Monday, 28 December 2009

That missing spare car key!

Go on, you all wanted to know whether I ever found the spare car key. Of course you did.

Well, I did find the spare key, and now won't be locked out of my car again. It was in the caravan where it should have been, but not in its ordinary place. It was down in a narrow gap in front of the radio/CD player control plate. Quite a good sneaky hiding place really. I don't see how it could have slipped into that gap, so I must have put it there. But I don't remember doing that, and I don't as a rule have 'safe' hiding places for things, because I invariably forget all about them. So it's a real puzzle what I did. And it can't be put down to Dru's amazing damson vodka, either.

At any rate, I won't now have to spend maybe £150 on a new spare key (they contain electronics and have to be 'programmed' at a dealer). Was I relieved!

Goin' Back - further thoughts

I was surprised that my original post elicited so many replies. I suppose it struck a chord with many people, and in a way that's reassuring: it's nice to know (at least now, after so many years) that your own experience wasn't unique and that there were many, many other people all going through much the same thing.

I don't know whether many of you felt my separateness and isolation to the same degree. Maybe you did, or worse. It was a bit strange. I wasn't ever lonely, and I was very well cared for and protected by my parents, as was my brother, but I felt inwardly as alone as if I were marooned on some desert island. And as self-sufficient. Mind you, I think that suited me more than I would care to admit. Meaning that you're supposed to be gregarious and people-loving, and socially well-adjusted, and not be a secretive soul or some kind of hermit. But I'm unrepentant about that. I was the person I was. The modern me is finally learning how to be different, and I think that something that was long dormant is finally having expression, because I do now seek out people and enjoy their company. That said, I will always want freedom and space; but I am getting intense satisfaction from my new outgoing life as Lucy. And believe me, actually meeting my online friends is an unalloyed pleasure to me.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Master Chef of the Year - not!

I have to confess to a little disaster. I browned the two duck legs, and put them in a pan in just a bit of fat, you don't need much, surrounded by ordinary potatoes, a sweet potato, carrots, and a dab of plum conserve. All of this in the oven. And I had some brussel sprouts ready to boil on the hob. I reckoned to check the oven after 45 minutes, and then get the sprouts boiling sometime after that.

Well I fell asleep, no idea why, and awoke to find Diana at my door, wanting to wish me a Merry Christmas. Of course I have her in for a little chat. Then I remember the oven. And it's been well over an hour now. More like an hour and a half. And...well as you can see it's the classic burnt offering. The vegetables are charcoal. The duck legs are just about edible, if you like dry, unsucculent duck that is. I thought to myself, you could instead knock up bacon and eggs in a jiffy, and there's some nice cold ham, or plenty in the freezer if you want to wait for it to defrost. I didn't want. I boiled up the sprouts and had a minimalist Christmas Dinner. I have to say it was better than it looks, but I've definitely enjoyed nicer meals in my time.

It was redeemed somewhat by a little Christmas Pudding with custard to follow.

I tremble to think what might have happened if I had been tucking into Dru's damson vodka. The fire brigade maybe!

More art purchases in Bristol

I revisited the Grant Bradley Gallery and bought two prints by Cath Read. Here's one of them, a night-time scene of Bristol houses. Sorry about the duck, she insisted on being in the picture, and in the end I had to give in and let her have a picture to herself.

My Christmas Day outfit

It being Christmas Day, I felt I had to wear red, and a short while back I bought this little number from Dorothy Perkins, which I wore over black leggings and a black mini. Very comfortable for just lounging around indoors, and cooking the odd duck and that. And for entertaining visitors. I had three. In the morning Jackie and Kevin from next door, and in the afternoon Diana from up the road. Not bad for a quiet Christmas on my own, I think.

Dru Marland's magnetic gift to me

I mentioned that I visited Dru Marland (of 'Flying Upside Down in Cloud', and the subject of Richard Beard's book Becoming Drusilla) while I was in Bristol. Well not only did she give me a meal and some chat and a tour of her rooftop, she gave me two gifts. One was this little magnetic picture, the cover illustration she did for a friend's bird book. The picture is now stuck to the front of my fridge. Thank you, Dru. The other was a bottle of her homemade damson vodka, but, silly me, I forgot to take it when it was time to go (no doubt the effect of the damson vodka I'd already inhaled). Oh well. I'm quite sure it found another home, you know, down someone's hatch, certainly by now. It was a pretty vodka, though, very appealing to look at, and it tasted very nice. You'll just have to make some more, Dru, and patent it perhaps.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Goin' Back

Dusty Springfield fans will recognise 'Goin' back' as the title for one of her most beautiful and evocative songs, about the simplicity of childhood and how in adult life we should live life without unnecessary complications, and absolutely to the full. Melissa has brought her to mind (see her comments on my last posting).

Childhood is a very sad subject for me. I usually cry if I reflect on it too much. I always felt I didn't experience it properly, and somehow lost the plot.

