Tuesday, 30 December 2008

plenty of parking

Ha! That's what "off-road" means!

I used to know this artistic and creative bloke who once let it slip, when he was squiffy, that he was one of the ten best drivers in the country. I was seriously impressed by this, not least because I had actually been driven by him several times and had never guessed this. I guess it was his natural modesty. I used to wonder why he absent-mindedly and slowly pumped the accelerator as we bimbled along the motorway, so that I would find myself rocking gently forward and back as the car responded. Perhaps it was 'cadence'; he was a musician, after all. We used to refer to him as the Finest Swordsman In France, because it kind of fitted, and had he been a swordsman and in France, I'm sure that he'd have been the finest.

There are lots of arty and creative people in Bristol, and I have often been impressed by the way they apply that creativity to the art of driving and parking. Such people surely deserve a degree of latitude in their treatment of the city's roads; where they lead, we dull sublunary creatures can but dream of following. Here is a small selection of their comings and goings.

This chap has installed an 'en suite' in his Land Rover Discovery, and is able to complete his toilet while driving through the city centre, ensuring his completion of his journey in a minty fresh condition.

The owner of S100NDR is enabling a young girl to gain vital experience in negotiating the open road with her scooter. Pavements are not for scooters.

YY03VHK often parks here, just around the corner from the local primary school, so that cars have to slow right down to negotiate the corners. This is obviously a Good Thing.

WP07MVA has parked on the pavement so that it barely extends into the roadway beyond the the double yellow lines. This has allowed the Clifton Tractor to continue unimpeded on its school run. And we pedestrians managed to squeeze by in the bit of pavement left to us. This is a positive result.

CE54SXC has cleverly addressed the problem of reducing visibility at corners by acting as a separation zone, so that cyclists can easily pass on the inside.

The informally-accepted rule of the road in Bristol is that, if you park so far onto the pavement that the double yellow lines are clearly visible outboard of your car, then it doesn't count as an offence. So this chap who popped the wrong way down a one way street so that he could use the cashpoint machine sensibly used the pavement, to avoid giving a nasty surprise to traffic turning into the road in the officially-approved direction. This is on Lower Redland Road, just a few yards from the police station.

It was just opposite here, more recently (on Christmas Eve, in fact) that I watched a Range Rover mount the pavement so that the woman in the passenger seat could pop into the organic butcher's to collect her turkey. (This is a difficult time for the exemplary middle classes, who are 'time poor' at the best of times, and we must appreciate the difficulties they face in getting all the trappings of Christmas together at the last moment- it was hell at Waitrose, let me tell you....)

She hopped out of the car and saw me watching. She paused guiltily, then walked towards the butchers. I was pushing my bike along the pavement towards Whiteladies Road (it is, as I have said, a one way street), and there was only just enough room for her to pass, what with a Range Rover on the pavement and all. And as she went by she said, in self-righteous sort of way, "You shouldn't be on the pavement either, you know".

"I'm pushing it, you silly fool," I replied sharply.

And then felt bad about it because I should have handled the encounter more positively.

Oh well.

Monday, 29 December 2008

...and Christmas presents

Over on a forum somewhere we were exchanging tales of best and worst Christmas presents. Here's my fave for this year, from young K. It's an okapi. I have called her Edna. Edna O'Kapi.

It doesn't take long for me to come up with the Worst Christmas Present Ever. The winner by a mile was a cut-out-and-build book called Kokigami: Performance Enhancing Adornments For The Adventurous Man. It came from someone to whom I am related, though not a blood relation (name withheld, even though she's most unlikely to read this...). I unwrapped it, and I and my then partner gazed in disbelief, before burning it and washing our hands.

It is, of course, all too easy to laugh at the inappropriateness of some presents, going beyond the well-meantness of Betjeman's Christmas:

The sweet and silly Christmas things,

Bath salts and inexpensive scent

And hideous tie so kindly meant

. And so, as it is nicely undemanding occupation for the dead time between Christmas and New Year, why not? Over to you. I'm making Edna her breakfast.

