I Am Female

If you have been reading some or all of my blog, the title of this post will seem a bit odd. From previous posts it should pretty obvious that I’m a woman. In fact, since I sent off my Deed Poll at the start of December 2014 and it was executed soon after in that month, it has been official that I had a female name and title since then. I have also had my passport for over four years stating that I am female. Also since early 2015, the vast majority of people in my life (daughter excepting) have accepted me as female too, as has the world as a whole. The medical profession has accepted me as female too. However, in spite of this, things have officially moved up a level since then.

If you will, so far I have achieved the bronze medal in the ‘race’ for my female status, with some of the things that I have obtained or achieved as mentioned above… though the race is not against anyone else but is just a progression against my life’s timeline. And this week I achieved the silver medal!

emoji-gingerOn Tuesday I received my Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) from the UK Gender Recognition Panel (GRP), and when I opened the envelope and pulled out the small wad of material with the certificate at the top I was overwhelmed at this recognition of my true gender… and, for a change, I had quite a lot of tears that were joyful! (Oh no, she’s crying again). The certificate states that, as of 2nd August, the above person named (Andrea Denise ____) is of the gender shown, which is of course ‘Female’! 🙂

Now that I have this certificate, I can (with certified copies) get the gender corrected to female on all of my pensions, as most companies in this respect have refused to update this (despite changing my name) without a GRC. It also means that I am now able to get a birth certificate with all of the details correct. I had thought that I would have to organise all of this myself, but thankfully (considering my current, and continued, poor physical health) all of this is set in motion by the GRP.

(edit) – In the medal table, I see the gold medal as obtaining my birth certificate – this will mean that (a) every piece of documentation that I have in my life is right and (b) I can marry a guy (should I ever find one that will want me for all that I am) without my marriage being considered a ‘gay marriage’, and it will be considered no different than any other marriage between a man and woman… and should I want a marriage in Northern Ireland it will mean I actually can get married here (present legislation standing).

One piece of advice that I will give to you in respect of applying for a GRC in the UK – if you are having difficulty obtaining two medical reports, then apply to your Gender Clinic asking them to execute a Data Subject Access Request, and the resultant report should satisfy the GRP, as it did for me. I would have otherwise had to fly over to the UK for a half hour interview with the doctor who signed off my second opinion, and paid around £300 for the privilege… plus travel expenses – in my poor state of health post-surgery, that is something that would have been a very painful experience.

So, for a change, some good news, and a happier tone!! However, as eluded to in the above paragraph, my state of health since my gender reassignment surgery (18 months ago) remains lousy, extremely painful, and prohibits me from having a ‘normal’, and enjoyable, lifestyle. Next time I write, I will give an update on this, as some of the detail may be useful for anyone else out there who is either having post-op problems as well or contemplating surgery; I might even ask for some help too…

(Thanks for reading… if you’re still there)



12 Week-Recovery, 12-Month Relapse… & Uncelebrated Anniversaries

About 13 months ago I wrote a euphoric post about my gender reassignment surgery. I do remain extremely pleased about the physical result, it looks like it should, and not half bad at that… but the ongoing overall recovery has been a total disaster! One is lead to believe that the recovery for this type of operation will be around 12 weeks, and this is the length of the sick note one is given before one hopefully then returns to work. Except that, over 13 months later, I have yet to return to work having had what I can now quite accurately state to be a 12-month relapse in my health 😦

My relapse started following the standard follow-up visit to the hospital that performed my surgery, where they check that everything has been healing okay… which visually it was. Now I am not for one minute suggesting that the hospital concerned caused my relapse, because I don’t believe that this was the case at all, it was more the combination of (1) the exertion of actually going over there and back and (2) having to cope with taking a carry on bag with me, even if I did on the whole ask other people to carry this on/off planes, up hotel stairs, etc and did have wheelchair assistance at the airports. I packed it lighter than I would usually do, but I think I was just too fragile after my recovery to cope with that trip… as it turned out.

In mid March I felt quite positive about my recovery, and remember a weekend or two where I felt physically much more capable in my recovery, though I did take it carefully. I remember going to house viewings with my now ex-boyfriend (git), doing a bit of shopping, and being able to drive reasonably okay. But the drive from the airport to my home after the hospital trip was noticeably more painful than the drive to the airport before it… perhaps naturally (?) due to having travelled earlier in the day. But the weekend afterwards I was doing a treasure trail with my now ex-boyfriend (git) in his home town and after a while I got extremely sore. This soreness became a daily occurrence – every morning I woke up with noticeable discomfort but moderate soreness which both always markedly escalated as the day stretched past midday into afternoon and evening. As days and weeks carried on things got gradually worse and worse in my new clitoral area; sitting at all for very long was very painful, driving became very bad where I could feel every bump, lump, and dimple on the road through my clitoris, I would get very sore just getting ready to go out. I phoned the hospital at that time and they just said I should try the painkiller Amitryptiline (sp) in what turned out to be ever-increasing and consistently useless doses. By the end of May I really felt things were not really right at all, suffering throbbing soreness, stabbing pains so bad that I was doubled over in pain, and my soreness getting worse just bending down to pick something off the floor. After many long emails of woe from me, I was eventually given an appointment at the end of June by the hospital.

For the June appointment, I travelled VERY light!! This was because I was still at the post-appointment state whereby I could lift nothing much heavier than a 2-litre carton of milk. I was also helped by a superb spell of weather, so all I had to take was my handbag, with a change of top and knickers, a few toiletries, and my little teddy bear to keep me company. I didn’t even need socks, as it was so warm I travelled in sandals! By the time I arrived at my hospital I was in agony, not helped by the bone-crunching ride up in the bus, where every bump went through me and caused agony to my clitoris. The surgeon gave me a rather brutal examination, causing me to bleed in the op area (which was rectified with silver nitrate), and then told me to get dressed and we would discuss options. Except that I was only given one option… painkillers, and pain management. I tried to discuss further surgery, but was told that that option was considered to be destructive (which, in an ideal world, I agree with) and also that he’d never had to do it ever before… to which I think (but did not say) that there is a first time for everything, given the right circumstances. His parting words were “I’d be surprised if you’re in this much pain in twelve months time” – how reassuring 😦 But essentially, I was diagnosed with having a bad case of over/hyper-sensitivity.

Less than a month later I had more new symptoms! The first was that I started with two sore spots, one on each side of, and above, the op area… which have turned out to be, uh, the severed plumbing that I was unfortunately born with; the left side has been sore pretty much every day since, to some degree. Another symptom is that when my soreness elevates to a certain level then when my body is then subjected to further jolts (such as a big bump in the road, and especially those rumble strips to make people slow down) then my clitoris goes into spasm! I’m not talking just the typical isolated stabbing pains of healing but something much, much worse, essentially a severe warning sign that things are critical in the pain department.

After further emails and calls with the hospital, in September I was put on Gabapentin, a neurological painkiller. During a conversation with the hospital it was implied that Amitriptyline was used first as it works for some people and it is the cheapest drug; great! The nurse I spoke to also admitted that surgery could at some point be considered as a last resort, but that other avenues are best considered first, including long term pain management… for which I am on a 44-week waiting list. The Gabapentin dosage was ramped up from an initial starter dose of 300mg a day to 900mg… with the only obvious effect being some horrendous side effects! These included nausea, feeling like my arms and legs were made of jelly, dizziness, and at times severe disorientation… to name just the main ones. My dose was increased further… to 1200mg a day… then 1800mg… then 2700mg (so nearly three grams!!!) – the benefit of this huge dose was minimal, with only the very edge of the pain dulled just slightly.

Since the start of this year I have been on Pregabilin… starting at 2*25mg a day up to my current dose of 2*150mg a day. Any change? Yep… WORSE side effects, some similar to Gabapentin, such as nausea and dizziness, but also my arms (and face) feeling like they are tingling as well as being jellyish, problems with coordination (I can change direction and end up losing my balance), cold symptoms, problems with blood sugar whereby when I start to get hungry it can fall off a cliff and I get to feel really quite odd, and sudden attacks of side effects in the middle of the night. But I have no benefit at all in terms of pain reduction… and in fact I think only when I take a cocktail of this drug with ibuprofen and cocodamol to things moderate just very slightly… except that my symptoms are now worse again, with some new and quite worrying new developments.

Since Christmas, my clitoris has actually started rubbing on the tissue inside of me!!! My clitoris is also swollen ALL the time! Some days I can barely walk more than 2-300 metres before my swelling and soreness go through the roof… and then when I pause to recover my clitoris actually feels like it is deflating!!! My sore spots have also got significantly worse. And I could go on…. but how can any of this possibly be right!!

For most of last year I would visit my Gender Identity Clinic and tell them about these issues, and they would say “Andrea, you’ve had major surgery, it could take quite some time for you to be fully healed”… except that things have steadily got only worse and worse, and have not actually improved at all. Since about November time though, I would visit my clinic and tell them about my new, or worsening, symptoms and they would say “Hmm, I don’t know” or “That sounds odd”! In my December appointment they admitted that it is just not possible for me to function normally and at the start of January, when things had worsened further, they agreed with my request to take up the communication responsibility with the hospital.

So after all of the above, at the start of March I flew to the hospital again… and, once again, by the time I got there I was in agony. This time the surgeon and his assistant seemed a lot more receptive to my issues, and I was allowed to go through all of my various issues, pains, and discomforts that I have to cope with. After an examination, which was so painful that I was soon reduced to tears, the appointment concluded with the surgeon admitting that surgery was the only option left… and this is what I want, because my body has been telling me for some time that nothing is going to improve until my clitoris is gone. Although this is not ideal, my situation is almost as far from ideal as I can imagine at this stage. I am quite happy to do without it, I feel that I am a loving person and not a sexual one. Some may say that would reduce my chance even more of finding a man who would want to have a romantic attachment to me… but I need this further surgery for ME, I have spent far too much time listening to other people in my lifetime and doing what they want, or think is right – that’s why it took me so bloody long to sort myself out in the first place! I even remember wondering if when I made my operation choice of the cosmetic option almost two years ago whether I should have challenged more the possibility of not having a clitoris… but I was persuaded that it would be best to have one to avoid closing down future options too much. At least, as it turned out, I have another reason that has meant that the cosmetic option was best for me… which is that if I had the full option then I frankly would not be here now because I would not have been able to cope with carrying out dilation with all of the pain that I am experiencing now; I have found life difficult enough to cope with as it is!

So I finally have further surgery to look forward to at some point… and I sincerely mean that, because my life feels fairly pointless at the moment and I hope that this surgery will finally resolve the majority of my pain issues and enable me to lead a ‘normal’ pattern of life and enjoy the things that I like doing. I just need to wait for a decision to be made on who will fund this surgery…

As you might imagine, I have not just had to cope with all the different issues of pain but also exhaustion (coping with both pain and medication) and mental issues of depression (wondering when recovery will ever happen), loneliness (where many weeks I don’t see a friendly face for six out of seven days in a week), and suicidal thoughts that have flitted through (but not lodged in) my mind. I have cried a lot these 12 months, sometimes while out and about, in shops or on the street 😦

I haven’t written any of the above in the hope of extracting any pity from anyone still out there reading my blog. I tell you all these things for two reasons:

  1. to update anyone that I know (but don’t meet up with at this stage) who reads my blog so that they are aware of my status should they be interested, and
  2. for anyone who is intending to go for gender reassignment surgery then some or all of the different issues that I have experienced are a possibility, however extremely remote, for you too – it is best that you are prepared for this eventuality, because I don’t feel that the hospital sufficiently emphasised just how debilitating the possible pains might be. However, in their defence I suppose, the hospital has said that they have never known anyone in their history of performing this operation who has suffered as much pain and discomfort as I have, and so perhaps some of what I have experienced is new even to them. So I am the new benchmark for pain!

Since I wrote my previous post I have lived another year full-time… and although it has passed without incident from a real-world perspective, it hardly feels like anything to celebrate. In some ways it feels like a wasted year. Similarly, it has been another year without meeting up with my daughter… and she has implied by text that she made a decision at some point that she doesn’t want to see me ever again.

Hopefully, whenever I have the mental strength to blog again, it will contain more positive news…

2 Hours To Rectify 51 Years Of Physical Abnormality (and 48 Years Of Wrongness)

Following on from my last post, I have now been through the momentous event of having my (cosmetic) gender reassignment operation to make the anatomy between my legs match the rest of me, the woman that I should have been from the start of my life… and all it took was two hours of expert surgery! Obviously, there was a long lead up to the operation, with an assortment of pre-op tests, admin, and I suppose when I think about it then the last four years have all lead up to this… but I find it amazing that that is all the time it took to give me the shape I have desired for so long.

I flew over to Brighton (in England for any of you non-UK viewers) on the morning of Monday 22nd January, once my boyfriend had dropped me at the airport. I guess I was a bit nervous, because I went through security and left my boarding pass in one of the trays that my stuff had been in and headed off into duty free… only to rush back in a mad panic – security staff looked through a load of trays, but it eventually turned out a nice lady had handed it in. Then I had a nice breakfast of pancakes with bacon, maple syrup, and berry compote… and splashed my top with berry juice… which I then made ten times worse trying to sponge it off in the Ladies; emergency wardrobe change required, thankfully I had a spare T-shirt. By 1.00pm I had landed at Gatwick airport and then taken the express shuttle train to Brighton, a town I have never been to until now… but my appointment wasn’t until 6.00pm and so I pottered around for a while, struggling a little with my whereabouts until I eventually found a big shopping centre to find my bearings. I had a nice snack lunch (avoiding certain food groups as I was at this time under instruction to be on a low residue diet), did a bit of shopping, but by 4.00 I’d pretty much had enough of wandering around pulling my cabin bag behind me, so I found the appropriate bus stop and was soon heading up to the Nuffield hospital in Woodingdean (on service 22) where the op was to take place. Of course, I arrived rather early, but by 5.00 I had been shown to my (private) room and had a leisurely hour unpacking my bag and making my room ‘home’ for the next few days (a pleasant enough room, with a good size bathroom and a flat screen TV) but I had just a couple of nervy moments – not “are you doing the right thing”, “should I be here”, but “ooooh, big op almost upon me” kinda feeling. At 6.00 I received my gourmet, low-residue-diet dinner (a plate of white egg mayo sandwiches :-/) and shortly afterwards my pre-op assessment took place – mostly expected things like height, weight, blood pressure, medical history, a check of allergies to anything (including penicillin), and so on… and once that was out of the way I washed my hair (for I knew it would be a while before I would feel like doing it again) and settled in for the evening with a bit of TV, with nurses popping in now and again with info about the day ahead as well as a surgical dressing test patch, and then later rang my boyfriend for a good half hour of comforting chat; my head hit the pillow at around 11.30, by which time I was fasting; unsurprisingly I didn’t sleep that well.

I woke about 6.30am, showered with an anti-bacterial sponge from neck to foot, dressed in a flattering hospital gown, and took my earrings out which are not allowed during surgery. Not long afterwards a nurse arrived to take blood pressure, apply surgical stockings, and confirm I had no allergies (again), and then the anaesthetist arrived, a nice though slightly tatty chap (well, it was early morning, I’ll give him benefit of doubt) and did a thorough job of assessing me for the general anaesthetic. At 8.15am Mr Thomas, my surgeon, came in and succinctly went through my consent form, confirming the option I wanted (cosmetic, no vaginaplasty), obtained my signature, and lightly shook my hand as he left. Soon enough the anaesthetist and a nurse arrived, put the back of my bed down, and steered me out of my room and towards theatre – as I was carried down the corridor, a cool motion breeze caressed my face, and I felt just a tiny panic… but then I closed my eyes, thought of positive things (including my bf, and the fact that my journey had arrived at such a key point), and soon enough I was within the theatre area. Two canullas were inserted with a sting into my left wrist, one for a drip feed for assorted things during and after op, and the other for the anaesthetic, which he began to administer, encouraging me to talk away, and I just bumbled anxiously about goodness knows what and eventually I went to medical-sleep…

…and came to, lying on my back on my bed in my room, within 3-4 hours, feeling sore but not excessively uncomfortable. When I had the energy I peered down and could see the dressing pack around my groin area, looking wonderfully smooth and free of bumps and bits and pieces that should have never been there; I’m sure I smiled with contented glee through the pain. I was on drips during the day for antibiotics and liquid “food”, while a catheter emanated from my dressing taking waste away. I spent most of the day resting and listening to music from the TV’s radio channels, and giving an update to my parents to reassure I was okay. Several times nurses and doctors came in to check blood pressure, and also looking at the wound site, leaving happy that there was no excessive bleeding or anything of concern. I lay on my back the whole day (I was not allowed to move owing to drains being in my wound), periodically receiving painkillers, and it was lights out soon enough; I slept little, buzzing nurses during the night for more painkillers.

The next day, with drip eventually out, I was on a liquid diet, consisting of a succession of clear fruit juices, peppermint tea, sorbets, and fruit jellies; I could also have had consommes but I didn’t feel up to them that day. Consuming any of this was physically quite difficult with me being flat on my back; straws helped… well, not with the jellies! Regular doses of painkillers were also on the menu; pain most of all seemed to come from somewhere around either the catheter or clitoral area. The day after was similar, except with me incorporating chicken consomme into my diet – however, a major bonus in the afternoon was the removal of the two drains from my wound site (which essentially remove unwanted liquidity, primarily blood, I think, during the immediate recovery), which was not too painful; this meant I could then lie on my side, a welcome relief for my achy back… and gave me a bit better sleep during the night. During that afternoon I had a very stressful time arranging travel via the NHS helpline in Northern Ireland for both my trip home and also my friend Kirsty who had kindly agreed to come over to accompany me home; at this stage I was also back on solid food, albeit on low-residue food.

Friday around midday saw me having a suppository to get my bowels going (not so bad), and I was encouraged to potter around and gently sit to try and get things moving… which they eventually did; at lunchtime I had a very tasty ciabatta. Early afternoon saw the arrival of my friend Claire, who had driven all the way from Cornwall – well, not just IMG_20180203_160424to visit me, but it was the primary reason for her trip; she was so kind to bring me two little presents, how kind. While she was there a nurse removed my catheter, which was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole treatment, with a very unpleasant stinging sensation… but once out my overall discomfort was lessened, and I was also able to finally start sitting upright. And then came the greatest moment of my stay… weeing with my new anatomy!!! The first time I did so I almost cried, not just with weeing without an unpleasant (to me) appendage but also just seeing my smooth anatomy. Ideally one has to wee half a dozen times before departure, passing a reasonable amount of urine, to ensure the bladder and urethra are working satisfactorily – well, by bedtime I had gone five times, and by 3.00am I had gone another two times, the last ‘event’ very plentiful, and so that was a relief; talk/documentation of going home with a catheter had worried me. Early evening I enjoyed a really tasty pork dinner and soon after saw the arrival of my second visitor of the day, Kirsty; it was lovely to see her and catch up, telling the tale of my stay.

