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---!