Sunday, 30 October 2011


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.


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


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?"

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.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

there ain't no pink in the Union Jack

the Seven Sisters, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

...actually, there ain't no pink in a rainbow, either, come to think of it.

Saw these gloves in B&Q the other day.  Pink glove and blue glove are childhood sweethearts.

They grow up and of course they get married.

...happy ending!

...this was inspired by a link that CN Lester put up, of   Pointlessly Gendered Products                     

Wednesday, 26 October 2011



I called in on College Green, to see how the Occupy Bristol camp was doing. I was just passing through; I'm sympathetic to its aims, but am too engaged elsewhere to get involved. So I felt slightly voyeuristic, a bit of an outsider. Took  a few pics; bloke drumming, people building a sort of ribbony teepee. Reminded me of the old free festivals... A bloke bounded over to me, grabbed my shoulders, and aimed a kiss at my mouth. I diverted it to my cheek. He put his arm around me, and we held a pose for a nearby photographer. Then I left.

It was all a bit unexpected. I felt a bit as though my personal space had been invaded without my permission; which, of course, it had. It didn't feel like a huge deal at the time, and I didn't feel particularly threatened, in daylight and with other people around. But even so. Reading other womens' experiences of occupations, and the marginalisation and objectification of women in them, it seems like part of a bigger picture. And I feel very bad, not so much that it happened, as that I didn't call the bloke out on his actions. Because if you don't call people out, then that behaviour is reinforced. 

So if there's a picture out there with me and the bloke, smiling for the camera, just remember that the camera doesn't take the whole picture.

That's all.

Monday, 24 October 2011


raven a video by Dru Marland on Flickr.
A bit of wildness passed through the neighbourhood yesterday morning. I was tapping away at the computer and making my way through a big bowl of coffee (Illy espresso, hot milk, squirty cream and a sprinkle of cocoa. It was Sunday morning). I heard a distinctive cronking. Hauling up the sash window, I leaned out just in time to see a raven dive through the back gardens, rolling as it went, then climbing and cronking in an exuberant wide curve over Westbury Park. I scrambled up the ladder to the roof, and watched as it was joined by a second raven, and they beat round in another circuit, putting a flight of finches into a fluster as they went.

Then they were gone, and there was just the pink-tinged cirrus of the late dawn, way high up, and closer overhead the businesslike grey clouds, fresh from Africa and scudding north as fast as the breeze would carry them.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


 "OK, that's, like, a bit weird," said Katie. Richard was describing our Moggy and its habit of bimbling around Bristol; and that is precisely what it was doing at that very moment, bouncing us over Cotham Brow, down to Whiteladies Road and the studio where Richard was being interviewed live on BBC Bristol. He was up in town for the Bristol Festival of Literature, and we got a passing mention as Richard talked about those of his books with a local flavour to them...

Minutes later he was on board and we were heading home. 

"You gave good radio," I said.

"She was a good presenter," he said. "The taxi from the station got me there with two minutes to spare. You have to go through this huge news room full of people, then she's in a tiny little room at the other end..."

We had an early dinner. Oven chips, Pukka pies and mushy peas. Just the thing to keep you going through a busy evening. Twenty minutes later we were on the bus down to Broadmead, industriously folding up leaflets for the National Academy of Writing, hot off the printer, ready for the reading. Richard showed me how to do it, and I did it a different way because I thought my way was better. All that time making origami frogs in maths lessons at school wasn't wasted, let me tell you.  We were a bit cramped, though. "These seats are bloody small," I observed. I've not been on a bus for years. Maybe buses are now being designed with an eye to the future, when everyone is going to be a midget.

 At Foyle's, Richard talked about Lazarus Is Dead with Jari Moate. Then we dashed across town to Easton, where Richard and Pete Salmon held a NAW masterclass.

...and then it was time to go to the Apple, a cider pub that is also a boat. James Russell was already installed on a bench, having been at Stanfords Bookshop earlier, doing an event for his Naked Guide to Cider.

A late night, then.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

a sloe poo

I'm snug in my parka, the wind is on the lively side of fresh. We're out on the water meadows by the Severn, up in Gloucestershire, looking for sloes. The first bushes we see have been stripped. But we find some, by and by.

A big white bird. Was that an egret? Seemed to be a bit lively for an egret, but it isn't the sort of day for a lazy, indifferent sort of herony flap across the sky. Two decidedly herony herons unfold from behind the hedge and circle away. A crow rises over the same hedge and is flung skyward by the wind.

