Thursday, 28 May 2009

Three days after

Well, I have been Miss Super-efficient and have done all the most vital things to get poor Dad decently sent off.

The coroner is now satisfied, I have the death certificate, the funeral is arranged, the flowers are arranged, I've discussed the order of ceremony with the Humanist who will officiate, the catering decisions are taken, and I've spoken to the chap who does his garden, to keep things going there. I haven't yet managed to ask his cleaning lady to do one last clean, but there's still time.

The closest relatives have been informed, I've spoken to Dad's neighbours, but I still have to get in touch with his old friends. Again, there's still time.

When Mum died earlier this year, Dad and I shared the work. He did the phoning and typed the letters for my signature. I ran around in the car and saw whoever needed to be seen. Much more for me to do personally this time, and fewer days to do it in. Never mind.

After the funeral, there are many letters to be written and I must get Probate. I'll be ready for another holiday soon!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Coping

I've been busy today, and that helps a lot. I have admittedly been tearful from time to time, but as always purposeful activity does stave off dispondency.

I have spoken to the coroner, seen the funeral director, and had a word with the chap who will conduct the Humanist funeral service. I have also phoned those friends and relatives who must be contacted first. It's an encouraging start.

Now Dad has died

It's 1am. The police have just come to my door and broken the news that Dad has died of a heart attack at home. The police said he tried to phone for an ambulance, but they found him dead. He's been removed to the local undertaker's, and the coroner will phone me in the morning. That's Mum, Dad and my only brother all gone. No immediate family left at all.

I'm on my own here. I've spoken to my partner, who was wonderful, but it's too late at night to contact anybody else. There's nothing I can do just now except cry.

I last saw Dad three days ago. We had lunch. He was all right then. I was going to phone him earlier this evening. I forgot. We'll never speak again.

Why a heart attack? What brought it on? Was it grief at Mum's death only three months back? Worry over my transition? Or just old age? He was 88.

Isn't it a bit bloody sad that the only thing I can do is post this. But I have to do something.

I don't think I can write anything else.

Friday, 22 May 2009

The end of isolation, and a new determination

Hot on the heels of yesterday's magic moment in Specsavers has come another development of immense significance.

My sister-in-law phoned me, and in the course of that conversation gave me her unqualified support in my trans endeavours. I don't think there was any misunderstanding: she realises that this is something I've got to do, that it looks completely selfish but is necessary for my personal wellbeing and development, that stopping the show and trying to live as I used to will just drive me mad, that it will all take a long time, and that when I have gone as far as I want to down the trans route, I need to have people there to welcome me back.

What a weight off my mind. I have an ally who is not judging me. I'm not facing all this completely isolated from anyone who sympathises. I'm so grateful to her. I hadn't thought that my sister-in-law would have understood, but after all, we have known each other for thirty-four years and she coped with my late brother's problems. He wasn't trans, but he still presented her with huge difficulties. I was wrong not to approach her. And perhaps I'm wrong about other people that I've been slow to contact. I've assumed they would be cold. I haven't given them a chance. I've been rather a coward, haven't I?

Being trans isn't a crime. Yes, it devastates your partner, and may challenge everyone close to you, but it isn't a crime. It's not something to be ashamed about, or to be punished for.

It's not a lifestyle choice either. Who would risk losing absolutely everything dear to them, just for the sake of wearing some nice things? In any case you don't choose this. You discover it. And then you know instantly and irrevocably that you are not what you thought, and can never now be what you thought. Even if you do nothing, you can never be the same as you were. It's not unlike realising for the first time that you have some extraordinary talent or ability. What do you do about it? Sit on it? Deny it expression? Wouldn't that eat away at your heart, and destroy you, little by little? But we are not talking about a genius for playing the violin to concert standard, or having the voice of an angel.

Being trans is not a philosophy, nor a doctrine. There's no creed, no theory, nothing to argue about. You can't be talked into it, or out of it. It's a mental state, entirely about how you feel, what you are really comfortable with, what the essential 'you' is.