It began to go wrong pre-school, when I found myself avoiding the boy next door, who wanted to play rough games, and then later I didn't socialise at all well with the other kids at infants school and junior school. I just didn't know how to play; I knew no games at all; and I was wary of the other kids, suspicious of their intentions, except the pathetic wimpy ones who were even worse than me, although I felt an urge to protect them. How strange that was! Perhaps I felt that if we made a stand, we might get some respect. Mind you, I wasn't a pushover. For instance, on the first day of my junior school, my Mum sent me there in a red blazer, which was the colour used by the old infants school. Mum and Dad weren't well-off then, and she obviously thought that a serviceable red blazer would do for the new school. I mean, I hadn't grown out of it. The only thing was, in my new school, you wore a blue blazer, so I stood out. And kids being kids, they gathered round mocking me. Well, I wasn't having that. I clenched my fists and stood my ground, and in my desperation threatened the ringleaders with a terrible bloody death if they tried anything. I must have looked so fierce and convincing - an incredible contrast to my usual placid, try-to-hide nature - that even the dockers' kids backed off and let me alone. (This was at Barry Island in 1958 or 1959 and the school had a great view of the coal ships and banana boats and rough goings-on in Barry Docks) So I got my respect. And Mum relented, getting me a blue blazer without delay. But I was branded as a touchy, defensive, awkward individual you didn't mess with, and didn't play with, so I never made any real friends in that school.

It was the same at grammar school. It was all boys, no girls at all, never were in my time. First day again, I'm aged eleven, it's dinner time, and the class bully Keith Cox, a tall hulking boy already used to throwing his weight around, kicks me viciously under the table and tells me to do as he says. So I kick him back, a nice juicy kick too, and you should have seen his face! He'd been defied. I gave him my 'there's more if you want it' look. Talk about David and Goliath. Well of course as soon as we were outside in the playground he knocked me to the ground. Just a kind of shove. But he didn't do anything else. He didn't laugh. And he never bothered me again. We never became friends; that sort of thing doesn't happen in real life, but once more I saw that taking a stand paid off, and although I went through grammar school as a lone wolf, I was left alone and I wasn't bullied. But it didn't do me any good from the social point of view. I felt like an outsider and a misfit, and was. And there were all kinds of reasons for feeling odd and different, not just vague worries about not being like the typical boy. Academically I was good at classwork, but rubbish at exam time. My parents must have been absolutely ashamed at my exam performance. Until the sixth form, when I got three A-levels to crow about, in Art, English Literature, and Geography. I got a B grade for Art (only a B - well, I rebelled over the still life, and turned it into a cartoon); a B grade for English Literature (well, I hadn't read enough); but what would now be a marvellous A-star for Geography (despite a thin write-up of the Field Trip to the Isle of Arran in 1969, to study the geology - it was too physically demanding, all that serious crag-climbing, and I was appalled by the heights. I found excuses to go my own way, and remember a whole blissful sunny afternoon spent alone, just me and the wind, at Mid Thunderguy on the north-west side of Arran, gazing out over the sea at Argyll. I was at peace)

I digress. But if you get the picture of an entire school career, an entire childhood, at odds with school authority and wanting to be my own lonely self, and getting my way most of the time, then you have it right. And I left school defiant. I refused to fill in my university entrance application forms. I walked out of the grammar school gates in June 1970 with a feeling of freedom that I recaptured only in 2005 when I retired. And I'm not joking: I felt in 2005 that I was at last at liberty to resume a young life that had been interrupted by the need to work. Resumption also meant facing some other things too, that had been tucked away for years and years. You know what I mean. Not straight away, mind, but it had to happen.

At home, while I was still under eleven, I had loving and caring parents, but they couldn't see inside me. I recall vividly the eighth birthday party my Mum arranged for me. All the other kids enjoyed it. It had all the right ingredients. Lovely food, balloons, presents, funny hats, false noses even, lots of noise, parents there to keep a semblence of control, kids laughing and shouting and candles and cake. But I was out it, longing for my own company, and was found eventually upstairs hiding in my bedroom. I begged Mum never to throw another such party again for me. She didn't; my next proper party was my 40th, and I arranged that myself. I felt like an ungrateful misfit again. I couldn't explain why.

These are all pretty sad memories, but I do have a few that I cherish. And an abiding vision is one at Christmas, before Dad gave up smoking, when the aroma of cigar-smoke would drift through the air. In the hush of the late afternoon, I would sit in our front room, by the fire, in the semi-darkness, and gaze at the lit-up Christmas Tree, and the presents and things beneath it. I didn't ponder my life, or the future, or anything really; I just enjoyed the atmosphere, so magical, my favourite childhood moment. I dare say I had my teddy bear Teddy Tinkoes nearby, propped up in a chair to share the moment. He's presently (in 2009) propped up in my lounge, in an armchair, near my ceramic Christmas Tree, all lit up with a few presents from M--- at the foot of it. I shall be tearful in a minute, so I'll finish now. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Snowy Bristol

Two days ago I arrived in Bristol on dry roads and beautiful sunshine, but overnight it snowed, and because of the cold the white blanket has persisted. But I'm hoping for a clear run when I go home on Thursday. Meanwhile all is fairytale frostiness, rather magical. And provided you keep the heating on, it's snug and cosy in the caravan.

Socially I've done well. I'd barely settled in at Baltic Wharf when Dru Marland phoned and invited me over to her Victorian residence. She lives in a character property, no question, the heart of which is a large kitchen lined with an eclectic collection of Useful Pots full of goodies. During my visit, jars full of damsons and bottles full of damson vodka were particularly prominent on the central table, around which all revolves. Dru was very hospitable, and not only cooked us both penne with a bacon and tomato sauce (very tasty) but plied me with a two huge mugs of tea and a couple of glasses of the damson vodka (smooth and heartwarming). But the main business of the evening was the creation of Damson Chocolate, involving chopped damsons and an incredible amount of melted ('fondant'?) dark chocolate. The precise process is descibed on Dru's own blog. It looked yummy.

