Monday, 26 December 2011

five ducks a-walking


five ducks a-walking, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
...these ducks survived Christmas, to the best of my knowledge. They live down at Barbaryball, just east of Launceston, where I stayed in the spring. I'd wanted to have a go at painting them for ages. And the barn, with its composite of different stone and cob. Finally got round to it last week.


Christmas day is a good day for heading out, if you're spending it on your own. I heard a deep cronking in the morning, and dashed up onto the roof in time to watch a raven swoop past and bob along in an exuberant sort of way downwind and out of sight, a little touch of wildness over the city. They do enjoy windy days. So do I, though the Moggy was a bit lively on the Severn Bridge, suddenly yawing wildly as we passed to leeward of the towers...



By the time I had passed Usk, patches of sunshine were starting to appear on the Blorenge, and the day became one of squalls and sun. And of wind, roaring like a river in spate through the mountain trees.


Journey's end was Partrishow, in the Black Mountains.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

knitting


The longest night of the year merged into a muggy dawn, which I ignored as I was concentrating on the picture I was painting. Come 9 o'clock, I finally got up and opened the curtains, and found a big sky full of blue. 

We just had to go out into it.

Not too long later we were rumbling across the Severn Bridge, admiring the milky sunlight on Avonmouth, glinting on the wind turbine blades. "Open the Cherry Coke, please", I asked Katie as I munched my way through the bag of special offer Christmas pretzels. We'd stocked up on fuel at the Shirehampton filling station.

She put down her strawberry flavoured Wonder Winder for long enough to pass the Cherry Coke. I gulped briefly and handed it back. "Thank you. Just think of all the adventures we've had that started off with us driving over the Severn Bridge and drinking Coke and eating crap," I said. "Remember canoeing round the coast in Pembrokeshire?"

"And me saying 'I'm tired' and lying down in the bottom of the canoe."

"And falling asleep instantly. Dead impressive, that. I was paddling for ages against that tide and getting nowhere. Those were the days, when we did stupid dangerous things together."

"And I was too young to know any better."

"Too young to know that you could say no..."

These days, expeditions are by negotiation. Today Katie's here by her concession, and we use our  history as a tentative shared language, a touchstone.

"That's a rain cloud," she observed. "Sunny in Bristol, look - head to Wales and it starts raining."

"There's a patch of sun over there on Twynbarlwm," I said. "If you don't like the weather, something different will be along in a minute. Purse is in the bag; sort out the toll money, would you?"

I threw the £5.70 in loose change into the hopper on the toll booth. Coins chinged down into the rejected coins bowl. I pulled them out, threw them back in. The barrier lifted, as more coins spat out into the change bowl. "Come on come on come on," Katie said anxiously as I grabbed the change and passed it across. We accelerated sedately away from the toll booths as cars  and lorries hurtled at us from both sides. Scary places, motorway tolls with everyone pretending it's a Le Mans start at the other side. "Whoo, one pound forty. That's good."

"It's an omen."

We passed the waypoints of our westbound journey- the stalinist fortress of the Celtic Manor, the eagerly-looked-out-for Castell Coch- and arrived at St Fagans, the open air museum on the western fringe of Cardiff.

I'd not seen the celtic huts before. We entered the smoky one and crouched near the fire. The woman looking after it was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. "My flatmates complain I come in stinking of smoke," she said. "It's not so bad if you get down close to the floor; the smoke rises."

They'd had a solstice feast, a few days back. She described the preparations; a chicken, rarely eaten as valued more for the eggs, but killed for the ceremony; spelt flour for the bread, ground twice in the quern because it's so hard. "The stone gets ground into the flour, so their teeth wore away quite quickly."

We wander around buildings that have been familiar to me for over forty years, and see the dark interiors, smell the woodsmoke and polish, miss the tang of the animals in the Rhayader longhouse.
"I like the idea of sharing the house with the cattle; it must have smelt really nice", I say. "If you like the smell of cattle..."

"They'd be kept in over the winter," said the guide. "They'd keep the hay up there in the loft, and milk them. They'd give milk through the winter, then."

We warmed ourselves at the fire. "People say it must be nice just sitting in here all day," he added. "I say, you try sitting here next to an open window..." 

I remembered the first winter I came here with my parents, in the 1960s. It was snowy, and we sat in a settle in a big fireplace and warmed ourselves and talked with the guide. It was a glorious memory, and one I hold on to. Now my past is mixed up with the history.

We went into a recent addition, a small schoolhouse. "It looks very much like my school at Llanfrechfa," I told Katie. She looked pained; I'd already commented on the familiarity of the Workmen's Institute and the ironworkers' cottages. I admired the school room's big coke stove, and recalled the milk bottles ranged round it to thaw out, to the woman sat at the teacher's desk. "Lots of people remember that," she said kindly, pausing from her knitting.