Field observations indicate that the okapi's mineral and salt requirements are filled primarily by a sulfurous, slightly salty, reddish clay found near rivers and streams.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas present

With young K away with the Other Parent for Christmas, it seemed like a good time to head for the mountains. So I did.

I was over the Severn Bridge and approaching Abergavenny when the dawn had begun properly; clouds cloaked the summits of the surrounding hills, including Ysgyryd Fawr, where I was heading. I had vague hopes that I would ascend through clouds and emerge into sunshine, though it looked a bit unpromising. The thing is, unless you get up there, you can never tell, can you? Last Christmas I'd gone up Pen y Fan through similarly murky gloom, and it had cleared just as I reached the summit. As you can see.

Corn Du from Pen y Fan, last year

It had been quite busy up there. For a mountain, anyway. I hoped for a slightly quieter time today.

I ascended from the south, through woods where blackbirds called, and past the great cleft in the hill which is supposed to have been broken when Christ was crucified. The way got steeper and mistier, and then I was on the ridge in cloud and buffeted by the wind all the way to the summit, where the ruins of St Michael's Chapel lie next to the trig point. After the Reformation, local Catholics would come up here and hold services, keeping the light of their faith alive in dangerous times.

There was another walker already up there, sheltering on the lee slope. We exchanged hellos, and I plonked myself down close by, but not too close. Mountain top etiquette. Shortly after, he wandered off and left me to my thoughts, which started off with "God, it's cold" and progressed thence to "I really fancy a cup of tea". Fortunately, I had my flask with me, and I wrapped my scarf around my head to keep the wind out of my ears. I listened to the wind blowing through the dried grass, and tried to think of a description of the sound, which was a bit like waves seething over very fine, sandy shingle. I wondered at the tenacity of the moles which had been industriously burrowing around the summit. Presumably they were unaware that the Skirrid is too holy to permit the presence of snails or worms.

As I descended, the mist began to clear. Ravens played in the air around the summit and the Monmouthshire lowlands emerged from the murk. By the time I was down again, the sun was shining brilliantly. It would have been a good time to be on the summit. But that's mountains for you.

Home again, I opened a present from my friend Catherine. It was a lovely edition of Richard Jefferies' Wildlife in a Southern County, with illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe; and the first chapter had a description of the sound of hilltop wind blowing through dried grass on a summer's day:

A faint sound as of a sea heard in a dream - a sibilant "sish, sish" - passes along outside, dying away and coming again as a fresh wave of wind rushed through the bennets and the dry grass.

Christmas past

An icebreaker rescuing us in the Baltic. Nothing to do with the story here but quite Christmassy.

From my diary for 2003, an account of Christmas on board Pride of Bilbao:

Christmas at sea… since we were taking 1300 minicruisers to Spain for the occasion, the crew had their main celebration in advance, on Christmas Eve. We anchored up in the Solent, ate a huge lunch, and then partied on down in the main bar, with a discotheque, as you youngsters say, and FREE FANTA AND CRISPS. …. Hey, we were just wild childs… and tried not to be resentful of the other P+O boats alongside in Portsmouth, which had relaxed their “no alcohol” rule for the occasion… it rather reminded me of those uneasy social occasions of my youth, when the local Air Cadets and Girl Guides would meet up in the church hall, and eye each other mistrustfully.

…and Christmas Day in the Bay of Biscay. In honour of the occasion, I wore my festive flashing Christmas tree earrings, as I loped around fixing air conditioning and vacuum toilets.

“There’s something wrong with your ears,” said a passenger; “They’re flashing”

“It’s the radiation sensors,” I said. “They must’ve had another meltdown in the engine room.”

