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.

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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

x

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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FIRST DATE

I suppose I should immediately say that I have been on more than one date in my life… although actually only one more than one, the other being with my ex-… but even now I look back on that and feel that it didn’t feel right, it was more like I was carried along by the expectation that I could perform the male role that everyone I knew expected of me because someone was finally interested in me, and even on that occasion if I really analyse it I was more the female conversationalist while my ex- just blabbed on and on… self, self, self.

Anyway, on Saturday 19th November this year I went on my first date, as Andrea, as me, with a guy! And it went pretty damn well! 🙂 And did it feel at all odd considering my birth gender? Not at all, it felt fabulous. So who is this guy and how did I come to meet him, you ask? Ahem!

Well, I know that some of you readers play the online game Words With Friends (WWF), but for those of you that don’t I will briefly explain that is very much like the word game Scrabble except that the bonus squares are in different places and the numbers of letters are slightly different… presumably to avoid patent/copyright infringements. One can choose other players to have games with, either at random or by a user id search, and apart from two local friends I have picked players totally at random (and vice versa) for about 18 months now. On WWF there is also a chat facility should one wish to use it… and I appear to have attracted quite a lot of male friends in this way – some of the males who chat soon turn out to be jerks desperate to get horny at the merest chat with a girl (and I subsequently soon block them for grubby talk), others are husbands trapped in marriages with little love looking just to have some friendly chat, and there are others who have turned out to be really good buddies. One such person that seemed to fall about halfway between the latter two categories is a guy called Paul – I’d say he’s not the guy with whom I have had the closest online friendship via WWF, but he is pretty much up there and we have quite a rapport even if the online chat is not as two-way as I would like. Anyway, he had a work-related trip over to Belfast last weekend and, as we had been getting along nicely, he suggested that we could meet up on the Saturday at about 1.00pm… and that is what we did.

I was slightly late, as I was a bit nervous on the morning and after leaving had a panic forgetful moment about my home (usual kinda thing whereby I think I’ve left something hot on that will burn the house down, but I also haven’t left the shower on to put out any ensuing fire), but I texted let him to let him know (and he had no problem as his thing finished early so he went and had a drink at a nearby pub) and eventually got to the meeting point about quarter of an hour late. He didn’t appear to be waiting for me, there was a scruffy looking individual who from a distance might have passed for him and I prayed it wasn’t him… and soon some other guy met that one and they toddled off – phew! Then Paul appeared… and he looked perfectly presentable… phew again – after one or two initial nervous moments, we established that lunch would be good and so I took him a short distance to a restaurant called Deanes Deli which, after a quick glance at the menu, he agreed it looked agreeable and so we went in and I asked for a table.

Once seated with my coat taken we ended up so busy chatting that we totally forgot to look at the menus and when the waitress came were not at all ready to order… but a little while later we both ordered (different) specials of the day. Then out conversation continued, and it was pretty enjoyable – I had been a worried that it might be a bit one-sided based on his online chat, but no, he asked his share of questions and it was nice to have some interest shown in me… more than I can say for an afternoon-tea meet up with a bunch of women the previous weekend, but that’s another story. I ate halibut with a nice risotto while Paul had a duck dish, and for dessert I had a good sticky toffee pudding while he had the cheese board… which I helped him with, as he doesn’t like a lot of soft cheese.