Friday, 16 December 2011

chip wrapper


A quick mention for the online publication The Journalist, whose current issue has a feature called 'Mature Approach Needed To Transgender Issues'. You'll find it on pages 12 and 13. Inexplicably, the writer, Phil Chamberlain, claims that the PCC ruled in my favour when I complained about an article in the Daily Mail. I've written to the magazine, and added the PCC ruling in my case to my earlier blog post about it, as well as the Daily Mail's weasel letter.



Friday, 9 December 2011

Shout Out


Liz Sylvian and I were on Shout Out, the LGBT show on BCFM, Bristol's community radio station. We talked about care provision for transgender children, My Transsexual Summer and the newly-forming TransBristol group. You can find a podcast here, the show headed Trans In The Media.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

making a stand


bike stand, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
After yesterday's blatant plugging of my Etsy shop, I feel relieved that at least I'm not as cynical as the folk who organise this 'flea market', who have locked a derelict bike to one of the bike stands on Bristol's Gloucester Road in order to provide a free billboard for their sale of tat. (note: I may well have tweaked the words a bit. Can't help them out, can we?)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

busy


busy, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
just at the moment, the gurt A0 drawing board that looms over my room like a big looming thing is overwhelmed with stationery, as I package up yet more cards. It seemed daft to keep getting them printed them in dribs and drabs, so I took a deep breath and ordered 500.... so, thanks to the economy of scale, I am selling them in my Etsy shop at £15 for 20 cards.

They are also available at £5 for 5. Or, heck, as few as you want!

Just sayin'.

Friday, 2 December 2011

de tropes

The final episode of My Transsexual Summer was broadcast this week. How did I feel about it? It was certainly flawed. The annoying voiceovers continued, along with the focus on surgery; we are told that Karen, who was shown undergoing surgery in the first episode, is "now... the woman she always knew she was"; Lewis is seen counting the money from a benefit gig, because "the NHS refused to pay for (his) surgery, so now he's got to raise £5000 to go private". This conveniently erases the advice given Lewis that the decision by his local PCT could (indeed should) have been challenged and overturned. Advice that was given in front of the camera but edited out. Because it makes better television to have a heartwarming scene of plucky young things putting on a gig to raise funds. All very Cliff Richard, indeed.

 And then there's the gender normative aspirations. A closing scene has the seven subjects posing for the camera with something to symbolise their hopes for the future. Karen, who has been working as a lorry driver and evidently finding it a challenging environment, poses as a secretary, holding a mildly submissive pose with a notebook and pencil. Donna holds an inflatable male doll, to symbolise her hopes for a relationship. Drew wears a beautician's tunic. I wince. As I do when Fox has a night out with the lads, in Brighton, and is seen shouting "Orright darlin'?" at women on the street.

Still, should we expect them to be other than this, 'better' than this? Three observations:

  1. I watched this on 4OD (the 'on demand' internet stream), and had to sit through some adverts at intervals through the show. I saw Jean Claude Van Damme standing on a mountain, talking about beer and, apparently, his penis. Then the Boots Christmas ad, where the intrepid womenfolk dash around, Charlie's Angels stylee, to create Christmas for their sleeping families. I mean. Are we a vanilla nation, or what?
  2. We can't all be gender warriors, and not all of us want to be, I guess. Certainly, in the early stages of transition, any instance of you fitting in and being seen to fit in with your target gender role can be hugely affirming. Even if it isn't a positive experience in the wider sense. Thus the trans women in the programme are happy to be trivialised and condescended to in the pub by the blokes playing pool. Because they're being treated like women. Some cisgender women like that sort of thing too, I understand.
  3. Should we expect a better understanding of gender politics from those who cross from one side to the other, or indeed live outside the binary, than those who stay put? My instinct is to say yes. I have heard some trans women angrily say "I don't understand men, because I have always been female". This seems mildly disingenuous. It is possible to be female and live as a man. Just as it is possible to be male and live as a woman. It's the difference between core indentity and performance. And performance may only be performance, but it still takes you to places where you might expect to have an insight into how your fellow performers, er, perform.
Looking on the bright side, some insights manage to sneak past the vanilla curtain. Max queries the "assumption that when you can pass enough, you're no longer trans". And Sarah's insight, so early on in her own journey, that "the key to successful transition comes from within, is to be happy".

