Monday, 28 February 2011

Goodnight

It's late evening. I've been out of my room, exploring the corridors. Nobody seemed to mind.

It's fairly quiet now. Voices carry a long way. But I sat in the Reception area, lit only by pools of light, for some time without anyone passing. I read, of all things, a glossy quarterly magazine on shooting and field sports. A new Purdey is out: the famous gunmaking firm will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2014. The magazine was full of articles on fishing as well as shooting. And there was a small section on social events for those with the money, background and taste for muddy moments in Burberry jackets and Dubarry boots. Or more glamorous evenings, husbands and wives together, or fresh-faced young men yet to be swept up by girls in tweeds with Kate Middleton hairstyles called Rosie and Katia and Hannah. And, yes, Lucy. What can one say?

I'm not especially tired. I'm a bit peckish, but resisted devouring a secret and illicit Kitkat or Mars Bar from a vending machine. I can drink water until 4:00am; then they'll look in and take away anything to drink. Mr Thomas is now doing me first. A sudden death, so to speak.

I feel calm, as if waiting patiently to be called to Gate Something for my flight to Somewhere. I've had many texts and emails, and one voice call, wishing me all the best. I'm very grateful. Everyone at the hospital has been so nice to me. I feel I'm in very competent hands.

Eleven o'clock. At home I'd be having an end-of-evening read, and a quick game of Solitaire on my iPAQ. I'm going to do the same here, on the eve of a momentous, life-enhancing event. Don't you just cling to routine, no matter what?

Quarter to midnight. A nice nurse called Dawn has visited me and my blood pressure is 136/82: not bad. No racing pulse here.

Time to clean my teeth and get some sleep. Goodnight, everyone. Sweet dreams.

Come Dine With Me

Considering that I have to be on a 'low residue diet', I haven't fared too badly so far. For lunch I had a tasty omlette, nicely cooked, with a pot of tea. This evening, chosen from a menu, I've had vegetable consomme, chicken breast with rice, lemon sorbet, and a pot of black coffee. That's all perfectly OK, adequately satisfying. And in between, iced water.

But for tomorrow and the day after I will be on a 'clear fluid diet', and it won't be gin and tonic, I'm guessing. Sigh. (Phew! I've just heard it will be consomme and stuff like that. No worries then. I thought it might be a glucose drip)

Not a lot on TV tonight. I've spotted Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets on BBC2, The Beauty of Books on BBC4, and on BBC3 there's a rather dubious-looking How To Live With Women. Do I want to watch testosterone-crippled young men with egos and attitude at odds with their girlfriends? I think not. Instead I'll read a bit more of 'Pistols at Dawn: a History of Duelling', which is a fascinating examination of gentlemen behaving stupidly and sometimes badly. Actually, not unlike the BBC3 programme!

Now, m'dears, I MUST remember to say 'White Rabbits' when I do wake up tomorrow. 'Tis my long held belief that if you do say this before anything else on the FIRST DAY of the month, you'll have wondrous good luck throughout the month! You do try it and see, m'dears. 'Tis an 'andsome thing to have so much good luck for the asking!

Arrival

I'm settled in at the Nuffield, and have one of the rooms with a view over the South Downs to the sea. Apart from the bed (with elecronic touch-control) and the background hospital noises, it's indeed very much like a hotel bedroom.

There's not much more to add. I can hang around in ordinary clothes till bedtime. There's a jab of blood-thinner, and a pleasant-sounding but lean evening meal to look forward to later. Meanwhile I'm going to have a doze and then a read I suppose!

The real excitement begins tomorrow. I'm second on the morning's list, and get wheeled in around 10:30am. At least I can take my time over the morning ablutions, and discover how to wear my theatre gown with a little chic.

I'm still not feeling more than normally nervous. Surprising! But I doubt whether I'll sleep much tonight.

Going on holiday

I got to bed later than intended last night - just before midnight - but dropped off to sleep without difficulty. However, I woke at 4.00am, and after half an hour knew I wouldn't sleep any more. So I got up, had a cup of tea, and watched two hours of Danger Man. It took my mind off the coming events of the day. I'm just beginning to require panic management. It'll take an effort not to worry about whether I die during the next thirty hours. Sounds melodramatic, but then I do have a preference to stay alive and experience whatever may come in the years ahead.


That's better: a soothing sunset while gentle waves lap at my feet. This place was Duckpool, a bay north of Bude on the Cornish coast. M--- and I spent a happy two hours there in June 2006. It was warm and calm and the sunset just got better and better, though it never became red and fiery.

I thought of showing another sunset we shared in April 2007, at Tongaporatu on the west coast of North Island, New Zealand, but that had danger and anxiety attached to it. M--- and I had become separated while exploring a picturesque river mouth in the late afternoon. There were cliffs, caves and sandy expanses to hide us from each other. At first it didn't matter. Then it did. The tide was coming in. I had visions of M---, ever one to forge on ahead and go where I wouldn't go, slipping and lying injured. I went far along the foot of the cliffs in the most likely direction to find her, getting more and more concerned, turning back only because the light was fading and I felt she couldn't possibly have gone so far. How utterly relieved I was, how overwhelmingly glad, when I met some locals whom M---, equally concerned for me, had asked to look out for me. We were reunited back at the car park, the sunset now blood red and in its final stages. Looking back, it was perhaps almost the last precious moment of extreme unmitigated pleasure to be with each other. How fear and danger can unite!

But not much more than a year later, the shadow of gender dysphoria began to destroy what we had.

And now we have arrived here, with myself (or my condition? Does it matter which?) setting the pace, in control, and M--- the hapless victim. I don't know what lies ahead - if there is an 'ahead' for me of course!

All this said, I refuse to brood. It's now getting light, my bags are packed, my lift is arranged, and it's uncannily like going away on holiday. I've had a cooked breakfast, not because I'm abandoning the calorie-controlled diet, but because I wanted to go to the toilet and clear myself out. (I apologise for such practical thinking) But the breakfast fitted in with the holiday feeling too. And when I get to the hospital, it'll be like checking in to a hotel, and my room will be like a hotel bedroom, except for a strange-looking bed and some specialised equipment you don't normally see in hotels.

I do hope I enjoy my stay. And the souvenirs I'll come away with.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Remember Me This Way

There's a small chance that I won't survive the operation and die. It's really a very small chance, but just in case, remember me this way:


Camera in hand to the last! Or if you prefer, why not this shot taken at Zizzi in Croydon, when meeting up with my former colleagues last Wednesday?


Ah, that's a bit livelier! I was enjoying myself. My three ex-colleagues were being so accepting and pleasant. (We plan to have another little reunion later in the year)

Let me hasten to say that I do see myself coming through the op and waking up sometime on Tuesday afternoon, feeling dopey and unfocussed no doubt, but very much alive. There are real snags to face straight away though. Dreadful things. In particular, a spartan diet devoid of steaks and venison and dover soles and other nice stuff to get your teeth into, because of course I must pass only fluid matter for a few days. I've been warned of backache and I don't know what else.

