Sunday 31 October 2010

ferne halwes

Friday saw me in South Wales, visiting the shrine and well at Ffynnon Fair, Penrhys, above the Rhondda valley.

I'll write more about it soon, but today's blogging was over at Being Drusilla, which may prove to be the main focus of my blogging activity.

Time will tell.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

work in progress

A project that Richard and I have been working on for a while now, is a new collaborative web presence that combines blogging and information. I've started to get the hang of Word Press, but there's still a way to go yet. Anyway, here it is, rather like a not-quite-finished ship on the slips. Comments, crit and suggestions welcomed, of course, as always!

Monday 25 October 2010


Great news for Bristol's prestigious Harbourside! The American restaurant chain, Todgers, has been give the go-ahead to open a branch here, in premises formerly occupied by Marks and Spencer. This should help to raise the tone in an area already popular with the sort of people who like to drink themselves stupid and shout a lot.

Todgers will be selling chicken wings and beer until midnight every night, but what makes Todgers extra special is its waiters, all specially chosen for having big penises, which will be prominently displayed in the tight Speedos that constitute most of their uniform. This will help to create a relaxed and stylish, family-friendly environment.

There have been protests from some killjoys, who claim that this sort of thing objectifies men. At a meeting of the City Council on Tuesday, a member of the campaigning group MMANLY (Many Men Are Not Lecherous, Yeah?) invited the councillors to imagine how they would feel if a restaurant called, say, Hooters were opened in Bristol, where potential waitresses might not be given a job if their breasts were not big enough.

He was interrupted by the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Colin Smith, who said, "Excuse me Mr Chesney, I think you are stepping over the bounds of decency."

Quite right too. It is one thing for a healthy, red-blooded man to ogle the willy on a fit young feller. And, as has been pointed out, Todgers is not asking its staff to wear anything more skimpy than can be seen any night of the week, if you happen to be on certain parts of the Clifton Downs. You know, like if you just, like, happened to be passing. In a fire engine with the searchlight on, or something.

But suggesting an establishment where women are objectified? That's just wrong, and we would not stand for it in Bristol. Well done, Mayor!

(this post re-posted from September, as previous one had gone off the radar)

Saturday 23 October 2010


I was snug in my bed this morning, listening to the tawny owls hooting at each other and thinking of the people queuing up to go onto the pier at Weston Super Mare for the official reopening today.

And then I made myself some tea.

This is what I wrote two years or so ago when the pier burned down. Repeated here, and why not?

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

Thursday 21 October 2010

not Fit for purpose

That's not a lion, that's a tired old donkey

Following on from last week's publication of the shortlist for the Stonewall Awards, we find that the nomination for Journalist of the Year has been withdrawn from Bill Leckie, a columnist on the Scottish Sun whose work has been cited by Stonewall Scotland as an example of bad journalism.

Bill seems a little peeved at this, claiming that he had been dropped from the list without having been told. "I'd have thought they might have had a bit more backbone than that, but hey ho," he said. A sentiment with which I'd have to agree.

Irrespective of any possible merit or otherwise in Bill Leckie's writing, there is a conversation which might be worth having here, between Bill Leckie and Ben Summerskill of Stonewall. Like, whether either of them take on board Stonewall Scotland's analysis of Bill's work, and if so, how much time they think has to pass before a writer can be dissociated from what he has written, if he has not modified his tone in the meantime.

But I doubt if it will happen.

More fun and games with Stonewall today; they are promoting a video for use in schools. It's called Fit. It's about challenging homophobia, as far as I can make out. It also seems to think that it's OK to call transgender people 'trannies'. Well, yes, Stonewall. Just like 'homos' is an acceptable term for gay people. Innit.

And these people have apparently been advising government ministers on trans issues relating to marriage and Gender Recognition certificates. Despite there being perfectly good organisations and people within the trans community. We don't need to be spoken for by someone without a mandate, and who has explicitly stated that they do not represent trans people.

Then again, they don't appear to want to represent lesbians or bisexuals either. In their press release for the Stonewall Awards, they describe it as a celebration of 'champions of gay equality'. On having this erasure of the L and B part of their corporate identity pointed out to them over on Facebook, they responded that "We sometimes shorten it to 'gay equality' to be concise and acronym-free for the media...". Fair play. In the same way that use of 'he' as a pronoun should be taken to mean 'he or she', of course.

And then there was the rebuke put to Stonewall by Stephen Gilbert at the Lib Dem conference- "It should not be for me as an MP to lobby Stonewall to support gay equality, it should be for Stonewall to lobby me".

Something seems to be a bit wonky over at Stonewall. I'm sure they used to be a useful organisation. I'm not so sure they are now.

