt, pullover and body warmer!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

I can be really stupid

Especially when it comes to planning my time and activities.   I seem to be going through one of those periodic episodes of frantic activity, between WOW work, rehearsals meetings and recordings I am in grave danger of disappearing up my own fundamental! (C below bass stave)

My Office on Monday
I am sorry if I have missed blog posts, Facebook notifications or e-mails. I am sorry if I don't appear to be giving you the attention you deserve, I am just too busy!  I am writing this at home after ten in the morning, but I have already done two hours work and am just grapping a quick break before going off to cut grass.   In the diary having three things on in one day looks OK, but when one of them takes over 8 hours the whole edifice can come crumbling down.

And yesterday,
by the time we had finished, it was too dark for photos
Spring has definitely sprung, after a long winter I am now desperately trying to keep up with the pruning, weeding and grass cutting, I seem to have a lot of meetings planning summer events, and the Transgender Day of Visibility, and there is also a lot of music about .

Next weekend I have a couple of recording sessions, and then the weekend after that I have NO CONCERTS! The first time since the 21st/22nd of January!

Monday, 13 March 2017

My office Today

Well, not really an office, and not actually today,

Last week I started cutting grass, with one thing and another I didn't quite get round to saying how pleasing this is. almost as pleasing as my mower starting on the second pull, after sitting in the back  of the van for the last four months!

 I have had a stupidly busy but rather wonderful weekend, so mare of that later!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Normal Service is resumed

After the last couple of days I thought we could all use something a little less contentious, so here's a clip from my last concert with the LGSO. 

Delius' La Calinda from his Opera Koanga, I don't think we did too bad, especially since we had very little rehearsal on this piece as virtually all our time was taken up with Mahler 5.

We have played our last couple of concerts at St Giles Cripplegate a much bigger Church, with much less imprecise acoustics, even with all that extra space I still seem to get stuck behind a pillar.   When I play at the Festival Hall on Sunday whatever else might happen at least I know I won't get stuck behind a pillar!

Friday, 10 March 2017


Following on from yesterday's post I thought that maybe I should say a little more about some of my experience, I normally gloss over a lot with rather flippant comments like one of my favorites "Nothing makes you understand privilege like giving it up".  I will normally try to focus on the advantages of life, the good things I have enjoyed, I rejoice that I have had opportunities that most women my age will not have had, but that of course means that as a man I automatically had opportunities, privilege, that was denied to at least half of the population simply because they are women.

Way back in January 2015 I wrote a bit about this, about being a white middle class, middle aged, straight man, and giving it up, and, about the unfairness of World in general. Now I am going to be a bit more specific. As well as that post January 2015 marked the time I finally gave up trying to be male, as well as being truly fulfilling it was also a bit of an eye opener.   Until then I had been one of the masters of the Universe, I could go anywhere, talk to anyone, have any and all of my opinions (and I had plenty of those) taken seriously, I was allowed to dominate conversations and was an automatic choice to chair meetings.  Mechanics and Policemen treated me with respect, waiters assumed I was the one who knew about wine ~ and would be paying.

I then suddenly became much more aware of things I had been told about, but had never experienced.   I realised that going into a pub on my own may be risky, I was no longer allowed to feel comfortable walking into many places as a lone female, for the first time in my life I felt at risk!   I found that travelling on public transport I no longer felt totally secure, travelling alone on a bus I now choose to sit downstairs, on a seat where I can be seen by the driver. At times I feel suspicious of men who may just happen to be walking behind me on the same route, now I have to consider them as potential rapists.   Some trans women consider it a bit of a compliment to be "letched" at out of a van window or from a building site, I can assure that it very soon loses it's attraction.

I was used to feeling safe, secure and self confident.   It was a bit of a shock to experience the reality of being a woman in London in the 21st Century ~ and for a girl like me London has to be one of the safest cities in the world.   I am getting used to the idea that my views and opinions are not quite as valued as they used to be, I am getting used to the idea that men now consider it fine to talk over me, and that I should sit quietly and patiently listening to them.   I am quite sure that most men do not even realise how privileged they are, this is just the world they have been brought up in, I certainly wasn't! Add to that a Grammar School education, Rugby club member and Chartered professional status, I simply assumed that that was how the world worked, I was going to have a good life and that was my entitlement.  It never crossed my mind for more than a few minutes when it was brought to my attention that the world did not work in the same way for women.

I do now experience much of the subconscious oppression society imposes on women, I can only begin to imagine what it is like for people of colour, with disabilities or even different beliefs.

This is why I will be supporting Women Of the World (as well as a chance to play at the Royal Festival Hall), why I am a feminist and why I am a socialist.

