What’s in a name? Well… I Just Changed Mine!

Well, hot on the heels of yesterday’s post I just HAVE to do another one… because another milestone has been reached.

So, my news of today? Well, early-ish this morning I logged onto the UK Deed Poll website and put my name change through. It is really easy, just enter current and desired names, choose the legal-copies option (as these are required to send out to all organisations who need to know about the name change), and pay! So, I am now semi-officially Andrea Denise! I say semi-, because of course I need the paper-work with a witness signature on it, but it is officially in progress anyway.

This milestone made me rather tearful, just more joy of course – it’s only a name… but the change is SO significant, it is an official representation of who I really am. So, 30th November 2014, I am officially ME.

My Mummy Still Loves Me! Even Though I’m TS!

Since my last update I have not actually done a lot while presenting as Andrea… but some progress has been made.

First of all, and most importantly, is my parents just at the moment. Last Sunday, their latest long email arrived, with more questions, some explanations for misunderstandings (mostly on their part), and some elaboration. I have a long reply in progress to them, but although it will take time I feel that progress is being made and that they want me in their life. That reply indicated that their feelings at the moment are mostly worry… but my Dad (who writes the emails) indicated that my Mum generally ends up in tears when she has to think about me. SOOOO… I thought I would order some flowers for her, I haven’t given her flowers for some time so I wondered if it would perk her up; I ordered them on-line on Tuesday and she received them on Thursday. Well, this Saturday morning, when I returned from home after picking up my daughter and getting my car serviced, there was a little card in the post… and it was from my lovely mummy!!! It said the following:

Thank you so much for the beautiful bunch of flowers. It was very kind of you.

I am so sorry for the way I have been feeling towards you recently.

I love you so much and I am still worried about you and {daughter’s name}, for both your futures.

I will try harder to adjust to the new you.

With all my love to you, Mum X

So, although she is finding it hard, which I fully anticipated, all is certainly not lost it seems!

This weekend I thought I would be able to have several hours as Andrea, but my daughter’s sleepover turned sour when she became sick, so I had to pick her up first thing this morning. Yes, I am disappointed that I will have no time this weekend to be the real me… but it is only five weeks until I tell my daughter about me, it really is not long to wait, and now I have told HR and my boss at work then some of that heavy, male weight that I carry around every day seems to have gone.

And, talking of my boss, yesterday he came to ask how I was, and he asked me a few things about my transition, which I appreciated.

Another reason why not presenting as Andrea this weekend is not quite so bad is because my poor face is still recovering from the torture of my latest laser session on Wednesday, when I did present as Andrea … and felt lovely, despite the obligatory hairy face. Yet again, I got Lynda to increase the setting everywhere a notch… and my poor chin ended up weeping, so I have putting antiseptic cream on it; it is also quite purple from the blasts.

Yesterday despite being at work, and therefore presenting as ‘him’, a couple of nice girlie things struck me. Firstly, for the last 5-6 weeks I have been starting to grow my hair and have now refused to cut it. For half my life it has never got to more than 20 millimetres, now some of my hair is nearly twice that and, for the first time yesterday, I felt the wind in it, and it absolutely filled me with joy. So, in a year’s time, it will hopefully be a lot longer and I may be able to go out as Andrea with my real hair – I am just SO looking forward to that. Also, late yesterday afternoon, I had to stay on late (yet again) to help with an IT release, and when it was done I had the best part of an hour to kill… and so I disappeared into the (disabled) toilet and filed my nails! I used to watch my mum file her nails and think what a tedious job it was… but now, oh no, it is something I really rather like, I find it therapeutic when the nails start taking shape and are lovely and curvy. Also, I remember watching women type on keyboards, especially on films, and wonder why their hands were up in the air when they typed… but it’s because with long nails there is a different way of typing, it feels a bit like playing the piano to me and it is really quite graceful.

So, I sit here in bed, typing away in only androgenous, but ladies, clothes (white boyfriend T-shirt, white knickers, and white ladies trainer socks), despite no opportunity to present as Andrea I am not too down… especially with womanhood (and girlie Christmas parties) fast approaching!

Some of the things I like about being a woman… being Andrea

I have had another perfect weekend! 100% Andrea, 100% happiness and contentment, with no attention or reaction from anyone the whole time as far as I am aware. And rather than just give a catalogue of what I have done, events of the weekend have made me realise some of the things that make me feel really special about being a woman, and particularly the unique one that is Andrea:

  • Yesterday I went for a walk with my group, and had the most lovely time out. As usual, I was a really chatterbox… and I just LOVE being a chatterbox, and a people person, because I never used to be either of these things. The first person I talked to (after the group leader, who I gave an update to about my news at work) was a nice guy called David, and we soon seemed to chat like old friends. Then a lady (Kathleen) who I had last seen on a walk in July recognised me and said a big “HI”, and we had a good long chat with another girl who was new to the group; later I chatted to Margaret, who I have talked to for ages and it really feels like friendship, and then I chatted to a girl I have seen before but never chatted to… who turned out to be another Margaret. During the two hour walk I chatted to another couple of women and a guy, and everyone was SO nice, the guy (who is maybe 50) said that he gets teased by his younger colleagues about being in a walking group but he says he loves it.
  • I just LOVE being referred to as a lady, not just a woman, but a LADY… and this is because, although I know I am a woman inside I do try and be as ladylike as I can, because it is just me. After the walk had ended, most of us drove a short distance to the Hillside garden centre where there is a big and rather busy cafe. After I had gone to the loo, I queued up for ages to get some refreshment – in front of me were a couple of young boys with their mother and someone I think was an aunty. I chatted with the aunt a bit, and then the mother said to the boys “will you calm down, you’re going to bump into that lady”! (i,e. me). And later in the cafe I got ladied again. I sat next to David, Kathleen, and a new girl who had just joined called Jackie, and we had a good chat over coffees and cakes – David was talking to Jackie about the group and how many people one can meet and chat to, and he said “It’s like Andrea and I, we can have a conversation but it can end up being spread over two or three walks”, just as if we have been doing it for ages. Once most of the walkers departed I sat next to a couple of girls who had come in late, and we must have chatted for a good half hour before leaving.
  • I LOVE that I have made so many lovely friends this year – I have actually made quite a lot more new friends this year than I actually had at the start of it! So after cafe time, I had a good look around the garden centre for Christmas presents for some of them… because the garden centre was MUCH more than a garden centre! There were household gifts, loads of pet stuff, a Santa’s grotto, and so on. Once I had shopped there, I paid at the checkout where I had nice chat with the girl who served me
  • Then I changed out of my walking gear in the loo and went off shopping at the Abbey Centre, mostly for Christmas presents again, although I did look at clothes too, though resisted a purchase. I just LOVE shopping… now.
  • It has been great to make friends with other TS girls who really know what this journey is all about, and who one can have such heart-to-heart conversations with and have totally empathy. Of course, my best friend Kirsty is one of them, and my friend Andrea D in Whiteabbey is another – I had arranged to stay with her for the night once shopping was over.
  • It is SUCH fun being asked by a woman for opinions on clothes – especially a biological woman, it is as though one has made the grade!!! When I arrived at Andrea D’s flat she had just been up with her friend Natasha so, after dropping my bags, she took me up for more chat with her. Natasha was going our clubbing later on and did not know what to wear… and so she tried on a number of outfits in front of the two of us, and we gave out opinions, all of which seemed to go down well. Of course, the outfit she wore (white crop top, blue patterned knee-length skirt) was the first one she showed us! After the fashion parade, she put the chosen outfit back on along with a pair of black heels, and I asked her whether she had any other colour heels because I didn’t really think that the black looked quite right – she said she has loads and loads of black heels and that’s it… but something must of twigged because she went off and came back with a pair of high-heeled navy sandals, and it was such an improvement.
  • It is SO nice to have a guy hold the door open for me, when a lot of effort is made to do so. We went out to an Indian take-away to get our dinner – as we entered, a well-built guy in front of us held the door open for us, and when we left, before we even got to the door a youngish lad who was waiting for his own take-away reached out and pulled the door open for me (Andrea D was behind me); I thanked him in my best girly voice, and he said “No problem”.
  • I have become SO much more emotional and I have tears (frequently of joy) ALL the time. During some of the evening chat with my friend I got somewhat teary-eyed, and then this morning when I had a Facebook message from my lovely hairdresser Paul I cried too – he has been in India, on an amazing “mission” to teach young people there his trade, he was talking about how people there have touched his heart and both reading his message and sending my reply to this wonderful man gave me a rather tear-laden face.
  • Once I had left my friend I spent some time nearby grocery shopping at a Tesco supermarket, where a guy made a particular effort to hold open the barrier coming out of the alcohol isle for me, and I had a lovely long Opera1chat to the check out girl who was at uni – I wished her best of luck with her studies as I left). Then I went to an exhibition of Bolshoi opera and ballet costumes at a former prison. I think I have become more open-minded about so many things, and this seems to include finding so much more in life of great interest. As Andrea I do like to do as many different things as possible, and some of it is to challenge myself to pass and succeed in as many situations as I can… and so this exhibition was something a bit different, I enjoyed it and found it very interesting, and the guys who escorted me to and from the exhibition were really nice; one of the costumes is on the right.
  • I drove to Hillsborough where I had a nice but rather chilly walk around the lake, then went to Marks & Spencers where I bought a bra at one till, and then some biscuits for Christmas at another till – the guy at the latter was really nice and I asked him about how busy it had been while he had been working, and then I asked him how long he had been at the till… which turned out to be FOUR hours without a break! I really DO like to talk to people about their own lives, it can be so interesting and enlightening. It is also great if I can improve anyone’s day by engaging with them.
  • At that point it was time for coffee, with my BF at Costa – she was about to embark on her own latest challenge (of which I will say nothing, that is her privilege) and was rather nervous, so it was rewarding for me to have a good chat with her and try and boost her confidence.
  • I got home about 7.10pm and, once the contents of the car were inside, put my girly slippers on and unpacked my shopping and then my overnight bag, feeling so good about my weekend out and about – prior to this year I cannot recall feeling SO positive about my life.
  • This may seem obvious, but I LOVE feeling feminine – but this is not just what I wear (which is pretty much all it used to be while I was, I suppose, categorised as a cross dresser), it is what I smell like, having a feminine hair style that feels natural, appropriate jewellery and make up, but also it is how I move, how my voice sounds (which, finally, I am happy to hear the sound of), and how I approach everything in life. This weekend I have not worn a skirt or a dress or any hosiery, although I have worn a couple of different pairs of boots the heels have been of medium height and not at all pointy… but despite all of this, apart from the unavoidable facial shave before make-up application, I have felt totally feminine.

So, having written that lot, there are a fair number of things about being my female self that I really do like and embrace SO much. And I have likely not covered everything. But most of all, what I like most of all about being a woman is that it feels right, it feels natural, and it is ME.

Thank you for reading.

X

I told my HR department that I’m TS… and, to hell with it, then told my boss too!

Such is the nature of my journey towards becoming a woman full-time that, although the path is well-defined for me, the timing is somewhat unpredictable… and throughout this year things have consistently seemed to speed up as time has gone on, as my confidence has increased, and as I have settled into a total contended zone every time I present as me rather than male.

I intend to tell my daughter about me, her transsexual parent, this-coming January 2nd… whereas in March my plan had been to tell her in maybe four years time! With the January 2nd timeline now fixed in my head I had intended telling my HR department about being TS, and my intention to become full-time, the Monday after I had told my daughter…

…but how things keep speeding up, especially when one knows just how much one wants something. On Wednesday night I left work early, changed back to Andrea once home, and then went to Lisburn, stopping at the nearby Sprucefield shopping centre to go to the loo and then to Boots for make up. As usual, I met up with Kirsty and we had a lovely long chat over hot drinks and snacks. Also, as usual, back as Andrea I felt in a very happy place, and at my support group I caught myself in the mirror and was very satisfied with my appearance again. So the following morning (yesterday), back to the pretence of presenting as male I just decided that I HAD to tell HR that day about being a transsexual and of my intentions. But I needed to speak to someone I had previously dealt with and, considering the significance of my issue, I decided it should be someone senior, and this equated to a nice lady called Sandra. Unfortunately she was busy yesterday and thus the chat had to wait until this morning… which in a sense I am glad it did because it gave me an extra day to think about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

So this morning I went into work and at 10.50 I had an email from Sandra saying she had a few minutes and so I leapt off my seat and met her. I said this wasn’t something we could discuss at her desk (with other people in earshot), nor in a glass-fronted meeting room in my department, so we went to the ground floor and found a quiet meeting room to talk. Now that I have discovered the woman in me I don’t consider I am a blunt person any more and so, as has been my way to-date, I gave her an amount of pre-amble, starting with what a difficult year it has been, how my boss knows about my “issue” at a high-level but not what it is, and how long I have known that there was something different about me… and then I told her about my gender dysphoria, what that means, that I am a TS woman, and that by the end of January I intend to live full-time as Andrea. She was a very patient and good listener and, once I was done and tears had spilled over, she asked what I wanted from HR, and so I outlined a few things, including how the coming out should be communicated. She concluded by saying that HR would do everything to support and assist me. I parted from her after half an hour feeling elated, and joyfully tearful, relieved that my coming out conversation had gone well. I had not planned anything else that day in this respect…

…but such is the nature of my journey (said she, sensing deja vu) that more was to come. In the afternoon about 3.30 I was discussing something with my boss and he commented that my face was a bit patchy (which is due to laser) and wondered if my shaver was faulty. I hesitated and then thought, to hell with it, the morning conversation went well so why not get it all over and done with by talking with him as well and then I don’t have to worry about it any more! So we went into a quiet room, I said to him that I had not intended to discuss this so soon with him, and then went through the same pre-amble, which was a bit more focussed on him as well, as he has known about the appointments (even though not what they were for), and I just felt it was time to completely open up and tell him everything and he would then understand what I have been going through… and that’s exactly what I did. I told him loads of things, about all my worries and anxieties, why this has kept me awake nights, coming out to my parents, how worried I still am over my daughter, timelines, future treatments, etc. I spent over an hour with him (with one or two interruptions with his wife ringing him… which I didn’t mind as she is due to give birth to a baby any day now), enlightened him on a few things, including the huge difference between a cross dresser and a transsexual, and he generally made all the right noises, he said he sees me as a person, he has no problem continuing to work with me, take me out to lunch, all the things we do already, and if that anyone has a problem with me then they aren’t worth anything. And then I showed him a picture of me!! He said I looked completely different – and I do – and that he couldn’t see me in the picture at all, but I said that at least now that at least he is someone who has a rough idea what I look like and won’t be totally shocked when I walk in the door the first day as Andrea. He offered me best wishes, and said to arrange a date next week for us to go to lunch and talk in a less formal atmosphere.

