Monday 28 July 2008

end of the pier

This is Clevedon Pier, because I took a picture of it and I have never knowingly taken a picture of Weston Super Mare's pier.

The pier at Weston Super Mare went up in flames this morning, and there is much agog-ness in the West Country's media. So, goading myself into a frenzy of inconsequence, I wrote a poem for the occasion. No, please, it was the least I could do.

Though my trips have been quite rare
To Weston Super Mare
Because I think it's drear,
I wouldn't diss a pier.

Sunday 27 July 2008

another country

I live on the side of the Downs in Bristol, and if I go to the edge of the gorge I can see over to Wales. That lumpy thing in the distance, which reminds me of a pilot whale breaching, in the slow-rolling Old Red Sandstone swell of the South Wales hills, is in fact Pen y Fan, the high peak of the Brecon Beacons.

Picture stuff out of the way.

A friend is having family grief consequent on her 'coming out', which reminds me of how it was for me a few years back, when it felt as though I had been marginalised and made into an outsider. Which I suppose I still am, in some ways, though I am lucky in other ways. But I remember feeling outraged that things happened which seemed worthy of outrage but were generally thought OK by the people involved. Like, "Why can't you see that this is so wrong?"

Speaking generalisations here, which is dull, so I'll stop.

I remember reading this poem by Imtiaz Dharker in a Bloodaxe anthology, and it chiming with me. So, since it's available on the web anyway, I reproduce it here, because it's good.


When I can’t comprehend
why they’re burning books
or slashing paintings,
when they can’t bear to look
at god’s own nakedness,
when they ban the film
and gut the seats to stop the play
and I ask why
they just smile and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When I speak on the phone
and the vowel sounds are off
when the consonants are hard
and they should be soft,
they’ll catch on at once
they’ll pin it down
they’ll explain it right away
to their own satisfaction,
they’ll cluck their tongues
and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When my mouth goes up
instead of down,
when I wear a tablecloth
to go to town,
when they suspect I’m black
or hear I’m gay
they won’t be surprised,
they’ll purse their lips
and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When I eat up the olives
and spit out the pits
when I yawn at the opera
in the tragic bits
when I pee in the vineyard
as if it were Bombay,
flaunting my bare ass
covering my face
laughing through my hands
they’ll turn away,
shake their heads quite sadly,
‘She doesn’t know any better,’
they’ll say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

Maybe there is a country
where all of us live,
all of us freaks
who aren’t able to give
our loyalty to fat old fools,
the crooks and thugs
who wear the uniform
that gives them the right
to wave a flag,
puff out their chests,
put their feet on our necks,
and break their own rules.

But from where we are
it doesn’t look like a country,
it’s more like the cracks
that grow between borders
behind their backs.
That’s where I live.
And I’ll be happy to say,
‘I never learned your customs.
I don’t remember your language
or know your ways.
I must be
from another country.’

Monday 21 July 2008

back to the drawing board

I'm now illustrating the chapter on trees for the Bristol Downs wildlife book, so I've been out on the bike collecting leaves so that I can draw them. The ash was really pongy; a not unpleasant smell to start with, but I was thoroughly tired of it by the time I'd done this drawing.

I stopped off at Peregrine Point while I was out, and watched three juvenile peregrines having a mock dogfight over Leigh Woods. They swooped and flicked between the trees and dived into the gorge and... it was quite a show. I'm lucky to have this sort of thing five minutes from home.

Sunday 20 July 2008

Warty Bliggens

Not a toad but a frog. Kiss it if you like, but it'll still be a frog. Unless it's a metaphor.

Richard was on the phone on Friday; we're doing an interview with a regional newspaper next week. Funny; I remember the headline the same paper ran during the Tribunal, which was a little sensationalist and ever so slightly unpleasant. Hopefully this will prove a happier experience.

