Monday, 27 July 2009

Kentisbeare: angels and tears

I went to Kentisbeare this afternoon. Dad was a boy here, from young childhood to late teens, from about 1926 to 1936. It was a pretty remote country village in his day. There was a bus; but no cars except one driven by a local army major. People walked or rode; not very many had bicycles.

This wasn’t my first visit. I had made the journey several times over the last thirty years. The last occasion was in 1998, when Dad was only 77 and able to walk in fair comfort without a stick. I have a photo of him then, near the former Ponchydown Inn up at Blackborough, standing tall, looking down upon a vast sunny panorama with Kentisbeare at its heart. More than once in the year before his recent death I suggested that we make one last trip to this place that featured so large in his childhood. He liked the idea, but the effort was a lot to contemplate. So we never actually did it. But I could now do it on my own, as a kind of pilgrimage.

The village was much the same. More signs of modernity here and there, but the square in the middle was unchanged. As you came down the hill from The Honest Heart (now a private house, but once a pub of that name) there was the village stores on the right, the Wyndham Arms pub on the left, and the old tree in the centre, with its spreading branches. Further down on the left was the lych gate to the churchyard, where I parked.

I had a look at the gravestones first, then entered the church. I had it entirely to myself. The church at Kentisbeare is rather special is several ways. Outside it has that tall, chequered tower. Inside it has not only a painted gallery from the time of Charles I, when young, but a delicately carved wooden screen across the full width of the nave, an exuberant virtuoso performance from a team of carvers in the time of Henry VII that completely dominates the interior of the church. How it survived the seventeenth century is a mystery. But it is a most handsome adornment to a noble building. There are also numerous plaques and memorials, a prominent font, and an extraordinary number of pews. I had plenty of choice of where to sit.

Once seated, the deeper purpose of my visit filled my mind. I wanted to sit quietly, and pray for Dad. I have no faith; I don't even claim spirituality; and Dad himself wasn’t religious in the slightest. But I needed to express my love for him and wish him well, wherever he now was. He had been snatched away too suddenly. I crossed myself, bent my head, put my hands together like a child might, and then promptly burst into tears. After a moment, I said words from my heart, trembling words. Maybe they were partly for other people too, such as Mum, and my brother, and everyone else - living or dead - whose loss has been unbearable. But they were intended chiefly for Dad, the object of my special devotion that day. Could he hear me? Was he only a dozen feet above me, looking down invisibly? Somehow I thought he was. I certainly thought that a small dark carved angel, watching me from the far left end of the screen, was listening intently and would convey everything to Dad as soon as I had gone.

I dried my eyes and rose. I left a long entry in the Visitor’s Book, beginning ‘In Memory of William Rodney Dommett, 1920-2009’ and ending ‘We never did make it back here together, did we, Dad? I love you and miss you.’ And I signed it ‘Lucy Melford’. I also added an email address for genealogical contact.

Outside in the churchyard, I discovered that my Auntie C---, Dad’s half-sister, was now buried there. She died in 2000, two years after my - our - previous visit.

Grass-mowing men had invaded the place, making noise. Feeling a little foolish, I fled back to the car. I had no stomach for curious eyes and unsaid questions. I had been here on family business, as Lucy, the new head of the family. The next one in line for the touch of the grim reaper.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A conversation with Debbie K

Yesterday evening I had a half-hour's telephone conversation with Debbie Knight, who many bloggers follow: truly one of our most inspirational posters! I can tell you, she has all the heart and concern for others, especially her parents, that comes across in her blog.

We spoke mostly about family and feelings. We had in fact previously been in touch by email and were looking seriously at a meeting in Southampton, if Debbie's commitments allowed. But it was not to be - on this occasion anyway - hence the phone conversation instead.

We both felt that attempting this contact was a really good idea. We are all castaways in a vast ocean, isolated on our little islands, and although we send and receive messages - if not in bottles, then not unlike children taking school lessons over the radio in the arid 1940s Australian outback - we rarely see another of our kind. In times of indecision, unhappiness, burdensome responsibility, worry, loneliness, failure and loss, there is no substitute for a real human voice, and a comforting arm across your shoulders. We should all try to be there for someone else, trans or not. It won't always work. We may not get on. But it's got to be worth a try.

