Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Advent Calendar XII

Looking back over this Blog I realise that this will be the third Christmas I will have spent in my new flat ~ so maybe it's not quite so new now!   I have also realised that even though I always used to have at least a tree when I was still in the house the closest I have got to any sort of decorations is putting up the few Christmas cards I get.

I have decided that this year will be different and I am treating myself to some seasonal decorations, I'll probably not manage a tree like I did three years ago but I do at least have some holly after reducing the size of a holly tree by about two thirds last week.

I have also bought some nice shinny baubles, but my original idea for them won't work so now I have to come up with another plan.

Even with just a  little bit of holly and my solitary Christmas Card it is already beginning to look just a little bit like Christmas!

Since the temperature outside has just risen to one degree I am quite happy that I have no garden work scheduled today so maybe I will try to sort something out with my balls!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Advent Calendar XI

I find it very easy to get depressed, and the older I get the easier it is.   All of my life I have always been able to look forward to something, something that would make life better, maybe it would just be payday, or a holiday; maybe it would be something more dramatic, a pay rise, moving to a better home, or something totally life changing like getting married, or becoming a parent.

Every now and then I look at my current life, my little flat and micro business which just about keeps the wolf from the door, and wonder "is this it? is this as good as it gets?"   I can't see how I am ever going to earn enough money to make any substantial improvement in my living conditions, I don't expect to find myself in another romantic relationship, or indeed to have an "easier" life.   The life I currently live is not one I ever expected or anticipated, I suppose like most of my generation I expected more or less what my Parents had, or maybe slightly more.

Then I remember that Christmas is coming, and what that means to me. We celebrate the birth of Christ at the worst time of the year, when the days are short, the weather horrible, and there's little in the way of fresh food ~ traditionally before we imported everything it would be root vegetables and soft old apples. But after Christmas the days start to get longer, we start to look forward to the spring, planting the new crops, lambing, and new life. After Christmas we can look forward to summer, even now that is the time of year when we start to see holidays being advertised!

For me Christmas means that everything starts to get better ~ yes the days are longer and I can look forward to spring ~ but I am also looking forward to Easter, to being allowed into God's presence, to being freed, forgiven, and blessed.   Yes Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and without it we couldn't have Easter, we would not have the knowledge of God's love, of being adopted into His family, and of something better to look forward to.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Advent Calendar X

So now getting up to date, yesterday I played my final concert of the year on Tuba.   It was a genuine Christmas concert based on the Twelve Days of Christmas, it was great fun, if a little cold, and even gave me a chance to play some music I have never played before. Although my last concert on Tuba it was not my final performance by any means, next Saturday I will be leading the Croydon Brass Band playing carols in Thornton Heath; and of course next Sunday I will be playing trombone with the wonderful London Gay Symphony Orchestra, the first not really a concert and the second not really Christmassy!

And lunchtime today I was out with Cross the Line playing at St Christopher's Hospice we are a Christian Jazz/Blues Band who play for the Hospice, Churches and other organisations. Our music is a form of witness, as well as fun, I am hoping hat over the next year or so we will be able to take our music into more diverse environments
These days I rarely remember to get any photos to illustrate the blog, so I was very pleased that our Alto Sax player took this one while he had a bit of a break.

Advent Calendar IX

I am a day late, and still have to dash, more will follow but to keep you happy in the mean time here is some Betty!

If you want to take this as a hint ~ well, feel free!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Advent Calendar VIII

The Banquet of Henry VIII in York Place (Whitehall Palace) (1832) ~ James Stephanhoff

Whenever I see the number eight in roman numerals VIII I always think of Henry VIII, so I had a little Google of "Henry VIII Christmas" and found this

A Tudor Christmas was starting to resemble something we in the C21st might recognise even if there were some parts to a Christmas we would not!
The first record of a turkey being brought to Europe was in 1519. It was to be many years before this bird had reason to fear the Festive season. For the rich, the traditional meat on Christmas Day remained swan, goose etc as in a Medieval Christmas feast. In fact, in 1588, Elizabeth I ordered that everybody should have goose for their Xmas dinner as it was the first meal she had after the victory of the Spanish Armada and she believed that this gesture would be a fitting tribute to the English sailors who fought off the Spanish. However, it is not known how many of the poor of the land could carry out this order as goose remained an expensive luxury – though Christmas was seen as a special celebration.

