Sunday, 30 January 2011

The good effects of badminton

Whoops! You've got to be really careful when using wide-angle lenses, as these two shots illustrate. Just a very slight difference in aim; the camera was in both instances at the same distance, at the very end of my extended arm. Which is the truer representation of the Melford face? Or Melford boobs, come to that! I personally think the top shot is the one I'd want on a 'Most Wanted - Armed and Dangerous' police poster. The bottom one - ugh - no words to describe my horror at the Pinocchio nose, and a jaw so massive that it could bite off an elephant's head. Can't deny the tired eyes in both pix though: I'm not getting enough sleep. Never mind, nearly one month ahead, I'll be post-op and sleeping like the living dead.

The badminton facilities in The Dolphin Leisure Centre at Haywards Heath show up nicely. That's my friend R--- in the lower shot, and we're just about to set to. I won't tell you the score, nor who won the most games, but I secretly handicapped her with a beef casserole to die for earlier on, which must have weighed her down like a ball and chain! But we both played well, getting in some cracking shots over the net. And that's one of the good things about badminton - you can be less than a champion, but still regularly play shots to be proud of, even if many are flukes aided by mysterious breezes and the intervention of gods.

But I'd praise the game for other reasons.

First, it gets you fitter, toning up muscles that (in my own case) hardly get a twitch otherwise.

Second, it boosts the diet, using up at least some calories. But you must be careful not to have any kind of snack once back home afterwards, because the good work will be undone if you do.

Third, it sharpens your wits. You have to think pretty fast. Ditsy people like me need to have their brain cells stirred into action at least once a week!

Fourth, you can show off your girly arms and your girly figure, not so much to attract attention, but to give yourself confidence that your arms and legs and parts in between are worth showing, that they really are shapely and natural-looking, and absolutely like the parts exhibited by the girls on adjacent courts. Maybe you'll actually be less flabby and plagued by cellulite, and therefore enviable.They'll notice, believe me.

Fifth, you can practice being graceful and light-footed, and standing to receive shots as a girl would stand. Boys are stiff and inelegant; they slouch and crouch; and they they plod and lumber. Even a fat girl moves in a liquid and flowing way, that belies her actual weight. So be a ballerina, not the Incredible Hulk.

Sixth, you can practice your 'excited voice' - not the careful female voice that you use in conversation, but the loud, gasping, competitive, sometimes anguished or triumphant cries and shreiks and laughs that girls emit when pushed hard, or getting in an amazing shot. These are as hard as sneezing. You absolutely must sound like a girl would in these pressured circumstances, and it needs a lot of attention. Imagine plunging into a pool that is much colder than you thought: you must give the right kind of scream. That's what I mean.  

But there are things to watch. Do not fall into the male mindset of 'must win'. It's a friendly game - skilful yes, definitely worth playing well, but the score really doesn't matter. You're being uncharacteristically ungirly and Olympic if you play ruthlessly to win. Remember: ordinary girls want to co-operate and have a nice chat afterwards, they're not out for blood or glory, and they're not normally showoffs. Quite apart from the fact that intense, frowning concentration looks a bit over-serious and gladiator-like. And you want to avoid working up a sweat. You absolutely don't want to look hot and flustered and annoyed.

And pay attention to your hair! Girl pat theirs all the time, and flick it out of their eyes. Do the same. I think I made a mistake wearing that shiny black plastic hairband in the pictures above. All wrong. It was a practical improvisation on the night, but it detracted from the female look, and revealed just how artificial my painted-on eyebrows were. The other girls playing nearby didn't wear hairbands, even though they mostly had fringes; They relied on keeping cool and the regular hair flick. Lesson learned!

Finally, don't do as I've done here, reveal The Word as if reciting from tablets of stone!

R--- and I have two more sessions now, then badminton must stop for quite a while, until I can safely play a game without popping stitches or collapsing in exhaustion after five minutes. I will miss it through the early summer.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

My new Cath Kidston shopping bag

A couple of days ago I went off to Chichester with lunch and shopping and art in mind. I went to Cafe Paradiso, a veggie cafe that M--- and I used to frequent, and had my favourite veggie lasagna, lettuce, tomato and wheat berry, washed down by a cup of black coffee. About 400 kcals, I reckoned. Then I strolled around Chichester, which has some very good shops indeed.

If you don't know anything about Chichester, let me fill you in a bit. It's a small cathedral city built in stone and redbrick and flint, with an ancient defensive wall and surrounded by countryside at the west end of West Sussex, about an hour from where I live. It was called Noviomagus in Roman times ('The something magician?' - that can't be right!) and has at its heart a medieval Market Cross from which four shopping streets radiate, aligned to the four points of the compass, and these split the town centre into four quarters. The lovely cathedral with its commanding spire is in the south-west quarter. The city is on a flat plain between the South Downs and the sea, and not far from the vast watery delights of Chichester Harbour. The whole area is historic, full of quaint buildings, prosperous, yachty. It's no coincidence that the Romans built villas close by (notably at Fishbourne), that the famous and fashionable Goodwood racecourse is up on the scenic Downs that overlook the city, that the Goodwood motor racing circuit and the Rolls Royce car plant are just out of town, and that King Canute (who failed to stop the incoming tide) and King Harold (the doomed Saxon monarch who lost England to the Normans in 1066) are both associated with Bosham, the picturesque harbour village just a few miles away - a great spot for a cup of tea and toasted teacake, and for watching bobbing boats in the sunset. But Chichester also has a major provincial theatre - the Festival Theatre - and the Pallant House Gallery, which displays a little of  everything, from Picasso to Cezanne to Paul Nash, even stuff from the St Ives School, plus proper contemporary exhibitions. The Gallery was on my list of places to drop into that day, actually more essential than the shopping.