Having finished this, Dru suggested a climb up onto her flat roof to see the night sky and the lights of the city. So up we went, using a vertical steel ladder. There was a slight overhang at the top, and then we were up and out and able to admire the view. There were chimneys all around, as in the rooftop scene in 'Mary Poppins', but no Dick Van Dyke cavorting about! It was a good thing that I was mellow from the vodka and that it was dark - I suspect that in daytime the height would be vertigo-inducing! Dru of course is a seasoned hill climber, and intended to spend Christmas Day atop a Welsh peak.

And now today I met my aunt's son R--- in the Pizza Provencale in Clifton. R--- is very pro-Lucy. We had a late lunch and a lot of talk. It was the first time he had seen me in female garb and makeup, and I think I looked pretty good. Also the voice had come on a bit, and I was struck how different it sounded, compared to R---'s own deep voice, and to the voices of the five guys on the table behind him. (They paid no attention to me, by the way, even though I wasn't exactly whispering) R--- and I parted with a kiss on the cheek and hugs. He's a real gentleman, you know.

So let me see: Dee, Louisa and Sue at Salisbury; and Dru and R--- at Bristol. Five friends in a few days. And Brighton friends Alice, Rheya and Meta have kept in touch by text or email. M--- also: she actually phoned me, as did my aunt P---. I haven't felt lonely for an instant. Aren't I lucky to have such people in my life?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Meetup in Salisbury with Davina, Louisa and Sue

Davina ('Dee'), Louisa and Sue are all members of The Angels, as I am, and we arranged to meet from 10:00am in Salisbury. We had coffee, shopped, enjoyed a pub lunch after Sue had to go to work, and after Dee had to go, Louisa and I looked around the Cathedral. It all went so well. What lovely people!

Invitation to a Cervical Screening Test

I'm now away in the caravan, but just before I left home the postman delivered a letter from the NHS. It invites me to have my cervix scraped to provide a test sample of tissue for analysis. Just in case there is any abnormality.

The NHS thinks I am truly female!

I can't and won't ignore this. I'm seeing my doctor anyway in January for several other tests, and I'll deal with this one then. Isn't it nice, though, to know that The System has me on record under the correct gender?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Miranda Hart

Now this is an interesting find on TV. Miranda Hart is a 37 year old comedienne who has just completed her first sitcom series on BBC2. She does her own writing, which is impressive. I've caught bits of her show here and there, and then last night I made a point of watching the final episode in full. Now, I'm renowned for having a poor (or at least painfully slow) sense of humour, but I found that episode vastly amusing, and curiously fascinating. It definitely struck a chord with me.

Miranda happens to be 6 foot one inch tall, and has a physique to match. That said, she isn't in any way androgenous. She is clearly an attractive girl handicapped only by a somewhat oversize body, whose largeness she exaggerates a bit by playing alongside an ultra-petite character called Stevie. And although a certain amount of ungainliness is part of the humour (She gets called 'Queen Kong' by her svelte women friends) you notice that they too commit unconscious social gaffes just the same, and tie themselves up into such knots trying to be sophisticated and alluring that, in contrast, Miranda's own artless behaviour seems refreshingly appealing. And despite her insistence that men can't find her attractive, she is a contender with the rest. And not without some hope.

Now consider. Miranda Hart is larger and taller than the average female. She has big limbs. She has to wear big clothes and shoes. And if she can still be feminine, then I think there is something here to look into and emulate. I wouldn't want to put her up as a trans icon, and both personally and careerwise I'm sure this wouldn't be what she'd want either, but I do say this is a woman to watch and learn from. Of course she differs from the typical MTF trans person in some important ways. For example, she already has a pleasant female voice, nice hands, really good skin, no unwanted facial hair, and doesn't need her face reconstructed. But these differences can be be overcome. There are even ways of disguising large hands.

So I say this: don't despair if you are elephantine and at best can only be a matron or an earth mother. You don't have to be a slender whispy little thing. There is still the possibility of a fully-fledged female life in size 20 clothes.

Of course one thing I can't learn from Miranda is a great sense of humour; but I can laugh that off.

Kindness and good wishes from the Police and Coroner

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I'd locked myself out of my car, and couldn't find the spare car key that should have been handy. I still haven't found it. I'm not casual with keys. I always know exactly where they are. I must have done something untypical and highly unusual with this particular key, but I'm morally certain that I haven't forever lost it. It's just remembering what I might have done with it!

In my searches around the house, it struck me once again that I'd never yet come across Dad's driving licence or credit cards, nor a set of missing keys that the emergency people must have used to get in on the night he died back in May. So I decided to visit the local Police Station at Burgess Hill, just in case all these things were inside a plastic bag in a storeroom. I saw a nice woman officer who looked up the incident on the computer and found that, sure enough, a bag of items had been put to store at the Haywards Heath Police Station. She gave me their number and directions, and said she'd get the Coroner's Office to speak to me first. A nice man from that office phoned me back. That done, I then called by at Hayward's Heath Police Station for an interview with a very pleasant and sympathetic male officer. I sorted out my ID, signed for Dad's effects, and chatted for a short while about how things presently stood with me, with both parents gone.

Now bear in mind that I was all the time in female clothing, and trying to speak in a much higher-pitched voice than I'm used to doing. Despite these things, I was taken very seriously, and served promptly and well. The three police officers I spoke to at both Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath could not have been kinder, the same for the male Coroner's Officer. All of them gave me their personal best wishes. I was surprised but delighted at this reception. Either I happened to encounter four different law officers, one after another, who were naturally the epitome of humanity and tolerance, or else transgender training within the Sussex Police Force is very good indeed. In any event, what could have been an ordeal was instead something uplifting.