Still, they do wear ties. That counts for something.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Dundry church

Here's Dundry church, up on the top of Dundry Hill and appropriately dedicated to St Michael. The tower was built by Bristol's Merchant Venturers 'as a beacon for sailors', as Pevsner says. It would be of doubtful use as a navigation beacon; but it is certainly a landmark, being visible for miles and miles from its high position, a hundred feet up the hill. Pevsner's a bit snooty about the aesthetics of the tower, reckoning that there's too little relation between the four stages and the parapet. As for the Victorian church attached to the tower, that is described simply as 'without merit'.

Fair enough. I suppose that in its way, this is a folly; something intended more to be viewed from Bristol and the Avon than to be worshipped in. An exercise in ostentation rather than piety.

In the foreground is a great block of Dundry stone. The local oolitic limestone was highly-regarded as a building material, and it was widely used; for St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, and, further afield, in places including Cardiff Castle and Dublin Cathedral. This block in the churchyard was for display purposes, presumably, so that prospective clients could be shown what was on offer, just as the adjacent church was an example of what you could do with it.

I was up at three o'clock, finishing off this picture while listening to God's Revolution on the radio; a really good dramatisation of the English Civil War. Cromwell is busily suppressing the Levellers just at the mo. Familiar stuff if you've read about the French or the Russian revolutions... but it happened here first...

Sunday 17 October 2010

another day begins

Frost underfoot up on the roof this morning; first time this autumn. Two tawny owls calling to each other in the trees across the road. A robin singing. Two contrails intersecting above the oncoming dawn.

Then all the lights went out for a few seconds. And then they came on again, followed by a swelling chorus of outraged house alarms, all across the city, chided by the blackbirds chipping in.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Summerskill, and the living is easy

Mr Summerskill finds his place in history

Upside Down In Cloud has been an occasional chronicler of the Gays In Ties phenomenon, and has watched the rise and apotheosis of Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, with the appalled fascination with which you might observe your neighbour's lurcher doing something you think it probably shouldn't and you didn't quite think possible anyway.

There was a bit of a hoo-ha two years back, when his tame organisation nominated Julie Bindel for their Journalist of the Year award, despite the rather unsavoury and somewhat partial nature of her writings about transsexual people. After all, as Ben takes pains to point out, Stonewall doesn't have anything to do with transsexual people.

Which didn't stop them, apparently, from consulting recently with government ministers on the matter of trans people, marriage, and GRCs. Fair enough, you might think. After all, I understand that they may have seen some trans people once. Standing outside the V&A in the rain, or something. So they know what they're talking about, I guess.

Latest wheeze in the 'let's piss off the trannies' game is one of this year's nominations for that prestigious Stonewall Journalist of the Year award. It's Bill Leckie, whose work has been cited by Stonewall Scotland (no relation- they embrace diversity up in Scotland, apparently) as an example of negative media portrayals. Here's an example of his work, from the Sun

EIGHT o’clock on Wednesday and an army of frighteningly ugly women are pouring into a boozer called Prism for bingo night. Or at least from a distance they LOOK like women. But then you see the poster on the door.
And you realise that this isn’t just any bingo night. It’s Drag Queen bingo night.
Now, I can’t pretend that my devotion to this column is such that I wiggled along to see how it went. Not when I got there and saw someone going in with the same frock.
However, my sources tell me it went a little bit like: “Two fat ladyboys… 88. Unlucky for some … unprotected sex. Five and two… Danny La Rue.” And someone shouted: “Really nicely-decorated house!

-hmmm. It's almost certainly a Good Thing that gay men are now far more socially acceptable than they used to be, at least in some quarters. But I sometimes get the feeling that some of them want to pull the drawbridge up after them. And in at least some cases, they remind me of the dominant pigs of Animal Farm, at the end of the story...

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Thanks to Zoe O'Connell for alerting me to this in her blog

Wednesday 13 October 2010

back to the Lush Places stuff

wrong season, but hey, it's a robin.... illustration from The Case of the Curious Crow

Shortly after my last post, Andrew Marr made a rather touchy criticism of ('some') bloggers, describing them as "socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting...". As opposed to proper journalists, who are knights in shining armour in a relentless quest for Truth, of course. Listening to him on the radio, he sounded quite peeved, and brought to mind a dinosaur blustering resentfully about the annoying mammals making a nuisance of themselves around the place.

As I said, blogging has given me a (fairly small) voice, in matters where I have felt misrepresented, marginalised or ignored by the mainstream media. And for that I am grateful. There will always be windmills that need a bit of tilting, after all.

And in between the windmills, a few Lush Places.