You know, I really don't know why I haven't moved to Chichester. It's no Brighton, but much more suited to my preferred lifestyle. However, in the past M--- and I considered it vulnerable to global warming, and indeed it would be very much at risk if the sea level rose by a few metres. But that concern has abated somewhat, and Chichester no longer seems certain to disappear under the waves in my lifetime and foster legends of the Lost Land of Lyonesse or whatever. The only snag about moving there, or anywhere nearby, is the premium you pay for living in such a nice area: house and flat prices are sky high.

Oh dear, I am well off-topic! Well, after the yummy (but quite virtuous) veggie lunch, I set off southwards towards the Market Cross, noting shop-window bargains in a fabric shop on the way (that I never got round to checking out). At the Cross, I turned west to the House of Fraser department store, then back to the Cross, and then south again. And the Cath Kidston shop drew me in. And there was a stout but pretty plastic-and-fabric shopping bag in slate blue ('National Trust blue' I'd call it) with white spots. This was something I had to have. And in a twinkling it was mine. I was so pleased. I'd been looking for a replacement shopping bag for months. It's not just for 'shopping' per se; bags like this do duty as something to put documents and cardigans and sports gear into. Anything but messy stuff that might spoil it. And this was a superior article, with leather fasteners, and interior pockets. A kind of fashion item, in a way, but very practical. I have plainer fabric bags for supermarket items. Even these must look good resting on Fiona's back seat, but they can be slightly abused in a way that my new Cath Kidston bag won't be!

So what does it look like?


Proud owner shows it off at home.


Yup, nice interior!


Perfect for the evening's badminton.


And it gets Ted's seal of approval.

I'll tell you about the badminton in my next post. Not the score - that doesn't matter - but its beneficial effects!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Deceptive meals

Let me show you some pictures of some of my main meals while on my self-invented (but strictly calorie-controlled) diet. Some of them are more calorie-rich than others, but none exceed 737 kcal, and the lowest pumps only 376 kcal into me.

Here's the 737 kcal meal:


That's four rashers of best back bacon, some fusili pasta with basil pesto, spinach, and a blob of tomato ketchup. The pesto was the spoiler, contributing 150 kcal all by itself. A very quick, tasty meal though.

The next highest in calories was this slow-cooked casserole featuring stewing steak, sweet potato, onions, mushrooms and green beans. This bloated me out till I went pop, very satisfying, and yet it was only 637 kcal:


Next up is this lunchtime salad (yes, a salad) at 607 kcal, based around a 180g tin of red salmon. The spoilers here were the blob of mayonnaise, which added 144 kcal, and (surprisingly) the apple, which added 136 kcal:


Now it begins to get a little saner. This meal, with two sea bass fillets, potato, green beans with french dressing, and a blob of tomato ketchup, was only 581 kcals:


Dropping rapidly down into the guilt-free zone, this next meal of chicken breast, potato, baked mushroom, asparagus with french dressing, plus the usual blob of tomato ketchup was only 504 kcal:


At 493 kcal here's amother chicken meal with potato, carrots and sugar snap peas, this time in gravy:


And finally, slimmer's Nirvana with one fillet of hake, potato and broccoli, and (guess what) that good old blob of tomato ketchup. Only 376 kcal:


The secret there was to have only one fillet of fish, not two. Pity I mangled the hake when getting it onto the plate!

I suppose what I'm trying to demonstrate is that your main daily meal can be attractive and hearty and nutritious, and yet still not blow the diet. I think you're wasting your money if you buy shop-bought slimmer's meals, exercise machines, and weightwatching club membership. Just eat main meals like this, substantially cooked using fresh ingredients.

Plan your daily calorie intake around your main meal. Make sure you eat something for breakfast and lunch, late afternoon if you really need to, and late at night if you really need to, bearing in mind that once asleep you're inactive and not burning up any calories to speak of. Regular food intake, however token, staves off hunger and avoids bingeing. Drink tea or black coffee or water at regular intervals. Keep away from sugary snacks and drinks, and also chocolate - a tremendously difficult thing to do if you're hooked on these things, I know.