 Reading tweets about the programmes on #transsummer, the response to them from outside the trans community seems overwhelmingly positive. So hurrah. For many people, trans folk are something almost mythical, not knowingly encountered in everyday life, and so liable to be casually 'othered' by unthinkingly going along with the lazy stereotypes that abound, such as the Little Britain 'trannies'. In this series, we have seen the seven participants being human; and encountering bewilderment, hostility and casual discrimination; like the woman who decides not to let her vacant room to Sarah because she doesn't want bricks thrown at the house; or the potential employers who turn Drew down because they are afraid of what their customers may think. I think that this sort of treatment, encountered on a daily basis by so many trans people, may have come as a surprise to some viewers.

And then there's the sense of empowerment that comes from a sense of community, of belonging somewhere. Drew was quite moving when she described her fearful and lonely life, when she thought "all I'd ever have is being stared at badly", and comes to the realisation that "these are my streets as well as anyone else's".

For my part, having watched this, I was inspired to get involved with the newly-forming support group TransBristol. Just sayin'. If you identify as trans*, and are in the Bristol area, do join in!




Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Billy Bragg


....dropped into the Occupy Bristol camp. How could we not go along?


 I met John Terry in the reference library, and when he'd finished his photocopying (another big poem in the pipeline) we went over to the camp and dismantled their workbench vice. As you do. I'd been tinkering with a dodgy wind generator on Saturday, and the vice was broken. Can't have that.



So we learned a lot about how a vice works, and enjoyed the music from round the corner. And were finished (well, it ended up less broken than it had been) in time to enjoy the last couple of numbers: "Waiting For The Great Leap Forward", with lyrics brought bang up to date




...and finishing with an unaccompanied singing of the Internationale. I joined in as best I could. "Dum de dum de dum....Freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all. So come brothers and sisters, for the struggle carries on...." And clenched my fist with the best of them.


Very cheerful making. Thanks, Billy.

Pig the dog got her photo taken with another famous person. To think, only last week it was Prince Charles! (Prefer this one though....)




Sunday, 27 November 2011

thy hand, great Anarch


Ian Bone, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Hydra Books in Bristol's Old Market got off to a stirring start yesterday. We arrived for the opening just before three; the shop was packed with people squinting at the shelves of books and slim red pamphlets through the November afternoon gloom- the power was down while someone busily connected up the light cables- then all was bright and noisy with electric drills and the setting out of chairs, coffee and lemon drizzle cake, and we were up and running!

Ian Bone talked about some of the lesser-known people who were involved in the revolutions of 1919. It was stirring stuff, people largely forgotten by history who dedicated and often lost their lives for an ideal. Ian is a lively and charismatic speaker, and the audience seemed disposed to like him anyway. Me, certainly.

It'll be interesting to see how the shop develops. It has the makings of something good. Reminds me a bit of the lost lamented Greenleaf, or Compendium.


Afterwards, Mal introduced me to Ian. (Mal, as I'm sure I've remarked before, knows everyone in Brizzle). And I remembered when I'd first seen Ian. It was at Ashton Court Festival, the year of the Hartcliffe riots, and he was wandering around the festival site distributing Class War leaflets. But he'd ignored me because I was wearing a Barbour jacket *cough cough* ...and I felt a bit nettled because I always fancied myself as a bit of a revolutionary. Though not as much as the SWSO types who lived upstairs from me in Portsmouth and got drunk on Fridays nights and had long and noisy arguments which went along the lines of "I'm a better socialist than you are!"

 

I forgive you, though, Ian.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

more from the drawing board


fox in the snow card, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

I've added some greetings cards to my Etsy shop. Just the thing for those occasions when you really need a fox-in-the-snow based item of stationery.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

press intrusion: the Leveson Inquiry

Trans Media Watch has been collecting examples of press intrusion and offensiveness, to present to the Leveson Inquiry. I contributed this piece from the Daily Mail, from December 2006. 

article by Ian Drury, Daily Mail
As I said in the accompanying submission,
As requested: I declined the offer of a gagging order at my Employment Tribunal because I thought it was important to have the truth told.
Generally, reportage sensationalised the allegations made against me, and ignored or minimalised the actions perpetrated against me.

The Daily Mail phoned me, and asked me to reveal my former name. I told them that it was not relevant to the story, and that it was both wrong and bad practice to publish it.
They found my former name somewhere, and again asked me to confirm it. I refused. They published it anyway.
There were other failings with the article, including an offensive headline.

I made a complaint to the PCC, on the grounds that I found the article biased, offensive and intrusive.

http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=NDQ4OQ%3D%3D

The PCC let the Mail off.

My abiding feeling about this episode is that the press involved in my story treated me as a figure of fun, presented for the titillation of their readers. I had spent two years pursuing a legal case, unaided, against a bullying company, and won; I felt that the press response, as exemplified by the Mail, was that that sort of thing didn’t (or shouldn’t) happen in their world, and that they resented what I had hoped would be seen as a victory for equality and fairness. I have learnt that the press are vile and not to be trusted. And that the PCC are worthless.

