June Oasis Blog

A month of highs and lows

Well here we are again!  Another month has passed as we slowly start to come out of lockdown and start to return to a new normal!  I think I am almost up to date with my sell by dates on the beer stock and It’s good to hear that mail deliveries on Saturday have started up again.

Being clinically vulnerable there are not many places I can go to, but necessity called in the first week of this month when the car needed servicing. It was due at the end of March, but lockdown put a stop to that.  So I celebrated this event by going out en-femme for the first time in 3 months.  Oh what a joy it was, to dress up, make up and travel to Norwich.

Frightening the families in Catton Park

I wanted to imagine I was off to meet friends, a theatre show, or even an Oasis meeting instead of a car service, but still the afternoon was good, first dropping off the car and then walking in the sunshine to Catton Park, for a stroll. Strangely it was nice to be “read” occasionally, even though I know that’s impossible as I look like a real woman!

Everything seemed so normal for those few hours in the park, even down to the purchase of a “99″ from the ice cream van. It was only when I returned to collect the car that the effect of the virus hit me.  Perspex screens, 2 metre floor labels, latex gloves and wearing a mask! (which just ruins the makeup)

Again we had a lovely June Zoom Oasis session this month, thanks to Petra with 15 attending including partners. It was good to hear (as her camera was not functioning) from Julie, our newest Oasis member.

This month marks the first anniversary of the sad death of Lizzy Vaughan, one of our Oasis members. Lizzie first contacted Oasis around August 2015, and arranged to meet at the Bicycle Shop in Norwich. She wanted to join our group desperate to express her female side, which she had hidden for so long, initially with a view, then to be a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding.

From our first meeting Lizzy was a bubbly, joyful person and a great asset to our group. She stayed with us at Oasis for several years, attending when she could and building her confidence. She embarked on her transition journey and became involved in Norwich Pride and the Pride Choir and was out and proud.

It was with great sadness that we heard the news of the death of Janett Scott, a true transgender champion, who passed away in hospital on Saturday, June 20, at the age of 86.  Janett was a former President of the national Beaumont Society and worked for very many years to broaden public understanding and acceptance of transgender people. She, more than anybody else, helped bring us out of the ‘dark ages’ of the 1980s into more enlightened times. Whether talking to millions through media appearances or one-to-one with concerned individuals, she was the human voice of our hidden community – always self-effacing and always with a smile. (Source  Northern Concord).

Listen to an interview with the Beaumont Society ex President and Trustee.  Broadcast in 2012 from the Transgender Zone. In part 1 (about 1 hour) of the Podcast From Primary to President – Janett tells her life story. In part 2 The Beaumont Years – Janett tells us about her role as President of the Beaumont Society, and her television work on behalf of the transgender community. Click on this link or Janette’s image to here this interviewwell worth a listen or read about her life here.

Sylvie Yvette Wilding 1980-2020

Finally I attended the funeral on Thursday, just gone, to say farewell to Sylvie Yvette Wilding.  Almost a year to this date I meet Sylvie and her partner Shona to discuss how Oasis might help them to see a way through the conflict they were going through, which was having a devastating effect on the continuation of their relationship.  After some meetings there seemed some understanding and a possible way forward for Sylvie’s gender dysphoria.  Unfortunately, Sylvie and Shona were not ready to come to Oasis last year but hoped to visit us once we were back running.

So I was so saddened to hear from Shona that Sylvie had died.  Her gender journey proved too great. When the time is right Shona will tell us Sylvie’s story.

Our thoughts are with both Lizzy’s and Sylvie and Shona’s family and friends at this difficult time.

Those we love remain with us, for love itself lives on and cherished memories never fade, because a loved one is never gone.