Anyway, I thought you'd like to see what my diet-meals are really like, and why I think I can keep my diet up for as long as I want!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Weight loss

Another weigh-in before breakfast this morning. Here are the results:

Weight                            83.6 kg (184.3 pounds)
Body fat                          38.4%
Body water                     44.7%
Muscle mass                  29.9%
Body Mass Index          27.0
Basal Metabolic Rate    1508 kcal

So I'm still losing weight on my calorie-controlled diet at the rate of half a pound a day (actually 6.4 pounds in the last twelve days), my body fat is decreasing, my body water is increasing, my body muscle is increasing, and my BMI and BMR are both going down. I feel fine, and I still have the strength to lift medium-sized sheets of chipboard (just!).

And I still have some kind of figure. The vital statistics this morning were:

Bust          108 cm (42.5 inches)
Waist        88 cm (34.6 inches)
Hips          103 cm (40.6 inches)

My target pre-op weight is 80 kg (176.3 pounds). I therefore need to lose another 8.0 pounds, and at half a pound a day that's 16 days: 11 February. By then I hope that sensible eating habits will have been permanently learned, and I can maintain or even improve on my 80 kg. After all, some girls are very much less hefty than that!

The only downside to all this slimming is that I have to readjust the seat and steering wheel settings in Fiona now and then, as I change shape. Tsk!

Monday, 24 January 2011

So far so good: no hormone withdrawal symptoms yet

It's over a week since I put on my last hormone patch. But there are no signs of any trouble yet.

As you can imagine, I've been watchful for signs of sudden masculinisation in the pre-op period. I was expecting increased hair growth on my chest, and maybe a five o'clock shadow around my mouth by the evening. Also the disappearance of my breasts and hips, and the reappearance of arm and leg muscle. Basically the unravelling of all that the hormones have achieved so far. And I've been warned also of things like hot flushes.

But no hint of such negative effects.

However, there's still over a month to go...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

On stage! Acting my head off in full view of the entire audience!

Well, I exaggerate! It wasn't Hamlet. But as you will see I was indeed on stage, in front of the audience, and I was playing the part of a wife or girlfriend, entwined in the arms of my male half, and snuggling up. And I got away with it.

A bit of background. My friend R--- met another girl called F--- while in hospital early last year. And since then R--- (sometimes with myself) has made several trips to see F---. In fact F--- is a member of more than one group of friends, and yesterday evening six of us got together in Winchester, it being F---'s birthday.  R--- and myself were introduced to J---, and another friend named R--- from Guildford. So that's two entirely new friends!

We enjoyed a lovely meal out at the Bangkok Brasserie in Winchester, then, for our entertainment, we went off to the nearby Discovery Centre to see the acts featured in this month's Barnstormers Comedy Night. That's three stand-up comedy acts linked by a fourth comdian who warms you up and holds the show together. A Northern comedian, naturally.

F--- hadn't known for sure that J--- and Guildford R--- would be coming, and so she only secured four tickets in advance. J--- and Guildford R--- had to wait around and see whether there would be any last-minute booking cancellations. So four of us went on ahead and got seats towards the front, although not on the front row. (You positively don't go there, when a Northern comedian is looking for easy victims in the audience)

J--- and Guildford R--- still hadn't come in as the show began. The comedian got into his stride, and lacerated a social worker in the audience who dared to be clever. Then some latecomers came in. A party of Australians. They took the predictable droll comments about the Aussie cricket team not doing very well with good grace. Then J--- snuck in, followed by Guildford R---, and they had to occupy two spare seats at the side of the auditorium that could well be considered part of the stage (the place was packed, and there was nowhere else to go). Their entry - and their seating position - could hardly be more obvious or exposed. Did I say that J--- had come in 'Bob' mode? Well, they looked like a couple, and the Northern comedian turned his wittiness upon them.

However, when asked what 'he' did for a living, J--- was equal to it, and immediately fired back that 'he' was a 'masseur', adding that he charged only £50 for 'additional services'! A complete fib, of course, although J--- did have a build that mildly suggested it could be true. And it got a laugh. Meanwhile Guildford R--- had began to snuggle up to J--- as if they adored each other. That got them a huge amount of attention, amazed the rest of our little party - and gave the comedian plenty to comment on, in the way Northern comedians like to.  But of course Guildford R--- and J--- were not an item at all: it was all a big joke at the comedian's expense.

It would do no harm to embellish the joke. So in the first interval, J--- asked me whether I'd be willing to pull the comedian's leg a bit further. What about swapping with Guildford R---, to make it look as if 'he' were a serial womaniser? Blatant wife-swapping!

That brought an instant knee-jerk 'No way!' from me. But then I reconsidered. Why not? I was more than merely passing. Like everyone else in our little party I was being taken for granted. I was in a smart skirt and top, with nice shoes and my hair looked good. I was minded to take a risk, even to the extent of being scrutinised by an entire audience, and swapping banter with a ruthless comedian. Why not? A test. Did I have the bottle? Yes!

So after the interval, it was J--- and myself that now occupied those seats on full view to all. And we played our parts to the hilt, just as J--- and Guildford R--- had done. The audience gawped. Here are two shots that will give you some idea of how J--- and Guildford R--- (and therefore myself) had appeared to the audience - and how the audience looked to us from those seats. (They're duff shots with blurred faces, but that very defect means I can use them)



See what I mean? No hiding place! It could be a nightmare waiting to happen. And self-inflicted!