....the Daily Mail person also asked what title I used. "Ms", I replied. "The Daily Mail does not believe in using 'Ms'" he said. Hence the 'Miss', above. Go figure. 

Here is the PCC's decision in my case.

Commission’s decision in the case of
Marland v Daily Mail

The Commission noted the complainant had raised three concerns: first, that the article suggested she had been subjected only to ‘taunts’; second, that the disclosure of her former name against her wishes intruded into her privacy; and third, that the headline ‘would you Adam and Steve it’ was discriminatory.

The Commission noted the complainant had raised concerns that the sub-headline suggested she had only suffered ‘taunts’ and misleadingly omitted to include the threats of violence and an assault to which she had been subjected. Taking into account that the fact she had suffered taunts was not in dispute, the Commisslon considered that
in the context of the article as a whole which made clear that the complainant had won her tribunal after suffering ‘verbal and physical harassment’ it was not necessary for the newspaper to have included every detail of her ordeal. The selection of material for publication is a matter of editorial discretion, provided of course that the Code is not otherwise breached. In this instance, the Commission was satisfied that the omission of detailed information regarding the complainant’s treatment did not rendethe article misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code. 

The Commission then turned to the complainant’s concerns that the article had intruded into her privacy when it stated that it was ‘understood’ that her former name was XXXX, and that a person by that name shared her birthday and was listed as living in her flat
until 2002. The Commission acknowledged that the complainant was unhappy with this disclosure, but emphasised that it could only come to a decision under the terms of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code. This clause makes clear that everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private life. The Commission indicated that it did not generally consider a name to be an intrinsically private detail. In this instance, the Commission was satisfied that speculating on the complainant’s former name using evidence available in the public domain did not intrude into her privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy). 

Finally, the Commission addressed the complainant’s concerns that the headline of the article was discriminatory. It noted that Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code states that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to (amongst other things) an individual’s gender. In this instance, the Commission was satisfied that the headline was not a pejorative reference to the complainant’s gender change. Indeed, the Commission noted that the basis for using the phrase was its adaptation from a comment the complainant claimed had been made to her by crew members. In those circumstances, the Commission did not consider the headline to establish a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code.

That said, given that the reference had upset the complainant, the Commission welcomed the newspaper’s offer to write to her privately to apologise.
 ...and here is the letter of apology from the Daily Mail. As you see, it does not apologise for the article, but expresses regret that I found the article 'distressing'. Which I hadn't. Annoying, yes. Species of dumbfuckery, certainly. But not distressing.....

THE DAILY MAlL
7 March 2007
Dear Drusilla
I write to apologize sincerely for any distress caused, which I assure you was in no way our intention, by our article and headline on Monday December 18, 2006.
The headline was not intended to be pejorative. The article is very positive to your case and fully reported the tribunal’s findings.
Nonetheless, it is most regrettable that you were distressed by the piece and I have brought your concerns to the attention of the members of staff involved who join me in saying we are sorry we added to your concerns at a very difficult time for you.
Yours sincerely

Robin Esser
Executive Managing Editor



Here, for a bit of light relief, is a bit of dumbfuckery from the Daily Sport. 


Written by Who Ever; presumably the person who wrote it was too ashamed to put their real name. In the Daily Sport's world, I apparently enjoyed 'life wearing a dress in the engine room'. Quite. It was a Vivienne Westwood one, with a useful tool pocket on the hem. The guys was sooo jealous!


...here is some of the earlier coverage of the case. This is where third party allegations, made by the perpetrators of the harrassment, were presented by P&O's HR people as 'evidence'. They were found to be without substance.
article by Jeff Wells, Western Daily Press


And here is a press statement of the case which I made at its conclusion. Compare and contrast!