The next day I returned home. By 11am I had had final medical checks, had mostly packed my bag, and had a shower. Kirsty arrived at around 11.30ish and an hour later I was pretty much ready to go, with a little bag of meds provided to keep me ticking over. I was also given a couple of pieces of admin, both of which were screwed up (sigh) – the sick note was made out for only 10 weeks instead of 12 and the letter for me to give to Easyjet (not necessary as it turned out) actually had the name of the hospital spelt incorrectly; what a good job that I am a stickler for detail!!  At 12.45 Kirsty was trailing all of our bags behind her and I was bidding goodbye to the nurses on duty – Adriana from Romania gave me a hug (she is really nice) while the other one merely said goodbye. We got to the lift and had not even got inside when the nurse came running after us to check meds given – someone had done two bags of meds for me (obviously they were concerned for my welfare), and after checks I was given an extra box of paracetemol… which as I write now I don’t know why I wouldn’t have been supplied with at least as much as I have, because the soreness is very slow to go (after a week at home) though this is hardly surprising after such a major op.

I had got the hospital to arrange a taxi, and this turned up just after 1.00pm – I rode in the front, with Kirsty obviously in the back, and I would seriously recommend any patient being in the front after this op because it is valuable to be able to anticipate any bumps in the road before the car hits them, and also you can try and control the car temperature, especially important if like me you get hot flushes when off hormones. The journey took longer than anticipated owing to a motorway closure but we got to Gatwick more or less on time… at which point I paid the driver and was left to my own devices with Kirsty (not quite what I had been led to expect). Kirsty was about to march into the terminal out of the rain, but in my state I couldn’t do that and reminded her of my wheelchair assistance requirement – make sure you have this if you are in the same position. I had spotted a ‘shed’ with disabled signs on it, so we ambled over and a guy within settled me in a wheelchair and summoned an assistant who arrived within ten minutes and took us quite efficiently to departures and through security – Kirsty put all the luggage on the X-ray conveyor and then we went through the security gate, me in my wheelchair… which I was then searched in, which although of course necessary felt a little uncomfortable as they frisk quite close to the op site (though they did at least ask where I hurt once I told them I’d had an op). For some reason my carry on case got pulled in the security check, although nothing was found to be amiss – perhaps they don’t like people smuggling mermaids through… which I had bought for myself on the trip out, an op mascot if IMG_20180203_160220you will, although honestly I bought it because if I had been lived as a little girl I think it’s the kind of thing I would have wanted to buy… and so I did. Then we were in ‘duty-free’ and I was parked in the assistance area where Kirsty left me to hurriedly grab some lunch. About an hour before take off time a buggy came for us special-assistance passengers, and I gingerly got in beside an old woman from Lisburn area who was kind to hold my coat and was nice to chat to… even if she got a bit confused by some questions; Kirsty had to make her own way in our direction. We ended up at a different gate from where the special-assistance minibus departed from – after out tickets were checked and a little wait we were bussed over to the plane… and then waited for a while before getting into a ‘cherry-picker’ van which lifted us up to the level of the plane’s front-right door – my pre-arranged seats were right at the back, but the staff member kindly was able to move us way forward to a set of three seats just for Kirsty and I, and I have to say that the plane seats were quite comfortable for someone who has been ‘repaired’ in the groin area, nicely sloped such that the main pressure is on the buttocks and not between them. Our flight was short enough and trouble free… although, as usual, the inevitable ongoing crying of a toddler grated me. At Belfast, once everyone else had got off the wheelchair/cheery-picker process was followed as per Gatwick, except in reverse and no minibus (as the plane parks close to the terminal)… and also a cumbersome delay after another assisting passenger pressed the emergency stop button with her bum which left us stranded for a while. Anyway, eventually we were through the terminal, the airport staff guy kindly took me all the way to Kirsty’s car (after a loo stop) which she drove as close as she could.

We popped into a supermarket on the way to my home, where Kirsty kindly did a food shop to keep me going for a week (with some assistance phone calls in-store to enable her to decipher my list); we were home by about 8.30pm… at which point we noted that she had forgotten to buy a key ingredient for dinner, so off she went while I unpacked some of the shopping (that I could handle) and made a reassuring “I’m home” call to my parents and text to bf. Belatedly, we had a very nice fajita supper before bedtime came; I was pretty tired by that point, both through the travelling and also my lack of sleep at hospital, but overall at least it had been a pretty trouble-free journey. Kirsty left the next day about midday, and then by 2.45 my Huggy Bear (boyfriend) arrived, complete with a pair of pork chops (I’m sure there’s a euphemism there somewhere) that he cooked with lovely seasoning to make a tasty dinner. He stayed for the next three nights and it has been good to have someone close on-hand in case of any immediate medical emergency (which there hasn’t been)…

…and I’ll leave it there for now, and maybe post again in a few weeks to update you on the healing process. I know it’s a bit more verbose than usual, but this post marks the final, and next-to-biggest milestone in my whole journey… the biggest milestone of course being 30th January 2015, over three years ago now when I began to live life full-time as the real me; so far it’s been 99.?% flippin brilliant!!! And most of all, sooooo reassuringly right!

Thanks if you’re still reading…

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

…and no, the title isn’t supposed to end with the words ‘blast off’! Nope, this is MY final countdown, to the culmination of my medical journey that stipulates me as being a transsexual woman, and I suppose the reason that I originally started this blog. This coming Tuesday, in only FOUR days, I am scheduled to have the operation of my lifetime  that will finally fix me physically so that between my legs I will look like the woman that is the rest of me.

I have been living full-time as me, the woman I now know I should have always lived as, for almost exactly three years, and so I suppose it is quite timely that the operation is so close to that anniversary. The main reason though for having the operation early in the new year is that it is most convenient time of year for me, in that I am not able to indulge much in my main hobbies because they are of an outdoors nature and in January in the UK/Ireland the weather is at its most unpalatable… not that it is particular marvellous most of the time in Northern Ireland! So I asked the hospital concerned (the private Nuffield hospital in Brighton) for an operation date some time in January and they were able to oblige.

Getting to today however, over the last few weeks, has not been the easiest part of my journey. I have been off hormones for almost six weeks (which is required to reduce the possibility of clotting during/immediately after the operation) and although I have been lucky in that this has not resulted in the moodiness that some women in my position encounter, I have had quite a time of it with hot flushes many times a day with increasing frequency… which I actually find quite ironic, and perhaps flattering, considering that some cis-women go on HRT for PMT, which does address a primary symptom of hot flushes for them. For the last week and a half I have also been off alcohol (which is to reduce the possibility of bleeding during the operation), and although that has not particularly been a trial, especially as I am not much of a drinker or a fan of those who think it’s clever to drink a lot, I do miss a half glass of red in the evening which does help me wind down.

10 days ago I had to undergo several pre-op tests, including things like height and weight (to ensure my BMI is under a stipulated level of 28… which it is well under), my blood pressure, several blood tests, and also a couple of MRSA swabs, one nasal and the other one (perhaps obviously) for the groin area. Alas the swabs have caused me significant stress because last Friday I rang to check all of my tests were fine and was told that they were… and so I thought no more of it, rather foolishly… until Tuesday when I thought I better check that the test results had been forwarded to Brighton hospital… and they hadn’t!!! :-O So eventually the results were faxed over… and then it turned out that some incompetent individual had screwed up the swab tests because although they were a pass (i.e. no reading), the wording had been messed up so as not to indicate the proper area being tested – so Brighton rejected them… and ten minutes later I was hurtling out of my office at 3pm, hurrying back up to Newry on the train and then down to my doctor to get repeat swab tests done! I actually took the tests up to the hospital myself, but the doctor told me that they take 48 hours to turn around and so it was going to be a very nail-biting portion of the countdown because I had to book my travel on the same day as the revised results were due. I thought I would chance my arm and check the results yesterday afternoon, just supposing they had already been completed… and surprisingly they had, I was told they had been forwarded to Brighton, and I even got them to read the actual result text to check all seemed okay… which it was. Then I rang Brighton but nobody answered the phone… and so I left a voicemail and also an email to be contacted ASAP to confirm all was okay. By 10.30 this morning I had heard nothing and so I rang Brighton myself… and was told the nurse concerned was doing rounds on the ward and I would hear back from them. Two hours later I still had heard nothing and so I rang again… and got hold of my designated nurse… who claimed she was just about to ring me; yeah, sure! So I asked for an update… and was told she hadn’t received the new test results! AGGHHHH! She offered to ring my doctor for me, so I left her to do that… and then three minutes later she rang back to say that someone else had picked up the results and filed them. So FINALLY, literally in the nick of time, I got confirmation that it was all systems go for my op. Phew! So this afternoon I booked my outward flight and rail ticket for Monday.

The last few days I have also been doing handover at work. That has been fine, apart from my boss realising he would have to be picking some of my work up and then suddenly figuring he would get me to do some extra, new stuff before I went… sigh. Most people have no idea why I’m heading for an op, which is just the way I like it. As I have always done, and continue to do, I travel this journey in stealth… and not just because I can (as I fit in very well as a woman… as time has told), but because I choose to… albeit at the risk I suppose of revealing all through this blog which, after all, is potentially available for anyone to read… but I took this risk at the start in the hope that my blog helps at least someone out there. But otherwise stealth it is, I won’t tell anyone who doesn’t know my history about it unless it is absolutely necessary, and I won’t be making any broadcasts on Facebook either about where I am going or what I am doing… and hope that others won’t mention it either – for me, this is a very personal thing, I am a very private person, and something like this I only directly tell friends who have supported me on this journey.