On came the Northern comedian again. He didn't seem to notice the 'wife swap' at first. We snuggled up, and cuddled like billy-o, and looked at each other with shining lovers' eyes. All play-acting, of course, but it had to look authentic.Then the comedian did notice. He did a double-take that was a joy to see. Not often you throw a Northern comedian! He handled it pretty well. He obviously realised he was being set up, and didn't want us to become a fascinating sideshow. So after a quick comment directed at J---, we were left alone. We did our utmost to cuddle, and look loving, but all to no avail. And thus I survived.

Guildford R--- had her seat back after the second interval, and had no better success. The comedian wasn't going to react. Although I'm sure the audience hadn't seen through the deception, and were still puzzled!

I was well pleased. It just showed what you can do if you dare. It boosted my confidence sky high. I knew now that I could face a crowd and not be denounced!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Forever in Blue Jeans - not!

This post is about fashion, but I'll begin by recalling a song.

Throughout the 1970s Neil Diamond put out a series of songs that were a cut above the rest. They were catchy, and haunting, and deep, and emotional, and sometimes ironic, but always concerned with love of various kinds, and always true, and they all featured his particular voice, which I thought most attractive. It completely suited the songs. I was very sad when, sometime in the 1990s, I heard how far his voice had deteriorated with age. Sad in a way that I didn't feel when Frank Sinatra's voice went past its best. And Neil Diamond hadn't reached the stage of sounding dreadful: his voice was simply a shadow of its former self. It sounded strained and overworked and not nearly so strong. I was upset to hear it.

But in his heyday, the special Neil Diamond sound was at the top of the tree, and one of the songs I especially liked was Forever in Blue Jeans. Which was saying: 'Forget money; we can be poor but completely happy if we have each other, and love each other'. All wrapped up in a tune with a rhythm that you couldn't get out of your head, and sung in That Voice. I play it still, and enjoy it every time.

Well, what about blue jeans? Are they still the essential casual wear for both sexes? Or are they now becoming a period garment of the last century, iconic but not cutting edge, worn only to recall a golden age? So that the historical costume books of the future will show them as typical stand-by men's and women's fashion wear for a thirty year span up to 2000, but not since?

It's hard to say. Jeans are still highly useful items of clothing, well-suited to rough conditions (their original purpose) and visually very good with almost any top you can put on. They were never especially smart or stylish. They got better-cut as the years went by, and got shapely when the women's market was identified, and got very trendy indeed when fashion labels began to be important, but they were never things you would wear to the Lord Mayor's Banquet. They were in the same category as trainers; whatever you paid for them, whatever the label, however new or well-ironed they might be, they were not formal apparel. But that was the very point: at a glance, they said so much about your attitude to life. If you wanted to convey the impression that you were laid-back but streetwise, mellow but moody, then jeans got you more than halfway there. They were credible and cool. Like a packet of Marlborough cigarettes.

They were also very uncomfortable. They were designed for working men who wanted hard-wearing togs for the field or the factory. They began life in the company of boiler suits and dungarees. Then they got pretentions. But they never forgot their origins, and remained proud to be associated with truckers and cowboys and James Dean. A perfect, tailored fit was not essential, and it wasn't on offer for a long time. Even when attention began to be paid to the the fit, jeans seemed best suited to athletic, muscular young men with very slim hips. If like me you were an odd shape (I had quite wide hips) jeans were not good to wear. Oh yes, in my early struggles to look the part that I was supposed to play, I wore them all the time, but they would always be hard to put on unless I bought an oversize pair that my pelvic area would get into. But that meant a leather belt pulled in tight over the hips, a scrunched-up waistline, and baggy legs. Slimline jeans were impossible. How I envied the girls who could get into jeans so slender that the joke was they were sewn on. (I'm sure I wasn't alone in that envy)

When I began buying women's jeans from 2008, I found the fit definitely improved, because they matched my body shape. But now there was a fresh problem: they weren't cut to leave room for The Bits. So wearing jeans was still an exercise in discomfort.

And besides, they now had competition. By 2009 I had discovered the joys of leggings. I decided, without a backward glance, without a single nostalgic pang of regret, that I disliked jeans and vastly preferred leggings and other pliable wear for the lower body. Comfort won out. The last occasion I wore jeans was in July 2010, during my last trips with M--- (it was a concession to her feelings). Not since then. And I think I might as well chuck them out of my wardrobe altogether. I can't see myself ever wanting to wear jeans again, whether blue or any other colour.

I've decided too that I don't really like the look and feel of denim. It may be great for some people, but for me the stiff texture, the thickness and the weight is a no-no. Give me lightweight soft fabrics that cling, or drape, and reveal the body shape. And, if you will, make a different kind of personal statement. I bought some denim jackets in 2008, as compromise androgynous wear. I hardly wore them. They've long gone. In early 2009 I bought a denim skirt. Never wore it. It's gone too. I won't be buying anything else in denim. I don't want to look like an ageing cowgirl.

