Wednesday, 31 March 2010

New travelling bags

At the end of this week, for the first time in years, I'm going to stay a night at someone else's house. (It's my cousin R---'s, actually)

And of course I hadn't got an overnight bag, nor a bag to put my toileteries in. Or at least I had, but they were Not Girly Enough. So a couple of days ago, up in London at Peter Jones in Sloane Square, I bought this holdall with a dark blue-and-white floral design on it. And today, at the chemist where I got my emergency supply of hormone patches, this black-and-pink floral toilet bag. I'm rather pleased with these purchases.

Now, if I get any invitations to 'pop up and stay over', I'll just fling a couple of filmy garments into the holdall, drop the toothbrush into the toilet bag, and toss the pair into the back of the throbbing Volvo. A life on the go! Must dash.

Hormone panic

Yikes! Panic!! Yesterday I realised that despite obtaining a fresh supply only eight days previously, I would run out of hormone patches while on holiday in April.

So I galloped off to my usual chemist for next months' supply of everything (all three kinds of blood pressure pills, statin tablets, and the patches). They were OK for the ordinary stuff - but out of stock for the patches. I was told that the manufacturer (Novartis) was finding it difficult to keep up with current orders. There must have been a surge in demand. They couldn't say when the next supplies might arrive. I could of course ask around at other chemist shops, but I'd need a fresh, one-off prescription. So I drove frantically to the surgery, and my tears and ravings must have had an effect. I obtained a promise that my doctor would sign a prescription when she was in next morning. I passed a worried night.

But as you can see from the photo above, I got another packet of hormone patches today. Phew.

I just hope that Novatis steps up production. There must be a new Rising Generation of transpersons who have just passed their three months Harry Benjamin probabtion period and are now clamouring for medication...

I was surprised how panicky I got over this. I thought I was fairly likely to wobble in a crisis, but this proves it!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Young meat, anyone?

I spotted this at Hammersmith Underground station (as opposed to Smithfield Market). Ex-Friends person Courteney Cox is starring in a new sitcom on Living channel, and as you can see it's likely to realise all the worst fears of feminists everywhere. She apparently plays a middle-aged divorcee hoping to find love (and this and that) with men half her age.

My goodness, I'm a middle-aged divorcee too! Is there hope? Shall I watch it for hot tips on what to do? I've got a red dress.

Sigh. One thing I'm quite sure of is that if you plonk me on a chair like that, in that pose, I wouldn't do much for the ratings! (But perhaps we should all post shots of ourselves imitating this poster, in a kind of tongue-in-cheek antidote to this kind of hype? You know, like they did in the 2003 film 'Calendar Girls')

Well, good luck to Ms Cox. I suppose she has to eat. Incidentally, one gathers that the title of the sitcom 'Cougar Town' refers to the slang word 'cougar', denoting a man-starved woman of a certain age who prowls about searching for 'young meat' - that is, seriously good-looking young men. Watch out then, guys. The 'town' bit must imply that she won't be alone in her quest, and you know what happens when two hungry cats meet...

Must stop this. I'm actually encouraging any seriously good-looking young men who read this blog (got to laugh at that notion!) tuning in and cocking an eye at Ms Cox and her prowling rivals.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The two Lucys

I'd like to say that this was me triumphantly meeting the juvenile hominid discovered in 1976 in the Afar region of Ethiopia, famously nicknamed Lucy, and for a while hailed as the missing link Australopithecus Afarensis. Unfortunately I didn't have that honour. My little friend, who may indeed have been called Lucy, was at a healthcare centre in Fulham where I was attending a group voice practice session organised by Christella Antoni, the well-known London voice therapist. And in fact Christella obligingly took the photo with my camera. I'm the one on the left.

It's a small world. One of the other attendees was Victoria C---, a mainstay of The Angels website, and we discovered that we 'knew' of each other from that. Victoria was very pleasant to me, saying for instance that I had a lovely smile (bless her for that) and that it would assist my passing if I showed it more. Right, then. It'll be mobile lips and tombstone teeth all in a row from now on!

