Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Feeling Positive!

When I first moved I carried on going to the Church I joined a few years before.   The members are friendly the preaching challenging and I have always felt very comfortable there.   Maybe that was part of the problem, perhaps I felt too comfortable and it was too easy for me to take and not give.   Well after over a year living back in Croydon I thought it was time to start investigating more local Churches. I feel that I should be worshiping in the community that I live, and that I should be using the talents God has given me to help build His Kingdom where He has put me.   Well all this has meant that I am not part of a Church at the moment, the summer has been busy and all too often it has been all too easy not to go to any Church at all, when I don't have to.   I have slipped and I have missed it.

This Sunday I had not had a gig the night before, I didn't have a late night so no excuse! Add to that a good friend of mine was preaching at his Church on the subject of sexuality and gender identity.   Since he is a friend, and he invited me to come and hear him talk I assumed that the talk would be positive, so I planned on going. Then on the Friday evening I found myself playing as a guest at a concert with the Minister of that Church, so I really had to go.

I am pleased to say that I found the whole experience very positive, it is a Church where I have a few friends so I wasn't a total stranger but was made to feel very welcome, but more to the point I was very impressed to find a "middle of the road" Church of England Parish Church in a very white middle class area addressing these issues. They are doing a series of sermons on Difficult Questions and quite clearly the C of E has found human sexuality a big question since it has been struggling for decades with it.   My friends main point was that rather than have any sort of knee jerk reaction as Christians we should stop consider what the Bible really says , look at context, question translation and contemplate how our attitude and actions reflect Christ's love.   I had quite a long chat with a few people afterwards, and ended up by offering to go along and have an informal chat and do a question and answer session if enough people were interested.

I came away from the service feeling very positive about the C of E, and the state of Christianity, unfortunately it is not the Churches like this that get the publicity, it is the ranters, the extremist wing that get the publicity and the attention.   Maybe this sort of thing can help Christians understand how the vast majority of Muslims feel when their faith is portrayed as hate filled! ~ but that's another subject.

I do feel that things are moving the General Synod passed a very positive motion and there is a strong movement towards an authorised liturgy for marking transition. A while back I did go to a ceremony at a local Church celebrating a friends transition and change of name, that was a very positive experience involving the whole Church family, as far as I am concerned to have an authorised liturgy for something like this can only help.   I also have to reflect that this may be the only area of life where the T is getting a better response than the LGB.

Anyway the whole series of sermons can be found here at the time of writing the latest hasn't yet been posted, but it will be!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Desert Island Discs finale

This has been a very interesting process, it has involved much more looking back on m life than I anticipated. When I started I thought I was just going to choose some of my favorite music, instead I ended up with music I love, but also has significance.   Thinking about these things brought back memories that I had long repressed, but that now make sense, I have chosen music that reminds me of people I care about, times that have made me who I am as well as simply tunes I like to listen to.

My daughter is a singer/songwriter I would have liked to have chosen some of her songs, but most of her recorded stuff is not really quite "my thing" and comes close to being a depressing.   I don't doubt her talent at all and would want something of her with me on my island ~ indeed I think my luxury would be a photo of my Daughter.

In the BBC Radio program they give a Bible (or other religious book) and one other book, I would prefer a NIV Study Bible, but as for my other book I am struggling to think of one, there are so many  that I like, I find books very possessable and have quite a few.   To settle on just one is very difficult, and my decision would probably be different if I were doing this next week. I am tempted by several novels, some I have enjoyed and some that I have been promising myself that I will get round to reading one day, but at the moment my choice is the RHS Encyclopedia of  Plants & Flowers. A veritable gold mine of information which when I get rescued I could put into practise.

I would have to be rescued as I would be totally useless at surviving on my own, once the food ran out I would be lost. I might be able to construct myself a shelter, of some type, I might be able to make a fire and I can cook and cultivate, but could I kill something to eat it? could I manage to catch a fish? I doubt it.   I am very much a product of my age, an age where we can get everything we need by popping down to the shops.

I have enjoyed this, and hope that you have as well.   I now have to decide whether I am going to repeat the trials of doing an Advent calendar again this year ~ again it is great fun, but each year it gets harder to find images and ideas that I have not already shared.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Desert Island Disc VIII

I am now a little sorry that I seem to have reached the end of this series of posts.   It has been fun and quite enlightening, going through the music that has been important to me I find that much of it is melancholy and clearly spoke to my own underlying melancholy during my formative years.   At the time I never thought of myself as sad or worried, I just thought that was the normal state of growing up, I didn't know that other people didn't regularly cry themselves to sleep or wish to wake up as somebody else. I had a comfortable home, a loving family, as good a school as could be had in the 70s and an active interest in life.