I am so glad that someone recognises that this condition is important and must be addressed properly. Being trans is basically a misfortune, but there is a remedy, albeit one that involves changes that most would not contemplate. I also like to think that those changes may, if managed well, lead to life-enhancing opportunities. I don't want to do it all in a hole-in-the-wall way, at odds with everyone, or at haphazard. I want steady development, with a sensible programme of treatment overseen by my doctor and other professionals. I want to be monitored. I want to feel there are friends and family around me, who may be concerned about me, but who are nevertheless on my side and will be there for me if I need help. I will constantly question my own motivation. But I do claim the right to determine my own course, and I want everyone to realise that I am doing this because I actually prefer to be trans, and not because someone has told me to be.

I am amazed how few people will accept that a person in their late fifties - myself - who has had a reasonably good career and several successes in their life, cannot know their own mind. Sure, I am going through a rather hedonistic, self-indulgent, immature regression while I explore those aspects of myself which have never before had enough expression. That will pass. And when I am tired of merely having a good time I will address more substantial matters. Meanwhile I haven't lost sight of my responsibilities: Dad, for instance.

This is beginning to read like a manifesto. It's not meant to be. But my sister-in-law has raised me out of lake of gloom, and I don't feel afraid any more.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

A golden moment

I had an eye test today at Specsavers opticians in Brighton. I'm pleased to report that not only are my eyes healthy but, conveniently, they are growing more alike in their optical performance - that is, both long-sighted to much the same extent, apart from individual astigmatisms.

I needed new lenses, and it was time to have to give the old frames the heave-ho. They were a legacy from my office days some while back (I retired suddenly and super-early in 2005) and, well, they may have been right for a sober civil servant of thirty-five continuous years' service but they weren't at all right for a trendy girl about town. Besides, one of the lenses kept on popping out, and the frames were clearly out of shape, though I don't remember sitting on them. Anyway, after the eye test I had a good long perusal of the frames on offer, making full use of the mirrors. I decided that I'd go for a semi-rimless, white-and-chrome look - not to match my nobile phone, though this will be true, but because dark frames really would be too heavy for my face. I want people to notice my eyes and eyebrows, not my glasses. The Specsavers deal was 'buy these, and choose another for free with the same prescription', and so I intended to have some sunglasses as well. The main frames are now in the pipeline, and once I'm used to the new lenses I'll go back and choose the sunglasses.

The staff at Specsavers couldn't have been more pleasant. They had me down as 'Lucy Melford' and first to last treated me the same as anyone else there, which was with courtesy, smiles, and helpful suggestions. Their staff training must be spot on, but maybe it was really down to the good nature of the staff themselves. My own appearance, Prada bag and all, didn't raise the slightest eyebrow, and there seemed to be nothing forced or hesitant about anyone's manner. So full marks, Specsavers, and if there's a Brighton Chamber of Commerce Award up for grabs, you have my endorsement.

But wait for the icing on the cake, the golden moment that made my day. As I paid at the till with my credit card, the magic phrase 'That'll be £335.00, Miss Melford' was uttered. Miss Melford! Never been called that by anyone before. Wheeee. I could hardly remember my PIN. It was all I could do to remain cool, with body language that tried to say, 'I'm called Miss Melford all the time, don't you know. No big deal at all. I hardly ever think of it'. Exit one exultant tranny, stage left.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Brighton Festival and Fringe events

