Friday, 31 December 2010

Back from Cornwall, red faced

I got home yesterday.

The red face bit means that the keen winter Cornish breeze, occasionally subzero and laden with salt from the sea, has scorched my cheeks and chin. It's gradually come on, and reached its worst state while coming home from Cornwall yesterday. The skin was quite raw, flaking, and incredibly itchy. Since then, applications of E45 cream, calamine lotion, and aloe vera gel have eased the dire appearance of the skin, and I expect it'll be back to normal in the next couple of days. But just now my face has a tight, stretched feel as if I've had some rough surgery performed on it. I don't mind if that means a few lines have vanished forever, but probably no such luck. Meanwhile I haven't wanted to go out and spread fear and loathing.

After Boxing Day it got rather milder in Cornwall, so I'm thinking that the damage was done in the first few days when it really was bitter out. Pre-Christmas, I can recall a long cold late-afternoon tramp to see Men-An-Tol, and braving a searing wind at Coverack. Then there was that cold Christmas Day wandering around Padstow, and, post-Christmas now, looking for The Hurlers (a set of neolithic stone circles out on Bodmin Moor) on a raw afternoon of fog and driving rain. Perhaps the skin damage was cumulative, and each of these events added something. Silly me.

It was so nice to be back. I was not sleeping well, and one hour into the 280-mile return journey felt dog tired. I desperately wanted to get home and go to bed. I managed it by 4:00pm, just as it was getting dark, had unloaded by 6:00pm, and then, after an easy meal, flopped. I wasn't feeling too good.

Today has been better, but I've not gone out. It seemed wisest not to.

Happy New Year everyone!   

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Nessun Dorma

I think 'Nessun Dorma' means 'None shall sleep', which is highly appropriate for these icy nights in the caravan, for despite a winter duvet, a hot water bottle, and sundry garments including socks and a sweater, I know how Captain Scott (aka Scott of the Antarctic) felt as his toes froze off. And my version of Oates' heroic exit into the bitterly cold night was re-enacted tonight as I made a valiant attempt to set up the satellite TV when it was minus one outside. After an hour and mutterings that included the words 'bugger this' and 'company of soldiers' I gave it up. It wasn't the very best way to spend Christmas Day evening!

Instead I went off to have a piping hot shower and wash my hair, and then, restored, cook up my steak dinner. And I have to say it looked and tasted wonderful. A massive improvement on last year's dreadful cremation. Give me a good meal and you have a happy person. Appetising food, or TV? No contest. Great food, or rampant sex? Again, absolutely no contest. I wouldn't miss a fantastic meal for anything or anyone!

And the diet? It's coming on fine. My 'lunch' in Padstow had to be that apple. There was no food to be had. Two of the pubs were open, but serving only drinks. So I was able to have a Christmas Day gin-and-tonic in the warm, but no pasty or sandwich to go with it. Padstow was almost deserted at three o'clock in the afternoon. Everyone was indoors tucking into their Christmas Dinner, no doubt. Sigh. Angie and Sue (it was actually Sue's idea) had invited me over to join the family fun and good cheer at their house, but proud and haughty Miss Independent had turned this down. I did ponder the wisdom of this rash act as I munched my apple on a frosty seat above the town!

Getting back to 'Nessun Dorma', this operatic song is featured on a CD that Dad had, and which I'd brought along in order to have some civilised music while washing in the mornings. It was a compilation that came free with the Daily Express (Dad was a lifelong Express reader) entitled 'Football Passion' with a footnote 'Featuring rousing Classical pieces to support England'. It was produced in 2004, so I'm guessing it had something to do with the World Cup. For a giveaway gift, this was a cracking good collection of dramatic music, with items by not only Puccini, but Wagner, Verdi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Grieg, Mascagni, Mozart, Rossini, Faure, Bizet, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. Someone had a lot of fun putting all that together. Most of it had very, very little connection with football. And sadly, six years on, the England fans do not seem to have embraced serious music. Perhaps they all read the Mirror or the Sun, and never heard the CD?

Friday, 24 December 2010

You've got to be keen to do this!

This winter caravanning lark has good points and not-so-good points. On one hand, you get away from home, and this alone gives you a huge sense of achievement. During the daytime it's rather nice to wander about unfamiliar places, and duck into shops and cafes when the wind gets too sharp. At night it can be just as good - roaring log fires in pubs, that sort of thing. But not, I now see, over Christmas itself. Things shut down, and pubs get full of loud people intent on heavy drinking. That's how it was in Penzance late this afternoon. Oh well. I went back to the caravan, cooked a meal, and got on with my photos.

Excuse me, you might be saying, and what about the satellite TV? Well, the problem there is that it's been too damned cold outside to fiddle about with dishes and signal meters. I can see myself not bothering at all.

Keeping warm inside the caravan is almost a no-brainer. You simply put the electric heater on maximum. But you must remember to temporarily switch it off if boiling water up in the kettle, or using the hair drier. Otherwise you trip a cutout on the power supply. You soon learn not to! In very cold weather I use a portable fan heater, which directs heat at my toes first. (Caravans tend to be cool at foot level - all that ventilation - even if it's balmy at head height)

Yesterday evening Angie came over, and we let Fiona take us into Truro for a meal (as you know, the car drives itself). The snow had almost all gone, so I could wear a long dress and nice shoes without spoiling them. We had a table booked at Chantek Asian Fusion Restaurant, a pretty decent venue that I'd like to visit again. It's mainly Thai, with Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese elements also. We ordered different starters and main courses, but in fact shared everything. Delicious! Afterwards it was coffee back at the caravan.

It was lovely to see Angie again so soon. I see her again, with her friend Sarah, on the 29th. Till then I'm on my own.

Tomorrow - Christmas Day - I think I'll go to Padstow, wander around, and see what's open. Maybe Rick Stein will be recording a live Christmas Day special for TV, and seeking discerning and charismatic food lovers off the street... And maybe not! I'll take an apple for lunch, in case I'm left high and dry.

Five hours of scrutiny survived

Just before I went to Cornwall, I attended a little gathering in a nearby house. The couple who owned it had moved in a few months ago, and thought Christmas time would be a great opportunity to invite their neighbours in for nibbles and a drink. I got a card addressed to 'Lucy' and although it was possibly unwise to abandon my holiday preparations, this was a social event I didn't want to miss!

There would not be many people there who I'd know by sight, let alone by name. J--- next door, bless her, offered to go there with me in case I felt nervous. But I felt perfectly ready to plunge into the company of total strangers, and besides I had to drive off and collect a prescription first. So J--- went on ahead, and I followed an hour later. Honestly, I didn't flinch or hesitate.

And I stayed for five hours! The time flew by. Nobody gave me a funny look. I passed the appraisal of several people who might have said something - three men, one young woman, a child, and some older women with gimlet eyes. I had quite deep, close-up personal conversations with two of the 40-something ladies: one conversation touched on whether my nose looked odd; and the other strayed onto gynae matters. I'm afraid the second lady I spoke to concluded that I was going to have a hysterectomy in March! If I get to know her better, I'll tell her the truth.

Eventually I made my departure, feeling pretty good about the event.

I am puzzled by how well I did though. Yes, there was nothing wrong with my hair, makeup or clothes. The voice was fine and never sagged. Nor did my posture. But none of that could allow anyone to survive a full five hours of constant scrutiny. What else had been decisive? I had received confidential glances from other women - the kind of look that women exchange between themselves that says 'Listen to my husband going on! Well, we know better, don't we?' Welcome to the club: but I still wanted to know what I had done right.

I can only think that I was so relaxed and natural that nobody even thought I was anything other than what I seemed to be. If this is true, then natural behaviour matters much more than a markedly female appearance. You don't actually need big boobs and a pretty face.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

In Cornwall for Christmas

I made it to Cornwall today. That's about 280 miles in one drive, keeping close to the south coast from mid-Sussex to Honiton, then on to Exeter, across Devon, and through much of Cornwall, ending up at Carnon Downs, a bit south of Truro. I set off at 10:40am and arrived at 5:20pm, with two stops. I got to Carnon Downs well after sunset, which was a good thing - my clumsy attempts to back the caravan onto the pitch were embarrassing, but probably went unnoticed in the dark!