And it was nice to finally know what had become of those keys, and those missing cards. A little bit of closure.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Greetings from Melford Hall

I've had the mother of all colds during the last week, believe me. I must have caught something at that Wild Fruit Red Party. I dare say I'm quite susceptible - I live on my own, drive about on my own, and my public outings (though daily and sometimes prolonged) do not as a rule include hot, crowded atmospheres indoors. So I'm in a constant self-imposed quarantine situation, and don't have a lot of exposure to the germs floating about in public places. So I'm vulnerable as any islander would be. I thought I wasn't feeling too well by the time I got home from the Red Party. The limpness set in soon after I took the shots of Boy George doing his DJ thing. I sort of lost interest. Once home, I perked up after a night's rest, but as already recorded I had the beginnings of a sore throat when I saw Christella, and it just got worse from there. I had to miss the Angels' Christmas Lunch in London today, as I was still not quite well enough to venture out.

However recuperation at The Moated Grange (aka Melford Hall) has been tolerably comfortable, even full of good cheer, with the ceramic Christmas Tree glowing away in the half-light of the afternoon. I've plenty of things to eat and drink, plenty to read, plenty of unfinished photo things to attend to. Just as well. This will be the first Christmas without Mum and Dad, and it's difficult not to fall into tearful thinking. I fight it off. Nor is it clear whether M--- and I will get to see each other, even though we live only half a mile apart as the crow flies. I hope we do. I'm reserving Christmas Day for her, in case she invites me over on impulse. We have had a (mostly) upbeat phone conversation, and we will at least phone each other on Christmas Day.

I have a default home-cooked Christmas dinner lined up: I've got some duck in the freezer. I just have to remember to get more vegetables and the rest while in Bristol. Yes, I'm off to the West Country with the caravan in tow on Thursday, and I'm having two days at Salisbury on the way. On Friday I meet up with two (perhaps three) other girls in Salisbury, which will be fun. I'm not sure who I may see in Bristol, but if no link-ups occur, there is still a lot I want to see and do in and outside of the city. No sure about clubbing, though - if a visit would mean another cold, then no thanks!

By the way, that's not Melford Hall in the photo, but it's still a local house, just a bit up the hill.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Voice therapy begins

Yesterday I had my first session of voice therapy. I'm doing it privately with Christella Antoni in London. It went well. I liked Christella, and although I have some way to go to get my voice acceptably feminised, I am undaunted and intend to put a lot of time into this. Really, there is no choice about it: I simply must acquire a good, sustainable female voice.

So last night, despite a sore throat (fallout from the Wild Fruit Party no doubt) I gave myself two hours of practice. As you can see from the photo, I've invested in an Olympus digital voice recorder. With the earphones in, I can speak and playback with CD-quality sound, and tiny variations in pitch and quality are very apparent. I can upload any recordings I want to keep onto the PC for further analysis, and will build up an ongoing record over the months to come.

I did try the Deep Stealth voice DVD, but found that it didn't work for me. I needed the discipline that a formal therapist/client relationship brings.

Until now I have been using a voice that is different from my old male voice - higher-pitched and a bit nasal - and I didn't like it, but at least it wasn't like my old voice. But neither was it a female voice. Now I can see what is required. I intend to speak only female-style from now on. It will sound odd to begin with, but will improve.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Boy George at the Wild Fruit Red Party

Boy George was billed for the Brighton party yesterday evening, and we found him doing a polished DJ turn in one of the dance areas at the Oceana. That's him in the pink hat. He was very accessable, with only a low perspex wall to hide behind. It was adequate; he wasn't beseiged by paparazzi-style attention. But there was a constant retinue of fans wanting a shot or two. As you can see, I got in on the act as well. How silly.

Boy George has had a poor press on the whole since the 1980s. You can't overlook the heroin addiction, nor the odd erratic misdemeanour, but sadly the press does make matters seem worse. I have to say that on the night he was professional, relaxed, good-humoured and entirely inoffensive.

The little Leica struggled a bit in the very low lighting. I should have taken the Nikon.

Party girl

Well, here it is, that red Diane von Furstenburg party dress I mentioned in a previous post. This was for a red-themed party in Brighton. As you can see, I added a broad black belt, long black gloves, black tights, and black shoes with a buckle. It was all very comfortable to wear, although the neckline tended to edge upwards. In the ladies' loo a nice young woman called Karen, who said she was a dresser, tried to adjust it a bit. But it still rode up again. It must reflect the present imperfect state of my anatomy, I suppose! If I'd had big breasts to push it out, the neckline would have come down.

My ceramic Christmas Tree

This is my sole gesture towards Christmas. A ceramic Christmas Tree. Plug it in, switch it on, and the light bulb inside illuminates all those little brightly-coloured plastic 'cones', and the 'star' on top. Aaaah.

Mum and Dad got one years ago. They said these trees were imported from Canada by a South Wales firm. I said yes, I'd love to have one too, and so I was presented with it in time for Christmas 1992 - seems longer ago, but I don't think it was - and every year without fail I get it out and enjoy the glow.

I thought you'd like to see it as well. It is rather pretty, isn't it?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Crimbo bimbo

Another day, another dollar, and another evening meal at a favourite restaurant in Brighton! All right, I'll give them a plug: it's D'Arcy's Restaurant in the Lanes. They major on fish and I'd been tucking into a Dover sole. Yum. No wonder I was smiling. Cheers! Merry Crimbo! (Photos with my Leica, wielded with skill by friend R---)

More on the new shaver: it isn't great for everything

I'm still very happy with the new Remington shaver for my face. It shaves close and is so convenient. But I've begun to see that that it's not a perfect solution for every shaveable part of the body. Under arms were hard work, and the result wasn't as good as a wet shave. Ditto chest. Ditto nether regions. I suspect the same would be true of arms and legs.

