A Boy (?) born Into a Sect: A True Story – Part 1

Some time ago, Hazel put pen to paper to tell us about the things trans people do. After reading the post Ultra-Orthodox and trans she wanted to tell us about being born into a Sect.  This was first published in the Beaumont magazine.

This is a story I have long wanted to write but had no idea where to start, so I suppose the best place to start is the beginning.

I was born in January 1947, the third male child to a family that were part of a religious sect. My grandfather was bought into it during the first world war. Quite why or how, I never managed to find out because his family were all publicans, and my grandmothers family were never part of it, but it happened. During my early years  I was not aware that my father was strongly involved. At that time he was one of nine children, and only one of his brothers and two of his sisters had joined and became part of the sect.

I suppose at this point I should mention that I learnt many years later that my mother was convinced I was going to be a girl, everything about me was apparently different, but I will talk about that later.

When I was four, it would appear that father was asked by the Brethren”to move to a town in Essex to help sort out a problem in a meeting” there. I will not go any further with that as it will appear far-fetched. But there it was; we went and my father became, with another brother, the elders responsible to clean things up. Looking back I can see how my father came under the spell of the other person; he was a domineering character who rose to be a leading light within the sect while my father was content to play second fiddle. I only mention this to give some idea how things were.

My sister would have been born before we moved, so Mother had the girl she wanted. Several years later my baby sister was born, so I was now the middle child of five. This is probably the time to mention my birth. I am convinced my mother wanted a girl so badly that, until the arrival of my sister, I was that girl. I can remember being given a doll with a china head, when at the same time my two brothers were given cars, this dolly was my constant companion until I was about six. I loved her. When I wasn’t playing with her she stayed tucked up in my bed. This was until I was about six, when my mother asked me to hand her over and she was put in the dustbin because “boys do not play with dolls”. Needless to say as soon as Mother’s back was turned I rescued her and hid her under the bed. But, of course, mothers find everything, and once again dolly ended up in the bin, only this time I was told to get a hammer and her head was smashed. I can only think that she took such drastic action because she wanted to exorcise some inner guilt feeling she had about the way I was bought up at the very beginning because, lets face it, she could have insisted I give the doll to my sister. In those days children had only a few toys and I am sure my sister would have been delighted.

So I grew up and arrived at the age when I would be expected to become interested in becoming a “Brother”, learning about the bible and listening to my elders, because I needed to be saved* so I could become a fully fledged member of the meeting. I could give at this point a history of what this sect was about but that would be for another time and place, as this article is about how I coped with it but, suffice to say, it was full on. This is how a week would go:

Monday 7.30 pm: prayer meeting.

Tuesday  – 7.30 pm: ministry meeting (once a month “Care” meeting to discuss  the running of things).

Wednesday – 7.30 pm: mid week reading meeting at the main meeting room.

Thursday  – 7.30 pm: reading meeting where we would visit nearby gatherings.

Friday  – 7. 30 pm: same as above.

Saturday – 9.00 / 10.00 am: Fellowship meeting in nearby towns. Usually they would hire a school and brethren from surrounding areas would meet up and invite a“Ministering brother” to conduct the proceedings. This would have three main meeting with intervals where food would be served, and would finish at 3 or 4 pm. These gatherings would have 100 or more members. They hired Westminster Central Hall / Alexandra Palace for special occasions and these would be filled.

Going back in time here, I was beginning to feel different to others. At around the age of 6 or 7,  I was aware of my mothers stockings hanging up in the bathroom and, after a lot of longing, I had to touch them and then I plucked up courage and tried them on. The exhilaration I experienced was soon followed by a fear of what was happening. I was also aware of the girls in the gathering who wore wonderful full skirts with layered petticoats or, alternatively, short skirts. I would keep looking and longing to be one of them. The attraction was not sexual as I had no idea what sex was, I just wanted to be a girl and sit with them. I wanted to join in with them and talk with them. But no, I was a brother and had to pretend to be different and spiritual. I had also found a corset that had belonged to an aunt who used to live with us. I wore that a lot, hidden away in the bathroom, on the odd occasion I managed to find an excuse to stay behind in the evening looking after my sisters.