I am SO pleased at how today has gone; it could not have gone better… especially I did so much more than I had intended even yesterday. So I ONLY have to tell my daughter now… and then that is me full steam ahead! I am on top of the world! (And about to cry again!)

My parents surprise me, forthcoming Xmas Events… and November 20th

Considering that my parents are quite old (a fact) and my mother is anti-LGBT they have turned out to surprise me!

On October 25th, out of the blue, my beloved parents received news from me that I am a TS woman and their initial reaction was, unsurprisingly, one of total shock. On 6th November they sent me a huge email with lots of comments, queries, and concerns, in which a few extreme and negative views were also expressed.

On Saturday I replied with an even longer email to them, answering all the queries and points that they raised…. and yesterday morning I received a short initial reply to my response saying that “now the shock has worn off, we found your email informative and reassuring… and can say, now with more confidence, that we would want to continue a relationship with you both during and after the change”! They also say that they “appreciate the intensity of my feelings”. They didn’t go into any depth, and will reply more fully in a few days, but I feel a lot more positive… and maybe they really will accept me!

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Usually the lead up to Christmas is of no interest to me – I am not much of a drinker, and usually all I get invited to is a single work do which involves everyone getting exceedingly drunk and embarrassingly silly… and thus I always avoid them. But this year, things are a little different… because I have been invited to two non-work Xmas dinners already! As Andrea.

  • The first event, time-wise, is the most exciting, because it demonstrates total acceptance of me by biological women… seemingly as a friend, either as another biological woman or a TS woman – I have no idea which, but it doesn’t matter. Three weeks ago was the last walk that I went on with my group, and that evening one of the two ladies I chatted to at length sent me an email suggesting I could accompany the two of them on a Xmas meal out. I was so pleased to receive that invite… and, as of last night, the restaurant is booked and arrangements are all made – I am SO excited! One of the ladies sent an email to me and the other lady with the greeting “Hi Girls”! I was SO pleased to be included in this! Maybe one day I will take it for granted, but to be labelled a girl, especially in a non-professional context, means so much.
  • The second meal, on the Friday before Christmas, was organised by my friend (Andrea D) who has also invited my two of her female work colleagues and my BF Kirsty. I am looking forward to that too – will give me a good opportunity to really dress up in a posh frock, and boost my spirits before Xmas.

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A disappointment today was that my latest Gender Clinic appointment scheduled for tomorrow afternoon has been cancelled owing to sickness of my counsellor. This is obviously unavoidable, but when one is psyching oneself up for what is almost a test of one’s femininity then it is a trifle disappointing… and nobody likes a disappointing trifle.

**************************************************************************************************Transgender Day

Transgender remembrance day is Thursday, November 20th – please remember it, and wear something purple. The world still needs to be reminded that transgender people, like everyone else, have a right to respect… and some have died trying to earn this respect.

A mammoth email from my parents to their TS offspring… as well as a grand day out with Kirsty and increased Andrea-time

On 24th October my parents received the news that their son is actually a transsexual woman; the news stunned them, and my mother in particular I hear gets tearful when she has to think about it in depth. Last Friday I received a HUGE email from them that in summary indicates that they are unlikely to totally reject me, which is good news. However, partly due to at-least my mother being anti-LGBT, I believe they are ashamed of me, and they do not want any of their family tree or their neighbours to know about me; for the moment, communication has now shifted to email, as they feel that phone calls will be too emotional. In their email they wondered whether I had considered male hormone treatment (“and if not, why not”)… even though that would only result in, at the very least, an aggressive transsexual and, more than likely, would lead to me having a total mental breakdown. But at least they are processing the situation, have asked a plethora of questions about timelines, surgery, my daughter, and so on. I have just sent them an equally huge email back to answer as many of their questions as I can.

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On Saturday 8th November I had to work over 14 hours…. which totally wiped me out, and I was somewhat upset that my boss was not happy that at 8.20pm, after all those hours, I called it a day and headed home on the last train available. I was totally wrecked the next day… but my spirits were lifted by an afternoon out with Kirsty followed by a meal out. I left the house at around 1.00pm and arrived at a huge Sainsburys supermarket half an hour later; once inside, I zeroed in on the clothing department and, in the changing rooms, tried on a handful of clothes. I kept two items and, after doing a grocery shop, paid the for the lot at a checkout with a nice chatty girl and then drove over to support-group-headquarters to meet up with my best friend Kirsty. The two of us went to a shopping centre called Yorkgate, and had some good girly moments. We first went into an Asda shop where the ground floor is all clothing, and I soon had a nice moment – an old lady was heading towards me with her trolley and her daughter said to her “watch out for that lady with your trolley mum”, which made me smile; I said thanks to her and she replied “you’re welcome, dear”. After Kirsty and I both bought something, we went into a New Look store and had a good look around, especially amongst the sale isles. I found a lovely pair of ballet pumps in black with a pink floral pattern, matching the dress that I had on that I had bought a week or two earlier at H&M – at the till the girl said “they are a perfect match for your dress”. Indeed! With the best shops exhausted Kirsty suggested heading onto Castle Court shopping centre in Belfast city; on the way to the car we got cash, and it was Kirsty’s turn for a “lady” moment… which she can tell you about. In the city we firstly went for coffee at Starbucks – we both had rather strangely flavoured hot drinks with Christmassy themes, Kirsty suggested going upstairs but I was up for more of a challenge and steered her towards the only table left on the busy ground floor; of course, we had no bother at all. After our refreshment we went to a few shops, including Next where, while browsing handbags together, a man carrying his toddler son said “excuse me ladies”. Yes! At around 6.00 we returned to the car, and back to Lisburn where it was time to get ready for our latest meal out with Michelle.

We dined at a restaurant called Made In Belfast, though not only were the three of us there but also two of Kirsty’s friends, Vin and his wife Deirdre – it was the first time either had met Kirsty as, well, Kirsty, and so for her it was a significant night… and all seemed to go successfully with the couple suggesting we can all go out again. I will not say much more about the evening because I feel that it really is Kirsty’s event to write in detail about. Alas I was so tired from the previous day that I did not enjoy it as much as I would have liked – most of all, the noise, both from the music system and also the bar next to our table, really annoyed me, and I was not very lively for taking a significant role in conversation, also my voice naturally (even as male) is not strong, and so in a noisy atmosphere it is not well suited. The company was good though, and the food was simply delicious with courses getting better and better – my chicken in a rich mushroom and wine sauce was stunning, and my chocolate and praline tart was a significant dessert moment.