It got me thinking of the stuff that was said about me back then, at the time when P&O were merrily spouting out unsubstantiated allegations (are they the same as stinking lies, do you suppose?); and the toads and weasels of the world were busily lapping it up and nodding their heads sagaciously and saying, presumably, "O yes, we know what they're like..."

Anyway, I Googled my name just then, to see if there was anything toxic lying around.

I found this, from the Daily Star



A SEX-SWAP sailor didn't blow kisses at shipmates - she was just pouting.

Drusilla Marland was prone to pursing her lips, said her friend X, also born a man.

The transsexuals arrived at an employment tribunal on bikes yesterday, just like Little Britain "Lay-dees" Emily and Florence, played by Matt Lucas, 32, and David Walliams, 34.

Miss McLeod said she had seen the redhead pouting many times but had never taken this as a sexual come-on.

Miss Marland, 48, claims she was hounded out of her job with P&O Ferries due to constant jibes.

The engine room worker said fellow staff quizzed her on her "balls" and referred to her as "he".

Miss Marland, of Bristol, claims she was forced to resign from the Pride of Bilbao, which sails from Portsmouth.

The tribunal also heard that male colleagues complained that Miss Marland joked one of them could be her first sexual partner after she had the full op - claims she denies.

Miss McLeod, 49, said: "As for her 'exaggerated pouting', I have never attached any meaning to it. It's a mannerism, that's all."

P&O Ferries admits sexual discrimination but denies unfair dismissal.
Nicely written, Olivia. I like the subtle way she brought in Little Britain. Apparently David Cameron, head of the Conservative Party, uses a bicycle too, so I guess he must be a "lay-dee" as well. Is that how it works, 'Olivia'?

And then, in number seven position on Google, is someone who describes himself as Admiral Flynn, who has a little blog called "Admiral Online" where he makes querulous noises about the world. Here's a little throw-away remark he made about me:

This is Drusilla Marland.

'She' used to be a man but nobody would possibly know

She/He is claiming unfair dismissal.

She claims some people made fun of her.

Surely not

Note the inverted commas, suggesting that I am not really a she at all; and the she/he thing, which perhaps suggests that I'm not really a human at all. Nicely done, 'Admiral'!

Phew, got that off my chest. No point in jumping up and down and getting annoyed; after all, I was completely vindicated and these silly little people ended up with egg on their faces; but if you ever do pass by this way, Olivia Matthews and 'Admiral' Flynn, I'd like you to know that what you wrote was plain nasty, and that you rendered yourselves contemptible by doing it. At least Olivia was being paid to do it. I wonder if that makes it better, or worse?

brief encounter

I was meandering about Brizzle the other day. Outside the Commercial Rooms, formerly a Very Posh Club for city merchants and now a Wetherspoons pub, I had to negotiate a cloud of smoke coming out of the kitchen vent. It ponged rather of old cooking oil and pub grub.

The tables out front are a popular hanging-out place for men who appreciate cheapness in their lager, and who don't spend too much time worrying about their appearance.

There's a big chap sitting there with his lager and a face that's recently been severely modified with hostile intent. There are some very serious scars and bruises. He seems cheerful enough though. Our eyes meet.

"Where's all the smoke from?" he says

"The kitchen," I reply, "that's your lunch on fire"

We pause and consider the billowing smoke

"If I say something, will you be offended?" he says

I go into mild defensive mode. Here it comes, I think.

"That depends on what you say," I reply.

"You're really pretty," he says

I am relieved, and a little touched. And charmed. So he's an visually-impaired alcoholic. So... He wanted to say something nice and I was glad he did.

Two lonely people....

I smile and thank him, and continue my way with a bit of a bounce in my step.

Onwards and upwards.

Saturday 19 July 2008


It was K's last day at primary school yesterday. I went up to Nottinghamshire last week, to see her perform in the school play, the Wizard of Oz. She was the witch, and gave a terrific performance, in my entirely impartial opinion. And the head and other teachers said nice things about her. I was extremely happy for her, and rather proud too. And she was pleased as anything, too.