I started to have feelings of disgust with myself. We were constantly told about evil thoughts and feelings and I knew how God would punish me. One day all my family would be taken up to heaven with all the brethren, and I would be left behind with everybody else and end up in Hell. But I could not stop; I so wanted to be a girl.

I thought one of the girls, Rachel was special, really beautiful. When I was seven she slipped a note in my pocket that read, “I love you and I am going to marry you.“ I was taken aback and so happy. I put it in my pocket but my mother found it a few days later when she was checking my “go to the meeting best suit”.  She informed me she had talked to Rachel’s mother to make sure no more notes were sent, because I was not to think about such things for years.

This girl was special. As I grew older I worshipped her, but I was too shy and embarrassed to talk to her. I had this terrible secret which I was carrying. I knew I was not worthy of her. I was struggling to be a good member of the sect. I tried hard to be good and function as a brother, but all the while I was longing to be one of the girls or  sisters as they were known. I did manage to cope and passed muster. I asked to be accepted into “fellowship” at about the age of twelve, which meant I had to try really hard to participate, which for the most part I did. looking back now, did I understand what I was saying? Did it make sense? I doubt it, but I wanted to put behind me all those wicked evil thoughts. I did not want to go to hell. I also wanted to be worthy of Rachel. She was also attracting the attention of other boys. I was very jealous, but I thought they were better for her than I could be. One of these boy’s family was later excommunicated and became “worldly” and she was stopped  from having anything to do with them.

All this time I was at school, which was difficult because at home we did not have television or radio. We were not allowed to go to the cinema. I no idea about any of these things, and hated it when I was questioned by teachers and pupils. I did not know what to say. We would be asked to write about programmes or films that other children had seen. I had to admit I did not have such worldly things. I had to reply with the answer that the brethren told us to give: “We love Jesus and he says these things are not good.”

During my secondary school we had to be asked to be excused from school weekly assembly and religious instruction lessons because in these activities we were being taught things that the sect did not agree with. This made me personally feel isolated and different. I tried to get involved in other things at school, and I was so proud to be asked to play for the school rugby team as the master felt I was a natural “hooker” in the scrum, but when I got home late from school, because I stayed for practise, I was in deep trouble. It was explained in no uncertain terms that all my spare time was to be spent at the meetings, so there would be no time on Saturdays or after school. I was told to tell the master the “I love Jesus” line.  A similar thing happened with the cricket and athletics teams. I was told I was a good bowler but I made sure I bowled overs of wides  and no-balls, and when it came to the semi-final of the hurdles, where I was told I was going to be asked to represent my house at sports day,  I made sure I knocked half of them down. Otherwise I would have had to explain why I could not take part on Saturdays and after school. At the same time as having to deal with this, I was still agonising with my inner feelings. I wanted to be a girl, I longed to wear pretty things, and I was struggling so hard to be the opposite. I did not want to pray out loud and make comments about any passage of the bible we would happen to be studying.

To be continued….

Hazel x

Glossary of terms

Brethren:- Was the name they went by and also referred to each group as.

Meeting :- Was a gathering of Brethren they did not use the term church, also it referred to service i.e. prayer meeting etc.

In Fellowship:- you had to be “in fellowship” to be able to partake and participate

Saved:- you had to be saved and ask to be taken into fellowship before you could participate, believe you me they gave you no rest until you got there.

August update from Serena

Hi again Oasis ladies, partners and friends.

I do hope you are all managing to keep fit and well. Back in February, I don’t think any of us would have predicted the scale, seriousness and impact of this pandemic. A doctor friend said, “It’s just flu”. How wrong he was!

Beccie pointed out that the Covid-19 information on our website was out of date and would I update it. I was half way through writing and Venetia said, “Have you heard the latest announcement from Boris?” So that draft went in the bin and I started again. The situation is changing day by day. Having looked at the statistics this morning, the rise in cases in Spain and hotspots in the UK, like Oldham, is alarming.

