Saturday 30 May 2009

Green Flash

Lovely weather lately, and I was down on the side of the Avon Gorge watching the sun set and hoping to see the Green Flash, which I didn't, just as I haven't seen it on any other sunset I've ever watched. And I've watched a fair few sunsets in my time. And seen all sorts of odd things, including a sea monster. And a White Tornado. But not a Green Flash.

I live in hope though.

A creepy bloke in leisure clothes approached me and wanted my advice about cameras. After a while I realised he wasn't really interested. In cameras anyway. Next time this sort of thing happens I shall say "Oh I don't know anything, I just press the button". Or ignore them. Or kick them.

Here's a swift, and the new moon.

I have cleaned my Rotrings and cleared a bit of space on my desk and have started to take the next book seriously. And not before time. Here's the provisional cover design. The viewpoint here is from pretty much the same place as the sunset shot.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Gays In Ties

move along now

Some people question the propriety of adding T to LGB. "Transsexuality is a gender identity thing and the other ones are about sexual orientation," they say. And of course they're right. I happen to think that we've all got sufficiently common cause to be able to unite. And recent events suggest another good reason for Ts to be in the same room, especially with the Gs: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer", as the Chinese general said.

Not that I view all gay men as enemies, of course. Far from it. Unfortunately, there seem to be some who have attained positions of power in equalities groups, who, now that being gay is pretty socially acceptable (or even desirable), want to distance themselves from other, less well-heeled minorities. For some are more equal than others. Thus Ben Summerskill and Stonewall's shabby performance over the nomination of Julie Bindel for their Journalist of the Year award, and the re-writing of history that's been going on in gay circles to eradicate the trans presence in the original Stonewall.

Let's call them Gays In Ties. Because it usefully lends itself to an acronym.

Here's a typical example, culled from a local forum where there has been discussion regarding T inclusion in an LGB group.

The gay community are borderline weirdoes in the eyes of the mainstream heterosexual community, but if the forum encompasses the Trans community into its constitution then it could be catastrophic to the forum. So I’ll let the Forum Members decide whether or not, our weirdo status will get better or worse?
Love you too, little man. Worryingly, no-one called this particular GIT out on this remark.

Now then, to London Pride. At last year's event, there was a bit of a hoo-ha when the Pride stewards refused to let some transsexual women use the women's toilets. A transsexual woman was subesquently assaulted in the men's toilets. The Pride GITs seemed to think that the trans people involved were somehow at fault. I covered the "Toiletgate" business at the time, starting here.

So this year, it seems that Pride have decided to organise the T element of the event themselves, assisted by one Diana Taylor. Diana has (they say) for many years been the Trans advocate for Pride and has assisted pride London in some very complex issues and is very well respected and very well connected across many Trans circles. Oddly, no-one in the sort of "trans circles" I move in seems to have heard of her. Must be in the wrong sort of circles or something.

At a meeting with interested parties including Translondon last week, it was announced that the trans contribution to the march would be a float at the back of the procession, with the theme of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert". The procession is to be headed, apparently, by another float with the cast of the stage show of the same name. "Priscilla at the front and Priscilla at the back," as the person from Pride described it, to a presumably gobsmacked audience.

Translondon have voted to boycott the event. And who can blame them?

*background image of Trafalgar Square by Thomas Bredol *

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Fled is that music

a whitethroat, because I don't have a picture of a nightingale

Years ago, I was heading down to the Correze on my motorbike. I'd been riding for hours, and it was sometime around midnight. I was in a hilly, wooded area with Angouleme behind me, and enjoying the experience of travelling through somewhere I'd never been before. I stopped for a stretch. I switched the engine off, and as the engine cooled it made TINKing noises, but all was otherwise silent.

Except for a nightingale singing.

It was the first time I'd heard a nightingale in real life (though I'd heard it accompanied by cellos and by Lancaster bombers, courtesy of the BBC) , and it was beautiful.