More of that here.

At the moment I don't know what I will be eating at Christmas, or indeed who with or where.  I am quite certain that I will be sharing my Christmas with friends or family, I am also quite sure that I won't be eating swan or peacock

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advent Calendar VII

I seem to have become unhealthily obsessed with my weight, I weight myself every week and would love to be half a stone (7lbs about 3 kgs) lighter, and yet I do little to nothing about it.   I weighed myself when I got home from my weekend away and thought it would be nice to get down to 12 stone (168 lbs 76 kgs) just to look nice in some of my "Party Frocks".   I wonder am I falling into the same trap that makes people want to have the "Perfect Christmas"

There was an excellent article in The Independent the other day suggesting that it's time we put a stop to the "Cult of Christmas".   I rather like Christmas not least because it's a bit of joy in what can be a pretty miserable time of year for me.   But I agree that there is way too much pressure on people who can't afford it to spend too much money, pressure to consume, to conform to a model of perfection that most of us simply cannot attain and should not aspire to.

I will enjoy some Christmas music, I will enjoy my concerts and a couple of meals out, I may even put up a few decorations, but I will not be striving for perfection.   Perfection can only be achieved through Christ, and we will not find it in this World, now that is something to look forward to.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Advent Calendar VI

It was way back in 2014 that I made my first Blog Advent Calendar, looking back through some of those windows (or are they doors?) I see that some things have changed dramatically, but much is still the same.

Indeed so much has remained they same that today I am copying here my post from December 6th 2014!

As yet I have failed to do any Christmas shopping, get in the Christmas mood, or put up any decorations.

Maybe it's because it's so easy to forget what Christmas is actually all about

But I do try to remember that Christmas is when we celebrate the transcendent being made manifest.   Christ was not born in the "Bleak Mid-Winter", it probably was not a "Silent Night", but it was the moment when God started his rescue plan for man, that's what we celebrate, with Christmas it all starts to get better.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Advent Calendar V

Last night we had a rather exciting evening at Croydon Brass Band, we played some different music, and had some interesting conversations over our coffee break.   We're looking at some new and interesting ideas for next year, ideas that I hope will increase the membership of the band and strengthen our bonds with the community we serve.   It's too early to go into any details yet, as we are still very much at the concept stage, but I now have increased hope for the future of the Band and music making in the area!

I'll only be playing in four more musical performances this year, one doing carols with the brass band, one on Saturday with the Linden Wind Orchestra and of course the one with the London Gay Symphony Orchestra.    I will also be playing next Sunday with my Jazz Band, but that's not really a Christmas concert.   This is very few by my standard of recent years, and surprisingly I will not be playing Leroy Anderson's Christmas festival at any of them! Somehow it just doesn't feel like Christmas until I've played it!

Wingates Band (Conductor David Thornton) Play Leroy Anderson's Christmas festival

Monday, 4 December 2017

Advent Calendar IV

Over the weekend I have been in Cardiff with my Daughter, visiting my Big Brother and my Mother, I have not managed to get down to see them for about a year and have been feeling guilty about it.  It was good to see them, and I will make much more of an effort to make the journey more often next year.   I won't go into details but as my Mother is very old and has quite advanced dementia we decided not to tell her about the recent changes in my life.