A transsexual woman, formerly employed by P&O Ferries, has been awarded £64,862 compensation by a Southampton employment tribunal after it found that she had been constructively dismissed.
Drusilla Marland, 48, of Bristol, worked as a repairperson on the Pride of Bilbao from October 2002 until October 2004. During this time, she suffered verbal and physical harassment from the engine room crew.
The tribunal heard how remarks were made to her such as "We're all men here," "If he's got balls, he's a gentleman," and "When God made man it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." She was constantly addressed incorrectly, and referred to as "He, she, it, whatever."
When a pornographic calendar was introduced to the engine control room, she was subjected to offensive comparisons with the pictures. Chief engineer Steffan Robb commented, "It's a sort of training manual for you." When she requested that the calendar be removed, she was told not to make an issue of it. Finally, in August 2003, she found written on the calendar "Dru," with an arrow pointing to a model's vulva. When the engine room crew was assembled for tea break, she took the calendar down, said that she found it unacceptably offensive, and ripped it up. Among others who shouted at her, Gary Howard, the RMT union representative, said "You are going to get done…. not if, but when". Although the incident was witnessed by both ratings and officers no action was taken against Howard. The pornographic calendar was replaced with a similar one, and Marland was sent to Coventry by several crew members.
In June 2004 Marland asked Steffan Robb to implement guidelines for appropriate behaviour with transsexual colleagues, pointing out that similar guidelines had been implemented on a ship in Dover when an officer had transitioned. Robb commented "But they are an officer," and refused the request.
In September 2004, Marland was tripped up by Ged Pollard, a motorman with a history of hostility to her. She reported the incident to her superior officer, but he took no action. Finally, after making a written report, and ten days after the assault, she was seen by the senior chief engineer, Martin Sonnen. He told her that he wanted to drop the matter in case it became "messy", and accused her of "camping it up". Shortly after, she left the ship and collapsed with what her GP diagnosed as "work related stress".
An investigation subsequently undertaken by Sandra Ray, P&O HR officer, was judged by the Tribunal to be "flawed, perfunctory and superficial":
• She interviewed only those members of the crew implicated in the grievance, and none cited as witnesses
• Her finding that Marland's treatment "was not to the standard I would have expected" was deemed "so inadequate as to amount to an insult"
• She provided no explanation or grounds for her finding that the Chief Engineers and the Senior Chief Engineer were supportive of Marland. The tribunal judged that Robb's conduct in particular was "wholly reprehensible"
• Her claim that Marland's own behaviour was inappropriate was unsupported by any evidence
The Tribunal criticised P&O's senior management, particularly in the case of Peter Ambrose, P&O's HR Manager, for their failure to put in place adequate management instructions and guidelines with regard to employees undergoing gender reassignment. Ambrose's decision to allow the Captain and Chief Engineers to deal with matters, without their having received any instruction or guidance, was judged by the Tribunal to be a serious managerial misjudgement.
The result of the printing of unfounded allegations, for the propagation of which P&O were admittedly as much to blame as the newspapers in question, was that people who didn't know anything about either me or the true facts of the case, said vile things about me on the internet. Which is not nice. Is it?










Monday, 21 November 2011

over the sea to Skyros



 Euterpe Parry-Hughes, Swansea shipowner, despairingly closes the slim volume of her dilettante husband Dylan's latest poetry, "from which", as posterity has drily noted, "the dust is seldom blown". She gazes across the Bay to the Mumbles, and considers shipping him out on one of her Chile-bound guano schooners, and having him dropped off on Juan Fernandez as they go. "Maybe he'll find his muse there," she thinks. "Or a goat. Wotevs."

One Alberto Granados is trying to find out more about this painting. Any clues, or further interpretations, more than welcome!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

one in the eye for the starlings

Four weeks short of the winter solstice, the days are shortening so fast it's hard to keep up with them.
"I'll pick you up at four," I told Mal, when we agreed to pop up to New Passage to watch the starling roost.

But by three o'clock the shadows were already long, and the sun slanting almost horizontal across the chimneys and rooftops.

So we went earlier.

Coming over the ridge at Kingsweston and seeing Avonmouth and the Severn estuary ahead of us, though, we'd obviously already  missed the sunset. As we bounced past the old zinc works, Mal started to tell me about Queen Victoria's last words to Disraeli (she'd asked him to pass a message on the Albert). "Yellow card, Mal", I said - this is the safe word for a story-that-you've-heard-before; in this case, earlier that afternoon at the anti-Costa demo.

And it was twilight by the time we trundled to a halt by the Victorian letterbox at New Passage.

And a great cloud of starlings, circling that very spot.


And Prince Charles, taking his dog for a walk.

"You look just like Prince Charles!" said Mal. "Do you get told that a lot?"

"Fairly often," he said; "If you look in Take A Break next month, I'll be in there with the Queen and Camilla."

It's come to something when royals appear in the sort of magazines that have exclamation marks in their titles, let me tell you.

The starlings passed low overhead, their wingbeats thrumming the air, like a gale in beech leaves, or rushing through close-hauled rigging. Then a gentle splatting as starling poo spattered the road around us in their wake.

"I've got one in the eye," said Mal. "That's a year's good luck!"

Walking down to the sea wall, there was a great chattering of the birds that had already roosted in the conifers by the path. Then the rasp of a bird of prey - a sparrowhawk, perhaps- and the roosting birds exploded into the air, and flew as a cloud to the main flock; the wing noise became a roar as the two formations swung into each other and coalesced. 

And then, after another circuit or two. the cloud of birds bounced up like a swell slopping on a breakwater, and became a whirlpool, sucking itself down into the trees.