It is only with hindsight that I can now see the whole gender question was never far from the surface, influencing the type of person I was growing up to be.

But as my wife once very wisely told me (with some exasperation!) not everything is about gender!

My very first record!
Before I even started to play an instrument my Mother used to take my Brothers and I to the Arthur Davidson Family Concerts, a series of concerts held in the then new Fairfield Hall on Saturday Mornings ~ little did I know that I would later become a regular performer at these concerts ~ Straight away I knew that I wanted to be part of a orchestra, I instantly fell in love with the sound and the music.   It was straight after one of these concerts that I bought my first record, I must have been a strange child because that record was of the Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals. My Mother was worried that I wouldn't like it because the record didn't have the narration, she couldn't and never did, understand the attraction of music.

I still have that record, now over 50 years old, and it still plays! However it is the "B" side that gets played more often. This is Ibert's Divertissement a piece for small orchestra, that is really rather silly. I have never played it as there is no part for an instrument I play, but this is one of those very rare pieces that I will dance to.   For me this is just fun!

Friday, 24 November 2017

Desert Island Discs VII

Most of my music selections have been orchestral, and that more or less reflects my listening choices, this is something completely different ~ not a fiddle in sight! Holst's First Suite in Eb was one of the first pieces of "Proper Music" originally composed for Wind Band, and still one of the best. It will sometimes be heard on Classic fm in Orchestral arrangement, but that misses most of the musical point!

I have played this piece countless times, as it is a bit of a "stock" piece for wind bands and I am well known as a band tart (I'll play with anybody).   All too often bands will just go through the motions and miss much of the music by simply playing the notes, indeed the very familiarity of it can be it's own downfall.

With a Platinum Award from 2014 
a lot of water has flowed under that bridge since!
I think I would have included this suite in my selection even it didn't have any particular significance for me, but of course it does.   A good few years ago when my band the Croydon Symphonic Band was going through a bit of a rebuilding process we played this suite in the National Wind Band Festival. It was a piece we knew and felt we could play, we were short of a couple of players and had to make up for that, indeed if I remember correctly I had to play one of the euphonium solos, while playing the tuba part for the rest of the piece.   We didn't do very well and got a bronze award, but this was the start of a process that led to us subsequently receiving several gold and platinum awards at the festival finals!

Way before that, when I was very young (about 13) and I had only recently started to learn to play the tuba I was encouraged to join the local schools band ~ The Croydon Schools Wind Orchestra as it was known at the time.   Looking back I understand that I got in, not because of my natural talent or precocious ability to make rapid progress on the instrument, but simply because I was the only one in the Borough learning the Tuba, and the incumbent was about to leave school.

After only a few months in the Band we had a concert as part of the Croydon Schools Music Festival, this was at Croydon's Fairfield Hall, at that time it was still a leading state of the art venue, a major national, or indeed international concert hall seating over 1,500.   We were to play the first half of the first concert of the Festival, there was also a choir and an orchestra for the second half.   Every parent of every child involved was in the audience along with quite a few aunts, uncles, grannies and grandfathers ~ the hall was full!   Now, I had sung at the Fairfield before but this was my first time on stage, I was a little nervous, then I found out that the seating plan for the band meant that I would be sitting on the (conductors) left hand end of the back row, right at the front of the stage.   The Holst was our first piece, and yes it starts with a Tuba solo.   Looking back I think this was a break or make moment for me, if had not played well that night I may well have given in to nerves and stopped playing, but all went well and the rest ~ as they say ~ is history.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Desert Island Discs VI

I know I am moving around quite a lot, in time, in genre and in general but bare with me, there may be no logic but I'm sure something will emerge.

Regular readers will know that my wife is very important to me, we may be separated but we are still friends, and I know that she knows me better than any one else and will always be honest with me.   I am slightly the older, but not by much so when we got together it was reasonable to expect some overlap in our record collections, I think the only thing we both had was a single Shakatak record.

I don't expect everyone to share my taste for orchestral and wind band music, but JUST ONE RECORD!  I liked King Crimson and Yes, she liked Donny Osmond and David Cassidy (I should say I prepared this post a few days ago, with this morning's news that David Cassidy is dead some how makes it a bit more poignant) .   We subsequently did find contemporary music we both like and agreed not to play the other stuff to each other.   It took quite a lot of exploration before finding some orchestral music that we both liked, and it was a surprise to find that it was Mozart.   I have never listened to a lot of "Classical" music as there are no tuba parts! I tend to the big romantics, but when we heard the Mozart Clarinet Concerto it hit the spot for both of us.  Now whenever I hear this piece I always think of my wife, and these days when ever I think of my wife it is with affection ~ of course now we are separated it's lot easier ~ and she will always hold a very special place in my heart, whatever the future may hold.