So, (just to annoy the grammar Nazis) lessons I have learnt this weekend
  1. 5 hours is not sufficient time to allow for a 3 hour journey on the M4 on a Sunday
  2. Pretending to be a bloke now feels a bit creepy
  3. Don't fall asleep during a rehearsal, even if there is 600 bars rest before the entry.
  4. Family can be wonderful.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Advent Calendar III

An Advent Calendar from 1903

Apparently Advent Calendars first came into use by German Lutherans in the 19th Century, but are now pretty widely spread around the Christian World, indeed I am sure that many are in homes that are in no way overtly Christian.   A bit like Christmas Trees and Father Christmas they seem to have spread around the World and got increasingly separated from the meaning of Christmas.

And something a bit more modern
I know that Yule was celebrated way before the birth of Christ, I know that Christ was probably not born in December, and that the early Church attached the festival of Christmas to the existing celebrations.   So maybe I shouldn't complain when people are celebrating with no thought given to Jesus, but I will be trying to remember him throughout my celebrations, even if I do end up with a tree or other gewgaws, eating and drinking too much and being generally self indulgent.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Advent Calendar II

Tomorrow will be the first Sunday in Advent and all around the World Churches will be marking the day by lighting the first candle of their Advent Crown, a display of five candle, four around the outside for each Sunday and then one in the middle, usually larger and a different colour which will be lit on Christmas morning.

As a child I always knew that Advent was due and Christmas on it's way when BBC's Blue Peter made their advent calendar, out of tinsel and wire coat hangers, I've never been too sure about the fire safety, and we never made one but they looked like fun ~ did anyone from John Noakes every make one of these?

Friday, 1 December 2017

Advent Calendar I

With "new" Hair Cut
I wasn't going to do this, but when it started to snow yesterday I felt that maybe I needed to do something to inspire a bit of seasonal cheer, mostly in myself!  I tend towards the "Humbug" school of thought on modern Christmas celebrations, Dickens has a lot to answer for!   Indeed I have friend on the other wing, the tinsel everywhere and every opportunity to celebrate; well maybe more than one friend like that actually and they are champing at the bit to get started.

I don't know how I am going to manage this, or indeed what sort of treats I will have for you behind the window each day ~ but I am pretty sure that Betty will feature pretty heavily again this year.

Tonight is Croydon Pride's event for World Aids Day, as Chair I will be in attendance, indeed this morning I went up to Covent Garden to get my hair "done" specially for tonight, while there I popped into St Paul's Covent Garden and saw that this afternoon they are holding a requiem specially for the day, I find this sort of thing quite inspiring.

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!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Life goes on

For a while now I have been feeling rather run down, certainly my get up and go has got up and gone, I find it rather hard to get started in the morning, but once I do get started I'm fine ~ I suspect it may have been something to do with my medication.   My car does not have that excuse!   For a while now it has been playing up a bit mostly the electrics, it now seems that I need a new alternator, it will cost me quite a bit of money, but should solve the problem ~ if only my could be solved as easily.

Yesterday I had my second rehearsal with the Croydon Brass Band since getting back from holiday, the first, last Monday was the best we've had since I took over a couple of months ago.   We had a good turn out and managed to get some real, useful work done on the music.   This week we had a lot less people, and no cornets so the rehearsal was not nearly as productive we have a performance on Sunday as long as everybody turns up it should be good. We're only playing for half an hour but we will be playing some music specially arranged for the band as well as some old favorites ~ It should be fun.

Before that I will be playing at our local hospice with my Jazz band, I haven't even got the bass out of it's case for about four weeks, so I hope I'm up to it.

Like I said yesterday I don't so Halloween, but I do do fireworks so on Saturday I will be joining an old friend for some bangs and sparkles ~ and maybe the odd glass of wine as well.

For some strange reason there is a certain, rather large, section of the media that has declared open season on trans people.   This does not give me undue concern for my own safety since most of the people I come into contact with are rational, yet it does concern me that there are still a lot of people who believe what they read in the papers.

I will not link to these articles or indeed quote them, I don't want to give such rubbish any boost or publicity, but I will link to a blog brought to my attention by a friend.   A very sensible, compassionate and simple explanation of why young people with problems should receive appropriate treatment from specialists.   It's not complicated, most things aren't, but just because they are outside our experience we don't need to be frightened.

