Sunday 30 May 2010


The latest picture. Starlings in November. Seems quite apposite, after the flurry of internetting and agitpropping yesterday.

Saturday 29 May 2010

an open letter to David Walliams

David Walliams' fansite have linked to my previous post, describing it as 'horrible'. This is a quick reply.

Dear David,

I see that your fansite have linked to my parody of your Nationwide poster, where you and Matt are dressed as Emily and Florence, your transvestite characters. The wording of the poster has been changed to "We're doing the Black and White Minstrels next. How divine". Your fansite describes this as 'horrible'. I'm sorry that they should think so. I was trying to make a point.
I'd hoped that the connection was reasonably easy to make, but I realise that sometimes what I think is blindingly obvious, isn't so.

To me, the Black and White Minstrel Show was about members of the dominant culture appropriating and caricaturing the identity of members of another culture. And as I see it, that is what you are doing with your transvestite characters. The difference between the two instances is that the first one is no longer acceptable. And I believe it's only a matter of time before what you do is also more widely seen as past its sell-by date.

You might argue that no-one could relate your characters, Emily and Florence, to real people, as they are such extreme caricatures. Unfortunately, some folk apparently do just that.

I lead a quiet and pretty normal sort of life. But a few years ago, I was in the papers as a result of some nastiness that happened to me. The press coverage was pretty much as you would expect, when a transsexual woman is in the papers. And one of those papers (the Daily Star) used 'Little Britain' references to describe me. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was an annoyance. Your characters provided a model and a vocabulary for people (people who had never even met me) to treat me as a caricature. And where people treat other people as caricatures, they don't treat them as real people. And they may (and sometimes actually do) end up abusing them.

It is claimed that you've "spoken out for the trans community for years". I'm afraid I don't know what it is that you've said; and I admit that I haven't read your book. But I do know that the trans community has within it some articulate voices, more and more of which are beginning to find platforms. When I speak, it is only for myself; I do not pretend to speak for a community. But I am sincere when I say that I do wish you would give up on Emily and Florence. I think the world (my world anyway) would be a little better for it.

13 Jan 2011 - postscript: my comment on the new Walliams and Lucas vehicle, Come Fly With Me, here.

(this post has been edited, as I initially thought that the David Walliams fansite was the voice of David Walliams himself.)

Friday 28 May 2010

how divine

Nationwide Building Society's new billboard campaign is under way, with David Walliams and Matt Lucas of Little Britain, portraying 'Emily' and 'Florence', their transvestite characters. Maxine Taylor, Nationwide's Divisional Director of Corporate Affairs, responded to my letter to Nationwide by saying

The characters in 'Little Britain' are some of the best loved on British television and we do not believe they are intended to be discriminatory.

postscript: David Walliams' fansite describes this post as 'horrible'. I have responded here. This is the text of the comment I made on Mr Walliams' fansite, which was deleted.

Oh, and this is the original poster...

reading the past

the answer, my friend, is Blu-Tack on the wall

I was getting Katie's packed lunch together the other morning (potato cake with cheese in it. She hated it) while she nibbled the middle bits out of her toast.

"'Woman' has got 'man' in it", she observed, between nibbles of chocolate spread and peanut butter.

I agreed, and mentioned the introduction of the alternative spelling 'womyn', to get around this unpalatable fact. I threw in the notion of 'herstory' as a way to point out that history is selected, interpreted and written by the dominant culture, and to look at other histories. She wondered if it made linguistic sense. I said that there are other reasons for tinkering with language than linguistic sense, if it helps to question the way we look at things.

Which reminded me of this Larry Gonick picture, from his Cartoon History of the Universe.

Coincidentally, that same evening I went to hear Ronald Hutton lecture on The History Of Prehistory. He made a similar point about the way that we interpret the earthworks and stones left by the people who lived here a long time ago, about whom we really know very little; 'the distant past is a blank screen upon which we project our own values', as I clumsily paraphrase . It was a very good lecture, but you'll have to take my word for it if you weren't there. Or read his book, of course.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

keep the pavement dry

a drinking fountain in Clevedon

Off I went to Clevedon, to see if my favourite bookshop (Seeley's, on Hill Road) wanted any more books. But no, they didn't. "You can see how quiet it is", said the woman at the desk, waving her hands at the silent shop. I agreed, and had a mooch around the art materials just in case there was a block of the right shade of green I wanted. She told me about her husband, who is retired and now works as a guide on the sightseeing buses that drive around Bristol. I told her that I'd passed one on Observatory Hill in Clifton on my way out of town. It was being freed from the clutches of a tree by chaps with chainsaws. She cheered up immensely.

Here's a Post Office bicycle. Apparently the Post Office are going to withdraw them, because they've decided that cycling is too dangerous for posties.