Mozart - Clarinet Concerto [Sharon Kam]

Monday, 20 November 2017

Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) 2017 Today!

Today, the 20th November, is the Transgender Day Of Remembrance, I will not be attending an event today as I have to conduct a rehearsal this evening. In Croydon we had our event on Saturday, once again I had the honour of leading that event .

There is so much I could say, so much that others have written, I will limit myself to three things, first, this is a video put together for today by my friend Stephanie Robinson, she sang some of her songs and introduced this video on Saturday. It is quite harrowing, but then that is really rather the point.

Next I would like to share a story that one of our guests shared on Saturday. We were very pleased to both have the correct and previous Mayor of Croydon present, showing both their personal and their official support.

As we approached the end of our event the Mayor asked if she could share a story from her own past. She used to be responsible for a number hostels around London, a young female resident of one of these hostels was getting back onto her own feet, working at her profession as a pharmacist, getting on with life and being very popular with the other residents and staff.   One day a group of about seven men came into the hostel forced their way into her room and took her away telling the receptionist that "Mr Patel was going on holiday back to Pakistan" all her clothes were left in her room, but she and those men were never seen again.   Although the Police were called nothing has been found.

Finally I would like to share with you a couple of pieces from my script for the day.

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), has been celebrated worldwide every year since 1998.

On that day, 20th November, we memorialize the people who have been killed that year, by murder or by suicide as a result of their perceived transgendered identity. 

Those people may have been transsexual, intersex, cross dressers or others, or they may have been mistaken for someone else. But their lives were ended because they did not conform to the gender roles that other people expected of them.

The TDOR began on November 28th, 1998, to honour Rita Hester, whose murder on that day kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999.
Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

And then after all of the 325 names have been read out, and all but one of the candles lit

A long list of names, over 300, all trans or gender diverse people killed in the last year. And there will be others who died unknown, in a land where there aren't active civil society organizations that record these things. I light this candle to memorialize them.
Children murdered by their parents. Partners killed by their spouses and lovers. People killed just for being trans in public, in some cases with the tacit support of the state. Others outcast by society, Sex workers, migrant, people driven to involvement in gangs.

Beaten, stabbed, run over, shot, dismembered and fed to wild animals. Tracked down by family members they’d escaped from, because of, you know, “honour”!

Please, now join me in a minutes silence as with this act of remembrance we express our solidarity and remember these victims, knowing that in many cases they were disowned by their own communities, families, and native lands.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

This week leading up the International Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) is also meant to be a week focusing on Transgender Awareness, it seems particularly apposite then that yesterday for the first time in ages I was subjected to some transphobic abuse as I was walking into town to play for the switching on the Christmas lights. ~ It was a difficult gig made all the harder thanks to the stupidity and lack of awareness of some rather dull school boys. ~ I have made a complaint to the school, and would like to think that some action will result ~ I would like to!

However the point of interrupting my little series is not to wallow in self pity but to talk about TDOR, why it is important and what we can do about it, or at least what I am doing about it! My friend Anna-Jayne has written extensively about this on her blog here,  much more eloquently than I can, but all the time that people are being killed, battered, beaten and insulted simply because of their gender expression, or indeed their perceived gender expression, then we need to honour those individuals, remember them and condemn the society that allows this to happen.    Many, indeed most, murders of Transgender people remain unsolved, probably because their is not the political will to make sure they receive adequate investigation.   When we light our candles we are not just remembering victims, we are demanding equality of safety and justice, we are calling for justice and respect.

In Croydon I will be hosting an event on Saturday (tomorrow the 18th is the nearest Saturday to the actual day on the 20th November when in Croydon we have traditionally held our event) The Council have allowed us use of a room in the Town Hall, the Mayor will be in attendance, along with members of the Met Police and the Council, "the great and the good" will agree that it is terrible and that it can't happen here, but those outside on the street know that it can, and that it does.   This is primarily an event by our community, for our community to morn and remembrance those victims of the last year, but it is also our chance through a solemn act of remembrance to bring the plight of trans people around the world to those who can make a difference.