Never mind: if I wake up at all, then I will have the Glittering Prize, and whatever short-term problems there may be, there is a future life to look forward to. Call me an incorrigible optimist if you will, but I say embrace the whole caboodle - lock, stock and barrel - and cast aside all fear. And above all, never look back. Well, OK, from time to time consider the past to learn from it, to get some perspective from it, but not to dwell on what might have been if things were otherwise. I tell you, being me as I am now is not a problem. Not being able to be me was the problem, and would still be if I hadn't had the luck and the will to make it this far.

As I write this, it's late afternoon. I haven't covered the outdoor chores like clearing the leaves and cleaning the windows. Drizzle has relieved me of the trouble. I'm not complaining. I completed the ironing, and fresh bedding is in place. It looks most inviting. Well, I want to sleep soundly tonight, and then in nine days time come back to an inviting bed. I dare say I'll be ready for a snooze, even though the trip home will be laughably short. I'll have to set an alarm, though. I want to say hello to my cleaning lady, T---, who will call that first afternoon when home again, and have a quick chat with her over a cup of tea. Then of course the strict dilating regime begins at once. But I'm good at organising my life around medical requirements. And in a strange way I'm certain that each dilation session will be something to look forward to, when you consider the significance of needing to dilate. It won't seem a chore. And whatever the discomfort, I'm not minded to shirk the effort, or ever give up. Stubborn persistence is the name of the game.

Now about communications when I'm in hospital. In theory I can compose text-only blog posts - and indeed send and receive texts, emails and voice calls - on my mobile phone. But I've no idea whether I'll have good enough reception in my room. So if nothing gets posted, or if anyone sends an email that doesn't get answered, don't assume the worst. It probably just means no reception. I'll have to wait until they let me get up and wander around.

I'm going to take plenty of photos. The hospital stay will be well documented! I'm not going to post shots of the War Zone, except as bandaged up, although I will take as many as possible of the new bits for my own personal record. But you may eventually see pictures of a wan and limp Lucy as wheeled back from the theatre. As a counterpoint, I hope there will be some showing me recovering and having a good laugh.

I'm serene and upbeat to the end, it seems. Still no hot flushes or moodiness. Still no male look bursting forth. It's so undramatic. I jolly well hope it stays that way too.

For some reason Keat's poem On First Looking into Chapman's Homer comes to mind:
 
ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN'S HOMER

MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.


Two other poems also come to mind, why I do not know. This one is by R S Thomas, the Welsh vicar:

ON THE FARM

There was Dai Puw. He was no good.
They put him in the fields to dock swedes,
And took the knife from him, when he came home
At late evening with a grin
Like the slash of a knife on his face.

There was Llew Puw, and he was no good.
Every evening after the ploughing
With the big tractor he would sit in his chair,
And stare into the tangled fire garden, 
Opening his slow lips like a snail.

There was Huw Puw, too. What shall I say?
I have heard him whistling in the hedges
On and on, as though winter
Would never again leave those fields,
And all the trees were deformed.

And lastly there was the girl:
Beauty under some spell of the beast.
Her pale face was the lantern
By which they read in life's dark book
The shrill sentence: God is love.


And this one by Philip Larkin:

MCMXIV

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat's restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word--the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.


And finally this one, written by myself in March 1972. I was nineteen.

RETREAT

Mary wouldn't come and play
Along the beach, or surf, or swim
Among the breakers crashing whitely:

Mary wouldn't stay all day
Upon her back to get a tan,
And sat alone while they danced nightly.

Mary wandered out sometimes
To distant fields and clifftops high;
Avoiding other people's steps,
Avoiding other people's eyes,
Listening to the sea's soft music
But flinching from the seagull's cry.

Mary drove herself to swim
And play and dance with heavy limbs:
And she laughed, she took her cue,
For Mary knew just what to do.



That's how I spent my teens. Acting a part. But no acting now.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The last two days of the old life

Saturday and Sunday. The final weekend.

I've spent some of the morning sorting out my bedroom cupboards and drawers, to create easy-access space for all the post-op stuff such as pads and baby-changing sheets. Also to sort out my medical cabinet. It had got a bit chaotic, the cosmetics tending to take over. Now it's a model of logical arrangement. And I've thrown out all the cosmetics that I have never used and never will - I've got a pretty good idea now of what suits me, and I can be completely ruthless about throwing away the rest.

Other jobs for today include:
# a last shop for tinned food, and food for freezing, including some quality ready meals and milk, enough to tide me over for a few days when back from hospital, and before the first of the home deliveries commence.
# getting in bulk supplies of kitchen rolls, disinfectant and handwash.
# visiting the Cottage to pick up any mail - I won't make it down there again for at least a month.
# clearing leaves in the back garden, and washing my windows. (Or maybe do this tomorrow!)
# fixing wardrobe doors that aren't hanging straight on their hinges.
# ironing, mostly bedding which needs to go back on my bed. All nice and fresh for my post-op beauty sleep.
# various emails and texts, giving people contact details for the hospital.

And then tomorrow:
# A comprehensive body shave.
# Packing my bag.

Quite a bit to cover. I had thought of getting away today for one really last big day out in Fiona, but actually I went over to Kent on Friday. I picked up my cousin R---, and we sped off to Canterbury to meet her friend P---, have lunch, and then mooch around the shops. It was sunny and dry and reasonably mild. Altogether a great day out, and it's made me feel that another long day away from home isn't needed. Apart from that, there are signs that fuel is about to take another massive price hike, so I've filled up and won't waste the diesel. It'll be pleasant to do some gentle post-op motoring in April at a 'cheap' February price! Perhaps a short run to some place with a sunny view. Songbirds and bluebells.

I'm still sleeping fine, and although getting more and more excited, I'm not distracted or panicking or in any way losing the plot at the last minute. Aren't I boring?

To everyone who has wished me well, or might yet do so: many many thanks - it's so well appreciated.

To those who have nothing positive to say: I hope you will eventually understand what this is really all about. It's not what you seem to think. Time will show what I mean. The test is how things actually turn out. If you can, keep in touch; or at least follow the blog, and read without prejudice. See what you think when I've recovered, re-orientated, and am living life with the operation well in the past, and much less emphasis on me, me, me.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

I've had to turn down a job

No kidding. I was offered a chance to handle the photography at a wedding, but had to turn it down. Here's the story.

I went to Tunbridge Wells today. I've been having problems finding tops to wear in the hospital bed. I like the ones that Marks & Spencer do, but in the last week there's been a run on size 18, the size I was looking for. Let me explain at once that I'm not at all a size 18 - my weigh-in yesterday showed that I was down to 82.3 kg (exactly 13 stone) - meaning that I'd now lost 1.2 stone in weight since Mr Thomas the surgeon asked me to slim down a bit. And full achievement of my 10 kg weight loss target is in my grasp if I stick to my regime over the coming weekend, which is the Last Chance Saloon so far as pre-op dieting is concerned! I reckon I'm down to size 14. But I'm looking for size 18 because I want nice roomy tops that won't feel constricting in any way. Cool ones with flimsy straps, so that I have bare shoulders. T shirts would bake me to death in a well-heated hospital room.