I'd travelled through a snowbound landscape. The roads I used were clear, but gave the impression that 24 hours earlier they had been under deep snow. Really I was using a lucky window of opportunity. Quite possibly more snow would maroon me in Cornwall!

Fiona pulled the caravan effortlessly, and I had such a smooth journey that I didn't feel at all tired afterwards. But it was very cold, and I didn't linger over my two breaks. A hot drink, some turkey, an apple, and into the loo. So nice to travel with one's own facilities! Then back out into the slush and the bitter wind. But Fiona soon thawed me out. She was the most comfortable place to be.

Now I'm relaxing in the caravan. The temperature refuses to go higher than 18 degrees C (68 degrees F), the cold outside must be down below freezing point. So it's necessary to wear my ankle-length fleecy dressing gown. Soft and cosy. In a while, another hot drink and then off to bed, with my winter duvet to keep me snug. And of course, the electric heating will stay on overnight!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Looking skeletal

Yesterday it snowed heavily and instead of whizzing off to Winchester for the badminton Match of the Century with friends R---, F--- and C---, it was necessary to cancel, and see how the weather went. I wasn't using the roads if they were as bad as they looked on TV. Perhaps Fiona might have coped, but then we (R--- and I, the Sussex challengers in this match) might have ended up going nowhere in a vast gridlocked traffic queue, or worse, we could have been the victims of a rear shunt as someone in a less capable car slithered into us. I didn't want to risk any kind of collision.

It remained very cold, but there was no more snow after midday. So we eventually decided to go to nearby Lewes, the olde-worlde county town of East Sussex, for a stroll around town in the snow and an evening meal.

Lewes did look very Dickensian indeed. The snow was firm (though it got slushy later) and we had a nice time looking in the many little shops, closed of course, but with brightly lit-up, Christmassy window displays. There's a series of photos on Flickr - just click on the topmost of the Flickr links to the right of this page. We started at the top of the High Street, went all the way downhill to the bridge and into Cliffe, then returned via some back streets and twittens. Then we went into Prezzo for an Italian meal.

As you can see, I simply had one or two olives:

TV Sequel

We got the satellite TV working in my caravan today! Thank you so much, K---! (That's my next door neighbour)

It took an hour, mainly because I wasn't familiar with either the Receiver controls or the TV controls, and of course it started to snow again; but that simply meant that K's wife J--- and I could have a coffee in the caravan while K--- positioned and adjusted the dish outside. Suddenly he succeeded, and there were loads of channels to see! Perfect reception, too. I was so grateful.

I shouldn't cavil, but I was disappointed that Freesat doesn't give you BBC4 nor Channel 4, both of which I watch a lot. But I do get BBC1 and BBC2, which makes it worthwhile to take the entire kit along. I wonder if the Sky box (the free, non-subscription one, that is) would have given me the extra channels I like? Oh well. None of this is a disaster. If the weather is right for photography, I'll be taking so many pictures that my evenings will be completely taken up with photo-processing. And I'm out with Angie on two of my eight nights anyway. And no doubt I'll be out on my own on one or two other nights. The TV is merely a standby for when the weather is dire and all I want to do is cook something up and stay in the warm. And even then, I'd as soon curl up with a book!

And why couldn't I get the TV to work properly a couple of days ago? I was aiming at the wrong satellite. Duh.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Getting fit

My friend R--- and I have a regular weekly badminton session well established now. R---'s real game is tennis, but she has been borrowing one of my badminton racquets and we've been having a useful thrash most weeks for a couple of months. Gradually we are both becoming better players.

For me it's a slow rediscovery of the standard I had back in the 1980s and (particularly) the 1990s, when I belonged to two clubs in Horsham. I am not sporty, not even especially competitive, but badminton has always appealed to me. I think that's because you can have a goodish game with a wide variety of other players, on several levels. I don't mind a knockaround, whether it's with children, beginners, or experienced players. And the occasional chance to have a game with a Championship-standard player has always taught me something new, which I then work into my own more humble game.

The other draw of badminton is its strong social side. It attracts nice people who like to play skilfully and seriously, but in between games also like to chat, and who tend to organise extra-court social events. I wasn't ever up to throwing marathon birthday parties (except my 40th), but I became adept at getting the lads and the girls down to the pub after two hours of hard exercise, to slake one's thirst and enjoy the interplay between people. It was the same after a session of fencing, also at Horsham. In the 1990s I had a friend called Will who was totally amazed at how I managed to persuade girls to come to the pub, especially as he suspected that I was gay. I wasn't, and famously denied it one night when we went over to Lockwood (Phil Collins' territory at that time) for a Christmas disco, but I think he was never quite convinced. Looking back at the photos of the time, I can see why: I looked pretty androgynous.

This mention of badminton and photos prompts me to show you this one, taken in November 1982, when I was aged 30:

I'm the person on the far right. Shiny boxer shorts were 'in' that year. I loved the look and feel of them, and the way they showed off your legs. But I couldn't help being secretly wistful about the girls' whites. These girls, Nessa and Barbara, were lovely people, both fit and friendly. Barbara (middle) was a no-nonsense Scot who eventually emigrated to New Zealand to marry a sheep farmer. I don't know what ultimately happened to Nessa (left). I hope life treated her kindly; she had an 'English Rose' complexion and her nature was the same: fragrant, delicate, but with a little thorn to prick you if you went too far. Hmmm, November 1982: within three months I'd be married, and set in a new direction.

Here's a shot from July 1978, taken on an afternoon off from a management course in Hastings. I let myself be cajoled into playing a football match in a local park. I only agreed because the two girls on the course were also playing:

I'm back row, far left, and looking a lot slimmer than at most times in my life! But then I was 26 and jolly well ought to have been in a good physical state. I remember that I didn't know the finer rules of the game and made a mess of it all. I was much better at the theoretical stuff back at the hotel. Sobering to think that everyone in that picture must either now be retired, or getting close to it. One or two might even be dead.

Getting back to badminton, I was always frankly envious of the lissom, graceful way the girls moved, and the way they spoke and behaved, and I wasn't just envious of the young and pretty ones. I chiefly identified with the 30- and 40-somethings. I imagined being like them. Futilely at the time, but that didn't quell the longing to be more girl-shaped and girl-mannered. I remember one 40-something lady, with a most attractive personality, who had real problems as the menopause started to grip her. She got very hot and red-faced, and couldn't help perspiring so much that she literally dripped sweat. She practically steamed. I was so sorry for her, for you could see how much she enjoyed playing. But after a few weeks of this she had to give up. And yet despite the clear discomfort she was experiencing, and the way that getting hot made her look less than her best, I would have given anything to have her body shape, and simply be her.

Nobody knew that. For me a change of body was the stuff of science fiction. Without the internet, it was impossible to know what had been happening for transsexuals in, say, America, and what could already be done in the UK. I didn't even know I was transsexual. Without the concept, there is no realisation, and therefore nothing to be done about it. I always think it is blindingly significant that as soon as I had my Eureka Moment in 2008, as soon as I realised what had been bothering me all my life, I acted without delay and with completely certainty.

And now I'm back doing badminton again. I'll keep this up now, and after my post-op convalescence, use badminton - and maybe other forms of exercise - to get fit again and keep fit. Nice to think that one of the little benefits of the surgery will be the ability to wear shorts on court, and who knows, one of those cute little skirts as in the top photo. But only if they're in fashion, m'dear.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Wet TV dreams

I will get this working. I am determined. I have spoken.

'It' is the digital TV set I bought for the caravan, and which I intend to use in Cornwall if there is no wassailing or pagan rituals to be attended to on any of the evenings while down there.

Today I fitted all the bits together: the dish onto the tripod, which I securely pegged down onto my front lawn, near the caravan; the cable from the LNB to the signal meter; the cable from the meter to the receiver in the caravan; the SCART cable from the receiver to the TV. Then I switched it all on, and trained the dish slowly this way and that, seeking satellites. I found one, and began finer tuning, because you have to get it pretty well exact.

And then the rain came down. Oh, fiddlesticks! Foiled by a downpour! Not only did I personally get a bit wet, reception suffers in the rain so it was no good trying to do much more. In the end it got too dark to continue, and I packed the dish away in my garage and will try again either tomorrow morning or Friday. But time is running out. If I can't get this to work before I go, then I'll have to find other amusements while down in Cornwall!