Karen Pollock takes issue with the latest gutter press article about trans young people can be found here.

Monday, 30 October 2017


I don't celebrate Halloween, I know that is increasingly unusual, even on this side of the Atlantic, but I gather in the states it is very much "de rigor" to go out, in fancy dress and have a fun time.   This of course has a particular attraction for cross dressers, so I expect a lot will be out strutting their stuff in the their alternative wardrobe.   Even when I identified as a cross dresser I still didn't do the whole Halloween thing, partly because of my natural bias against anything I perceive as being American, and partly because as an Evangelical Christian I find the celebration of goulies and gousties and long leggedy beasties all rather distasteful.

This year will be no exception I can't see that I will be joining the throngs celebrating throughout Croydon Town Center, since it's a Tuesday I'll most likely just stay at home with a bottle of wine and a film.

But for all of you who are breaking out of your wardrobe and celebrating, have a fun, safe time.

In Role

A recent little debate in a Trans Facebook Group got me thinking, the original post, from an actor, was asking something about how we got into the gender role we are playing. Of course this triggered a lot of complaints from members pointing out that they were not playing a part, but honestly expressing themselves, and equally predictably I agree.   However it did get me thinking about how, over the years, I have managed to convincingly fill a variety of roles.

Looking back it feels as though all my life I have been playing roles, musician, rugby player, salesman, clerk, refuse collector, piano mover, professional, gardener, committee member, activist, husband, father, friend, man!. by no means is this a complete list, and by no means are any of them mutually exclusive, but they do present a variety!   In all these cases I was always playing a part, I have written before about how I always had a fear of being "found out" but of course the other side of that is that I was playing a role.   I always had to dress appropriately for the role I was playing, so a nice suit for offices and meetings, Jeans and work boots for emptying dustbins, dinner jacket and bow tie for concerts.   These props helped me get into role ~ and a lot of the time I was acting a role.   I loved playing rugby, I loved the physical aspects of it and being part of the elegance and beauty of the game. But, afterwards in the bar I was definitely playing a part.

Every time I got on stage to perform I had the fear of being "found out" that somebody would call out that I wasn't a proper musician and I would be thrown off the stage to be replaced by a "real player".   Having the right jacket and shoes helped my confidence, not so much as a musician but as an actor playing a musician, just as having the right suit gave me confidence to act the part of a business man.   It's only really now that I am beginning to understand that I was doing this in every factor of my life, work, play and home.   My cross dressing was no different, sure I felt comfortable expressing the female me, but in all fairness I was still acting a part, using my props to help me get into role.

Since I started my transition a few years back a lot has changed, more recently as my medication has stabilised, physical changes are allowing me to abandon the props that used to be so essential when I was cross dressing.  It is only over these last couple of years since my self confidence has become more real and less of an act that I have realised just how much I actually was acting.   Now I am acting a lot less often, I have enough confidence in the person I am becoming that I am happy to reveal her to people.   I have now abandoned most of my props, I don't need to get into role, I can just be me, whatever I am doing.

This struck me again on Saturday playing in a concert, I was a little out of my comfort zone as I for much of the second half I was the fourth percussionist!   First time I have ever played crash cymbals and gong! and I had so much fun doing it.   I wasn't "In costume" I wasn't acting out a role, I was just me having fun making music with friends.

Sunday, 29 October 2017


I haven't been around here much recently. To be honest I have had other things on my mind, I have been more interested in living life than written about it.   Having said that I have missed blogging and my "Blogging Buddies" so having had a bit of break and returned refreshed I am back at Paula's Place ~ I hope that I have been missed.

Lots has been going in my life, although nothing major, so I may well simply not even try to cover all of that but just jump back in with observations and comments as it occurs to me.   Right now I will just observe that I have had a fabulous holiday in one of my favourite places with one of my favorite people. I did take a few photos but until I sort them out I will simply share this one taken on my phone ~ somehow it seemed appropriate.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Any Answers

20 bits of fluff
I first saw this post on Joey's Pad so I thought I'd steal it.