Well, I got the tops I wanted! And having got this 'essential' shopping out of the way, I pootled around TW to see what else caught my eye. I bought a couple of Evelyn Waugh novels to read, for instance: Vile Bodies and Brideshead Revisited. They'll go nicely with my well-read collection of short stories by Max Beerbohm (such as Enoch Soames, A V Laider and James Pethel), and a selection of Raymond Chandlers, including The Long Goodbye, The Big Sleep and The Lady in the Lake, all of which I was thinking of taking into the Nuffield next week. Enough there to pass the time with, although in reality I'll probably just fall asleep over them!

In and out of shops I went, all very pleasant, especially as the sun was out and it was very mild. If you want to know, I was being underdressed and leggy, wearing only a short black jacket, a mauve top, a black mini, black tights, and black shoes with a medium heel - although, as these were new and rubbing, I swapped them for black patent leather pumps while in Waterstone's - exchanging a confidential moment with another girl as I did so. The Cath Kidston shopping bag (the blue one with spots) has proved very handy for carrying changes of shoes, and scarves, and gloves, and umbrellas, and just shows that you don't need to cram eveything into one big unweildy bag. A pretty little bag, plus a stylish shopper in the crook of your arm, lets you take your whole life along!

I'd parked in the Pantiles car park - the Pantiles being the old part of TW with the chalybeate spring and the quaint white-painted covered arcades. On the way, pretty well opposite Hall's secondhand bookshop, I came to a shop called Country Stile (sic). This was selling high-quality goods for the country lady and gentleman - not merely country, but positively county -  and in their window was a Dubarry leather bag in brown and tan leather of exactly the design I'd been looking for. I went in, and had a delightful half-hour with Connie and Tracey the two extremely nice ladies who, in a kind of intermingled transaction, served me and several other people simultaneously, including a little girl called Madelaine and her Mummy, while all the time assisted by a black dog called Pickle. I never saw a more friendly and docile dog. To cut a long story short, I bought the bag. In the process, I gave Connie one of my 'Lucy Melford' cards that say 'Art and Photography' on them, and give my phone and email details. I can't quite remember now why I did this, but it served some purpose at the time.

Well, an hour and half later I got home and the phone rang. It was Connie. Tracey was getting married soon, and would I like to do the wedding photography? They wanted someone they felt they could get on really well with. I was terribly pleased, and would have liked to oblige, but had to say no. I explained that I dabbled in landscape and art photography, and did not accept portrait and wedding commissions.

But it struck me afterwards that I had only to plan the thing out, cost it up, and ensure that the big Nikon was in feisty running order. I had Fiona to strike the right note. And what an excuse to get a whole new outfit! Oh well...

That wasn't the end of my card distributions for the day. On my way home, at the North Chailey road junction where the A272 meets the A275, I witnessed a crash right in front of my eyes. There was nothing to be done but stop, get out, and see the participants. Both were uninjured, although one looked very shaken. I said to her, in a kind way I hope, that she really ought to have a nice cup of tea asap. Fortunately another lady, another witness, was taking her in hand. I decided to say as little as possible except that I'd seen the impact, and if either party needed to contact me, here was my card. Then I walked back to Fiona and drove away. I don't think anything will come of it so far as I'm personally concerned, but if either insurance company tries to ring me in the next few days they'll not get much joy. Later on, when well post-op, I'll turn up at the Old Bailey if need be! Fragrantly, of course. Scent and demure minskirts always win the regard of judges. Don't they? I'm sure they do.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Last pre-op hospital visit

With exactly one week to go to my op, I visited the Brighton Nuffield Hospital today to have various tests done and go through a long checklist with Liz Hills the Clinical Nurse, who will doubtless be well-known to many girls who have had their surgery at this hospital.

I arrived just before 1.00pm and left at 2.45pm. It was only a 25 minute drive from home, and would have been quicker if there hadn't been a holdup on Ditchling Road. My lift next week will take a little longer, 30 minutes say. Surely it's a whole lot more convenient than a flight to Bangkok!

I'm pleased to report that my urine sample showed no infection, and the medical checklist threw up no high-risk factors that might complicate the procedure or aftercare. As mentioned before, Liz inspires huge confidence, and is a great calming influence if you feel a little highly-strung - as might so easily be the case. This operation is a massively important event, and nobody should feel awkward about wanting to scream with tension and apprehension. It was evident that I wasn't immune from a little excitement myself: the blood pressure reading was 130/85, a bit higher than usual. I wouldn't be surprised to see it even higher next week!

Actually I still feel remarkably normal. It's over a month since I came off hormones and there haven't yet been any mood swings or unusual emotions. I've been so serene. I've also packed in a lot of travel and shopping and other things without fatigue. No hot flushes either! Or rather, for I'd like to be honest, nothing like a hot flush away from the badminton court. I got pretty hot while playing -  but I didn't turn red, and didn't stream with sweat. So I reckon the warm feeling was much more to do with having to wear leggings and a miniskirt in overheated halls. In a proper sports top and shorts I might have kept nice and cool.

It helps a lot not being under direct pressure from any source. There is no family to look after. No parents to placate. No job to worry about. The Cottage is on the market yet again, but M--- is seeing to everything and I can forget about it all, at least until well into the summer. These are huge advantages over some girls, who have to snatch time away from the workplace and will be plunged into heavy responsibility again far too soon. I certainly don't underestimate the fortunate position I'm in. The most I've got to worry about is not catching a cold, or injuring myself, between now and 28 February, the day of admission.

I did go to Cambridge on Sunday. A round trip of 250 miles covered in exactly 250 minutes, not without a certain amount of high speed driving of course. But that's how I get my thrills. Although the weather was overcast and chilly throughout, it remained dry, and I enjoyed the visit very much. I walked around the town centre quite a bit, going into Caius and Clare Colleges, and (of course) King's College Chapel, with a couple of detours to take in the bridges over the Cam, and see something of the Backs. Nearly all the shops were open, although I abstained from spending money on this occasion. I even visited the station on the way out.

Cambridge invites comparison with Oxford. Which is better? Rather a silly question really. I certainly prefer the more relaxed atmosphere of Cambridge, and the colleges seem more open to the public and less shut away than those in Oxford. Oxford is definitely a more self-conscious place, definitely more snooty. On the other hand, Oxford has much to be snooty about. It has a stronger architectural presence, with more in the way of distinctive buildings. Cambridge has no Radcliffe Camera, no Bridge of Sighs, no place where the busts of Roman Emperors frown down at you. Do its museums compare to to Oxford's Ashmolean? I'm not sure. There certainly isn't an exact equivalent of Oxford's Randolf Hotel. Nor is there an Inspector Morse to brood morosely over constant academic crime. Both cities are awash with bicycles, and have precise equality on that score!

The students are more friendly in Cambridge. When wandering around Caius College, peering into the doorways, a student stopped and said to me very pleasantly, 'Take a look at the names on the doorway in the corner over there. You'll see someone you may know!' Gosh, I thought, does he know who I am? Am I recognised? Does he follow my blog for instance? But the explanation was simple when I saw 'Professor Hawking' painted on the doorway. Stephen Hawking is a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, and must be entitled to rooms there, but looking up at the steep stairs just inside the doorway, with no sign of an electric hoist, I was doubtful whether he had used those rooms in recent decades. I turned back to the student and thanked him.