My next door neighbour K--- came home as the rain and the dark was intensifying, and offered to show me what to do on Sunday. I'm not proud. I will eagerly let him do it and watch closely. I suspect there's a knack to this, and once I know what it is, it'll all be easy-peasy. (You could say the same thing about life in general, now couldn't you?)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Aren't chaps useful?

People who know me will agree that I'm slow to ask for help. I will accept it if I'm tackling something clearly beyond my experience or strength. But if it's just a matter of reaching up for something...

And yet I was defeated at Sainsbury's a couple of days ago. The wine I wanted - two bottles of Merlot at a good price - was up on the top shelf. I could see those bottles, which is more than the short woman next to me could, but I couldn't get my hands near them - I've got rather short arms.

So, without a moment's thought, I went up to a tallish man nearby.

'Oh, excuse me, but could you please help me, and reach for those two bottles of wine up there?'

What a nice chap. He abandoned his own shopping, and set to. Even he had to stretch, but he got both bottles down for me and placed them into my hands.

'Thank you so much!' I said, and gave him a dazzling smile. One of those wonderful moments when you know you've passed 100%. I glowed with inner satisfaction. And top marks to the man, who only got a nice 'thankyou' for his trouble. But it was pleasant being the 'damsel in distress' and I'm guessing that he got a little kick by responding so successfully: mission well accomplished.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas preparations!

In small ways I'm beginning to get into the Christmas Festivities.  For instance, I've stocked up on some little individual Christmas Puddings:

And I've got my ceramic Christmas Tree down from the attic and set it up:

I'm taking this Tree with me down to Cornwall over Christmas. In its box, of course. (Although it would be a hoot to whizz along with a brightly lit-up tree in the front window of the caravan!)

Call me an Incurable Romantic, but I'm dreaming of strolling through the quaint streets of places like Padstow and Fowey and Helston and Mousehole as snowflakes drift down, in a mood of high elation, enjoying the bustle of cheery people doing their last minute shopping for geese and little presents for family and friends and neighbours. Traditional music on every corner; the sound of carols in the air; and in the evening, pagan celebrations to see the old year out with fire and incantations and mistletoe. Or wandering through the cobbled alleys of St Ives, encountering artists, street buskers, and fishermen in striped jerseys with their last catch, shivering with the frosty cold and ready for a good yarn and laughter in the packed pub lit up with friendly yellow lights and a flickering log fire with deep red embers to stare into. Easy to recall in those embers many, many happy Christmases of the past. And one hopes many more to come. And sunset at Men-An-Tol, trying hard to get a shot of the setting sun through the hole in the wheel-like ancient stone; or a solemn service in Zennor church; or a stormy vigil at Coverack, a place not visited since my honeymoon in the winter of 1983; or a yachty meal and a cocktail at the pub at Helford Passage. Plus the realities of Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer in Truro as well!

And once back home, seeing the New Year in with style.

Interesting to think that next year, in December 2011, I will (I hope) be well recovered from my operation, and will be physically rather different. Who knows how I will stand then, what my exact self-perception will be, what new things I'll feel capable of doing. My goodness, 2011 will be a year of change with a vengeance! 2010 was only the muted overture.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Bargain handbag

In keeping with my decision to watch what I spend more carefully - as mentioned in my last post - I am once again visiting charity shops. They have some nice stuff for sale at this time of year, anyway.

The day after my snowy visit to Wakehurst Place (two posts back) I was out in the rain with my friend R---. Towards the end of the afternoon we ended up in a picturesque little town called Steyning, and there, at the St Barnabas charity shop, was a brown handbag locked away in a glass cabinet that immediately caught my eye. I have all sorts of bags (haven't we all) but not a small posh brown one. I asked to inspect it.

Lo and behold, it was an L K Bennett. This is a 'luxury' brand but affordable. Well, take that with a pinch of salt: you'd pay £200, rather than (say) £400 for a Mulberry or (say) £900 for a Prada. Basically there isn't a 'big name' to inflate the price. And yet you still get an extremely well-made bag with class, not just bling. The shop were asking £20 for this one.

I didn't hesitate. It had been used a little bit - there was a tiny amount of fluff inside, and the faintest whiff of scent. But not used much. Really, it looked new. The outer brown leather was thick, so that the bag had stiffness and shape, and would stand up without having to be filled to capacity. It was beautifully stitched. And inside, instead of a cotton lining, or even a silk lining, it had a caramel-coloured soft leather lining - pigskin, I suppose - that spoke to me.  Here's some photos:

And here's my entire 'brown bag' collection at the moment, from L K Bennett, Mimco and Kew:

I think they cover all the shades of brown needed. No need to buy any more. Honest.

Cornwall upgrade

I was starting to feel despondent again: despite three recent viewings on the Cottage, there was still no sign of any serious interest. Would I never sell it?  Would I be forced to let it, to avoid my capital getting dangerously low? Should I be cutting back on all non-essential spending now? Yes, I thought, you must stop at once. That meant no trip to Cornwall over Christmas: the previous outing to the West Country had cost me nearly £500. I really ought not to be spending that kind of money.

And yet...

This would be the last holiday before my operation on 1 March.

It would be the last holiday before I was fully recovered from the operation in late summer 2011.

If I didn't go, I wouldn't see Angie again for ages.

And although I might spend £500, the extra cost was just the diesel to get to Cornwall and back (about £100) and the balance payable to the Carnon Downs Camping & Caravan Park (£100). The rest I'd spend anyway if I stayed at home, on food, light and heating, local outings, and Christmas festivities. So the true cost of this break was only £200, for eight nights away. Well, really, £25 per night for accommodation (with travel included) wasn't extravagant.

The clincher came today. The lady on reception at Carnon Downs, Melanie, phoned me to say that a better pitch, a 'fully serviced' one, had become available. A clear upgrade so far as I was concerned. Would I like to have this pitch? A glance at the site map confirmed that it would indeed be nicer. Yes, please!

So I'm going, and no more doubts.

Monday, 6 December 2010

All gone, but it may return!

The trouble with snowy weather is that it's rarely snowy and bright with brilliant sunshine and blue skies. Which means that attempts to photograph it in an interesting way are generally doomed to failure. Dull, overcast skies mean dull pictures. So I didn't at first find it worthwhile trying to shoot any 'snow' pictures, apart from the usual 'record' shots to show how deep the white stuff was in my back garden.

A couple of days ago, however, I fired up Fiona and headed north to Wakehurst Place, an outpost of Kew Gardens in Sussex, jointly owned with the National Trust, which meant that I could get in free (flashing my life member card). The roads to Wakehurst were all right, meaning that Fiona herself had no problems, but they were not in a state to drive on if it turned really cold later on. For most of the way, Fiona told me that the outside temperature was -3 degrees C, and around Haywards Heath it was -4 C. Surely, I thought, that means lethally slippery roads, and am I really wise being out in this? But the sun was out, sort of, and I'm a great believer in the maxim that 'who dares wins': in other words an effort made is often well rewarded.

And so it was. The sun may have been but a white disc against smoky cloud, and clear blue sky was notably absent, but it threw enough brightness (and shadow) to make things passibly photogenic. And the snow itself was satisfyingly deep. And pristine, not trodden to death - I turned up at midday, but was the very first visitor of the day. So my feet could be the first to sully the purity of the surface. They told me I could go a few hundred yards, and approach the lake and mansion, but most of the grounds had been roped off for safety reasons. This turned out to be good enough for my purposes. Here's some shots:

Having secured these, and feeling somewhat chilled, I had some hot spicy pumpkin soup in the cafe - very hearty - then drove home again.

Would you believe it, the very next day the temperature went up by a few degrees, it rained hard, and by midday all the snow had vanished as if magicked away. So I was lucky to get these shots!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snow and other things

Here's what my back garden looked like at first light this morning:

Taken through my lounge window, I need hardly say! That's a low wall in the foreground, and my washing line above it, all blobby with snow-on-ice formations. Middle distance left, the guest house for unfavoured guests (Melissa may recall some humorous comments on that a while back), and far distance right, my greenhouse from which I fetched a spade late last night. It was worth making an effort to get that!  

It's all very fairytale, of course, and I'm well placed to don my fur hat and wellies and take a walk through it all later today, not having to commute. But in a while I need to dig out Fiona and get some shopping and fresh medication. I'm not at all certain how that will go. The road outside looks pretty iffy. And just because I have a Swedish car, and permanent all-wheel drive, that doesn't mean that I can't get stuck, or that someone won't slide into me. But I'd better make my foray in daylight, because the forecast is danger this evening as the snow turns to ice.

You know, I was jolly lucky to get up to central London two days ago, see Dr Perring, meet up with my nephew, and make it back home again. That would all be impossible just now.

In the last two days I haven't been feeling too happy. I suppose it's some kind of reaction from the Dr Perring interview, or maybe from the snow keeping me at home (I'm out every day ordinarily), or downbeat thinking about the sale of the Cottage, which can't be helped by the time of year, and particularly not by these wintry conditions. I'll shake it off, but I'm definitely not in a merry mood. I'm glad I abandoned Facebook. I couldn't have borne its irritations.

Good news though, on the weight front! Yesterday's weigh-in (I do it every Wednesday morning, unless away from home) revealed that I've apparently lost almost three pounds in the past week, and am back on track. Hurrah! In fact I've dipped below 14 stone for the first time in ages. Right. A bit of shovelling snow today and a long walk through the white stuff (with the incentive of some nice pix) will burn off a few more calories!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Doomsday passes off rather well

Well, I saw Dr Perring at 2.00pm this afternoon, and what a nice chap he was. And his secretary, Christine, was equally pleasant: we had a chat both before and after.

I think it went all right. I had an hour with Dr Perring. We chiefly discussed my past life and the much more recent details of my transition; my historic experiments with female (or androgenous) clothing, jewellery and accessories; the nature and depth of my therapy sessions at various points; my current concerns and worries, which naturally centred on the unresolved relationship with my unhappy former partner M--- (I nearly got into tears there); and where I was going with my life. I answered frankly.

He didn't say at the end 'Oh well, you've sailed through that, no problem at all' but he did say he could keep the letter he'd be writing quite brief. I took brevity to be a good sign. And many hours later, I still feel the meeting will produce a letter that supports the surgery. I should see my copy in the next few days.

Then it was out into the falling snow, and a meet-up with my nephew M---. He demurred when his aunt suggested (first) a chat in a coffee house, and then (second) an early meal, all at her expense, but she insisted. After all, how often does an aunt get the chance to treat her nephew? (And it gave me the justification for treating my niece in the same way at the first opportunity) I hadn't seen M--- for months, and the whole thing was a pleasure. He was so easy with me. We ended up in the Regent Street branch of La Tasca for tapas, M-- drinking Coke, and myself enjoying a particularly nice Rioja. We talked and talked. Then, in even more snow, we made our way eastwards down Oxford Street to Tottenham Court Road, where we said au revoir - or was it hasta la vista? - with a kiss and a hug.

I then visited Covent Garden before heading back to Victoria Station. By then it was about 6:15pm, and as anticipated there was a long wait for an outgoing train. The worsening weather had made a shambles of the timetable. A dense crowd of edgy commuters had formed. I'd seen a lot of Police vans on the Strand, with officers in riot gear, and wondered whether they expected trouble from anxious homegoers! (Actually, demonstrating students must have been their target) Suddenly we were let through the ticket barrier. The trick then was to guess which train would depart first. All the platforms from 14 to 19 were occupied, but if you stood ready to sprint onto, say, platform 16, you'd probably be out of luck if the first train to leave was the one on platform 18. I was actually standing by platform 17 when an announcement was made, instantly drowned out by the baying of hundreds of stranded commuters. Everybody surged towards platform 19. I didn't hesitate. I hoicked up my long skirt and belted for that platform, ending up leading the howling pack by a short head. Playing it canny, I didn't go into any of the first carriages, where I'd have to fight for a seat, and might have to stand. I went halfway down the train before dodging into an almost-empty carriage, where I could choose a window seat facing the right way (I like to travel backwards). There was time to swap an ironic remark with a city gent, then the pack caught up, and in a twinkling the carriage was as crowded as any rush-hour Underground train, and believe me, they get very crowded indeed.

That wasn't the end of the story. The train went at a walking pace for much of the time, and I didn't reach Haywards Heath, where I'd left Fiona, till 9:15pm. I was so sorry for the people who'd had to stand all that way. I didn't get home till 9:45pm. Thank goodness I'd eaten with M---!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Doomsday looms

I go up to see Dr Michael Perring tomorrow, the man who will give a 'second opinion', a psychiatric opinion, on my suitability for genital surgery. As you might imagine, I've been thinking about this vital interview all evening. I thought about it all the way through a BBC4 programme on German art. Then through another programme on Berlin. Serious, distracting stuff; but not serious or distracting enough to quell disturbing visions of making a complete mess of things when I see Dr Perring.

There's no reason at all why I, a sensible person not given to fits of excitability or to reckless impulses, should behave like an idiot, but my unusually nervous mind insists that I will. Isn't that very odd? I suppose it's the thought of being examined for signs of the wrong motives or mistaken self-perception. I haven't faced that sort of thing since I last had a chance of promotion at work - and that was a very long time ago.

I'm sure I'll wake up tomorrow feeling perfectly cool and easy about it, and will be able to speak in an entirely natural way to Dr Perring. But it doesn't feel like that at this very moment. It feels as if my surgery will be denied because I couldn't stop making a series of silly flippant remarks. A looming nightmare.

Ah well. I'm off to bed. At least I know what I want to wear. I had to sew a button onto a long grey skirt tonight, and that helped, as will ironing a black top first thing tomorrow, and polishing my black boots, and putting on my pearls. Like kitting up for the battle to come.

I hope the trains are running.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Children and childhood

Over on her blog, Transitioning Past, Debra Mckenzie has posted Someday I want to be a Mom. I just had to read that. The reasons are complex.

Not that I actually want to ever become a mother. Or ever did. But I find any mention of children compelling reading from a personal point of view.

I agree with Debra's thinking on what parenthood entails. I was a parent myself for most of the 1980's, from 1982 to 1989, the child in question being my step-daughter A---, who I inherited at age 11, and who is now a married woman of 40 with two little children of her own. I won't say I was a 'good parent', whatever that means. I got off lightly, because A--- was so, so easy.

We had a rather carefree, hands-off relationship. I was her older friend rather than her overbearing mentor. Her real father M--- was in New Zealand, and from the first I drew a careful distinction between him and myself. I wanted to preserve the idea of 'her father' for the years ahead, when she'd get to know him again. And so it happened: M--- must have been surprised but very, very glad that he still had a clear-cut role to fill again. (We got on well)

A--- called me J---, nothing else. For deeper reasons that, of course, I didn't then understand, I was pleased to be called simply by my first name, my rather androgenous first name, and not given a male label like 'Dad', which I had no right to anyway. In parallel to this, I wanted to be simply J--- with my then-young niece J--- and nephew M---, and not 'Uncle'. Nobody quite saw why I made a fuss about such a small and customary thing.

I never laid down the law to A---; I never had to. She was in most ways a model child who never had awkward moments, who was always bubbly and cheerful, and a pleasure to be with. If A--- lacked the qualities of the scholar, she nevertheless could set herself realistic goals and fully achieve them. She was always sensible and focused. This didn't prevent her, in her late teens, partying hard with her friends: she was up for tipsy late nights on Greek beaches for instance. But her selective forays into relationships were conducted with an almost ironic realism, as if she was saying (to me, at least) 'I know he's awful/too keen on his fancy car/unreliable, but let's watch him make one silly boast too many, and then I'll get out of it and find the right one'. And she did find the right one, very much so. I recall an entire day together in Brighton (in 1992, I believe), when it was just her and me. She wanted to explain the men she liked to me, and get my cool opinion on which to choose, although I soon perceived that she had a clear favourite who she later married. It was such fun to wander from place to place on a windy day, around the Lanes, onto the Pier and back again, discussing little things about the contenders for her affection. But that kind of close consultation said something about our relationship. Something I valued more than she knew. Or maybe she did know; A-- has always been accepting and supportive and broad-minded to an astonishing extent. I think she instinctively knew how it was with me; and it didn't matter. I have many sharp images of A---, none more meaningful than the way she clutched and squeezed my hand as we stood together at my brother's funeral service in early 1996. All the way through. She held me together. How I wish I could feel that grip now. How I wish she were here, now, as my life takes a decisive turn, and not so far away in New Zealand.