Before we left I gave him a loaf of bread to carry around… as is the typical date-custom in Belfast… not! No, a few weeks beforehand I had bought this apple and date wheaten bread and he had said it sounded really nice, so I bought him some to take home with him. Then we paid the bill, and I asked for my coat… and the jovial waitress said she’d sold it… which was perfectly fine, I said, as I had bought it on eBay and so the cash for the bill would do very nicely for a new one. Anyway, coat retrieved and laughs over, we exited and then umm’ed and ahh’ed as he had no real plan but didn’t seem sure what I was doing… but I said I was happy to show him some of Belfast if he would like, and so we walked up towards City Hall, past the Christmas Market and then I took him to Victoria Shopping Centre and up to the top to get a view of Belfast and beyond, pointing out a few sights for him – we walked all the way up to the top, up several floors of spiral staircase and I was a bit dizzy when I got to the top. After that we walked past the Albert Clock, The Big Fish, and halfway across the Lagan River until we realised there wasn’t an awful lot to see at the other side and so we turned around and walked back again – Paul pondered why Lagan only has one ‘g’, and shouldn’t it be pronounced ‘lay-gan’… which subsequently prompted a number of funny jokes about words and names with different numbers of ‘g’s in them. It was a very chilly day, though I was well-armed with my newly acquired woolly hat and gloves from Next – meanwhile, Paul commented about how cold it was, perhaps partly due to his much-receded hairline and lack of winter-wear… and subsequently kept saying ‘did I mention how cold I am?’, to increasingly varied responses from me and laughter between us. I guess those two anecdotes were funnier at the time than you reading them, but they make me smile. We walked past St Anne’s Cathedral, which he declined to pop into as he appears to be a staunch atheist, we then popped into what wass probably the most boring photo exhibition I have ever been to (with pictures mainly of people waiting for things, or looking very bored… it rubbed off) before retiring into a Caffe Nero to warm up where he offered to buy me a drink – I pondered between my usual choice and something else, and said “I’ll make your life easy and go for hot chocolate”, he asked what I meant and I said “I usually go for a skinny decaf mocha with double chocolate shot” and so he said “so that’ll be a hot chocolate then” with a laugh. Presently he came back with the drinks to our table, where I had arranged the seats so he could sit next to me (rather than across) so he’d better be able to hear me n my quiet voice, and he sat beside me and from then on he was really quite close and I think chemistry went into a higher gear… maybe helped by him being a chemistry professor! 🙂 We had good chat and laughter but also were physically closer with much leg-brushing and a bit of playfulness… and alas it eventually was time to return to his hotel for him to pick up his luggage and for me to go home to finish final packing for my next holiday. Once at the hotel entrance we hugged and thanked each other for meeting and, after a bit more chat, hugged again and kissed each other on the cheek and he said that ‘maybe we could do something again’…

…and I walked back to my car on Cloud 9 with a huge smile on my face – I really enjoyed my four hours with Paul, he was lovely company, interesting to talk to, funny without being stupidly jokey like some guys, spoke with a nice, quiet voice… and he’s not at all bad looking either. So I am hoping that we WILL do something again… even though he unfortunately lives in Wales, although handy for a pit-stop on the way to visiting my parents, or my best old friend, who both live within an hour or so of him.

Once home we chatted on WWF, Paul said I was very good company, and he also said I had looked really nice, all of which I was happy to hear. Of course, best of all after those four hours is that he still has no clue of my transsexual history… so I guess I must be pretty good at being a woman, which is easy enough when I am just being me. But at some point if things should progress he will have to know, not too late, not too soon. He later in the evening said that he wished I was lying in bed next to him… and commentary indicated that he had sex on his mind… and I had to say that that is something I can’t give him even though I am full of hugs, kisses, and love if that is what someone wants – as per my previous post, and still my current view, cosmetic surgery is still my preference, for even though I can imagine being with Paul I cannot imagine me having intercourse with him, or anyone… what I imagine is a very tactile, fun-loving, relationship… but that may not be enough for him… or anyone 😦

Next Stop Surgery

I have to admit that I am losing interest in writing this blog and thus posts are likely to be quite infrequent from now on; I doubt they will be particularly missed in this disposable society that we live in. I had a lovely holiday in Austria at the end of August but now, at the end of October, it seems a bit pointless writing about it… even if, should I write about it on a grey, miserable day, I might enjoy the reminiscence. But I set this blog up to write about life as I transition and live life as my true, female self, and I suppose I feel a tiny obligation to continue writing about pertinent matters if only so that it will help others on the same path.