Tomorrow I have a kind of mini-reunion with former colleagues in Croydon. A lunch at Zizzi's. They know about my transition, but haven't seen me in the flesh for nearly six years. They'll be in for a surprise! I dare say it'll be worth a post.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The future life

I was going to embark on a review of my past life, but wasn't ready. Just now I'm preoccupied with the life to come.

In discussions with friends who have gone through what I will experience very soon, one common ambition they have, once all healed up, is to find someone to share their life with. It's a very noticeable thing. It doesn't seem to matter whether they plan to carry on with or revive an existing relationship, or plan to team up with someone they've already met and quite like, or intend to find that elusive perfect person who must be out there. Whatever the route to a shared life, the ambition to get one is almost universal. It seems to override every other possible ambition, such as getting a good job, or making a home.

Well I hope everyone who has that wish for companionship fulfills it somehow. Life lived alone, without backup, without another voice at home, without a face to see when you wake up, without a companion who is on your side, unconditionally, is a very hard thing. You are exposed, far more likely to fall victim, far more likely not to succeeed, so much less likely to get enjoyment from what you do. Eating alone, for instance: no matter how good the meal, how much better it can be with someone to talk to and occasionally treat. And is not a moment of laughter or delight a thousand times more intense if shared with someone special and very close?

I know all this. And so I wonder why I don't want what nearly everyone else wants. I want to go it alone.

But independence is an illusion. We are all interdependent. Besides, advancing old age will make me more and more reliant on helpers of all kinds.

I want absolute freedom to go where I want. My choice. No compromises. I feel confident enough to travel widely. But the world is narrowing, and in twenty years' time the extreme danger and inconvenience of flying will lock me into Fortress Northern Europe.

Still, I refuse to be glum. There is so much to know and study. If trips around the world are unaffordable or too risky or simply impossible, then I shall try trips within the mind, and extend my knowledge of history and the liberal arts. I'll just have to make sure that I don't degenerate into a kind of pretentious good-time girl.

Ten days to go: the countdown really now begins in earnest

It's a very strange period in one's life. A very small part of it, to be sure, but one that I'll never forget. The last few days before the operation that will permanently change me.

Nearly everything that should be arranged, or bought, or seen to, has been. It's all under control. I've insisted on having time to myself for reflection, but I've also set up one or two last social events to provide anchor moments in the Final Countdown, as tension naturally increases. But I'm spending next weekend, the last weekend, in utter solitude. In deep quarantine in fact, although the retreat from public appearances (and the risk of public infection) has already commenced.

Tomorrow I'm thinking of going off somewhere like Cambridge, a pretty long day out. Cambridge on a Sunday, with bells ringing. It may be wet, but no matter, I will shoot the place in drab melancholy if need be. But I hope that at some point the sun will come out and magically illuminate the architecture of academia.

I haven't been to Cambridge since 21 June 1986, when my wife and I took the train there on a day out from Wimbledon. It was in the days of British Rail. Or rather the days of Network SouthEast, that autonomous part of BR that controlled - in an integrated fashion - all rail services in the south east corner of England, extending quite a way into East Anglia and the Midlands and the West Country. The entire London commuter catchment area in fact. To promote their identity, and the leisure possibilities of  weekend rail travel, Network SouthEast were holding a 'Network Day'. It was a Saturday of absolutely free rail travel - hop on a train, first come first served, and go where you liked, for as long as you liked, for as many times as you liked, any seats, any station. Needless to say averyone in London who could get away that Saturday flooded the mainline stations and departed for towns and wayside halts they'd never ever been to before. It was a fantastic, jolly adventure for all on the way out. No problems; all excitement; nobody disappointed. And the sun shone! It was a wonderful summer's day.

W--- and I had a gorgeous, self-indulgent, enthralling but ultimately footsore time in Cambridge. I remember having a pizza on the edge of some park on the way back to the station, which was a long way from the town centre. Just as well we did. Because the difficulties of getting home were about to begin!

At that time, and it may still be so, Cambridge station was a weird curiosity. Instead of having two or more platforms, it only had one very, very long one. Which meant that you might have two trains waiting there, in different sections of the same immensely long platform. This was odd and confusing. But then it was all compounded by poor announcements (the staff were, by the early evening, knocking off for the day, and in any case were probably worn out with dealing with enquiries, and pointing people in the right direction), a shortage of trains to get home on (the ordinary timetable had been abandoned), and the pressure of a mass of hot, thirsty and hungry people who'd had their fun, were now very tired, and wanted to get home and put their feet up. It had been an exhausting day for most. We milled around, not knowing what to do for the best. It wasn't clear where trains, when they turned up, might be going. Whether the train you were standing next to was the one to catch, or the one at the far end of this strange platform. The press of people meant that you couldn't just saunter up the platform and ask a guard. Any change of mind about which train to get on meant somehow pushing a way through au unyielding cordon of tightly-packed bodies, unwilling to give an inch.

We did eventually get home, and with seats, but it was on a slow, crawling train via Royston and Stevenage. How glad we were to reach the comparatively civilised London Underground system! A spirit of excitement still lingered. I recall having a lively conversation with people who'd stayed at home, but were still eager to know where we'd been. Apparently some had ventured deep into the far reaches of the Thames valley, or to the Wash at King's Lynn, or to the Dorset coast at Weymouth. Some had planned a complex journey to all points of the compass, taking in as many railway lines as possible within the twelve hours available. And there were no doubt some who got off at places like Pewsey in Wiltshire, or Ascott-under-Wychwood on the Cotswolds, or spent too long at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, and never got home that day.

My goodness, what a long digression down Memory Lane! But then, digressions and distractions like this are needed to while away these final days.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Nice lunch at a Chichester gallery

I've become a Friend of the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, the county town of West Sussex. So now I can pop in whenever I want, for nothing.

This is an important provincial art gallery rather on the the lines of the Tate St Ives, at least for size, general style, facilities, and function within the local community. But instead of being a modernistic white concrete-and-glass creation in a Cornish fishing town overlooking a beach, it's partly inside a large distinguished Georgian redbrick town house (that's Pallant House) built in 1712, the major feature in a very Georgian part of this very Georgian city, with creaking floorboards and all. The main parts of the Gallery (constructed in the 2000s) are however to the side and rear of the House, forming a state of the art (no pun intended) super-modern art gallery par excellence. The complex includes the rear courtyard behind the House, wherein lies the Field & Fork restaurant that I got wind of on my last visit a couple of weeks ago. I gave it a try. Here are the elements of my lunch:


The delicious fresh bread was of two kinds, one of them flavoured with fennel and something else that I couldn't quite make out, and the soft butter had an orgasmic saltiness that tingled the tongue. I was in the mood for a velvety red wine, so chose a glass of merlot.


For my main course, I selected maple-glazed pork belly with smoked eel on nests of shaved carrot, sesame seeds and other things, all in a ginger jus. The long thin object was a strip of pork crackling, but only one millimetre thick; it was like a delicate wafer, and although crisp could not possibly break your teeth. Yummy. Mind, you, being crackling, it was tricky not to send it flying off stage left when cutting it up! (I'll be incorporating advice on this and other skills in my forthcoming book, Hot Hints for Hot New Women)


Then for dessert it was a spiced poached pear with vanilla cream and a meringue biscuit, washed down by a strong black Americano.