I've heard nightingales in other parts of France since then, but not yet in England. When I first moved to Bristol I thought that Nightingale Valley, in the Avon Gorge, sounded hopeful, but an evening listening there produced nothing much more than distant revelry from Clifton. I am assured, though, by no less a person than The Finest Swordsman in France, that nightingales can be heard singing in Clifton, where he may often be found wobbling around long after the pubs have closed. When he makes this sort of pronouncement, I simply nod in agreement and forbear to mention that blackbirds too can, as the song says, sing in the dead of night; and sing beautifully; they are relatives of the nightingale, after all.

So, with the weather being so sunny and calm on Sunday, we went over to Inglestone Common, where I had heard of nightingales. Inglestone Common lies below the western flank of the Cotswolds, and is a slightly boggy, heathy, scrubby, woody sort of place, and therefore a good place for birds. We arrived quite late, to give the other birds a chance to go to bed. Indeed, with not a breath of a breeze, it could hardly have been more quiet. Bats flitted past us, so close that I could hear their wings fluttering, little leathery outboard motor sounds. We walked for some time. It was quite chilly now; the cold air was flowing down from the hills and forming a gentle breeze. The bats clocked off; I guess the insects had gone to bed too. And the nightingales, being English nightingales, had had an early night with some Horlicks, presumably.

We drove off. "That's the trouble with actively going out birdwatching," I said; "If you don't see what you set off to see, it feels like failure. Accidental birdwatching is much better."

Fortunately, the engine overheated a little while later, so we had an adventure after all. But that's another story.

And I will remember the sound of the bat's wings.

Sunday 24 May 2009

hands off my history

Back in the 70s, I used to spend a couple of evenings a week at the Air Cadets, and spent weekends learning to fly gliders. I was aiming for a career as an RAF fighter pilot. I'd read my Biggles and Worrals books, and lots more books too, and I wanted to fly Spitfires and biff the Hun. But I was willing to settle for whatever the RAF would let me jump into, and was confident, indeed hopeful, that I would be fighting the good fight, whatever.

Innocent days.

Meanwhile, in another reality, some of my contemporaries would be shaving their heads and putting on Doc Marten boots and getting swastika tattoos and going out Paki-bashing.

Time passed, and I didn't join the RAF (colour vision problems). I became a student and a bit of a lefty. I Rocked Against Racism, and wore my Anti Nazi League badge with pride. Once, when a National Front rally was held in Portsmouth, I joined in the counter demo. It seemed a disproportionate response when I saw what the rally consisted of; a small group of pimply skinheaded thugs and a couple of shabby older blokes, who looked like disreputable uncles. The thugs seemed quite pleased with the attention they'd got, what with the police cordon outnumbering them and the large jeering crowd of us lefties. They looked very uncomfortable, though, when we chanted (to the tune of Bread of Heaven) "Does your mother, does your mother, does your mother know you're here?" -I think we hit the spot there.

More time passed, and now it is today. The little thugs have become balding middle-aged men with families, and they have learned to cover up their tattoos with suits, because some people seem to respect people who wear suits.

I got a leaflet from the British National Party through the door the other day. Look, here is the front of it.

They have appropriated the Battle of Britain as part of their narrative. Explicitly, in fact. "The New Battle For Britain..." "...because we've earned the right!"

Now, I know my aeroplanes of course. This is a Mk V Spitfire, so it came in too late for the Battle of Britain. I got quite excited, though, when I saw that little chequerboard pattern on the nose.

..because it's the insignia of the Polish Air Force. This is in fact a Spitfire of 303 Squadron RAF, whose pilots had escaped from Poland and come to Britain to carry on the fight. Look, here's a Polish PZL P11 fighter, with the larger version on it. I once built a model of this aeroplane, so I remembered the insignia. And other stuff, too. Obviously, my childhood wasn't entirely wasted.

Unlike some... I was quite excited because I always suspected that homegrown nazis are bit thick, and it's so nice to see such palpable evidence.