Beccie

My working life – Part 2

Did you miss Part 1 of Geri’s working life.  If so click here

Geri continues the story of her working life………

CHARING CROSS UNDERGROUND AND GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS

Charing Cross Underground Station booking hall

After “hobnobbing” with the stars, I became responsible for the redevelopment of Charing Cross Underground station booking hall, located under Trafalgar Square, and the Bakerloo line platforms all  for the London Transport Executive (LTE) now TfL This project had particular difficulties as the ticket hall had to allow for public access through the subways and whilst these works progressed during the day the platform works were carried out at night. Overall the project was of 2 year’s duration.

Deliveries to the platforms had to be at night by battery loco from a LTE depot, booked 3 months in advance. The Neasden depot was used. Materials were delivered there, loaded on to cars for delivery in the early hours of the morning when they had to be unloaded and placed in secure storage as the platforms were open to the public during the day. Nothing was allowed within a designated distance from the platform edge and that was policed by the LTE ‘flagman’

Charing Cross Station Bakerloo platform

To work on the platform or rails required a “possession” which was granted by a LTE employee called a ‘flagman’ and his word was law! If we were unable to secure a possession, we were paid an hourly rate for each operative. These rates were stated in our tender and were quite generous, leading to the comment that we could make more profit from not working than being productive. I believe it was the last contract LTE awarded on those terms. I wonder why?

Anything put down in the platform area overnight would be covered in a thin black layer of dust the next morning from the train braking systems. Working overnight got to be very hot as the ventilation was largely provided by the movement of the trains themselves.

Each station had at least 3 identity references. Firstly, the familiar roundel used to this day, secondly the line colour – Bakerloo is brown – and thirdly some local connection. On the platforms, just above head height there is a service duct carrying cabling. This duct was secured with brown laminate covered doors bearing the roundel, the station name and other information such as exit signs with arrows. The rear wall of the platforms is clad with large murals taken as extracts from the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery both based close to Trafalgar Square. The panels were produced in laminate and bonded to multiple layers of thin plywood. The laminate was produced in Newton Aycliffe, Durham and the panels were bonded by Swan Hunter on Tyneside.

To make laminate, multiple sheets of paper are impregnated and then pressed under enormous pressure and high heat. Due to the different rates of expansion of the inks/dyes used in printing, different rates of expansion can be seen and this is uncontrollable. A joint between panels of a face may align at the bottom lip, misalign at the top lip, be considerably out at the nose yet re-align at the eyebrows. When this was first discovered, a visit to Swan Hunter was needed. An early morning flight saw me in Newcastle by 08:00. Their joinery works, over three floors and each about the size of a football pitch, had the panels erected and the LTE architect made judgements on each joint with multiple panels being erected for this purpose and some rejected. I was taken on a tour of the premises and was overawed by the sheer scale of things. Well, they did produce very large ships!

The next issue was the location of equipment within each panel. For example, I recall a knight in armour trying to beat his adversary with club ending in a bright yellow electrical outlet!

One night I gave my son a treat as I took him to site and he walked the “live” rail.

Old Public Offices now the Foreign Office and Home Office

I was appointed to manage a contract in the old Home Office in Whitehall, opposite the Cenotaph that involved removing substantial brick walls at the ground floor and providing new steelwork supports. The main steel support sections were 12”x36” RSJs: very heavy, and had to be manhandled into place. To ensure adequate contact with the brickwork above flat jacks were used. These were like 2 dinner plates face to face into which resin was forced at pressure then allowed to set. The Structural engineer predicted a 3/8” deflection in the beams. Really? In the event, the soft lime mortar in the walls above was compressed and caused slight damage.

Special communications were installed by the army in advance of the Memorial Service at the Cenotaph to track the Royal party who were to watch from the first floor.

