Boxing Day, Belfast Shopping with Dear Daughter… and an unexpected Coffee Afternoon

I’m sure there used to be Christmas’s where at least half the shops were closed on Boxing Day as well as Christmas Day… but not any more it would seem and as Boxing Day could possibly have been the last time in 2014 that I would be able to get out and present as Andrea then that is what I did; of course, the prospect of clothing sales was a big magnetic draw too! I spent several hours of the afternoon at the Banbridge Outlet near home, browsing in numerous shops – I bought a lovely dress for £6 instead of £24 at Next (as well as a nice top) using the e-gift voucher that my brother kindly gave me for Christmas, in Fat Face I eventually got a jumper after much trying-on (where I was assisted by a lovely lady in her 50s who helped me out with sizes, showed me the changing rooms, and got one colour in a different size for me), in Peacocks I bought a beautiful very-me dress (for work or for evenings out) and used the e-gift voucher that my lovely parents gave me (and had to tell the till staff how to process it), then paused for refreshment at Starbucks (instead of Costa, who were once again were out of hot chocolate); as usual, they deliberately got my name largely wrong, today I was Angeline to them… but at least the girl at the till said “What would you like, Madam?” and so I perked up and had a nice bit of chat. Then onto several other shops, including Clarks (where I bought some dead-comfortable wedges) and M&S. Time was soldiering on and I was due to pick up my daughter, so I headed onto Tesco for a grocery shop, where I found a meter-long tube of Smarties for her, and also a lovely smart pair of boots that were the last pair in the whole shop and were sized perfectly for me – they were just meant to be! The guy at the till was nice, we chatted away, and I wished him a Happy New Year as I left, hurrying home to wipe away the face I am so happy with in order to collect my daughter from my ex-… possibly for the last time ever.

Once home with daughter she opened her presents and, to my amazement, said she loved every single one; this was a pleasing contrast to the lack of enthusiasm I got when asking her what she received from my ex-… and apart from a pair of nice pyjamas, I still don’t know what she got! On television we watched the BBC dramatisation of David Walliams story “The boy in the dress” – daughter read the book some time ago, and thankfully it was not hard to persuade her to watch with me. If anyone doesn’t know, it is about a boy who likes to wear dresses, and goes so to school in one, disguised with a wig so that nobody can tell it is him… until a scuffle reveals all, to much laughter from surrounding pupils; it has a happy ending though – I did not surprise myself by shedding tears at a number of points, generally where he received acceptance. A few days later I asked my daughter what she thought to it and, in typical near-teenage fashion, an apathetic response resulted; a couple of times I have also asked her whether she thought she would be more likely to be one of the pupils that would have laughed at him, or more like one of the central characters who helped him – the first time I got an “I don’t know” response, and the second time she thought she might have laughed… which does not give me any confidence over coming out to her on Friday.

One thing I forget to mention in my previous post is that on Christmas Day I had a short email from my parents with Christmas wishes… and it was my first ever email from them addressed “Dear Andrea”! I have had another email since then, a continuation of the question/answer ping-pong, also addressed to me/Andrea. That made me very happy.

Saturday 27th I took daughter to Belfast to do some girlie shopping, we spent much time in Hollister, which is her favourite brand; as we browsed around I pointed out a few things to suss out her opinions on my style; some things she didn’t like at all and some she did. Later I dropped her at an aunt for a Christmas get together… and the rest of the day I spent being miserable, with my alleged friend terminating the ‘friendship’ we had via brief emails.