Two wheatears are bobbing in the grass by Littleton Warth. Then they up and fly off, showing the white arses that give them their name.

There's fox poo, carefully deposited on a rock for maximum effect. It's full of blackberry pips. I imagine the fox, carefully pulling the blackberries off the bramble with its teeth. Further along, there's badger poo, full of sloe stones. But I didn't take a picture of that, because a car had driven over it and it wasn't so picturesque. You know how it is, when you're photographing poo.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

non-standard narratives

this is what a transsexual* looks like

I found a folder of photos from the Welsh walk, the other day, that I thought I'd accidentally deleted. It was nice to find them again.
Coincidentally, that very same walk across Wales, that forms the framework for Becoming Drusilla, got criticised recently in the first unfavourable review that the book's so far received (on Amazon, anyway).

'Just give me the facts', 'get on with it' were what I was thinking more and more as I read on. Finally I gave up. The camping interludes killed it for me. Camping doesn't interest me, the trans-gender story did. Ultimately the latter is bogged down by the former and I didn't make it even halfway....

...said Zeddy12.
It got me thinking. A big part of why we did the book was to break away from the notion that the'transgender story' is something pink and fluffy, or possibly angst-ridden, and involving femininity coaching and trips to shopping malls and nightclubs. Camp, as it were, doesn't interest me... The Standard Tranny Narrative. You know. The same sort of reason I started this blog in the first place; to provide me with my own voice, and to talk about stuff that I do and that interests me. And if I am indeed transsexual, or transgender, then my drawing, cycling, cooking, parenting, poetrying, fixing the car or whatever, even the occasional forays into trans activism, generally living, are all part of my own particular 'transgender story'.

I invited Zeddy to write more, about what he had hoped for or expected from the book. It would, I thought, be a potentially interesting dialogue. After all, if someone doesn't like the book to the point that they don't even finish it, then the book has failed, in that instance at least. And it is a book with a message. Which didn't get across.

Oh well. Can't win 'em all.

Now then. Richard will be in Bristol tomorrow, Thursday 20th October, for a couple of events under the aegis of 'Unputdownable', the new Bristol Festival of Literature. You will find him at Foyles, talking about Lazarus Is Dead, and later at St Mark's Easton, discussing and critiquing.

*yes, transsexual is an adjective. I was being ironic. Ironic? Yes, I think that's the word.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

rus in urbe

rus in urbe, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Mal put the shout out. "They're cutting down this HUGE cedar," she said, "just up the hill. And they're happy for you to take the wood."

How could we turn down an opportunity like that? I was over that way anyhow, picking up Katie from the school where she's doing a BTEC course. I'd parked down the hill; she sidled up to the car and slipped quickly into the passenger seat. We headed over to Montpelier. "O god, I know them," she muttered, slipping out of sight below the window as we passed a group of schoolchildren. It is a terrible trial for a teenager, being driven around in a Moggy, let me tell you.

No such probs in boho Montpelier, though. We meandered around the narrow streets, chugged up a couple of precipitous hills, and saw Pig tied to a railing, branches everywhere, and Mal chatting animatedly to a chap in tree-cutting rig. The air was fragrant with cedarness and chainsawingdom.

It was quite a happening place. A huge Monterey cedar had become a bit dangerous, dropping a big limb onto the road, and it had been decided to fell it. "It must have been sucking up about 200 gallons of water a day", said Trevor the tree man. "It was drying up the ground under it."

The big side branches had already been lopped; we watched as Tristan the tree man, high above, worked the chainsaw through the topmost section of the tree, and it creaked over and fell, to be arrested by the restraining ropes. And I cursed at having not brought out the camera.

We chugged slowly home up the hill, the Moggy's suspension bottoming out under the load.

I like splitting logs. There's something pleasing about a well-swung axe, cleaving its way cleanly through a very large section of trunk.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


apple a video by Dru Marland on Flickr.

here's the new apple peeler and corer. It arrived just a bit late for me to implement my great apple-drying plan. Next year, then.

Friday, 14 October 2011

life, drawing

Driving to the life drawing class, Katie was nervous. "What if they make a fuss about me being there?"

"You're an artist," I said; "You've got as much right as anyone to be there. And if they're any use, they'll recognise that and it'll be fine. You know. Artists. They're good."

We parked near the great Victorian Gothic hall of the Bristol school that hosted the class, and looked for the way in. A young woman cycled by, a big bag of sketchbooks in the basket on her handlebars.

"We'll follow her," I said.

Wise move. Crossing the schoolyard, three more women joined us. All young, all carrying sketchbooks. I hoped Katie was feeling reassured.