Let's get back to children in general. Such a hard subject for me. Actually, I'll have to develop this in another post, because I feel upset just thinking about my own childhood, and how different it could all have been. And I'm not talking about dolls and frocks. I'm talking about the wall I made to hide behind, the prison I made for myself. Another day, then.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Why didn't I get a torch?

I've got palms that are still stinging, and a grazed knee that I've had to bandage, all because I couldn't be bothered to fetch a torch, and I tripped over in the dark, in front of my house, and fell forward onto weathered tarmac.

I'd just got home from London after a really pleasant afternoon, and this accident rather spoilt the day.

I had two letters awaiting me. No, one was for my next door neighbour T---. Without thinking, and leaving my front door open, I walked briskly out into the night, across the front of my house, barely noting the step down as I quickly made my way across my neighbour's frontage also (there's no fence), and then turned in to his front door. Although the street lights were on, the shadow cast by my caravan meant that everything was in total darkness. It crossed my mind then that I really ought to get a torch, or else postpone my good deed till the morning, but I was lazy. And of course I couldn't at first find his letter flap. After half a minute of rather silly groping around in the dark, I found it, popped the letter in, and sped back to my own house at a very fast walk, because it was dreadfully cold. The next thing I knew I was pitching forward. I'd no idea what I'd be falling onto. I put my hands out...and you can imagine the rest. Ouch! In fact it hurt like hell, and I felt shaken up.

I got indoors and burst into tears. It wasn't just the pain. The fall had scraped and bent my favourite silver wrist bangle, which I treasured and cherished as I do all my personal things. That simply made me feel much, much worse. But of course the tears came chiefly because I needed to cry. You know what I mean, it was a release of pent-up anguish over so many things great and small that my ongoing transition had brought about. Grief like this is always with you, just beneath the surface, and doesn't need much to trigger it.

I got myself in hand after a while. I washed my palms, which weren't actually lacerated with embedded gravel, although they felt like it; washed my knee, which was in fact worse than it felt; and bathed my face, which was frankly a mess. I straightened the bangle. I had a cup of tea, something I should have done first of all. Then I felt better. I'd live.

The letter for myself was from Liz Hills at the Brighton Nuffield Hospital, confirming the 1 March date, and going into detail on the admission and discharge arrangements. Welcome stuff.

But how stupid to have rushed off into the dark without a torch. I won't do it again.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Weight loss problems!

Oh dear, after a good start my weight loss programme (for the surgery on 1 March) has ground to a halt. This morning's weigh-in showed that I had suddenly slipped back to where I was three weeks ago.

I'm not sure how this could have happened. I've been taking a little more exercise. My fish intake is up. I've conscientiously cut down on fatty foods, eliminating cheese for instance, and I've also restricted the carbohydrates, eating less in the way of potatoes and almost no bread. Sweets are completely out. Ryvita crackers have been my standby, if I really must have something in between meals. I suppose I could have buttered them more lightly. I think the problem is my main meal of the day, which tends to be quite hearty even now. I'll just have to cut the portions down. And be more careful when eating out.

And of course burn off more calories! There's plenty of opportunities really. At this very moment, the last of the leaves on the trees at the bottom of my garden are falling and there's an awful lot of them to clear off the back lawn. Easily a morning's work. That'll be one of the jobs I can tackle that will use up a bit of excess fat and tone up my muscles a bit!

And then there's a lot of pruning and branch-trimming and so on to see to.

I must turn away all offers of assistance. The more I do myself, the sooner I will bring my weight down!

Monday, 22 November 2010

A pact with death

Yesterday, like goodness knows how many other people in the UK and around the world, I attended a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church in Brighton. It was like the one I went to last year, except that the murder of Brighton resident Andrea Waddell was then fresh in everyone's minds, and was indeed still subject to a police investigation with a prosecution pending, and Andrea's family were there. Our hearts went out to them; I was especially struck by the dignity, composure and fortitude of Mrs Waddell.

Since then, the man who murdered Andrea has been tried, found guity and sentenced. But you still wonder why he did it. What possible reason could he have had for snuffing out her life? If he had fallen out of love with her, or decided that transsexual women were not for him, why not just walk out of her life?

Well, you can say the same for any case of murder. Why not just leave it alone, walk on, go away, and forget about the person who has upset you, instead of giving in to violent urges that you know, if you think about it for an instant, must lead to arrest and a living death for yourself, from remorse or the corroding effects of imprisonment. Two lives uselessly ended.

But people do give in to emotion and impulses and driving forces like hatred and prejudice and zeal. And if the local conditions include a view that life is cheap, that transsexuals are less than human, that one's own life or honour or ego or comfort matter more, then it is so much easier to end another's existence. Having a gun or knife handy helps; being dehumanised yourself through social deprivation obviously helps; and in gang situations, pressure to appear tough and macho to your peers might justify anything at all. I just hope that none of us ever runs into the kind of person who simply doesn't care whether we live or die.

As the names of this year's crop of victims were read out, it was remarkable how often Brasil was the place where death struck. Mexico and Puerto Rico and Argentina were also prominent. In Europe, Italy and Turkey. But it would be no good planning your world tour on this information only. Brasil is clearly a place where a trans person might well need to take especial care; but then that country might just be more honest about admitting the existence of trans-related deaths. Many countries you'd think might also be hot spots for transphobic violence were not mentioned. China, for instance. Most of Africa and the middle east. That's suspicious. Are they suppressing the information?

Is there anywhere in the world where a trans person can freely travel, or live, without some danger? Probably nowhere. In every society there will be, somewhere, the psychopath you will eventually encounter. The person you can't explain to, who you can't reason with, who will, probably after dire torture, strangle or stab you or shoot you, or throw acid onto you, or set you on fire, or hack you to bits, and not consider the consequences. You have simply to become the focus of their attention. Then they will react. Casual death. Violent death. A fearful thought indeed. And it could happen anywhere. In country villages, as well as big cities. I'd even say it could happen in my own Sussex village, if I'm unlucky. It depends who I meet around the corner, and whether their self-control is OK that day. And who, except the handful of good neighbours who know me, could or would intervene and save me?

Do you feel the same?

Is keeping on the move the only safe way to exist? To become a faceless tourist, just another shopper, a person of unknown abode, or of no fixed abode even. Someone who lives a secret life with no ties, no relationships; just a pact with inevitable death.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Moody Lucy caught on Candid Camera

I'm constantly trying to perfect my 'look', bearing in mind that although you can wear the 'right' clothes and makeup, and can put on the right kind of facial expression as required, most of the time your face is relaxed and can give you away. So I was heartened when C---, who I met down in Cornwall recently, sent me this shot of myself in an unguarded moment in the restaurant at the Tate St Ives:
Ah! A pudgy-faced female of indeterminate age with a moody look. Caught on Candid Camera! Clearly she's either having a bad period or things aren't going too well at home. Well, if that's what people might think, I don't mind. Because then I'd look like countless other women whose mask has momentarily slipped. And that's a big achievement for someone who only came out just over two years ago.

To make my point even more acutely, here's a cropped-in version of a picture you've seen before. Same place, same occasion, not the same camera (it was my own little Leica) but the shooter was C--- again. And this time I'm all prepared, perky and smiling:
Actually, it does look highly posed. Not C---'s fault, but mine. I'm all self-conscious! That said, I do like it as a picture of myself, and it's true in its way, but the first shot must be far more typical of what the public sees in my unwary moments.

And the moral is this. The image you normally present to people in general is not the smiling, vivacious, engaging one that faces you in your mirror at home. It's an unconscious, down-mouthed, expressionless face that might, or might not, look credibly female. And it's the face that really matters.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

For those winter nights alone in the caravan

I bought a decent digital TV for the caravan last February, but have not so far used it. Why not? Well, I don't watch much TV anyway, intelligent programmes on art and history and exotic faraway places being my thing, not any of the soaps, nor Strictly Come Dancing, nor I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, nor Dancing On Ice. Nor films. Nor sport of any description. And the news and weather is just as good on Radio 4. And besides, in the summer I want to be out, enjoying the sunset somewhere, or with friends. Or if in the caravan, on my own, there is always the day's crop of photos to process on the laptop. So who really needs television?