Sorry, Neil.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Dieting and KY Jelly

A week has passed since my last post! I seem to be one of a number of bloggers who have found themselves too busy to write anything. I've certainly been well occupied.

In the run-up to my surgery, losing weight on surgeon's orders is a top priority. My attempts to shed the pounds and kilogrammes started off rather slowly at the end of 2010, and paused over Christmas. But since 5 January I have set to with the emphasis on strict calorie control, recording in minute detail what I consume each day, and calculating the calories on each item. This is not something I'm going to keep up for the rest of 2011 - it takes time, and could turn obsessive - but it has revealed where I have been 'going wrong' and has shown 'what to do' if I want to lose a serious amount of weight on a sustainable basis, while still enjoying a balanced and satisfying diet full of interesting flavours.

This is how I do it. I am still eating my favourite things. But I am selecting the lower-calorie items, and applying strict portion control to limit the calorie intake. I have some electronic kitchen scales to help me measure the weight of quite minute quantities of foodstuffs. So I not only weigh the fillet steak I might eat, but also such things as the smear of olive oil I cook it with, and the dab of mustard or relish on my dinner plate.

My 'basal metabolic rate' is presently down to 1524 kcal - meaning that if I sit around all day and do nothing much, my body will need this amount of calories to tick over without digging into its fat reserves. So my recent daily goal has been to take in fewer than 1,524 calories a day, and if I can, move around. Here are the foodstuffs and drinks consumed on two typical days under the new regime:

Monday 17 January
Breakfast: one Ryvita with butter and marmalade; four dried apricots: 143 kcal
Lunch: four olives; one slice of toasted bread with butter; small portion of cheese: 303 kcal
Dinner: two sea bass fillets smeared in butter; two small potatoes; peas; french dressing and tomato ketchup: 635 kcal
Supper: crunchy nut cornflakes with milk; glass of milk: 340 kcal
Three cups of tea with milk; two black coffees: 79 kcal
Total: 1,500 kcal

Today, Wednesday 19 January
Breakfast: one Ryvita with butter and marmalade; four dried apricots: 143 kcal
Lunch: four olives; one Ryvita with butter and conserve; small portion of cheese: 303 kcal
Dinner: one chicken fillet smeared in butter; two small potatoes; one carrot; peas; gravy: 493 kcal
Supper: crunchy nut cornflakes with milk; glass of milk: 340 kcal
Three cups of tea with milk; one black coffee: 77 kcal
Total: 1,356 kcal

I haven't touched the Christmas Puddings, and I habitually do not buy sweets, cakes or biscuits.  Nor do I drink Coca-Cola or any other soft drinks. I only drink when out, and now I think to myself, as I sip my wine, '89 kcal per glass!'. It make a girl go carefully.

In the last fourteen days I have lost 3.2 kg (7.1 lbs). At that rate I can expect to get down to my target weight of 80 kg by 11 February. Maybe I will do better!

And now look at this:



Yes - a big box of KY Jelly in 82g tubes! I got 50 of them online from an outfit called Bondara.co.uk. That's Bondara as in Bondage: they sell all manner of sex toys, but I'm not proud and haughty, and their price for the KY Jelly, with free delivery on a specified day, was £190. Enough KY to dilate my head off.

And look:



They fit nicely into a chest of drawers by my bedside that I bought second-hand for the purpose last November. Handy.

Now I need a boatload of pads and panty liners. Ah, it's just like living a completely new life!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Last week on hormones

Another of those pre-op landmarks is approaching! I must come off hormones on 18 January.

I've already put on the last 50mcg patch, and there are only four of the 100mcg patches left, one of which will get used this Saturday (15 January), and then that's that. The other three will stay in their box until, presumably some weeks after the op, I have the green light to resume using them - unless Dr Richard Curtis recommends a different hormone regime.

Will I now go into a physical and emotional meltdown? I don't think so.

Contrary to expectations, the original onset of hormone treatment didn't have much of an effect on me. But gradually, and without drama, I grew little breasts, the fat slowly migrated, and bit by bit I became slender - or plumped out - in all the right places, and generally rounded off so that from the neck down I had a distinctly female shape. Even my face lost much of its male look, expecially after the hair-removal passed that critical point where all the obvious dark bristles were gone.

Emotionally I was remarkably unchanged - rather a surprise. I thought that taking female hormones would make me feel things much more deeply, perhaps without any inhibition or even much control, to the point of hurt and beyond. Or at least I would suffer debilitating mood swings. But none of that happened.

I suppose that if you're basically a low-key, stable type not given to much emotional expression, then popping a few pills (or in my case sticking on a few patches) isn't going to transform your nature. And just as well. I've had a range of testing events to cope with - the destruction of a longstanding relationship, death of both parents, the exacting duties of administering their estates, catastrophic financial loss, accumulating financial worry - and if I'd been in an emotionally jittery state all that would have been very hard to deal with. But I've managed to keep smiling, most of the time anyway.