The total cost was £21.75. OK, a bit expensive for a lunch, but really this was fine dining on the cheap, and half the cost of lunching at Rick Stein's in Padstow (although that was an experience I'd like to enjoy again). As for calories, I reckon that I consumed not more than 600 kcal for the lot. And I walked some of that off in the shopping that followed! It was 'necessary' shopping for my post-op home experience. I thought laterally, considered what I'd need if a pregnant mum-to-be, and got various items from Mothercare such as sheets to protect the bed from vaginal leakage - just right for dilation I'd say! It was rather nice feeling mumsy.

Life's not all fancy lunches. Next day - last night - I had a frugal evening meal consisting of a halibut steak, one small potato and sugar snap peas:


Just 339 kcal for this! Oh, let me polish my halo...

PS - I rather like the phrase 'New Woman' for the post-op transsexual state. It's non-medical, emphasises the feminine nature of the transformed creature, and sounds full of hope for the future. A bit like the 'New Woman' of the early 20th century, who aspired to equality, voting rights and a good time. And I hope that pre-op women approve of it it too. And natal women also.


From the humorous magazine Punch of 1905. Click on the illustration to see it in detail. I think the Latin tag means something like 'Live first; only then philosophise'.

By the way, I fibbed: there's actually no book in the making! But on the other hand, when sitting around at home during the next few months, slowly going ga-ga with inactivity, why don't I fire up the laptop and set to with my very best distilled thoughts?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

No more caravanning for six months

Today Fiona towed the caravan for the last time for perhaps six months ahead. It was coming home from its annual service, which included two new tyres. One of the old ones had a slight bulge. The service manager didn't have to persuade me: I've experienced a blow-out. I asked for both tyres to be replaced.


Caravan tyres take a nastier hammering than car tyres get. When they're not being slowly squashed flat by the stationary load at home or on site, they're taking damage that the car can avoid, such as when going over speed bumps, or negotiating farm tracks. And you inevitably kerb them.

But that's not really the point of this post. The genital operation and the ensuing convalescence mean that there's no heavy pushing, pulling or lifting for me in the next few months. Crouching and bending are also unwise. All this rules out loading up, hitching up and taking to the road. The caravan, all serviced and ready to go, will have to stay put on my driveway until a proper period has elapsed. I suppose I'll get many chances to clean it up. That'll be something. A little every day.

I hope to have an orgy of caravan trips in September or October. But meanwhile no such outings, and therefore no holidays. I will still be able to get out for motoring jaunts in Fiona from April, but the demands of dilation will make sure that I stay fairly close to home.

So no dawn scenes like this:


Boo hoo.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Getting thinner but the weight loss has slowed down

I was down to 83.1 kg this morning, but that's still 3.1 kg (not quite 7 pounds) short of target. I must be getting quite close to my natural sustainable weight, and those last few pounds will be difficult. Well, leaner meals and a good deal of walking about should do the trick. I find that any main meal based around chicken is a winner for modest calories intake, and I've got enough chicken in my freezer to make me skeletal! And spring is in the air, so that a stroll in the sunshine is an attractive possibility.

The funny thing is, that although the scales tell me I'm still heavy, and I mean quite a bit heavier than many of my friends, my arms and legs are definitely getting more slender. Here's a few shots of myself being silly in last week's pre-badminton warm up:


I think you'll grant that, while not a stick insect, I'm far from obese. 

Incidentally that was a hot outfit to wear. I undid a few buttons, but still steamed. I should have worn a sleeveless top; and I'll be glad when I can put on shorts, and dispense with leggings and the necessary mini-skirt!

I'm pleased with the slimmed down look, and will try to stay with it in the months ahead. But if I plump up a bit, and that may be unavoidable during my convalescence, well, that'll be perfectly OK with me. I don't want to develop bingo wings, but I'd much rather be rounded and cuddly, than thin and scrawny. So I'm not throwing away my size 16 and 18 clothes just yet!

Monday, 14 February 2011

St Valentine's Day - my 28th wedding anniversary

Twenty-eight years ago, on 14 February 1983, the thirty-year-old Julian (that was me) married W--- at Morden Cottage in Morden, near Wimbledon in south London - where they play tennis. It was a civil ceremony. And it was bitterly cold, with a light covering of snow on the lawn outside the Cottage where we stood for endless professional photos. W--- has always had those, and I can't show them to you. But luckily Dad had his little camera with him, and took the only photographic record that I can access. Here's a couple of me:



I'm not responsible for Dad's witty captions!

I had got married because I wanted to. Maybe marriage was a siren call, a rite of passage I was ready for, and a project that (of course) I'd efficiently organised once the decision was made. Maybe I was being swept along by a social process. Maybe it was an urge to settle down and try the family life, like my younger brother years before me. Maybe it was because I'd just finished with a long but fruitless attempt to pass some very difficult exams, and this was the wonderful consolation prize (although I got promotion two years afterwards anyway).

Well, it seemed magical at the time. A whole new experience. And I was determined to make a success of it. I might be a duffer at exams, but I could be Domestic Man, and Do-It-Yourself Man, and Gardening Man, and having inherited young A---, my lovely step-daughter, I so much wanted to be Caring Parent. Missing was Super Husband. I didn't do well there. I didn't stick to the script, lost the plot, wouldn't come to bed, became confused and irritable. It took a few years for things to unravel, but they did, and A--'s post-college departure for New Zealand for twelve months was the final straw. The glue had gone. We separated in 1991, and divorced in 1996. (No instant divorces were possible in the 1990s) 

W-- and I never got round to a proper inquest. To this day I'm not absolutely certain what things in particular made the marriage fail. It's true that in such experiences 'it takes two to tango' and an outsider might guess that there were mistakes on both sides. If I made more mistakes than my wife did (it was my first and only marriage), or committed errors that could have been avoided, or neglected my wife's needs, then I'm happy to be named and shamed. But as I said, we never went into it, and there is no point now. We parted on speaking terms, and thereafter have maintained a civilised standoff, meaning that there is no problem if ever meeting on a social occasion where both attend. That has happened a handful of times since we separated. But we have not been in touch otherwise, and indeed until recently I had no way of directly contacting my wife. I still don't know her address, or phone number, but I do now have an email address if I want to use it.

But I won't. I like the civilised standoff. It has worked well. And my transition is a new complication, although A--- told me that my ex-wife's reaction to the news was positive, and she apparently wished me luck. A--- actually suggested that if I was going to visit her in New Zealand, could I travel with her Mum, if she hadn't yet sold up and emigrated already. Well, I'd certainly consider it. The only thing there is that M--- might want to come as well, as both women like a travelling companion. I'm not quite sure that I'd relish 26 hours in a plane with the two most significant women in my life. M--- and W--- might find some delicious topics to share: such as my many faults, my delusions, and my sad decline from the amazing guy I once was. Funny, I never rated myself highly, and still can't see what the fuss is about.

So it's reassuring that, even despite hormone starvation, I  can look as comfortable with myself as this:


Both shots were taken in the last week or so.

Do you know that I've just done a St Valentine's Day post without mentioning LOVE? That's the fundamental issue with me. Both W--- and M--- and everyone else would agree. I don't understand what love is, don't seem to need it, can't seem to give it. And no transitional makeover will alter that.