"Are you Mo Samgrass?" I asked the friendly man at the door.

"No; there he is, over there."

Mo was chatting animatedly to a bearded man. There were a lot of bearded men there. Mo was fairly beardy, too, actually, come to think of it. We approached him.

"Hello! Dru and Katie Marland. We wrote..."

"Ah! Yes. Sorry I didn't write. I've been talking about it with my wife. She thought that there might be problems with your daughter being here. So we think it would be better if you didn't come. The models..."

"I did explain in my e-mail..."

"Yes, but..."

I'd written to Mr Samgrass last week, explaining our intentions.

I’m looking for somewhere for my daughter Katie to practice life drawing; she’s 14 and an enthusiastic artist, but we think that she could do with some life drawing experience. Do you have any spaces left on your courses?

He'd replied

If you wanted to send along your daughter to either class it'd be fine with me. Including this week there are 6 sessions left of this term so the cost would be £35. You should bear in mind that this is nude life drawing, given your daughters age however, although I'd be happy enough if you were.

So I wrote back

Thank you, Mo! What does she need to bring along? –also, as she is a bit lacking in confidence when it comes to new places, would it be poss for me to accompany her for at least the first evening? –I’d be happy to join in and to pay too, if it wasn’t in the way.

I hadn't received a reply, but I knew that Mo was a bit haphazard when it comes to e-mails. So I hadn't worried unduly.

Mo was now being edgy, and a little embarrassed. "Some people might object to having a child here. You're here tonight, though, so you can stay for this evening, if you like, and just pay £11."

He was flustered, and hurried. We decided to stay...

There were three circles of chairs. A helpful woman explained that one circle was for short poses of five minutes, one for fifteen minutes, and one for an hour. The fifteen minute circle seemed the most popular, and we rather fancied joining it. But there wasn't room. Several people were sitting at big circular tables, facing the middle; everyone else perched drawing boards or sketchbooks on their laps.

"Sitting at tables seems to be getting popular," said the woman ruefully.

"Yes; the caravans of the art world," I said. We exchanged wan smiles.

Katie and I went and looked for seats over in the hour-long circle. Some people already installed in their seats helpfully pushed them back to allow us room.

The session began. Every five minutes, Mo would call out "Five minutes!" so that the five minute models could change. And every fifteen minutes.... and so on.

I made several sketches. Sometimes it just doesn't come together, and my sketches looked embarrasingly bad. I sneaked a glance at my neighbour's picture, and didn't feel quite so bad about it. His was interesting, and full of texture, but proportions all over the place. Obviously, it is rude to look at other people's stuff, let alone judge it, but I was a little reassured.

Katie was doing very well.

Next to her was a bearded man who hunched over his work, and emitted marshy sniffs every few minutes. His work was tiny and very squiggly. (I mentioned this to Katie later; she said, "Yes; it was good, though; but scary....")

After an hour, everyone downed pencils and congregated at the drinks vending machine, or stood chatting. The models stood together, wrapped in blankets, exulting quietly in the freedom to move their joints.

Katie and I discussed our next move.

"Let's just go" she said.

That was fine by me.

Mo saw us leaving, and hurried across. He seemed very keen that we shouldn't think badly of him. "It's difficult running this group," he said. "We have to keep the curtains well closed to stop people staring in. Someone once brought their son in, and the model objected. My wife had to play cards with him all evening."

I'm very bad at responding fully and eloquently to things, sometimes. "I've been at the receiving end of discrimination for other reasons, and I know how Katie feels," I said. Katie also tried to express her outrage. Mr Samgrass was very sheepish; a sheepishness tinged with annoyance now. He returned the money I'd paid him, and expressed the hope that we might return when Katie was sixteen.

We emerged into the cool night, buzzing with anger and glad to be out.

"If he'd been objecting to us because I was transsexual, it would have sounded just the same", I said.

"I was thinking exactly the same thing," said Katie.

"I think we need fish and chips," I said.

"Burger and chips," she said.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

reality sucks

reality sucks, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Thanks to Bristol Traffic, for alerting me to General Motors' ad campaign, trying to persuade students that having a big car is kewl, and cycling is for losers. They really don't get it, do they?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


It's easy to get bogged down by things, and I have been. Coming out at the other end of it now, fortunately. Here's a flock of starlings I did yesterday. They're going to go into a much bigger picture, thanks to the miracle that is photoshop. But meanwhile, I thought they'd look nice against a sky, so here they are.

This is the sky I borrowed...

...though of course I could have used another sky, like this one: