Gone Bananas – Day 6

Today was the last day of the GoBananas challange. I’m pleased to say that I reached my target of raising £350 for One25, but they can always do with more and the donation page will remain open for a few days if you are so inclined.

Here’s today’s menu.

Brunch – French Toast

One of the things I love about Canada is getting breakfast at Eggspectation. Here’s my version of their French Toast. Spread cream cheese on one side of your brioche. Make a sandwich with chopped strawberries and banana, with the cheese outside. Dip the sandwich into a mix of egg, cream, vanilla & cinnamon. Fry in butter. Top with remaining fruit, walnuts, whipped cream, maple syrup. It is fantastically yummy.

Smoothie – Banana & Blueberry

Banana, frozen blueberries, coconut milk, and surprisingly a little cocoa powder. Not sure why the cocoa is there, or whether it has any benefit. Lovely colour though.

Dinner – Nachos with Banana Guacamole

Somewhat to my surprise, avocado and banana go very well together. Also this was an excuse to end the challenge with something nice and spicy. Basically just substitute ripe banana for half of the avocado in your guacamole recipe. Enjoy, and thank you for staying with me though this.

Gone Bananas – Day 5

Almost there now. Just one day to go.

I’m currently up to 79% of my target for the One25 fundraiser. Hopefully I can make it to 100% by 5:00pm tomorrow. You can help.

Breakfast – Pancakes Revisited

This is a more traditional pancake dish: just topped with banana, caramel and cream. Why not maple syrup, I hear you ask? Well partly as I have a lot of caramel to use up after making the banoffee pie, and partly because I am saving the best to last. Tomorrow we pull out all the stops.

Smoothie – Banana & Orange Revisited

As I stuffed up the breakfast smoothie yesterday I decided to get an orange and try again. It didn’t change the taste much, and it definitely doesn’t produce the bright yellow colour in the recipe book. I suspect yellow food colouring.

Lunch – Bread Machine Banana Bread & Sweet Plantain Chips

Having done banana bread in my cake maker, I decided to try doing it in the bread machine instead. I found a recipe online that was supposedly for my make of machine. Reader, it did not work. I ended up with a crust full of liquid banana mash. Clearly an issue with the balance of ingredients. Still, can’t win ‘em all. I have plenty of banana-based food I can be eating up for lunch.

That included the sweet variety of the plantain chips. No salted, obviously, and actually sweet. Unusual. Maybe needs chili.

Smoothie – Banana & Cucumber

Cucumbers are just water in a green coat, right? Well maybe not. This smoothie has banana, cucumber, pineapple and lime, plus ice. It is the pineapple and cucumber tastes that are the most obvious. Surprisingly delicious, and green.

Dinner – Banana Peel Curry

It would be wrong to do this challenge without using a recipe by Nigella, and to my delight the Domestic Goddess came through spectacularly. Yes, you can eat banana peel. The recipe is in the Cook, Eat Repeat book. It uses cauliflower for bulk, and like all curries the paste makes a huge difference.

Verdict: absolutely amazing. Best meal I have cooked all week.

Banana Beer

Is there such a thing as banana beer? Yes! You can find it in Asda. It is nothing particularly spectacular as far as beer goes, but it is made with bananas and that does not stop it tasting of beer. And of bananas.

Banana Splits

Banana splits are dead easy, right? Just slice some bananas, top with ice cream, and slather with chocolate sauce and cream. But this is Eurovision night, so I needed to go a bit over the top. Hence this recipe, courtesy of the Hairy Bikers.

Bananas lightly fried in butter and brown sugar. Ice cream, whipped cream and hazelnuts toasted in sugar and butter to top, and a sauce made from chocolate, whipping cream, golden syrup and rum.

The presentation is harder. The bananas tend to break when being fried, and they brown a little, but the taste is so much better.

Gone Bananas – Day 4

Only two days to go now and I can stop eating bananas for a while. Today was a bit intense. Here’s the menu.

Also the usual reminder that I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday. I’m delighted to see that I’m up to 76% of my target, but there’s still a way to go. You can donate here.

Breakfast – Banana Yoghurt

Yoghurt is a regular part of many people’s breakfasts, but I make my own. I have an EasiYo yoghurt maker, which makes the process very simple. Just add water to the packet mix, follow the instructions, and leave overnight. A 1 kg batch lasts me about a week. They have loads of flavours, including banana.