Monday 29th December Kirsty and Michelle were due to go shopping together and then have a meal as well, and I have to admit to being a little jealous of them. So when my daughter announced that she wanted to meet up with friends in Newry that day my heart leaped for joy that I might be able to join my friends for a little bit of their day after all! As usual, I shaved before dropping daughter off and painted my nails with 60-seconds polish before returning home to get ready as quick as I could… which alas is never very quick; my daughter’s friends also messed about with arrangements a bit, so my schedule was over an hour late and I feared that I would miss my friends. But my BF had very considerately engineered the afternoon so that the two of them would be at the Banbridge Outlet. Firstly though I went to Banbridge town, where I walked up and down the street, trying five cash machines before I found one working, then into the post office to mail six letters with name-change letters in them. At the Outlet after a loo stop I met up with Michelle and Kirsty at Costa… where YET AGAIN they were out of hot chocolate, so as it was cold outside I opted for a tea and my favourite cherry and almond muffin and settled down for a good 50+ minutes of chat with my friends; oh, how lovely it was to see them and catch up. The last time I was at the Outlet I had spied some lovely shoes, and so we headed over to that shop for me to try them on with fine tights… but still the shoes were alas too tight. The three of us umm-ed and ah-ed as to where to eat as time was getting on, and we settled for the café at M&S – once there, Kirsty popped to the loo while I rushed to Boots to stock up on foundation, then we went for sandwiches, cakes, drinks… and more fun chat. My daughter had rung to ask if she could stay out with a couple of friends until 8.00pm… and I agreed, within certain parameters, but alas after the café visit I had to bid my two lovely friends a hurried farewell and rush past some lovely sale clothes home, carefully navigating very icy roads, wiping Andrea away again (big sigh) before picking up daughter.

I hope you all enjoy the last days of the holidays; best wishes for 2015 to you all, and thanks for reading.

A Mixed Christmas Day… but at least I wasn’t on my own for once

For the nine years prior to 2014 I have spent Christmas Day on my own, and of course that made me feel pretty lonely… and I probably ate too much chocolate as a result! That’s just the way it worked out once my marriage ended, I have almost a week with my daughter over Christmas but that always starts on 26th or 27th December… just as it did this year.

But this year I was not to be on my own on Christmas Day. Since I ventured out into the world at the start of 2014 as my true self, Andrea, so many things have changed this year, mostly for the better. One of those things was joining a walking group, as Andrea, where everyone seems to accept me for the person I am, whether they can tell that I am TS or not. So on Christmas Day our wonderful walking group leader, also called Andrea (McK…), had organised a walk for us, and this was to be the first time in so many years that I would be with other people, and is it turned out this was the most enjoyable part of the day. As usual I only just got there in time, not helped by some very icy roads near where I live, but I was not the last to arrive – that honour, for a change, went to Andrea McK. As it turned out, most of the regulars that I meet were not at this walk and many of the attendees I had not even met; some were coming for their very first walk… a??????????nd what a day to choose, for the weather was gloriously sunny, even if  a bit cold… but I had recently bought a lined woolly hat, complete with pompoms, and matching gloves – see right for photo of us, including my pompommed self, about a quarter of the way into the walk. The walk lasted about two hours and, as is always the case, I had lovely chat with a variety of people almost non-stop, including a nice retired guy called Robert, a lovely, gentle girl called Helene who I had met once before, and a girl Miriam from one of the former Russian states who was very interesting to talk to. At the top of the mountain, called Cave Hill, the wind picked up a bit and was a bit icy in the shade as we rounded the promontory of rock for splendid views across Belfast and the coast beyond. After a while we sung a few carols, well, I didn’t vocalise much because my semi-girly voice is not really up to singing, and I fear it could give me away by singing. As is the nature of these walks, everyone does not walk at the same pace, and so the group ends up being pockets of people… and on this walk these pockets somehow split up and ended up taking different routes down to the car park. But eventually we met up, and many (including me) had brought flasks of hot drinks and sweet cakes, biscuits, and chocolate. It was a lovely time, we eventually bid each other farewell, and then I had a little chat with my group leader who does know about my gender history; she is always a good listener, with down-to-earth advice, and so I gave her a present to show my appreciation for her support.??????????