…and, in the evening, to the bar again, to see the special Christmas show that the entertainment team had come up with, and to see if Santa’s podium, constructed for the occasion by the repair shop, would collapse. At one point late in the evening, young Tim the singer bounded through the audience distributing rather unconvincing plastic imitation mistletoe; he rather gallantly proffered me a sprig; I looked around for a suitable snogee, and gave up on it. And so a d
ay of mass self-indulgence, gluttony and drunkenness ended with a rendition of “Feed The World”, with audience participation and a complete lack of irony.

Fa la la la la la la la la, and so on

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

the umpteenth Noel

So the cake is finally in the oven, and half the Christmas cards actually got sent, and the sun has long set on Christmas Eve. Untogether? Moi??

...does anyone ever admit to being ready for Christmas? -certainly I have agreed with lots of people over the last week or so that we are Very Far From Being Ready. It's like at school when people told each other how unprepared they were for exams. Except in my case it was true.

I like a good carol, and have been hunting for a version of While Shepherds Watched which I heard on the radio some years ago. I think it was a West Country version, and I can remember the tune and sing it while driving. Or sometimes sing the carol to the tune of Ilkley Moor, which also works. It also fits the theme tune for Monty Python, as my friend Murray once demonstrated.

The picture is the card design that K and I collaborated on. She did the cunning fox. Me, I did the partridge in a pear tree. I like pears and I like partridges, but if someone gave me them for Christmas I'm not sure I'd want them for my true love.

Just saying.

Happy Christmas!

transsexual behaviour

nunc dimittis

Exciting news from the Pope. It seems that he has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

I was a bit curious to know what this was all about, so I listened in to Radio 4's Today programme, and was rewarded with a little discussion between Christine Odone and Joanna Bogle (podcast here). I've got a lot of time for Joanna Bogle; there is something awfully compelling about someone who has apparently never doubted, never half-believed. She speaks in one of those loud and strident voices that flatten opposition with the dead weight of their certitude. She could have stepped off her hunter and out of the pages of a Waugh novel, horsewhip in hand. And, perhaps oddly, I find myself broadly in agreement with her on her core premise:

We are made male and female, and it's just bad science to pretend that it's an artificial construct. There's this fantasy going round today, a kind of flat earth theory that you invent yourself as male or female. This is just not the case. ...maleness and femaleness is much more important than we thought ...male and female matter.

Jolly good, Joanna. We're singing from the same hymn sheet, though we may be in different choirs.

I looked up her blog, and found that we have heaps of things in common. We both, to employ her terms, live cheerily among lots of books and no TV. She loathes instant coffee, extreme feminism, narrow-mindedness, cold pasta, "inclusive language" and stewed tea. I'm OK with the extreme feminism, and don't mind inclusive language, but I'm solid with her on the rest, although I do bear in mind that one person's narrow-mindedness can be another person's clarity of purpose; I recall a Chief Engineer on a ferry defending the display of hardcore pornography in the workplace by asserting that "you've got to be broad-minded at sea". Quite.

Our favourite modes of transport are train or bicycle, though I'm sure that if she had a Morris Traveller too, she'd have added it to the list.

She likes buttered toast, sticky chocolate cake, rain, old-fashioned detective stories, Pope Benedict XV1, making jam, winter teatimes, sleeping out of doors on warm summer nights, Christmas, Pimms, ginger wine, and making patchwork quilts. Me, I'll take a raincheck on the Pope, and I prefer felting to quilting and damson vodka to ginger wine; but hey, close enough.

She's got a list of men who ought to be bishops. I used to have a list of men who ought to be strung up and/or castrated, but I got over it.

This is almost scary. I wonder what will happen if Joanna ever realises that she engages in transsexual behaviour. (If you have stumbled upon this blog for the first time, by the way, I should perhaps clarify that I am a woman with a transsexual history, if you see what I mean)

Disappointingly, of course, it turns out that the Pope never actually said what the media have said that he said. This is the problem when you've got an elderly Austrian pope surrounded by Irish cardinals and it's getting late in the evening. What he actually said was probably more like, "Well, it's been lovely talking with you but frankly I could murder a pint of creme de menthe*, so auf wiedersehen, Kameraden".