And so I believe that coming off the hormones won't lead to a bout of depression, or a terrible loss of self-confidence. I am mindful though that at the present time I'm experiencing an entirely novel sequence of events. Who knows how I will feel in the weeks ahead! The only certainty is that time will march on. I pin my hopes on the likelihood that one day I will be post-op, recovering, and able to get back to a normal life.

It'll be a changed life also - some old bits gone, some new bits created -  I'll have a new self-perception, and maybe there will be new possibilities beyond calculation or imagining. It's too early, too premature to say. Que sera, sera.

I suppose what I fear now is that physically I will slip back, that some of the maleness will reappear over the next seven weeks - the breasts might retreat, the hips might vanish, and the face might look unconvincing again. But it won't happen overnight, and whatever does happen will have to be borne.

There is one major consolation - with the hormones not stimulating my appetite all the time, I should be able to manage a final sprint to my weight-loss goal!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Facial improvements

I mentioned that I seared my face in the icy Cornish breezes. It quickly developed into a red and swollen mess - I suppose the enhanced 'cheekbones' were a kind of bonus - and later on into a tight, painful and itchy mask. A few days ago I went to see the doctor about a couple of things, and this was one of them. I was assured that it would all fade. And gradually it has. Most of my face is now back to normal, and I'm just left with red puffy eyes. However, it's all been bad enough for me not to take the customary pictures of myself, and to go easy on socialising. But by tomorrow (Monday) even my eyes should look unremarkable.

Just as well, because I'm off to Trevor Sorbie for another trim, and I want to look good. Well, goodish. This will be the last visit to the hair salon before the op. I'm timing it so that the next will be in early April, when I will - with care - be up and around and able to drive myself into Brighton. (My usual underground car park in The Lanes is less than a minute from Trevor Sorbie, so I can easily stagger the distance, though heavy post-hairdo shopping won't be a wise thing to do)

This searing of the face was a new experience, and one I'll be wary of in the future. It was too uncomfortable to repeat.

But there's always a silver lining. The healed bits of my face now feel softer and smoother, as if I'd had one of those chemical treatments that remove the topmost layer of skin. It's a little too early to say that my face really is rejuvenated, but my fingertips tell me it is.

I'm therefore interested to see how my eyes turn out. They're still surrounded by partially-swollen tissue, and so the eyes themselves look narrower, but the skin around them is plumped out and wrinkle-free. Will they turn out to be all freshened-up, like the rest of my face? Or will the wrinkles be worse than ever before? For the present they seem strangely different from old, oddly more feminine. I wonder if there will be some permanent development there. I will post some shots as soon as I look presentable again.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Well known and important people

Sigh. In the news tonight there's a pleasant-enough young female singer called Jessie J who shrieks and gyrates for her pop video in the urban American style - and is pipped to be the 'Voice of 2011'. Deeper sigh. Apart from the fact that there already a singer called Jessy J - so we could have some confusion here, folks - it seems a mite premature for a fanfare of trumpets. By my reckoning, there's another 358 days left in 2011 for an even more wonderful voice to appear. What is the point of being so definite about Ms J's chances? Well, Mr Simon Cowell (hope I spelled that correctly), the well-known popular music contest host, says he likes her. So there you are.

I will stick my neck out and declare that Ms J is highly likely to find fame and fortune impossible to maintain after the first successful hit. As most do. It's such a crowded market. There's so little that's genuinely new and exciting, as opposed to apparently new and exciting. I'm not impressed by fresh faces milking tired genres for an ever less critical audience. I won't be spending money to listen to them or see them. I know Ms J is entitled to a career, but I am not going to fund it.

Oh what a lot of 'celebrities' there are! Just as Facebook has devalued the notion of 'friendship' (I agree with Anji), so endless talent shows on TV have devalued the notion of celebrity. Once it was heroic sportspeople, astronauts and polar explorers. Then it was music people of the giant stature of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Then renowned TV chefs. Then anyone who briefly appeared on Big Brother, no matter how poorly they behaved. The process seems to have gone further, so that anybody at all who gets on TV becomes a personality. Such attention-seekers might or might not have talent, but on the whole what they have is not going to place them in the Twenty-First Century Hall Of Fame. But their temporary stardom makes them suitable fodder for cheap-to-make programmes, the kind that TV chiefs like nowadays.

In my entire life I can think of only three genuinely well known and important people that I've personally 'met' in any proper sense of the word.

The first was the Queen Mother in 1978. It was the Queen's Hotel in Hastings. A civic reception was taking place, to do with her position as the Lord Warden of the Cinq Ports. I was a hotel guest, and duly lined the corridor as she walked to the grand dining room with costumed and liveried dignitaries. She gave me a glance and smiled. And I'd like to say that she stopped and whispered to me, 'One day you will be Lucy Melford', but it didn't actually happen. So I had no reason say 'Thank you, Your Majesty'. She simply walked on, smiling at everyone.