Having googled ‘Current government guidance on covid-19’ I was rather taken aback by the sheer volume of information and downloadable leaflets. For that reason, it is neither appropriate nor practicable to reproduce it all on our website. However, there are relevant parts which impact on our ability to hold Oasis meetings in the near future.

Click on this link to access the extract summaries about what we can and cannot do.

Clearly, Oasis cannot meet whilst these restrictions remain in place. This is disappointing for us all. However, I am trying to think positively about how we might be able to meet at the earliest possible opportunity whilst ensuring everybody’s safety. The food and drink problem could be solved by each person or social bubble bringing their own picnic in a bag. Hand sanitizer and wipes can be provided and used frequently. Door handles, surfaces and toilets wiped frequently. Social distancing would need to be maintained with definitely no hugging or kissing! It would be nice to think we could meet before Christmas but don’t hold your breath. In fact, do hold your breath, then you’re less likely to spread the virus!

Petra has again offered to host our virtual Oasis meeting on Saturday, 15th August, from 7pm onwards. I will not be able to attend but will send on the link to those who can.

If your interested in joining us at for this Virtual Oasis meeting please complete the on-line attendance form below.

I had a nice day out with Rachel and Dee recently. We went to the Waveney House Hotel in Beccles and had a long and leisurely lunch. On the way back, Rachel and I called in to see Carole and Alice. Carole is now upright but the wound is taking longer to heal than she had hoped. However, she did manage to drive, albeit only a short distance to the local shop, and walk for about 20 minutes. So things are moving in the right direction.

I would welcome any comments you may have about restarting Oasis. In the meantime, stay well and keep as cheerful as you can.

Love to you all,

Serena

Loraine the book Worm!

Thanks to Petra, our Zoom expert for this article from her wife Loraine, originally written for publication in her local village newsletter.

I must write this month about how I have enjoyed reading `Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’ by Gail Honeyman. The book has received many accolades and was in fact recommended by a friend. It’s about loneliness and discovery.  Fear not! Although it has a few dark passages it is very funny and uplifting; a tale of Eleanor’s journey from being a very fearful solitary unsocial creature with a secret dark past to becoming a girl with friends.  During her journey she learns how to interact with her work colleagues and although her pet plant (yes really) dies it is replaced by a domineering grey cat.  What’s not to like!?

Ah yes, the dread secret is also slowly revealed and unravelled.

Another recommendation is `The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared’ (by Jonas Jonasson)  I thought, what a strange title, how odd? But I giggled my way through this book of unlikely happenings and co-incidences, and odd friendships.  Scandi books are not always grim crime shockers.

In the meantime I’ve not neglected my `chick flick’ pot boiler books.  Regency stories by Tessa Dare about Spindle Cove and its boarding house for misfit women and their romances are an easy read.  Plenty of humour, a reasonable plot and some steamy sex if that appeals!

I enjoy reading fiction based in East Anglia, naturally so atmospheric!  Crime stories written by Jim Kelly and Joy Ellis come to mind.  The BBC series Books that Built Britain has featured some other authors including our own Nicci French. I am looking forward to read Losing You about a missing teenage girl. Could this be based in Southwold?

Nine Taylors is a crime book by Dorothy Sayers (back in 1934) featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.  It features our East Anglia and some bell ringing. I read it years ago but I’ve got to the stage in my life that I actually enjoy reading books again.  Just like seeing a good film you note different things or characters each time.

Now enough of this! Enjoy the summer, keep safe and above all “keep reading”

Loraine – The Book Worm

Oasis call to nature!

At the last Zoom meeting in July, Theresa wondered if anyone was interested in a day out at Pensthorpe, near Fakenham on Friday 31st July.

Flamingos at the watering hole

There wasn’t much interest expressed, but I arranged to meet her, Lorraine, Jodie, Theresa’s daughter, and Vicky for a socially distanced get together lunch and walk around the park.  It was a pleasant day and a chance to meet up and chat after such a long separation. Little did we know it would he one of the hottest days recorded in the UK and the world and his wife would be on the roads!