*Creme de menthe: the drink of choice for popes. A Well Known Fact. It's a papal behaviour thing.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

cover story

The proof of the cover design for the paperback edition of Becoming Drusilla arrived yesterday, so here it is for you to see. Richard and I are hoping to get some reading events sorted out in May, when it comes out. Hopefully by then the bookshop folk will have a better idea of what the book's about and, as it were, where it's at. There had been some initial confusion; indeed, Jo tells me that she found a copy in a Waterstones in Maidenhead that had been filed under LGB. Funny business.

My eyes are not what they were, and I need stronger prescription specs. So I got a new set of lenses and felt a bit seasick wearing them, because they're strong reading glasses and everything else is like being under the sea. So I want some varifocals. Finding nice frames is very hard, though. There is a lot of fashion involved in specs, and the current crop does nothing for me at all. I picked up this pair on e-bay. They too arrived yesterday. I quite like them. Now I need to get the lenses changed to my prescription.

...fairly inconsequential, this post. I guess I want reassuring about the specs.

Friday, 5 December 2008

noise annoys

Julie Bindel speaks to the nation....

While I (and no doubt you) would just as soon hear nothing more about Julie Bindel, she's still out there and she's still sounding off. About transsexuals. And, as has so often the case in her writing on this subject, it's been characterised by ignorance and untruth. She's been twisting things around a bit. Well, OK, a lot.

So, as long as she's spreading disinformation, I suppose that I have a moral imperative to refute her.

OK, so she gets columns in the Guardian, I have my blog, but we do what we can do, I guess.

Now, where were we? -When I last mentioned her, a protest was being organised outside Stonewall's champagne bash at the V&A, where Julie Bindel had been nominated for the award of "journalist of the year". This protest was because of the views espoused by Bindel about transsexuals, which I have already described in earlier posts and so shan't go through again. It was pointed out to Ben Summerskill, Chief Stuffed Shirt at Stonewall, that Bindel's views on transsexuals were not a million miles away from the opinions held by Iris Robinson, the DUP type who was awarded Stonewall's 'bigot of the year' title for opining that homosexuality could and should be cured by psychiatry... Ben's response was something along the lines of "We've already sent the invitations out, and anyway we're all right Jack so get lost".

So the protest took place. About 150 people, all told, and a cheerful and well-conducted bunch of people they were too. Here are some of them...

IMG_2255, originally uploaded by onequeerone.

...and there was a counter demo. As you can see, Julie has many friends...

IMG_2087, originally uploaded by onequeerone.

...though they seemed a bit lost, especially when the actual reasons for the anti-Stonewall demo had been gently explained to them, and they sort of shuffled off early...

Julie didn't get the award, of course; that went to Miriam Stoppard...

Anyhow, next thing you know, Julie's written a piece for the Guardian's Comment Is Free. It's quite a remarkable piece of writing, even by her standards. She seems to lump transsexuals in with people-who-screw-cats as odd folk who want to join in the Stonewall "equality for nice middle class gays" party. Wrong in so many ways, Julie!

Julie Bindel:
"I for one do not wish to be lumped in with an ever-increasing list of folk defined by "odd" sexual habits or characteristics..."

..."I vont to be left alone", says Julie. Sadly, that is not a courtesy she extends to trans folk. She was at it again last week, in a magazine called G3 (you will find her piece on P 98). I'd never heard of the magazine before. It's a glossy lesbian job. Not quite an intellectual heavyweight, if you see what I mean. Julie gives her side of the business which began with the 2004 Guardian piece yet again, and says how some nasty trans folk have said bad things about her. The magazine's editorial agreed with Julie. After all, she's a Stonewall Journalist Of The Year nominee, and the biggest lesbian on the block. How can she be wrong? What's journalistic integrity anyway?