She starts school in Bristol in the autumn, and will be living with me. Big changes all round. Much learning to do.

something in the air

After my few days' battling with the fly invasion of the kitchen, yesterday seems to have seen the end of it. No buzzing at the windows, no splatting with the rolled-up newspaper. It reminds me of the closing scenes of the film The Battle Of Britain, where the gallant, noble etc Brits are all waiting for the day's onslaught from the Luftwaffe....and nothing happens. The skies are silent. They've won. Cue the music. Roll the credits.

I went out to take pictures of flowers, and ended up at Peregrine Point, where I squinted through my fingers at the sunny sky, watching a peregrine spiralling up higher and higher until it was a faint dot, then diving in a terrific stoop, locking on to a pigeon and curving round after it. The trees got in the way at that point, so I don't know what the result was.

Friday 18 July 2008

shoo fly, don't bother me

If you were to describe the things on your to-do-urgently list as alligators, up to what corporeal level would you describe your level of immersion in them?

My arse

What is it that numerically exceeds your ability to shake a hairy stick at?


(What is a hairy stick anyway? Crikey)

The gear hub on my new bicycle got stuck in top gear the other day. Took the wheel off, gave it a Serious Looking At, debated whether to start dismantling it, decided that now is not the time to start learning about the inner workings of the Shimano Nexus 7 gear cluster, wondered if this was a bit of a cop-out, and finally mustered quantities of cardboard and parcel tape, and packaged it up and sent it off to York, whence it came originally, as it is still covered by the warranty.

Fortunately I still have the new old bike, which came off Freecycle and which I like very much, although it still has lots of tweaking to do on it. Look, here it is. It's old and Dutch.

And then there's the flies.

I found that I'd got maggots in the compost bin last week, when I noticed them wiggling furiously in every direction away from the bin on the kitchen floor. I swept them up, but suspected that some had already got under places that I couldn't get to. So I waited.

Two days ago there were loads of emerald green flies in the kitchen. I hunted them down with a rolled-up newspaper and splatted them.
Same story yesterday too.
Hopefully they'll stop hatching out soon, and then I can wash the windows. Like, yeurk.

Monday 14 July 2008


Maybe I should be writing of weighty matters.

*thinks hard for a bit*

Nope, can't think of anything weighty.

Here, then is a celebration of wildness. We went off to Wales to hunt the Giant Hogweed, yesterday.

We also looked at a ruined castle, buried in the woods. The sunken track running up to the keep was lined by an avenue of ancient and dying trees, some of which had fallen across the track impeding our progress. Younger trees were growing out of the masonry. It was a good ruin. Very ruinous. It's nice to know that there are still ruined castles buried in woods.

And then we went swimming in the Monnow, just here at Skenfrith. It was cold and deep.

...and we ran out of time and failed to hunt down the Giant Hogweed. That can wait for another time.

*shhhh* wildness is weighty, isn't it?

Saturday 12 July 2008


I took the train up to Nottingham on Thursday, and looked forward to relaxing on the journey, watching the countryside go by and idly picking at my travel accessories, viz. two ham and cheese sandwiches, my peripatetic watercolour set, and Jan Struther's Mrs Miniver.

Fat chance. Bloomin' trains were crowded out. And everyone is assigned seats these days, so some people hopelessly wander around trying to find where they should be, and some people just take whatever seat they fancy and then the people whose seat that should be come along, and then everyone plays musical chairs, or not... and the announcements on the tannoy are clearly supposed to be in English, but blow me if I could understand a word of what the chap said... elderly Italian couple were clearly confused by the whole experience, and were trying and failing to get seats next to each other, so I gave up my seat so that they could sit together, and they were politely grateful and I got to sit with a chap who lectures in architecture at UWE. We exchanged life stories, in the way you do when passing the time on a journey. And I got to sit by a proper window facing forward, so I could keep an eye out for Adlestrop. But I failed to see it. I told the architecture chap about the Edward Thomas story. I suggested a sequel to the poem which starts "I've forgotten Adlestrop".