Once in the car I phoned my daughter to wish her Happy Christmas; she sounded very disgruntled that she had not got any great presents at her mother’s house, and I hoped that my offerings would not be so bad once she arrived the following day.

Then I went for Christmas dinner with someone who I thought valued me as a friend, for I have visited her many times – we have had many heart-to-hearts about our TS journeys… and I have done more than my fair share of listening!!! Apart from me and her, there were three other women present, and it was nice to dress up smartly for my first ever dinner on Christmas Day as Andrea. The dinner itself was fine and very tasty… and as drink accumulated in some of them the whole thing became rather rowdy for a while – three of them ‘indulged’ (sorry, can’t think of a better word) in a bout of unnecessary vulgar swearing and one of the women there openly said that she disliked the word being used, and I vocally agreed with her (I consider I swear very little), and of course that only made it worse and they chanted it on and on like ugly football hooligans. Being a girl who apparently wears her heart on her sleeve, I allegedly gave one of the attendees a look of disapproval (I don’t know I do it, it’s just part of who I am) and now I have been told that I am not wanted as a friend, all for giving a look of disapproval over an appalling swear word that both myself and another had openly stated we did not like. But I have learnt a lesson from this, and reflecting back on it I realise that this person liked having me around for company (as did I) but also to talk about themselves – I feel there were times when what I said was just not listened to, I was frequently interrupted or completely talked over, I often struggled to say all that I would like to do (which is partly my own fault for being a bit timid I suppose… except that I very rarely have that problem with my true friends), and was at times not allowed to have my own opinion on something, in other words my opinion was wrong! To me, a true friend is someone who values what you have to say and respects your right to have differing views on things. I am sorry if you all think I am venting… but what made it worse was her posting on Facebook about this, not mentioning my name directly, though confirming later by message that she was talking about me – she insulted me in the worst way she could possibly do… and frankly I do not have time for people who go out of their way to be truly hurtful and insensitive – how can they expect acceptance from others, or be respected by anyone, when they behave like that to others!

I hope you have all had a happy festive period. Mine could have been better… sigh.

An Un-Titanically Buoyant Saturday… and a Smashing Shop On Sunday

My last weekend before Christmas was a wonderful one, especially the Saturday…. once I had half-woken up.

My last blog post left me struggling to get to sleep after a Xmas meal… and I left my friend’s apartment after a cooked breakfast just after midday the day after. I wanted to pop in to see my hairdresser to say Happy Christmas… and as luck would have it, when I arrived at 12.30 he was there… and very busy – we had a nice little chat though and, as he said to goodbye to return to a woman he had left dripping wet, I gave him a card and a bottle of wine.

As I left, it turned out that Kirsty did not have to return home until fairly late and so wetitanic museum 1 met up at a shopping centre and decided to go to the Titanic museum just outside Belfast city centre; Kirsty had been there before, and did not seem to mind going there again. Even the building, before we got inside, was something to behold, with an exterior that has won awards… and I am hardly surprised; it promised to deliver inside, despite an astronomical entry price of around £15, and lived up to expectations once we had had a coffee at a cafe near the ticket kiosk.