And they were gone. Except for the great chattering in the trees. And the starling poo all over the car.



Monday, 14 November 2011

work in progress




I'm working on a cover for Nicky Jones' new book, The Changeling Tree. Here's some progress shots:



The waterfall is loosely based on Sgwd yr Eira, upriver from Pontneddfechan.

Having got the picture finished and scanned, I took these starlings

...which I had prepared earlier for this purpose. I removed the background





...and layered them into the picture.


...which just leaves the words. Here's a couple of options, though as yet nothing's certain...





Saturday, 12 November 2011

Their Transsexual Summer


So there's a new reality TV series about Teh Tranz. My Transsexual Summer started last week, and such was the interest aroused in it that I went over and watched it on the Channel 4 website to see what the hoo-ha was all about.

Last time I watched something similar was when Nadia Almada was on Big Brother in 2004; so I tuned in, for the one and only time on that show; she came across rather well, but... "Crikey!" I thought; "Trash TV or what?".

Similar format here with MTS; seven trans people are put together in a big house and get on with it, whatever 'it' is. A process that seems to involve hours of putting make-up on, and screeching at each other over bottles of white wine in the kitchen. Getting past my initial discomfort at watching a group of people whose common denominator is that they want to appear on a reality TV show, though, it (and they) managed to be quite engaging, in a way that the Big Brother people generally failed to achieve, in the one episode I watched.

There had been high hopes for this series, not least because Paris Lees, a bit of a rising star on the trans scene, consulted on the programme, which was made after C4 signed up to the Memorandum Of Understanding with Trans Media Watch, back in March. The idea being that media people should know where to find information about trans stuff, and that trans people should be involved in the process of portraying them, rather than simply being something in the specimen jar.

Were those hopes realised? We did get to tick off a whole bunch of cliches in this episode; plucky Karen goes off for her op; voiceover tells us that it will "give her the vagina she had always wanted." Fox is said to worry about "how far he has to go to become a man." Lewis "is having a wardrobe crisis". Make-up. Make-up. Talking about make-up. Make-up.

The participants' use of the term 'tranny' has caused a bit of a ruckus online; maybe we'll go into that sometime else (I write about my opinion of the word in the  soon-to-be-published META online magazine).

Participants in this sort of programme are always going to be hostages to fortune, in the shape of the programme maker who wields editorial control and the voiceover microphone. Max, who on present showing seems the most thoughtful of the participants, has already expressed his disappointment with the way the show ended up.  On the one hand, we have the standard tranny-on-the-telly tropes, and can perhaps understand why, seeing this programme, Michael Pilgrim (in the Telegraph) should think that "being convincing, of course, is the aim of the transsexual". If, at least, we were being charitable and didn't have much regard for Mr Pilgrim's intelligence in the first place.

And on the other hand, and despite the tinkering, we get to see a diverse bunch of trans-identified people getting on with stuff. And see things from their point of view. And care.




Friday, 11 November 2011

poppy

poppy, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
I leaned out of the kitchen window at 11:00 this morning, and watched the breeze in the trees, the blue tits zipping between trees and a pigeon landing in the neighbour's garden. And thought my own thoughts.

This picture is intended as a reminder that not everyone we remember today is English, or a soldier.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

acts of remembrance


I was hitching along the A30 from Shaftesbury towards Salisbury. An MG stopped; the driver said that I was welcome to join him if I didn't mind the labrador on my lap.

I didn't. We sped off. The brass disc on the labrador's collar identified its owner as  Lt. Col. Awdry. We passed the badges on the hillside at Fovant; I'd not seen them before. My host pointed them out.

"Had some of those CND chappies up there the other week," he said, "carving their badge. Took us all weekend to fill it in."

 I kept quiet about my allegiances. I was pro-CND, and fairly pro the armed services- it was only a small accident of biology that had stood in the way of my hopes to be a fighter pilot, after all. At a time when the government was contemplating axing conventional forces in favour of more nukes, it didn't feel like a contradictory position.

I got to meet a fair few retired military types in those days of the late 70s and early 80s, when I hitched a lot. Nice chaps, often with harrowing stories of war, quietly told.

One November, I wore a white poppy and a red poppy side by side. The slightly rottweiler-ish landlord of my local in Portsmouth ordered me to take the white one off. "I'm not having that in here," he said. The other regulars rallied round, and he backed down.

(His predecessor at the pub, the 5th Hants Volunteer Arms, was Major Gladys Walker, formerly of the ATS. One day I went in in an army surplus greatcoat, with Major's crowns on the epaulettes. "Take those off!" Gladys barked (she was good at barking). "I had to earn mine." It was a fair point, and I did, gladly.)