I think that foil shavers must work best on the thick bristle-type hair on the face, and don't make much impression on longer, softer, finer, floppier hair elsewhere, which wet shaving can take in its stride.

One odd thing I've noticed is that when shaving my face the shaver leaves a light graphite-coloured deposit on the skin, so that I end up looking as if I've got rampant five o'clock shadow everywhere! This wipes off. But what is it? At first I thought that the coalface bits of the shaving head had been lightly oiled or otherwise lubricated at the factory, and that this would quickly fade. But it hasn't. I now believe that it's a smear of fine 'dust' from the shaved hairs. But not having a microscope handy, I can't take a close look and confirm. As I say, it wipes off, and is no bother, but I don't remenber this happening with any rotary-head or foil shaver in the past. Strange.

Friday, 4 December 2009

What lovely neighbours I have

After my Deed Poll name change, it became urgent to tell everyone who might be in contact with me who I now was, and what was going to happen to me. I had to tell my immediate neighbours especially: but those fortuitous moments when you might see each other (and then easily launch into an unhurried explanation) refused to happen. And yet I didn't want to knock on their front door in full Lucy, as if selling myself on the doorstep. Finally, I encountered the neighbour on one side, an older man who lived alone, when out in the front garden one rare sunny morning two weeks ago. I invited him in, and told him all. He was as sweet as pie, totally accepted what I said about myself, and we parted on the most cordial terms.

Phew. Could it be that easy?

Today it was the turn of my neighbours on the other side. I'd noticed that the lady of the house (henceforth J---) was 'in' the day before, when she accepted a parcel from the postman. I was about to drive off, and happened to see this. I got out of my car, rang her doorbell and asked if she was free for a chat. I was in my usual girl-about-town stuff. J--- said she had a friend with her, but we made a date for coffee in my house next morning. I got the impression that J--- wasn't surprised at my appearance, and welcomed the chance to hear my announcement. Well, next morning it went beautifully. J--- had been an HR manager in the past, and already had a clear idea of what a transsexual person was. I told her all about myself, what Mum and Dad had thought of it all, how I was placed at the moment, and what was going to happen in the future. We talked surgery, we talked attitudes, we talked clothes, we talked makeup, we talked weight problems. We also talked tree surgery and fences - ordinary things as well as the extaordinary. I felt I'd gained an ally.

Phew again! It was that easy. Thank you, J---.

Right, I feel encouraged to tell a whole boatload of people now.

And the day's nice moments did not end there. I had a noon appointment in Haslemere with Dad's solicitors, to effect a transfer of the interest in Dad's house into my name. The lady who saw me was kind and gentle, and at the end wished me well in my new life. I was on air. I felt like a good long walk under a sunny blue sky to savour the sweetness of life. Pity the sun went in, and it got cold! Never mind. I got home and had a nice cup of tea and reflected that although there may be murderous scumbags out there, most people I knew were fantastic.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Latest in Dorothy Perkins

It doesn't always have to be a mega-expensive fashion house. A couple of days ago I was in Chichester with G--- (my ex sister in law) and I got the above little numbers from Dorothy Perkins. Not that DP is 'cheap'. It isn't - well, not compared with, say, Primark or New Look or Peacocks or QS or Happit. But it isn't as pricey as, say, Ken or Ted Baker or Karen Miller. Or some of the little select intimate small-town boutiques I know. Not that I'm knocking them, either! I don't mind who I buy from, so long as I really love the garment.

I think that red dress needs a Santa hat...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

KS10 XXX and SC10 CUR

Now this is a subject which divides the nation somewhat, well the UK anyway: personalised number plates. Some think they're cool. Some think they're naff. And some can't see what the fuss is about, and would prefer to spend their money on other things. All points of view are entirely reasonable: it's a matter of personal taste. I happen to think that a personalised number plate adds a touch of individuality to that metal box with rubber wheels that sits on your drive.

The '10' registrations went on sale today. I've bought two of them. They're not for the battered hulk that I've been driving around in since 2002. They're for the new car I'll probably be obliged to get by the end of 2010. My ten-year-old Honda CR-V has done nearly 130,000 miles and although it continues to give good service, it is showing signs of age. If it breaks down, I shan't give it a further chance. As a vulnerable and feeble girly, I can't risk driving a car that isn't reliable at midnight on a snowy night; nor one that might burst a hose when towing the caravan up some hill. So new car, new fancy registration. Of course, it might happen that the randomly-allocated plate that my new car will come with may be an interesting one; but probably not.

So I've become the proud owner of KS10 XXX and SC10 CUR, which on the plate look just the same as KSIO XXX and SCIO CUR.

The first is 'kissio kiss kiss kiss' (please don't laugh). The second is of course Latin for 'I know why', which may intrigue a few people if they know any Latin at all (although I suspect that it's bad Latin). I hope neither intrigues the police!

I did consider some other registrations, such as PR10 RTY ('PRIORTY' - too expensive, and someone got in before me anyway), SC10 LEX ('SCIO LEX' - Latin for 'I know the law', except that it should be 'SCIO LEGEM' which you can't have with the UK system), and the uplifting and aspirational SC10 PAX ('SCIO PAX' - Latin for 'I know Peace', except that it really ought to be 'SCIO PACEM', which again you can't have).