1.What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
(as the actress said to the bishop .... sorry, where was I?)
Well since I am writing this on Saturday morning while listening to that radio and contemplating what to have for breakfast, it was a cup of tea.   If I had written this last night of course it may well have been a very different answer.

2. Where was your profile pic taken?
As far as I can remember this was at an LGSO concert some years ago, so it would have been at St Sepulchres Without Newgate This ancient Church is known as "The Musicians Church" and contains the Nation Musicians Chapel and the Ashes of Sir Henry Wood.   Sadly the current PCC (Parochial Church Council) have plans to stop renting the Church out for secular concert performances, which will sadly diminish the musical life of the City. For the full story and a chance to sign the petition follow this link!
3. Worst pain you've ever experienced?
I am so tempted to say the broken heart I experienced when my first fiancĂ© left me, it was an emotional pain I thought I would never get over, but lets be honest a broken neck really, really hurts.   The result of a sports injury in my mid 20s which gave constant insufferable pain for several month and has left me with marginal discomfort or pain ever since
4. Favourite place you've traveled?

How to choose, I have travelled in Europe but not beyond so I have a limited number of choices, but also so many special places.   Carcassonne in the South of France is a magical place, I have revisited several time since my first time there as a child on a touring holiday with my parents.

Or maybe where I will be going again shortly Malta, the climate at this time of year suits me, the capital Valletta is a world heritage site, the food is good and the people are friendly.

I could go on, my time in Seville was very important, although shorter than planed, I have enjoyed stays in France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and of course here in the UK.   But for me I think my favorite place is the RHS Garden at Wisley in Surrey.   Certainly I have told my Daughter that if I am to be cremated this is where I want my ashes scattered.

5. How late did you stay up last night?
As a musician I am often out rehearsing or performing, yesterday was a rehearsal so I wasn't too late getting home, but did stay up to watch the Cricket highlights.   Once again I find that it was not last night when I when to bed but this morning.

6. If you could move somewhere else, where would it be?
I have often considered where else I might like to live, but always come back to the same basic area of South East London, whether it's actually Croydon or Penge or West Wickham it doesn't matter too much to me, I am pretty happy with my flat but I do miss having my own garden.

8. Which of your Blogger friends lives closest to you.
This has to be Joey, just as he sited me I can't think of any others who life closer, especially since many of my Blogging friends life the other side of the Atlantic. For me this is one of the joys of Blogging, a bit like having pen friends all around the World. 
10. When was the last time you cried?
I can't be sure, but I do know that I am crying much more often than I used to.   This is one of the many non-physical results of my HRT.   I am a sucker for a tear jerker movie so am careful about what I watch at the cinema so as not to embarrass myself too much.
11. Who took your profile photo?
Shamefully I cannot remember, we were having several photos taken at the concert, but I am not in may as I always seem to get hidden behind a pillar. I led this one as it shows me doing what I love most and covers up half my face.
12. Who was the last person you took a picture with?
I really don't know, . 
13. What's your favourite season?
The next one.   That's a real gardeners answer, we are always looking and planning forward, sometimes even to the extent of failing to enjoy the present.   Each season holds it's attractions, and indeed it's demerits as well, but most of all I love the changes between the season, the first growth of early spring, the fresh peonies and explosion of blossom if early Summer and the changing leaves and late blooms of late summer early Autumn.
I love to watch Cricket, but Rugby has a special place in my heart so if forced I would choose the Rugby Season, and since that now includes the changes between Summer and Autumn, Autumn and Winter, as well as all of Spring and now early Summer as well .
14. If you could have any career, what would it be?
I truly love my work, but it would be nice to have a higher, reliable income, along with paid holidays and a pension scheme. I tried being a professional musician and an amateur gardener, but have found it works better for me the other way round, I still have the uncertain hours and income, but at least I can choose what music I play now rather than always follow the money.
I hope that's true of me too.
15. Do you think relationships are ever worth it?
I will be positive on this and say yes! Certainly a friend in need can be a pain in the arse, but having somebody to share things with, to be quite with is important to me.   Like many people I have had some pretty disastrous relationships, but those that have stayed with me ~ my Brothers, Daughter and Wife, are important to me.   
16. If you could talk to ANYONE right now who would it be?
This is difficult, my first thought is my Dad, he died 25 years ago, and so never saw me married, never met his Grand Daughter, and never knew of my transition. I can't say that I think he would understand, but I'm sure that he would show his love and want me to be content in live. 
17. Are you a good influence?
I'm not sure that I'm and influence at all, good or bad.   I don't know what sort of a role model I would be for anyone, I'm not very diligent or organised, I'm lousy with money, drink too much, and don't even manage to always dress appropriately so I suspect I'm more likely to be a bad influence than a good one.. 
18. Does pineapple belong on pizza?
Not really, but I don't have strong views on the matter.