The seat in which I sat was reserved from Cheltenham to Birmingham, so I prepared myself to surrender my place when we pulled into Cheltenham. But the woman whose seat it evidently should have been, continued down the carriage and found somewhere else. And then subsequently had a chat with the people among whose number was the woman whose seat she was now occupying.

You see? -the ripple effect. I felt really quite anarchic.

And then the next leg of the journey from Birmingham New Street I was squeezed next to a Very Large woman who was reading a free copy of Metro, munching her way through a huge bag of crisps and listening to her i-pod (ta - sheeee - shhhhch - ch - shsssshhhhh - schhhhh). And not only colonising the arm rest, but making inroads into my territory too. So we played an unacknowledged game of Lebensraum, which passed the time, though not as congenially as a good read of Mrs Miniver.

Monday 7 July 2008


So that's another picture finished. This one is for a nature feature by Geraldine Taylor in the next edition of the Bristol Review of Books. She talks about nature's jesters, among which is the stinkhorn. I added the Cerne Abbas giant because I like the Cerne Abbas giant, and because it seemed to fit the picture. Apparently it is likely that he was the creation of an 18th century squire, intended to annoy the church. So it may qualify as a jest. But he's mainly here because the stinkhorn looks like a penis, and the Cerne Abbas giant has got one too.

Glad we got that out of the way. Penises. They're not big, and they're not clever.

I quite like what I did with the ferns in this picture, though.

Now here's a link to Riftgirl's blog. She's triffic, and has made some really good films too. She's on a roll. Go with it.

Sunday 6 July 2008

pride that comes before a fall

I had to write this.

I was busy at my drawing board yesterday, so I didn't get to go up to London for the LGBT Pride march. I rather wish I had now, as it seems there are still battles to be won, closer to home than one might have expected.

I was privileged to meet Roz Kaveney at a reading at Gay's The Word bookshop in Bloomsbury a few weeks ago. She is a feminist activist, and helped put the GRC together. She was refused access to the womens' toilets at Trafalgar Square, first by the Pride stewards, then by a Metropolitan Police LGBT officer.

Here's Roz' story.

For the first time in thirty-some years of going to Pride, I have come away seriously questioning whether I will ever go again. Official stewards who were running the toilets at Trafalgar Square announced that I, and any other transgender or transsexual woman, had to use the disabled toilets and was not allowed to use the regular women's toilets. I pointed out to the stewards that I transitioned and had surgery before they were born; I was more polite than a polite thing. No dice.

I went and fetched a posse of transwomen and transmen and we made a collective fuss. Their response - and remember these were official stewards AT PRIDE - was to radio in 'we're being attacked by a mob of trannies! send backup'. They were joined by a policeman, who was a LGBT liaison officer, who claimed that we had to be able to show our Gender Recognition Certificates if we wanted to use the women's loos and got quite upset when I explained to him that I had been involved in drafting the Act and that it did not take away rights that existed before it. At one point he threatened to arrest us for demonstrating on private property - those loos belong to Westminster Council, so you are not allowed to make a fuss there.

At one point it was claimed that they had instituted this policy a few minutes earlier because a man had attacked a woman; at another they said it was official Health and Safety policy. I don't think it was particularly to do with how much I do or don't pass - I think I got read in part because I am so tall and turned up in the queue among a particularly short group of lesbians.

It was one of the most wretched experiences I have had in thirty years, only made positive by the love and solidarity of my community - including various transmen who proposed that, since they had no GRCs, they should be made to use the women's loos. Beards and all.

What with the other trans-related mess I am currently dealing with, of which more anon, I feel that destiny is recalling me to the activist standard...