So considering all of the above I have had a significant amount of stress over the last couple of weeks and been tearing my hair out at times; at least I have been able to alleviate this somewhat with lots of hugs from my boyfriend. Yes, I have a boyfriend!!! 🙂 This is the same guy who was “boyfriend for a week” as per my blog post back in September… and this is actually the third time I am girlfriend – third time lucky, hopefully, for this time things are looking pretty good… and he has told me that he LOVES me! Maybe I’ll tell you more about it on the other side, for I’ll have an awful lot of recovery time to fill, about three months of it altogether.

I’ll leave it there – thank you for reading, thank you for being part of my journey (even if you no longer are in one way or another), and good wishes for 2018!

Andrea’s Tips For Laser Hair Removal… as a Patient

It is probably at least a year since I finished my facial laser hair removal sessions with the UK NHS at Ulster Hospital in Belfast, so I thought I’d offer these tips to any women out there (transsexual or otherwise) with facial hair issues contemplating or currently undergoing this treatment… especially as a very good friend has just started this treatment:

  • It’s advisable to try and get an appointment on a Friday morning, as your face is likely to take all weekend to recover, and I really don’t recommend you shave or apply makeup until it has done so.
  • Prior to the day of treatment make sure you firstly have enough petrol to get you to the hospital and back, and some to spare – you don’t want to be stopping at a petrol station without make up on, and especially after the session with a red and puffy face, unless it is one of those pay-at-pump ones. Secondly, stock up on those little containers of Vaseline! Thirdly, as per the first point, you’ll likely want to spend the weekend after treatment at home, so stock up on food and goodies!
  • Make sure every tiny scrap of make-up has been removed from your face from last wearing it; I left a tiny bit of foundation next to my ears once, and my skin burnt a bit. Ideally use cleanser after a facial wipe to ensure your face is totally clean.
  • Shave the morning of the treatment. It is best for the hair to be as short as possible – it makes little difference to the effectiveness of the treatment (the nurse tells me), but what it does do is make the treatment less painful.
  • Take chocolate (or your favourite savoury treat if you don’t have a sweet tooth like me) so that once you come out of the treatment you will have a consolation treat. Also ensure you have a container of Vaseline.
  • Allow plenty of time to get to the hospital, park, get to administration, and go the to Ladies before getting to the Laser suite; drive below the speed limit and, if in traffic, don’t lane hop, the aim is to NOT get there already feeling stressed… cos you’ll likely be pretty strung out once the treatment is over!
  • I was prescribed Emla cream to help with pain relief on the face during the treatment, though I could never figure out how much it worked. One would apply this at half-hourly intervals from 90 minutes before treatment. Paracetamol beforehand might also help.
  • During treatment, take deep slow breaths in and out all the way through; if you know body-relaxation exercises, that’ll help too. If you smell burning, don’t worry, that’s only your face! Well, the hairs on it anyway, don’t worry, that’s normal… AND it means that the treatment is working!
  • I found the pulsing laser blasts pretty sore!! Maybe you’ll be luckier. My operator was very efficient, and moved around the face quite rapidly up and down; each zap is a bit like being the snap of being hit with an elastic band.
  • During the lasering, an assistant directed a blast of cold air at the area just being treated. Also, once a section of face had been treated then a pad of aloe vera was applied for a short while.
  • At the end of the laser treatment session, when I got up off the bed I was a trembling wreck! But a glass of water and a bit of chat with the nurse settled me down. Maybe that’ll work for you too. I generally found all of the staff at the NHS laser department very nice, especially my regular laser-operator.
  • Before leaving hospital, apply Vaseline to all of the areas that have been treated.
  • For the first hour or two after treatment your face, especially where the hair is more dense (typically above and below the lips) will likely feel the same as a severe sunburn; for this reason, stay out of the sun!!! Not only avoid the sun, use the sun visors in the car if the weather is sunny, have a window or two in the car open a bit, and once out of the car stay away from any heat source. Exposure to the sun after treatment may result in permanent spots of skin discoloration!
  • Pamper or treat yourself to keep your spirits up until the soreness dies down.
  • Make sure there is a constant coating of Vaseline on the skin, and do not be attempted to use anything else such as aloe vera or moisturiser.
  • As the day progresses to evening you may find some of the hairs that have hopped out of their follicles will come off your face, for example when applying Vaseline. You can use a dry fluffy towel or flannel to very gently try and brush hairs away if you want.
  • I do not recommend shaving for at least 48 hours after the laser sessions!! For the first few days after the treatment your skin will be very sensitive, I wet-shaved 48 hours after my first treatment and my face erupted into a catastrophic minefield of white heads! This was probably also exacerbated by me not using enough Vaseline, or mixing it with aloe vera. Anyway, that was NOT a good look. After the treatment I would hope that like me hair growth will slow a lot, try and shave electric for a while as that will irritate the skin less than a wet shave.
  • If you have a white head eruption, all you can do is apply foundation over it to hide the worst of the look… although your skin will look a bit like the surface of the moon. To get rid of the ‘eruption’ buy a good quality antibacterial wash, preferably from a good chemist, and DON’T pick or pop the white heads, however awful they look; in a couple of days it’ll look tons better!
  • Further to the above two points, 3-4 sessions my skin got used to the treatment and the pinkness had pretty much gone overnight.
  • After about four sessions, during which hair growth may seem to reduce, there may be a return of growth – this is normal, the hair tries to fight back, but further sessions convince it that this is just not on!
  • As the sessions continue the intensity of the laser increases, but as the amount of hair reduces then the pain does not proportionately increase.
  • 10 sessions is regarded as the optimum for effectiveness – fewer may not be enough, but to have more than that may also start to reverse the process and actually encourage growth again.
  • After the face’s skin has settled back to normality once the battery of sessions is over, it may become apparent that the odd coloured/dark hair has been missed… but experience to-date doesn’t indicate any resurgence of growth.

Laser works best on brown/black/dark hair – it will not work at all on grey/silvery hairs and is very unlikely to work on blonde hair either. Anything that can’t be removed via laser can be attempted using electrolysis…

NOTE – the above is all based on my experience, you may well experience less pain, be less sensitive to the affect of the treatment, and be less stressed by the whole thing!

Boyfriend For A Week…

…well, seven AND a half days to be precise. Sounds pretty pathetic though, I guess, maybe even a bit farcical 😦 However, as I am, medically speaking, a transsexual woman, I didn’t think I would ever have a boyfriend… but now I have, even if it didn’t last long! I can now say that I have had a boyfriend, and refer to him in conversation or compare if I wish.

Our paths crossed on a dating site in May. I joined olderdatingonline.com in early May on a whim – as per my last blog post, ages ago, after being robbed in Tenerife I felt pretty vulnerable and when I saw an advert for the dating site I thought, what the hell, give it a go… and so I did. On the whole, I didn’t like online dating much – I was upfront about my history in my profile (albeit subtly, and not in the main description, but buried in a sub-section… under the Q&A section and the question “what’s the most embarrassing thing about you?”), and it soon became apparent that the BBC TV/Radio’s attempts at educating the UK population is not going very well. I had a LOT of guys message me to tell me how gorgeous/pretty I was, most of whom either didn’t bother reading my profile at all or just didn’t understand, those that I did end up chatting to (due to some overlap in hobbies/outlook, or an interesting profile… and there weren’t many) soon ended up falling into a few generally grubby categories – sexual fantasies revolving around my anus, gits thinking I’d be okay dating a cross-dresser (oh please), guys saying “I thought I’d be dating a woman” (utter naïve idiots), etc. I did chat quite a bit to one or two guys at length and all seemed to be going well and they were okay with me wanting a companionship-type relationship rather than a physical one, but once they actually understood what ‘transsexual’ actually means the general response was “oh, I don’t think I can deal with that”. Another thing that became obvious was that, no matter how old the guy was (e.g. 76… ugh), sex was on the top of their wants… and considering that one in three women aged 50 and over have little or no interest in sex then several of them will be quite disappointed… and three weeks into my dating experience I said just that on a general diary-type area… at which point my to-be (at that time) boyfriend (let’s call him John… as that’s his middle name) said “oh, chat to me”, and so I did… and the chat was really good, very down-to-earth, not about sex and so on. John didn’t know an awful lot about what transsexual meant, but he researched and came back to say that he had no problem with it, and also no issue with what I am looking for in a relationship which is companionship rather than something very physical. So at the end of my month of subscription we agreed to carry on emailing and I cancelled. Email carried on fine, generally getting to know each other… and it turned out that he only moved to Northern Ireland at the start of this year and so I suggested that perhaps he might like to join Meetup.com to meet like-minded people at group events.

A couple of weeks later I had a weekend when there was nothing going on and no friends available to meet, and so I checked my own Meetup calendar for anything of interest and it turned out there was a coffee morning not too far away from my house which caught my eye, and so I looked him who was going… and there was John’s picture! So I messaged him to say that I saw that he had joined, he said he had and this was his first event – therefore, I suggested that I could meet him in the car park rather than him wandering up to a group of people he knew nothing about… and that’s what happened. We met, walked into the coffee shop and, after he had ordered coffee for both of us, sat with the group next to each other and chatted… and chatted… and chatted, and it was nice, he was easy to talk to, if a little blunt on one or two subjects. After about half an hour I figured I should let other people talk to him, as this is the purpose of Meetup, and so I chatted to one or two people I already knew. Eventually the event ended and we stood up uncertainly and he said that he hope we’d meet again; I then went to a furniture shop next door while he went to the toilet, and as I was finishing up I noticed him exit the café and so I thought I’d bump into him in the car park. Next to the furniture shop was an antique shop, I asked him if he’d already been in and he said he’d had a quick look and it was okay, and so I said I thought I’d go in… and he followed me! Now I am not one for antiques really, but we had quite a fun time, generally laughing at prices and oddities, and eventually exited without a purchase and then had a long chat in the car park until the rain forced us to depart.