19. You have the remote, what channel?
Most likely BBC2 or 4, but most of the TV I watch these days is either sport (Cricket, Rugby or Motor Sport ~ not that other silly game) or stuff I have recorded to catch up with later. 
20. Whom do you think will play along?
Probably no one who hasn't already.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Googlewhack ~ Still leading the World

The other day I decided that I would check up on my strap line, the claim that I am the World's leading Transgender Bass Trombone and Tuba playing Christian Gardener.   I started with a google search for "Transgender Tuba Player" I should warn you not to do this if you are sensitive about your search history as some of the results are strange to say the least.

THE Transgender Tuba Player
In rehearsal at St John's Smith Square
I was happy to stop at this one search as I was actually the only result that was about a Transgender Tuba Player, I think this means that I may lay claim to be the World's Leading (out) Transgender Tuba Player even before I add in all the other qualifiers.   I thought this would make me a "Googlewhack"

Now a Googlewhack is a two word search in google that only returns one result, Dave Gorman had a lot of fun with this, making a whole series on the subject.   But since it is limited to two words I went on the check a couple of searches ~ "Transgender Tuba" and "Transgender Tubaplayer" interestingly I did not come up on either (although I do rather dominate the photo results ~ of course neither did any other transgender tuba players, just a lot of very strange stuff. This all makes me wonder about how the search engines work, and what searches they are used to.    Maybe it is best to stay in ignorance.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Turning Green

Monday night was my regular rehearsal night with Croydon Brass, with a few members away numbers were a little down, but that has to be expected every now and then; after all, even I'm going on holiday in a few weeks.   We spent most of the rehearsal running through some new arrangements I've been working on, I thought this would help me to know how the arrangements work and give the band something fresh to play.

Quite a while back I put together a simple arrangement for woodwind of Barwick Green, The Archers theme tune, it didn't work too well so I just let it sit and never really finished it.   With a bit of fiddling around I adapted it for our Brass Band, and even though I say it myself it sounded pretty good.   Now I have to finish the whole thing but on coming home and looking I can't find the original sheet music I was working from.   I suspect that it may have got lost when I moved a couple of years ago, so now I have had to order another copy and so won't be able to complete the arrangement till it arrives.

One of the reasons I am arranging specially for the band is that we are short of a few players, especially cornets, it's all a little frustrating remembering how the band used to be back it's hey day with a full compliment.   Having said that just two more cornet players would make a massive difference, we could even lend them instruments.

It always used to be quite usual for a brass band to have a set of instruments, and just before I joined the band in the late 70s Croydon Co-Op Brass Band as it was then had just bought a complete set of new Boosey and Hawkes Imperials, many of these fine instruments are still there but in the intervening years some have been sold, some updated, and some simply lost track of.   We still have some very fine instruments and are quite happy to lend them to players who for one reason or another don't have their own. Whether it's through having had to return an instrument after changing band or leaving school or maybe somebody not having played for some time and fancy having another go it would be good to hear these instruments being played again.