So, tomorrow, there will be letters and phonecalls. More generally, there will be serious kicking of Pride's butt. Pride screwed up in all sorts of ways this year and it will be requited.

Basically, no one gets to shit in my face and call it chocolate fudge. That young cop in particular is going to undergo an educative experience.


Here is an online petition which you are invited to sign

Saturday 5 July 2008


Fame! ...well, nearly. This blog gets a mention in Diane Purkiss' review of Becoming Drusilla in the Daily Telegraph
Dru buys a brightly coloured top to mark her femininity more strongly. Beard thinks she must order a half instead of a pint in a pub. Must Dru also become incompetent with machines? Must she become garrulously confessional, emoting for his benefit and ours? (On her own blog, Dru writes back, and there too she's less juicily confessional than we might wish.)
Quite. Juicy confessions? In these shoes? I don't think so.

It is a good review. Intelligent. I am pleased.

I am also surprised but pleased to see one of my photos there...

...although I am slightly mystified by the bit in the corner of it that says "BID UP TV", which is, Google tells me, a shopping channel. Has someone been selling my photos on telly? -what a confusing old world it is.

ars longa historia brevis

Richard has been shortlisted for the BBC Short Story Prize

Guidelines for Measures to Cope with Disgraceful and Other Events

‘This is no place to be weak,’ newly elected MEP Simon Vindolanda is warned by a colleague during his first week in Brussels. Simon laughingly ignores this advice – which is why his enthusiastic affair with perky Eva Kuznetsova is, one way or another, about to come to a very sticky end indeed.

So his story will feature on BBC Radio 4, and he'll be interviewed on the Today Programme on Monday 7th July. Yay!

old enchantments

More poetry of place. My formative years (well, some of my formative years. Do we ever stop having formative years?) were spent in South East Wales, and that is the landscape of home in my imagination. This poem by T S Eliot is a touchstone for me


Do not suddenly break the branch, or

Hope to find
The white hart behind the white well.
Glance aside, not for lance, do not spell
Old enchantments. Let them sleep.
"Gently dip, but not too deep,"
Lift your eyes
Where the roads dip and where the roads rise
Seek only there
Where the grey light meets the green air
The hermit's chapel, the pilgrims's prayer. when I read, a few years ago, that someone had come up with a real well in the Usk valley, close to a pub called the White Hart, I thought I should go take a look.

Finally got round to it.

Here's the White Hart in Llangybi

...and here is the well of St Cybi, below the churchyard and recently restored. Note the old whitewash on the inner wall, making it indeed a 'white well'. And, in this picture, the White Hart is indeed behind the well. So, er, ta-dah!

So now I've got some real landscape in my head which is jostling for space with the imagined landscape, in which white harts, hermits and pilgrims have stepped from a mediaeval tapestry and are hoving in the woods. (Do pilgrims and hermits hove, or is that just knights errant? -well, you know...).

Well, I suppose Mr Eliot did sound a note of warning when he advised against seeking old enchantments.

Thursday 3 July 2008


I spend a lot of time driving Katie to and from the Midlands, where she spends the time that she doesn't spend with me. Inevitably, sometimes we get held up by incidents on the motorway. On Monday we were delayed a short way out of Bristol by a Landrover Discovery which had inconsiderately burst into flames. And then I heard on the radio that there was static traffic ahead from Worcester all the way to Tewkesbury, so we left the motorway at Gloucester and drove across the Cotswolds. We passed through Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, which are all nice sounding counties in my book. We got slightly lost a couple of times. We passed the Rollrights, but didn't see the stones. And we passed Adlestrop, but didn't stop to admire the old railway sign in the bus shelter. Not this time.

We got there late, but then we may have got there even later if we'd stayed on the motorway. And it was a lovely drive.

Poetry of place: Here's Edward Thomas, when he was at Adlestrop. It was late June for us too; the following day, July 1st, was the anniversary of the opening of the Battle of the Somme.

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.