Monday 24 May 2010

le weekend

With the weather being so lovely and hot this past weekend, what better way to spend it than enjoying the English countryside, as we were doing here at Warleigh Weir?

Apparently, hanging about in Bristol.

Me: I want to go adventuring. Shall we go backpacking, cycling or canoeing?
Katie (sighing deeply): I want to hang out with my friends...

So that was that.

I noticed that my photo of Warleigh Weir, taken a few years ago and uploaded to my Flickr page, was looked at 8 times on Saturday and 18 times on Sunday, by people who had found it by Googling Warleigh Weir. So I could console myself with the thought that it would be horrid busy there, so it was just as well that we hadn't gone there at least.

Two pictures for a Geraldine story, The Goldfinch's Apprentice. I didn't think the first one was lively enough, so I did the second one.
Warleigh Weir, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Saturday 22 May 2010


Sometimes you do a picture.... hang on. Sometimes, *I* do a picture and there seems to be something Not Quite Right about it. I'm looking at this one and wondering what to do with it. But at least it gives a space from the previous angsty posts.

Up on the roof at quarter to five, drinking tea and watching the airliners heading east, high overhead, suddenly burst into the dawn which would not reach me for another half an hour.

A blackbird landing on the eaves next to me and bursting into song, while keeping a wary eye on me. I keep very still. It plunges off again, down into the garden, to bicker with another blackbird.

Swifts begin swooping around the rooftops.

Friday 21 May 2010

caught in the Sun

Here's the latest picture. Name that bird....

The title is also punning, though it wasn't the Sun but the Daily Star that I mentioned in yesterday's post. I was talking about the Little Britain 'lay-dee' characters and the way that people reference them when talking about trans people, citing an example when I was the one being compared. The other person mentioned in the piece I quoted was upset to see her name, and to have the memory of that time revived. So I have removed her name at least. I'm not particularly upset by Olivia Matthew's shoddy journalism; I'm much more contemptuous of that, really.

(edit: Daily Star article removed as it still has the power to hurt...if not me, then someone else...)

As to bringing up the past again, my feelings are at least mixed. I don't want to be for ever referring to past events; but they seem sometimes to be a useful source of personal testimony, when countering attacks and general stupidity from people talking about trans stuff, by pointing out that those attacks and that stupidity can end up hurting people.

And sometimes, if I don't speak up, then either someone else will claim to speak on my behalf and say things I don't agree with, or there will be silence where there should be something said.

So if I seem to be worrying the carcase of an old song, please bear with me.

Thursday 20 May 2010

same old same old

Apparently the Nationwide Building Society claims that it is "proud to be different".

You'd never guess it from this tired old nonsense.

Just in case you're interested, here's the Advertising Standards Authority's 'how to make a complaint' page

and here is someone high up the heap at Nationwide:

Graham Beale, Chief Executive, Nationwide Building Society, Head Office, Nationwide House, Pipers Way, Swindon SN38 1NW.

(thanks, Jo)

edited to add...

My letter to Graham Beale

Dear Mr Beale,

I wish to register my dismay over the broadcasting of the new Nationwide television ads, featuring David Walliams and Matt Lucas, and particularly their portrayal of ‘Emily’ and ‘Florence’, presumably transvestites, attempting to open an account for ‘ladies’ at a branch of Nationwide.

I am a woman with a transsexual history. It might rightly be said that I have nothing in common with the absurd characters portrayed by Walliams and Lucas; that has not, however, stopped people from linking me with those characters in the past. Here, for instance, is a report concerning me in the Daily Star

(edited to remove the Daily Star article, as the other person cited in it still finds it upsetting)

This is not the only example I could cite, but it is hopefully enough to give you an idea of what people write and think.

The reason that I was at an employment tribunal was that I had experienced harassment, intimidation and violence in the workplace. And I believe that in large part, my colleagues behaved the way that they did towards me because they were too ready to see a caricature rather than a real human being. And when people treat other people as caricatures, they open the way to abuse. And people rarely knowingly encounter transsexual people in their everyday lives. So that the way we are portrayed in the media colours their opinions and prejudices.

Apparently Nationwide Building Society claims that it is ‘proud to be different’. On the evidence of this commercial, you are not different. You are part of the problem.

Yours sincerely,

Dru Marland

Sunday 16 May 2010

glorious victory

Having mentioned the Kymin in my previous post, I was passing close by there yesterday and thought it would be nice to call in, as I wanted to photograph some wood anemones. So I swung off the main road at Monmouth and rumbled slowly up the steep, windy lane to the top. And as soon as I switched the engine off, I heard a blackcap singing, closely followed by a willow warbler, and then the blackbirds and chiffchaffs joined in too.

We seem to be rushing towards summer- I'd only just got used to the blossom on the trees when it was already past its best and being blown away by the wind, the spindrift of spring.