I could , and probably will, write much more on this, but for now that is quite enough for one post without pictures! Normal service will be resumed with frivolous posts and cartoons soon!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Dear Jenny

The last few days there has been a lot of fuss in and around the Transgender world about an article written by Dame Jenni Murray for the Sunday Times, I have just read it and I can understand why some trans people are very upset about it.   However I do suspect that they are a lot more upset than the article really warrants.

Just as Jenny starts her article with a clarification

"Let me make something absolutely clear at the outset. I am not transphobic or anti-trans. Not a Terf in other words. That’s trans-exclusionary radical feminist, to use one of the often-confusing expressions that have entered the language in this age of gender revolution."

Maybe I should make it clear that I am a regular listener to her on Woman's Hour and generally enjoy her broadcasts.

This is an opinion piece and there is some question as to whether since Murray is a presenter of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour she should not be expressing an opinion on topics that the program will cover, and, where she should show, and represent the BBC's, impartiality. Certainly I would now find it difficult to listen to her host a discussion on Trans matters on Woman's hour without assuming that she favoured one side of any argument.   Given that I am a long standing fan and listener to Woman's Hour this is a substantial realisation.

Dame Jenni Murray
It is a well written, considered piece, and some research has clearly been done, just as I would expect from a journalist of Jenni's stature.   The fuss centers around Jenni's assertion that having lived life as a man, it is impossible to transition to become a "Real Woman", indeed it is with this phrase that I (and oh so many others) take issue.   I will agree that as a trans woman there are many of the formative experiences of most women that I have missed out on, some with regret, and some with glee.   Until relatively recently I have had no direct personal experience of misogyny, I have known of it, and indeed seen it, but it is only since my transition in my 50s that I have experienced it.   I have never known what it is to experience child birth (first hand ~ being there and watching is not the same) or indeed menstruation. Quite clearly I have not been through the process of growing up as a woman, and so do not have those formative, shared experiences that many women my age will have.

Having lived as a man I have known male privilege, more than that I have known white middle class, middle aged straight male privilege, and let me assure you Jenni, nothing makes you understand privilege like giving it up!

As it happens I do consider myself a feminist, I became a feminist not when I transitioned, and not when I started to suspect my true identity, no I truly became a feminist (rather than simply a sympathiser), when my daughter was born.   I wanted to be able to tell her to follow her dream, to assure her that she could be anything she wanted to be and not have to keep my fingers crossed behind my back.  I want to live in a society where when I tell my Daughter to be true to herself it is considered to be good advise.

A real woman
So am I a real woman, well the simple answer is that I am a woman (after all that's what it says on my passport!) and I am real. If I were not real I wouldn't have to pay my credit card bills, so there is a down side.   Does that make me a real woman? well in my book it does, but I think that must depend on the definition of a "real woman".   Jenni worries that a couple of the trans women she has interviewed were not aware of feminist principles or history, she worried that these two were unduly concerned about clothes and make up, and cited the example of one of the very rare people who de-transitioned. Considering this as evidence that we are not real women.

Unfortunately many Cis Women are equally ignorant or unaware of feminist history, the battles that have been fought, won, and lost, many are unduly concerned about their clothes, make up and appearance. that makes them no less real.

As far as clothes and make up go maybe I need to explain that these are even more important to trans women than Cis women, especially for those of us who transition later in life. Not because we are brainless Barbies but because we are aware that like any other woman we will be judged by what we choose to wear, every aspect of our appearance will be analysed and criticised, perhaps even more so than our Cis sisters.   Then add to this minefield the two aspects that we have not had the years of practise, development and learning of our sisters, and that we also have more that we choose to cover up, it is perhaps more important to us that our presentation is appropriate and that we, who are so often considered oddities, will fit in.    I have friends who have been women all their lives and they are also concerned about their appearance, that makes their womanhood or their opinions no less valid.

Perhaps the two trans women Jenni spoke with appeared unaware of, or disagreed with some basic feminist principles, this does not apply to all trans women ~ indeed at last year's Mirth Control at the end of the Women Of the World festival I was in the top ten on the feminist quiz!

I cannot forget, and would not want to, my life prior to transition, I cannot put aside all the experiences and people who have made me who I am today.   But once again I ask does all this mean that I am not a real woman?

I consider myself a real woman, my daughter considers me a real woman, my friends consider me a real woman. Maybe the problem is in the wording, to suggest that I am not a real woman, is to suggest that I am acting, playing dress up, not experiencing the reality of womanhood, indeed invalidating my very essence of self.   Well let me assure you Jenni that what I am experiencing is real, very real, and not always comfortable.   True I have not enjoyed all the aspects of growing up a woman, maybe a less offensive expression might be "Complete Woman".   I am real, but I will admit that lack of experience may make me incomplete.

The sooner we can stop this being a debate, and exclude the extreme activists on both sides then maybe we can make this discussion a constructive one rather than giving and taking offense.   I expect Jenni will be at WOW at the festival hall this weekend, I will be there on Sunday as I will once again be playing in the Women Of the World Festival Orchestra, the World's only orchestra made up entirely of real women, if you would like to talk to me between rehearsals and performance I would be happy to explain further just why I feel real, even if maybe not complete.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

I'm going to Spend, Spend, Spend!