Of course, apart from finding the cash for a new car, I still have to decide between kisses and knowledge. Now that's not an easy or obvious choice to make!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Pills and patches

The Melford medication. That's three different kinds of blood pressure pill (been taking them for years), a statin tablet, and of course the hormone patch. This cocktail of drugs is one reason why Dr Curtis is reluctant to prescribe any anti-androgens, although with a testosterone level down to 0.9 by last June, and presumably even lower in the January test coming up, a dose of anti-androgens wouldn't achieve much, and it would simply add another layer of medication with the risk of interactions.

Of course the real point of the photo is to show off the 'Miss Lucy Melford' on each pack, and on the Prepayment Certificate. Heartwarming!

I'm still ploughing on with the name-change notifications. 85 to be dealt with; 57 done; that's exactly two-thirds of them out of the way. Two important ones - passport and driving licence - are hanging fire because a solicitor needs to see them next Friday. Quite a few of the remainder are friends, family and neighbours old and new who need to be told. Some tricky letters, emails or conversations there! Oh yes, I can't wait for the reactions. A few wll be pleasant and supportive. Some won't be. And some will be completely stunned, not knowing how to react at all.

A visit to Andrea Waddell's grave, with a rose

The rain finally abated for a while, and so I went to the Clayton Wood Burial Ground to pay my respects to poor Andrea, taking the last good rose left from the bunch Josephine had given me for putting her up on the previous weekend.

The ground was still very soggy though. And as before, there was nobody about to show me which was her grave. So I chose the one with the nicest flowers on it, and stuck the yellow rose I'd brought amid all the red and white carnations. It probably wasn't Andrea's actual grave, but I was doing something symbolic, and precise location didn't seem essential. Like praying inside a church for somebody who was buried at sea far away.

I live close by, and will return in drier weather, and eventually learn where she really is buried. I'm sure that from time to time I will come with a small bunch of flowers to lay on her grave. Her birthday was on 18 June. I'll certainly come then, and, who knows, may see many others there too. It may become a place of pilgimage.

Vorsprung durch technik - new shaver, actually

Roz recommended getting a simple rechargeable electric foil shaver for the apres-electrolysis shave, as it wouldn't irritate the skin, or risk cutting it, nearly as much as a wet shave might. So I went out to Argos next morning and bought this Remington shaver. And I have to say it does a very good job. It's slightly quicker to use than a bladed razor, and clearly there just isn't the same potential to nick the skin around the nose and mouth.

It's about thirteen hours since I first used it on my face, and there is very little stubble to be felt, and practically none to be seen. That's as good as wet shaving. So I think I'll go back to an electric shaver after a gap of 14 years.

I wonder how long it will be in daily use in the months ahead?

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Now why do I feel so confident nowadays? I've been pondering this. I've decided that it's two things.

First, it's the certainty of knowing where I am on the gender spectrum. I'm definitely in my comfort zone. I haven't had to wrestle with myself to get here. It just feels right and proper. It always did, as soon as I realised what I was. It all fell into place. I'm female, and everything flows from that.

Second, it's that name change. I knew it was significant. It marked the final end of the old life. It was decisive. It made it impossible to hide - you can't when the only name you can give, without committing fraud, is 'Miss Lucy Melford'. No ambiguity there at all. That's a woman's name. I'm Lucy Melford. I like my name. I'm proud of it.

And I'm confident.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Polythene Pam

Just over forty years ago, in 1969, the Beatles released their Abbey Road album. Because I couldn't afford to buy any albums (or 'LPs' as they were then called) while at school I didn't acquire a copy until I started work, and then only after buying a second-hand stereo record-player. That was in 1971.

I loved Abbey Road. It seemed perfect. Eventually I bought the CD version and the tracks found their way onto my PDAs and more recently my Nokia E71 mobile phone, which makes a very good digital music-player. And just yesterday I suddenly noticed something about the lyrics John Lennon penned for 'Polythene Pam', one of the songs in the medley on side 2. Here they are:

Well you should see Polythene Pam
She's so good-looking but she looks like a man
Well you should see her in drag dressed in her polythene bag
Yes you should see Polythene Pam.
Yeah yeah yeah
Get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt
She's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt
She's the kind of a girl that makes the "News of the World"
Yes you could say she was attractively built.
Yeah yeah yeah.

Hang on a minute. What is this actually about? I thought it was a song about an 'action' girl - shiny plastic clothes were trendy and fashionable for a time in the 1960s, and Avenger-style karate-chopping females were often seen on TV. In fact I dreamed of being picked up at the school gates by Emma Peel in a Lotus, and being whisked away to the envy of my school chums - but let's not pursue the inner meaning of that. I'd overlooked the reference to the News of the World, but did it have a significance I'd missed?

Clang! Well, it took me forty years to work it out (I'm pretty slow on the uptake), but I now think Lennon was having a dig at trannies! Do you agree?

My red dress

I'm going to a Big Night Out in Brighton on 6 December, at the Oceana in Brighton. It's called the 'Wild Fruit Red Party 09' and the theme is 'Definitely Red'. So it has to be a red outfit. And I've got my red dress lined up. That's it in the photo, a classic little number by Diane von Furstenberg. Should add a touch of sophistication. Might get a little hat to pop on my head.