At the start of October I had four health appointments. One was with Endrocrinology to check my progress with hormones and to do a blood test to check oestrogen levels, during which I was told that in 2-3 weeks I’d get a letter confirming those levels – unsurprisingly, three weeks have passed and I have heard nothing. Another was for a non-transition health issue which remains and worries me after an appointment with my doctor today – more tests and a scan on the horizon. The third appointment was for my three-monthly blocker injection… which does not seem to have been totally successful this time… causing some distressing moments. The final, and most significant, appointment was a milestone on my transition path which was an assessment for surgery.

In the UK, or Northern Ireland anyway, one is considered for surgery at some point after having been on hormones for over 12 months and as this target passed for me in July then I was therefore due for surgical assessment at some point. In the past, patients have been sent over to Brighton, where the surgery takes place, for this assessment, but due to what would seem to be a sensible cost saving measure, perhaps due to the increasing number of transsexual people passing through the healthcare system, Dr Thomas from Brighton and two of his assistants were invited over to the Belfast GIC for an ‘assessment open day’. The near two-hour appointment was split into two parts. The first session was conducted by a very pleasant lady who talked to three girls including myself through the surgery path from admittance to care and procedures once at home again a week after surgery, including pre-surgery preparations. The second session, following a form-filling exercise, was with Dr Thomas himself who asked a few questions about my path and my health and medical history, answered my questions on surgery and explained risks, and conducted an examination to confirm if I would need electrolysis to the male appendage that I am still lumbered with; although this session was informative, it all felt increasingly rushed to me just like a lot of sessions at the doctor and in the end it was as if he couldn’t kick me out quick enough.

Now, as some/many of you may know, there are at least two options as regards surgery… well, three actually, because one can decide to have nothing done at all… although unless there is some particular health reason or circumstance to not have anything done at all I personally find it bizarre to be a woman but remain with the deformity of a male organ. Anyway, casting that option swiftly aside, the option chosen by many is the full works, with the male genitalia dispensed with and parts of it used to fashion a realistic female anatomy including a full vagina and also a clitoris – sorry, can’t use the male anatomy words vividly, I hate them too much, but you can Google details on the surgery procedure if you want to. However, there is a third option, which is a cosmetic option consisting of the full-works option minus the vaginoplasty, such that cosmetically everything looks just as good but there is no functioning vagina. Now I have to say that so many people seem to assume that every transsexual would have the full-works option, and indeed someone said to me last year “don’t even think about not having a vagina”… but how does anyone know what is right for me except for me?!? Another opinion I have heard is that they “wouldn’t feel complete as a woman without a vagina”… and it is fine for them to have that opinion for them… yet I feel complete already, everyday I live as woman, do everything in a typically female fashion, and get along fine with practically never any bother from anyone, even if I do hate having the male appendage that becomes visible when I am inside a toilet cubicle… and so to remove it will make me feel physically right. Going back to the appointment, it seemed to me that the people from Brighton also assume by default (unless advised perhaps of any medical issue) that everyone is going for the full works option, and never at any point was any mention of the other option made, apart from when I brought it up in private… because, you see, I have pretty much always been in two minds since I started this path as to which of the two surgeries are most appropriate for me. There are pros and cons with both options of course – for example, to not have a vagina obviously rules out penetrative sexual activity and consequently rules out a relationship with a proportion of male partners who would want that (although, let’s be honest and realistic, I’m already ruled out from having a relationship with the majority of available partners because of my transsexual gender history), but on the flip side to have a vaginoplasty means a variety of increased risks with surgery, having to dilate for the rest of one’s life (or have intercourse with a partner on a fairly regular basis – not a problem for some if they have a partner I guess) to keep the vagina open with a very time-consuming dilation routine in the initial few months, having to have (what I presume to be painful) electrolysis on the male appendage prior to surgery, having a prolonged recovery period, and so on. Another factor is one’s current attitude to the male genitalia – some people can put up with the bits without too much bother although do want to get rid of them while I am to the other extreme and loath them, have almost developed a phobia of them such that I can’t even imagine having intercourse with a guy (although like the idea of close companionship and kisses/hugs), and can’t watch a couple making love on the screen (for other reasons I won’t go into)… and there are others whose opinion is in between. Therefore, I went back into the lady conducting the first session on my own and went through the whole thing again on the premise that if I went for the cosmetic option then what would the revised schedule be… and I explained my current preference more for the cosmetic routine and she understood my view… even if she had not considered age to be a factor as she thought I was about 35! 🙂