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My daughter at her tender age of almost-thirteen is growing up far too quickly… but such is the nature of an increasingly media-fuelled childhood where parents are often all-to-reliant on gadgets for providing “entertainment” rather than a more stimulating environment to grow up in. Anyway, such as she is, my daughter is showing an increasing desire to spend every Saturday afternoon in the shopping centres and Subway outlets of Newry with her friends… and I cannot really complain too much because, firstly, they all seem to want to do it but, more importantly for me, it provides a much needed spell of several hours for me to present as my true self for a precious few hours at times in the week I have not previously been able to do so. So, both today (15th Nov) and two weeks previously, the same pattern has been followed – I closely shave in the morning, drop daughter between 1.15 and 1.45 in Newry, then hurtle home to change back to my beloved female self, and then spend around three hours shopping at my local town of Banbridge. Today, in summary, I did the following:

  • Went to the post office where I gave the girl behind the counter a clothing envelope containing a top to return to Wallis who Andrea now has an account with. I also asked her for literature for parcel weights and prices.
  • Dropped a pair of boots off to have the heels re-done at a small outlet; I was prepared for a subdued reception, as the owner and a male customer, who obviously knew each other quite well, were having an animated conversation with an amount of colourful language… but NO, all was well, he took the boots off me, I asked how long they would take and the price, and he answered just like I was any other customer.
  • Spent a while browsing clothing stores (AGAIN), though partly for Xmas gift ideas. Bought a dressy scarf for someone (no, not you Kirsty), tried on a lovely coat too… though at a reduced price of £64 I could still not really justify it, after recent clothing purchases.
  • Retrieved my boots, queuing for a while behind a family group who had locked themselves out of their car and were hoping for assistance; the owner paused his conversation to give me my boots, which he has done a good job on.
  • Drove over to Banbridge outlet, where I had a mocha and a yummy muffin; I had a lovely conversation with the guy serving me, mainly about the diminishing daylight hours compared to summer… and I have to say, I did fancy him a bit.
  • Finally a whizz round Tesco for a trolley of groceries, before rushing home to wipe off my face and pick my daughter up.

As is generally the case these days, my whole time out as Andrea was devoid of any attention that might suggest I am anything other than an average woman. As I write, my daughter is about to go to bed… and, presumably unbeknown to her, I have been wearing nail polish the whole time since my afternoon trip. I suppose I am being exceptionally reckless, though the nail polish is in a very subtle, pale shade of pink, slightly paler than one’s natural nail colour with a slight sheen to it, and pale enough for the greyish end of the nail to show through too. Hmm, do I wipe if off tonight or not… yes, no, yes, no…. uhhh….

Weekend turned on its head… in an unexpectedly good way, including a lovely walk… and lots of cakes

The weekend of October 25th, almost at the last minute, panned out COMPLETELY different from how it was supposed to… but in a good way for me… for me as ANDREA, and was supremely enjoyable with some new firsts and great fun.

That weekend my daughter was supposed to be with me the whole time, and on the Monday (which was a bank holiday for me) I was supposed to drive her to her aunt in Derry who was going to look after her for a few days over school holidays. But the aunt came down to Newry on the Friday for a family funeral and my daughter wanted to travel back with her on that day and so I received a text asking if it was okay. Well, I knew at least two possibilities that I as Andrea really had wanted to do, so it was hardly a problem to acquiesce to my daughter’s wish. But, rather than be on my own that weekend, as Andrea I was as usual a much busier bee!

Saturday morning I woke up around 8.00 – a lie in was not feasible… as it was the latest event of my lovely walking group!! I was REALLY looking forward to it and arrived, at Minnowburn country park outside Belfast, bang on 11.00 when the walk was due to start. Once my car was locked I joined the group, though didn’t see anyone I knew straight away other than a girl arriving late in her car. I said hello to a couple of people I had never seen before, and had a little bit of chat with them… and then as we started off I noticed two ladies I had met a number of times before, the lovely Margaret (retired, who I had chatted to loads of times) and Deirdre (who I had met twice), and the three of us walked together for quite a while and had loads of good chat, including a very amusing discussion about a waling group that Margaret had been to a while ago which was a meditation walking group where nobody was allowed to talk to each other! Bizarre! As the walk continued, our threesome became alternating twosomes, where some of the time I chatted to Deirdre, and then later I had a huge chat with Margaret – at one point we were talking about a member of the group who is a bit of a misogynist with controversial views, but Margaret said that “on the whole everyone in the group is very nice… includinDSCN0251g your good self Andrea” which was really nice, so I gave her a little hug. Once the walk was over two hours later I had quite a long chat with the group leader about my TS-progress, she was very supportive and helpful, and then I left and joined some group members who had gone to what turned out to be a lovely cafe on the Lagan river bank called the Lock Keeper’s Cottage. I noticed a table with some familiar faces and said “Hi”, then went inside and paid for a hot chocolate and scone, then joined the table to wait for my snack to arrive. I sat next to a lady I had never met before called Karen, and the first thing she said to me was “When I saw you I thought you were the spitting image of my friend Avril who I knew at school when I was 16”! What a compliment, huh! And not just because I am TS rather than a biological woman, but also because I am 48 years old!

About 45 minutes later we parted and, after I changed out of walking gear into a smart-casual dress, I went shopping in nearby Forestside shopping centre. I went in quite a number of clothes stores, though bought little, then onto Sainsburys alcohol store to buy a bottle of wine as I was staying with a friend for the night. When I paid for the wine I wasn’t sure whether I would have much chat with the young lad on the checkout, but I was very surprised, he was really nice, he started the conversation himself saying “you’re having a glass of wine tonight?” and then I just told him about staying over, how the weekend nearly didn’t happen, and so on. Really good! Then I went onto Boucher Road shopping mall, and went in several stores, finally a large outlet store with many brands in it, including Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, etc. Of course, I spent ages browsing, and eventually went to the changing rooms to try three things on – the girl was nice enough there, and two out of three items were good, and I went to pay. The girl at the checkout was really friendly and we had a really good chat comparing our forthcoming evenings – she was sitting in to watch X-Factor (ugh… though I didn’t say that), and I told her what I was up to.

I drove over to my friend (Andrea D) in Whiteabbey, and was happy to see a friendly face… partly because this was the day after my parents received my news that I am a TS. She ordered a Chinese takeaway and after 10-15 minutes we drove off to collect it. Interestingly enough, it was the same takeaway that we had passed several months ago when I had first stayed with her, and we had decided on that occasion to ignore it before as it was really busy with rough looking people… but, of course, I am much more confident than before, and so I leapt out of the car and went in to pick up our food. I queued up for a while, and soon enough a smiley girl served me and I told her the name the order was for, paid her, and left; Andrea D said that I looked just like any other girl in there, fitting in well, which was a nice thing to say. We had a good but quiet night in, with lots of chat, and at 1.00am I switched the light off to go to sleep… just as my tablet sounded that an email had arrived. I decided to look at the email despite the time… and was SO glad that I did, it was an email from Margaret asking if I would be interested in going for a Christmas meal out with Deirdre and her. Would I ever?!? I switched the light off again… and went to sleep with a big, smiley face.