Oh well. There must be something else that I can offer, although I would have thought that if you have no love in you then you are lost. So be it, then.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

French Connection

Let's have a break from pre-op matters - though we will joyfully turn back to them soon enough!

You may have gathered that I'm a student of shop window displays. Now the job of these is to catch the eye, and then entice you inside the shop. But sometimes something goes wrong. Your eye may be caught all right; but the display is confusing or downright offensive (as with Benetton a while back).

I've noticed that French Connection seems to be playing a clever-clever game with potential customers, with weird posters and oddly dressed dummies. Back in April last year I noticed these in their Edinburgh branch:


Huh? I don't get it. Are they suggesting that women are fashion-dyslexic and simple-minded? Or trapped in stereotypical leisure roles that deserve some mockery? Or (and this is where they may be getting too clever by half) are they saying 'We dare to portray women as victims of modern life, because we know they recognise their real position and can see the high purpose behind our somewhat unpleasant messages'. Really? Whose leg are they pulling?

And they're still at it. I saw this in the shop window of their Brighton branch:


Yes, that's right. Men without trousers on, just their Y-fronts, sporting goggles, silly moustaches, and even sillier Loch Ness Monster swimming-pool rings around their waists!

I thought the dummies were meant to be gay men when I first spied this. Then I realised that no gay man I'd ever met would go around in such a ridiculous get-up, nor could French Connection legally depict gay men like this. So these were meant to be ordinary chaps. (Yes, yes, I know that gay men are ordinary chaps, but you do see what I mean: chaps who are so straight and boring and conventional that they're painful, and need to be shocked or taken by surprise)

But what is the message? 'You are man?' I instantly recall the scene in the Fawlty Towers episode called 'The Builders' where Manuel the waiter (who is from Barcelona and no speaka English well) asks the incoming hulking Irish cowboy builders 'Are you men?' (meaning 'Are you the men from the building firm?') and nearly gets a punch in the nose. I'm thinking that this offensive little display is a similar insult to passing fellows of good and noble character. But intended to seem clever, in order to take the sting out of it.

Well, if I were a man, I would feel so pissed off about this that wild horses couldn't drag me into the shop and spend money. Which is surely what they want passing men to do - if not on themselves, then on their ditsy female partners that lead such bored and confusing lives.

I'm sick of it, all this so-called sophisticated advertising. It's just an excuse to be rude. How dare they expect people to buy from them. And the indignation is intensified when you think how much brainpower is wasted on dreaming up ways to make you and me part with our money.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Pit stop traps Lucy in Brighton shops

Yesterday's weigh-in made me feel good: back on track, despite meals out while away at Hindon and Winchester. I still won't be down to target by tomorrow, but a week more should do it.

And so what have I just done? A six-item cooked breakfast in Debenhams. With toast on the side. Only the coffee passed the stern calorie test. My excuse? I had to get up super-early to take Fiona into the Volvo dealership at Portslade, and after a bus ride into Brighton, and a complimentary fringe trim at Trevor Sorbie, I was in urgent need of a pit stop.

I had several hours to kill before collecting Fiona. Several hours of hard core, merciless, take-no-prisoners shopping. Maybe my last pre-op splurge. But not bulk necessities like pads and panty liners! I was going to the theatre in the evening, and wanted a long black jacket, a filmy, shimmering low-cut red top, a short black skirt with an irregular hem, patterned tights (mainly red), a long black crepe scarf, a couple of chunky black/silver necklaces, and a large black/silver hair clip. I already had shoes to match. The black Prada bag would complete this whimsical diva outfit. For absolute perfection, lustrous black hair and a facelift - but hey, let's keep things simple!

Incidentally, there's nothing wrong with Fiona. I'm responding to two recalls, one on a spurious airbag warning, one on a remote possibility of oil overfill and consequent engine run-on. She's having two software updates. Let's face it, modern cars are computers on wheels. I'm all for it. I just want to know how to activate the fold-out wings and rocket thrusters - still haven't got those working!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Further steps into the unknown

OK, just a couple more instances, both from today, of how I'm getting into hormone-driven deep water. Or is it mere self-indulgent sensation?

Scene 1: I'm driving back from Wiltshire, caravan in tow, and I pull into a favourite lay-by on the A272 between Petersfield and Rogate. As I get out of Fiona, there's a strange roaring from a large dark green vehicle that has followed me in. It's an armoured Army personnel carrier. It's far from home - nowhere near Salisbury Plain or Aldershot - but it's plain that the driver is under instruction. He's out for a practice run, and he's not alone. I look on, astonished at this sight in such a glade-like place. Then I skip into the caravan for a cup of tea and a calorie-controlled lunch. I want to get home, and don't waste time. As I fire up Fiona and edge forwards, I'm wondering whether I'll get by: it's a rather wide vehicle, that personnel carrier. The back door is open, revealing a functional but surprisingly civilised-looking interior.

Two alternative sequels now. Number one first.

I can't get by, and have to stop. I get out and the following exchange takes place:

'Excuse me, but I can't pass. Are you going to be long?'
'No love, just another couple of minutes.' (There's a snack trailer hard by and the driver and his mates are munching succulent bacon butties that whip at my taste buds)
'I've never seen inside one of these carriers before!'
'Come on up, love, and take a look.'
'Thanks. Is that where you sit when you drive? It's not much like a car, is it?'
'Go on, get in the seat, love, and we'll show you how it works.'
'This is brilliant. How would it be if you took a picture of me in the driving seat with that helmet on, and two of the lads giving a big thumbs-up behind? Just for the girls at home? Oh, please!' 

Sorry, it was fantasy, and so no photo.

Sequel number two. Reality. I just about squeeze past, getting pretty close to the snack trailer, causing several men to turn their heads. That's heads full of succulent bacon. No fantasy about that. Fiona launches herself into the main road with a smooth roar of her own, while I'm trying to ignore six pairs of fixated male eyes.

'Did you see that? A woman towing on her own.'
'Yeah. She's game.'
'Saw her parked down over there. Nice legs. Wearing a mini, too.'
'Fancy her then?'
'Wouldn't say no, if she played her cards right.'
'Me too. Nice bit of skirt. Bet she's a goer.'
'Yeah, begging for it.'
'Yeah.'

I'm sure they were saying those things. You could tell by the way they stood.

Scene 2: in the evening, in Brighton, at a pub called the Black Dove. This is a pleasant pub frequented by those who like wine and cocktails, with blues or jazz playing in the background. It's a straight pub, not for gays or lesbians. I'm there with two friends. At nearby tables young girls are in conversation. Twenty-somethings, all stylishly dressed, all absurdly beautiful. I suddenly feel that I want to speak to them, tell them who I am and what I am, and be like them, not merely female but thirty-five years younger and not trapped in a tired old body. The opportunity does not come. But somehow a kind of spiritual exchange does take place, a tantalising flow of energy or electricity, and something has been gained, if only better knowledge of how girls look when they speak to each other.

And a few hours later, these moments are still in my mind.

I feel like a planet being bombarded with meteors, my surface molten from the impacts.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Teen nymphette

With barely three weeks to go before the op, I am at last discerning an effect from cutting-off the feminising hormones.