Having considered the pros and cons… I am still considering them… and I will continue to do so for a while, especially as I am soon likely to experience some interaction with one or two potential male partners and when I eventually tell them of my history, if they don’t run a mile, I will broach the subject of intercourse (although have already done so with one) and consider reactions. But at the moment, having had the assessment, I have verged even more towards the cosmetic option taking account of my age, my work lifestyle which involves a huge amount of commuting time, that I live in an isolated location with little local support should anything go wrong, consequent risk aversion, my hatred of male genitalia (if only due to being stuck with it for such an awful long time), and my dislike of sex. I will go think some more… my opinion may change… or may not…

Happy Big Birthday To Me!

A few weeks ago it was a big birthday for me and 50 was the milestone age I became – I have to say that I was kinda dreading it, 50 is half a century and it sounds such a big number, but in the end I did quite a bit of celebrating and on the whole it was very enjoyable… so this is what I’ll blog about, sometimes I try and ignore birthdays but this special one I decided to make the best of… especially as it was Andrea’s first big birthday.

My birthday started extremely early in the morning because I was returning from my main20160910_180126 summer holiday (which I’ll blog about in a week or two) and the second flight leg of my journey was delayed a lot (thanks Ryanair… favourite airline, huh?) so I didn’t get home until 1.40am… just 10 minutes after the time I was actually born on my birthday. I got out of my car, grabbed one of my travel bags, and went to the back door of my house… to be confronted by a large, rectangular box! I dragged it inside and opened it up to reveal a huge bunch of flowers which had been sent to me by an old uni friend! I was soooo touched that I got a bit teary eyed… and so, once all my luggage was inside and a supper drink made, I was busy arranging flowers at 2.00am – well, it’s only the second time in my life I have ever been given flowers, so I had to look after them. Then I opened my cards… including one from a friend who did not know the nature of my ‘big’ birthday (i.e. only knew it was big, not the number) and consequently guessed/assumed it to be my 40th – well, I can only say that I am extremely flattered J

Owing to such a late night I was hardly going to be getting up for my normal, early train to work, and so I got the next one, leaving Newry just before 9.00. I only just got to the station in time, and entered the platform after the train had pulled in and the female train manager had alighted at the first class carriages. Now, I don’t travel first class, but it was my special birthday so after saying hello I asked her if there was any possibility of a free upgrade as it was my 50th – she looked around sheepishly, and then let me on board, 20160908_091753saying I didn’t look older than 21! After my lengthy day of travelling the day before I was quite tired and hungry, so being in first class I decided to treat myself to a waiter-delivered breakfast for the first time in my almost-17 years of commuting – a lady brought me a complimentary orange juice and hot towel along with a menu, and presently I ordered a full breakfast with a peppermint tea which was delivered on a wide rectangular tray (see picture); it was tasty, with a good poached egg, and a real super way to start my birthday morning.