The museum is laid out to guide the visitor through the story of Titanic from start to finish, beginning with the industrial strengths of Belfast in the early 1900s and its major exports, then onto the ship building history, and then to the construction of the Titanic itself… which bizarrely did not have it’s own full plan. We met a female guide at the bottom of a section of gantry who told us a few things and, after a few questions from us, showed us to a lift. At the top we were greeted by a nice, upbeat guy who said “Hello ladititanic museum 2es!” and then told us about the heights that men worked at, and the lack of safety equipment; we had some nice discussion and a bit of joking with him, and then as we left he said “Bye girls, enjoy the rest of your visit”! So, being called “girls” AFTER he had talked to us was just lovely. As we worked our way through the museum we went on a fantastic ride and learnt about the largely manual construction of the ship, read and saw film of the first launch, and then went in a large area that told us all about the interior fittings, showing us some example cabins, and then an amazing display where we stood still with three “walls” around us projecting the interior of the ship and took us on a visual tour around and up through the various floors, even though we were not moving at all the way the projection worAndrea at Titanic Exhibitionked it felt like we were moving all the time! And then we walked through a dark corridor… and to the sinking ship, where Kirsty got a bit tearful, and I am not surprised, as we walked around that area we learned of the awful fate of passengers that we had read stories of earlier on the tour. Then we found ourselves in a cinema showing underwater footage from a salvage company of the Titanic wreck, including an old heater, a chamber pot, and a pair of shoes amongst the wreckage. We went down a floor and then stood on a transparent floor watching wreckage footage floating underneath; a helpful guide was there and I asked a few questions before we headed onwards, downstairs again to a more general display about ship wreck salvage…and then, alas, the exit. Amazing that we spent over three hours there… but it was such an interesting museum, and such an eye-opener, both in terms of the Titanic itself (the grandeur… and the shortfalls) and how lives were so different (especially in terms of poverty and gender-split roles) at that time. We wanted to get another coffee but the cafes were all closing up, so we drove back to the shopping centre where we had met up and had a coffee and a yummy brownie… and then alas it was same to say goodbye. Not for the first time with my BF, I got all tearful with my farewell, we has SUCH a good time together and everything felt so totally right; it was such an enjoyable day, but feeling tired after a very poor night of sleep I went home for an early night.

Sunday I had a long lie in and did not even get out of bed until after 10.30. I pottered around, took my time getting ready, and left at around 2.00. I started at Banbridge outlet and browsed a number of shops, including Next, where I resisted sale items, and after a while went into a new beauty shop that has recently opened – I had a good look at assorted make up items and, as I was deciding on nail polish, I knocked some of them over and one of them fell on the floor and smashed; oops! I was very apologetic… though I don’t put the fault all with me, unlike Boots all the little containers were just sitting on plastic display plates and not in anything purpose-built. I had a little bit of chat with the checkout girl, asked when they had opened, and apologised again; she said not to worry, “these things happen”. I had a browse in a shoe shop, where a girl asked if I needed assistance, and then onto M&S, where the item I was specifically looking for was in every size except the one I wanted. I had a milkshake and cake in Costa, then drove onto Sprucefield shopping – I had a browse at electricals in Currys, at clothes in M&S (where I bought some cookies), to B&Q (for a high-watt bulb to do my make-up in the bathroom), and finally Sainsburys to do a grocery shop where the checkout girl was really nice to chat to. So all in all, Sunday was pretty good too… even if I did miss Kirsty after out splendid day on Saturday.

Thank you for reading… and have a very Happy Christmas, should you be celebrating it in any shape or form.

GIC Group Therapy, How to Tell my Daughter about me (?)… and another Xmas meal

In the period since my last post a number of things have happened, progress continues to be made, and life feels pretty good.

First of all, chronologically, I had two and a half hours out as me on Saturday 13th December while my daughter was doing her usual shopping centre meet with her BF. I went to my local town of Banbridge where after popping into a couple of shops on the high street I went to the library and spent 45 minutes contentedly surfing away, mostly loading my favourite photos from past holidays onto my flickr account; I was sitting opposite a lady on another computer with several guys also tapping away next to me and nearby, but nobody gave me any attention at all. Then I went to my local big Tesco and did a good grocery shop… and then all too soon my precious Andrea-time was over. If you are interested, here is the link for my flickr photos; https://www.flickr.com/photos/124325987@N04/sets

On Monday I went to my Gender Clinic once again, this time for a group session; on the way I had to stop to go to the loo and get some cash… and just as I was leaving that pit-stop someone had a car accident on the roundabout, and so I only just got there in time. A TS woman who has completed her journey, operation and all, had come in, and several of us part-way along our own journey were invited to listen to her tales of her experiences, and ask questions. It was very interesting, especially hearing about the operation and pre/post treatments, and also her frustrations along the way. While there I also had a short chat with my nurse/counsellor and, once again, I was told that it would be better for me to wait over three years until my daughter is 16 before I tell her about me… and YET my friend who was also there admitted that her son can’t accept her and yet he is 23!!!! So how will me waiting to tell my daughter potentially be beneficial? Anyway, I told her that I simply can’t do that, I have suppressed my feminine self for FAR too long, and that I have to do it… because Andrea is ME and the idea of living the rest of my life any other way is intolerable.