I've seen a couple of examples of ostentatious badges of remembrance recently. This horror, on Ebay. And the biggest poppy you ever did see, on the front of a Land Rover Freelander that was parked (where else?) on double yellow lines....  they make me uneasy, reminding me of Sassoon's 'Blighters' who 'mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume".

....and a few examples of rather militant snark about people not wearing poppies. By people who put poppy twibbons on their Twitter avatar, that sort of thing. Here's a bit from Kipling's Stalky and Co, where a politician comes to the school and lectures on patriotism....

And so he worked towards his peroration—which, by the way, he used later with overwhelming success at a meeting of electors—while they sat, flushed and uneasy, in sour disgust. After many, many words, he reached for the cloth-wrapped stick and thrust one hand in his bosom. This—this was the concrete symbol of their land—worthy of all honor and reverence! Let no boy look on this flag who did not purpose to worthily add to its imperishable lustre. He shook it before them—a large calico Union Jack, staring in all three colors, and waited for the thunder of applause that should crown his effort.
They looked in silence. They had certainly seen the thing before—down at the coastguard station, or through a telescope, half-mast high when a brig went ashore on Braunton Sands; above the roof of the Golf-club, and in Keyte's window, where a certain kind of striped sweetmeat bore it in paper on each box. But the College never displayed it; it was no part of the scheme of their lives; the Head had never alluded to it; their fathers had not declared it unto them. It was a matter shut up, sacred and apart. What, in the name of everything caddish, was he driving at, who waved that horror before their eyes? Happy thought! Perhaps he was drunk.

..and here's my own contribution.

The bigger and redder the poppy
On front of the car or lapel
The more you're allowed to be stroppy
At those who remembrance less well.



Photo of Fovant badges: Trish Steel [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons





Friday, 4 November 2011

attack of the Costa Monga


attack of the costa monga, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Bristol City Council is considering taking action against a branch of Costa Coffee, which is trading on Whiteladies Road despite having no permission for change of use from newsagent (the former business) to cafe. Meanwhile, the franchise holder, Stuart Montgomery, is developing another premises on Gloucester Road, again without planning permission. As Richard Leonard, who organised a petition against the Gloucester Road development, said; "Apart from the fact people don't want them in Gloucester Road, they are blatantly ignoring the wishes of local people and the council."


I was down at the Central Library yesterday, for the monthly Poetry Can lunchtime session. Called in at the Occupy Bristol site to drop off a bit of firewood; every little helps, after all. Later, talking about the Occupy Bristol site with someone I always thought of as a bit of an old Tory, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was supportive of the movement. Which is heartening.

Alana Farrell read some work-in-progress, a ballad about the Dale Farm evictions, using quotes from the protagonists. I learned that a neighbour to Dale Farm, who is apparently active in the anti-traveller campaign, is himself on an illegally-developed site, though one which has been granted retrospective planning permission. An option which does not appear to have been considered by Basildon Council in the case of Dale Farm.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

the duck who loved me

orchard goose, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
I spent my early life in an orchard with geese and ducks, waiting for the moment when the BIG WHITE GANDER would sneak up behind my dad (who was pruning trees) and prod his bum. As kids, my brother and I found this overwhelmingly funny.

Some of Geraldine Taylor's piece for the next Bristol Review of Books, that this picture accompanies. Seemed like a good idea to show the finished version, as it was 'work in progress' on the earlier post.

More watercolour paper stretching and drying on the board, and me doing a bit of sorting-out in the meantime. I've got a bag of readymix mortar in the back of the car, ready to go up onto the roof and fix the bit that's leaking. I stopped off at B&Q to get the mortar, and, as usual, went in through the door marked TRADE PROFESSIONALS ONLY because I'm bolshy and don't like walking round the long way, and I don't think you need to be a fat bald bloke with builder's cleavage to be a builder. Even though it's statistically probable that you will be.

Perpetual Playground

There was a launch party for Joe Solomon's novel 'Perpetual Playground' last week. John Terry and Alana Farrell have worked for ages to get the book out, as Joe had hoped that it would be (he died in 2009). Here's a review of the book, and links to where you can find it. If you want a paper edition, I can sort that out for you too!

Perpetual Playground
Joe Solomon
£7.95
Pouncecat Press
ISBN 978-1-905633-11-1

As a humorist with his own unique style, Joe Solomon was well known on the Bristol scene for many years, even making Venue’s list of ‘The Hundred Most Important People in Bristol’. But when he wasn’t putting on events like ‘Lyrical Myrical’ or ‘The Totally Nude Piano Show’  Joe was organising ‘Poets against  Racism’, writing to prisoners on Death Row, lobbying MP’s, founding the Shellfish Network (which campaigned against boiling creatures alive) and of course, writing this novel. 