Smoothie – Banana & Orange

You are getting two smoothies today, because this one is very much a breakfast drink. The recipe calls it “Top o’ the morning”. It contains banana, an orange, almond milk, cinnamon and ice. Except that I mis-read the recipe and don’t have an orange to hand so I used orange juice, which makes it rather more liquid.

Lunch – Plantain Chips

One thing I wanted to do this week was feature the banana’s lesser-known cousin, the plantain. However, I couldn’t manage to find any in the local shops, so I’ve had to settle for chips. Sadly, once they have been fried and salted, they don’t taste much different to bananas.

Smoothie – Banana & Mocha

This one has banana, chilled coffee, almond milk, almond butter, cocoa powder, ice and agave nectar. I was disappointed to discover that having agave in it did not involve actual tequila.

I’m not a big fan of iced tea/coffee, but the cocoa powder makes this. Yum.

Dinner – Orange Pecan Shrimp

We’ve done risotto, we’ve done Latin American, we’ve done curry, now it is time for something with an Asian theme to it. There’s a sauce made from orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce and cornflour, plus orange marmalade and ginger. Cook some frozen peas separately (I put them in with the rice part way through). Fry the shrimp until just pink, then reduce the heat, add the sauce, cover and cook for a few minutes. Then add the peas and banana pieces. Serve with rice and toasted chopped pecans.

Cocktail – Banana Daiquiri

Fortuitously today is International Cocktail Day. And it is Friday, so a little alcohol won’t go amiss. The classic banana cocktail is, of course, the banana daiquiri. This is made with ice, banana, rum, an orange liqueur, lime juice and sugar. Mine got made with what I had in the cupboard, which meant Kraken rum (obviously) and Cointreau Blood Orange.

Dessert – Banoffee Pie

The great thing about banoffee pie is that you can make it without cooking. The base is crushed digestive biscuits and melted butter, which needs a few hours in the fridge to set. Then cover the base with caramel, set the banana pieces into it, and cover with whipped double cream. I added some grated chocolate on the top.

It’s not the greatest looking slice in the world, but that was amazing.

Gone Bananas – Day 3

I’m back with another day’s worth of banana-themed food.

As a reminder, I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday. I’m only at 57% of my target, so I would appreciate some donations.

Breakfast – Pancakes with Banana Butter

I promised you something different with the pancakes. There are all sorts of things you can put on them, but browsing recipe sites I found mention of banana butter. I’m not a big fan of peanut butter, but surely it can be improved upon. And perhaps banana and cinnamon are just the tools I need.

So, one banana, 4 tbsps of peanut butter, and cinnamon to takes. Whiz, and stick in the fridge overnight for the flavours to develop.

Reader, my blender did not want to whiz. I guess I should have used more ripe bananas. I ended up adding a little almond milk to loosen things up.

Lunch – Banana & Mango Fruit Bar

Since the pandemic I’ve been paying more attention to the dried fruit section in Tesco because I’ve been shopping less often and don’t want to run out of fruit. This lead me to notice their fruit bars, which are something like Nakd bars. They do one in mango & banana. They also do banana bites in a yoghurt coating. Both are yummy, and very good for packed lunches. Not just for kids either.

Smoothie – Banana, Mango, Pineapple & Spinach

Here I am using up the rest of the mango from last night’s dinner, a banana, and some pineapple chunks, plus water and ice. There is a smoothie recipe in my book. It also suggests WHAT? Yes, spinach. The recipe also suggested Kale, but there are depths of hipsterness that I will not plumb.

It tastes fine, and the spinach gives it a lovely colour.

Dinner – Banana & Coconut Curry

As curries go, this is dead easy. Fry some (red) onion and garlic until brown. Add your favourite curry paste (the recipe recommended using chili, cumin, coriander, cardamon and turmeric) and fry a little more. Add cubed potato and banana chunks. Coat them in the spice mix, then add coconut milk. Cover and simmer until the potato is soft (15-20 mins). I topped it off with some desiccated coconut for effect.

This is cheap, fast and delicious. It is also, I think, vegan. I feel like I’m channelling my inner Jack Munroe here.

Dessert – Banana Fritters

Having made a very easy main course, I decided to experiment with dessert. I had to try banana fritters, right? But I don’t have a deep-far fryer, and my air fryer is not ideal for the job.

The recipe I used recommended chopping the banana and dipping the pieces consecutively into bowls containing flour, whisked egg, and a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and coconut. This quickly gets very messy. Then you fry.

