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 case 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 a 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 say 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 young 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…