Over the years I suspect that I may have appeared to be complaining excessively about my state of impecuniosity, and maybe I have.   I suspect that my up bringing did not prepare me for many of the things I have experienced as an adult.   I was brought up with the expectation that I would be financially secure, with a reliable, clean, pensionable career. My expectation was that I would head a family household live in a nice house with a nice garden and drive a nice car.   Just as my expectation was that I would be one of the rulers of the Universe (White, straight, middle class, middle aged man) this turned out to not be true!

Let me make this clear ~ I am lousy with money ~ at any rate my own, I'm fine with other peoples!

I am not a responsible planer, I do not set aside sufficient in good times to cover bad, and even though I am mostly in low paid work I am sure that with a  bit more effort I could earn more and manage what I do get better.   However as I approach my sixth decade I know that realistically I am unlikely to change now.   Winter is always the worst time for me, I am working less and potentially spending more, at some point each winter I will run out of money, usually about or around tax time!   This year it was a bit later, I managed to pay my tax without borrowing, I got through most of the winter, then last week it hit! I had no money!

I was close to panic, I had to get some fuel before I could work, I had to buy some materials, I had somebody working for me one day this week and had to be able  to pay her!

So after the my initial panic at the discovery, I prayed about my situation, then I set about sorting in out.   I can now see my way through, an invoice I had sent out has been paid and I have generally been catching up.   Then a few days ago I received a letter from NS&I apparently I won £25 in the October Premium Bond draw but never received the warrant!

I shall today send back the form to claim my prize, and while I wait for the cheque I shall contemplate just how I will spend my winnings!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Has spring Sprung?

Well today has dawned bright and sunny, maybe spring is here, I certainly hope so as I have a lot of work to get done this week. Not least of which is to finish clearing up after Doris the other week!

While I'm not entirely sure that Winter has given up the fight, as I go round the gardens I see many signs of spring, daffodil and tulip bulbs are showing, and many snow drops and crocuses are in full bloom.   Roses are budding (and getting pruned), the soil may still be cold and I think it will still be a couple of weeks before I start cutting grass, but, as the days get longer and the temperatures rise I feel myself coming back to life just as I see it in the plants.

On Saturday I played with the Sussex Symphony Orchestra we had quite a challenging program with works by Berlioz, Offenbach and Saint Saens.   I have played with this wonderful orchestra quite a few times now, under two different conductors, and I think this may well have been the best one yet.   The strings had really got their act together, and were playing with good intonation and were very together, the wind had more confidence than they have shown in previous concerts and the clarinets were simply fabulous in the "Fantastic Symphony"

The SSO in Rehearsal in All Saints Church Hove

Sunday, 5 March 2017


Well it's nice to know that some of you do actually read what I write!

Which means that many of you spotted my mistakes yesterday, I tend to weigh myself, and think in imperial units, actually in terms of stones and pounds rather than pounds or kilos.   So I weighed myself then did some conversions. Of course being in a bit of a hurry I got the calculations wrong, which then got more calculations wrong and made myself more than twice my actual weight!

It should have been 81 kg and the BMI should have been 25.8! that does mean I am still classified as over weight but not be nearly as much.   I think my trouble is that although I can do distance and speed in either imperial or metric, lots of weight things I can do in either, but some things I just can only relate to the units I was brought up with, in consequence as far as personal weight goes for me it is stones and pounds, temperature is always centigrade a and mileage is always in miles per gallon.

Of all people I should be open to change, but this seems to be one transition that eludes me. 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Not a lot

Not quite the beginning of the month, but near enough, so here goes with my stats.

Alcohol free days ~ two or three each week
Weight ~ 12 stone 12 pounds or 180lbs, or 181 kg
BMI ~ 57.1 = overweight!

That's all a slight improvement, but the emphasis is on the slight (something I still aspire to be)

I am expecting more change over the next month or so as I have given up booze for Lent! it's only three days so far and I am already aware of the lack. 

Friday, 3 March 2017


Well today has been interesting! I had an early morning visit to my local Vodafone shop to see if they could sort my recalcitrant phone.   The chap I saw fiddled with it for some time, before admitting defeat, but decided to consult a female colleague. She took a look at it, pressed a button or two and had it back up and working.
I should have known better and gone to a woman first!

Then after a few calls I was out and working myself as well.   It is good to get outside, enjoy some fresh air and day light, use a few muscles and generally make the gardens I work in a little better.

And here's the photo I took to go with the last post!

Complete with saw and my new chain saw helmet in the background.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Got Wood!