My air fryer slowly moves the food around during cooking. This makes for amazing chips, but for the fritters it tended to shake off the coating.

Ah well, it tasted good, and I added some cream for effect.

Gone Bananas – Day 2

Once again, here’s the full list of today’s banana-themed menu for easy digestion.

As a reminder, I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday. They are a very wonderful charity, and I very much hope that some of you can spare some cash to help me reach my target.

Breakfast – Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are an obvious thing to have with some fruit for breakfast, but while I was gazing at the shelves in Tesco I noticed that they had banana pancakes. Clearly I had to get some. They do taste of banana, but they are a bit bland on their own so I’ll be spicing them up a bit over the week.

Lunch – Banana Chips

Who needs potatoes when you can have bananas? Yes, fried banana chips are a thing, especially in the Caribbean. You can get all sorts of flavours. I should probably have gone for the chili variety, but for today we’re doing good old ready salted.

I’m assuming that they use green bananas because they are less sweet.

Smoothie – Apple and Almond

Something a little off the wall today. This one has a banana, a green apple (peeled), almond butter (tbsp), almond milk (250 ml), and ice. Very different. Not sure I’d recommend this one, but that’s not the fault of the banana.

Dinner – Fried Fish with Mango & Banana Salsa

We’re going a little Latin American tonight. The salsa contains mango, banana, red pepper, red chili, red onion, coriander and lime juice. Maybe a little salt. The recipe was for tilapia, but I couldn’t get one so I’m making do with sea bass and hoping it is from Chile. Dust it with flour and pan fry until done. Serve with lime wedges.

Dessert – Banoffee Ice Cream

I’ll be trying my hand at a proper banoffee pie later in the week. In the meantime, whet your appetites on Ben & Jerry’s Oh My Banoffee Pie ice cream.

Gone Bananas – Day 1

I wasn’t planning on blogging about the Go Bananas! fundraiser, but it turns out that individual updates on the JustGiving site are limited to 550 characters, which will be a pain when I want to get into detail about recipes, so here I am.

As a reminder, I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday, and I would be very grateful if you could chip in a few quid.

So, day 1, and the fundraiser officially started at Noon. What have I been eating?

Lunch – Banana Bread

One of the limitations that I have in this project is that I don’t have a functional oven. I do, however, have a ridiculous collection of kitchen gadgets, including a Tefal Cake Factory. It has a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, so I gave it a try.

There’s not a lot of point giving you a detailed recipe as it will only work with the machine in question. And if you have one, you’ll already have the recipe. I will note that it is made with buckwheat flour, presumably for the slightly nutty taste.

But wait, Cheryl, why are you making bread in a cake machine? Well, because what we call banana bread isn’t really bread. At least not in the recipes I have been looking at. One of the ways in which people distinguish bread and cake is that bread is leavened with yeast, whereas cake uses baking powder. Having said that, my bread machine has a “cake” programme, so I’ll be trying a different banana bread recipe later in the week.

The Cake Factory makes cute little finger cakes as per the photo. And they have chocolate in them, which is a fine start to the week.

Smoothie – Banana & Raspberry

Bananas are a regular feature of smoothies, and now that the weather is improving I’ll be making a lot of them. Yes, of course I have a smoothie maker. Did you have to ask? It is a Nutri Ninja, for those who are interested in such things.

Normally I just throw stuff in and see how the mixture works, and that’s how I’m going to start. Banana, some frozen raspberries, plain yoghurt, and some milk, and perhaps a little honey as the raspberries can be quite tart. Blitz and drink. Yum.

Dinner – Banana Risotto

When I went looking for main course recipes I expected to find curries. I did not expect to find risottos. But Banana Risotto is apparently a thing. The recipe is standard risotto stuff. Fry some onion (or in this case shallots are better) until golden. Add some arborio rice and fry for a few more minutes. Then slowly add liquid while simmering until the rice is soft, which takes about half an hour. The liquid in this case is white wine and vegetable stock.

The recipe I used suggested adding one mashed banana half way through, and one near the end. Also added at the end was grated parmesan, which surprised me a little. Some recipes also suggested peas or mange tout, which I went for because it added much needed colour.

The banana makes the risotto quite sweet, but I was very pleased with how well it worked, especially as I’d been a bit nervous about the parmesan.