Soon after I took over as CM from a colleague for the creation of a new Covent Garden restaurant: Poons, which subsequently won a Michelin Star. The house speciality was wind dried duck and this was simulated by creating large walk-in fridges but instead of cooling, warm air was fed in with many air changes per hour. There was some difficulty in finding a light shade to withstand the temperatures and an inverted Pyrex dish was used! There were also issues in trying to create a glass screen between the kitchen and diners due to the fire resistance capabilities, but the owners Lord Tanlaw and Bill Poon were adamant the kitchen should be on view to diners. At lot of specialist equipment was imported from Hong Kong but the electrical contractor refused to connect it without full testing as they deemed it “of questionable origin.”

Geri

It makes my working life very boring indeed!

Final part coming soon -Maggie, me, decorations and Scotland

Norfolk Police reach out to you

Serena received an email from Paula Gilluley, the Police community Engagement Officer who came to our Oasis meeting some months ago. She has asked for our assistance and I include the text of her email here.

“I hope this email finds you well.  In my role of Engagement Officer I am assisting on a piece of work around reaching out to our communities who traditionally are often reluctant or find it difficult to engage with Police and what sort of media would help overcome these difficulties.  I would be most obliged if you are able to reply to the below questions on behalf of your group.

If you wanted to contact us, how would you like to do that?

What about if you were to contact us digitally, how would you like to do that?

What would you want to contact us about?

What should we be telling you? Both personally and as a group/community?

And how would you like that information? (Social media, text, email, etc)

How do you think we could improve keeping you updated and your engagement with us?

If anyone has anything they wish to contribute I would be grateful if you would complete the form below or lets Serena know via the website. “

Escape to the library

Welcome to Lilly’s Little Library. In these difficult and often frightening times, I find reading offers me a place to hide and somewhere to escape.

If you like reading, or would like to start but just don’t know where to begin, here are a few favourites of mine for you to try.

Now my tyrant of an editor tells me that I can go on ‘a bit’ (I can’t even spell verbose), so I’ve limited myself to 5 choices. These are books that I have really enjoyed during the last year. They are all by female authors; apparently men don’t read fiction written by women; see I told you I was Transgender!

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. A beautiful female story, set in Old Testament times. It is a first person account by Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, who famously had twelve sons. Deeply affecting, ‘The Red Tent’ combines rich storytelling with an insight into biblical women’s society. The story took me into a women’s world that I didn’t have the opportunity to experience growing up and could only imagine. The beautiful writing examines the close bonds that tie the women together and the rivalries that pull them apart.

‘The Shipping News’ by Annie Proulx. I have read many of John Stienbeck’s American Classics and now I have found his female equal, or possibly even better. Stienbeck’s sagas are often very bleak and I’m a girl who likes a happy ending. No spoilers, ‘The Shipping News’ is a story of friends and family, finding happiness in the small things. The detail in Proulx writing is fabulous, it’s not always an easy story but her words paint glorious images, in high resolution. You have to read every word but it’s so worth it.

‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Attwood. Unlike many of Margaret Attwood’s novels, which are set in an often dystopian future, this is an historical novel, but has a familiar and important theme; what women have to do to survive in a man’s world. Will it ever change? Oh I hope so and soon. Unlike the very obvious subjugation of the women of Gileadan, Grace’s story is set in 19th century Canada but the forces at play are just as insidious. Who am I to judge but Margaret Attwood’s writing is so brilliant. Here, you are the judge, is Grace guilty?

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman. Recommended by a dear friend, who found this novel helpful at a difficult time; it is a story for our time. Our heroine has learnt how to survive, but not how to live. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls she built around herself, changing her life. It is a very relatable story, almost a Trans story, an outsider, desperately trying to find a way of coping in our complex, rule ridden, disapproving society.

What is it a caterpillar, turns into? Have you blossomed recently? What will happen to Eleanor?

‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith. I generally don’t like biographies but this punk icons memoirs are different. These books are beautiful, poetic. ‘Just Kids’ describes Patti’s early life and then moves to her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Both struggling artists, they suffer for their art, living on a shoestring, striving for acceptance and patronage. The story covers their time living in the famous Chelsea Hotel in NYC, and their encounters with some of the other bohemian folk that lived there too. I remember seeing Patti Smith on The Whistle Test in 1976 and I’ve loved her ever since. This isn’t a story of drink fuelled excess (yes, I’m looking at you Chrissy Hynde), this is a true love story.