About time there was another Angels lunch or dinner in London. I missed the last one because I was ill. I'm up for the next. Sometime in May would be nice.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Reclaim the Night: resurgent feminism

I've just watched a large part of 'Women', a documentary made in late 2009 and screened on BBC4 tonight, apparently for the first time. I was sorry to miss the first half (poor digital TV reception), but fortunately the second half contained the guts of the documentary, featuring a feminist conference in London, and the run-up to the Reclaim the Night anti-rape march on 27 November 2009. (Hmmm...roughly a week after the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremonies worldwide. Parallel worlds)

I was interested to get some flavour of modern feminism, and intrigued to learn just what the official attitude might be towards trans women who wanted to support the otherwise 'women-only' march.

But it was in any case fascinating to study the types of women presently engaged in the feminist movement. Many were young, in their early twenties. They were well-educated too, not victims of dogma. Most had a conviction based on their own intelligent observation of the present-day facts of life for women. They were concerned, and rightly, about the commercial exploitation of women's sexual allure, the repression of women's rights, and the physical violence directed against them, often with the blame for the violence laid at their door because they had somehow 'asked for it'. There was a general excitement and enthusiasm for a cause that could make a big difference for women. And for some there was a grimmer desire, based on personal involvement, to call a spade a spade and fully expose men's misbehaviour and cruelty and the complacency that perpetuates it.

I'd better say at once that I've always realised the physical vulnerability of women, and how there is usually no defence against a man intent on harm. I've always thought that a pretty woman should fully expect to be noticed, but she should not be held blameworthy if some men can't control their responses. It's their fault, their lack of control. And if they lose it, they should be punished severely without question.

Over and above all this, is the way the male world still fails to take women seriously. Women shouldn't have to be shrill or go on marches or behave like men to get serious attention. Why should they have to prove themselves?

So there are good reasons for applauding modern feminists.

Would I join them? Well, would they accept a trans person? When discussing the Reclaim the Night march, which was specifically for women only, one of the women organisers spoke about the difficulty of distinguishing genuine trans women from those who merely say that they identify as women. Men simply could not go on the march, even if they said they were really women. It would spoil the integrity of the march. The advice was to 'use your judgement'. There was no footage of any encounters with trans persons on the actual march, so no indication whether the 'judgement' was needed, and then consistently well applied. The same organiser had spoken in a cautionary fashion about natal women who did not look particularly female, and had mentioned what happened to one at a previous Trafalgar Square rally, when a security guard refused her entrance to a women's toilet. She could only get in if she passed an outrageous visual test. She was actually asked 'show me your chest', which the organiser thought must surely be an illegal demand. Ironically many trans women would get in on that basis.

My personal feeling by the end of the programme was that a well-feminised trans woman who was well down the road to complete transition would probably be officially welcomed, but might find that individual feminists would take issue with their loyalties, on the basis that they had lived as men and couldn't shake off the effects of living in that culture, including all the ingrained prejudices against natal women - even if they had merely been 'passive smokers' where such things were concerned. So it might well be an uphill struggle to convince some suspicious women that being trans had meant never sharing much with natal men, never understanding what made them tick, and always having a leaning towards, and empathy with, natal women. Rejection might be expected.

And yet my interests (and yours?) coincide exactly with those of the average feminist. I am now as physically weak and vulnerable. I claim all the nice things about being a woman, but I have already given up all the status and power and authority of being a man. That is the reality of transitioning. I have to rely on men, pander to men, deal with them somehow, whether I like it or not. There's no choice in this. If some man, thinking that I'm a woman, wants to dismiss me as an airhead, or leer at me, or insult me, or touch me, or knock me around, I have to deal with it as a woman would. I just hope that any women I confide in, or run to for help, will open their door. And that the police and other officials who ought to protect me, and respect me, and believe my version of what happened, and comfort me in my distress, will treat me as they should.

Bottom line: my word against a man's. Who will prevail? See if you can guess.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Hair cut. Less of a mess now.