I have had both a frustrating and enjoyable day today. Frustrating because I had to spend some money I would have preferred not to and couldn't some stuff I need, enjoyable because I had a good day outdoors working in a garden, which looked a lot better when I had finished.

I often beat myself up a bit because I keep forgetting to take before and after photos when I'm working. Well today I did take some before photos n my phone, and had every intention of taking some afters as well, but when I came to it my phone was "off". I assumed I had allowed the battery to go flat, again, so have been charging it up. But it just won't switch on now.   I'm also charging up my old Nokia, but I don't think the sim cards are interchangeable.   Looks like I'll have to walk into Croydon tomorrow morning before work to the Vodafone shop to see what's what.

It makes me realise just how dependent I am on my phone now, all my contacts, the photos, the messages, the whole thing. It has also made me realise that I can't find my camera, and can't remember the last time I used it, since I've been using the one on the phone!

Well I should have known! the day started badly, I managed to find a replacement chain saw helmet OK but couldn't find a spare chain for my saw, so went to work with just the already slightly worn one on the saw, and the last one I had taken off. Today's job was to cut down an apple tree which had been blown over by Doris, and cut down another (just trunk) which had died a year or two ago, but been left standing.   I just about managed between my two rather worn chains to get the job done and all the rather considerable amount of timber waste loaded into the van.   I now have a load of logs but no where to burn them, so if anyone wants wood.................

A Problem Solved?

I have often alluded to the meagre size of my living space, the truth is that the space is fine, I just have too much stuff.  Having reached an age where pensions become the subject of interested reading I have had plenty of time to acquire lots of "stuff".    When I first moved in I had a pretty major cull, and subsequently I have had more, and so far the only things I have disposed of that I have missed are my old BBb tuba (Mrs T) and a small cast iron gratin dish with a handle ~ which I suppose goes to show that stuff isn't that important.

Books are something of an issue with me.   I tend to buy them in charity shops with every intention of giving them back after I've read them, but somehow they just tend to stay in the flat.   All my book cases are full, and all my shelves are double stacked, there are also a few piles on the floor.

Well a few days back I managed to do something I have been planning ever since moving.   I had a meeting at the Town Hall, so before my meeting I popped into the library next door, and joined!

Libraries are these wonderful places that will lend you books, without charging.   As long as they get the books back there is no charge and they just keep on lending.   I currently have a couple of weighty novels out, as I am working my way through a series. They are "who done its" so once I know I probably won't want to re-read so the library is ideal.

I keep hearing that library services are under threat, well the only way to ensure their continued presence is to use them, I'm doing my bit.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Concert Dress XIV

Last Sunday (Feb 19th) I played a concert with my beloved London Gay Symphony Orchestra, included in the program was Mahler's awesome fifth symphony.   The piece is highly emotional and presents a number of technical and physical difficulties not least of which is sustaining the necessary level of concentration for over an hour.   Our orchestra has grown a lot over the last year or so which is great as we can now put a good performance of some of these massive works.

As we often do, we did have someone recording the performance so I hope that at some point I will be able to share a bit of it with you all, but for now I will just quote a (musician) friend who came to the concert
"Excellent. Whole orchestra played brilliantly. Better than I have sometimes heard professional orchestras play. Thoroughly enjoyed this evening."

I now have quite a few other performances coming up, an many different instruments, I even have a recording where I will be playing the electric bass for one track.   One of them, however will be presenting an almost unique challenge.

Once again this year I will be playing for the WOW festival Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, since last year's Mirth Control was just about the coolest thing I have ever done this year has a hard act to follow.   After all it's not every day that I get to play "We are Family" with Sister Sledge at the Royal Festival Hall!

Last year's brass section, with old lady in red at the end
Last year we had quite some confusion about what to wear, initially we were asked to wear suffragette colours, then it was changed to colourful Posh Frocks, I ended up vacillating madly about what I was going to wear, until I bought a new dress just for the occasion.

This year they are being even less helpful with the simple injunction

We would like to look and feel fabulous, so please wear something in which you feel great! Bright colours are fine and also sparkles and glitter!
Trousers, long or short dresses, skirts, all are fine as long as you feel amazing!

Well it would have been nice to at least get a clue! I think I need somebody to come over, go through my wardrobe and tell me what to wear!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Quote of the Day

Adam Macy
After yesterday's post, which can best be described as being of "Special interest" I was reminded of a couple of quotes I have recently heard.

On the Archers Adam came up with the crushing

"Well every day I learn some thing new that I will forget"

And the other day on Woman's Hour

"As much use as a carpet fitters ladder"

Well I think these two more or less cover my Tuba post,

Monday, 27 February 2017

Berlioz in Brighton

An 1860s Ophicleide
Yesterday I went to a rehearsal for next Saturday's concert with the Sussex Symphony Orchestra, It is a challenging program of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld, Saint Saens' Piano Concerto and the Fantastic Symphony from Hector Berlioz.    I will be playing in the Offenbach and the Berlioz; the Offenbach is actually an Ophicleide part; the Berlioz was also originally written for Ophicleide and later, in the second edition amended to "tuba" but not tubas as we now know them in the 21st century.