Jodie, Beccie and Vicky at the lakeside socially distanced

Lorraine was kind enough to put pen to paper and here’s her account of the day:

Just wanted to share a little thought of the day with you. I had a lovely day out at Pensthorpe with Jodie and Theresa. We met up with Vicky and Beccie.

Whilst we were sat together in the outside area of the cafe, I happened to notice a woman staring at our table, I stared her out and she looked away, as they do ! 

Lorraine and Theresa

I sat there thinking, ” Woman you don’t know these people, These are lovely decent people”

It was an absolute pleasure to be in their company, and who I am extremely proud to call my friends. and I also extend that friendship to the other members of Oasis. 

Oasis is a wonderful group of people and I am proud to be a member. 

Miss you all and hope to see you all in the not to distant future. See some of you at the next Zoom meeting xx

Theresa is looking to planning another get together before the summer is out.

Beccie

Escape to the World of Sport

Lilly’s World of Sport

I find another of my happy places by escaping into the World of Sport; no not Dickie Davis (one for you teenagers there), into Lilly’s World of Sport.

Now I love sport, not everybody does. Please forgive me if I’m wrong, but I do perceive that it’s a subject that many Trans Women are reluctant to talk about. Perhaps feeling sport is part of their past lives. Or is sport still considered un-feminine? Sadly it is true most young women stop playing sport when they leave school.

Well in this article I’m going to try to prove that women and sport really do mix, by telling the story of a few of my sporting heroes. Five women who are also both incredible competitors and beautifully feminine. These girls certainly can!

Why does sport matter to me so much. Well I am a competitive animal, it’s in my genes (size 12 from Primark); both competing and spectating satisfy that urge. I believe that, particularly for young people, learning to deal with the ups and downs of competitive sport, is a powerful way of learning how to cope with the vagaries life. A cliche I know, but learning to lose with grace is such a valuable life skill. It can hurt like anything inside but smile on the outside. Anyway sermon over, you can come out now, here are some my heroes…

Getty Images

Jessica Ennis-Hill – oh my goodness, Super Saturday 2012 in the Olympic Stadium. I was there. Why? To see Jess, no not Mo, but Jess. Three years before when I made my ticket selection for the ballot, I’d choosen this night as it contained the final event of the Heptathlon, the 800m. At this point Mo was an also ran, Jess was a World Champion and favourite for Gold. Jess didn’t let us down, withstanding the extreme pressure of being ‘The Face of Games’, she delivered. Blessed with amazing determination, strength and resilience, Jess produced personal best after personal best, to lead the competition into that last event. On that magical evening, in front of 80,000 people, Jess took the lead rounding the last bend and crossed the line to win a glorious gold. In the stadium, we all got a little over excited, hugs (remember them?) all round. I give you Jess, a beautiful, petite woman; now a Mum, who made herself the best all round athlete in the world. What a role model for girls and boys.

Kelly Smith – the greatest England footballer you have never heard of! “Lethally quick, bountifully gifted”, Kelly a forward, scored 46 goals in 117 appearances for England, and enjoyed a highly successful club career at home and in the States.

Over the last 10 years women’s football has at long last come to the fore. But why is the women’s game always in the shadow of men’s football? Well for a start men banded it! Yes in 1921, despite being more popular than some men’s games, women’s football in England was halted when The FA outlawed the playing of the women’s game on Association members’ pitches. The FA said that “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” This ban was in force until 1971. It has taken 50 years for the female game to begin to catch up.

Kelly faced discrimination too, aged seven, with no girl’s teams in her local area, she played in a boys team, until other boy’s teams refused to play Kelly’s team; Kelly was just too good! Kelly’s magnificent career was ended by injury, just before the game came to real prominence (now shown regularly on the BBC), which is why Kelly is not a household name. The best England striker of the modern era? Shearer, Lineker, Kane, Smith….

Annemiek van Vleuten. Picture this, the women’s Olympic Cycling Road Race, Rio 2016. The course included a fast, fearsome, twisting down hill section that left no room for error. Riding flat out was not for the faint hearted, only the very brave. Leading the race was Annemiek, she had broken away from the peloton and in trying to maintain her lead and she was going for it. Oh no! Annemiek made a tiny mistake and the next second she was bouncing down the road like a rag doll, bike flying through the air! The world held it’s breath, Annemiek didn’t move for a long time, it took an age for medical help to arrive. The TV cameras held back just in case…..horrible.