Our first meeting with just the two of us was in Belfast – shortly before a weekend we were talking about him being new over here, and so I suggested how about we meet up for lunch and see how it went, then maybe we could go ‘explore’ a bit. So we met in front of City Hall, I booked a table at a restaurant I knew (Blu, which I had had good evening meals with friends before) and we had lunch – the food was nice, as was the company – it turned out that we both preferred the same main and dessert… great minds think alike. Afterwards we returned to City Hall, as which point I told him that the ‘exploration’ was actually going to be a treasure trail – he was really excited and it turned out to be really fun, sometimes I do these with other people and they become soul-destroying events when my companion(s) treat it like a cutthroat competition, but John and I did it like a team, some questions he got, some I got, and some we figured out together. Just before the last clue we had coffee, and then solved the last clue outside – we had a big hug, murmured about meeting again, and then departed.

Two weeks after that was a classical concert which I had ordered a couple of tickets for (just supposing anyone needed my spare ticket)… but as it got to a week before the concert I asked if he was doing anything on that Friday and he wasn’t, though sounded curious as to why I wanted to know, so I asked him if he wanted to go to the concert and perhaps an early dinner and he said he’d love to. So we met on the Friday evening, he was on time and dressed respectably. We had a lovely dinner, and the chat over it was more relaxed than the initial meeting; as we were going to the concert we got free desserts, which were definitely worth going for! The concert was very good, including a piece by Smetana called Vltava which is the first piece I ever got into in classical music aged 8; I sat next to him, with Meetup members in front of us, and we loved the music, had nice chat in the interval, and he just seemed like a down-to-earth person to naturally go to such events with. After the concert he asked me if I wanted to go for a drink, but I was driving, it was getting dark, and I didn’t want to walk through the streets of Belfast on a Friday night any later than it was already; when I got home John said he had had a great evening though was disappointed I had not gone for a drink with him.

The next time we met was the day before I went away on holiday to Austria in mid-August, which I may blog about soon. I left work feeling demoralised as I had reminded my boss a couple of times we should do a handover but he was buried in the detail on his other system all that day, so I simply left a copy of my detailed work plan on his desk and waltzed out the building. On the train home I vented to John about my day and he said if I wanted to talk he’d meet me wherever I wanted… and so we met at Hillsborough. There is a nice lake to wander around, so I thought we’d take a stroll, but first I suggested I head to a popular restaurant of mine (The Plough) to book a table so we could eat later. So, we strolled, it was nice, I vented and he listened well… and then it rained – I had an umbrella but, being a typical man, he had no rain protection at all – we sheltered under a tree together for a while, which was nice, but then gave up waiting for a break in the cloud and hurried back for our meal… which was very pleasant… and we ended up sharing desserts, like a couple, half of each one… although he was jokingly reluctant to give up the half of his dessert.

During my holiday we chatted on Messenger A LOT! By then he knew most of the details about  my history, but because of both my gender history and my disastrous marital history we ended up talking about a lot of really deep things – marriage, the type of wedding we might go for (not necessarily together), pre-nup agreements, holidays, the future, etc.!!! But I really enjoyed keeping in touch with him, and the day after we got back I met him in Hillsborough again, and this time we walked right around the lake and then went to a large M&S store nearby for supper, where we shared a piece of cake. It was simple but fun.

Just over a week later it was my birthday on a Friday, and while I was on vacation he suggested it ought to be celebrated… and so at this stage he said it would be his treat. I looked around for something a bit more special, but a couple of IMG_20170908_225030 cakeoptions were either not available (fully booked) or got recent bad reviews. So I zeroed in on this posh looking restaurant in Belfast called Saphyre, it looked a bit expensive (approx cost for 3-course a la carte £50) but he said I was the birthday girl and I could choose wherever I wanted… and so I booked it. And it was a FABULOUS meal – we ended up plumping for the seven-course taster menu (£65 each)… which became eight courses with the amuse bouche, or nine with coffee… and ten once they found out it was my birthday and brought a little birthday cup cake for me. It took us FOUR hours to eat our meal, we had lots of good chat, and every course was lovely, building on the earlier courses to two lovely desserts at the end; just before coffee I had gone to the ladies and on the way back I kissed his cheek and thanked him for a lovely treat, it just seemed the natural thing to do. By this time he had ended up missing his train and so I had to drive him to his office to pick up his car, and then I followed him as far as a road that I knew, then he got out and kissed me (slightly awkwardly) on the lips.

The Sunday morning after that I had nothing planned, and we were chatting by text. I said I fancied having a cooked brunch, and he said it sounded lovely… so I texted him back “Well, there’s enough for two”… and so he came over. I wasn’t going out so I warned him I would have no make up on, he said that didn’t bother him – I wanted him to see me au natural… and later on he still said I’m ‘gorgeous’. My lunch cooking went REALLY well, he liked it all, and I made effort with plating up that I would hardly bother with on my own… and after that we ended up talking about my history, ALL of it, and after a while I got very teary-eyed and went to the adjacent lounge for a tissue to blow my nose, I sat on the sofa and he gave me a hug… a LONG hug, for about half an hour until I had told him everything that I needed.

He next came over a few days later, I invited him to dinner again… and hugs, as it turned out. And the next evening he came over too… and I asked him if he still considered me as “potential girlfriend” material, and he said he did, so I said what about “actual girlfriend”… and he said yes. That was the evening I had my first snog with a guy… and it went pretty flippin well!!! I even gave him a couple of little suggestions to make it even better!

A couple of days later my parents arrived for a long weekend, and we talked all about John, how I met him, what we’d been up to, and so on… and as far as I can tell it seemed to really help my mum accept the new me much more than before. I wasn’t sure how well it would go down, me telling them that as of a couple of days ago we’d become boyfriend/girlfriend, but it went fine, and several times they said they hoped it would all go well, and my mum was “thrilled to bits”. Perhaps the best bit of the weekend was where my mum was in the kitchen with me while dad was in the garden and we ended up talking about the men in our lives and contrasting and comparing them, it was two women talking about their men.

The Monday morning that my parents left John texted me to say that he would love to see me that evening… and so we met. I can’t remember an awful lot what we did – I cooked, we listened to music with a lot of hugs of different types… and then snogged… A LOT. I could tell he was ‘on heat’, and overall quite aroused. I was home late the next night, but fancied company and so he was round again – this time we had a quick supper and then watched the start of a move in a bug sofa hug… and then my lounge light on its timer went out… and the intimate snogging started again. After a while I took my bra off from inside my top and asked him to feel my breasts, because I’d never had that before and wondered what it might feel like – overall, it felt like he couldn’t find an awful lot, but it was nice enough. Again, I could tell he was very aroused within himself, panting away, and quite hungry for kisses… but eventually I had to let him go.

During our recent meetings I had reminded him that owing to my operation choice I couldn’t give him penetrative sex, but more recently I had said that I felt a lot more confident that I was prepared to explore various other alternatives for intimacy when the time came… and the next day I bought some pleasure gel to be ready for when the time did come.

broken heartThe next morning I got a text from him saying that he had been thinking a lot (as I had asked him to do) about what he wanted, and he had decided that he didn’t want to be boyfriend/girlfriend any more for two reasons – (1) after the horrors of his divorce the previous year he really wasn’t ready for commitment of anything serious, but also (2) he wasn’t sure whether he would be okay having a relationship without sex. I was pretty upset – why did he agree he wanted me as his girlfriend when he knew everything about me and his divorce is almost finalised. Perhaps I was his rebound? I actually think my level of sensuousness surprised him… and tonight he confirmed that… and I can tell you it bloomin surprised me too! So perhaps that gave him the impression things were going too fast. I also think he doesn’t know what I even meant by ‘alternatives to penetration/sex’. Anyway, he says he “still wants to be friends… and who knows”… but I’m not sure I’d want a relationship with him again for fear of further rejection – I made that mistake with my marriage, and what a disaster that was.

Tonight I’ve eaten half a tub of chocolate brownie and cookie dough mix ice cream. I guess that means I’m upset. I certainly feel quite sad and alone again. But I also feel resigned to the fact that this is likely to happen again and again with guys, just supposing they can get past the history enough (like John could) but then they realise when they get all horny that my quality-snogging and willingness to try intimacy alternatives won’t be enough.

So there you go… I’ve had a boyfriend… and lost him… already. What have I learned?

  • I am definitely in the right place, not just gender-wise but sexuality-wise.
  • I have no issue kissing, or even snogging, a guy that I fancy… and I am reliably told that it is a ‘wonderful’ experience (by John).
  • Now that I have had an albeit brief relationship, that perhaps in future I will be more upfront about the intimate possibilities I am willing to try when the time comes.
  • Despite all this my operation choice remains unchanged – sex isn’t everything… and even if it is, there are so many variations that are possible such that there doesn’t absolutely have to be penetration… at least in my mind… and the right guy for me will be of the same mind… wherever he is.
  • I probably shouldn’t get so excited about the future so early in a relationship… because despite only a week being someone’s girlfriend I am pretty down about being rejected.
  • Probably other stuff too… but me head is a bit muddled to think what they are.