Dessert – Foam Bananas & Monkeys

I can remember from when I was much younger, that you could get weird banana-shaped and flavoured sweets. We’ll be going a bit mad with banana desserts later in the week, but for now I’m keeping it simple. Marks & Spencer provided a decent facsimile of my childhood memory. I have no idea why they are called “foam”. Farah suggested on Twitter that is is because they have the consistency of foam cushions, which I find distinctly unappetising. Thankfully the sweets did not taste of that sort of foam.

Going Bananas in May

Regular readers will remember that each May I do something stupid to raise money for the wonderful folks at One25, a Bristol-based charity that helps women so badly down on their luck that they feel they have no option but to go on the street. The challnege this year is to “go bananas”, which is a reference to something lovely that Meghan Markle did when she visited the One25 HQ a few years back.

Most of the folks at One25 are dressing as bananas for a week. It sure gets people’s attention when you are on your way to work. However, I don’t get out much. Once a week to Tesco is usually my limit. So I’m doing something different. I’m going to be cooking and eating bananas for the duration of the fund-raiser, which is May 10-15.

There will be banana splits, banana smoothies, banana yoghurt, banana bread, banana curry, banoffee pie, banana chips and anything else banana based that I can think of. I will try to get bananas into every mealtime. If you have ideas for weird banana-based food that you would like me to try, do let me know. This is supposed to be a challenge, after all.

And of course the whole point is raising money. Which means I’m hoping that some of you folks will donate. You can do so here.

Farewell to Twitter?

As most of you will know, Twitter has been sold to a private investor for an eye-popping amount of money. Again for most of you this will make very little difference, at least in the short term. However, the new owner, Elon Musk, has made it clear that one of his priorities is to restore “free speech” to the platform. This is, of course, the Libertarian version of free speech which is defined as, “I have the right to say whatever I want, you are obliged to listen to me, and you are not allowed to answer back.”

Again, in most cases, this will not affect you, because you are not in one of the minority groups to which Musk takes exception. I, however, am. Notorious transphobes have been rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of being let back onto Twitter, and the moderation system, which is already heavily biased against trans folk, will become more so. I need to have somewhere to go, because Twitter is going to become deeply hostile to the likes of me.

I note also that Musk is not the sort of person who should be in charge of a popular social media network. He likes to think that he’s Tony Stark, but actually he’s what Lex Luthor would be if Lex had to employ other people to do all the thinking for him. I think it behooves us all to make Musk’s time in charge of Twitter as unpleasant as possible. Making his purchase worthless would help a lot with that.

I won’t be going immediately because I want to download all of my tweets and delete them. That will take a while, especially as so many other people are trying to do the same thing. But I have stopped posting, and this will be the last blog post that cross-posts.

I’m not sure where I will end up. I do have a Tumblr account, but I never use it. I’ve signed up for Mastodon (same @CherylMorgan) user name, but it is horribly slow right now because the service has been deluged with new users and needs time to adapt. I am in several Discord servers, but they are all very niche. I loathe Farcebook. Instagram is owned by them, and is very much for visual people whereas I’m a words person.

I will, of course, still be here. Also not spending so much time on social media will probably be good for me.

Thank You, BSFA

The BSFA Awards were given out at Eastercon this evening. The winners are as follows:

  • Best Novel: Shards of Earth, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor
  • Best Shorter Fiction: Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard, Tor.com
  • Best Book for Younger Readers: Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao, Rock the Boat
  • Best Non-Fiction: Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Francesca T. Barbini, Luna Press Publishing
  • Best Artwork: Glasgow Green Woman, by Iain Clark, Glasgow2024

As you may recall, The Green Man’s Challenge by Juliet McKenna was a finalist in Best Novel. We are not disappointed. It was an incredibly strong field and we both loved Adrian’s book. Seeing the cover of one of my books up there on the screen list of best novels was a tremendous buzz.

You may not be aware that I had an essay in the Luna Press book that won the Non-Fiction catergory. I was one of only two contribuitors present at the ceremony (the other was Allen Stroud) so Francesca kindly made a fuss of us in her speech. All of the other contributors are awesome too, and we are sad that you could not be there. My essay was the one on queer animals, which grew out of my keynote address at the University Of Graz worldbuilding conference back in 2019. So in addition to thanking Francesca, my fellow contributors, and the voters, I should also thank the folks in Graz who first inspired me to do this work.

Here is my tip for the day. If you are going to win an award, do so in the company of someone who gets as excited about it as Francesa. She’s wonderful, and thoroughly deserves all of the success that her litle company is getting.