I left the GIC and returned halfway home to Sprucefield where I met up with Kirsty for supper and a chat. It was lovely as usual to meet her – I recounted my latest GIC counsellor chat about daughter… and she admitted that she, and Mrs K, thought that the method that I was planning to tell her was a bit too childish considering that she is nearly 13. My trouble is that I only see my daughter every other weekend and so I always feel like I am in catch up mode as I miss out on so much of her day-to-day living, so I have no idea how much she knows about LGBT. So I left a bit disgruntled with much food for thought, and spent half the night thinking about it… but I know now that Kirsty (and Mrs K) were right and so I have a revised plan more or less ready.

The next day, following a suggestion at the GIC, I rang SAIL for advice; they are an organisation there to help and support Transgender persons and their families. The half hour call was very useful, the guy will email me some more info, but he said that my plan to tell my daughter about me just before my ex- is the right one (as daughter must hear it from me, in my own words), and I was relieved to hear that; he also may be able to put me in touch with other TS women with children of a similar age, and he re-iterated advice that I have read which is that the most important thing for a child is to have a happy parent, TS or otherwise.

Over the next few days I made enquiries with a few organisations about changing my name and how to do it with them; the process would seem to differ from one organisation to the next, so anyone in my situation I would advise to phone around rather than blindly sending out letters and legal cert copies because in some cases that will not do. Santander, for example, seem to insist that I have to go into the branch with my new ID… and I really didn’t like the somewhat arrogant tone of the guy I spoke to on the phone; maybe I will take my accounts elsewhere! When I got home I found that an envelope had arrived containing the certified, legal copies of my Deed Poll name-change form… and so I can now start writing to organisations to tell them to change my name!!! That brought a real smile to my face when I found that that had arrived.

Friday was time for my second Xmas meal, this time with my BF Kirsty, another friend and two of her work colleAndrea at Benedicts Xmas mealagues. My train was late at my station, also I had to pack for staying the night, so I got to friend’s apartment a bit late. We took a taxi into Belfast to the venue of our meal, which turned out to be a rather rowdy hotel called Benedicts with a really noisy bar on the ground floor and a restaurant above, which we were admitted to after a few minutes. To summarise, the night was only OK; I of course enjoyed the company of my BF who I was sitting next to, but as time went on the music got louder and louder and it was almost impossible to hear what anyone was saying without them shouting (and the problem is that being a TS girl, the louder one’s voice the more unfeminine it is); my voice especially is a problem in these situations, it has ever been loud even while living as male, and so in a loud venue like this I just gave up talking, I am not going to ruin my voice by shouting unnecessarily… and so I wish a quieter venue had been chosen. Apart from the bland starter and over-cooked vegetables the food was reasonable, my salmon was very nice and chocolate torte dessert gorgeous. As the night continued, people got up to dance… and after a while I achieved enough confidence to want to do the same, but it seemed impossible to generate any interest from anyone else around the table – at one point I stood up when Kirsty seemed to agree, and as I was about to head off to the dance floor she sat down again! The other three girls got up to dance… and within 10 seconds seemed to change their mind and sit down. And as our departure time neared I was about to get up again, but was told that the lyrics to the song were a rape-anthem, which was not acceptable… but I liked the beat of the song and just wanted to dance!!! But it was not to be, and I was VERY disappointed. The restaurant was really busy, but we didn’t seem to attract any attention, and a guy made a particular effort to hold a door open for me which was nice too. And I was very happy with the latest dual-selfie of my BF and me… even if the resolution is poor:

kirsty and andrea at Benedicts

Gender Clinic Appointment No. 3, name change witness… and a chatty shopping experience