Fast forward to 2019, Annemiek won the World Road Race Championship, her third World Title. Amazing, weaker sex? I don’t think so! Annemiek brave, determined, a winner!

Claire Williams. Motor racing is my sport, I grew up with tales of Nuvolari, Fangio, Moss and Clark, I raced karts for five or so years in my late teens. Motor sport is really a world of men! The women’s role was purely to look pretty or make the tea. Sure there were a few women drivers, even some who raced Grand Prix cars like Lella Lombardi and Divina Galica, Michele Mouton was almost world rally champion in the 80’s, or before the war, Kate Petra was one of a number of women who raced around the awesome outer circuit at Brooklands. Women are now starting to have some impact on the sport, particularly on the engineering side of the teams. Claire Williams is team principal of one the most famous GP teams, a role that comes with huge amounts of responsibility and pressure, not least keeping the company founded by her father, alive in an ultra competitive world. Hopefully Claire can steer the team back to the podium very soon, perhaps with a female driver called Jamie Chadwick!

When I was growing up, I never imagined the women could participate in contact sports such as rugby and boxing. At school, girls played hockey and netball, boy’s didn’t.

Margaret Alphonsi MBE is an English former rugby union player who played as a flanker for Saracens and England before retiring in 2014. She has one World Cup winners medal and seven from the Six Nations, and was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in November 2016.

Maggie can now be seen and heard regularly as a pundit and newspaper columnist, even commentating on the mens game! Inevitably, she has faced sexist and racest comments but Maggie’s calm authoritative manner makes her one the most respected voices on the game; a game that is now open to all!

So what’s next? Trans sports women? An openly gay premier league football? Well the former is a hugely nuanced discussion for another day, the latter, any male professional football who came out as gay would be a hero!

It not the wining, it’s the taking part and above all, having fun

On a final note here is Lilly racing karts in her late teens.

Lots of love

Lilly x

 

July Oasis blog

The gorgeous Beccie!

Call me a doom maker but I really do worry about the acceleration of the return of services after our prolonged lock-down and perhaps wish I lived in one of our devolved nations. This government doesn’t seem to give any relaxation of lock-down measures long enough to see if there is a spike in infection rates, and I’m not certain if they care there’s a spike.  It just doesn’t seem the right time to be coming out of lock-down with infection rates of over 600 a day! Well that’s my political rant over with!

Another month passed by as our houses, wardrobes, shoe collections and gardens continue to get their makeovers.

Recently we had a lovely afternoon visit to see Joanna, our first visit out together which hasn’t involved shopping or going to the doctor’s. Even the car was surprised we were travelling further than our local shops!  It was a lovely afternoon. We sat (socially distanced) in a large tent on their back garden and it was so nice to chat with someone face to face outside the immediately family, followed by a lovely look round the garden. We were sad to say goodbye.

We have had both Vicky and Anna G over for a socially distanced take away Sunday lunch which again was lovely and afforded us glimpses of what was once normal!

Pride 2019

Of course this month (25th) would have seen our annual Norwich pride taking place, as well as our second visit to Kings Lynn pride. A chance to be out and proud. Another casualty to Covid-19.  This year it has gone virtual.  Click on this link to view more.

We had a very good virtual Oasis Zoom meeting on Saturday the 18th, with over 17 people (including partners). It was also nice to see two new ladies join us, Davina and Julie. We talked about recent events, as well as the construction of concrete boats. You do learn a lot at these get together!

I’m pleased to say that Serena, even though Oasis is not running its meeting, has also been very busy this month, meeting new people (Lucy and Julie) as well as liaising with a member of Norfolk constabulary to discuss how Oasis might help.  We have also been contacted by Radio Norfolk to comment on the possible changes to the legislation related to “self-identifying”.  Two student’s undertaking research projects, one from Bath and the other from York have also contacted Oasis. If these projects are relevant to you, please afford some time to communicate with them.  (look in the archive post section of the website or use the search button to look for “research”)

Carole has survived her time in hospital and is recovering slowly at home being waited on hand and foot.