In my version of history, the fight against Fascism was an international sort of affair, and the Germans were the Johnny-no-mates in the business. Here, for instance, is the breakdown of pilots from other countries who fought with the RAF during the Battle of Britain

Poland 145
New Zealand 127
Canada 112
Czechoslovakia 88
Australia 32
Belgium 28
South Africa 25
France 13
United States 7
Ireland 10
Jamaica 1
Palestine Mandate 1
Southern Rhodesia 1
Unknown 8

I recently read Vasily Grossman's diaries of his time as a war correspondent with the Red Army. I was struck particularly by the sense of outrage among the Russian soldiers when they advanced into Germany and saw how good the land was and how the locals seemed to have so much of everything -why, they wondered, did these people want to go out and behave so badly to other people in other places? Why didn't they just stay at home?

Anyway. I don't like nazis appropriating a history that I feel that I've got a share in. Rather more of a share than them, in fact. Enough with the cultural lebensraum, you lot. Go and appropriate the Luftwaffe instead, why don't you? -o yes; they lost, didn't they?

Saturday 23 May 2009

found poetry

...from a received e-mail

a trans exual; a austin radio; A band;
a dailect listener; a dialect guest town clerk wells; a dialect listener;
a dialect listener; a dialect listener; a dialect listener;
a dialect musician; a duialrct listener; a fialect listener;
a kora player baku; a kora player; a kora player;
a machupachu Indian;
a poet;
a radio dialect listenLesa presenter NUJ; a radio station;
a radio station; a radio station; a radio station;
a radio station; a radio station; a radio station

Friday 22 May 2009

one for sorrow

So, the last chapter in the story of the magpies who nested in the plane tree at the front of the house.

On Wednesday, the single chick left the nest and spent a while hopping around on the road, before taking refuge in a bush. The parents spent the day to-ing and fro-ing with food, flying in and perching on ledges on this house and the house next door to check that all was clear, before dropping down to the chick.

Yesterday morning I looked out at first light and it was still in its bush, and all was quiet.

An hour later there was a huge kerfuffle going on. I went to the front room window and saw the magpies on the pavement angrily chattering and facing off a fox, that was sitting bolt upright on its haunches looking as though it was wondering how best to preserve its dignity. It decided on withdrawal, and sauntered off looking insolent, pursued by magpies.

In the middle of the road was the chick, apparently lifeless.

I went out and checked. Yes, the chick was dead and toothmarked. I moved it to the garden wall so that the parents could say goodbye properly. For the next hour or so they fluttered to and fro, chattering and pecking at the corpse to try to get it to respond.

After a while they went away.

In the evening, Katie and I went out for a last walk on the Downs as the sun set. On our return we saw a magpie perched silently on a rooftop at the end of the road.

A short while later there was more chattering at the front of the house; the two parents were fluttering between the nest, the road where the fox had dropped the chick, and the bush where it had spent its last day. They spent some time doing this.

This morning the chick was gone. I guess the fox had returned.

Thursday 21 May 2009

lost bearing

Thank goodness the rain stopped, and I was able to get out and fix things.

I had been getting worried about the car's portside rear hub, which had been leaking oil into the brake drum. So I took it to bits, and found that the bearing was breaking up.

Oil all over the brake pads is not a good thing when you want to stop quickly... look, you can see that there is a ball missing from the bearing there.

Lord knows where the missing ball went to; I wonder if it had been assembled like this at some point in the past? -a bit of the cage had broken off and lodged in the oil seal (the black thing on the right in this picture) and there was no sign of the spring that should have been wrapped around the inside of the seal. Which is why it wasn't doing its job.

So there is now a new bearing and a new oil seal in place.

As I worked, I was accompanied by a young magpie, which had ventured out of its nest in the tree above the car and taken refuge in a nearby bush. The parents spent the day anxiously dashing to and fro feeding it. I know that feeling...

Tuesday 19 May 2009

austerity Britain

"Make friends with your butcher" -Anne J.

A comment on Facebook got me recalling a story someone told me of the not-so-good old days. This is how it happened.

The Blue Flame is a pub which nestles in a lane between Nailsea, the bustling Somerset home of Adge Cutler and the Wurzels, and Kenn Moor, where Somerset goes into serious boggy mode.

