Monday, 30 April 2012

SPUC off


There were SPUC anti-choice demonstrations around the country on Saturday. One of them was in Bristol, and so there was a bit of a counter-demo by pro-choicers from various groups; Bristol Feminist Network was strongly represented, and I noticed several anarchist flags. And just individuals who disagreed with This Sort Of Thing, and wanted to stand up and be counted. I was among the latter.

Bimbling over to St Augustine's Parade with Mal at 10.45, all was quiet except for an elderly bearded chap with a big bag of placards. "Are you here for the demo?" Mal asked. 
"Yes," he said. "Are you?"
"Oh, yes," said Mal.
"Which side- pro, or anti?"
"Oh, definitely," she said. And we wandered around a bit more.
Presently more people appeared; some more chaps with beards displayed their identical anti-choice banners, and an ever-swelling group on the other side of the road with a variety of placards. We joined them.

Presently, some of the pro-choice people went and mingled with the opposition.

Some attempted to engage with them, though not always successfully

Mal got talking with J, whose birthday it was. He told her why he was there among the anti-choice group. Just after the war, his mother was coerced into an abortion by her husband, who thought that they couldn't afford another child. So she went into hospital and went through the procedure, and then the medics pickled the foetus in preserving fluid and presented it to her, presumably to say "look, this is your fault!"
This was the story that he told Mal, and it seems intrusive to write it here, but it also seems to be a very graphic example of the evils of coercion. I think J and Mal found more to agree than to disagree upon.

Just before we left, Angry Christian Poet came over. "I've seen you at Halo," he said.
He had a beard, too.
"Oh! Yes, hello."
"Is the leader of your lot here?"
"Um.. yes." It didn't seem worth pointing out that there weren't any leaders.
"Would you give that to him?"
He presented me with a copy of a poem he'd written. I don't have it with me or I might have added it here. So you'll have to take my word for it that it was really quite a bad poem, as poetry and as propaganda.
"Not him, her" I said.

 edit: here are some other responses to the demo; first from the anarchists; and then a criticism of their actions from Hayley. The discussion following the latter post is interesting.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Secret Blackbird launch

  Just over a week to go before the launch party for The Secret Blackbird, the book I have been working on with Geraldine Taylor.

As well as the other things described below, Deborah Harvey will be reading some of her poetry. There may even be tea and cake, if previous events are anything to go by.

It's happening in the Education Centre, on Guthrie Rd opposite Clifton College. Here, in fact....

View Larger Map

Tuesday 1st May
The secret blackbird and other bird mysteries
Geraldine Taylor and Dru Marland will introduce their new book: The Secret Blackbird, and entertain you with other bird mysteries of the Downs! You will be invited to speculate on some of the greatest puzzles in local birdwatching and share your own stories of the unexplained...
7.00pm – 8.00pm £3.00
At Bristol Zoo Gardens. Venue accessible to wheelchair users. Hearing loop in place.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

the oldest spoonbill in Somerset in the north aisle of the nave, in Wells Cathedral. Here it is, grabbing a frog. Since the last time I saw it, in 1991, spoonbills have returned to the Somerset Levels. Hopefully I'll get to see them myself soon, though actively seeking out birds goes against the spirit of accidental birdwatching.

There's quite a bit of wildlife in the Cathedral. Here are some hares, on the tomb of Bishop John Harewell- in those days, they couldn't see a pun without making a carving out of it.

Here is a fox making off with the goose, to the dismay of the farmer.

Bishops tend to have little doggies attending their effigies, as opposed to the more puissant beasts on the tombs of knights. This pertickler bishop has a cat; no ordinary tabby, though; it looked more like a lioness, or a panther.

We conjectured that the bishop in question had been translated to the See from a more far-flung parish in Africa, and had brought his beloved pet north with him to Wells, where she would gaze down from the walls of the Bishop's Palace to the fish in the moat and dream of the Zambezi, or prowl the cloisters to the terror of the choristers...

