Lay on a merry spread
The ability to change gender is a feature of our age. The first pioneering reassignment surgery (male to female) occurred in Berlin in 1930. In the 21st century, such operations are routine.
Beginning with Christine Jorgenson’s autobiographical article The Story of my Life in 1953, there have been many memoirs of
Raise blades on your lawn mower – longer grass is better able to withstand drought (should the promised long, hot summer arrive).
Plant flowers for bees and other pollinators, such as echinacea, echinops, lavender, Michaelmas daisies, salvias, solidago, and penstemons. Good herbs for the bees include basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
Sweet peas (like other legumes) flower best if picked regularly and often… the more you pick, the more they flower.
Pop in annuals to fill any gaps in the flower border. Or sow direct fast-growing, late-flowering hardy ones, such as alyssum, calendula, clarkia, cosmos, godetia, marigolds, nigella, and zinnia.
Mulch flower beds with compost or pea straw to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Tulips and hyacinths will benefit from a mulch to help keep the soil cool. Or lift the bulbs and store in a dry, cool place till replanting in autumn.
Keep deadheading roses and water deeply to ensure a second flush of blooms. When picking roses for the vase, make the cut just above a five-fingered leaf – and summer-prune the shrub at the same time! In repeat and continuous-blooming varieties, this will help ensure a great display into autumn. male to female reassignment. There have been fewer first-person histories of female to male transitions. Thomas Page McBee is one of the recent writers who is reshaping social views.
Born a woman, McBee is now a married man and a journalist. His second memoir, Amateur: A True Story About What Makes A Man uses his participation in a charity boxing match at Madison Square Garden in New York as a pretext to untangle the links between masculinity and violence. It is an approachable and thoughtful account.
Injecting himself with testosterone each month, McBee is physically familiar with the chemical basis of gender. As a consequence of his hormone shots, he has a beard and a masculine body shape. Testosterone has also forced him to confront male violence: how much is hormonal, and how much is culturally instilled?
Amateur, however, is not simply McBee’s story. He works out and trains in two New York City gyms. His book is often the story of men together. They compete. They share. They teach. His sparring partners, trainers, friends and the worlds they inhabit are acutely observed.
Feed delphiniums with weak liquid fertiliser. Stake tall perennials to prevent wind damage to flower spikes.
Prune deciduous magnolias once in full leaf.
Feed indoor plants with a liquid plant food or a slow-release fertiliser, and step up watering.
Organise bird netting for berry fruits and cherries.
Plant out pumpkins, giving them rich soil, sun, moisture and plenty of space – one plant could (all going well) take up to three square metres.
Plant aubergines, cucumbers, melons, peppers, and cucumbers in rich soil in a warm, sunny, sheltered spot.
Water fruit trees deeply and regularly to encourage good-size fruit. Summer prune excess growth on pipfruit trees to contain growth and control tree size. As well, selective tip pruning of lateral branches improves the next year’s crop.
Summer-prune new gooseberry bushes. Aim for an open bush by removing the weakest inwardfacing branches.
Keep the base of fruit trees weed free – weeds compete with other plants for nutrients and moisture and, in extreme cases, light and airflow. They can also harbour pests and diseases. Remove weeds by hand then spread a 5cm layer of organic mulch – such as pea straw, compost or leaf mould – around the root zone but away from the trunk. Mulches also help the soil retain moisture. – Mary Lovell-Smith
So too is McBee’s wife, Jess, with her doubts and affirmations. The story of their relationship is a vital undercurrent to the book. Her belief in ‘‘the person beneath rather than the appearance’’ is a practical take-home message.
McBee’s status as an outsider – where only a few people know his real story and his birth-gender – means he sees things in the world of boxing that others would not. His personal history requires an awareness of expectations and interactions that open up fresh perspectives in an old debate.
While Amateur goes to authorities in the fields of gender and aggression for information, it is also willing to debate their views.
McBee’s memoir is a paced and suspenseful reading experience. With its focus on preparations for a competition and the final event itself, the book becomes more than an exploration of gender. The fleshy thuds of Madison Square Garden’s boxing arena are translated onto the page.
In an era where gender has become such a triggering subject, Amateur provides a refreshing alternate version. It is a book which ably demonstrates how central the debate is to modern life – and how little it should really matter. – David Herkt
Salmon tartare with cucumber & wasabi, left. Spiced cherry & cider compote is delicious with cider-glazed ham.
Leave grass longer, so it is able to withstand drought.