My heart goes out to exiles such as Ashley Lynch in Vancouver, who was almost the first blogger I discovered. Poor Ashley has transitioned, but where does she now go with her life in general? She has a job but no career, a place to live but not where she wants to be, and nobody special to share her life with. She feels she has failed, and is very unhappy. Who will fly to her rescue?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

An experiment

This isn't a proper posting. I think I've discovered how to make posts on my mobile phone, using Opera Mini. Let's see if this shows up on my blog.

By the way, I'm ensconced in the plum spot of a Camping & Caravanning Club Certificated Site - that's a field - with my diddy caravan and 4x4. It's warm, very sunny, blue sky, fluffy clouds, panoramic view. Just had lunch, going into Salisbury soon for some shopping. M--- sent me a nice message this morning. Got the entire place to myself, very peaceful. If I don't go shopping, but just turn up at some pub tonight for a meal, I could sort of lie here in a dreamy daze for hours on end. That's caravanning.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Will you take some tea, Miss Melford?

I was visiting my niece J--- yesterday, and she was intrigued to know how I chose my name. Good question.

The Lucy bit is easy: I've just always liked that name, and it isn't so far removed from the old one on my birth certificate. The same 'oo' sound, anyway. It's a sweet sort of name. Nobody would be unkind to a Lucy, would they?

Melford is different. I thought long and hard about what would go well with Lucy. Basically I wanted a normal-sounding English name that was easy to say, easy to spell, and could be handwritten with a nice flow if ever I had to supply a signature. (That's a nice flow in my OWN handwriting, which may not resemble yours!) Additionally I wanted my new name to seem vaguely 'of the countryside', to the extent that if you said it slowly with a West Country accent it would sound like something out of the Archers, my dear. Yep, you could imagine the girls in the cowshed a-milking and a-saying, 'That Lucy Melford thinks she be a right fine lady, but we'm know bettur', or somesuch. It was a nod in the direction of Dad's Devon background.

Turns out that J--- reckoned that 'Lucy Melford' could in fact have been a character in any Jane Austen novel! It was that kind of name, redolent of rose-covered vicarages, and taking tea, and polite conversation, and the attentions (or apparent lack of them) of Mr Darcy. That WAS a surprise! 'Miss Melford, you are a lady of sensibility and perception and will surely excuse my conduct. I am compelled to speak...' and so forth.

Can't say I'm at all dismayed by this 'Jane Austen' tag. I'm rather pleased, although it means that I haven't got a modern, cool, trendy sort of name, and can't ever cut it on TV. (I was hoping to somehow get a spot on Loose Women) Sigh.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Off to the West Country in a caravan

I have a small touring caravan, and the necessary 4x4, and I've booked three West Country sites to stay at over the twelve nights from next Wednesday (the 22 July). The first (four nights) is at Coombe Bissett, just outside Salisbury in Wiltshire, the second (three nights) is near Lyme Regis in Dorset, and the third (five nights) is near Great Torrington in North Devon. After that I need to hurry back for more laser treatment. These are all farmer's fields with views and electric hook-ups, and they average £10 per night for the pitch. It's an inexpensive way of getting around! The caravan is a 2007 model, an Elddis Avante 362, and although no Tardis is very comfortable and well-equipped. I've owned it from new.

I'm going on my own, and I've got very mixed feelings about that. My former partner M--- introduced me to the delights of caravanning, but she isn't coming. I have no idea how I will feel about caravanning without her. It may be all right, or it could turn out to be a terribly sad experience that I won't want to repeat. I'll just have to see.

I'm hopeful however that that the holiday will be a success. I'm taking both cameras and if nothing else will indulge myself with an orgy of landscape, seascape and architectural photography. The Nikon D700 and its f/2.8 24-70mm lens hasn't had much exercise lately, and is raring to go. This is the same kit that Helena Love - the Girl From Mars - uses. But whereas Helena's little camera is a Canon G9, mine is a more diminuitive Leica D-Lux 4, and I reckon it will do well for evenings strolling around towns, when I wouldn't want to tote the heavy and bulky Nikon. Besides the Nikon says 'mug me' with all trumpets blaring.

I don't know anyone in the South West, except a distant cousin who lives in Exminster, near Exeter, and it would be a bit off to upset her by dropping in on her as I look now. If however anyone reading this (presumably trans like me) wants to suggest meeting up, they're welcome to email me on - I can handle emails on my mobile phone.