Officially SFWA

I have done a thing and signed up for SFWA. That may seem weird given that I am banned from entering the USA, but the organisation is looking to become more international. They’ve also made significant changes to their eligibility requirements of late. Technically I’m eligible for full membership, but most of that income happened decades ago under my deadname and I have no proof of how much I was paid. I might also be eligible for Associate, except a significant part of my fiction income has come from Wizard’s Tower anthologies and I’m not going to count that even though I am sure Jo & Roz would have told me if my stories were not good enough. Non-fiction sales don’t count. But with one or two more fiction sales I’ll be able to upgrade to Associate and then you can all pester me to vote for you in the Nebulas.

A Weekend in Wales

Last weekend I finally managed to attend one of the writing retreats run by Jo Hall and Roz Clarke. It was held on what is basically a large farm near where Roz & Jo have their own farm. Details here.

The format of these retreats is very flexible, depending on who attends. Jo & Roz are very happy to do workshop type things if people want them, or they can do individual tuition, or they can just let us get on and write. This time turned out to be mostly the latter.

My own situation was that I had several story ideas that just needed time to turn into prose. I ended up writing two short stories, or at least producing first drafts thereof. Other attendees also seemed very busy and produced lots of words. I think we all went away happy.

I would have got more done had I not needed to spend part of Saturday in Carmarthen, but that was worthwhile too. That included a lovely run along the B4300 which follows the course of the River Tywi for much of its length. Sadly there are not many places to stop, and the one I did find had the view obscured by trees. (Sorry, Nicola).

The farm didn’t intrude much on us, though I will note that geese are indeed horrible (to everyone, but especially to large cats). Also the call of a peacock sounds very much like that of a cat in extreme pain.

Anyway, it was fun. Hopefully I can go again soon. Being away from the world for 4 days (wifi is very limited at the farm) was great.

Coronavirus – Day #642

Hello again from Plague Island. This is your latest report on the campaign of the Tory Party kill off all of the poor, unfit, brown, queer, old and otherwise undesirable elements of the population. How are they doing?

Well, the infection rate has taken a sharp tumble from the dizzy heights of early January, but it appears to have stabilised at around 1% of the population being infected at any one time, which would have been a record at any time prior to the arrival of Omicron.

Meanwhile the government has been busy. Yesterday four of Bozo’s senior aides resigned. One more followed this morning. Also yesterday the First Minister for Northern Ireland announced his resignation in despair at the mess Brexit has made of his country. Bozo announced that he had actually fired all of these people and that he was “taking back control”.

Also today there was a report that staff are leaving the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission in significant numbers. “It was as if Baroness Falkner and the Board wanted people who actually cared about human rights to leave,” said one ex-staff member. Falkner was appointed to head the organisation by Liz Truss, apparently with a specific mission to take away trans people’s civil rights, and to rubbish the idea that things such as racism and Islamophobia could exist.

Truss, when she is not busy campaigning to take over Bozo’s job while professing total loyalty to him, is planning to host a major LGBT+ Rights conference in London this summer. Business leaders believe that she is hoping to close some major trade deals for exporting the majority of the UK’s LGBT+ population to other countries.

Fear not, though, dear readers, all is not lost. Bozo has come up with a brilliant plan for defeating the Coronavirus. He is going to stop publishing data on cases. That way no one will ever contract the disease in the UK again, let alone die of it. He is understandably proud of his genius.

New in the Sidebar

The eagle-eyed among you (assuming that anyone actually still reads this) may have noticed something new in the sidebar of this site. It is a little badge saying that I am a member of the Society of Authors. This is a UK organisation, and unlike SFWA it caters to authors of all sorts. I note that Joanne Harris and Juliet McKenna are both members of the elected Management Committee, and Joanne is currently the chair of that group, so I’m well connected.

Some of you are doubtless scratching your heads and wondering why a professional association of writers would let in someone whose fiction is as poor as mine, but that’s not why I joined, and presumably not why I was accepted. I’m doing a lot of history writing these days, some of it for books from mainstream publishers. The academic stuff tends to be unpaid, but it does lead to speaking gigs and those are often paid. Talks have to be written.

The main reason I wanted to join is because the Society provides good value professional indemnity insurance which is geared specifically towards writers, and writers who do public appearances. Given that some of the people I do talks for now have contracts asking me to indemnify them against a whole range of risks, and given the ever increasing litigious nature of the anti-trans lobby, insurance is essential.