No, it's not dark bristles sprouting again on my upper lip, nor hairy legs or muscular arms. Nor have I become moody and irritable, or inclined to pick fights. Nor do I scream or cry, or speak in a savage manner. Nor have I taken up an obsessive interest in power tools and their use.

No, it's quite unexpected. I've become physically aware of myself to an unprecedented extent. I mean the whole me, not just the bits that are shortly to be transformed. It's catching sight of my arms and legs, and my diminishing but strangely more feminine chest, and the waist, and those curving hips, and even my lips and the way my hair falls. The diet has made my limbs more slender than they were, and the look of them is not only fascinating, I actually feel that I'm going through an accelerating physical transformation. And - unheard of this - I feel positively randy at times. And I don't mean as a male on the rampage. I mean as a female wanting to be seduced and taken. And soon I will in reality have the right equipment for that.

This is terra incognita indeed. I must get a grip on myself. I don't feel like this all the time, and I'm in control, but a powerful volcano, that may erupt rather messily, has clearly emerged from lifelong dormancy. I can't say yet what kind of person may abet me in these fantasies, and I have positively no plans to instigate anything, but I'm treating these strange sensations as a wake-up call. I'm saying to myself: 'Watch out - you see your ugly face and think you'll be immune from all problems. But your body is not listening. It thinks it's a contender. You'll have to take care.'

Someone tell me it's just a temporary effect of unchecked testosterone, and that post-op, with a bruised, swollen donut down there, and a clitoris I can't use for months, I won't feel quite so much like a slightly improbable teen nymphomaniac!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Men saying hello

I don't think I mentioned that two days ago, when hitching up the caravan to Fiona at home, a young man (well, late twenties) with a dog (a sensible hound) passed by and said hello.

'Hello,' he said in a pleasant way.

'Oh! Hello there,' I replied, from my ungainly crouching position over the cables and jockey wheel winder-up, with my hair all flying about in the wind.

He strolled on. The heavens rent, and sunshine burst through, and a voice spake.

'Lucy! You're not a strange-looking outcast. You're a person that dishy young men say hello to!'

Right. Wow. The thought stayed with me all the way to Salisbury. I'm still thinking of it. And yet how can this be? Here I am, approaching 60, well, 59 in July, not pretty, off hormones and not especially girl-shaped, or at least I don't feel that I am, and yet chaps are being damned civil to me. Wow again.

And why am I excited at the idea? Odd. I don't get it.

And last night. I was on my way back from a visit to Newport in South Wales to see my elderly auntie, not long out of hospital after a hip operation. I dearly wanted to see her, and this was the last chance for months. She knows why. A nice girl called Kathy was there to cook her lunch. We got on so well. After she'd eaten, P--- and I had a lovely chat for a couple of hours. Then I went over to her son R--- and his partner R---, just returned from a hospital visit herself, and needing to rest. 'Sit by me on the bed,' she said, and we had a good talk about how she was, and how I was, woman to woman really. She knows all about me. She thought the standards of female voice, looks, dress, behaviour and thinking that I was setting myself - a life beyond mere acting - were an incredible challenge, surely more than necessary? But for me, even if it took years, I wanted total success in my female role. No resting or copping-out. And already I must have become reasonably convincing. The kids, when they came in from the Welsh-speaking school in Pontypool, were so at ease with me. And they DO know, believe me.

It was dark when I set off for Salisbury. A long drive in high winds and spitting rain. By the time I was back in Wiltshire, I felt like being cosseted a little, and having a nice meal in some company. So I stopped at The Lamb at Hindon. Still mindful of my diet, I chose fish - a dover sole - with tiny new potatoes and savoy cabbage shredded up with little nuggets of bacon, washed down with a very good white wine, some water and a black coffee instead of dessert. The main man behind the bar was friendliness personified, gave me a nice table, and the watresses (this is a well-known dining pub) were so sweet and attentive. It did the trick. I felt great. Meanwhile a table in front of me - a late-thirties couple with three well-spoken young chidren, two of them in school uniform - paid me the sort of attention a smart (and still working) businesswoman would get. And then an older couple came in after me, sitting nearby to my right. The fifty-something man caught my eye, and gave me a pleasant greeting. I left via the Franklin Room, where several athletic young men were watching an international rugby match. They let me pass with respect. I didn't feel vulnerable, nor an intruder.

What does all this add up to? How much further can I push the boundaries of social acceptance? And if men are aware of me, and are willing to be polite and friendly - even when not taking money off me - what does that mean?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Mum has been dead two years

3 February: Mum died two years ago today. I'm not going to made a big thing of it this year, but I can't let it pass unmentioned.

Two years ago my transition had started, although hormones were still over a month ahead. I was going about Brighton in full Lucy though. I was dressed thus when the nursing home phoned me about Mum. You can read all about that sad day if you see the post I wrote at the time. An easy way to find it is by searching the blog using the word 'mum'. Don't use 'death': too many results for that word.

Two years. Tempus fugit indeed. What would Mum have said if still alive now, and my surgery looming? She had closed her mind to my transitioning and what it implied about me. I don't think she would have relented. She was a woman of implacable principle. A great strength in some circumstances; but a barrier to closeness and understanding.

Clearly, she was not alone in such high-mindedness. You see it all over the world, in every person in authority who claims to be right. And there are millions who suffer because they are judged 'wrong' or 'misguided' or have 'fallen into error'. Or just different.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Danger Man

With my convalescence in mind, I've been buying a number of DVDs to play on my widescreen TV, as one of the things I can do when I mustn't do anything else. I normally read a lot, and I devote a huge number of hours to my photos; but I anticipate that in the evening, after a hard day of scanning old transparencies and prints, or reading a book till falling asleep over it, I may want something else to turn to. That's also assuming that ordinary TV is devoid of interest, as it often is.

So here is my list of DVDs to watch, as bought so far:

Feature films
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; The Two Towers; and The Return of the King.
Star Wars: IV (the original film); V The Empire Strikes Back; and VI Return of the Jedi.
The Clint Eastwood Collection: A Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly; and Hang 'Em High.
Gone With The Wind.
Singin' in the Rain.
The Indiana Jones Complete Collection: Raiders of the Lost Ark; Temple of Doom; Last Crusade; and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Casablanca.
The Philadelphia Experiment.
The Third Man.
The Manchurian Candidate (the original version).
Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Tootsie.
The Graduate.
Riding Giants (a film about surfing and its history).
Back to the Future.
Toy Story.
Toy Story 2.
Casino Royale.
The Terminator.
Blade Runner.

British TV series
Danger Man.
The Avengers (with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel).
The Likely Lads.
Fawlty Towers.
Blackadder.
The Best of Dave Allen.
Civilisation (Sir Kenneth Clark on Art as a reflector of Civilisation).

No groans, please. And no apologies from me. I want to be amused and thrilled and moved and plunged into nostalgia in equal measure. It's my convalescence.

It was a lovely experience seeing what was available to buy. I did it in an actual shop. I had no idea that British TV series from the 1960s and 1970s were available. Danger Man, for instance.