However, I'll be away in Cornwall over Christmas, and if the weather's foul I do see that it would be pleasant to have a TV to turn to, while I cook and consume my roast meal for one, add custard to the little Christmas Pudding from Waitrose, and pour out a small glass of Bailey's. Yes, I'll join the crowd on this!

It is customary, on proper caravan sites anyway, to keep your windows uncurtained so that your neighbours on surrounding pitches can view and appreciate your own brand of Christmas cheer. I would in any case have had my merry little ceramic Christmas Tree, with its colourful lights; but now I want to add a TV to indicate that I too am watching something festive and noisy, and having a great time. And not sitting sad and silent in the gloom, like some lonely biddy whom the world has forgot. It'll be a chance to cavort around the caravan in a red dress or long red top decorated with a bit of tinsel. What fun! But I'll keep the wellies handy in case I overload the power circuit and have to go out and reset it at the hook-up box!

So I've stepped up to the line, and invested in the necessary satellite kit - the dish, the tripod, the receiver, the best-reception finder, and all the various cables needed, including a special flat one that you can close a window on. The cost wasn't too much, and for an eight-night stay it will be worth the effort to set it up.

Oh, I dare say I will get an irrepressible urge to walk the frosty, empty late-night streets of Truro or Falmouth, for the sake of some atmospheric lamplit photos, while everyone else is snug in their homes (or caravans) - and not watch TV at all. But there might be something on I'd like to see, you never know...

Mmmm, I love Bailey's.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Second opinion

I've been rather preoccupied with money matters in the last few days, so much so that I didn't feel like posting anything.

Basically I  needed a Plan B so that if the latest price reduction on my former home produced no offers, or only derisory offers, I'd have something definite to fall back on. I was trying to overcome a personal prejudice against letting out the house until the property market improved. I worked through it, and concluded that if I failed to sell this time, I would, subject to certain conditions, give letting a go. So for the first time in my life (my goodness, yet another 'first' in my life) I could become a landlord. Or should that be landlady? (I thought landladies ran pubs, or Blackpool guest houses)

I haven't entirely ignored other issues. One important thing done today was to fix up an hour's consultation with Dr Michael Perring in London, to get a second opinion on my referral for surgery. 2.00pm on 30 November is the date and time. I think I have to somehow convince him that I'm a mature, well-balanced, properly-motivated person without any underlying mental problems or fetishes. Maybe I'll just be myself and hope for the best! He'll be writing a report. I hope it is no worse than 'Pleasant airhead who nevertheless has some grasp on reality; OK for surgery'.

Today would also have been my Dad's 90th birthday. I'm not going to get all sentimental this year. There are several nice pictures of Dad in last year's post Happy 89th Birthday, Dad - or it would have been, which, if curious, you can find by scrolling down to the archive list of postings on the right-hand edge of this blog. I still wished dear Dad a happy birthday the moment I woke up this morning.

Back to more frivolous things tomorrow!

Oh, I didn't mean that, Dr Perring! Everyone knows I'm not frivolous at all, but serious to the point of obsession!

Oh God, I didn't mean to imply that I was an obsessive! Only that I am not, repeat not, a foolish little girl who has no idea about the significance of this surgery!

Oh God, I didn't mean to imply that I didn't think of myself as a little girl, ever. Yes, yes, yes, I did when young, and do now. I have girly thoughts all the time! I live in pretty cotton frocks, and white socks, and red shoes with straps, and tie my hair in pigtails! I've always loved little kittens and ponies and ballet. You've got to believe me, please.

Oh God, I didn't mean to be so emphatic! Actually I was joking! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! As you can see, I actually pose as a sophisticated woman. No, I don't really mean pose, I mean I project this image of a mature woman of style, finesse and allure. Like Audrey Hepburn in those films of the 1950s and 1960s. As in Charade, in which she starred with Cary Grant.

Of course I realise she was just acting! I know she was a screen fantasy, and not a real person! I didn't mean to imply that I was obsessed or deluded by an imaginary ideal! I know I'm a real woman...

(Shreiks and despairs)

Monday, 15 November 2010

Taking my life back

I saw the estate agent manager today and discussed what to do about my stalled house sale.

This is not the house I presently live in (which I inherited from Mum and Dad), but my former home. I put a lot of money into buying it in 2007. There was an even larger private loan. It was supposed to be an investment. But it's turned sour. The UK property market collapsed soon after purchase, and ever since then I've tried to sell this house. I've tried each year. This is the third attempt.

The sale has stalled because my buyer's buyer (it's a chain of three) has done nothing. So my buyer has done nothing.

That's no good to me. The house has been costing me over £7,000 a year in running costs and loan repayments, a heavy burden when I have my inherited home to run too. It's gradually diminished my remaining capital. One year from now all my ready cash will be gone. But I dare not simply rent the place out to cover costs, because that won't touch the underlying debt. My monthly repayments have been keeping the interest in check, but a small upward twitch in rates would see the loan start to snowball. Just now this huge personal loan is my biggest worry, dominating my life.

I want my life back.

I want it back so much that I have come round to accepting that, if necessary, I will lose everything I put into that property, just to be free of it. That's a very heavy financial price: £202,000 in capital alone. Plus another £22,000 in running costs and loan repayments since purchase, which is just money down the drain in the circumstances. The loss of all that money will in theory severely limit what I might do in the years ahead. But if I gain freedom from worry, and full control over my life, it's a price worth paying. And, relieved of the costs of ownership, I could gradually rebuild my capital.

So I have now dropped the asking price to a level that should quickly attract a serious buyer. It's £170,000 less than we started at. But what the hell. I want to repay that personal loan without delay, and I want to have everything settled before I have my operation on 1 March. So it's pitched at a price that cash buyers looking for a bargain should find very hard to ignore.

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Grief at Treyarnon Bay

Treyarnon Bay is one of a series of surfing bays to the west of Padstow. It was the scene of many family camping holidays from 1965 into the early 1970s. After my wonderful meal at Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, and a little shopping in the boutiques there, I went to Treyarnon at the tail end of the afternoon. It was windy and rather chilly, and the light was starting to fade.

I got down onto the beach and walked towards the waves. As the wind grew keener and the clouds more threatening, my mood turned from elation to sorrow. I could not help reflecting on those family holidays forty-odd years before. Mum, Dad, my brother W---, they were all alive then. All having a jolly time, full of zest. Mum and Dad were just past their mid-forties, in the prime of their lives. They were always laughing and doing things they enjoyed. W--- my younger brother was an energetic and carefree boy who had not yet become complicated. They all loved the beach. I was a lanky, shy, solitary, awkward teenager who was moody and bored and felt like a misfit. Here's a shot of me from July 1965, when I'd have just turned thirteen, trying to smile for the camera:

Can this possibly be the same person who became this (taken when caravanning in Kent in early 2008, only a few months before transition commenced):

Or this (taken very recently at the Tate St Ives):

Or either of these people (taken a couple of days ago at home):

Amazing how we change. I don't see much of a link between the golden person of 2010 and the vaguely dissatisfied person of 2008, let alone the very uncomfortable youngster of 1965.

Back to my story. As I trod the wet sand (in my blue wellies with the hens on them, incidentally) I felt more and more pulled down by the thought that my family had vanished, taken away by accident, disease and sudden death. Eventually the tears came, and everything was a blur. And, because there was nobody to hear, I howled with grief into the bitter wind. This subsided, but I continued to wipe away tears until I had completed a circuit of the beach. Then I cheered up. Yes, I could keep on asking 'Why me, why did I survive them all?' but it achieved nothing. And I kept remembering that life goes on come what may, and one might as well go with it willingly, because go with it one must. There is no choice. I should instead be happy that I had been spared, and had a life that was not yet over. And it mattered what kind of life I led in the years left to me.

I decided that, whatever my circumstances in the years ahead, I would snap my fingers at adversity and make myself glad to have been born.