No comment required! These are all shots taken in the last day or two, post-haircut. They are mainly intended for those people who occasionally visit my blog to see what I'm doing, and how I now look, but don't intend to have anything to do with me. They probably swear that they will never again look at the blog because it upsets them, or disturbs them, or it makes them sad to see the former me sunk to these depths! But nevertheless they dip into it now and then, and are presumably saddened even more.

Never mind. I'm not going to make any converts. But I think it's a good idea to post pictures of me up, so that even if it makes those who hate my transitioning shudder, they are at least being kept abreast of developments.

And if moved to do so, they can always email me, to give me some arm's-length, we-don't-have-to-actually-speak feedback. No-one has yet. But I live in hope.

The second shot down, incidentally, was taken only twenty minutes after the latest electrolysis session. I'd had a shave and had lightly powdered my face, adding a little lip blush. All ready for Sainsbury's. (In fact, I skipped the shops, preferring instead to retrace a picturesque way home via Leigh, Penshurst, Groombridge, and then across the wilder part of Ashdown Forest)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Washing bras

Just one of those little things that new girls don't think about. My Mum never told me anything about this.

I've been sporting a bra full-time since January, and as the collection has built up I've been washing them singly. Now I have enough to throw more than one into the washing machine. For the first time, I chucked three of them in the latest wash. I didn't think of the consequences.

Out they came, clean, but in a hopeless tangle that took nearly half an hour to unravel! Duuuh.

So, next time, I'll hand-wash or confine myself to one-bra-per-load. You live and learn.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Cracked it

It's funny how you overlook simple solutions. In my case, to that logon problem with my PC.

Well, Sophie put me on the right track, saying that is was still possible to buy an alternative type of keyboard with an old PS/2 connector that might enable me to send the right command to the PC. This got me thinking about which port the existing USB connector was using. Eurika! The keyboard was connected to a port on the USB hub, and not directly to the computer.

Now supposing the hub wasn't first in line at key presses on the keyboard would be recognised by the PC...pressing F8 or whatever wouldn't have any effect... I whipped out the speaker cable from its USB port and popped in the keyboard cable, and bingo, F8 immediately got me to the startup options screen and thence to Safe Mode. Once in that, I simply used System Restore to take me back one week when all was well. And now I'm running properly, with the regular logon password for Lucy getting me in.

So I'm sending this post from the PC!

Nice to have the laptop set up as an substitute, though.

Even nicer that the Melford family fortune need not be squandered on a new PC.

But now that I've considered it, I'm still inclined to sell the Nikon. I'll sleep a couple of nights on that first, though.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

I think the Nikon D700 and lenses will have to go, to make cash for a new computer

My computer woes continue!

Having checked that I had a full backup of all photos and documents, and all the necessary reinstallation disks, I now wanted to begin a complete reinstall of Vista. But inserting the Vista reinstallation disk had no effect whatever. It wouldn't run! And I still couldn't get to the BIOS, or start in Safe Mode. Inducing a fake shutdown, then restarting, took me to a screen with options that included starting up in Safe Mode, but I then found that the USB keyboard was disabled, and I couldn't make the selection I needed. It seemed to 'wake up' only when I reached the logon screen - too late to be any use, because I couldn't logon. I've now read on the internet that if I still had a non-USB keyboard, I might be all right. But I haven't.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the hardware. I'm sure this is entirely OS-related. Something has become corrupted. I can't help feeling that the endless security updates needed with Vista have messed up more than just the logon procedure.

Obviously I'll invest a bit more time researching the problem on the internet, using the laptop, but I'm thinking that there are probably only these two choices now left:

1. Keep the screen and peripherals, but otherwise buy a new computer running Windows 7.

2. Buy a Mac, and hope that my peripherals will work with it. One major snag would be which PDA could I possibly use with a Mac? I don't think my trusty HP iPAQ 214 would be at all happy.

Either course requires cash. The amount of capital that will be left after buying the Volvo and paying for the surgery is dwindling. I really don't want to hasten the downward spiral. Better to sell off valuable but underemployed bits and pieces.