The Ophicleide had a short period of popularity as a chromatic bass brass instrument, but like the other keyed bugles it lacked depth of tone and power. Also know as the Russian Bassoon (probably what Samuel Coleridge Taylor was referring to in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner) was soon replaced by the earliest attempts at modern tubas as soon as valves were invented.

Early 20th Century French C Tuba
The popular instrument in France, well into the 20th Century was to British and American eyes a strange little instrument with six (yes six!) valves. The fundamental is the C above the Bb that trombones and euphoniums are pitched in giving it an extraordinarily wide register, the part in the Berlioz going from the F above the Bass stave to the D below.   Many players will now use a modern euphonium to play this part but since my little old Euph only has three valves I can't actually get the bottom notes.

My Baby Besson EEb
New Standard, Westminster, Sovereign.
So for yesterdays rehearsal I took both my Euph and my trusty old Besson EEb.   I don't often use it now as most of the time I use Big Shinny my lovely Conn International CC. I was most gratified to find that although I don't play her much I could still get a good register on the EEb and managed those top Fs

When I moved I had so little space that I sold a tuba, I was devastated at the time, but now I'm so glad that I have held on to my trusty old "Baby Besson"

If this is all far too much Tuba Talk for you, don't worry normal service will be resumed, as  I now start to think about what I will be wearing as much as what I will be playing for my next few concerts.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Interesting times

There is said to be an ancient Chinese curse, "May you life in interesting times" and I can totally relate to that.   Over the years there have been a few of those "Interesting times", those times when everything I touch seems to go wrong or simply come to naught.

However; at the moment lots of things are happening around  me, good, positive, interesting things.   Yesterday I had a couple of very interesting meetings one for work, which looks like it will lead to a very interesting job in an area I haven't worked before, and the other with my local Council about Transgender Day of Visibility.    We will be having an event!   It is so empowering just to know that our Council is supporting our communality.   I am very pleased to be involved with the organisation of this, and hope that we can make a big enough splash that it will become an annual event here in Croydon, until it is no longer necessary.   I am now also involved in running Croydon Pride Fest, this will be the second year, and this year I aim to ensure that everybody is aware of the T in LGBT!

In case this doesn't excite you too much maybe I should point out that although Croydon is a London Borough, if it were a City it would be the eighth largest in the UK, with a population of around 380,000 adults it represents more people that some counties, and is an ancient population centre dating back to pre Norman times, the burial place of eleven, yes eleven Arch Bishops of Canterbury.  I could go on (and on, and on) about my home town, but for now I will just rejoice that it is embracing me and leading the way into the twenty first century.

Couple this with a fantastic concert on Sunday, WOW and some other fascinating performance opportunities coming up, and bring a Christian perspective to the consultation process with Stonewall, and this is definitely and interesting time.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Gig ecconomy is not new

I have recently written a couple of posts about my career.  This seems to be turning into another one of my occasional series of posts, so here goes with the next installment of my rather odd career.

Chronologically I had got as far as being made redundant from my second job.   This wasn't as bad as it might sound, for quit a bit of my time with Michelin I had not been happy, I really liked my first job there, and my last, but the least said about the one in between the better.

So now I was in possession of my first flat, living on my own for the first time, I had a little capital in the bank, and no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up.   I needed to find something I wanted to do, yet the only thing I knew was that I didn't want to do what I had been doing.   I good friend of mine had a little business buying and selling cars, since I have always been a bit of petrol head I decided that this looked like easy money playing with toys, I rented a corner of the showroom from my friend and started dealing in second hand cars.

I had great fun, but learnt a few valuable life lessons, in commerce it is not the selling that is difficult it is the buying, contrary to what you might think from watching the apprentice where all too emphasis much is put on selling, anyone will buy desirable stuff as long as the price is right. The trick is buying the stuff at a price that allows for a profit.   My problem was that I kept buying the cars that I wanted rather than ones that would sell quickly with a profit.  

An English German band with an Australian Accordion player,
working for Canadians in Spain,
Somehow I eventually extricated myself before I became totally impoverished, while doing the car dealing I had slowly started to get a few gigs with some German Bands, and amateur orchestras. As I managed to get more and more music work I concentrated on that, abandoned the cars and enjoyed a strange lifestyle, driving from gig to gig all over the country.    This in no way represented steady work, so during this period of my life I would do anything I had to to pay my way.   Being self employed I had the flexibility and status to take on anything that came along. I did removals, piano removals, parcel deliveries, for a while I worked for Currys selling fridges and washing machines.   I emptied dust bins and drove trucks. I had a few temp jobs in offices, I laboured for a landscape gardener and cut grass for a maintenance gardener, I worked as a dispatch rider, in short what ever came along.