It is true that some people have said harsh things about Bindel, of course. Maybe even more people than there are fingers on one hand .....without wanting to go too far into the tit for tat stuff here, though, I would point out that there are any number of loose screws or cannons out there in cyberspace. Here is one person giving us their opinion about the Bindel business...

trans communities/forums/chats far and wide are literally losing their minds (or whats left of their minds after being drugged) over Julie's nomination. This has even cropped up in multiple so-called "trans-feminism" communities, due in part because the disordered men occupying these communities obviously remain male despite the cosmetics, and in part because they remain faithful to their conditioned patriarchal male privileges that nary a one has ever given up...

and then someone called mAndrea is the first to comment on this blog on the f word for the Transgender Day Of Remembrance, when we remember trans people who have been murdered.

Normally, we consider people who use their emotions in place of reason to be utter fucking morons.

The basic premise of transgender ideology is that girl and boy brains exist, and are different from each other. Girl brains luv pink, and are rilly soft and gentle. Boy brains luv blue, and are rilly hard and aggressive.

The basic premise of feminist ideology is that no such difference exists. Oops, we have a discreptancy!

Since some women are quite the aggressive fuck, they must be a boy. Therefore, they are transgendered. Amazingly enough, wanting a penis is not required for women to be an aggressive fuck, so something is quite illogical regarding your theory.

Perhaps insanity is the answer.

It makes interesting, if distasteful reading. But let's not get too distracted by this guff. It would be stupid to extrapolate from this and think that these semi-literate, possibly semi-sane voices are representative voices of feminism. Wouldn't it? If Julie, on the other hand, wants to demonise the trans 'community' because of a few individuals' intemperate expressions of anger.... well, she would, wouldn't she? The important thing is that the anti-Stonewall demo was discussed, organised and executed in an open and intelligent way, despite the occasional trolling of the Facebook site by Bindel and others.

And so we come to yesterday. A debate was hosted at Manchester Metropolitan University between Bindel and Susan Stryker. It was described as "A Feminist Perspective on the Transsexual Debate". Way to go. The dynamics of that title are quite telling, aren't they? Who decided that transsexuality was up for debate? Is there a 'lesbian debate'? -a.... oh, fill in the blanks yourelf. Is not Bindel's arrogation to herself of the right to 'debate' the very existence of a group of people indicative of an assumption of privilege on her part? -anyway; I watched the webcast. It made interesting viewing. Susan Stryker is very intelligent. Susan began with a slightly magisterial expression of surprise that Julie should still be bogged down in this stagnant backwater, when there is so much more useful and constructive stuff to be getting on with. Julie declared her wish to abolish gender; Susan described gender as "a medium we swim in". Julie stated that her own feminism began and ended with fighting violence against women, and she had seen no evidence that transsexual women had worked towards the ending of violence against women. She was directly given examples from the personal experience of Susan and several other women present.

Hmm, anyway. The general gist of the event was that Bindel accepted that on all the points raised, she was less informed than other people present at the debate. And those better-informed people refuted all her points. Giving chapter and verse. Maybe I'll expand on this later, but for the moment we'll leave it at that. Bindel continued to maintain that there is a substantial and presently-organising caucus of what she termed "survivors" of the "sex-change industry". This is news to me, but then, what would I know?

This is what I do know. That I, and many others, have been thoroughly angered by Bindel's interference in trans matters. She has either not researched properly or she has ignored the facts, because the existence and experience of transsexuality is incompatible with her ideological theory of gender. Her opinions are published in a national paper. There is the risk that she can influence policy which directly affects us. She has been trying to mess with my life, and she has been dishonest in the attempted furtherance of her ideology.

It would be really good if Bindel would finally just shut up about transsexuality. Her case against it just doesn't hold up. She's been sucking the air out of the room for too long. Go and do something useful instead, Julie. Please.