Wow, I haven't posted anything for days. This flows from a number of causes.
The Cottage is going to auction
One biggie is the approaching auctioning of my former home, the Cottage. It became urgent to sell it as soon as possible. As it was a one-off property in a country setting, and hard to market conventionally, M--- was advised to think about putting it to auction, and she in turn passed this suggestion on to me. I agreed that it was well worth a try, and once we had sorted out a problem or two (splitting the extra fees involved for instance) I moved fast and got it into the catalogue for a sale on 30 June. That's only three weeks ahead.
Both of us have attended a property auction before, so we know what to expect. Crucially, you have to set the guide price - what you hope it will fetch - at a level that will encourage plenty of competing bids. If they reach or exceed the secret reserve price (the minimum figure you will accept, known only to you and the auctioneer) then you have a legal, can't-back-out-of-it sale as the hammer falls. And that's the attraction. A 'sudden death' maybe, but you know exactly where you stand once bidding is finished. Not a bit like the slow and uncertain estate agent route, where, under English law, you can be strung along for weeks after an offer to buy is made, and then quite possibly be let down by that offer being withdrawn at the last moment, typically just before exchanging contracts. Or they may quibble about the price, and generally make difficulties. Not so with an auction. Bidders have to register their interest, and prove to the auctioneer that they can provide immediate finance, and an ability to proceed to very rapid completion at the bid price. So the Cottage could be completely off my hands by the end of July, and I can then move on without this money-eating millstone round my neck.
The nerve-wracking thing with auctions is whether the reserve price will be reached. That depends on several things. For example, how attractive the property looks in the catalogue; the publicity; who will be at the auction on the day (on 30 June it'll be predominantly Brighton-based landlords and property developers, with a splinkling of ordinary people). All attendees will at least have the necessary cash and a willingness to buy, but of course everyone will be looking for a bargain. Nobody will intend to pay more than their limit - unless the bidding gets the better of them. It happens. At the last property auction I attended, a country auction in Dorset seething with potential bidders - this was before the present slump in the property market - people were making bids for all kinds of strange lots that surely they wouldn't have considered purchasing in cool blood. Most of these lots needed planning permission to convert into a fantastic country residence, and that probably wouldn't be forthcoming. Yet all the lots sold, and nearly all guide prices were well exceeded.
Not so many lots this time, and I will be lucky to sell the Cottage at the first attempt. However, you never know. The entire auction should be over inside an hour. I'm going, because I want to see for myself how the bidding for the Cottage goes. Even if there is no sale, I'll discover exactly what the place is worth, and then won't have to guess the best guide price for the next auction.
Meanwhile, this is becoming a large and growing preoccupation with me, tending to crowd other things out. I mustn't let it get too dominant! It's not just the financial angle. The Cottage was a joint investment with M---, a way of making money for a continued future life together, and it has instead become a symbol of failure and disaster and contention. There will be an unpredictable emotional fallout on both sides once it is sold and gone, and the last tangible link between us broken.
Healing and feeling
Yesterday was exactly fourteen weeks after my surgery. Healing is now rapid. Although some skin discolouration lingers, the external suture lines are getting fainter and the post-op swelling is getting hard to distinguish from ordinary fat. Body movements are much, much easier. I can now for instance reach down and pick things up off the floor without feeling that I'm over-stretching something. This will soon allow me to do some gentle gardening - there's a lot of weeding to get on with! But I'm still going to wait until September before recommencing caravanning, even though my strength, such as it is nowadays, seems to have returned. I don't want to take any risk of straining something inside when (for instance) turning the caravan around on my drive. It weighs over a ton when loaded. (I can see myself investing in one of those electric caravan-movers with a remote control within a year - although that will depend on making something from the Cottage sale)
The female bits have settled down nicely.
The urethra learned to behave itself very early on, and now gives me enough of a jet to reach the top story of the tall Canary Wharf Building in London. And I can go over three hours between peeing if I have to. Couldn't manage that in the old days! (What has changed, then, apart from drastic rationalisation of the plumbing? It's odd. But highly convenient all the same) I am SO happy to be freed forever from the male way of going to the toilet. Sitting down in a clean and fragrant ladies' loo is a highly pleasant experience. Even squatting a bit off the path on a country walk is something to be relished. You feel so much less conspicuous, and of course the whole thing is done with in a jiffy. The pee just jets into the ground, and there is no danger of the wind spraying it back onto you, as can happen if standing up. I used to be paranoid about the sudden appearance of a party of nuns, or rambling ladies from the Women's Institute, or horse riders, when in male mode. You felt so exposed. Nowadays I snap my fingers at the prospect of inquisitive boy scouts wandering by. Let 'em. They can't see me behind this little bush.
The vagina is not such a success story. Oh, it works all right, and has healed up beautifully. But I recently made a careful measure of depth, by smearing three inches of KY jelly onto Big Jim, pushing him right in, then withdrawing him and measuring the length of the ensmeared part after insertion. Oh dear. Only four inches. I must have shrunk. And yet I'd followed the proper dilation frequency and technique to the letter ever since it all began. Sigh. You shouldn't, I know, get hung up on this: I'll have to concentrate on width if I can't have length.
The clitoris continues to acquire sensitivity. After my last attempt at self-stimulation (which somehow produced a spot of blood) I had another go, and there was no problem. Phew. So in the last week or two I've been experimenting very carefully to see what can be felt, and to what degree. It's all still rather low-key at the moment, but there's most definitely feelings of pleasure to be had, whether you stroke with fingers or use a pillow between the legs, and clench. And I often feel arousal sensations when just sitting. I've been rather inspired by the 2006 article by Lynn Conway's entitled Vaginoplasty: Male to female Sex Reassignment Surgery (http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/SRS.html#anchor66325) which begins with a very interesting discussion of the history of such surgery and how the techniques evolved, and then, in its second half, goes on to cover post-op care and how to have jolly good sex using your new bits. There are several useful links to other websites and articles. I have no quarrel with what she says, and certainly take on board the message that a programme of well-directed self-stimulation will get you ready for the real thing, so that you know what gets you to orgasm, and what you need to tell your partner so that both get the most out of lovemaking. (Even if it will have to be making love to a vibrator - a short fat one, in my case!)
One thing I've discovered is that the inner skin of the labia majora is highly sensitive to touch - at the moment, as much as the clitoris itself. Which of course greatly increases the target area for touching-up. A bonus here is the clean, 'Scandinavian Design' look of Mr Thomas's surgery, where really there are no labia minora to get in the way, at least not in my case. So your fingers can stroke widely to their heart's content without getting snagged up in loose flaps of skin. I've also discovered that pubic hair stretched across onto the clitoris enhances the sensation at that spot.
I do hope nobody minds my mentioning these things. I'm passing this stuff on in a spirit of helpfulness. For my generation, the word 'masturbation' can easily carry a heavy baggage of childhood and teenage furtiveness and guilt in the face of shocked or stern-faced disapproval from adults. It's hard to subdue those legacy feelings and see it all as part of the necessary post-op exploratory and learning process.
So I approach this very much as I approached getting my voice right. I see touching myself to generate an orgasm, finding different ways that suit me best, as a vital part of settling into my new life as a woman.