Sunday morning was quiet with my friend and, after brunch, I left her for a few hours, with a promise to return with treats. I firstly shopped in Matalan, had a good look around, tried on quite a few things, though only ended up buying one, a nice top for work next year. I queued up to pay, and was served by a nice girl who asked me if I had a loyalty card, I did not… so would I like one? she asked. Once I determined it wasn’t a credit or store card (as credit checks aren’t feasible for Andrea yet), I readily agreed, as I foresaw using it in the future. At the exit I encountered a spotty-faced lad dressed in a ninja-turtle costume collecting money for a cancer charity. I had a joke or two with him once he had told me what he was dressed as, and I said I had to give him a fair amount as he must be so embarrassed!

I drove into the centre of Belfast, to a charity event at my hairdresser’s salon. He is helping a charity in India by going to train girls how to cut hair, and was raising money for it by hosting a coffee and cake event… so as I unexpectedly was free that weekend I just SO had to go. When I entered I was greeted by Paul who introduced me to one of his friendly staff, then I bumped into my laser lady Lynda who sat me down opposite a lady she had been talking to. The place was really busy… but I wasn’t nervous. I chatted over tea and scones for a while with Lynda and the lady opposite me… and then a first, I turned around and ended up chatting to a girl of eight and a half years old and her granny – as Andrea I have never had a chat with a child before… but the girl was openly friendly with me and all was good. Many people there had brought cakes and we all put a number on a piece of paper for our favourite into a jar. The top three cakes were chosen, and then two judges tasted the cakes and eventually chose the winner. Then there was a raffle… where I won nothing at all, and both Lynda and I were a bit put out because one person won three prizes (and didn’t think of letting anyone else have a go at at least one of their prizes) and another person won two. Then all the cakes were sold off, I was rather hesitant about which one to get, and the best ones were nabbed… so I ended up buying the cake of the little girl I had talked to, because I did not want her granny to buy it, and I bought some little raspberry and white chocolate sponges too. Then while most people left I offered to help clear up, and I am so glad I did because as well as feeling happy to be able to contribute I also got chatting with a few laughs to several other people who were all really nice. At around 5.10 all was clean and tidy and so I left… to go shopping again, in the Abbey centre again, but at a shopping centre; I left with a top and a lovely red winter coat, and returned to my friend. Shortly after I arrived, a neighbour came round, a youngish girl from another apartment in the block – she was very nice, and I showed her and Andrea D my purchases; they loved the coat and one of the tops, and vetoed another top… which is fine, I wasn’t sure about it and that is what girl friends are for. Then my BF Kirsty came round and joined in some nice chat, as we all devoured the cakes I had bought.

Monday I was out again, I had coffee and (healthy) cake out, did an amount of clothes browsing though resisted purchases, then decided to push the boundaries just slightly by going to a couple of local homeware stores, not chain stores but independent shops, just to see how I would get on in places that might not have much of a diversity policy. But once again I was completely fine, and of course it may be nothing to do with diversity, it may be simply because I am succeeding in blending in and nobody knows any different. In one of the shops a co-owner joked with me and a member of staff, which was quite amusing and we had a laugh. Then I went onto Tesco for my weekly shop, and ended up being served by the same lady that I had had the time before – she said “oh, you like us then and decided to come back”, and so we chatted while I packed, and I left for home a very happy girl having had a superb, successful, and happy weekend… although as I walked through my back door I felt a little bit tearful that the next day I knew I would no longer be presenting as me.

My first holiday as 100% me! (Part 7) – Homeward Bound… Eventually

The morning of Tuesday 21st October was just a teensy bit sad… because it really was the last day of Kirsty’s and my holiday break away. A long journey beckoned… but so did more positive experiences.

After a pretty good night of sleep I broke my world record for getting ready… which, including shaving my wretched facial hair, came to 68 minutes. Kirsty and I went down to a quiet breakfast room all to ourselves and discovered a good variety of food to keep us going –  a wide selection of cereals, a lovely fresh fruit salad, what turned out to be delicious local fruit yoghurts, and a cooked breakfast menu. With mushrooms proudly mentioned, the full breakfast (sans baked beans) was an obvious choice to set us up for the day… and our B&B host Paul delivered a superb meal – everything was delicious, especially local sausages, yummy fresh bread, but also lovely mushrooms, and as we finished off we complimented Paul on his efforts. We retired to our rooms to finish packing, then paid for the rooms and bid farewell to Paul… and I told him not to change a thing, it was a lovely B&B worth staying again at and he said that he hoped we would come again.

Our first port of call was only a short drive away on the A5… when the first positive experience of the day arrived with haste. We had decided to make a stop at Swallow Falls, a series of waterfalls on the local river. Kirsty parked the car and we strolled to the entrance, where I was slightly surprised to have to pay to see a waterfall… but for a couple of reasWaterfall girlsons we were so glad that we did. I walked to the ticket booth and saw quite an old man, and I wondered if he would sense anything untoward with us with his age and be perturbed by it… but NO, he was very nice, and once I had asked for the tickets he said “Don’t worry about your shoes, love, the paths are very good all the way down!”. I was very pleased with that remark and, after instructions from him as to the order in which we should do things, we set off to the higher viewpoint… from where the selfie to the right was taken. The waterfalls were absolutely astonishing, the river itself did not seem that wide but the volume and power of the water were stunning. There was a fair amount of spray thrown up by the powerful falls, as well as a bit of a wind which hardly did wonders for my hair, but the visit was worth it for the views we witnessed – see below for the most impressive of the falls.

Swallow Falls 1

So, with tourist attraction number one already ticked off, we headed onwards through impressive mountainous countryside to our next one, Penrhyn Castle, a National Trust property near the coast. After our first National Trust visit the day before we hoped for another positive experience… and it seriously did not disappoint! We had quite a chat with the girl at the ticket office, who desperately tried to get Kirsty to join, and then we walked up to the castle entrance, and trotted inside as it started to rain. We were greeted by a friendly guide who gave us a map and explained the route through the main sites, and then we headed over to the first room, the library and games room for the “gentlemen” at that time. We had a lovely talk with the guide who explained all manor of things, and then went onto the ladies drawing room where a guide was already talking to some AmPenrhyn 1ericans – as he finished off I made a quip which seemed to amuse, and then Kirsty and I had another long chat with this guide, and again I ended up making a joke which he genuinely laughed at… and once again I was in my new-found element, Little Miss Chatterbox having the time of my life. With time getting short, we headed through a number of rooms, having more detailed chat with a number of guides, including a woman at the top of a staircase who said about ladies sliding down the banister in evening dresses… and I said “If only we hadn’t left them in the car”! Sadly we had to depart after an hour at the castle as our ferry beckoned – we trotted through the rain back to the car… only for me to discover a text from Irish Ferries saying that due to poor weather (high winds) the service was delayed and we should check in an hour later than expected.