This party is basically a huge gay let's-get-dressed-up-and-show-off night, but it has a serious purpose 'challenging HIV/Aids Awareness and Homophobia' and the brochure says 'all monies raised go to the Sussex Community Rainbow Alliance Fund, raising money for LGBT & HIV organisations'. I've not been to the Oceana before but I'm told it's vast inside with at least five different bars or rooms to hang around in and look cool, or gorgeous, or manic, as the mood takes you. It starts at 8.30pm and goes on to 3.00am. I'm going with my friend R--- and we'll arrive between 10pm and 11pm. The celebrity lineup includes many names I don't know, but I have heard of Boy George of course, although he's not the 1980s version nowadays. It should anyway be loud, crowded, and seething with red-clad partygoers!

Not a bad way to kick off the Christmas festivities!

I wasn't fibbing about no redness or swelling - look at this (but ignore the huge nose, please)

Yesterday evening. No sign that I'd had an hour of hot needles thrust into my upper lip. Sorry about the awful shiny nose, the pores, the unkempt hair, the cheapo cardigan, but I'm relaxing.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

My first electrolysis session

I've previously had four sessions with the laser. Now the long business of picking off individual hairs with a needle has begun.

I had an hour of it, all on my upper lip. Roz uses the 'blend' method, where (so far as I understand it) a two-second electrical current sets off a chemical reaction at the base of the follicle and kills the root of the hair. Then you can draw it out. Those bristles from my lip were surprisingly long!

Did it hurt? Well, I deliberately hadn't taken anything to ease the possible discomfort. Nor smeared on cream. I wanted to find out what the pain was really like. And it was a bit like a sting. It varied a lot in intensity. On a scale of 1 to 10, some hairs were under 5; many were middling painful, say 6 or 7; and a few under my nose or on the edge of my lips were 8 or 9. Not many made my eyes water (which I'd say was a 10). Generally speaking, there was more pain in drawing the hair from the skin than in zapping it. Of course, whatever the pain, it had to be endured. I am an absolute wimp where pain is concerned, but I want to be rid of all this hair so badly I'll put up with anything. I didn't flinch once.

My skin didn't go blotchy red or anything. In fact there was no lingering pain or sensation of any kind. And there was no obvious swelling. I was able to wet-shave the upper lip straight away afterwards before leaving, and by the time I got home the upper lip looked and felt completely normal. And yet towards the end of the session Roz had treated several bristles that were likely to be 10s for pain. I must have a rather insensitive skin. Lucky me!

I now have three more weekly sessions booked up before Christmas. Bring it on.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Forbidden fruit (or Summoned By Bells)

This post is based on a comment I made on one of Nicky's recent posts (which she called 'My biased views'). The basic subject was male impersonators and one's reaction to them. I wrote:

My Mum always found Danny La Rue very funny, and admired the makeup and costumes he wore. But he made me cringe. And I generally found overt campness embarrassing, as in the 'Carry-on' films, and yes, Dick Emery and John Inman. I wondered why I wasn't laughing, and felt very awkward. When old enough I went out rather than see these things.

There was also something disturbing about depictitions of men dressed up as women, even if for a deadly earnest reason - as in war films: escaping prisoners, say. I didn't understand that either.

Then were three things I saw on TV during the 1970s and 1980s that made me have a more complicated and less knee-jerk reaction, and began to set me thinking a lot. One was a early episode of 'Casualty' on TV, in which an MTF transsexual prostitutute got beaten up and admitted to hospital, to the concern of one of the female nurses, who begs 'him' (not 'her') to give up what 'he's' doing because of the danger. Horribly reminiscent of modern transphobia. But I was fascinated by the idea that here was someone living as a woman who had 'crossed the line' so to speak. She couldn't 'give it up'. Then two films. One was 'Triple Echo' a 1970s film starring Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed about an army deserter who is taken in by a lonely woman, convincingly disguised by her as her 'sister', and then finds that he likes the sensation of looking and acting a like a girl. His undoing is a yearning for a good time at the local dance, with the inevitable exposure and ugly retribution. The other film was 'Tootsie', and whatever its limitations, I thought Dustin Hoffman (playing a perfectionist actor desperate for work, who lands a starring role in a hospital soap as a feisty female adminstrator, raising all kinds of issues) found something in the role beyond farcical situation comedy. The film showed the practical difficulties of clothes, makeup and babycare, an insight into a woman's feelings and position in society, and handled the attitudes, roles and emotions of several very different men 'she' encountered. I thought there was much that was deep in that film, and almost for the first time I pondered seriously on how much I hated being male. It was a risky role for Hoffman. Several reviewers thought they detected an empathy with the part that went beyond what a good actor might be expected to achieve.

Strangely, these three rather random experiences (all fictional; I had completely internalised all my proto-trans thinking and emotions) made me feel easier about the Danny La Rues of this world. And I coped better with office chortles and ribaldry about anything that was 'deviant' or 'unmale'.

I neglected to say some other things about those three instances. I found them enthralling and yet disturbing. Had I been asked why I was watching so rapty, I would have blushed. They were forbidden fruit. They rang loud bells in my mind, a clamour that took some time and willpower to silence. Putting things away into sealed, soundproof boxes was my typical coping strategy. I learned it early, pre-school. By the 1970s I was an expert in suppressing all inconvenient emotions. I had the temperament to do it so well. But it meant no emotional development. My therapists saw that. How novel and liberating it now is to open these boxes and examine the contents without shame!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Aunt Lucy

Yesterday my niece J--- and her partner K--- came down by train from the northern outskirts of London for Sunday lunch with me. I picked them up at Haywards Heath and took them to a Sussex country pub, the Half Moon at Warninglid. We had a yummy meal there.