The second was the Lord Privy Seal in 1983. This is the title of the person who holds an ancient office of government. The 'seal' in question is not the white and fluffy variety with enormous eyes that eats fish and goes 'arf, arf', but the metal medallion that was used to make an imprint in hot wax when sealing letters and scrolls in days of old when knights were bold. The Keeper of the Privy (Private) Seal attended to the despatch of the monarch's personal correspondence. In more modern times, the Lord Privy Seal became the Minister Without Portfolio, and automatically had a seat in Cabinet. This person was therefore at the very heart of government, but free of departmental responsibilities, and therefore could be non-partisan. They could have a completely independent agenda, and say things without having to beat a drum for a group of civil servants. Useful on occasion.

The particular Lord Privy Seal that I met was Baroness Young, who had the office in 1982 and 1983. I was then the Schedule D Section Manager at Wimbledon District tax office. She was making a Ministerial Visit to the office. My boss, the District Inspector, ushered her into my room. We shook hands, and had some brief small talk (though I fancy not brief enough for the DI's liking) then she was gone.

I did not receive an honour. She did not whisper in my ear 'Don't despair! You will start your transition only twenty-five years from now', for this was the person who campaigned tirelessly against gay rights, and wouldn't have had much sympathy with trans rights either. Another fact about her was that she was the only woman ever appointed by Maggie Thatcher to her cabinet. The only other woman to have ever been Lord Privy Seal has been Harriet Harman, who had that position from 2007 until Labour's 2010 General Election defeat.

And what was the purpose of the Ministerial Visit? Our office was trialling a new type of canteen, serving nice sandwiches supplied by Marks & Spencer. The government saw it as the Future of Civil Service Catering. So it was Really Important.

Person number three was David Stancliffe in 2007, who was then Bishop of Salisbury. I reversed into his car. I'd been driving into the Cathedral Precinct, changed my mind, and began to back up the Honda 4x4 I was driving at the time. The Bishop's little car was out of sight behind me, and the first I knew of his presence was a thud as my towbar made a dent in his radiator grille. We got out and ruefully looked at the damage. I offered an immediate apology. He was jolly civilised about it. We adjourned to a nearby parking area. We exchanged addresses and insurance details; I took a photo of the damage to his car (mine was unmarked); and we parted on almost cordial terms. I would like to tell you that he blessed me, and foretold successful surgery just over three years ahead, but it was not so.

Not an impressive number of 'real' celebrities there! But all of top quality: Royalty, Government Minister, Bishop. I don't know what it proves, but I rest my case.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Facebook friends bicker while someone takes her own life

Well, this really shows how worthless an online 'community' can be, and is a dire warning not to rely on Facebook announcements. It's been on local TV tonight, and has been reported by the Guardian here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jan/05/facebook-suicide-simone-back

A Brighton woman of 42 felt desperate enough to take all her pills in a suicide bid, left a farewell message on Facebook for her 'friends', but was not taken seriously by those who could have gone round to see her and save her life. Instead a series of online exchanges took place, which achieved nothing, and meanwhile the woman in question died.

Should any of her Facebook friends have intervened? Even if she might have been simply crying out in pain, even if she made a habit of it, I'd have thought a real friend would knock on her door to see if she was all right. She was obviously miserable and should not have been left in a potentially self-destructive mood. I personally don't think, if I had been one of those friends, that I could have ignored a clear suicide threat, or would have wasted time arguing about it. I'd have acted - gone round to see whether it was real, and be prepared to summon medical help, and stick around till it arrived. Is that so hard to do?

So much for Facebook.

Interestingly I got the strong impression that she had been trans. If so, then at least this time, or at least so far, the press have not made anything of that.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Updates

I finally got my Second Opinion from Dr Michael Perring! Actually it was postmarked 14 December. What with postal delays in the dire pre-Christmas weather and other things such as being away, I didn't see it until I got home.

Although I really wasn't expecting any bad surprises, there was a nervous page and a half to read until I came to the final sentence, which gave his approval for the surgery. Ah, quel relief! The main copies had already gone to Dr Richard Curtis (the prime referer) and Mr Philip Thomas (the surgeon). So now I only have to get on with the routine pre-op stuff, such as getting in adequate supplies of towels and food and making certain that all the gadgets around the house actually work - for example my bath taps are stiff, and will need to be eased. Another plumbing job for K--- next door!

The wind-burned face still looks a sight, but it's a lot better than it was a couple of days ago. At least I can sleep soundly. I'd lost a lot of sleep while away.

Is it just me or has this really been (with a few exceptions here and there) a rather humdrum Christmas and New Year, with not much to look back on? A little snow on Christmas Eve would have been nice, but nature dumped an excess on us all from the start of December, making us sick of the sight of it. And then there was the inconvenience of a four-day break without anything much open, as Christmas Day and Boxing Day both fell on a weekend. There was nothing exciting on TV either.

I personally feel like someone killing time now, waiting for the real business of the year to start.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

TS Girlfriend

A while back I found this website: http://www.tsgirlfriend.com/, and I've been having another look at it. Some of you may know about it. In a series of articles - scroll down to the bottom of the home page to view them all - it offers advice to men who wish to date a transsexual girl, whatever her age. It's not telling a TS girl how to date. It's telling her prospective boyfriend all about her, what she wants, how she may react, and how to make her feel good. There are a few articles for the TS girl herself, including one about coming out to an interested man, and the possible consequences of leaving it too late. It's all written by TS women. One or two articles pull no punches: for example, exactly how to have sex with a TS girl, including how to deal with personal hangups, and her own possible inexperience at, for instance, giving a blow job. (Phew. Is this really what's in store?)