It's a nice pub, and I would especially recommend their pickled eggs.

Anyhow, V was writing a book on pubs, and, as I occasionally pass by the Blue Flame I was asked if I knew how the pub got its name. I didn't, but as it was a good excuse for an outing (which, thanks to my navigational abilities, took us about 30 miles further than strictly necessary)....

here's the story.

We were in the Blue Flame at Nailsea last night, and I asked the landlord where the name came from. He said that originally it had been called the New Inn, but got its present name from goings-on during the war. A decoy Bristol was located on the moors around there, in a hopeless effort to persuade the Germans to drop their bombs on the marshes instead of the city; and the landlady of the pub had an illicit relationship with the man whose job it was to light the lights for the decoy. She lit a stove in the window (landlord obligingly points out stove in window) to let him know when her husband was out and the coast was therefore clear for him to come calling.'s no doubt a story the holes in which a squadron of Chieftain tanks could be driven through; but better a good story than a boring truth, I suppose...


...further to the anecdote about the Blue Flame... something trawled up in the 'net...

In addition to their normal operations, No.951 (Barrage Balloon) Squadron also controlled Bristol's six 'Starfish' Decoy Sites, the construction of which commenced in late 1940. They were eventually located at Stockwood, Chew Magna, Downside, Kenn Moor, Yeomouth, and Cheddar, and it was during the city's second large scale raid on the night of December 2nd that the first 'Starfish' site in the country was lit in anger.

...I told the story of the Blue Flame to someone, let's call her X, who had a good laugh about it and then told me that she used to do something similar with a box of Omo washing powder on her kitchen window sill. If it was there, the butcher's boy knew that it was all clear to come in and trade some of the contents of his basket (sorry, I'm trying to think of a way of putting this without it sounding smutty... I must have dwelt among English academics for too long...)...o God.... OK, the butcher's boy would then trade meat for sex.

And there we have it, story for today!

Sunday 17 May 2009

stuck indoors

Blooming weather. It's been raining hard most of the day. Got out bright and early to the Downs cafe, where I met up with the naturalists. Nick Winn, the Peregrine Poet, has had a poem selected for displaying on buses in Bristol, so he was pleased, and we were pleased for him.

I don't know which poem it is, though, so I can't put it here. It got me thinking about poems for displaying on Bristol's buses, which have long been notorious for being expensive. And this was the result

How much, did you say?
-I want to go to Broadmead,
Not bloody New York.
..more agitprop than haiku, I suppose. I like this one much more, though it's about trains rather than buses. And I'm not going to change it now.

I can't hear it, though
I can see the crow crowing
Through the train window

Home again, I got down to some Useful Tasks. First, I fixed the strap on my favourite Doc Marten sandals, thus

...and am now ready for the summer.

And I made some more compost bin liners.

Bristol issued everyone with compost bins last year. The contents are collected weekly. I am very much in favour of the scheme, as I have no compost heap of my own. Unfortunately, keeping the bin clean is a bit of a bother. So I have taken to making liners out of old newspaper stuck together with wallpaper paste. I make a load of them in one go, thus

...which stops the bottom of the compost bin going manky and horrible, and saves loads of time and effort sluicing it out.

Next week: washing up, a joy for life. Or maybe not.

Idaho's more than just potato, you know

It turns out that today is the International Day Against Homophobia (and sometimes possibly Transphobia but that would make it IDAHOT which doesn't sound so good)

So here is a short transcript of part of an interview conducted by Anthea Page of Dialect Radio with Toni, of the Bristol LGB Forum, at the Becoming Drusilla launch in Bristol, where she makes some very good and more widely-applicable points

A: Do you think that it's (Richard) who has the problem rather than the public? -I mean a lot of people don't worry... if a man turns into a woman... I think people are quite broad-minded about that...