J--- is very pro-Lucy, for which I am profoundly appreciative. She has long called me Lucy, and we can talk about any aspect of my transition. And also aspects of my past life, when our relationship was a little different, more conventional, more distant, perhaps a bit awkward in fact, even though I very much liked her company. For some unfathomable reason, we now seem a lot closer, and have much more to say to each other. It all seems far more 'real' somehow.

We were discussing male family titles. I used to dislike any male label. I knew that Mum and Dad took pride in referring to me as their 'son', and not wanting to hurt them I did nothing to throw cold water over that. But I tried to avoid all other male labels. So when a parent, I had no worries about not being called 'Dad' by my step-daughter A---. I was very happy and comfortable for her to call me 'J---' from the outset.

And I really didn't want to called 'Uncle', even though both my niece and nephew naturally called me that. There was nothing wrong with it, except that I didn't feel it fitted my self-image at all well, even though at the time I couldn't have explained why. In contrast, I didn't mind being called 'Aunt Lucy' at all. So it made me sound like some spinsterish old lady? Who cares. We agreed that henceforth I'd be 'Aunt Lucy' in front of strangers, and otherwise just 'Lucy'.

As you can see from the photo, Aunt Lucy enjoyed her lunch. Then she did some embroidery before retiring to the drawing room for tea.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance ceremony in Brighton

This particular ceremony had added poignancy in that Brighton had a recent victim of its own, Andrea Waddell, and Mr and Mrs Waddell were present. Also the Police and members of the local City Council.

The occasion (my very first) was solemn and moving. Much of the time was given to reading out the names of those around the world who had become victims of anti-trans hate crime during 2009. Each of the 60-odd persons attending was asked to read a name and whatever details were stated about the date, location and manner of death. It was voluntary to take part; but not many found they couldn't do it. It was awful to hear. When it came to my own turn (this happened twice, so many names) I felt very strange and quite shaky. But I spoke clearly; the victim deserved to be heard, and not lost in a whisper. Mrs Waddell read out Andrea's own name. She did so with dignity, and did not dissolve into tears. What a brave woman.

Josephine had come down especially to be present. We both spoke to the Waddells afterwards. We learned that Andrea was buried within two miles of my home, in a lovely spot looking at the South Downs. Jo and I went to see it next morning. It was a very windy, wet morning. We weren't sure which was the exact grave, and there was nobody around to ask. We were soaked by a sudden squall, but no matter. I will go back in the next two or three days, and lay two roses on her grave, one from Jo, one from me, from the bunch Jo brought down for me (I was putting her up for the night). And say a private prayer.

Mrs Waddell told me that Andrea had modelled clothes for a shop in Brighton near Preston Circus. They have a window display devoted to her just now. I'll find it.

Perhaps it was as well that Andrea - caring, articulate, pain-racked Andrea - was the focus of the ceremony. The endless recital of names might otherwise have been chilling and depressing. It was striking how many deaths occurred in Latin American countries. Perhaps (I am only theorising) there was something about the men in those countries, their upbringing or culture, that triggered ferocity when they discovered or were told that their girlfriends or sexual partners were not natal females. Something that took control. Something that turned them into murderers and beasts. Something that a mere 'OK' from the Pope will not reach. The victims were done to death in apartments and on the streets. There was no safe place. They were stabbed, shot, mutilated. It was horrible.

Do those in this country (and we have plenty of hate crime in the UK) who look down their sniffy noses at transsexuals, and declare us to be abominations and parodies and mental cases have any concept of the cruelty and brutality that lies further along their way of thinking?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Happy 89th Birthday, Dad - or it would have been!

Dad died on 25 May last, aged 88, and today would have been his 89th birthday. I'd like to share some images of him with you: Dad as I remember him during his last 20 years or so. He was a father to be proud of. He was good at writing and painting, and if he had a stern side, and was over-inclined to conservative thinking, he was also remarkably forebearing about the pain from his arthritis and many matters in general. I think his sense of humour shows.

The last photo was taken on 11 May, just two weeks before he died. We were having another lunch together at a country pub, just him and me. I had been on hormones for nearly two months, and was starting to change before his eyes. The hair was getting long, and I was wearing my jewellery and girly jeans. I think you'll agree that he was relaxed about me. We'd spoken about where I was headed. The love of a father for his son had overcome most of his dire misgivings. He had asked me not to do anything 'too drastic' in his lifetime - surgery for instance - but he knew that I would gradually turn into a daughter. He didn't tell me exactly how he would feel about it, but he had realised that it would come on slowly and not prevent him enjoying my company. It was, after all, just him and me now. A parent's love for a child, and a child's love for a parent; all that really mattered.

These are the closing words of my little speech at Dad's funeral (I posted the full version on 2 June):

How I admired his determination [at the end of his life] not to be defeated by crippling arthritis! Despite the increasing pain and discomfort he led a normal life right up to the end, doing his own cooking and shopping, although (thankfully) the cleaning and gardening were done for him. I showed him how to use a computer, so that when he didn’t feel like going out he could place an order with Tesco online, and have it delivered to his door. He had all his home comforts, and he had an alert mind, even if he often now felt very tired. I liked to play cards with him, and have pub lunches with him, and we had a Mediterranean cruise together which he thoroughly enjoyed. But he must have brooded on the terrible loss of W---, my younger brother, some years before. And he did not have Mum with him anymore. Nothing could replace her. He seemed to face his loneliness with fortitude, even cheerfulness, but I could see that it was eating away at him.
What would Dad say if he were still here? I believe he would say these things: that you must never give in; that nothing in life is better than the love and support of your partner; and that raising children to be proud of is the finest ambition you can have. The rest is dust.