Michelle tells me work has gone silly and she’s driving all-round the country.  She needs a second wave to sort out her last 2 shed before the winter.

Anna F, apart from a recent set back has been out and about from cycle rides in full make up, to leisurely walks on Gt Yarmouth beach in her flowing summer dress.  She says her latest discovery is shopping is now bloody awful!

Gemma is keeping busy with her new lady chum, ship spotting in Cromer, with binocular, telescopes and interesting apps. She pass on her best wishes to all the Oasis ladies.

Well that’s about it for this month, keep sending in your stories and articles and see you in August.

Look out for some more ramblings from Lilly’s escape stories as well as some interesting reading from Loraine next month.

Beccie x

We need your help please

Hello,

We are still desperately looking for participants, and would be extremely grateful for any help.

My colleagues and I at the University of Kent are carrying out a project, which aims to enhance trans awareness in social work education and practice. In order to do so in a way that is the most relevant, we would like to hear from people of trans history about their experiences of support or input from social workers and their recommendations.

Why are we carrying out this research?

We are committed to social justice for trans people. We believe trans people everywhere should be treated with respect, their views taken into account and that their needs should be met sensitively. Policy reports show us that this is not the case and that trans people can face stark inequalities especially when they come in contact with social services. These inequalities can take the form of not being heard, being over-referred in cases of child protection and in the case of older trans people, sometimes being treated in ways that mean their identities are not taken seriously when planning their care needs. We want to make sure that social work students and practitioners are fully aware and properly trained in how to support trans people as well as their parents, family members and loved ones who care for and support them. We want to hear from you if you are a trans person (aged 18 or over), an advocate for a trans person or a parent or family member supporting a trans person with experience of social work input. Your voices are extremely important to us, in highlighting what social workers are doing well, but more importantly what they need to change in making sure trans people everywhere get the support they need. Please get in touch with us if you would like to know more about our project. Thank you for reading.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions.

Kindest regards, Rasa

Dr Rasa Mikelyte-Research Associate-Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS)-Room CGA217, Cornwallis George Allen Wing, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NF | ( (01227) 823666 | : R.Mikelyte@kent.ac.uk

 

Ultra-Orthodox and trans

image from BBC News stories

When Abby Stein came out as trans, she sent shock waves through the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. A direct descendant of Hasidic Judaism’s founder, The Baal Shem Tov, Abby’s parents considered her their first-born son and a future rabbi – but she was adamant that she was a girl.

My dad is a rabbi, and having a son was a big deal. He would always tell me that after five girls he had almost given up on having a boy, and how much it meant to him. I almost felt bad for him throughout my childhood – a feeling of: “I’m so sorry, but I can’t give you what you want.”

I didn’t know there were other people like me, but I knew what I felt – I just saw myself as a girl.

I sometimes wish that I’d had a teacher who was transphobic, because that would have meant I knew trans people existed. In the Hasidic community they simply never spoke about it.

What kept me sane during my childhood was my imagination.

To read her full account click on this link or the image.

My working life – Part 3

Missed  part 1 and part 2 of Geri’s working life click on the links.

Here’s Geri final installment of how to live life to the full…..and all this before transitioning!

MAGGIE, ME, DECORATIONS AND SCOTLAND

An example of re-built chimney stacks

Within the group of companies was one of the oldest contractors in London; founded in 1781, and I transferred to them.

Hampton Court Palace, typical grace and favour apartments

Shortly after the move I took charge of the Special Works Department that had been working at Hampton Court Palace for many years, carrying out brick repairs, especially rebuilding the intricate chimney stacks of which there are 241 and it is believed no 2 are the same, Experiments were carried out over the years to produce lime mortar that gave the appearance of being Tudor. Just prior to the fire in March 1986 one of the grace and favour apartments was being refurbished for occupation by the retiring personal private secretary of The Queen and his moving in was delayed by a few weeks.