We will be holding our event in Croydon Town Hall from about 2:30 for a 3:00 p.m. start.   We will welcome everyone from the Trans community, supporters, family, and friends.   We will have a mixed bag of readings, music, and a short film as well as the act of remembrance itself, if you can please come along, show your support and your compassion.   I do, and get involved in a lot of things throughout the year, but I suspect that this is the most important.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Desert Island Discs V

Last year I took part in the BBC Great British Amateur Orchestra series, and indeed in the first episode was one of the featured artists.   This was a great experience  even though "We was robed!"   While I was slightly uncomfortable with the competitive aspect of the show I was more upset that we didn't get through to the final even though we were Cleary the most technically competent orchestra, and even more upset that the music we were given to play after this, the first episode did not include the brass. So although I was featured in the first episode along with the rest of my section I took no further part.

First challenge was "The Symphony", we were given an extract from Tchaikovsky's sixth ~ the Pathetique.   I was really pleased to get this symphony as it is one of my favorites, and has a great Tuba part, I was less pleased when it became apparent that we were only going to play a short extract from the last movement.  True a searingly emotional extract but none the less a short extract taking out of a massive context.   I wanted to play the whole thing!

Of course when we look back on Tchaikovsky's life this was an eminently sensible, if a little obvious choice for our orchestra.   It is now pretty much generally accepted that the symphony deals with Tchaikovsky's struggles with his sexuality and whether he is prepared to live a dishonest life denying his inner being.   Indeed it is often taken as being a prelude to his suicide, if indeed it was suicide ~ sometimes I wonder if we read too much into pure music, but we have both angst and triumph, joy and sorrow, what makes this symphony so dramatic is that it finishes with the sorrow and angst, in the minor key, with the joy and triumph expressed in the third movement.

I would be lying if I were to deny an affinity with these feelings, but once again I could not have explained why when I first came across the piece back in the 70s ~ I would then have said that what appealed to me were the big romantic melodic lines, a great tuba part (especially in the third movement) and suburb, masterful orchestration.

We start about 49 minutes in, my interview is around 17 minutes in.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Desert Island Discs IV

What can I say Danny Kaye ~ Tubby the Tuba!

We had this in my father's record collection (of about 30) when I was a small child it had a great impact on me, I felt for Tubby alone and misunderstood, and even then I loved the sound of the Tuba.   I'm sure that this is one of the reasons that when I had a chance to learn an instrument the tuba was my first choice.

Mind you I still want to dance with the pretty tune, oh and sometimes I do sit on it!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Desert Island Discs III

The two things that have consistently played a major role in my life, since way before puberty into what I like to think of as my middle age (although some would say that boat has sailed!) are music and gardens.   I got my love of gardens and gardening from my Grand Father, my Mother's Father lived with us for several years up until I was about 10   The garden was very much his domain and I loved to spend time with him.   My parents were quite happy about this as it gave them time to cope.   My Mother was looking after my Father, myself, my two Brothers, and my Grand Father, and in those days I do mean looking after, she had five shirts to wash and iron ~ every day ~ and of course that was before automatic washing machines. Meals to cook for six people and all the housework to do.   After I started at school she went back to work as a teacher, at that time there was a shortage of qualified teachers so there was a lot of pressure on her to return.

This just meant that I spent more time with my Grand Father, and therefore more time in the garden.   I wasn't consciously learning from him but simply by spending time I learnt how to prune, how to mow grass, the importance of keeping the edges tidy, and of course planting combinations.   I have now developed my own style of gardening, but that initial love comes from him.

All Saints Upper Norwood
Study by Pisarro
I was a singer until my voice broke, singing in the school choir, the Church choir and indeed I took a leading role as the King in my school's production of the Twelve Dancing Princesses ~ that will reveal my identity to about 50 people!  

I go into all of this because my next piece of music is Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring . Our Church was an impressive building in quite a large Parish, along with an excellent organist and a decent choir we were very popular for weddings. unless the bride expressed a preference our choir master would always trot out this anthem for us to sing during the signing of the register ~ sometimes we would sing it as often as four times on one Saturday afternoon ~ and could get paid up to five shillings for doing it!

Singing was my introduction into music, I loved the creativity and self expression it allowed me (although I would not have been able to express it that way then) as a rather fat clumsy child it was also something I could do well, and for me this piece sums up that time, and my love of choral music in general.   Unfortunately, but inevitably, adolescence kicked in and along with everything else my voice broke and I had to stop singing.   Soon afterwards I started to learn the tuba and have not sung seriously since ~ maybe when I retire I might get a chance but I suspect that my singing career was short but glorious!

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Desert Island Discs II

Well after yesterday's big heavy romantic symphony today's choice is going to be something more than a little different.   David Bowie released the album Man Who Sold the World in 1971 but given that I would only have been about 12 at the time I'm sure that it must have been quite a lot later that I heard this track.   I know one of my brothers had the album and at one point played it incessantly.