Circles Of Depression… and what to do if stranded abroad

Before I transitioned I suppose that, thinking back on it now, I did exhibit signs of depression which perhaps I just didn’t recognise – I had long periods of feeling really, really down because life felt just wrong, but at the same time my firm determination to get where I am today drove me on; I did have occasions when I had tears too, especially when I knew I couldn’t go on with life until I was able to lead it properly, and although it took some effort and planning to transition I did it, and the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner.

So, now that I am happy with the way I am living, so comfortable in myself, I certainly didn’t think I’d be depressed any longer… and yet for much of this year I have been. I expect some of this is due to being on hormones and thus being somewhat moody, but more than that I think it has made me more fragile and if something doesn’t go so well then it can really upset me… and this is what has happened. February and March’s depression was largely due to work – very early on in the year it became clear that my workload was far too great, something that my boss noticed but even when he indicated as such he failed to do anything about it even though I made noises in this respect. Things deteriorated further when it came towards the time for doing my annual review, and although it’s perhaps best I don’t comment in detail on here about it I’ll say that one little thing was blown hugely out of proportion and some critical comments for growth that I received concerned points that I hadn’t even been given as objectives the prior year. This all got to me and I spent several days coming into work and then spending the whole day wanting to burst into tears, also feeling very low, and sometimes wondering what the point of my life is and that I wouldn’t be missed for long if I wasn’t around. Things were made worse when I told my boss of my depression and he simply told me that I’m being negative – this is the LAST thing someone who is depressed wants to hear. I went to HR and the long and short of it is that my opinion of HR is that they are there to defend the company and its employees from anyone who voices dissatisfaction against one or the other.

So I decided to go to my doctor and she was properly sympathetic, and showed that she actually remembered previous issues around my employer that had got to me last year around shoddy handling of system amendments for my old/new name. She also gave me the phone number of a local charitable counselling service called “Talk It Over”, which I haven’t yet availed of just yet, and when I told her that I was about to go on holiday she said “oh, that’ll do you the world of good”! Little did she know…

Anyway, I went on my holidays, to the Canary Islands, a long spell for me there of nine nights, with an initial two nights on Tenerife, then six nights on La Gomera (which I had not previously visited), and then a final night on Tenerife. The first 2-3 mornings when I awoke I felt very fragile, but once I got going with my day’s walking and exploring I was okay, and after that period I started to enjoy my holiday and feel relaxed. The final day came and once I had left the hotel it was pretty much a disastrous day… ending in catastrophe in the afternoon when, at a quiet viewpoint, my bag was stolen from my car by a guy who had been watching me, and I was not more than 20m from the hire car when it happened 😦 The bag had my passport, driving license, purse with my credit cards and every last cent and penny that I had, my mobile phone, tablet, my home/car keys, and make up bag too. Once at the airport, the Ryanair desk proved of little help, confirming only that I couldn’t fly without a passport. I went upstairs to the local police office but nobody was there, and then to the security desk where the guy spoke no English but called someone from airport information who came after about forty minutes. With her mobile phone I was able to cancel all my credit/debit cards, and then phone the British Consulate… who were closed, and thus the call was diverted to London where a guy was not particularly sympathetic and essentially said that I would be able to get a temporary passport there but that the Consulate do not offer any financial assistance. She didn’t allow me any more calls but then took me to the National Police in the airport, where again nobody spoke English, and so I had to answer a load of questions over the phone to someone who created a police report for the theft, which was printed locally in triplicate and signed by them and me. The lady led me away, bought me a sandwich, and then I was left to my own devices until the next morning. I found a nice Irish couple who I persuaded to lend me a mobile phone so I could phone my parents and, once I gave the phone back, I burst into tears – the lady got up and hugged me and then her husband leant me a €50 note! How kind was that! I spent the night curled up in a locked cubicle of the ladies toilets because it was the only place I felt safe, especially with a couple of dodgy looking locals about pretending to be homeless. After a long wait from 8.00am another woman from airport information, rather less friendly than the previous one, let me make a call to the British Consulate – this initially was very depressing because she said they weren’t normally open to the public on that day, but when I explained the situation she said they’d help if I got there by 1.00pm. So I took a bus to Santa Cruz and then a tram up a few stops to the consulate – once inside a sympathetic lady explained the process, and then I had to phone my dad to get his credit card details to pay for my temporary passport. Once paid for, I did the application online, nipped round the corner to get some photos of a bedraggled, grumpy looking woman (me), and only when I got the passport could I arrange for some of my own money to be transferred to an organisation called Western Union from whom I could obtain the funds locally – this I did at a nearby post office, where nobody spoke English, and where it was insisted that I provide an address even though I had none as by that time I was supposed to be home already. With money, I hurried back to the airport and bought a new ticket to get back to Dublin, then had my first decent amount of food in over 24 hours. At Dublin, I checked my car was still at the car park, for reassurance, and then walked back to the airport to spend a few hours curled up in a dimly lit place where other people were waiting overnight for flights. At 6.30am I got a bus into the city centre, then had expected to get a bus to Newry… except that there was a bus strike on so I had to resort to the more expensive train option where I ate breakfast obtained from a nearby supermarket. At Newry I got the free bus to the town, went to my locksmith where I was luckily able to get a replacement key (as they did my original locks), then got a taxi home – after a quick wash and change, I got my spare car key, then walked a mile to my village, got the local bus to Newry, picked up a nice lunch to treat myself and then train back to Dublin, bus back to airport, and then was able to drive my car home… where, after some essential shopping with a backup credit card from home, I arrived some 42 hours late; much of that time I was either in tears or wanted to be.

Since then it has taken me some effort to get things sorted out, car and house locks changed (to cover the remote eventuality of the stolen keys making their way over here and me then not being insured for loss), new credit cards arriving very quickly, passport being replaced promptly, and replacing some lost things myself; the only thing the insurance would cover was my car lock replacement, and so this has been an expensive lesson.

Over the last 6-7 weeks since the incident I have felt more fragile, some low periods characterised by being afraid of contacting friends or spending time with them for fear of bringing them down, especially when they are so busy with their own lives. One thing I have felt very positive about though is that I have fired myself up at work and taken the initiative in quite a few ways, formulating my own strategies for taking on the team management that my manager wants (and telling him not to interfere in the team’s daily activities) as well as learning a new technical skill by myself.

I decided to join a dating site about 5 weeks ago, because my incident had made me feel particularly lonely… and have cancelled it after one month – it is quite apparent that, despite the best efforts of the BBC, people around my age are not ready for transsexual people and I have had generally naïve comments and guys who were really interested in me until I explained what transsexual meant (at which point they hurriedly departed) – I had one guy that was interested, but that was at least partly because he was a sex animal and had an assortment of fantasies involving my bottom (tmd?). This has got me rather down too… although there is one tiny ray of hope that I may write about at some point in the future.

Alas one thing that has taken a ridiculous amount of time to replace is my driving license – the DVLNI have had my application form nearly six weeks now (since 12th April at 8.55am, signed for) along with a covering letter that I included that explained my situation and that I would be in need of my new license by mid May, but despite two emails to them, I have had only one wishy-washy reply confirming receipt and advising that they would get an indication of progress from their manager that I am still yet to receive.

At the start of the year I decided that, as I am such a keen traveller, as I reached the milestone of becoming 50 last September then I would treat myself to a holiday of a lifetime, to a special place that is on my bucketlist. I did a lot of research early this year, and booked flights and a carefully planned selection of hotels to Iceland, a country with some staggering scenery, especially some monstrously impressive waterfalls as well as a coastline and volcanic regions I was keen to explore. However, thanks to the DVLNI processing my license well outside of their advised guidelines despite my letter setting out my situation, I have had to cancel this whole holiday, losing more money – as I write, I am supposed to be in a hotel in Hella on the south coast of Iceland having visited some geysers and waterfalls… but instead I have spent the day at home.

Below is my favourite photo that I took on La Gomera, a beautiful island, lovely and quiet compared to busy, tourist-burdened Tenerife on which vile people prey on vulnerable trusting (and stupid) ones; I won’t be writing a blog post about that holiday, I am still having occasional flashbacks of the incident and am just trying to forget the whole thing 😦

Thus, so far this year has been pretty lousy…

P1000152 LR Alojera Walk

Two Year Anniversaries… Good & Bad

So, it’s that time of year again, when I write an anniversary post! As per the title, I have now been living full-time as the real, and content-in-myself, me, with Friday just gone being the second anniversary of being at work as me. And how has it been? Well, if I’m honest, probably not as wonderful as the first year… and maybe that’s partly due to the novelty wearing off, and now it’s just natural…? I don’t know. Health has also been a big negative this year which was an ongoing annoyance.