It was fun! It was also precarious. Work was irregular and unpredictable I would have periods of employment, but I would get bored and go back to the precarious life of a gigging musician, and the periods of poverty and depression which seem to go with that role ~ at least they do for me.

In 1992 my life changed beyond anything I had ever expected. I fell in love and proposed to the wonderful, beautiful woman who later that same year was to become my wife, I landed a good Gig, playing at Expo '92 in Seville, which saved my financial bacon, and my father died.

Now I felt it was time to grow up and get what my Mother called "A proper job" and so ended my second career.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Social Media?

Every now and then I manage a day away from my laptop, although I have now updated to a smart phone I do try to not spend time on FB or blogger on it, so for me a day away from my computer is a day away from social media, e-mails and all that entails.   On Sunday I had one of those days ~ no not one of THOSE days, but a day away from my computer.   It was a very good day, not simply because I wasn't on FB but more because I was actually doing stuff, with real people who were in the same room as me!

Then on Monday, when I eventually got up I checked my computer and find I have about 30 e-mails to go through and slightly more notifications on FB.

Well by the time, I've put through a load of washing, and had a little tidy up and gone through all that lot I look at the clock and find that it's too late to do anything constructive at all. I seem to have wasted the whole day, with little more than some clean underwear to show for it.

If I had not turned on the computer I may well have gone off and done some work, but I did have to check to see if any important work related e-mails had come in, and then one thing just seems to lead to another.   Were any of those numerous messages important? no virtually all the e--mails were spam and most of the FB notifications were the usual dross.   Maybe I just needed to waste a day and recover from a busy few days.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sorry I upset you

I seem to have stirred up something of a hornets nest with my post of last Thursday.   I know the general rule of polite conversation is to avoid politics and religion, but I'm not that strong on polite that I will avoid talking about the most important things in life.   I fear that one of the things that these two now have in common is an increasing polarisation of views.   Just as in politics we see the rise of the extreme left and right, almost a tribalisation with the middle ground rabidly diminishing.   I grew up in a time of consensus in British politics, that started to disappear with Margaret Thatcher, we now see the results of that separation here with the reluctance of many "Remainers" to accept the outcome of our recent referendum and the lack of understanding of many "Brexiteers" that many of us do not want to cut off totally from all aspects of the EU.   In the States we see the antipathy between Trump and Hilary supporters.

I don't want to go into the rights and wrongs of either side, just to observe the phenomenon.

I feel that the same is happening when people consider religion.   All too often I see people abandoning calm rational consideration.   People who in their professional life will be totally calm and sensible when asked about religion will become passionate and maybe irrational.

Now I want people to be passionate about their faith, but I also really want them to be rational and considered as well.   I suspect that a lot of the problem with religion within the LGBT community is the broad brush of terminology. There are one or two things I would like my readers to understand how I think about my faith. It may just help to understand where I come from in everything I do, who I do it with, and why.

First the thing that drives me in my faith is simple, it is the knowledge that God loves me. Everything else is a response to that simple knowledge.

Christianity is not about belonging to a Church, it is not about following a set of rules, it is not about criticising other people, or indeed trying to reform them into our idea of what people should be.   As far as I am concerned Christianity is simply about our response to the knowledge of God's love.

In my experience Churches have put more people off Christianity than anything else, and at the moment assemblies like the Westborough Baptists are not helping.  It makes me ashamed of my fellow Christians that I find I need to explain that these people who spout bile and hate are not displaying Christ's love, they are not typical of Christ's followers, and do not represent the wider Church (The fellowship of all believers!)

I think the point I was trying to get to in my last post was that the Church, especially the Church of England, needs to engage with the LGBT community, as we are people, people who are loved by Christ and as such disserving of love from his followers.   The LGBT community needs to engage with the Church (and of course other faith groups) because they do represent a very proportion of  society, and society is still not fully inclusive, is still in need of reform.   The question is how to engage?

It is no good Faith Groups coming to our community (or individual members) and spouting Bible verses or the Quran and expecting understanding and engagement, on the other hand it is pointless for our community to try and engage faith groups by proclaiming civil rights, societal standards, or indeed even human rights.   Faith groups generally consider themselves to be counter cultural, so it is pointless to try to engage with them from the stand point of  societal culture.   Just as the faith groups need to understand that they need to engage with secular society from a standpoint that is relevant and understandable with the context on modern secular life so too the LGBT community needs to engage with Faith groups from a theological point of view.   There is no point in protesting outside the meetings of groups who revel in being hated.