The Naval Temple was almost lost in the foliage; its assertion of "Glorious Victory" seemed a bit presumptuous in the luxuriance of the fresh growth, which blossomed and flourished as leaves on a tree...

Couldn't find any anemones though. Damn. Hope it's not too late already.

Wednesday 12 May 2010


While the country waits to see what sort of government we're going to end up with, I've been worrying away at this picture, which seemed to take for ever. It's for one of Geraldine Taylor's stories, describing a buzzard ghosting through the woods. I remember encountering a buzzard in woodland, too, when I was walking with Richard down a sunken track from the top of the Kymin. The buzzard seemed to fill the track with its wings, as it dropped down ahead of us.

The Kymin is a hill overlooking the Wye, Monmouth, and all the country westwards to the Black Mountains. It's a nice spot, and in the early morning the sun casts your shadow far to the west:

Standing on the Kymin
My shadow's mostly English
But its head's in Wales.

(that's an evening photo, of course, but bear with me; it was a nice evening)

New things learned from doing this picture: the shadows that young beech leaves cast through each other, so that they're like those Venn diagram things.
Most worrying bit: trying to get the sense of the blue sheen in woods when the bluebells are out. Trying to get the bluebells in the foreground to stand out.

Saturday 8 May 2010

irresponsible, that's me

I have kept away from the radio as much as possible over the last day or so, as I found the endless speculations about what might happen next, while the election results were totted up, didn't really add anything to my day. It's like constantly opening the oven door while something's cooking. And then at the end of it you get a soggy souffle, collapsed at the bottom of the dish.

Talking of soggy souffles, there was some chap from the Labour Party on the radio this morning, who seemed aggrieved that a grateful nation had not voted entirely in his direction, but still hailed the results as a victory of sorts for Labour. All very odd. It reminded me of Henry Kissinger's opinions about Chile, just before he helped Pinochet into power:

"The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves."

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people."


I popped into the Bristol Royal Infirmary yesterday, to visit a friend. As always, I had to wade through a miasma of cigarette smoke at the main entrance, chiefly coming from people skimpily attired in hospital issue nightwear. One chap was sitting in a wheelchair, because he only had one leg. Puffing away like fury, he was. Living on borrowed time, I guess.

Friday 7 May 2010


I was down at the scout hut on Redcliffe Wharf last night, for a reading by Philip Gross. It was a good location for his readings from The Water Table, whose subject matter is the Bristol Channel and its to-ings and fro-ings. The event was organised by Stephen Morris, editor of the Bristol Review of Books, who had kindly invited me. As he seemed a bit busy, I took over the galley, and doled out the wine at £2 the glass. Big glass, mind you. So I can authoritatively report that people who go to poetry readings all drink red wine rather than white, unless they drink Rooibosch tea.

Philip's voice was accompanied by the bells of St Mary Redcliffe, which were being enthusiastically exercised above us. Stephen closed the door out onto the balcony, which made not the slightest difference. A blackbird joined in from up on the roof above; and there was a regular low rumbling, like distant cannon fire, which I eventually identified as the sound of traffic on the bascule bridge. All in all, it kind of worked, as an accompaniment.

From my perch at the back of the room I watched the boats splash up and down Welsh Back - the rowing club was out practicing, and so were the Guides and Scouts. I saw the cormorants and Canada Geese swing by, the sky darken.

Later, walking back to the car, I met my friends from the Bristol Flickr goup, sitting outside the Ostrich pub. The Rag Morris people were dancing on the quayside right next to them, and the temptation for a group of people heavily accoutred with camera gear was far too great to resist; there was a regular broadside of flashguns going off, and the suggestion of a naval battle was further encouraged by the tattered costumes, suggestive of sails and rigging shot away, of the Rag Morris team as they danced The British Grenadiers.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

I'm a believer

I'm a believer
Originally uploaded by Dru Marland
It's my new ukulele, and it's more fun than three buckets of fun.

Monday 3 May 2010

the fairies at the bottom of the garden

As you know, I've been following the shenanigans over at Aberfatican, that sleepy village nestling in the Cambrian Mountains where, you will remember, Dai Pope ("the only Pope in the village") has been protecting his shepherds from unjust accusations made by some of the sheep.

News now reaches the Marland wigwam about funny goings-on in the neighbouring village of Rhydytory, where Philippa Stroud has built her own little chapel so that she has somewhere to put on her religious trousers and dash around the village with a big stick, chasing out the fairies that live at the bottom of peoples' gardens. It is well-known that you can catch transsexuality (and even, possibly, gayness) from fairies at the bottom of the garden. Apparently she is putting herself up for election to the Rhydytory Parish Council. Upside Down In Cloud is happy to endorse her campaign. You can trust a candidate who chases fairies from the bottom of your garden.