T: I think some people are, but if we're honest some people will have problems and all of us, in the privacy of our own heads, have to ask "Do I have a problem with that?" -because we'd all like to believe ourselves to be liberal and open-minded but actually.... the liberalism we anoint ourselves with is just a mask... I think a lot of us are prejudiced... there is an identity which you are supposed to conform with and if you do not you are a novelty, an amusement, but not 'somebody I would like my children to hang out with', not 'someone I would invite to dinner....'
The full program can be heard here, and the interview is about 45 minutes into the show

Thursday 14 May 2009

cis and desist

ooh, what's this down here?

Every now and then, as we know, there's something written about transsexual stuff in one of the papers. This one being a case in point. Quite a good article, actually, for the Guardian; a nice change from their usual Julie Bindel silliness on the subject.

And then, sure as night follows day, there will come loads of comments. And behold, it is ordained that, on occasions like this:

someone will object to the term "cisgendered"when applied to non-trans people, saying that "man" or "woman" (but usually "woman") is all the description needed for themselves thank you very much

someone will bring up the matter of womens' loos, and say that they don't want to meet men in there. Well, quite, and thank you for bringing that to the table

someone will say "Yeh but you is bloke in frock innit"

(and then someone will give a reasoned and cogent response)

"Yeh but you is bloke in frock innit"

(and then there will be yet more attempts to help troglodyte through Trans 101)

"Yeh but you is bloke in frock innit"

....and so time passes and nothing much changes, presumably. I must admire those who fight the good fight by engaging with these types, but it's kind of vertigo making, when you think of how many millions of people, some of them even capable of some rude approximation of thought, have ready access to the internet. You could spend every waking hour battling pondlife, but I suspect that you'll just end up with soggy wellies and duckweed down your best top. Life, perhaps, is elsewhere.

"Cisgendered" is a useful word when discussing trans/not-trans matters, since trans people are frequently not merely described but defined by their transness, and in discussion you need something to describe those people who are identified by their not-transness. It does seem odd that some folk object to its use when applied to them, but I note the fact that some folk do indeed object to it. So it goes. I am not entirely happy with 'transgendered', or indeed 'transsexual', as terms, but I accept their occasional utility. It's a language thing. We use it to get ideas across.

Here's an e-mail from someone whom I met the other day. She does reporting for a radio station, and we're doing an interview sometime soon. I have anonymised her. Indeed, she has rather de-personalised me: as you can see, I apparently feature in her address book as a trans exual (sic), although we have met and she knows my name.

What's the difference between an adjective and a noun? Well..... -are you, gentle reader, a cissexual? -and how would you feel about being introduced to someone as simply "a cissexual?" -maybe it's like having, say, a wooden leg. It's something you have, but not something that defines you. Well, hopefully not.

...I was having a bit of a laugh about this with Richard. As you do. You know.

R: That makes me think you should run an anagram program on words like this - see what the exuals might be up to these days

I suppose as a writer you might count as a textual exual?

I'm just a usual exual. While you're an ex unusual.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

republic of bikeland

The City of Bristol woke up one morning a while back to find that it had become a Cycling City. The sun shone brightly and on College Green the happy citizenry came together for "bike related fun", involving, as it does, face painting and lashings of Vimto, crisps and those funny little sausages on sticks. We all then linked arms and joined the Mayor, resplendent in his (or her) chains of office, in a lively bout of Community Singing to herald in the new Golden Age and....


So anyway I was cycling down Whiteladies Road yesterday and, as is so often the case, the cars elbowed their way past me only to slow immediately into the semi-gridlock that you always get around the Clifton Down area.

I moved out to occupy a safe zone and, as the cars ahead slowed further, I swung out to the right and overtook them.

I was passing a well-dressed young woman in a little car and was a little put out to hear her shriek "Fucking bike!" (her window was open, and she was a bit loud you know). I wasn't sure if she was talking on her mobile or just raging to herself, but the former seemed likelier.

Not a nice thing to say about my lovely bicycle, I thought. Unless what she said was actually "Fucking dyke!" which case, well....

So I gave her the finger and a big smile, and swung off up Cotham Hill, where I had business at the Post Office. After signalling, of course. Toujours la politesse.