We can all learn from Jesus, he wanted to help everybody, so yes sure he spoke in the Temple and synagogues, but he also spoke by lakes, on hills and in pubs, engaged people where they were in terms they understood.   What we all need to do is what Christ himself did, go into the places that others meet and show them love.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A mixed Bag

All in all this is turning out to be a very odd week, and I don't expect it to get any easier!   This evening I have been reading through Stonewall's thirty odd page document "A Vision for Change ~ Acceptance without exception for trans people" What I have managed to read so far is pretty much "Motherhood and Apple pie" in that it basically says everyone should be treated equally with dignity and respect.   I will have to go into it in more detail tomorrow as on Friday I will be attending the London consultation meeting on this new Stonewall position and campaign.   I do have some reservations about their attitude to faith organisations, as there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding that these organisations are based on articles and principles of faith, often through a holy book.   It is perfectly fair to say that individuals or secular organisations should conform with modern understanding of equality and inclusiveness, but is it fair to ask the same of faith organisations? To an extent I think that as long as they are not damaging other minorities then they should be allowed to maintain their long standing practises, as long as no one else is damaged, diminished or disrespected.

This same week I have been asked to be a Trustee of a new charity to run Pride events in Croydon, we will also co-ordinate and promote LGBT events, equality, and, inclusion in the area.   this all happens the same week that my beloved Church of England is debating, and rejecting the Bishops report " A culture of welcome and support" The Bishops embraced inclusion but could not go as far accepting same sex marriage or the blessing of same sex relationships, the laity agreed with them, but the clergy did not, and with our rather arcane system there has to be agreement amongst all three.  

Justin Welby, our very impressive Arch Bishop of Canterbury has now called for "Radical new Christian inclusion"   I'm not sure what all this will mean in the parish church, I know that my own church has been quite radical and very welcoming and inclusive in my case.

Indeed I am rather upset that my stupid lifestyle and over active musical life means that I will be missing them this Sunday again.   I think this will be the second Sunday in a row I have missed, but it seems like more.   I try not to go to Church religiously, but when I miss, I really do miss it.   I am still worshipping at the Church I moved to about two years ago, before moving home, I often think that I should move again to one of the Churches in the community I now find myself; then I will go to a service or event at Christ Church Beckenham, and everybody is so loving, and accepting that I just can't bring myself to move away.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Trying to be positive

Honest I am, I believe in being thank full, looking on the bright side, and the power of positive thought.   But right now I am feeling really p£$$ed off.   Sometimes it feels as though there is a conspiracy to make my life more complicated than it ever should be.   I have carefully arranged my work this week to allow for a meeting this afternoon and my electricity meter being fitted tomorrow morning.   Two phone calls this afternoon ruined all that.

Fist I contacted the office where I was to have my meeting to find that the person I should have been seeing would not be in as she had gone to a Doctors appointment. Never mind I could see them tomorrow, of course that would have to be tomorrow afternoon as I have to wait in for the meter to be changed in the morning; viable but could be a bit of rush as the tender bid we are working on has to be in by Friday.

The next call shouldn't have surprised me, but still did. It was those wonderful people from the E-ON cancelling my appointment.   The E-ON customer service team must be the most miss named department of any company I have every had to deal with.   This is the fifth appointment where they have failed, the new appointment is for the 10th March, the first appointment was for the 6th December, so that will then be over three months! Do I expect them to complete the task this time, do I Bu&&ery!

Add to these frustration a visit yesterday from a guy claiming to be from Thames Water who wanted to now who I was and how long I had lived at my address, he had a form to fill in and then asked me to sign it, when I checked what he had put down I could see that  the details were all wrong, so I refused to sign, he got quite shirty, but I will not sig something I know to be incorrect, so now I have been left with a messed up form to correct and return myself ~ if I can be bothered.

All that, a dispute with our property management company, not having been paid by most of my customers for the little bit of work I did manage in January, and a flat tyre! I think I can be justified in being just a bit grumpy!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Don't pretend

Yep, don't pretend you'd not noticed, or even that you'd forgotten, yes today is St Valentine's day.   Once again I will be on my own, but to be perfectly honest that's not a problem (any more). I do not expect to get a card, indeed I expect not to get a card, or any flowers, or a box of chocolates, but that's fine.

I may not have a romantic partner, but I do have a good relationship with my wife (even it's not the one we expected) I have a wonderful daughter, I have some great friends and lots to look forward to.   I even have some work to do today that I know I will enjoy; so no! I'm not worried that it's Valentine's day and I will be on my own.

Monday, 13 February 2017


Finally we have a nice sunny day, the temperature is not too low, and I have to spend all day in an office!

It's one of the drawbacks of my type of career that sometimes the weather just doesn't fit in with my schedule.   I have at least a couple of days work this week preparing a tender bid for one of my customers, then I need to brush up on some of my more general recycling knowledge for a potential new customer next week.

So it looks as though there will be some recycling consultancy work coming in just as the weather improves and I can do a bit more gardening.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Every Silver Lining has a Cloud

So after yesterday's general rant about the way of the world and the politicians who are trying to control it, I'm getting a bit more personal today.