Anyway, I now a professional writer of a sort. Which is nice. Even if it doesn’t make me a lot of money.

Another Year, Eh?

Well, that was 2021. And from the look of things we can expect more of the same in 2022. A surprising amount of good things happened to me despite the pandemic. I’m not going to complain, but equally I’m not looking forward with any confidence. In the last 7 days over 1 million people in the UK have contracted COVID. That’s more than 1% of the population. Thankfully for a lot of people it will be very mild because they are vaccinated, but hospital admission rates are rising rapidly.

I should be going to get food some time next week, but actual shopping seems pretty dangerous so I have signed up for the “click and collect” service from Tesco, which means I just have to drive up to a collection point in the car park, grab my stuff, and leave again. I am fully vaccinated, but as a trans person in the UK I can’t trust the NHS to take care of me the way they would anyone else, so it is maximum isolation for me.

As far as 2022 goes, I’m just planning on doing the day jobs, and making books. Hopefully I will also get a chance to do some good trans history. Here’s hoping that you folks have things to do that make you happy as well.

If you were expecting a new Salon Futura, it is mostly done, and will be finished this evening, but there’s no point in putting it live then because you folks all have better things to be doing than reading my fanzine. It will appear tomorrow.

Happy Solstice!


As usual, my holiday card this year is by my talented friend, Dru Marland. This picture is titled, “Fox on Pickle Hill”, and Juliet McKenna fans will note that I picked it specifically because it features some of the chalk figures from the Wiltshire landscape. These also play a key role in The Green Man’s Challenge.

This particular image is currently unavailable as a card from Dru’s shop. I’m guessing that she has run out of stock. But it does feature in her 2022 Wildlife Calendar which looks an excellent thing to have.

May you all have a very happy holiday season, and in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy the return of shorter and warmer days. (Sorry Aussie pals, but you are thumping us at cricket so we need something to cheer us up.)

Those of you who celebrate the Solstice will be able to follow the sunset alignment at Maeshowe in Orkney via the broadcast below. It starts at 15:00 today.

Coronavirus – Day #623

Omicron has arrived in the UK. How do I know that? Well the peak number of daily new cases last winter was over 70,000. The last three days have all exceeded that, with today being a whopping 88,000. And this time there is pretty much nothing being done to stop it, save for the government exhorting us all to get vaccinated.

The good news is that I had my booster on Monday. It was a Pfizer, whereas the previous two had been AstraZenica. Other than a sore arm and feeling a bit tired I’ve had no side effects. The theory is that if I catch the Rona then I’ll survive it. In practice, given my medical history and the likelihood of my being discriminated against in a hospital, my chances are not good. I’ll be isolating as much as I can.

I do need to do one more food shop before the holidays, but that will be tomorrow and hopefully it will be good for three weeks.

The other good news is that hospitalisations are around a quarter of what they were last winter. That’s because vaccines work. Most of the new cases are less serious. How things will pan out when the number of new cases is well over 100,000 a day and climbing remains to be seen.

There is a parliamentary by election tomorrow. Despite the utterly awful record of the current government, the expectation is that the Tories will win, because the other two major parties are far too busy fighting each other. We may get rid of Bozo soon, but only because Tory MPs are bleating about loosing their Freedumb by being asked to wear a mask, or show evidence of vaccination before going to a football match. Whoever replaces him is likely to be worse, because there isn’t anyone better in the running for the job.

Happy Holidays from Plague Island.

Coronavirus – Day #567

This is about the time when I’d be telling you about my programming assignments for BristolCon and World Fantasy. However, I have no idea whether I will be at either of them.

Here’s the problem. COVID infections have been rising rapidly in the UK over the last couple of weeks. We are now over 50,000 new cases every day. For comparison, that’s roughly where we were at Christmas last year.

The government says that it is not worried, because the death rate is very low. It is just over 100 a day, which compares very well to the over 600 a day we were seeing last Christmas. Vaccines work. Of course 100 deaths a day is still horrific, but the government is very happy with it. Their ideology states that anyone who dies was obviously weak and not worth saving.

So a death rate of 100 a day isn’t going to result in any change in government policy. Probably 200 a day won’t either. But that’s not the number I’m watching. The key indicator is the number of people admitted to hospital, because that tells you whether the NHS is likely to be overloaded. That number has been rising steeply through October, and is roughly tracking the level we had last winter. That’s not good.