It’s a long cry from present day Bristol to wartime Edinburgh where this book begins; but the reader, looking through the eyes of ten year old Martin Vanskin, the book’s central character, is immediately immersed in the everyday normality, the greyness and repression of the time, and the small economies made necessary by the war: ‘Not too much water,’ says Daddy at bathtime. ‘Five inches is supposed to be enough.’ ‘Should I use a ruler?’ asks Martin seriously. There is a definite touch of Alan Bennett in this sort of exchange. 

But although Joe has obviously drawn on his own childhood to describe the gritty reality of the 1940’s, the novel is in constant movement as it begins to focus on  Martin’s boyish worries about his sexual development and his despair as he finds that he is not like the other boys. Here we have Joe’s trademark approach to a taboo subject from a totally different and unexpected direction. 

Martin is an unlikely, but very likeable hero. His parents are excessively strict and he is bullied at school – a small bespectacled boy who despises himself because even younger boys can shove him around and wrestle him to the ground. But these incidents give him a strange excitement. 

As he grows up he pushes away his desire to lose wrestling matches with younger boys and seeking a normal life he meets and even goes out with girls. But the difference is still there, and he is driven to seek therapy in the hopes of finding a permanent cure.  
    
Armed with improved insight and self-esteem he finds an office job, and a promising relationship develops with a girl colleague. She has a schoolboy brother who is a sensitive boy, not given to aggression, and Martin feels able to tell himself that he has attained a healthy, normal way for an adult to relate to a child. But his feelings about this child are more complex than he thinks, and he disastrously fails to recognise the danger-signs.

Joe tells Martin’s story with a deliberate simplicity that draws the reader in and keeps the pages turning. For all its seeming innocence, here is a book which challenges assumptions in a serious way. This is powerful stuff:  

 "Martin reminded himself that Penny didn't exactly leave him cold...Wasn't this sure to be increased...once they had touched, caressed, kissed...And yet again, he felt unaccountably frightened."

John Terry/Alana Farrell

Sunday, 30 October 2011

habit


habit, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
At our tiny primary school in Wales, we traipsed across the road to the church hall once a week for our art lesson. Big sheets of paper on the trestle tables, big cans of powder watercolours for mixing into that browny-purply sludge colour that you always seem to end up with when you get too enthusiastic.

The teacher explained how to make skin colour; mostly white, with a dash of red and just a touch of yellow, but not too much.

And that is pretty much how I've been doing it ever since.

Yesterday I was looking at the slightly grubby block of white in my palette, and thought, "I wonder?"

...and did a bit of Googling, and found that loads of other people used different ways of getting skin colour in their watercolour paintings.

Burnt sienna seemed a popular place to start.

So I did.

Bingo.

Only took me forty years to start thinking outside that particular box.

Yet again, it shows how deeply ingrained habit can be. Quite chastening, in a quiet sort of way.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

privacy


Occupy Bristol, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
I dropped in at Occupy Bristol the other morning, just to see how things were going. Some chap advised me that I should ask permission before taking photos of anyone; which, as a matter of form, I was going to anyway, but hey. Some people didn't want their pictures taken, so I didn't; some were OK, so I did.



There were isolated acts of doing-useful-things going on, and I chatted with the young chap who was sifting through the bins, sorting the contents for recycling. He was just extricating a broken beer bottle from the cardboard. "You could do with some gloves for that job," I said. He agreed, so I gave him a wodge of disposable latex gloves (a box of them lives in the back of the car, ready for use in the event of unforseen mechanical problems). And carried on my way.



I feel ambivalent about the issue of taking people's photos without permission; it's often better to do so, because then they aren't self-conscious, at least if they don't notice you doing it. And in the case of the Occupy site, it seems a good idea to get as many photos of the camp as possible, to maximise the impact. And could it be argued that, by making a political statement as they are, their images become public property? -certainly, when I was prosecuting my case against P&O Ferries at an Employment Tribunal, I was deemed public property; I was actually followed around Southampton by a photographer in a car, one afternoon, as I cycled around trying to find some lunch...

...still, I'm not like him. I hope.

Yesterday morning, at 8 o'clock, I got a phone call from a man asking if I was Linda Marland. I told him that I wasn't, and that I didn't know anyone of that name.

I tend to be careful about giving out any information on the phone, as there are so many nuisance calls and the occasional phisher....

...the doorbell rang at 6 last night. "You expecting anyone?" asked Katie.
"No. You?"
"No..."

It was Bloke In Suit.

"Hello; does Linda Marland live here?"
"No. You phoned this morning, didn't you?"

He was a reporter, trying to find a witness involved in the Vincent Tabak trial, which reached its conclusion yesterday morning. He seemed disbelieving of my denial that I knew the person he was trying to find. I can live with that.