There do seem to be some unhappy motorists around. Over at Bristol Traffic, another cyclist describes a bit of a barney with a White Van Man who seemed to think that driving something potentially lethal gives you right of way. Not that he'd be the first motorist to think that...

Here's a funny story from the archives: August 2006, in fact

I'm cycling up the Cheltenham Road. There's a lorry parked on the cycle lane. A bus passes me and stops level with the lorry, impeding my progress. There are road works ahead.The lights are on red.

I wait. A shower of white gravel falls on and round me.

I look round. There are four chavs in the car behind me.

I look away. The same thing happens again.

This happens a few times. Finally I see the bloke in the back behind the driver doing the throwing.

The lights change, and we move off. I swing out wide to stop them trying to get past until we're past the narrow bit of the roadworks. I then move closer to the pavement, and allow them to pass.

As they draw level, I brake hard in anticipation of something happening. The spit that they gob at me passes ahead of me. They drive on, laughing.

Further along, they've stopped at another set of lights. The one who'd done the throwing has his head leaning out of the window. He's looking ahead. Obviously he thinks I'm history.

I swing into the middle of the road and speed up. As the lights change I reach him. I smack him round the back of the head, hard.

He squeals like a piglet.

I dive through the oncoming traffic, as the shouts of abuse come at me, and disappear down a side road. They're stuck in the forward-moving traffic, and can't pursue even if they wanted to.

Five minutes later, I'm shaking.

O well, maybe they've learned not to mess with stroppy bluestockings on bicycles.

Saturday 9 May 2009

the Bristol reading

For me, Friday's reading at the Tobacco Factory in Bedminster, Bristol, was The Big Gig, as I'd been responsible for the publicity and there was no Richard around on the day. It felt a bit like the way I used to feel sailing my Mirror dinghy in the Solent; the difference between having someone else at the helm and taking the helm myself, with a dark sky and a squall heading my way. Try not to funk it and keep on sailing.

It was all right on the night. James Russell gave a very good performance of the Richard bits. And there were lots of nice people there. If you were one of them, then thank you!

photo by Chris Bertram

Becoming Drusilla - the reading, originally uploaded by Chris Bertram.

Friday 8 May 2009

pause for breath

So what with Richard coming down with the Black Death, we had to cancel the Birmingham City Uni gig, as his presence would have been essential. We tried to change the various tickets for the various journeys that would have seen us go to Birmingham, then Bristol, then in Richard's case to Mitteleuropa. And found that the flip side of travelling on the cheap is that you can't change things cheaply.

So we got to Birmingham, then hopped onto a train to the city centre and made our way to the coach station.

"When is the next coach to Bristol?"

"Oh, you've just missed one. There isn't another till 6:30 this evening"

Damn. We sat and conferred. In the background the Tannoy was listing the various departures. We both heard "....for Paignton, calling at Bristol...."

A sharp dash to the coach. I asked the driver, "Can you take us to Bristol?"

"If yeh had a ticket ah could," he said in a very Geordie accent. "But ah'm just about to go. And ah'm no waiting."

Richard put all that rugby training to good use, dashing over to the ticket desk as I stood outside the coach trying not to look reproachful.

We made it, and the driver cheered up no end when we presented him with the tickets. Well, cheerful for a Geordie anyway. He even called me 'love' when he helped get the bag in the hold.

Home again, Richard got on with finding a Richard Substitute for the Friday reading at the Tobacco Factory. His old college friend (Richard seems to have old college friends absolutely everywhere), James Russell, who lives in Bristol, agreed to do it. James has just done a very nice book about Eric Ravilious, one of my painter heroes. And he wrote How To Turn Your Parents Green, which earned him the honour of being described by the Daily Mail as an"eco-terrorist". High praise indeed.

Richard and James confer

So all that was left to do was to drop Richard at his mum's at a secret location in the South of England, and catch up with the paperwork.

Here are some bits and pieces left over from Dublin, which seemed too good to waste.