Friday, 12 November 2010

I want to sing

My voice therapy sessions with Christella Antoni have now come to an end, at least on a one-to-one basis - I'm still going to attend group sessions now and then. It's a way of measuring oneself against other 'trained' voices - apart from being an excuse to come up to London for the day!

But I haven't finished with Christella. It's not very well known, but she has a talent for singing and we have agreed that in January I will come up to see her and we will explore my potential for singing on my own account in my female voice. And when I say singing, I don't mean bawling out some dreadful karaoke anthem in a pub. I have ambitions - call me deluded if you will - to attempt something operatic. Or at least sing the blues. Or maybe it'll be something from 'Oklahoma!': I'm Just A Girl Who Can't Say No. Whatever, it'll be a new thing in my life. I'm unmusical, but I have always wanted to sing like Callas.

Of course there is the dreadful probability that my scope will be confined to the squeaky voice on the Pam & The Paperclips' 1980 number, Typing Pool. Here it is on YouTube: Mind you, if that's all I can do, it'll still be an accomplishment!

I'm looking forward to getting some practice in at Christmas. And for some reason the Goodies' rousing little singalong hit Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me keeps coming into my head. Also on YouTube: Must be the increased hormone dose!

Goodbye Facebook

There. Done it. Deactivated my Facebook account. It wasn't adding anything to my life, and yet it needed maintenance and it seemed a little too public. And it was awkward to use on my phone.

I was mildly intrigued to see what the fleeting concerns of people were, but the prevailing mood was too light for anything serious. Facebook didn't seem the right platform for important announcements. Nor could you write a long and detailed piece. Most people seemed to write cryptic or frivolous one-liners and little else. These quickly got buried by fresh stuff. So you basically saw only what people had said in the last three hours or so, unless prepared to scroll back, which I wasn't because the reward was too thin. Nor was I ever going to chat online.

Somehow I feel as if I've lightened my load. I've got off the crowded bus and decided to walk in the fresh air.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

New front runner from the Melford Stable

No doubt about it. After a hesitant start, the right boob has come from nowhere to take the lead in the 2:45 today at Salisbury, passing the left in heavy going just before the start of the home stretch and bouncing ahead to wild cheers from the ecstatic crowd. Bad for the bookies, as quite a few racegoers will have made a killing on this fourteen-to-one outsider. What an upset! Owned by Lucy Melford and trained by Esther Diol, this feisty but temperamental and inconsistent two year old now seems to have found sparkling new form and may even be up for the A Cup by the end of the season.

BBC interviewer: Lucy, you must be very pleased with both these two year olds from your successful stable!
Lucy: Actually, yes! For a long time it looked as if the left boob was going to be the faster runner, and as recently as last June she was always the 2 to 1 favourite, but now, after a change in diet I'd put my money on the right boob for at least the rest of the year.
BBC interviewer: And which for the A Cup?
Lucy: Ah, you can never tell. I wouldn't dismiss the left yet!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Celebration in Padstow 2

(This is what should have appeared earlier)

My Cornwall holiday is going well.

On Monday (1 November) I had a little personal celebration: the first anniversary of legally changing my name by Deed Poll to Lucy Melford. Hurrah! To mark this event, I had lunch at Rick Stein's famous Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. I just turned up without prior booking and got a table. Thank goodness it was a Monday late in the year, otherwise it would have been hopelessly booked up. As it was, I was momentarily at a loss when told yes, I could come in for lunch or dinner. As I liked the look of the lunchtime menu, I leapt at that. It felt like being suddenly hoicked in off the street and ushered in a friendly fashion to a table in one of the best-known restaurants in London. I felt excited, and clearly I wasn't the only one. It's demeaning the place to call it a classy tourist experience; but the female half of the sophisticated-looking couple next to me admitted that she was here for the first time too. And the restaurant filled up with others who were obviously visitors and not locals. Clearly, even on a weekday in November, there were plenty of affluent people around in Cornwall ready to blow £45 a head!

I began with complimentary bread and olives, then had gurnard quenelles. My main course was a fillet of hake topped with mussells and cockles, plus vegetables. Dessert was good old rice pudding with raspberry conserve, followed by black coffee. (I'll add photos of all this once home again) Throughout I had still water and a large glass of Macon to drink.

This was an impressive meal. The bill was awesome to match, but I did not flinch.

It was doubly, triply, enjoyable by being treated without question as a discerning woman. Not a sign of doubt, hesitation, or disbelief. It was all smiles and 'madams' and warm, sustained eye contact. And not just from the staff. The couple next to me, mentioned above, who from what I overheard were seriously knowledgable about food, happily discussed with me the courses and wine they had chosen. And I went to the ladies' loo with a girl in heels who had just slipped on the floor. She was all right, but appreciated my concern, and after we'd done our business we had quite a conversation. Sustained eye contact again. She certainly didn't run away screaming, complaining that there was a strange person in the toilet! And then afterwards, in the shops (Padstow nowadays seems to be nothing but expensive - though very nice - fashion shops and restaurants) I was able to chat away with women young and old about the merchandise and all sorts of other things, such as the arrival of Flower Power in Padstow in the summer of 1967 - I was actually there, but was dragged away from the 'weird people' by Mum and Dad. This ability to chat and reminisce was all so liberating. I found it easy to draw on my past life, which was, I now see, very unisex and non male-specific, and therefore safe to discuss. As if in some way I'd been rehearsing my eventual role as Lucy - albeit unconsciously, of course.

Of course it helped, when wandering around Padstow, that my clothes and makeup were right; but I think the voice and demeanour were the killer factors. Honestly, if I had one key piece of advice to give, it would be to spend money on female voice tuition and practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. And at the same time watch what women do, and learn to walk easily and naturally like a woman does, and school yourself to make light, quick, deft, flowing movements. Even large women walk as if floating on air. I have long paid attention to all this.

So I trotted around Padstow feeling immune from enquiry, passing all kinds of people quite unremarked, and apparently unnoticed. I felt invisible. And it was glorious and intoxicating to think that if someone DID challenge me, I could reply in a voice that would have them apologising.

But in case anyone thinks I was flying too high, and due for a fall, I will mention an incident from the previous day. I was in Fowey. And I found myself approaching three girls. They were looking in my direction. I heard one say, 'Go on, ask him!' Did she mean me? Oh well. I had to face up to a public challenge sometime, and I'd rather it be three girls in an empty Cornish street late on a Sunday afternoon, rather than a group of cocky lads outside a city pub on a busy weekday with a throng of passers-by to relish my exposure. So I walked towards them without pausing. Then I walked past. And then with huge relief walked on, still with nothing said to me. I stopped within earshot to take a photo of something. There was no mistake. I'd been wrong. They must have been talking about a potential boyfriend, not me. I had underestimated my ability to stand up to close scrutiny. Later on I felt massively encouraged about this. But my first dismayed reactions were proof that my self-confidence was really quite fragile. Hence my elation at Padstow next day.

I wonder if you ever get off this tightrope of antiicipated challenge, or does it go on 24/7 for the rest of your life?

Celebration in Padstow

Friday, 29 October 2010

Emotion surges and tears

There's a possibility that the increased hormone dose might be having some effect on my emotions! At any rate I've been subject to emotion surges this morning, although not without a stimulus. Once a year I get to feeling that I'd like to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, and without fail these always stir me up. I'm easy meat when it comes to powerful drama and mood music.

This happened last year, and if you dig into the archives to my 4 October 2009 post called My favourite moment from LOTR 3 (The Return of the King) you'll find a mention of crying and emotioning just as now. Except that this year the real-world, very personal losses of parents and (very probably) my former partner M--- are much in my mind and are making it all harder to control. I think I'm feeling the grief more keenly than ever before. Strange, when in other ways my life is forging ahead in a direction very much to my liking! I should be jubilant. But instead it's all tinged with a sadness profound enough to choke on.

Don't worry - I'll get past this. And in any case, life always goes on, with or without oneself, and one might as well go with it and make the very best of the deal you get.

But my goodness, never have I felt more strongly that 'everything has its price'. It's so true. One way or another you pay heavily for every nice thing that comes your way, every ambition fulfilled, every step forward. As if a law of physics were being obeyed: you get nothing out without putting something in. Money is the least of it. Sometimes you pay with people you do not want to lose.