Well, we could hardly go back into the castle again, so we looked on the map for other attractions… and it turned out that the village with the longest place in Great Britain was conveniently nearby:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Apparently, this means “St Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the fierce whirlpooLlanPG Signl and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave”, a rather pointlessly long name. Anyway, having lived in Wales growing up for many years I had never been to this place, so off we went. Kirsty recounted her visit there many years ago and before long we arrived at a car park next to the railway station. After photos of us standing underneath the rather long signs (see right) we went to a large “department” store… where it soon turned out to be a bit like a large Edinburgh Woollen Mill, and we felt a bit out of place where most other people had silvery grey hair. But I bought a lovely pair of gloves… and, contrary to some people of North Wales being a bit unfriendly, the girl who served me was very nice and, during a nice bit of chat with me, said she hoped our ferry would not be delayed too long.

20-30 minutes later we arrived at the ferry port and joined quite a long queue of cars… that soon appeared to be going absolutely nowhere. After a while a port staff member approached and advised us of at least an hour delay, and that was only if the ferry could dock in the high winds (it had already failed once)… so Kirsty reversed onto the roundabout and we went shopping nearby. We popped into a Peacocks clothing store but nothing immediately grabbed me and, as Kirsty was keen to shoe-shop, we went next door… only to receive what was probably our only piece of negative TS attention the whole five days, from a late-teenage girl with awful orangey-red hair who found one or both of us curiously-amusing. But her more senior staff member was very helpful, and treated us like any other women.

Back at the port, we parked at the ferry terminal where I asked about the status of things… and the ferry had still not docked and I was told to come back 15 minutes later. To kill time we had a coffee, then went to the loo… by which time an announcement stated that the ferry could be boarded. So we returned to the vehicle queue and before too long we were aboard the boat. As we entered the Club Class lounge a staff member I remember from the outbound trip greeted us very nicely, saying “Welcome back ladies”. That was a good start… to a very long stay onboard – due to weather issues, and problems with another boat docking, we departed over four hours late and arrived in Dublin five hours late; but we had a good time on the ferry, with plenty of snacks and drinks… and no bother at all. And about an hour and three quarters later, with a petrol and loo stop on the way, Kirsty was dropping me home… and I couldn’t believe that that was it – THE END of our trip. I hugged Kirsty goodbye in my house after all my luggage was inside… and after a minute started to run out for one further, slightly tearful hug… but I was too late, Kirsty was just driving off, and so I watched her go and then retreated inside… to sadly wipe my face away for the final time of my holiday.

And what have I got out of this holiday? A number of things… including:

  • The joy of meeting Ruth, and enjoying many adventures as the super-glue three.
  • Many good memories that I will relish forever.
  • A level of confidence that I have never attained before… such that I have probably been at my most talkative in my entire life!
  • A similarly high level of happiness and contentment, that I just CANNOT keep on packing away – to me, more than ANYTHING, it is important to be as happy as I can… and so why would I keep on doing anything to stop that level of happiness from becoming an ongoing, permanent reality.
  • Spending my longest time as 100% Andrea, at peace with my exterior matching my interior.
  • Having attended a weekend aimed at a wide TG spectrum I have certainly realised just how far I have travelled along this spectrum and just how different the “categorisations” within this spectrum are. There is room for us all of course, but where I feel I am so different from many at the event is how I can simply not present to anyone in two different modes, how clothing is now such a tiny piece of my equation, how every single thing that I do more than ever (having witnessed brash and gruff male behaviour exhibited by some CDs present) must be done in a ladylike fashion that really IS me, how blend-in (NOT outrageousness) and elegance are important… and how I have an equilibrium that is only ever attained when I am presenting as my inner, female self.

My first holiday as 100% me! (Part 6) – Mushrooms, Tearful goodbyes, National Trust… and Kirsty’s Legs

The morning of Monday, October 20th, was just slightly subdued, as the main part of my holiday was coming to an end… even if there was more to come. As usual, I was the last down to breakfast… and what a sight it was – lots of blokes on seats where on previous mornings there had been girls. And THIS really hit home the MASSIVE difference between them and my friends and I – many of them seemed totally agreeable presenting as both female and male… and yet the thought of me doing that just would fill me with utter horror, and would be something I avoid at all cost, which is why I changed the arrangements of my journey so that I could do 100% of it as Andrea. However, such is the nature of the TG spectrum… but I was thankfully able to sit at the breakfast table in a different seat than normal and was facing away from the majority of the “Bob’s”; I caught quick, unfortunate glimpses of a couple of them and I then had to avoid all glances around, it was just awful and NOT right… at least for me.

So, readers of my previous posts may have gathered at this stage that I am just a teensy bit particular about what I eat, and so far I had been most disappointed with the total lack of agreement to cook any mushrooms to accompany my cooked breakfast… so when the waiter arrived I asked him if mushrooms were possible for breakfast, and once again it was a “no”. I asked him why not, was it that there were simply no mushrooms available, or what? Anyway, cheeky madam that I aMushroomsm, I produced my little bag of mushrooms that I had bought the previous evening and asked the waiter if he would kindly ask chef if he could cook them for me – he looked a little uncomfortable, but went away with them. Before too long my breakfast arrived, WITH my mushrooms which were perfectly cooked and delicious – chef was apparently not happy at all, probably because he had had to face the significant and unusual challenge of cooking fresh produce at the hotel, so I thanked the waiter profusely and when he cleared the plates I asked him to tell chef that the mushrooms were lovely. Once we had finished breakfast I tipped the waiter for looking after us, and he cheerfully bid us goodbye.

Up in our room we packed the last of our belongings, though before I was done I received a text from Ruth saying that she had to depart, so I rushed downstairs to say goodbye… and when I saw her in the lobby I fell in to a hug and burst into tears! I was SO sad to have to say goodbye to Ruth and I blubbed my farewells and said how wonderful it had been to see her – the past two days had been such a marvellous time with Kirsty and her, it just seemed SO sad that it had to end. Ruth joined in with a few tears, and I don’t think to just sympathise with the emotional wreck that was hugging her. Eventually she had to go and, after a chat with Jaye from Transliving who has helped me a lot with advice, I returned to finish packing; Kirsty helped me with my luggage to the car and, after goodbyes to the organisers Stacy and Shane, we headed to the car and set off on the next part of our adventure.

We had a long drive ahead of us, with lots of motorway, though thankfully the traffic was rather lighter than on the arrival. We stopped for lunch at a Starbucks at a service station, for a toasted sandwich and a mocha, and then carried on until we reached our afternoon tourist spot, a huge house with 10,000s of acres of land called Charlecote Park. The weather had deteriorated since our departure from Eastbourne, and so I changed into leggings and ankle boots in the car – it was a little reminder as to how convenient it us being a girl, being able to change from skirt to trousers or vice versa without any indecency at all! We went through the ticket office, Kirsty paying and me with my National Trust card; the staff were very nice there, and showed us the main attractions to see on the map.