It doesn’t help that the situation here in the South West is far worse than the national average. This is in large part because one of the testing labs that serves the region had been discovered to be returning a large number of false negatives. This is apparrently what happens when you hand out government contracts on the basis of who you know and how much they donate to Tory Party funds, rather than their ability to do the job. Anyway, lots of people around here who had COVID were told they didn’t, and as a result infections have skyrocketed.

Right now the government is trying to bluster its way through the situation. They insist that there is nothing to worry about. This is rather like when a football club says that it has total confidence in the manager. You know that a dramatic u-turn is coming soon.

There’s also the attitude of other countries to consider. Morocco closed its borders to the UK last night. Other countries are likely to follow suit in the coming weeks. Canada might be one of them.

I’m still planning to go to both conventions, but anything could happen between now and the end of the month.

Life on Transphobia Island

It is fairly well known now that the UK has become one of the most transphobic countries in the world. We aren’t as bad as places like Russia or Hungary yet, but the situation is not good. Most of you will probably think that the bulk of the problem is lack of reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and the constant flow of anti-trans propaganda in the mainstream media. Some of you may be aware that there is now around a 5 year waiting list to get a first appointment at a UK gender clinic, and that in five years time that delay will be much longer. These are the things that hit the headlines, but they are not all that is going on. Behind the scenes, much worse is happening.

I’m writing this post today because today is the first time that I have resorted to ordering medication over the internet. I’m hoping that I won’t have to use it, and there are some helpful people within the NHS who are trying to get me a new hormone prescription. But without the cooperation of a GP local to me they will probably fail.

The GP services in the UK are currently organised through things called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). There are lots of these around the country. While patients have a free choice of GPs within their local CCG, it is difficult to get care from anywhere else. A recent survey by Gender GP has discovered that 83% of CCGs in England do not have any policy in place regarding healthcare for trans people. That doesn’t necessarily mean no treatment. If you have a friendly GP whom you have know for years they will probably still prescribe. But increasingly GP services are run through large, multi-doctor surgeries where you never see the same doctor twice, and without an official trans healthcare policy from their CCG they will probably refuse treatment.

Note that I’m not asking for anything highly specialist here. The gender transition process is still handled by Gender Identity Clinics. But if, like me, you have had your gonads removed, you need an alternative source of hormones to stay healthy. In theory I should be getting a regular prescription of oestrogen. In practice GPs refuse to prescribe, even though they know I will get quite ill without it.

There are parts of the country that are not so bad. There’s that 17% of CCGs that do have a trans policy. Plus, if you happen to live in London, Manchester, Brighton or Liverpool there are specialist GP services you can go to. But for much of England there is a huge problem.

You might think that, in such a situation, someone in private practice would leap in to take advantage, but that doesn’t happen. I’ve tried three private GP services, including BUPA. All three said that they would not accept a trans person as a patient. Anyone who sets up in private practice specifically to help trans people is quickly hounded out of business by the medical authorities.

So healthcare is a problem, but a potentially far worse one is the removal of trans people’s civil rights through changes in police policy. The UK now has elected Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for each local force. In England, inevitably, the majority of these are Conservatives. Recently there has been a coordinated push by these people to redefine the law as it applies to trans women. In a recent post on the right-wing website, Conservative Home, several PCCs stated their opposition to trans rights, and to the LGBT+ charity, Stonewall.

The reason for the complaints against Stonewall is that their training on the Equality Act correctly explains that trans women can only be excluded from “women-only” spaces if there is a good reason for doing so. This is in line with the official guidance regarding the Act produced by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Earlier this year an anti-trans lobby group spent a large amount of money to bring a court case demanding a judicial review of the EHRC guidance. The claimed that, under the Act, trans women should always be excluded from women-only spaces. The judge described their argument as “absurd” and “wrong in law”. Nevertheless, the media continues to put forward this anti-trans position as if it is fact, and now several PCCs have done so too.

The most extreme example is Philip Wilkinson, the PCC for Wiltshire, which happens to be where I live. He stated that he does not believe that “biological men” should be allowed into women-only spaces. The term, “biological men” is a favourite of anti-trans campaigners. Its meaning varies quite a bit. Some people say it means people with a Y chromosome, others that it means people who do not have ovaries, and others also want to exclude anyone with above average levels of testosterone in their body. But all of them agree that the term absoutely excludes all trans women.