Saint Stephens Green

Regan at the Winding Stair

...and some choice quotes:

"The aircraft is not due to land until 0740, due to the late arrival of the aircraft"

"Toilets for this flight are two, and they are situated at the rear of the aircraft"

..and my favourite of all the Dublinisms I heard. This is Y, describing a dress with a sort of bustle on it that she saw in a shop and really quite liked: "...with a fecking great bow on the arse... it's the dog's..."

Thursday 7 May 2009

"Becoming Drusilla", the Dublin reading

(this post edited 4 Aug 2019, in light of John Boyne's recent book on trans matters. See postscript below)

The essential elements for a good expedition ( I just made up this list a moment ago, and will almost certainly be changing it as the mood takes me):

  • Thorough planning
  • Serendipity
  • The kindness of strangers
  • The kindness indeed of friends
  • A bit of unscheduled misfortune to liven things up
  • actually, now I come to think of it, thorough planning can just get in the way, so scrap that one

Dublin Airport, Tuesday morning. The engines of the Ryanair 737-800 were still winding down, and there was a great chirping of mobile phones being switched on. Followed, in some cases, by the beeps announcing messages that were coming in.

In my case it was a text from Richard, who'd arrived in Dublin on Sunday.

He'd come down with chicken pox.

This was not a good start to the day, especially not for Richard.

He was standing there waiting outside Trinity College, when the airport bus dropped me. And so was Barbara, who was both putting us up and putting up with us. She looked a lot more cheerful than Richard. And why not?

We discussed plans over coffee.

The show had to go on, but Richard didn't want to spread his germs, and the spots were popping up and proliferating even as we watched. Something Had To Be Done.

Richard's old UEA contemporary, John Boyne, whose new book, The House Of Special Purpose, is published today, was coming along to the reading anyway. Richard phoned him.

"Have you ever had chicken pox?"

Apparently not. So John bravely agreed to read Richard's bits in the reading we had planned. He came round and we did a rehearsal. Word perfect, first time.

John gives Richard a lesson in What The Well-Dressed Writer Is Wearing

And so away we went to the Winding Stair bookshop, a lovely place on Ormond Quay, and I buried myself in my notes to try to quell the rising sense of panic and Regan opened the wine and John and Barbara went off for a coffee.

The Winding Stair bookshop, Ormond Quay, Dublin: Regan Hutchins, prop.

And the reading went really well.
photo by Laura

...and after much chatting and finishing off of the wine, we sloped off to the Stags Head, a very Dublin pub. And stayed up very late indeed.

Thank you, Barbara, John, Regan, Laura of Lady List, the nice folk from TENI, and indeed everyone who came along and made it such an enjoyable evening!

Postscript in light of John Boyne's recent publication of a book 'My Brother's Name is Jessica' and the furore over his article in the Irish Times claiming to support trans right but reject the word 'cis'...
it was really disappointing to read that article, and see John's trajectory after its publication. I haven't read his new book and have absolutely no intention of doing so, so cannot comment on any possible merit it may contain, literary or otherwise. But John's attitude, as displayed over this business, leads me to suppose that it might not be very good. I did talk about it with Richard; he said that he'd met John very shortly before John's book came out, and John never mentioned it; which, given the subject matter, seems rather surprising. 

Anyway, a sad postscript. When Richard and I collaborated on Becoming Drusilla, it was very much with the aim to represent the trans experience as truly and authentically as possible; and it is generally agreed that we succeeded. Appropriating that experience by a don't-call-me-cis man seems very much a retrograde step.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

true hope is swift and flies with swallows' wings

Neither swifts nor swallows, but martins.
Illustration from Wildlife Rescue

I haven't yet seen swallows over Bristol, though we saw them in Pembrokeshire last week. But the swifts arrived a few days ago, and occasionally you can hear their screams as they zoom around the houses. I thought that it is usually the swallows who get heree first, and wondered if there is any weather lore that relates to their relative arrival times.

If in doubt, make something up. So:

Swifts before swallows
Sunny intervals with scattered showers to follow
Swallows before swifts
You'll probly get snowdrifts

Easy, this folk wisdom lark.

I am all packed up and ready to go to Dublin. Not with swallows' wings, but with those of Ryanair.