We walked along the lengthy driveway, through an elaborate gatehouse, and reached the immense houseCharlecote1 where a nice lady greeted us, relieved us of our umbrellas to avoid them dripping all over the precious furniture and carpets, and let us proceed. In summary, we went through quite a good number of rooms of the house which were all very interesting… but I can honestly say that it was the most enjoyable National Trust visit I have ever encountered, and I think that it was because I interacted SO much with staff in pretty much every room, I really could NOT shut up! And that is SO not the person I used to be, but it is SO me now – I have really come out of my shell, and I feel have started blossoming. I think my voice was reasonable, and I asked SO many questions – about art work, furniture, history, and so on – and the conversations were just SO enjoyable and fulfilling. With some of the guides I shared humour which genuinely seemed to be reciprocated – it makes me feel SO good to make people laugh as Andrea, it is like the icing on the cake of a communication which seems to show genuine acceptance… and that is supposing that they even realised I was not a biological girl. Kirsty also talked more to those around her than I have ever seen her do before, and that was very pleasing to see. In fact, we showed so much interest that we were the last to leave the house. We had a wander around some of the outbuildings, a quick browse of the NT shop (that sold pretty much the same items as any other NT shop), and then Back along the driveway to return to the car.

Our journey continued Northwest, as did our chat. We stopped at a service station as the darkness B&Bquashed the day, and got a hot drink from a Starbucks. We continued into Wales, on roads sadly bereft of toilets which does not suit a girl like me at all! We stopped in one small town and found toilets at a car park, but there were some lads larking about outside, and the girl in me told me that it was not safe enough and so we carried on. After an eventual loo stop, where I almost burst, half an hour later we reached our destination for the night, our B&B at Betws-Y-Coed in Snowdonia, called Dolweunydd. I had texted Paul, the owner, an hour earlier to let him know of our late arrival, and he answered the door and seemed very nice and welcoming – we registered our details, had some chat with him about where to eat, and then he showed us to our rooms, carrying our heavy bags for us; it was nice to hear him calling me Andrea too – I KNOW it’s my name, but I DO like people using is. As it was approaching 9.00 we quickly checked make up and set off, walking through the rain into the town.

We dined at a place called the Stables Bar at the Royal Oak Hotel. For a wet Monday evening it was really quite busy; we sat at a quiet table well away from the sports TV, browsed the menus, and then I ordered food and drinks at the bar and we returned to our table. After a while it became obvious that we were getting quite a bit of attention from a late-50s guy a few tables away – nobody else was paying us any attention whatsoever, even people passing close by to go to the toilet. I gave him a long pointed stare at one point, and he looked away. Our food arrived, which turned out to be rather uninteresting… although perhaps the attention didn’t help. But as we talked about it we started to wonder about the guys attention… and concluded that it was not because we were TS at all, it was because my BF was displaying quite an amount of hosiery-clad leg below a fairly short (though not remotely indecent) denim skirt. and her admirer had not had so much excitement in some time. So it seemed as though it was our first lesson as girls in getting an excessive amount of unwanted lecherous attention, but all the same I didn’t like it a lot.

We returned to the B&B and after a quick chat with Paul relaxed on the sofa in the living room and had a hot drink and biscuits before retiring to very comfortable beds.

My first holiday as 100% me! (Part 5) – A battle at Hastings, trapped in Battle… and mushroom shopping!

Sunday morning, 19th October, was perhaps just a little anti-climatic after I had been crowned Snow Queen the night before… and another late night to bed with too-little beauty sleep did not help matters. So I was on a go-slow that morning getting ready (even more than normal), with bits of make up glitter still visible. It was nearly 9.45 before I deigned to appear at breakfast, and my loyal subjects did not appear to have started without me! 🙂 The waiter appeared to take our breakfast orders, once again I asked for mushrooms with my cooked breakfast and again was apologetically refused. So instead I asked for precisely what I wanted at breakfast – two sausages, one bacon rasher, two poached eggs, one tomato… and by the time the waiter left with his tail between his legs Claire had buried her head in her hands in embarrassment!

Hot on the heels of the Snow Queen theme was another fancy dress event… taking place during breakfast! I’ll sound like a real bitch when I say that I wondered if some of the breakfast attendees were in fancy dress already (another lamp-shade skirt appearance, some dressed far to grandly, etc)… but the morning’s theme was a Onesie Breakfast. Needless to say, my friends I were not taking part, I always associate onesies with children… and when I saw the wonder woman onesie it SO confirmed this was not an event for us… and I tried to ignore the proceedings as best I could, and chatted to my good friends… and we soon agreed our agenda for the best part of the day – to be out and about as much as possible.

After a quick return to our rooms to brush teeth, check face, and ensure contents of handbag sufficient for the day I returned to the lobby… only to be confronted by an assortment of people urgently asking for me, and that I just HAD to see Stacy, the Transliving event coordinator. Uh, but, my friends and I already have plans, how can someone else be planning my day without talking to me?? So I went to Stacy and she said two things had been bothering her – my beard cover and my hair. My hair, uh, what is wrong with it? I know it’s not perfect, but I have been doing pretty well, and my hairdresser helped me with it… so I ignored that part of the discussion, and after a quick demo with her make up product I rushed to my friends, apologised for my lateness, and we were off. Driving along the sea front we passed three girls who were so obviously from our hotel event – they looked SO dreadfully stand-out, especially one in some revealing, lime-green outfit… oh I couldn’t get away from Eastbourne quick enough.

Hastings turned out to be quite a drive… and of course, being a girl, it wasn’t long before I wanted to go to the toilet! So Kirsty stopped at a Starbucks, I confidently strode in and did my business (without doing any monetary business with Starbucks) and we were off again. We parked at a “pay-display” car park at the sea front and soon discovered how windy it was when the ticket that Ruth just bought for the car blew out the window! But eventually we were sorted, and headed in a round about way to a funicular railway that would take us up to the cliff-top from where we could access Hastings castle, hair blowing all over the place… and this was our battle at Hastings, trying to look presentable despite the gusty weather, probably not at the top of the priority-list for the poor soldiers in 1066.

We found the railway station, paid in turn for a ticket, and waited for the next train to arrive. We were soon packed into one of the two little trains with many other similar-minded tourists, and as is almost always the casFunicular railwaye these days we didn’t seem to be attracting any attention. The journey was short, and rather jerky (well, the trains are quite old), and we emerged to witness fine views of the town… but no views of the castle. This seemed rather odd, I had visited the website shortly before our holiday and the site promised a huge, sandy-coloured castle of immense size. We followed some other tourists past a sign for the castle and after a while some paltry ruins became visible, though with no obvious paths to them – in my poor ballet pumps I daintily descended wet, muddy steps, then followed my friends to a dead-end, and then we eventually found the way to the entrance; we had passed a couple of other tourists at the start of the dead-end path, who I told not to bother with the path… though I wasted my breath, but I still turned and beckoned them towards us once we knew where to go.??????????