This is where the Nikon comes in. I've hardly used it since buying the Leica D-Lux 4 last June. The full-frame Nikon D700 is a great camera, and the professional lenses I've bought specially for it (the AF-S f/2.8G 24-70mm zoom, and the AF-S f/1.4G 50mm prime) have given me excellent results, but it's fine equipment going to waste. I'm never really going to embark on any kind of late career in photography. It could be sold as a bundle that ought to realise enough for a new computer.

So, hello Ebay!

But before I put the Nikon and the two lenses up for sale, does anyone want to make me offer?

One little intriguing point about the D700. Its serial number is 2016000. I reckon it was the first of its batch.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Oh God, computers!

Yesterday I found myself facing a nightmare problem with my Dell PC. It wouldn't log me on.

I went through the usual panic reactions, then more coolly tried to reset the password using the memory card already prepared for just this emergency. But that didn't work, even though it did last time (about a year ago: this has happened before). I tried hitting the F8 button to get me booting up in Safe Mode, but that wouldn't work either. Nor hitting the F2 and F12 buttons, as indicated by the screen. These actions were all ignored. I was always taken to the logon screen where 'Lucy' was invited to enter a password that was not recognised. My heart sank.

Forcing myself to stay calm and collected, I connected the Asus laptop to the Internet.

This laptop was an upmarket widescreen machine that I'd had since 2006. It went to New Zealand and back with me, and was nowadays used only for photo processing and backup - which meant of course that it still got fired up daily. It was however an Internet virgin. It had never before been connected to the Internet. There was never any need - I always had a PC for any web activity, which, until I got my Nokia E71 mobile phone, was confined to home. In NZ I used Internet cafes. But the laptop had to do its stuff now. It ran XP, but, remarkably, my Vista-compatible modem worked, only generating a 'hardware fault' message on startup that I could dismiss. First hurdle leaped.

Via Internet Explorer, I downloaded and installed Firefox. Then I went to F-Secure's website and downloaded and installed another copy of their 2010 Internet Security with the latest updates. Thankfully, nothing to pay. So now the laptop was protected. Second hurdle leaped.

Then it was a question of searching for online solutions to to the PC's logon problem. This was dispiriting. I gathered that my logon profile may have fallen foul of a Vista bug that had sent the old one irretrievably into backup, but wouldn't create a working replacement. It was fixable if you could get into Safe Mode, or if you could run the Vista installation disk and try the repair option, but I couldn't do either of those things. The only other recommended solution for an ordinary mortal was to reformat the PC, reinstall Vista and SP2, load up all the third-party programs, and then reinstate all the documents and photos from backup media. It could be done, but it would be a long, exacting slog. I'd gone through it all once before, in 2005 I think, with my old Windows 98SE computer, and obviously I'd performed a similar ritual when first setting up the Dell PC back in 2007. It wasn't a task I relished embarking on, although as a solution it had its merits: a clean reinstall would mean a refreshed PC, a faster PC, purged of all redundant or troublesome bits of code.

So a monumental job now awaits me. Meanwhile, the laptop is available. I'm using it now to write this.

Monday, 8 March 2010

I'm so looking forward to my next hair appointment!

The photo shows what I mean. My stylist M--- has been away on an extended holiday in Thailand with her boyfriend, and so this time I've gone a bit too long between cuts. Never mind, when I see her again on 16 March she'll have plenty of hair to work with, although it's still a question of shaping the hair for a much longer style. At some point, I'll be thinking of some coloration, but not yet.

The venue was a Sussex country pub.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


Now I've added a set for Windmills to my Flickr site. That's probably enough for now.

Or is it? Did I mention I take photos of picturesque old country churches? And cathedrals? And stone circles? And for goodness sake, let's not mention steam trains (very ungirly, I know, but hey, someone's got to take 'em). Then there's flowers and gardens...