In the north porch is the story of the martyrdom of St Edmund; here he is being shot full of arrows by the beastly Vikings, who then chopped off his head and threw it into the woods

...where it was guarded by a virtuous wolf, until rescuers came along, when the head called out to them, and the wolf obligingly surrendered the head, which, reunited with the remainder of the body, miraculously stuck itself back on in time for the ascent to Heaven.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


Down to the PRSC in Jamaica Street last night, for a fundraising party. The No Tesco In Stokes Croft campaign needs to find £2500 for the legal costs of the judicial review. So they were selling limited edition mugs at £12 a go, with a chance to win a Banksy print.

...and here is someone doing just that.

And there were the fabulous Value Bagettes, too. Well, Elisabeth Winkler and friends. Not sure what name they actually go under...

It's almost certainly not too late to get a mug yourself, from PRSC. And here's a link to the campaign Facebook page, if you do that sort of thing.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


There was the steady shhhhh of rain on the car roof, like a short wave radio between stations; and the thunk of big drops from the eucalyptus trees that bordered the car park.

"What time do we have to be there?" I asked John.

"We have to put our names down by quarter to eight," he said. "Plenty of time."

"OK, well, I'm outside now," I said; "No hurry, though, I want to go through some stuff."

It's nice listening to heavy rain when it's close by but can't get at you. As opposed to, say, listening to it on the hood of a jacket that is already soggy and promises to be soaked through very soon. I peered at my notebook and tried to make the words sound right. They were resisting.

John appeared out of the twilight. "I wasn't sure about tonight," he said; "But I've been working on the kitchen and could do with a break from it."

We set off, wiping the mist from the windows as we went, then wiping it off again as they were steaming up like nobody's business.

Passing through Westbury on Trym, the engine hiccoughed, and, quick as you like, I swung into the car park that was fortuitously placed just ahead of us. The driver of the car behind parped their horn to let me know how annoyed they were, as they sped up the steep hill out of W-on-T.

"...and you too," I said. "Damn, engine's playing up."

We listened to the uneven beat. I switched off the ignition, opened the bonnet, and sprayed some WD40 around the distributor and coil. Then tried to start the engine again.


There's only so much you can do in the dark, in the rain, with a dead ignition system. John and I heaved and pushed the car into a parking bay, and grabbed our bags and providentially-brought-along brollies.

I left a message on Deborah's mobile. "Sorry, we won't be there. Car conked out."

Ten minutes later, she called back. "Do you want any help?"

"It may need towing home," I said. "Do you feel up to it?"

"Oh, yes!" she said brightly. "I'll be round first thing in the morning, before the traffic gets too bad."

I squelched home. My woolly parka, which weighs as much as two sheep, had become the weight of two camels by the time I got there; I was drenched.

Just as I'd added the whisky to the cocoa, John called. "I just got home," he said. "Popped into the Co-op for some milk, and then the rain eased off."

This morning broke sunny with the occasional spot of rain. I'd hardly finished throwing an emergency repair kit into a bucket when Deb phoned. "I'm on my way!"

"You'll have to tell me about towing," she said; "I've not done it before."

Brave soul, her.

"Nothing much to remember," I said; "just keep the rope tight and go wide at corners. We may be able to fix it anyway. It'll either be something very simple, or something we won't be able to do anything about there and then."

A quick jab at the coil with the multimeter told the story; the 12V supply had failed. So I by-passed it with a wire across to the fuel pump (it's the white wire in the photo), and we drank our coffee while Deb told me about the evening at Halo that John and I had failed to get to.

And then we convoyed home, and the engine didn't miss a beat.

Onwards and upwards! Thank you, Deb!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Put The Bunting Out!


Here we are; my Jubilee badges arrived in the post on Saturday. Along with a Stuff The Jubilee badge I got for old times' sake; seems funny to have a badge just like the one I had in 1977, at the dawn of the wearing-badges-as-a-political-act age, as exemplified by Rick Off The Young Ones.