Anyway, here are the main highlights, and lowlights, of my past year:

  • Well, despite me just saying the novelty has worn off, a bit, I’d say that every day of these last 12 months has still had at least one moment when I have felt glad to be free of the shackles of my former gender-incorrect life-pretence and been 100% glad that I took the decision to live life in my true, female gender. Now and again I have a big smile, almost overwhelmed by how good it can feel to live life so unrestricted and true to myself.
  • I have been lucky enough to have four, fabulous holidays – two to the Canary Islands, one to Majorca, and a walking holiday in Austria.
  • Health has not been great, in one way or another, for 11 of the past 12 months. I’ve covered it in detail one way or another in previous blog posts so I won’t repeat it all. In summary, a long case of what (after many appointments) has turned out to be shin splints, an intermittent groin soreness which has more or less gone away (without the cause being pinpointed), a minor kidney function issue, and a few stress attacks that have each temporarily affected my vocal abilities have all hit me at one point or another, each contributing to worry or feelings of depression; I also have an ongoing, seemingly permanent, condition called post nasal drip which means twice-daily nasal sprays to prevent me from drowning in phlegm… though visits to warm places (as per all of my holidays) seem to help it a lot, which is a good excuse as any to get away.
  • It is over two years since I have seen my daughter – this rarely gets me down, as a while ago I resigned myself to the fact that she will meet me when she is ready and I just have to get on with my life and live it as positively as I can… but around Christmas time it really got to me, contributing to loneliness.
  • Things have been reasonable at work – the work itself has been good and dull at times, I have had a new boss since April who by and large I get on with extremely well, while my old, misogynistic pig of a boss left the company in December; in terms of Trans* incidents I only remember one guy who has made a couple of mistakes with my gender, but there were several issues that I discovered with my name not being updated in certain systems, which were all clumped together time-wise to give me a lot of stress.
  • My GIC-related appointments have largely gone without a hitch – only one more laser appointment to go, discharged from speech and language with my therapist very pleased and complimentary, GIC appointments themselves largely just a tickbox exercise to confirm all is well although at one of them I had my second opinion, which was very postive. On the negative side, endocrinology have been an utter disappointment, with huge delays, and towards the end of the year finally flagged up with much delay that my estrogen levels were far too low leading to a doubling of the dose. In October I met with a team over from Brighton in relation to surgery – I suppose it all went well enough, I ticked all the boxes, but it was rather disappointing that they just assumed that everyone wants the same thing… a bit like being on a conveyor belt; as per previous posts, I am still favouring the cosmetic surgery option, though what I am calling a “wall of noise” is rather off-putting in this respect even if it has as yet failed to sway me.
  • I now have obvious breasts! But they are not big enough… though I am hardly the first woman to say that! I still use small fillers though to give me the size I want.
  • On the plus side I have still been to quite a number of Meetup events, the majority being walking related, which gives me a reasonable social life outside of work, but on the minus side I have not made any new friends… well, local friends anyway.
  • I went on my first date! It went extremely well, and once it had finished and we had parted he told me online that he thought I looked very nice and was wonderful company… but my heart sank a bit when he then went on to talk about imagining me on the bed beside him in his hotel, to me indicating that he is after quite a sexual relationship which rather contradicted a statement he made early on in our friendship. On the one hand perhaps I am flattered… but it doesn’t make me feel any different about my cosmetic surgery choice.
  • I have only had two negative incidents relating to my trans* history while being on my own. One was on a train where a guy in a small clique of people who know my history made a negative, hurtful comment that I was meant to overhear, and the other was one morning in Dublin when I walked past a post office and a woman nudged her companion as I passed – I guess some people just can see… and have to make a point of it. Of course, the thousands and thousands of people and all the days that I have enjoyed without any bother are what counts… but human nature is to well on negatives where they exist, and I am no different… even if I can recall several women assuming that I was married to a man (and, in a sense, I feel I was), and best of all I have had two people (one a nurse!) assume that I am on HRT to stop my hot flushes!
  • I have had a full 12 months (well, 13.5 to be exact) living life with my own, girlie hair… and the more I have it the more I love it, experimenting with it, styling it in different ways… even if I do get annoyed with the wind totally messing it up and blowing it in my face, but that’s no different to any other girl.
  • I have enjoyed lots of fun times with my best friend Kirsty, including a couple of enjoyable weekends with her staying over, and more recently I have watched her journey speed up and progress extremely well.
  • In March I visited my parents home for the first time since going full-time, and met my brother… but, as mentioned, it hasn’t made much of a difference to his acceptance level.
  • Back in September I reached an age threshold that I shouldn’t really admit again… so I won’t… but I celebrated in style with assorted people.
  • My online friendship circle, via Words With Friends, is still good – my oldest friend there (of around 18 months) knows my history, and it doesn’t seem to make the slightest difference to him… he even sent me a Christmas card (to my work, with “To My Pwincess” written inside) and an e-Gift card for Dorothy Perkins. I have several other male friends there, some of whom I suppose are there looking for attention or friendship due to problems in a marital relationship (which included the guy I dated), though I have lost two in that category who decided to make New Year resolutions and work harder on their marriage and stop flirting around… I guess.
  • My feelings of remorse are worse than the previous 12 months… remorse that I didn’t sort out my stupid head years ago and become comfortable with the idea of living my life properly – again, totally wasted feelings… and I wouldn’t have my friend Kirsty if that had happened.

I can’t think of anything else of note, though I may have missed something obvious… but at my age my memory is even less than it used to be. I’m hoping for a pretty stable year these next 12 months (with some lovely holidays, obviously… as it’s me), either culminating in surgery or with it imminently coming. I expect I’ll write about it now and again…

Christmas Alone… Again (Naturally)

Well, it’s only mid-January, so although Easter Eggs are in the shops already we’re still a lot closer to the Christmas gone than the Easter to come, so Christmas is what I’ll write about. This post is mostly about my Christmas, or certain lack of it, but the primary purpose is not to invoke any feelings or replies of pity, it is more about ways of surviving it, and awareness of loneliness generally in those around you.

The ‘again’ in the title is a statement of this being the 9th Christmas Day in ten years that I have been on my own, although for many of those Christmases I eventually did pick up my daughter from some place or other, sometimes as late as early-evening 27th December but we did unite at some point and then spend our own version of Christmas together. However, as it is almost two years since I have seen my daughter (which, when I think or write about that fact, gives me a sense of loneliness, so I should in fact probably do neither) then this was the second Christmas in a row when I knew that I would not see her… and indeed not see any family because my parents made no noises again about there being any possibility of me coming over during the Christmas/New Year period… and although I perhaps shouldn’t wait for such noises to be made, I alas have the unfortunate situation that my brother, who cannot come to terms with having a happy sister, lives with them which just makes things awkward. “(Naturally)” I suppose I have added for two reasons, firstly as I am (medically speaking, because I don’t really like disclosing it for any other reason, even on this blog now) a transsexual rather than cis woman then it is alas a natural consequence following transition to full-time true-self-gender when those close to one cannot accept one’s true self and thus do not wish to spend a special time of the year with one… but I also wrote it for those musical viewers, who may recall Gilbert O’Sullivan’s hit years ago “Alone Again (Naturally)” about different situations when he became alone, and thought about suicide in at least one of them… another element also in common with transsexual people who are statistically ten times more likely to commit suicide than cis people. Don’t ask me to start quoting lyrics or anything, I’m not one for musical fact/lyric/anything regurgitation, but I did like Gilbert’s approach to music and songs, writing about true-life stuff in a down-to-earth, unwishy-washy like way.

Anyway, I did not have high hopes for the Christmas just gone. By the time it got to mid-December I was fed up with the thought of Christmas, if only because of the incessant seasonal adverts. I spoke and emailed my parents before Christmas, and told them that I would not be ringing them on Christmas Day (and did not want to be called) because the thought of being typically wished a “Happy Christmas” by them when I was all on my own, or having to wish someone the same, I just could not bear, and for the same reason I asked them not to send me a card saying as such; it was hard enough just getting through the last few days of work before Christmas trying to dodge such cheery wishes.

As last year, my best friend Kirsty stayed over the weekend just before Christmas to help put my tree up because I would not have bothered otherwise – my emotions were very up and down by that time and I was very glad of her spending so much time with me over that weekend, I had lots of fun, we had a nice meal, shared more wine than I usually drink (although at least this stay-over I didn’t end up cleaning my teeth with facewash), and the day afterwards we had a lovely afternoon tea followed by a cinema visit… but then it came time for us to say goodbye and as we hugged in the car park I just burst into floods of tears, unable to be strong enough to consider being alone again. Kirsty came to my car and hugged me for a while until I calmed down, and then I headed home, occasionally teary-eyed thinking of my daughter.

Compared to the previous Christmas, when on one afternoon I did meet Kirsty during the Christmas period for a shopping trip, this year I spent the entire time on my own… but after last year I was determined to survive it in better shape, and as I got through it without a tear then I guess I did. I knew I had to keep busy, and that’s what I did… with the help of some online chat from a few friends, mostly just online buddies. On Christmas Eve after a bit of shopping I treated myself to a lovely Christmas lunch at a gastropub called The Parson’s Nose, with a lovely table by a roaring fire, and delicious food… apart from the proverbial, token sprouts. Christmas Day I did a typically seasonal activity (not)… home-DIY! Some months earlier I had had a leak in my bathroom, with the existing lino flooring ending up rather slimy beneath in part… so as I hated the lino which had been there since I moved in I ripped the whole lot up with the intention of laying a much nicer floor… which is the DIY project I started on Christmas Day, so I had the door off, planing it to fit over the new flooring, had started laying some underlay, and cutting a piece or two of the laminate to fit around radiator pipes, the doorway, and the sink pedestal. Boxing Day I was up and ready fairly early and went for a lovely scenic walk in the Mourne Mountains about 45 minutes from my home – I did a fantastic route up to the largest natural lake in the Mournes (Lough Shannagh) and up one of the smaller peaks beyond, and was so lucky with the weather, lots of sun at the time although an icy blustery wind which my numerous layers of clothing kept at bay; see photo. After my walk I did some shopping, a bit of sales and boots shopping, also some DIY materials. The Tuesday and the Wednesday I was also off work, and kept busy with DIY and quite a lot of gardening in the dry weather (mostly tidying up). I made sure I had some nice food during the period too, though didn’t stuff myself, as well as some good wine.


