I made it to Roz's clinic at Welling on Saturday for another laser session. (The previous attempt ended in disaster because of the traffic - see 'Frustration' on 26 September) Roz thinks she's now cleared nearly all the dark hairs on my face that she can easily do with laser. From now on it'll be mostly electrolysis, with occasional laser sweep-ups. Another stage reached, anyway. It's progress!
On my way home I planned two things. First, I would visit Old Soar Manor in the deep countryside of Kent. This is a 'thirteenth-century knight's dwelling' according to the National Trust Handbook. I'd been there two or three times before, and this time hoped to get it in the sunset light, especially the stone interior. But it was closed.
But I managed the second part of my plan. It was gone 5pm, and I wanted to break my journey home with a nice Italian meal in Tunbridge Wells. This was the first time I'd visited TW in full Lucy - well still in jeans, but otherwise very feminine. The place hasn't got a great reputation for being trans-friendly, so I was putting the town to the test. What I hadn't reckoned on was not getting into Prezzo, my initial top choice for a meal early in the evening. They were fully booked! Ah. Right, let's find somewhere else. That committed me to doing a circuit of the upper town centre, then walking down the hill to the lower part that leads on the old Pantiles area. A lot of unexpected exposure! Plenty of inquisitive young blokes and girls to pass close by, and I had to thread my way through bus stop queues full of staring eyes. But they were staring into the sunset for the bus that hadn't yet come, and nobody actually gave me a penetrating glance. That's all right then.
There were fewer restaurants open than I'd hoped for, and some like Carluccio's were packed already. I wouldn't be popular if I went in there and asked for a table all to myself. But down at the bottom of the hill, beyond all the fashion shops, was Zizzi. It still had some empty tables for two. I didn't hestitate. I went in, asked for a table for just me, and a large glass of wine up front.
I had a jolly good meal there. Main course, chicken in pesto with roast vegetables and caramelised onions. Yum. Then one of their special desserts. All washed down with the wine. £22 plus a £2 tip. Fair enough.
Several things endeared me to Zizzi, all of them down to staff attitude. They were welcoming, smiling, and kept on apologising for the slightest delay (though really there wasn't any). When seeking the ladies toilet, I followed the arrow upstairs only to be confronted by a door with a strange-looking 'W' on it. Strange because it looked like a squiggly worm surmounted by a big dot. I paused. Just then a girl member of staff came down the flight of stairs on my left and said in a friendly fashion, 'That IS the ladies'. Note she didn't say, 'Excuse me, that's the LADIES'. I love you, Zizzi. And then, later on, the bill came quickly after I'd asked for it - which is unusual in my experience! No matter how busy restaurants get, and how badly they need to shift you so that another batch of customers can have your table, they all too often leave you waiting, sometimes to the point of fuming impatience. You then wonder whether they REALLY want to make money! This time it was prompt and efficient. And the girl was sweet, and she took an appreciative interest in my mobile phone, which she thought was 'high tech'. You may recall from an earlier post that it's the white-key version of the Nokia E71. Well, I don't mind if staff want to openly admire my little gadgets. More kudos to the place.
What wasn't happening was the cold shoulder, the 'we don't like strange people here' thing. I left feeling very good, and nicely fed.
And now to the real point of this post. I was dining ALONE. Do you know, in my pre-Lucy days I used to HATE doing that. Now, for some odd reason, I enjoy it! I can't figure that out, because you'd naturally suppose that (a) eating alone couldn't possibly be fun in any circumstances; (b) it's got to be a huge strain doing so in female garb, when passing is still problematical; and (c) my old name is still on the credit card for all to see. But there it is. I admit that atmosphere helps, and watching the other diners is absorbing. Does anyone else frequently plunge into unfamiliar restaurants on their tod, and nonchalantly order a meal and a drink? Do you do it without concerns?