Anyway.Nice though the STJ badge may be, it always struck me as a bit humourless. So if you feel like wearing (or simply owning) a mildly ironic response to the "silly Union Jack hat and kazoo" form that national celebrations can often take, then why not pop over to Etsy or Ebay, where you can get one?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

the door claps to, the pane is blind with showers

Huddled over the heater, swathed in blankets and listening to the rain rattle on the roof. Were we really swimming in a Dartmoor river only ten days ago? 

Well, yes. We were. 

 Carpe diem, as they say. Which translates as, eat some fish every day.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

No Tesco Party

 Bristol's campaign against the opening of a Tesco in Stokes Croft has resulted in a legal bill of £2000. To help pay it off while having fun at the same time, there's a fundraising party down at PRSC, on Friday 13th April. So, if you're in the area, drop by!

I'll be flogging the last of my Tesco Kiss cards

 ...and my Tesco Value petrol bomb cards, which may be (are) less famous than Banksy's, but were at least first! -and considerably cheaper.....

Monday, 2 April 2012

easter hares

 With Easter upon us, the moon waxing towards full and the celandines in bloom, here's a timely picture. (I just re-uploaded it because I realised that the version I had online was the unfinished one, without the Uffington White Horse....)

Here's Deborah Harvey's poem.

Full Circle
In ancient China
the moon is made of figured silk,
woven with the pattern of galloping hares,
three conjoined by a single ear,
together whole.
An eternal circle
embroidered on bolts of cloth,
carried by camel through singing sands,
the booming dunes of wind-whipped
Xhiang Sha Wan,
where Silk Road
frays to quick oasis, and
wondering artists paint three hares

on sacred temple cavern walls.
The Buddha’s wheel
of life and death
rolls through Persia’s burning plains,
eclipses sere, salt-desert suns: a brazen tray
engraved with hares, a stamped,
Islamic copper coin.
Crossing rivers, bridging rifts
in hidden groves of moss and stone,
these three hares chased on Jewish tombs
and makeshift tabernacle roofs,
the blackened beams
of Dartmoor churches
at the edges of the earth, bear
a trinity of hares, three in one, the risen son,

beneath a moon that pins
the universal oceans.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

TransBristol meet-up

I cycled down to the city centre on Friday evening, and exchanged a lovely warm spring evening for the inside of a rather dark and shiny night club.

Some of the people from My Transsexual Summer were appearing at OMG that evening, and Daryn from the LGBT Forum had suggested that people from TransBristol might like to come along and meet up, at the same time. Seemed like a good idea...

And it was. I was able to meet in person some nice folk I'd only met online; and say hello to some friends, including a couple of surprise visitors; Stephanie, for instance,  had come down from the Marches for the evening. We'd corresponded after she'd read Becoming Drusilla and written a kind review of it on Amazon. That's us, in the picture up there.

Mary Milton wandered by with a big recording thing slung over her shoulder, accompanied by Natalie, whose interview with Sarah and Karen from MTS will be appearing on Shout Out before too long...

...I took the camera along, but this was the only pic I took as it was quite dark in there, and I was reticent about taking pics after my experience at a TransLondon event a few years ago, when I'd blithely taken pics and learned later that some attendees (or possibly it was one attendee) very much objected to being photographed in a trans* group....

....and then the music got louder, and it was time for me to slip away and go home to a mug of cocoa.

Felt ambivalent about the evening; it is good to meet up, but I really don't like night clubs, especially when they turn the music up. I remember when I first ventured out in 2001, going to a club in Old Market that I had heard was trans-friendly (it was) and looking around and thinking, oh dear, do I really have to become someone who has to go to night clubs? (I didn't).

Maybe we can just sit under a tree next time....

How not to have a conversation (while wandering around saying hello to people I had not met before):

Her: So, ...are you transitioning?
Me: mmm.... I suppose so...
Her: Are you going to Charing Cross?
Me: I used to, yes
Her: Oh! -Are you post-op, then?