At the entrance to the castle ruins we paid in turn for tickets, the friendly attendant kindly telling us all the wonderful things we could see for the fee… which turned out to be a few ruined walls, a film theatre/shed… but also tremendous views over the town, its pier, and the coast beyond. We spent about an hour there altogether, including viewing the rather amateurish film detailing the castle’s interesting history, having our hair tossed about by the wind as we wandered amongst the reasonably impressive ruins, and visiting the dungeons… which I found was a good test for our female voices – they really mustn’t boom, and the dungeon echoes were useful for this. Overall, despite the less-than-anticipated castle remains, it was a fun time with friends, and eventually we returned to the car via the descending railway and were on the road again with rumbling tummies.

??????????

Our next tourist destination was the small town of Battle, known for the actual site of the Battle of Hastings (which is probably just an unremarkable field) and Battle Abbey, an imposing building in the centre of the town, both of which we intended to visit. We parked at Battle Abbey car park, a ridiculously expensive tourist trap, and as we started walking we prioritised some lunch as the time was fast-approaching 3.00pm.

Right next to Battle Abbey was a tearoom called the ‘Pilgrim’s Rest’, the quaintest building we had probably seen all holiday – it was a beautiful old timber-framed building, Tudor I presume, with a lovely cottage garden??????????. Inside the character continued, with wooden rafters, a lovely old fireplace, and even a few antique-looking chairs. We took a table in the quieter part of the building and ordered drinks, teacakes, and a scone from a very pleasant waitress. Presently a young lad brought our eats and, just like the chatterbox that I am (now), I commented on what a lovely building it was and asked about the history of it; he obligingly disappeared and returned with sheets for each of us detailing the history of the Pilgrim’s Rest – it turned out that we were eating afternoon tea in a building that was almost 600 years old! I commented that it really was one of the most special buildings I had ever eaten in. After a loo stop (where Kirsty accidentally went to the Gents cubicle – though I have to say they looked quite similar – and Ruth and I sympathised obtusely with her) and a make-up check we left the Pilgrim’s Rest for some sight-seeing…

…only to realise that it was a bit late to make a worthwhile visit into Battle Abbey, especially considering the significant entrance fee. So we spent aDSCN0223 while walking up and down the main street of the town, where almost all of the shops were closed as it was a Sunday afternoon. However, a Co-op local supermarket was open and a thought sprung into my head! If the hotel refused to provide their queen with mushrooms for breakfast, I would provide my own! I’m sorry, call me mad, but I know what I like! Alas the shop only sold large containers of mushrooms, and so I left disheartened… but not beaten.

We returned to the car and drove up to the barrier to leave. A car in front of us stalled and Kirsty laughed at him, and I am sure I said that she shouldn’t laugh because she won’t know what could happen to us. And you know what, it nearly did! Kirsty drove up to the unusual self-payment barrier, and stared feeding numerous coins into it to make up the ridiculous £4.50 fee – she reached £4.00 okay, and then it seemed to just stop accepting anything! Between the three of us we scrabbled around, offering more and more coins with increasing hysterics! After some time Kirsty rejected the whole lot and started again, and eventually we were free!!! My cheeks were dripping with tears, ones of immense fun… and perhaps it was at that time that my mind quickly whizzed through what the three of us had done so far that weekend and truly realised what special girls they are.

On the outskirts of Eastbourne Kirsty filled up with Diesel and then a few minutes later I asked her to stop as I had spotted a little Tesco supermarket that might sell mushrooms. They did, but again only containers, and I really didn’t want to waste. But a hundred yards away was another Co-op which I rushed to… and I was in luck!! Loose mushrooms for sale, so I put three in a bag, paid, and returned jubilantly to the car, with cheers… probably mixed with views that I am slightly mad.

Back at Eastbourne, we decided a belated stroll along the sea front to the pier was overdue, especially as the pier had been badly damaged in a fire a few months earlier. I changed into my ankle boots, and we then took a leisurely stroll along the promenade, and onto the pier. After passing the fire-damaged buildings we arrived at a gift shop, and I decided that I had to get something for my daughter and so we went in… and soon wished that we hadn’t. After some browsing time I found a twee gift that might be suitable for daughter and went to pay… and the woman behind the counter asked in a friendly voice whether we were part of the gathering at the Haddon Hall. Our hearts sank, I could sa??????????y absolutely nothing, and either Ruth or Kirsty muttered something in vague-agreement in response. One of those moments one wishes the Men In Black were around to blank out that memory. Of course we could have said something more constructive, trying to deny we were anything to do with it… but that might become a lie, and I really don’t like lying to people… about anything. But it was so disappointing, because I think the three of us are very passable… especially compared to the three we had witnessed in the morning who may well have visited the pier themselves, so to be linked with them was momentarily soul-destroying. But one thing it did confirm to all of us – it is unlikely that we will ever come to Eastbourne again… because we had already determined that we could have just as a good a time at any other hotel as a small group of friends without any Transgender links, and this was more ammunition for that idea, the desire to just blend in as ordinary women.

We returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner, but before ascending the stairs I asked the barman for his opinion on local pubs because my two friends and I really fancied getting out and about after dinner… especially as the fancy dress theme for the final night was “Military”, which I will say no more about. He advised a few places, including The Dolphin which sounded nice. For dinner I wore a black velvet knee-length dress with a lace panel at the top of my chest and along the arms; I was pretty happy with it… though I wondered if I could have even squeezed into a size 8!

After dinner I changed into a slightly less-posh dress and embarked on another first, a visit to a pub (as Andrea) with friends – in September I had visited pubs on my own for meals, but this was the first time to go just for a friendly drink. How would we get on? We walked for quite a way in our heels – no bother for us girls – and entered The Dolphin, quite a pleasant establishment with some character. It was fairly quiet but there were quite a variety of customers and none of them seemed to find anything untoward with us… and why should they. My friends girls drunk a couple of pints of beer and ales while I alternated from a glass of wine to a bottle of fizzy water… and all too soon it was closing time and, after a nice bit of chat to the barmaid, we walked back to the hotel… and I paused along the way outside a wedding dress shop caught in a daydream for a moment.

The night was still youngWindblown evening at Eastbourne and I think we really wanted to prolong our return to the security of the hotel, so we took a walk to the seafront. I had imagined that the pier would be all lit up, but I was in for a disappointment and so instead we went down to the bandstand to show Ruth where we had had the Snow Queen pictures taken… and our lovely friend took a more casual photo of the two of us herself (see left).

Being the last night, we sat up chatting on and on until around 2.00am, wishing our break would not end; also, as it was the last night, some of the more TV/CD-orientated hotel guests had decided to have a wardrobe blow out… and some of the attire was truly outrageous, something that no proper woman would wear… though it served a purpose as a further reminder as to how I have journeyed far across the TG spectrum.

It had been such a wonderful time there with my two friends, and I knew that it would sadly be an early goodbye to our dear friend Ruth in the morning… even if Kirsty and I would still have further adventures ahead of us…