Saturday, 12 August 2017

Views Of Newcastle Upon Tyne From The Top of Grey's Monument

A week ago today I was fortunate to be able to climb to the top of Grey's Monument in central Newcastle.  At this moment it's raining.  It's grey.  A week ago the weather was perfect.

Through the summer months Newcastle City Guides offer trips to the top of the monument for a few hours on one Saturday a month.  They offer a wide range of guided walks in the city too based around a variety of historical, architectural, and cultural themes.  For more information about the walks or to book your own visit to the monument click this link.

I hadn't been planning to visit.  I'd been hugging people nearby and noticed that the little door at the bottom of the monument was open and people were outside.  I asked one of them how I would be able to go to the top.  I'll be totally honest here.  I didn't even know that tours were offered to the public.

The guide told me about the tours and the website and said that tours were always booked up well in advance.  At that moment the other guide said she had just realised there was one unbooked space.  In ten minutes time.  They wondered about this, because it never happens.

It happened to me though.  So would else could I do?  I paid my four pounds - all city tours currently cost four pounds for adults and two pounds for children - and said farewell to my new friends who had been sharing in the experience of hugging strangers.  Two recent posts on this blog are related to that experience.

Photos were taken.  Many photos.  Some of them were attempted selfies.  Newcastle Upon Tyne is an amazing city.

Grey Street

Grey Street

St. Nicholas Cathedral

In the distance, The Baltic & Millennium Bridge

Looking East


In the far distance, Byker Wall

Towards Newcastle Civic Centre

Emerson Chambers

St. James Park

St James Park & Eldon Square

Emerson Chambers Roof

Part of Eldon Square Shopping Centre

Over the roof of Grainger Market

The steps leading back down

Grainger Market

Grainger Street to Newcastle railway station

The Baltic & Millennium Bridge

55 Degrees North with The Sage beyond and All Saints Church

Grey Street. Theatre Royal on left

Grainger Street

Eldon Square

Good to see one of these flying at Monument

Newcastle Castle Keep, St Nicholas Cathedral
Grainger Street

Theatre Royal

Friday, 11 August 2017

Haiku For Those Who Say My Wearing Skirts Perpetuates Stereotypes

This is another single phrase written on Facebook that turned into a short post here.
The phrase became haiku dedicated to that section of society for whom a trans woman can't win no matter what she wears, how she acts, or who she is.  These are the people who tell me I'm living according to gender roles set down by a repressive patriarchal society and that I'm a backward thinker standing between women and progress.

They're wrong of course!  Totally wrong.

I don't give a damn about enforcing gender stereotypes.  I don't believe in gender roles.  I don't even believe in gendered clothing.  I think the societal rules about genders and pieces of cloth are all a bit stupid.  I believe in people wearing what they want - as long as it doesn't cause too much offence.  I believe in them doing what they want and breaking glass ceilings and

Thankfully I don't meet these people that often. I didn't meet them today. Or if I did they were kind enough not to say anything out of place.

Thankfully it's not often I'm attacked for my dress sense or for my interests. Thankfully, most of the time I meet the same kind of broad acceptance as I did when I lived outwardly as a man.

Thanks everyone for the support and safety that's been generally offered to me since that very scary time four years ago when I spoke the truth. Thanks for making it much easier than I thought it would be to be me. Not easy, especially earlier in transition. But much easier.

You perpetuate
Gross gender stereotypes
By being yourself.

That's what's said to me.
That I stand for man's sexism.
My crime: I wear skirts.

They've no right at all
To dictate what I should wear.
They are the sexists.

Proud, they stand between
A woman and her free choice
To wear what she wants.

No apologies!
I like my clothes. Honestly,
I look good in them.

No point arguing,
Or changing to satisfy
Their pointing fingers.

If I dressed less "femme"
Their fists would keep on shaking
New accusations.

You're not trying hard
Enough. This proves to us you're
Not a proper woman.

With no victory
I will point out their error
And rest. Just be me.

Following The Yellow Brick Road - An Art Project

Welcome, welcome.

I am the wizard.  I am the witch.  I am Dorothy too.  Welcome to my world, to my crazy meandering yellow brick road through a land not unlike the land of Oz.

I should explain.

Some of you will have found this page by chance.  Some through links I'll have placed on social media.  And some of you, all being well, will have taken a piece of paper from a box in an exhibition and typed in a web address.  Hey presto, through the hokum of magic you are all here.

This page and those that follow arose from an art project undertaken at the Recovery College Collective in Newcastle, an amazing place for people attempting to recover from all kinds of different mental health problem.  I am one of those in recovery.