My van is back at the garage with another electrical problem following Decembers battery and alternator change, the weather is cold grey and moist, so between them no work today. I'm fed up with not working, I'm fed up with being at home, I'm fed up with not being able to do much out because of lack of money. All in all I'm feeling a bit fed up.

But then I take a small step back and think again, I have work to do when I can do it, I have been accepted to play in the Women Of the World Festival Orchestra again this year. Last year this was definitely the coolest thing I did, not just last year (which included being filmed by the BBC) but in my entire musical career.   Tonight I am playing for a masked ball, and tomorrow I'm meant to be going to a breakfast reception at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (as long as I can work out how to get there) so all in all there's quite a lot going on.

Indeed I do have problems, but none that can't be solved with money so I'm a lot better off than a lot of people.   I have a lot to be thankful for, and so I choose to concentrate on the blessing I have received rather than the brickbats.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Some Lies are Bigger than others

The other day  my Blogging friend Joey wrote a post about lies, his reminded me that a while back I too had written a light hearted piece about lies as well.   When I looked it up and found it here I was quite surprised to find that it was way back in December 2013.

Most of the lies we have both listed are pretty harmless, if annoying things like
  • One size fits all
  • I'm stuck in traffic
  • I just have the occasional glass of wine
Well there are also some pretty big and very armful lies doing the rounds these days, and many of them are being told by people in power, those who really should know better, those who have a responsibility to act wisely and speak truthfully.

The one that is exercising me at the moment is the one the British Government have been pedaling for some time, the lie that "there is no more money". We are told that we have to operate in a time of austerity, we need to reduce expenditure, we cannot afford to care for (or about) the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, or the simply unlucky. Yet very little economic analysis is required to show that there is still plenty of money, indeed thanks to quantitive easing there is actually more money than there was before the crash.   What is not being said is where the money is.

It is a political decision not to collect more of that money into the public purse, there are several demands on the funds held by both central and local government, Health, Social Care, Benefits, developing infrastructure, defense etc. etc. etc. We are told that there are ever increasing demands on an ever decreasing resource, so we have to cut, and cut. We have to reduce our expenditure on the very things that we have government to do. Yet we are not being told that it is a political decision, not a basic fact of life that taxation is being reduced.   Any Government can choose to raise more money through taxation, what we need to be told is more about the direct relationship of the services we get and the tax we pay.   If we are prepared to pay more tax, and vote for the politicians who will increase taxation then we will be able to have better services.   If we continue to insist on politicians who will continue to reduce our taxation burden then we will continue to have cuts in our services.

If we keep doing the same things then we will keep getting the same results.

Monday, 6 February 2017

A Day of Rest

Sunday is a special day, it is not just that it is the first day of the week, it is the day when I will not work, try to go to church but most of all I try to make Sunday's different to the rest of the week. I try to eat better, relax, and enjoy the day.

Well yesterday was certainly a different day.

My Jazz Blues band, "Cross the Line" played at St Christopher's Hospice at lunch time, one way and another I didn't make it to Church in the morning, but at least that meant I was on time for the gig and had time to deliver and set up the gear.   I felt as though this was one of the best gigs we've played, with a most appreciative audience.

From there I had to dash straight down to Sevenoaks where I was playing at an Orchestral service.  We had a mixture of traditional hymns and modern worship songs, and I had been asked to take both a trombone and a tuba to give the variety of tone colour.

This meant that in the one day I played three different instruments, now I will often play three different instruments in a week, but in a single day!

I was feeling a little challenged and a little smug about this until I realised that for the lunch time Gig, one of band played three instruments in one Gig, baritone sax, tenor sax and clarinet; and he's only 16!

Sunday, 5 February 2017


As I might have mentioned this can be a difficult time of year to be a gardener, it would be nice if I could rely on either of the other strings in my bow to bring in a bit of income, but that doesn't seem to be working well either.   Having said all that I have had a busy week.   After waiting indoors all day on Monday for the engineer who didn't turn, and then three different medical / treatment appointments during the week it was an absolute joy to get out in some gardens get my hands dirty and do some proper gardening.

I had a couple of days doing just the sort of work I enjoy most at this time of year, replaced a couple of rotten fence panels and put the trellis back above them.

I've done a lot of work in this garden over the years, the owner is a lovely lady who is a keen garden and very knowledgeable plants woman, but the structural stuff is just a bit much for her.

I laid the paving a few years back, along with the wood store and a few other things.  This week I put up some wires for a passion flower to grow up.

On Friday the sun was so warm that I had to take off my fleece, it was a real joy to be outside working on a day like that, it reminded me why I do this.

The only issue was trying to work out how to only use one piece of wire, with out going over any stretch more than once, I failed on that one, if anyone does know a formula for that problem, I probably won't understand it.