New wall in background

I then had under my wing the re-building of the garden walls between the back garden of 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street and Horse Guard’s Parade. At that time there was a police “tardis” adjacent to the rear entrance of the gardens and on a pre-commencement site visit I was asked to check in my brief case. So, on a subsequent visit I offered to do this only to be rebuffed with “If you’ve got a bomb, you can blow yourself up, but not me.” British security!

Yes, that is me to the rear and on the right of Mrs T

The walls were constructed of reinforced concrete with hand-made brick skins either side and Portland stone copings. Special measures were taken to inhibit ram raiding and to offer protection to tree roots.

At the end of the project the PM – Margaret Thatcher – wanted to meet both the design and build teams. Permission was granted to have a photographer present and about an hour was spent in her company. I presented her with a book commissioned to celebrate my Company’s bi-centennial.

Specialist decoration works were undertaken for a leading company in Berkeley Square. The work comprised silk wall coverings, hand printed wall papers and gold leaf on the balustrade. The silk was stretched over timber battens with cotton waste, felt between, known as batten and bump. To finish the silk at the edges plaster moulds were cast using single strands of hessian as reinforcement then silver gilded. The wall paper pattern was over 2 rolls so, left and right hand rolls had to be ordered. Regrettably, some of the paper was hung upside, so had to be replaced. Only 20 rolls at £20 each! But the pattern was unclear.  Shortly thereafter our client – Ploy Peck – was broke!

A project to construct an extension to the Kennel Club was carried out but there were sensitive issues with neighbours who, it seemed, were probably security services! All restrictions were complied with, without too much difficulty.

Osterley Park House

My next foray into specialist decoration was 1 room at Osterley Park House and involved using batten and bump again to the walls with hessian stretched and glue sized to make it taught, covered with hand-made linen, untrimmed, lining paper. The whole was then painted in soft distemper that was made on site.  3 coats were to be applied and the foreman decorator said that would be impossible as the whiting used would “ball up” but the paint Consultant was adamant 3 coats be applied.  After the 3rd coat, the finish was appalling; all lumps and bumps. The site team said it could be rescued by washing the distemper off with warm water and applying 2 coats. It was successful. Again, gilded dowel was used at the edges.

Ferry Terminal, Campbeltown, Argyll.

I moved to the west coast of Scotland for about 7 years and became General Manager of an Argyll based contractor where I and had to convert most of the 200 plus operatives from self-employed to PAYE status whilst not inviting union involvement. I was successful and all received new Contracts of Employment.

Wooden Spoon House

On returning to England, I worked for a company who were making great inroads into social housing by virtue of the Government’s “Decent Homes” programme. This required many procedures to be created due to the interaction with Residents. I wrote many of these procedures as situations presented and in 2004 the company won The Queens Award for Enterprise for their Resident Liaison Procedures. Other projects I was responsible for won Gold and Silver Awards from the newly launched Considerate Constructors Scheme. I also became manager for the refurbishment of a building to become Wooden Spoon House in London, which was opened by the Princess Royal.

St Peters Court, Lowestoft

My last significant project was the design and build contract to upgrade a tower block in Lowestoft. The work involved insulating the roof, insulated render to walls, new windows, individual heating schemes, re-wiring, bathrooms and kitchens refitted for the 90 flats. The external face of the scaffolding was clad in clear tarpaulins to provide protection for the render works; but due to high winds these were often ripped off as they were designed to. About £5,000 was spent on the rubber ties and during one very windy period, the Building Inspector issued a Dangerous Structure Notice as the tarpaulins were blowing on to the A12 nearby causing it to be closed. If stronger ties had been used, unacceptable forces would have been applied to the scaffold possibly leading to its collapse. Being the tallest structure in the area, many aerials were fitted on the roof and these had to be carefully worked around.

Early discussion with the Planning Dept. about colours to be used led to a request for a motif to be introduced above the entrance with a representation of a fish to show the local connection to herring fishing. However, the suggested motif reminded me of spermatozoa. I managed to convince it was not a good idea!

Whilst I reflect nostalgically, I’m not sure I would want to be part of the construction industry now. Times move on and some of us get left behind!

Geri