I only spent about four and a half hours at work, as I had arranged with my boss to go early … although I was a bit disappointed that he had forgotten the reason why and did not give me any birthday wishes. I did a quick grocery shop for a few essentials and hurriedly dropped them at home, picked up some posh clothes, and headed to my hairdresser – dear Paul Meekin – to get my hair done. He kindly gave me a goodie bag with theimg_9065e shampoo and conditioner I normally use, as well as a couple of extra things to try; I got my hair washed and conditioned, then Paul blow-dried and styled it nicely for me. We were meeting for dinner but he had to go home first to drop his dogs off and jazz up his appea
rance, with a nice jacket as it turned out, so I filled the time by popping to a nearby supermarket for a few more things and then returning to his salon to put an evening dress on. Paul was just a few minutes late arriving at the restaurant owing to a taxi mess-up, and at 7.50 we entered Zen, a hip Japanese restaurant in Belfast. I had never been there before, or in fact any Japanese restaurant on this side of the Irish Sea, so after a lot of pouring over the menu we decided to share several dishes. Over two hours later we had waded  through sashimi salmon, huge filo prawns,  two separate orders of maki rolls, a mixed tempura basket, and a duck that arrived with glowing flames after something had been poured over it! We also had some bonus courses that the restaurant head threw in for free (probably as Paul knows him) including a mixed fruit juice and an ice cream dessert. As usual with restaurants, Little Miss Softly-Spoken here had a problem with the 20160908_202833noise in the place after a while, but most of the time was able to make myself heard. I eventually dropped Paul at his apartment, where we chatted outside for a while before I headed home shortly before midnight. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening with delicious food and exceptional company… a great way to spend my birthday evening.

The following day I was into work early… for my birthday celebrations were not at an end by any means – the previous day I had emailed a former work colleague who I am still in touch with to see if he fancied lunch, so at just before 1.00 I was walking into our usual Italian restaurant in Dublin to meet him. We had a lovely lunch, I had the seafood pasta special with a glass of merlot followed by a seriously good tiramisu… and, the best treat of all, he paid!

Saturday I had a reasonable lie in, but was back at Paul’s salon again around lunchtime just for a quick hairstyle freshen-up, as another birthday dinner beckoned. I followed my salon visit with a bit of shopping and returned something (and bought other clothes – birthday treat, of course), and then met up with Kirsty – we had a panini and coffee/hot choc snack, did a bit of shopping (successful purchases for both of us), and then drove to my house as I had invited her to stay over for my special birthday. After a while we glammed up and Kirsty then chauffeured me to a regular restaurant, The Plough, to meet Michelle. Unfortunately the meal did not live up to expectations… in a number of ways – two out of my three courses I have ordered before and were not as good this time, but worst of all the meal was ruined by our little party attracting some periodic trans* curiosity from a nearby table once it had changed from a family dining to a couple of young couples; I nearly didn’t bother with dessert at all L Kirsty and I returned home at which point the evening became more fun with a bottle of champagne, some alcoholic chocolates, a few strawberries (which are supposed to go well with champagne… or the other way round… the jury is out) and good chat; I don’t know whether I have ever had champagne before, but it was a lovely treat, and quite an experience drinking it, the bubbles seemed to sparkle and explode as they hit the back of my throat. We were very late going to bed, around 2.00am… and I was obviously quite sozzled, as I started brushing my teeth with facewash before realising that something didn’t taste quite right. Bleah!

On Sunday we had a leisurely morning doing nothing of note, then drove for an hour to have what turned out to be a very tasty lunch at Balloo House east of Belfast near Killyleagh… although alas I got car sick owing to twisty roads not helped by a diversion; a couple of times during the meal I had to get fresh air as the warm room made me feel worse. Anyway, I had a good chowder, I think I had fish for main course, and dessert was a sticky toffee pudding. It was a really, really windy day and so we didn’t end up doing anything afterwards, and once dropped at my car I just went home to bed.

Monday was the final day of anything birthday-ish. My boss brought in a nice chocolate cake for me, which I of course shared with assorted team members, so we all had a small slice each.

So that was my 50th birthday – nothing mad, but lots of nice things to remember – I think I am going to have to be 50 more often!