This was the TV series that first made Patrick McGoohan well-known, in which he played a secret agent called John Drake, a role that inspired his later tour-de-force, the cult series called The Prisoner. Danger Man was first screened in 1960, and I remember it very well, even though I was only eight. I was much struck by John Drake's neat dapper appearance, his coolness, his humour, his ease in any situation, his perfect manners, and his compassion for the innocent victims he encounters. All tempered with quick-thinking action, political sophistication, detachment, and an understanding that the truth is relative to your point of view and the time and place. A dependable, resourceful man, who used his brain. A man you'd very, very much like to have as an ally. I was absolutely enthralled, and inwardly seethed with resentment when packed off to cubs, because I'd have to forego the frisson of watching Danger Man for mindless dib-dibbing. Here is McGoohan in a scene where John Drake presents his fake credentials to a corrupt police chief:


McGoohan himself was born in America, but brought up in the UK, and there was always something mid-Atlantic about him. In Danger Man he was apparently linked somehow to NATO, but did work on a one-man, independent basis for all sorts of important folk in the States and in the UK, private individuals as well as government people. The stories were well acted, believable, and curiously British in their flavour and ethos, even though as an Irish-American McGoohan might be expected to prefer a different way of portraying himself. For I'm certain that John Drake was very much how McGoohan would be, if really a secret agent.

Secret agents were very much my thing in the 1960s. In many ways I was doing what they did: maintaining a front, living an inner life under a cover that must not be blown.

Slippage! Damn!

I had a meal out with friends last night at a venue that I would have avoided if it had been my personal choice, given my strict calorie-controlled diet.

I did my best with a menu that offered little in the way of low-calorie courses. But when I worked it out as well as I could afterwards at home, the meal came out  at a whopping 1,500 kcals, making my total calorie intake for the day nearly 2,700 kcals. That's a two-day ration in one go! Not what I intended at all.

This morning's weigh-in was predictably bad news. I'd slipped back, the weight now up again to 84.2 kg (185.6 pounds), when I'd hoped it would be down to 82.0 kg (180.8 pounds). Damn.

Very well; future meals out need to be approached with more care. I've got a Thai or Japanese meal with another set of friends coming up in Winchester this weekend, and a more English one on the following weekend. After that, a lunch with former colleagues in Croydon on the 23rd, and then another lunch with my cousin R--- in Canterbury on the 25th, which will almost certainly be my final pre-op outing and social occasion.

All meals out after the 15th are off if anyone attending has a cold, or anything infectious (apart from laughter) - I can't risk catching anything, and effectively I'll be in quarantine. But that will assist in any last-minute dietary efforts!

On body shape though, the news is better. My bust continues to shrink, but my waist is getting more pronounced, and my hips have hardly changed. So my resemblance to an hour-glass is getting more noticeable. People have said so, including natal women, and this shapeliness and positive commentary are massive incentives to gettting the pounds off. And a jolly good reason to wear dark, figure-hugging clothes!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Saying goodbye to it all

Exactly one month from now I will be in the operating theatre getting fixed. Just one month ahead. Being February, that means just four weeks. It'll fly by.

From now on, I'll be saying goodbye to the old world. For make no mistake, the surgery will I'm sure completely transform my self-perception. I will be physically changed, and the knowledge of it will make me see myself, and my place in the world, in a different way. I will still look rather like the old person, and probably always will, but I will have entirely new possibilites to embrace, the sort that come when living is put on a fresh basis. For many things that the old person did, or was expected to do, or be, will now be in the dustbin. Irretrievably. And so in these last few weeks I will be examining my past life, revisiting places that meant much to me, visiting them as Lucy, but also at the same time as Julian. Because I simply won't be able to go there in the same frame of mind after the op, and I want to ponder how it might feel if, for instance, my parents were still alive, and I had them in the car with me, and we were able to discuss my life without censure, and had the chance to reminisce and consider what lies behind and ahead, and weigh it all up, like the Irish Airman in Yeats' famous poem. You know the one. I believe he wrote it in 1918:

AN IRISH AIRMAN FORSEES HIS DEATH

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross, 
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor, 
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, 
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds, 
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind, 
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

If that seems too morbid, and I certainly don't take such a bleak vision of the future, there are other more hopeful poems and passages from poems that I might recall. Such as this one, by Lord Tennyson in 1842, the tail end of a poem about Ulysses the Greek hero:

ULYSSES

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


I intend to spend many solitary moments in thought, weighing myself up, thinking of the past and the future. Do you, did you, ever do that? How were things for you? Were you wanting, deficient, perplexed, or did you never think about it? And if in my situation now, how will you feel? How will you find that balance?

I always used to think of myself as a human being first, a person second, and a boy or a man in particular very much as a third. The first two roles were fine; but I always felt awkward living up to expectations as a male person, and although I wasn't especially odd or eccentric (though I admired people who were, who insisted on their individuality) I did feel very  idiosyncratic, definitely not one of the crowd.

Sometimes I felt I was very far from the mainstream, that nobody understood me or ever would. Stevie Smith's well known poem about the drowning man often seemed to be about me. Maybe it was about you too:

NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Or this, penned by yachtsman Donald Crowhurst in 1969 when killing time in the Atlantic, before his mind gave way from the terrible stress of faking a round-the-world voyage, engaged in a challenge that his boat was not equal to, locked into a deception that appalled him, that gave him the certain chance of an unworthy win, the glare of worldwide fame, and a prize he could not accept and still live with himself. He too was always 'too far out' all his life. This short poem was about a seabird that kept him company for a while, that fascinated him. The bird battled against the Atlantic wind, far from land, with no hope of getting anywhere, but it would not give up. The Misfit was also of course Crowhurst himself:

THE MISFIT

Save some pity for the Misfit,
Fighting on with bursting heart;
Not a trace of common sense,
His is no common flight.
Save, save him some pity.
But save the greater part
For him that sees no glimmer
Of the Misfit's guiding light.

I retreated from the strains of such uncomfortable situations by regarding myself in a detached way, as an androgynous person of good character and amiable disposition. I felt of neither sex really, apart from the obvious superficial physical differentiation that I had to live with and couldn't totally ignore. But this pose didn't work. It made me a nothing. Frankly I think I cut a poor social figure. I wasn't anything in particular, I had no edge, and in oriental terms I lost face and other people's respect. And the detachment went too far. I felt alone in a parallel world that would never touch other people's lives, that I would never feel their triumphs and tragedies. That's it: I didn't feel, or had lost the ability, or had never found it, and was told so often enough. I believe it, that and any negativity thrown at me. Perhaps I didn't mind, didn't care, was resigned, and considered the numbness inevitable. And temperamentally I liked my own space, needed so much of it, had to have separation and distance to survive. But nothing was achievable. You need to integrate yourself into the world to find purpose and make an impact. How to do that, where to begin, eluded me for decades.

How transitioning has changed all this! It has brought back self-respect, self-esteem, a feeling of immense potential, it's empowered me, it's turned me into something definite, and I can look all others in the eye. Not with scorn or bravado; just with self-assurance. I have my detractors, and post-op there will be some bitter or sorrowful words directed at me, but I've found myself, and I'm breaking out of all former moulds. I'm going to pick up all the cards that I've got left, and play to win.

And I will be not a woman per se, not even someone who can successfully live as a woman, though I will, but the right version of myself: all I ever really wanted to be.