Please, if you like these books, or have any recommendations for me to pop in my handbag, I would love to here from you. I’ve just ploughed my way through Hilary Mantel’s first two books on Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII; now that Hilary can go on a bit as well! I’ve just started a lovely story by Rose Tremain, that at it’s heart is the tale of a Trans Man, titled ‘Sacred Country’.

Rester prudent, and keep reality at a good two metres.

Love Lilly x

My working life – Part 1

Geri has kindly put together a history of her career in three parts which is fascinating to read.

THE DAWNING OF A CAREER – OR NEARLY NOT!

When I left 6th form, I had in my hand 2 GCE “A” Levels, both of mediocre grades due, largely, to my indolence.

I wanted to become an Electrical Engineer and attended my first ever interview at the London Electricity Board (LEB), and what a harrowing experience it was; It was a mass interview!

There were 20 plus interviewees sat in an arc in front of a panel of 4 or 5 interviewers who proceeded to question each on personal matters, working from right to left and then came in the opposite direction enquiring about aspirations and technical ability. Hence, the first, and last, to be interviewed sat for about 2 hours without saying a word. No refreshments or comfort breaks were provided. But the worst was when an interviewee’s first question was “Hello John, how’s your father?” I guess he probably got a job!

Ironically, I had accepted a part time job with the LEB accounts section in Carnaby Street, London and recall the first fashion shop opening; Ravel Shoes. Occasionally, I would take my afternoon tea break in a café in Beak Street which is where I met Brian Jones – guitarist with the Rolling Stones.

So, what to do now for a career?

I settled on the Construction industry and became an indentured student for 4 years training as a Quantity Surveyor, eventually becoming a Licentiate Membership of the Institute of Builders. When a Planning Department was created, I joined it. The work involved preparing project time schedules showing the start and end dates of the main activities together with site layouts showing accommodation, large plant and hoisting. This was before computers were widely used so, it was all drawn by hand.

I then attained Associate Membership of the Institute of Builders, and when they became the Chartered Institute of Building I secured Membership and became a Chartered Builder.

Still, I was seeking more and asked my Managing Director if I could become assistant to a particular Contract Manager (CM) saying that I wanted to learn from the best. As my mentor subsequently became MD, I guess I was right; he was the best!

I recall an administration building I refurbished that housed CBS Records and there I re-connected with a guy who had been the manager for a CBS recording studio I had been involved in constructing. At that time my collection of LPs grew considerably!

The London Ryan Hotel, Kings Cross Road.

My mentor was CM for the London Ryan Hotel, which had very demanding deadlines and I was site based for much of the time, devising and implementing progress monitoring tools. It was finished on time, but only just; which, was just as well as paying guests were about to arrive! What a party we had that night! The go-ahead for occupancy was given by an area District Surveyor (DS). The DS for the area was absent and so a DS from another area attended. It was reported he was fond of a libation. As he was sitting at a table drinking, he leaned forward to reach for his glass and a recessed light fitting fell from the ceiling narrowly missing his head. Luckily, I was passing and scooped it up so he was none the wiser.

1977 saw me managing the refurbishment of a large building in Fleet Street that had a balcony at first floor level which afforded a good view of the Silver Jubilee parade. Families of employees attended plus a few select clients.

A project for London Weekend Television (LWT) to construct a new video tape suite and sound dubbing studio was secured and I was appointed CM. There were a number of video booths formed, each with raised floors to permit the vast quantities of wiring to pass through, suspended ceilings hiding the ventilation which was needed due to the heat generated by the video machines and heavy doors with magnetic seals to provide sound isolation.  Site duration was about 2 years but the ITV strike occurred during the build adding almost three months. Both projects incorporated specialist construction techniques due to the sound insulation requirements. I recall the HVaC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) designer wanted to encase all duct work in lead until the structural engineer pointed out the building could not support such a heavy load. Work was often suspended because of noise generation affecting recording.