Most people in the UK will have heard of the Edinburgh Festival. Down in the south we have the similar Brighton Festival, which runs for most of May, with numerous cultural happenings ranging from formal artistic exhibitions to off-the-wall comedians in tiny rooms upstairs in pubs. The latter is part of the Fringe programme - a festival within a festival, which describes itself as 'the third largest open access arts festival in the world' with 'more than 600 shows at 200 venues over three weeks'. Pretty impressive? Some of these performances are a hoot. We (that is, myself and two trans friends) went to one where the five actors endeavoured to improvise two plays in genres chosen by the audience (romantic, action, horror, sci-fi and so on). So in each case the basic play had to morph into Gone With The Wind, James Bond, Dracula or Star Wars, depending the audience's choice. The audience were also invited to determine the first and last lines spoken, these things obviously having an enormous influence on the plot. It must have been very difficult for the actors, with no time to confer or rehearse, doing it all on the fly, right in front of an audience sitting only a few feet away. They worked hard, and deserved their applause, especially as the audience barely outnumbered the cast. But then that's the essence of Fringe events: small and intimate in every way. Some are of course much better attended. A few days earlier, we saw a performance of Sarah Kane's 4:48 Psychosis in a large tent in a pub garden. It had a cast of twelve, and maybe a hundred people watched. The place was packed. This wasn't comedy, though it had its wry moments. I came away feeling better educated about what it means to have a mental illness. It wasn't depressing, although Sarah Kane never wrote anything else, killing herself soon after finishing the play. You did wonder what part her treatment played in that. This was a polished production, and yet many of the cast were new to acting. And I suppose that's another point to make about Fringe events: they showcase fledgling talent. It doesn't matter if your act is a little rough and ready; you get a chance to try out something daring and fresh in front of a relaxed audience who aren't expecting a West End performance. A lot of the comedy is very dark indeed: on yet another occasion, we were entertained by a comic who was frankly relating how he came to overdose in a suicide bid. He survived, and worked it up into something worth listening to, and rather funny.

All in all, I think my eyes have been opened somewhat. Theatre doesn't have to be a big name in a posh venue doing Richard III at ludicrous seat prices.

My Flickr site is about to be weeded

If you haven't yet taken a butchers at my Flickr site, then now would be a good time to see it before I thin it out considerably to make way for a few of my best cruise shots - Lisbon, Rome, Florence, and so forth. I haven't quite yet finished the enormous job of editing those 1,400-odd shots. I'm not lazy, I love processing what I take, but think about it: one minute minimum to correct tilt, crop, and caption each shot; 1,400 minutes needed, which is over 23 hours; at 2 hours a day, that's at least 11 continuous days to complete the job, and I do have a life, you know, and I haven't been able to edit every day. So it's not all that surprising that it's already taken over two weeks. The alternative is to take the laptop on holiday and spend the best part of each evening on the day's collection. I did that when in New Zealand in 2007, and sitting alone at the front end of a campervan for 50 nights is one of my less inspiring abiding memories of NZ. But I took 6,000 pictures of my own, and my partner added the same amount from her camera. It was the only way to keep on top of it all. We did wonder whether some of these shots, plus our notes and my partner's journal, might form the basis for a book. We went everywhere motorable, both islands, top to toe. But NZ is not particularly exotic anymore, a lot of people have been there, and the number of books on NZ in the shops is already enormous. A saturated market. So I doubt whether we will ever publish. A pity. But while the slight possibility exists, neither of us want to put anything antipodean on Flickr.

Ah, I can blog again to my heart's content

The major reason for my silence since returning from the cruise in early May has been not having full-time access to my PC. Now I have. I suppose it means a lot more nights with very little sleep!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Sorry for the lack of postings!

I was away almost all of April - two weeks caravanning in Pembrokeshire and the Gower, followed closely by two weeks on a cruise with Dad. I've been following my favourite blogs on my Nokia phone, but it's not really feasible to post anything unless sat at a PC. Not that I have any news to compare with, say, Rebecca's or Debbie's. Just now I'm trying to edit some 1,400 photos of Portugal, Gibraltar, Italy and Spain, and must complete this before my partner returns on 11 May with her own batch - she went with her brother and his wife to Viet Nam and Cambodia, a kind of consolation holiday, although I must say I was wistful. But the cruise in the Med was excellent, and although I've not much of a tan, it did at least stay dry (sorry, Jessica). I'd never before been to Rome and Florence, and I did it unescorted and unleashed. Italy has won my heart. I want to go back NOW.

Socially I found cruising very interesting, particularly as I did it dressed up as a man. I think I passed as a male rather well, despite the long hair and the Prada bag - no, not the expensive black leather one, a 'cheap' white fabric Prada shoulder bag I bought at their shop in the Via Condotti in Rome. Anyway, more on it all as time permits.