Anyway, that was how I got through Christmas, largely keeping myself occupied in one way or another. This Christmas though made me think not just about my loneliness but that of others too – I was able to survive it through my own determination, and with a bit of online support, but there are other people who are not able to do that. This is particularly true of elderly people who have a reduced social network either due to no longer being at work, reduced mobility, or a reduced friendship circle for one reason or another, including a spouse who may have died, and such people are also less likely to be able to keep themselves so busy or have an online network – apparently there are 3.9 million older people who say the television is their main combat against loneliness. Anyway, thinking about all of this at the time, I made a donation to the Help The Aged charity. I also gave my neighbour a bottle of wine to let him know I was thinking of him, last year his mother passed away and this was his first Christmas in nearly 60 years without her.

The last thing I’d say about the subject of Christmas and loneliness is to something to others – if you know of someone, either a friend or maybe an elderly neighbour, spare them a thought, and make a bit of an effort to both make a little contact and also strike a note of sensitivity too. You may be able to have a really happy Christmas, and that is wonderful, but for others it is just a very difficult time and it can take quite an effort to keep one’s spirits up – I used to not realise this enough myself, but due particularly to my transition and not just my divorce I more than ever know exactly what it is like to be lonely at Christmas… and it is not great :-/

Best wishes for 2017


Canaries Again… as Andrea Attenborough

November 2016 I guess is the 12 month anniversary since I discovered the Canary Islands, and how I have realised how unlike the proverbial UK/Irish lager-lout destination as portrayed in the media the majority of the islands geography actually is… so this November I thought I would go to a fourth one, the lesser known island of La Palma. Maybe it is lesser known because it is rather less beachy than the others, or because there are rather less hotels than some of the typical ones… or because, as it turned out, the weather is rather fairer and more variable (at least in autumn) than the other islands I have visited. Anyway, having already visited three of the islands in a spell of four months in a period spanning last Christmas, and in a continued quest to conquer ever more of the world within easy reach, I chose La Palma for my late-autumn holiday this year.

Being less touristy/popular, La Palma cannot be reached directly from Europe, so I had to fly via Gran Canaria which meant the start/end days of my holiday were mostly travelling… but as I had decided to stay a whole week this time then I didn’t mind much. I descended into Gran Canaria  on a Sunday with lots of blue skies and sun and so had high hopes for good weather… but my arrival into La Palma was comparatively disappointing, with grey clouds all around. I picked up my hire car and headed out of the airport at around 3.45pm, uncertain what to do… and my gut instinct kicked in and thought, well, maybe if I head to higher ground then it will brighten up – north of the island capital, Santa De La Cruz, I headed uphill on one of the few main roads (LP4), up and up, into drizzly clouds… and lo and behold, after about 40 minutes, I saw blue sky, and eventually sun too. Near the high point of the island astonishing views like the one below presented themselves – above the clouds I felt on top of the world, and it was so tranquil too. As the sun started to sink I drove down the other side of the mountains and then headed east to my base for the next two nights, the Hotel Romantica in a town called Barlovento. I think the label ‘Romantica’ referred to the nicely laid out grounds, because the hotel inside turned out to be rather dated and somewhat falling apart… but I retired to bed after a reasonable meal.


The next morning after a DIY buffet breakfast I drove along the north coast, but a pretty cloudy sky prevented me from doing much exploration. I did find some impressive coastal views on the north-western side once in good sun, as per the picture below, but an attempted walk became very disappointing when it turned out that the path did not remotely follow the route shown on the map. I continued to drive what turned out to be an anti-clockwise loop around the top half of the island and back to my hotel.


Tuesday morning I left the hotel in light rain! That wasn’t what I had hoped at all for my holiday, even if the temperature was very mild. On this day luck was not on my side, for I drove to the summit of the island as per my arrival day but this time it was covered in cloud… although I did get the picture below of a quite other-worldly rock formation and rainbow. Driving from east to west the higher areas also seemed disappointingly cloudy and so by 4.00pm I had arrived at my next accommodation at a town called El Paso, a pink bungalow with a terracotta roof which was really cheap, and quite well equipped as it turned out, although the alleyway to it was so ludicrously tight that if I had had a car any larger than a Polo then I’m sure I would have scraped it trying to turn around; the rest of my stay I parked it on the road! After the owner met me and showed me around, I did some unpacking, shopped at a nearby supermarket, and then cooked myself an omelette with the owner’s free range eggs… and a yummy choccy cake slab for dessert.


By this time I had figured out that the geography and climate of the island are such that the weather starts off lovely and sunny and then cloud soon glues itself to the higher parts of the island – La Palma is actually the steepest island in the world. So Wednesday morning I got up good and early and left the house complete with packed lunch by 8.30. This meant I got quite nice views of the nearby volcanic area nearby (as per below), but a walk from a place called El Pilar though quite pleasant, eventually meant I was walking in me-above-el-pinarand out of clouds and although I did see two big craters which were quite impressive the cloud cover meant good photos were impossible and temperatures became very cool, and so I turned back, returned to the car to complete a 9 mile walk, and then ended up back at the house to eat my lunch and have a cup of tea to warm up. In the afternoon I explored the coast to the west of me and found some fantastic cliffs and coastline below a place called El Jesus, as well as some lovely warm sun around 23C. Back at base at dinner time I noticed a couple of little ants by the kitchen sink! Odd I thought… and little did I know that the adventures of Andrea Attenborough (David’s distant relative but lesser known nature lover and explorer) would soon begin… not that I like the kind of nature I found in this abode very much!


The next morning I was also up fairly early because I was visiting the number one attraction of the island called Caldera de Taburiente, one of the largest craters in the world, not a volcanic one as stated locally but one caused by a monumental rock collapse eons ago. Very popular it may be, with sightseers and hikers alike, but the parking facilities are ludicrously limited, to only 16 places at one time… although one can take an expensive taxi from the visitor centre up to the crater. Anyway, I had booked a parking spot for several hantsours a week beforehand and I headed up to arrive at around 10.00am, delighted to find the sun glorious and not too much cloud. I did a 2km walk taking in two good viewpoints but then quite typically it started to cloud over and I started to do a climb but then gave up due to poor sun – I just knew that I wouldn’t get any good pictures if I carried on. So I returned to the house to eat lunch… where I discovered a plethora of ants in the kitchen that had emerged from tiling at the kitchen floor, and were crawling up a cupboard and also along the floor – I rang the owner who came to have a look (because he dilizarddn’t understand enough English to figure it out on the phone) and then popped to local store for a spray which sorted them out. In the afternoon I drove to the north-west coast and did a very pleasant walk down to find lovely coastal views (see below); once back at the house while taking my makeup off in the shower room I happened to look into the shower tray when I dropped a makeup lid and noticed a small lizard sitting in it! :-O I put a glass over him, so that he wouldn’t run into a bedroom, but with a tiny gap for him to breath… and then went to bed.


Friday I had thought I would get up really early and do a similar walk to a couple of days beforehand in order to get some photos of the volcanic area, but when I awoke the whole area was grey with spotting rain… so I went back to bed for a little while and eventually headed off south where webcam pictures indicated the possibility of sun. Indeed once I got to the main town at the south of the island, Los Canarios, it was indeed sunny… but when I parked on a road near a big volcanic cone it was blowing a gale, and so I tied my hair in a pony tail before I headed off on a circular walk taking in the best volcanic area of the island with multi-coloured rocks, assorted cones, craters, and fields of ash debris. The highlight of the walk was reaching the pinnacle of land at the summit of a cone called Volcan de Teneguia… where I noticed something I found really special, from that point I could see the distant outline of three other Canary Islands – La Gomera, El Hierro, and Tenerife with the snow-clad peak of Tiede poking through a layer of cloud (see below). Alas on my route back to the car I got caught in a heavy rain storm, and returned to my house drenched… to find another outbreak of ants, which I quickly sprayed, before commencing packing.


Saturday after getting my face on I had breakfast and prepared a packed lunch… and stood on something that felt a bit squelchy – I thought it was perhaps a tomato or a grape, but no, it was a MASSIVE centipede, about five inches in length! Ugh!! Even writing this now makes me feel a bit queasy, just as I was as I finished making my lunch. I packed final things, left the keys on the table (as instructed), and hastily departed. As it was my last day I was determined to cram in quite a few things. Firstly I did a similar walk to the day before, but from a different starting/end point, and got much better weather and views including vineyards cascading down the hills, then I headed onto a set of working salt pans  (see below) that produce hundreds of tons of salt per year, and then hurtled (legally) to the north of the island where I had planned a walk… but soon after starting off I couldn’t see a path continuing where the map suggested and it was also clouding a bit, so I thought I would zoom up the northern side of the high mountains to the very top… and I was so lucky because after driving through rain showers and then misty clouds I emerged in bright sunshine to find spectacular views again over the crater (see bottom picture)… although also very chilly temperatures, which dipped to 1C at one point once I departed and descended just below a rising cloud line. I got to my hotel near the airport at around 7.30pm after a long descent and enjoyed a fine meal out to nicely finish off my latest Canaries holiday.


Overall I had a good time despite somewhat variable but warm weather and saw some fantastic sights… I’m just not sure the two-leg journey will prompt a return, at least for some time… despite impressive sights like this final one below.