LWT, Strutton Ground, London

Some of the TV “personalities” were very down to earth but others were extremely haughty. I was queuing for a meal when I heard a lot of laughing behind me: it was Cannon and Ball with a couple of guys. They were having fun but did not draw others into their coterie. Coming face to face with Jimmy McJimmy – aka Russ Abbott – having a coffee on his own was a regular sight.

Geri

Coming soon –  part 2 -Charing Cross underground and government buildings.

 

 

 

 

Unordinary Style

I wondered if our Oasis members would be interested in a presentation created by an American Trans lady called Kelly Denithorne. Kelly writes a blog called Unordinary Style, which you might be familiar with.

I read this blog regularly, which details Kelly’s journey over the last 10 years. I enjoy her writing and it has been fascinating to follow her through some major milestones, particularly when she started hormones and then became Kelly full time around 2 years ago.

The presentation is based around her life story and she uses it to educate college age students. Click on the links to take you through to the blog page that describes the presentation, and you can view the presentation here. Beware! Kelly flicks her hair constantly!

Lilly

Hazel’s story – the things trans women do

Here is my current project. She’s a 52’ Bruce Roberts Spray, she is a sad story, involving famous people, drugs and altercations.  She was abandoned after having all her windows smashed, hatches opened, resulting in her being half full of water, unloved for several years. Her last owner a famous actor gave it to his son, sadly an addict.

So why did I, a trans woman, struggling to come to terms with life and all the doubts and concerns of being transgender, take her on? I asked this question of one of the staff at the London Transgender Clinic. “Simple” she said “you were both abandoned and left alone. Who better than you to sort her out!”

So that’s what I’m doing. With help I’ve spent the last 12 months pumping her out, removed 3 skips of rubbish from her, (people saw fit to dump their rubbish on her) replaced windows and hatches, and re-modelled her interior.

All the while like my boat, my family abandoned me with the exception of my children and grandchildren.  I’m coming to terms with being a trans woman, getting rid of clutter, letting people around me, friends and neighbours see the person inside.

My boat one day will be beautiful. I, well I’ll do my best, I don’t expect to aspire to great beauty but I’ll be me.

We both will change our names she will be “Colne Spray”, I will be Hazel Jane Samways.

As to our ongoing journey, I plan eventually to sail her around the UK. However due to the lockdown, the work on Colne Spray has halted, but the work on Hazel is ongoing, I’ve had time to reflect, to look at who I really am, accepting I’m a trans woman, and yes, how to paint and improve her appearance. Don’t you love shopping!

I’ve written a more detailed article about “Colne Spray”, which will be entered on the JRA website (Junk Rig Association) under my proper name.  I asked for this to be done as I intend to be honest with myself and others from now on.

I asked if this would be a problem, the editors replied “I think the members will be more interested how a 73 year-old person has taken on such a massive daunting project to rescue a well respected designed boat, that they will, if you are trans woman”.

Rest assured I won’t do it on my own. I’ve made too many friends on this journey. My two eldest grandchildren 12 and 13 have booked passage to do the leg through the Caledonian canal.

So girls and boys, next year or sometime soon, I’ll see you around the UK!!

Point of Information – Joshua Slocum, was the first person to circumnavigate single handed the globe in a Bruce Roberts in 1895. (The proper way not popping up to the pole and back as they do nowadays) See his book “Sailing alone around the world” Sanford’s Travel Classics.

Hazel Samways

hazelsamways@gmail.com

Hazel has only visited us at Oasis a few times including one of our Christmas meals and is very friendly with Joanna, It is lovely to catch up and read her story.

Do you have a story to tell in the new normal times we are in?