Currently in the UK the Gender Recognition Act allows trans people to change their legal gender. That should allow them to be treated as an ordinary person of that gender in almost all circumstances. Equally, the Equality Act says that it is illegal to discrimiate against a person on the grounds that they have undergone, are undergoing or plan to undergo gender reassignment. By saying that he will bar trans women from women-only spaces, Mr Wilkinson is saying that he wants the police under his command to ignore the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act, and to act with prejudice against any trans women they encounter.

Of course this is illegal, but if there is one thing that the current government in the UK has shown it is that they have no respect for the law, and believe that they can break it with impunity whenever they wish. The same is apparently true of Conservative PCCs. And while a trans woman who is arrested for using a toilet, or trying to buy clothes, might eventually have her day in court and win, that won’t make up for the trauma of the experience.

It is probably no accident that Mr Wilkinson’s statement was quickly followed up by the launch of a campaign by Wiltshire Police to target “sex offenders”. How they are likley to be able to spot potential rapists before they commit any rapes is a bit of a mystery. But it is axiomatic amongst the anti-trans movement that they “can always tell” if someone is trans, and Mr Wilkinson clearly believes that all trans women are, by definition, sex offenders. It is pretty obvious who the Wiltshire police will be on the lookout for.

Sadly the “we can always tell” manta is nonsense. The vast majority of people who get harrassed in public toilets and other women-only spaces on suspicion of being trans are cisgender women. They might have short hair and a fairly masculine style of dress; they might be wearing a wig for some innocent reason; or their might have lost their breasts to cancer. Many trans women are quite safe in comparison, but it doesn’t feel that way when you know that you are being hunted by the police.

So yeah, life here on Transphobia Island is not much fun right now. My advice to young trans people is to get out if you possibly can. It will get worse before it gets better.

Coronavirus – Day #503

Gosh, I went over 500 days and didn’t even notice. The pandemic has become a way of life.

Of course I would have been more likely to notice if I’d be posting about other things more often. Its not that nothing is happening in my life. It is partly that I’m very busy, and partly because most of what is happening in my life is stuff I can’t talk about.

Some of that, however, is Wizard’s Tower stuff. Look out for some exciting announcements soon. Including, of course, the new Green Man book.

Meanwhile we all try to get used to living with the virus. Last Friday I had dinner with friends in Bath. I traveled by train, and I took one of those home tests the day before, just in case. The tests are horrible to do, but much better than infecting your friends.

In theory, life should ramp up more in September. I have a couple of work things in London I should go to, and there’s FantasyCon at the end of the month. Then I look at the virus stats and worry. There was a huge spike in the UK due to the football, and a drop again once the tournament was over. But now cases are rising steadily again. Over 100 people are dying every day. Its only likely to get worse over the winter. Is it wise to go anywhere? I really don’t know.

Coronavirus – Day #466

It is a time for experiment here on Plague Island. For the few weeks we have been running an experiment involving huge crowds at sporting events, and large numbers of people getting very drunk and running around the streets. That is set to continue throughout the summer, though probably with not quite the same level of drunkeness and violence now that the football is over.

As of this time next week, pretty much all COVID restrictions in England will be removed. We are apparently still encouraged to wear masks in high risk locations such as on public transport, but it won’t be mandatory and the government is crowing about it being “Freedom Day” so lots of people will doubtless stop doing it.

In view of this you will doubtless expect that the pandemic is well under control here and all of the danger indicators are at very low levels. You would be exactly wrong.

Today we had almost 34,500 new cases of COVID and are now over 300 cases per 100,000 people. The rate is rising fast. Hospitalisations are now shooting up, with over 550 today. Deaths are still quite low — only 6 today — but everything will ramp up as the restrictions come off. The good news is that last time we had this many infections the death rate was over 600/day. Clearly the vaccines are having a major effect on the lethality of the disease. But government scientists are apparently predicting we could get up to as many as 200 deaths per day in the near future.

Bozo is telling us that this is a risk we must take for the good of the economy. It is very much a case of, “You people must die so that my share prices can remain high.”

Technically I still have in-person conventions planned for September and October, and I’d still love to get to Canada for World Fantasy in November. I have no idea what will happen with any of them, though I suspect that the Canada trip will be the least likely because other countries will not want people from the UK visiting them.

For comparison, the UK had the second highest number of COVID cases of any country in the world today. Only Indonesia had more. I believe that we have more cases per day than the rest of Europe combined. I would love to be heading to Rome this week to enjoy Eurocon and to congratulate my Italian friends on their victory in the football, but that isn’t going to be possible.