I thought it was highly thought-provoking to see things from the man's point of view. Because whether you want a man or not, you have to deal with them, and until you say 'absolutely not' to any advances they might make, they will regard you as a possibility for love and companionship. You need to know what may be going on in a man's mind. And you need to know what you may find yourself doing when a man engages your attention.

I'm hardly well-qualified to say much. I'm a typical low-libido, unsexy, happiest-with-women sort of girl. But I recognise that one day, regardless of my own plans and inclinations, some man will want to chat me up, and suggest a meal out, and who knows what else, and anything that may help me cope seems like required information in my book. As the author of this website says at one point, the average TS girl is not a mature judge of men: she's gone back to her teens where relationship matters are concerned, needs tender handling, and may be emotionally naive. That'll be me, and maybe you too.

Legacy possessions

When young I didn't own much, but the little things I did have meant a huge amount to me. For instance, I had a small tin in which I saved my pennies - it originally contained Cornish Clotted Cream - and I used from pre-school till I left school. I still have it. It'll never get thrown away, even if long redundant, because it represents part of my life, and it was useful. Yes, a 'useful pot' indeed!

And there were several other things, all of them little and very personal. A collection of torches. Useful when I wanted to read in bed, secretly and defiantly. A metal 'Welcome to Barry' calendar, that you flipped over every day to change the date. Useful, and part of a morning ritual that helped me face the day. Sundry propelling pencils, fountain pens, ballpoints (called 'biros' in those days), magnetic compasses, favourite combs, all useful, all of them the sort of thing any child who liked personal gadgets would keep in a pocket and never lend, and guard jealously because they were part of their very individuality. And they would be terribly missed if lost or stolen. In my isolated, defensive, childish world quite a lot of kids were potential thieves, or at least I felt they did not understand what these things meant to me and would be careless with them. And anything lost was a tragedy that brought me to tears that I was desperate to conceal. And yet so much has vanished from those times. Treasured annuals, all my toys. My teddy bear was never a toy, and I still have him. But what if I'd actually gone to university and not taken him, and Mum had had a 'clear out' while I was away? She was not a sentimental woman, and would discard things lightly. Thank God it didn't happen. Even in my late teens I would have been stricken.

Ted was useful too. He was my one reliable friend. The person I woke up cuddling when last in hospital aged seven, incidentally, as he will be when I next go into hospital in March, nearly fifty-two years later on.

So where is all this leading?

Well, into a discussion on what to do with what might be termed 'legacy possessions'. The things you routinely carried around in your pockets when still in male mode. The things you felt you had to abandon when first grasping the nettle of transition, because they were 'blokey' and 'not feminine', and anyway you suddenly had no pockets.

My goodness, I hauled a lot around in my pockets: keys, wallet (for paper money, plastic cards and ID), purse (for coins), diary (or later on, PDA), phone, penknife, hanky, comb, maybe a pen. And when Lucy burst onto the stage, most of these were hastily discarded. Suddenly they were Artifacts From Former Times, the relics of a life I wanted to dissociate from. If I were seen using them, doubters and sneerers would say, 'Aha! You're still a man!'. I equipped myself with iconic female accessories to bolster my new identity. The ladies watch. The Prada handbag. Ever more feminine clothing. Cosmetics. I carried a mirror and a basic cosmetic kit, and much else, just in case. Being glamorous, or at least having the stuff along that could make you seem girly and attractive, was so important. Getting it out in public sent messages: I have a nail file in my handbag - I am a woman!

Things have settled down since those earliest days.

And now it's time to reassess the legacy possessions.

I'll just mention one item that I've missed. My little penknife. I bought it in 1994, and it was just one in a very long line of small penknives that I'd carried since childhood. They were old-fashioned, and represented incredibly simple technology, but they did the trick. And as I grew up, it seemed that you needed devices exactly like this to help you cope. A little pocket knife - so small it was always legal - let you take off labels, open packets, cut up computer printouts, cut off a length of sticky tape, trim dangling threads, and get at the lunchtime sandwich in the sealed plastic pack that otherwise defied access. It could peel fruit, scrape things clean, and act as a probe. It was terribly useful. When Lucy came into being, she still needed to do all these things, but girliness demanded that 'male stuff' could not be employed. so the faithful penknife was put away, though not without reluctance, because its absence was keenly felt. Scissors were not as good or as versatile. Or as personal.

Well, recently I've overcome that false, self-imposed restriction. Perhaps I'm starting to mature a bit in my female role. I said to myself, 'Your penknife is small and oval-shaped, and quite neat enough to find a place in your bag. It's not a male marker. It's just a handy little tool, like tweezers'. And so I disinterred it, and just this morning I used it when sewing. It cuts the cotton a treat. Welcome back, little friend!


I must just remember not to carry it through an airport as part of my hand baggage.