While I was certainly attracted to Bowie's androgynous look it was very much the music that appealed to me, in particular the keyboard work of Rick Wakeman captured me.   I have never been a great follower of "Pop Music" and songs have always been problematical for me as I so often struggle to understand the lyrics, something about the bleakness of the message behind this song, appealed to me at the time, and has stuck with me ever since.

Certainly it also brings back memories of a certain time in my life, when I was hitting puberty and feeling very confused about the whole thing.   However hard I tried I couldn't work out who and what I was, or how I was going to fit into the world.   I can't remember ever making a decision but somehow I came to the conclusion that I would have to fit in with "All the Mad Men" and play their game and pretend the best I could.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Desert Island Discs I

For those of you not totally familiar with the BBC Radio 4 Program, Desert Island Discs is a long standing interview program in which the guest is invited to choose the 8 records that they would want to retain with them if shipwrecked on a desert island.   The host and guest them chat around the chosen discs to illuminate interesting things about the guest.   There have been many interesting and famous guests, and quite a few equally interesting, but less famous ones.   My idea is to list my eight discs, and explain a little of why I have chosen them.   If I reveal something of myself in the process then so be it.

Camille Saint Saens
I must have first come across the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony about 1974 when I was playing with the Croydon Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.   First coming across a work like this as a rather confused, or at least conflicted adolescent meant that I was totally absorbed into all the romantic implications, the angst, victory, the glory and the despair.   For me this is the epitome of the romantic symphony, displaying everything that the form should.

It also brings many memories with it, not only of playing with the Youth Orchestra at Croydon's (currently closed) Fairfield Hall, but also with the London Charity Orchestra and the All Souls Orchestra at London's Albert Hall.   It is a virtuosi piece of orchestration and when the full power of the Albert Hall organ is unleashed the full impact really hits you.

If you don't know the piece listen here

Because it is so popular it can easily begin to feel a little hackneyed, but given the chance to listen to the whole thing rather than just extracts from the last movement it really does reward, and there will be a chance to do just that when my Orchestra the wonderful London Gay Symphony Orchestra perform this Symphony on the 8th July at St Giles's Cripplegate

Monday, 6 November 2017

Cabbages and Kings

One day I will learn the art of diary control, just because there is nothing written in the diary for a particular hour does not mean I have nothing to do!

Indeed I should be doing something else as I write this, but I'm sitting at home surrounded by drying laundry while my car battery is charging.   The car has been in and diagnosed, but they won't be able to fit my new alternator until later in the week, so this morning bringing it home it conked out, of course in the most inconvenient place, so now I'm charging the battery up before I can go and bring her home. My own starting problems will just have to be sorted with a combination of making sure I get more sleep, and sheer force of will. Maybe I'd better pop down to the shops and get a bit more will power.

On Saturday it was really good to meet up with an old friend, she was hosting a fireworks party for a few friends and neighbours  ~ a bunch of very nice people any of whom I would be happy to call my friends! We all had a lot of fun, a lot of food and some of us had quite a lot of wine as well.

My friend just introduced me as her friend Paula, and only one of them knew me in a previous life, and all went well.   It was only after the fireworks that some of the conversation got more serious and turned to the LGBT community, Pride and my involvement in both ~ the lady who introduced the topic was not displaying prurient curiosity ~ more natural maternal concern for her children (two of whom are part of our community and indeed came to Croydon Pride this year).   I was a little put out initially as I just wanted to enjoy some company and a glass of wine, but I put aside my irritation and settled into giving my little talk on what Gender Dysphoria means. I'm glad I did, as there were some people there genuinely interested and concerned, and it's my chance to undo some of the damage the Daily Fail does.

After that I was very happy to settle into my friends snug lounge, with just the two of us and a bottle of Pinot Grigio. having been friends for over 40 years we don't really have to worry about the normal niceties and ended up talking about husbands and wives, friends old and new, potential and past partners. Strangely there is only one other person I would stay up with talking like and they are the friend who led to our meeting over forty years ago.   These friendships are precious to me, they have stood the tests of time, of marriages, and of stupidity, and after every thing that has happened we will still talk for hours and share intimacies that I would never with any body else.

My friend's partner got up before we went to bed! I had two gigs on Sunday so had to get some sleep, but I think I might have preferred to have spent Sunday in my PJs slobbing about, rather than playing the Electric Bass, conducting the Brass Band and then having an Orchestral Rehearsal ~ when will I learn!