Getting back to LOTR, the character I find the most appealing, that I most identify with, is Eowyn, the heroine of Rohan, who is like a trapped bird longing to fly, and who can fight as any man in the defence of her land, and who (as celebrated last year) proves up to a most courageous and defiant act in the face of overwhelming horror.

There you are: I really always wanted to fight battles to save all that I love. I need a horse and a  sword.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

I can't wait to use it

I refer to my new washing machine. The old one, inherited from Mum and Dad, packed in some months ago, but I was able to use the machine at my old house half an hour away. It meant a weekly round trip, but then I had to look in every seven days anyway to comply with the insurance, make sure things were OK, clear any fallen apples from the drive (the house remains up for sale), and snip at the odd bush. But now that the garden has stopped growing for the year, and the days are getting colder and wetter, I didn't fancy a prolonged visit to my old home just to do a couple of washes, especially as I'd have to turn the central heating up to a comfortable level while waiting and use up some expensive oil.

Besides, a new working machine was going to be essential for the post-op period - lots of towels and bedding and so on to keep clean!

So I got on with it, ordered a large-capacity, cool-washing, fast-spin Hotpoint from a local shop, and it arrived just an hour ago. My next door neighbour K---, who is a plumber, and has the same machine, is going to connect it for me and push it into position. I'll be doing my first load today, and that'll give me enough time to wash and iron a few items I want to take down to Cornwall with me. Yes, I'm off again shortly!

The delivery men were very nice. They carried it in very carefully - having already taken away the old machine - and no damage was done to walls or floors. They called me madam and treated me like a woman who sensibly leaves things like this to the men. There was no condescension in this, just pleasant respect. I felt great. I wasn't dressed up - just a dark top and skinny jeans. The tummy was a little prominent, but the outfit tended to make me look a bit willowy for once. I gushed in my usual manner, even saying at one point, 'I can't wait to use it!' Miss Domestic.

Oh, the first wieghing under my pre-op Weight Loss Regime was a disappointment. My weight was fractionally down, I suppose, but after a light breakfast it would have been just the same as last week. Maybe I'll see some better results by next week. Meanwhile foxes gnaw at my vitals all the time. However, I feel virtuous, because last night when in a Brighton pub with friends, I resisted the temptation to have a yummy Chinese meal, even though the trans guy sitting next to me had the full works.

Only an hour to go to my two midday crackers, four green olives, and an apple.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Winter boots

Here's my winter line-up for this year, all of them black boots. I haven't got any brown boots, and I'm not sure it would really be worth my buying any. The three black boots are not all new. The pair on the right were bought nearly two years ago and have been reheeled twice. Those in the centre were bought one year ago. And those on the left just the other day.

I really don't know which I like best. The centre boots have the highest heel, and look the most elegant, or at least the most piratical. The righthand ones have a medium heel, and you could certainly walk in them around a big place such as London, as indeed I have. The zip-up pair on the left have a flat heel but are the most go-anywhere and casual of the three. All have soft leather uppers and all fit well. If I had to choose boots that I could wear comfortably all day long, I think it would have to be the lefthand ones, but then it would also depend on the clothes worn. Tights and leggings and long skirts suit left and centre best; the righthand boots look best with jeans, especially if tucked in. All of them can look fabulous with a miniskirt.

Right, that's boots sorted. What about hats and scarves and gloves?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Health warning to prudes

In the South Island of New Zealand, in the far southerly region known as Southland, is a place called Clifden. Clifden is famous for two things. First, it was the site of the first bridge to span the then infamously dangerous Waiau River. Even today this suspension bridge, completed in 1899, remains the longest in New Zealand. Here's a picture of it when new:

When I saw it in March 2007 it had for a long time been replaced by a modern bridge downstream, but you could still walk across it. Mind you, it didn't seem to be in a very good state:

It's presently closed after a recent local earthquake, for health and safety reasons. Apparently the NZ Government doesn't want backpackers getting caught on the bridge when the rusty iron chains finally go twang. Spoilsports.

To continue my tale. Just off the far end, that is, on the west bank of the river, was a limestone cliff, wooded at its base. The trees, with their gnarled roots, were very photogenic, and begged to be seen close up. They partially screened a curiously-shaped cave:

Well, I don't know what you think, but to me this is one of the best natural representations of the Female Parts that I've ever seen. And yet there was not a mention of this cave on the otherwise very complete tourist information board by the bridge, even though the second reason why Clifden is famous is - you've guessed it - because of its network of limestone caves!

I should have thought that this cave was renowned in the local Ngati Mamoe Maori folklore. It might well have been the scene of coming-of-age retreats and suchlike, for both girls and boys, especially girls I'd say. Maybe it was known as Te-tomo-tapu-o-puhi ('the Sacred Cave of the Virgins') or O-Papatuanuki ('the place of Mother Earth'). (My knowledge of Maori is shaky, so apologies to native speakers for these invented placenames, but I hope you respect the attempt) My point is, this cave must have played a big part in the ritual life of the Maori in this region of Southland, and yet I have not been able to find any reference to it on the Internet, nor in any of my NZ guidebooks. NZ nowadays respects its Maori heritage, and such a cave would surely be worth a mention in the guide books. So what's going on?

I can think of two reasons offhand why this cave isn't flagged up as a must-see place, like the Moeraki Boulders are, say. (Another South Island tourist sight, on the south-east coast near Oamaru) First, the local Maori might not want the cave desecrated by an army of giggling camera-toting tourists bent on getting a joky, semi-pornographic picture. (It's really not uncommon for venerated or sacred Maori land to be officially off limits to tourists) Second, and I think this is probably the main reason, the NZ Government is awkward about anything that might be considered immodest or embarrassing, and it's therefore coy and shy and bashful about this cave. So it just says nothing about it. And the guide books and souvenir picture books suffer from a similar avert-your-eyes primness.

Well, here we are, at the start of the twenty-first century, but there are areas of the world where Victorian Respectability and Victorian Moral Values still hold sway! And not just in New Zealand. This morning I caught an item on Radio 4 about some towns in Italy making it a punishable offence to appear in public in 'provocative clothing'. No miniskirts allowed, for instance. Dear me!

It's all right, officer, I've got knickers on today.

Which brings me to a more general point about being shocked, about sharp intakes of breath, and about narrow-minded prudery. In the run-up to my genital surgery I'm going to be speaking at length on about penises and vaginas and clitorises and other terms of that nature, just as we all have to if we want to explain how things are proceeding to those interested. This is a blog written with transsexual people in mind. OK, anyone else can read it too. And why not? It's also the edited highlights of my ordinary passing life, a kind of online day-to-day diary. But there is a definite and deliberate bias towards what transitioning people might find interesting. And just as I found other blogs helpful in the past, a resource of many individual experiences, I hope my own unravelling story will join that useful collection of facts and impressions. And to ensure that it can be true and frank, I can't avoid discussion on topics that might make some folk blush. Being squeamish about the physical details would be like saying my body is not fit to be talked about, that it's dirty and unclean. It would be pandering to dishonesty if I shut up simply to spare some people's feelings, or to sidestep old-fashioned notions of what is appropriate and decorous.

But no doubt somebody somewhere will burn me at their stake for wanton indecency!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Hormone tap now turned full on

I replace ny existing 100mcg Oestradiol patch every Saturday and Tuesday. Yesterday I began to stick on a second patch, giving me an extra 50mcg each time - a 50% increase in hormones. Assuming I have no adverse side-effects, this new regime will continue week by week until Saturday 15 January, in thirteen weeks time, when all hormone treatment must cease until after the op.

I'm hoping for accelerated feminisation in that thirteen weeks, although realistically I probably won't notice any changes in such a short period. No size DD boobs, no babies, then. At least the effects of the Oestradiol may take longer to fade once I stop.

I noticed that the 50mcg patch was about half the size of the 100mcg patch - rather a cute little thing - which made me wonder whether the anount of the hormone transfered from patch to skin is constant, and larger doses require a larger surface area. Rather like a heavy-duty car or leisure battery is always bigger than the standard thing (more lead plates within). Does anyone use a single 150mcg patch, and is it huge?