Virginia Woolf, as we all know, had a thing about lighthouses. They drew her. The holiday was incomplete without a pilgrimage to the one on the headland. I feel exactly the same. So not content with beach huts and shacks, I have added a set of lighthouse pictures to my Flickr site. I don't know why I haven't done it before.

Note that the earliest lighthouse picture goes back to 1965 (Trevose Head in Cornwall), when I was thirteen. I can still remember the excitement of visiting it!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Beach huts and shacks

Bright and breezy? By the sea? Fancy a brew-up, and then watch the world go by?

A beach hut is just the job. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are traditional jolly seaside huts; some are working shacks and hideaways for fishermen and others. Many are spick and span and get colourfully painted in pastel shades; some are tumbledown, with rust and bleached wood, and the remains of peeling paint.

If you like beach huts, cabins, shacks and shanties, I've just created a set of them on my Flickr site, about 200-odd pictures. Do have a look.

Monday, 1 March 2010


The PDA was once the latest must-have electronic gadget for aspiring executives and anyone who wanted to seem cool and high-tech. It arrived in a big way around 1996. I started using one from April 2000. They got better and better every year, for years on end. I replaced mine regularly, to get the latest innovation. But now they're old hat, although still highly useful. The only other persons I know who still use a PDA are my step-daughter A--- and her husband S---, and of course our Jess (of 'Thoughts and Meanderings'). Either you're gadget-minded, or you're not. 'Not' in the case of most people I've ever known. Incomprehensible how they can live their lives without something like this...but it takes all sorts. (I jest)

The intials stood for 'Personal Digital Assistant'. The PDA started life as a kind of electronic diary, in which you could enter - with a little stylus straight onto a touch-sensitive screen - your appointments for the day, things that had to be done, the contact details of people you knew, and make little notes as they occurred to you. The PDA scored over paper diaries because you could change, rearrange or delete the things you put into it without creating an ugly mess of crossings-out; there was effectively no limit on the number of appointments, anniversaries, contacts, and notes you could make; and it was a small, light device: it made a Filofax (do you remember those?) seem stone-age. But it could also eventually play music, play videos, handle Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, display sketches, photos, maps, tide tables, do anything really. A PDA was jolly useful.

There were several makes, but the major players were Palm and Microsoft. They had rival operating systems. Amazing to relate now, each OS had its fierce and passionate devotees who indulged in eat-shit-and-die flame wars on all the PDA websites. I kid you not. It was so tribal and passionate, and all over a pocket gadget! We'd tell them all to get a life nowadays.

Palm and Microsoft slugged it out in a vicious commercial war that went on for years, until one day around 2004 they both woke up to the fact that the mobile phone (a really posh one anyway) could do everything a PDA could, and then so much more, and that the PDA was rapidly becoming yesterday's gadget. They immediately retooled for mobiles, but neither Palm nor Microsoft have ever caught up with Nokia, and lately Google. The PDA is still made, but the market for it has become very, very small and specialised.

Palm, once the king, has fallen and barely clings on. Microsoft can still pull out whenever it wants to, but the total money wasted on fighting Palm and backing a dead-end operating system must be embarrassingly huge and may forever remain a commercial secret. There's an epic story to be written sometime, on the foolishness (in Palm's case) of putting all your eggs in one basket, and then not making hay while the sun shines; or (in Microsoft's case) wasting money and energy on killing a much smaller hated rival, but ignoring changes in the market that were going to threaten your main business. Tsk, tsk. But then, think of all the firms who have ever rested on their reputation and thought they were invulnerable to market developments!

I still use my PDA all the time. It's my diary and organiser and notebook. The mobile is only for communication. I don't see the need to combine the two, and it might be very dangerous to do so. The PDA has all the essential secrets, but securely encrypted. I don't put any of them on my phone. If someone ever stole my phone, they'd steal only some numbers to dial and some email addresses, plus a version of my music collection. Nothing else. My life and identity wouldn't be at risk.

When I first bought a PDA, I had a bucolic vision of sitting in a quiet churchyard, and making notes, perhaps even writing a poem, just as the mood took me. I still haven't actually done that!