The idea was simple.  Take a box.  Take a fairy tale.  Transform the box into that tale, or at least into a version of the tale that reflects the teller's life and journey and message.

A simple idea.  But I'm not great at practical arts.  I can't draw and I'm not ever going to be the world's foremost expert at making things or at producing visual wonderments.  I'm neither going to create the reality or the sham of an Emerald City.  I'm also not great at fairy tales.  I spent weeks trying to decide which one fitted my life the best.  Difficult when I didn't grow up among such tales.  I grew up with Asimov, Bradbury, and lots of other sci-fi and fantasy writers.  I didn't spend my time with Grimm or Anderson or the other workers of fairy stories.  Eventually I decided in a moment of jest that I could focus on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and all the ways I looked outside for answers that could only be found inside.

The box is made.  The box is, or will be, presented at an exhibition alongside boxes made by other participants in the course.  There may be dancing too.

I realised early on that I am far better at building with words than with crafting materials.  So I began to write.  The pages that follow are the result of my writing about different parts of my journey along the yellow brick road towards some kind of freedom in myself.

I hope you find some enjoyment in it all.  Or some challenge.

Come, walk with me on the Yellow Brick Road.  Let's go and see the Wizard together and see what he can do for us.  Let the journey begin.  We'll be following the movie closer than the book.

Before you start the journey I'd like to invite you to take a look, or another look, at the decorated box.  You can find descriptions and photos of box underneath this link.

Each chapter can be found by clicking on the title.  Each chapter will contain a link back to this page, to the previous chapter and the following chapter.


The Wizard of Oz Art Box - A Recovery College Course

Recently I participated in my first course at the Recovery College in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  It's a brilliant place, offering a wide range of creative and therapeutic courses and groups to people in the local area who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

I think I'll be back there soon, taking part in more courses.  I'm looking forward to them.

During my one course we were asked to choose a fairy story and then decorate a shoe box or a suitcase in a way that would show the relationship between that story and our lives.  I'm not particularly good at fairy stories so ended up choosing The Wizard of Oz.  I love the movie and have a cheap paperback set of all the Oz books by L. Frank Baum.  It seemed a good choice and I'd made a half serious comment about fighting through all kinds of hell in search of something that we already had in the first place.

I panic about practical art projects.  I've been known to have meltdowns over very simple artistic endeavours.  But, without any guidance at all, I decorated a box.  And then, because I was self-conscious about the box and thought it a bit rubbish, I decided I'd write about how the Wizard of Oz relates to my life.  This has grown into a set of fourteen blog posts, including this one.

You can find the contents page for the main series here.

Some of it is quite light but I'll warn you that it gets quite dark in places and there's a lot of sadness mixed in with the joy.

Yes, I made a box.  While it won't be exhibited at the Tate Gallery I'm quite proud to have done something practical and creative without meltdowns.  Although there was that week I just stared at the box before wandering off and writing a poem about something else.  And there were sessions I found I couldn't get to at all.  At the time of writing the sessions aren't over but I'm having to miss all that remain due to other commitments - we're putting on a play!

Here are a few pictures of the box.  All of our boxes will be exhibited.  Somewhere.  At some point.  I don't know where.  There will be dancing too.

The lid of the box: "The autistic, transgender, God obsessed, wizard of Oz.  Come, follow the yellow brick road with me."

This mouse was in a tree together with a colourful teething ring.  For some reason my brain fixated on these things and I had to get them.  The branches were sharp and there were thorns and my arms got pretty cut by the experience.  But I retrieved those items.  Since then I've thrown the ring away and now I've left the mouse in a box.  Although what a mouse has to do with the story is anyone's guess.

Yes.  God obsessed even though I no longer believe.  This is the image of divine mercy.  I used to have copies of this image.  Everywhere.  Some of what Jesus said I can still go along with.

The Refugees welcome badge is a replacement.  I had one before a big march for refugees here in the pouring rain before spending days sorting donations until the point at which my head couldn't do more.  I lost that badge in London and replaced it last year at the Greenbelt festival.  I asked people if they had a spare badge and they handed me a pack of ten.

This box is inside the main box.  "Open Me.  We welcome you to autistic Munchkin Land."

"The journey is held inside, knowing its safety."

Inside that box are lots of pieces of card, each containing the web address of the blog posts.  A sheet inside the box lid explains what the cards are.  Perhaps nobody will take a card.  Perhaps nobody will read the posts.

The rosary.  In front of the lion.

Did I hide myself, fearfully, under the mask of my religion?

The box.  It's not spectacular.  But it's mine!