I do plan a night out in Plymouth. I see that I could try Hawkins Meeting Place, The Swallow, The Clarence, and Zero's, and although these may primarily be gay (rather than trans) venues, I'm game to check them out. That would be a fair drive down the A386 from Great Torrington, but hey, I'll be missing the entire Brighton Pride Week and need a substitute! As I'd be prepared to motor that far just for some atmosphere, take as read that I'd be happy to come to such places as Taunton and Exeter.

Whatever else I do, one place I must revisit is Kentisbeare, the Devon village Dad lived in when a boy. That'll be a day out from Lyme Regis, and I'll probably take in Exeter as well.

Do I have to mention that I will be packing the full Lucy wardrobe and regalia? For most days out it'll be jeans, top, sandals, and waterproof jacket. But an evening in Plymouth will require something nicer.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Lucy in Wimbledon

Last Saturday I went up to Wimbledon to meet my nephew M--- and his girlfriend C--- for lunch. And this is a picture of myself about to tuck into some regular pub grub. Not very dainty fare, perhaps, but it's what I like to eat in ordinary pubs (as opposed to pubs that are really restaurants). However, do note the gin and tonic. I don't usually slurp pints nowadays, although teleport me to a country location such as Wiltshire and I'll try the local brew with relish. And why not?

I suppose the point of the photo is to show that I am not just a demi-mondaine who prowls the tolerant LGBT-soaked atmosphere of Brighton, and more specifically Kemp Town, but I venture out in to the wider world. That day it was the Smoke. And I went up by train. And this leads up to a little anecdote. I drove as far as Dorking, parked, bought a return ticket, and then looked for a ladies toilet because I was busting to go. On the main platform the gents was fully-functioning, but the ladies/disabled was locked - out of action because of 'vandalism'. There were 15 minutes till the waiting train left, so I had time to check it out for onboard loos. Hells bells, there were none! What to do? I'd never survive the onward journey to Wimbledon without a plumbing disaster. Well, there was an 'Information' office back on the main platform, wherein dwelt a gruff old geezer making announcements. Hmmm. He's going to say, 'Why arsk me, mate? Use the bloody gents, you wuss'. And all the time there's me, all girly as in the photo, complete with Prada handbag. Still, there was nothing for it but to try or die.

'Excuse me,' I said in my softest voice, 'Are there any toilets I can use?'
'You mean ladies toilets? Nah, they're closed. But if you step through here you can use the ones at the back, through that door.'
'Thank you very much.'
And I tottered into the building, not believing my luck. They were really quite nice toilets, too.
'Thank you so much,' I said sweetly to him as I emerged.

Well now, he didn't seem aurally impaired, nor blind, nor a fool. So what goes on? I couldn't quite believe that I had passed so easily. And yet if he thought I was an obvious tranny he wouldn't have helped. I pondered on this all the way up to Wimbledon. I was still pondering as I killed time looking at Italian jackets in Ely's department store, and then when standing outside the station entrance while M--- and C--- arrived. And I pondered again when, late in the afternoon, I had to wait 40 minutes on platform 8 at Wimbledon for the Dorking train. The only explanation had to be that he hadn't clocked me, any more than the people on platform 8 had clocked me, not even with 40 minutes in which to see past the hair and clothes. Very, very encouraging!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Lucy in Welling

This is me after my first laser treatment at the Bellegrove Clinic in Welling, Kent. The face hasn't been scorched - it's just Aloe Vera gel drying off. I was now going to drive off along the A2 to visit my cousin R---. And of course I had the little camera handy to record the scene!

Starting the hair-removal process was quite a landmark event. The start of a long and expensive commitment. Was it uncomfortable? You bet it was. Was it unbearable? No. Was it satisfying? Absolutely.

Lucy in Brighton

Here's some pictures from a couple of days ago, in Brighton. Top: myself, about to go off to a restaurant with my friend A---. It was a beautifully warm sunny evening. We later met up with other friends, and around midnight visited a club. My little camera has an f/2 lens, and you can get away without using flash - good for moody shots. Next: maybe I look a bit too moody in this one! Middle: The club was pretty quiet, and A--- thought it best to liven things up by stretching out on top of a convenient coffin. The club was that dead. Next: not exactly the big scene from Thriller. Bottom: someone obliged and recorded my fat tummy for posterity.