I was in Sarah's garden on Sunday, helping take the washing off the rotary dryer, and in the bush next to us was a robin, singing ever-so-quietly, scarcely audible from more than a few paces. It was a big contrast with the robin's usual song, loud and clear. I wonder if that was what Keats was describing in his Ode to Autumn-

...with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft

I thought the swallows had been long gone; but I did see two battling against a strong west wind at Portishead, a fortnight back, making their way along the coast. Last week we went down to Dorset, and stopped for breakfast at the airfield cafe at Compton Abbas, south of Shaftesbury. It had been a blowy, rainy night, and the rain was clearing away, and the day was looking promising.

And the row of beeches on the ridge behind the airfield was alive with swallows, swooping close around the trees, and spreading out over the ridge, flying around the parked aircraft. Like us, they'd stopped for breakfast on their way south.

On another day of torrential rain, I was driving along the side of the Downs where the roads are accompanied by avenues of conker trees, and the conkers are littering the ground and crushed on the road where they've been run over. And the gutters were running with great lumps of foam. I thought at first that someone had been careless with the detergent. But it was everywhere that the conker trees were. I wondered if there was a connection. And it seems that there is. "Conkers make wonderful foam!" -sounds like a rather nicer way of making foam than the stuff we used to use for firefighting at sea; that, apparently, had cow blood in it. And it ponged, something horrid.

Wonderful things, conkers. Apparently, they won the war for us too.

Friday 8 October 2010

getting heard

Before I started blogging, I'd had the rather odd experience of featuring in quite a few newspaper stories as a consequence of my prosecuting my former employers, P&O Ferries, in an Employment Tribunal. The papers seemed more interested in dwelling on the salacious (and unfounded) allegations made by the company, than with the actual facts of the case- the judgement in my favour was noted with apparent incredulity by, for instance, the Daily Mail- "Would you Adam and Eve it?" their headline asked.... my blog allows me, in however small a way, to make my own voice heard. When you've had nasty things said about you by people who don't know you and don't know the facts either, that sort of thing becomes important.

It is also, for me, a continuation of the story told in Becoming Drusilla, because, as the book notes, life doesn't end with transition, or surgery, or whatever; indeed, perhaps transition is a continual and on-going state, not just for people like me but for everyone.

I don't just write about trans stuff, because there is much more to my life than trans stuff. But sometimes a story comes along and I feel the need to comment on it.

a bit of subvertising

Like that business over the Nationwide Building Society advertisements that came out in May, using David Walliams and Matt Lucas of Little Britain. At that time, I wrote an open letter to David Walliams, suggesting that his characterisation of a 'rubbish transvestite' character furnished people with a model and a vocabulary for abuse, and that as a self-identified champion of transgendered people, it might be helpful if he desisted with that sort of thing.

I was wondering how things were going with the Little Britain chaps, so I had a look around this evening, and I see that they have just this minute finished making a new series of comedy programmes. I also checked with Google to see how visible my previous blog posts about the Nationwide ad campaign were.

Just at the moment, they seem to be practically invisible to Google*. Most odd, to the point of presuming they've been nobbled. Although at least I guess it shows that they got noticed. Perhaps David and Matt are actually ashamed of their work?

*try it for yourself, if you like- enter dru marland nationwide walliams an open letter into the Google search box, and see what turns up. You see? (postscript (Jan 2011) it has now reappeared....) ( link( here and here

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Dundry Hill

This is a view of Dundry Hill, south of Bristol. It is looking northwards, with the village and the church perched above the steep slope on the north face. The church was built by the city's Merchant Venturers, so that the crews of ships returning to Bristol up the Avon could see it. Apparently.

I'm glad I persisted; this version is much better than the first two attempts. I used Sennelier ink, diluted, on dampened paper, for the fields, and it was smoother than the watercolour washes I'd used previously, and I didn't need to mask out the details. So that was a lesson learned.

Thinking maps, John Lee, my rather professorial friend, tells me that his Map of Elizabethan and Jacobean Bristol (to which I have added a few modest contributions, though I was rather pleased with the Bristol eskimos story) has now had 5,500 views. He has added further sites and information. Why not have a look?

View Elizabethan and Jacobean Bristol in a larger map

Friday 1 October 2010


It's a pretty cider-y sort of place, Bristol. And James Russell and Richard Jones of Tangent Books have written a really good new book about the stuff. What it is, where it comes from, how to make it, and all sorts of stuff.

The book launch was down at the Arnolfini last night, and I was down there too, trying out the Thatchers cider samples.

That's James up in the top picture, and this is a chap who makes cider on his allotment, but I can't remember his name. Sorry. (edit: that's Dave, James tells me)