My third Gender Clinic appointment had been postponed from November due to my nurse being sick, and it finally happened on 10th December. I arrived at 2.00 and did not have long to wait this time. We chatted for about an hour and a half about all that I had done (as per what I have documented on previous posts), and she said “Wow, you’ve been busy” – I told her about my Eastbourne trip (and she was impressed with my winning costume), coming out to my parents, my walking group (I showed her a picture of the group, which she said would be useful for my transition assessment) and Xmas meal, coming out at work, and so on. At the end I handed her a photocopy of my Deed Poll form!

The only thing we continue to disagree on is coming out to my daughter (which I am scheduled to do on 2nd January) – she said it would be better leaving it until she was aged 16 (four years away!!!)… but considering the place I am at, all I have done, and where I am going, and how increasingly intolerable life is while forced to cross dress as a man and just how CERTAIN I am that this path is right, that suggestion seems rather pointless and indeed ludicrous. She also thinks I should tell me ex- before my daughter, as she thinks the court could take a dim view if a child access issue arises… even though I have explained how deceitful and manipulative my ex- is, how I need my daughter to hear this news from me and in my own words, and how I will tell my ex- almost the same time as my daughter, literally an hour or two after. I have left it that she will talk to another counsellor about it, and potentially arrange a social services session for me to tell my ex- in advance.

Sometimes she asks questions that she has already asked me before, or others I think to test me. Firstly she said “on the days when you are working, when you have to present as male, presumably when you get home you just stay dressed as a man” and I said “No, as soon as I get home I have to stop cross dressing and shed those dreadful male clothes, so I usually put on whatever I am going to bed in, either a nightie or girlie pyjamas”. As I was leaving she said “Are you going home now?” and I said “Oh no, I am off shopping, will go and get some lunch, do a grocery shop…. (deliberate omission here, see below)… and then meet up with my best friend Kirsty for tea and chat at M&S”. So hopefully I passed that test!

After I left the GIC my first port of call was Forestside shopping centre, I had an amount of time to kill before my next “appointment” and I was in need of refreshment and so a mocha and cappuccino cake filled the gap. Then I headed off shopping. My first port of call was a powder brush, as I had left mine at home, then I went into Oasis and had a browse, eventually buying a selection of girlie socks, including a pair for my daughter – the lady at the checkout was nice, and she complimented me on my jumper-top! That initiated a nice bit of chat, and I left there happy. I had a browse around New Look, and then in the middle of the shopping centre a chocolate stand caught my eye – I had a casualHoldens chocs 2 wander around and then moved closer to the selection of hand-made chocs on display (see right for a selection of their goodies) and the friendly guy offered help and he started telling me the different flavours. I asked him to pause, checked my purse to see how much cash I had, so as to not waste his time, and then he went through them and put 12 chocs in a little box; I said it was nice to find something a bit more up-market for a special treat, and then we got in a lengthy discussion about where he gets his ingredients from, the pricing pressures, all kinds of things, and that started me off about how my company is going the Indian-outsourcing route for some of its IT… and eventually I had to tail off because a couple of new prospective customers arrived. I went in a couple more stores, including Molton Brown with its ridiculously priced bathing/soap products and a snotty-nosed assistant to match, then drove a short distance to a Tesco supermarket for a grocery shop – that was all fine and normal, and at the check out was a lady who has served me before and she was really nice, she said “how are you today?” and a lovely conversation ensued.

My next “appointment” was with laser-lady Lynda, not to get my face blasted for once but for her to witness my deed poll form signing. I arrived about 10 minutes early, and so went to a nearby shopping centre to go to the loo – of course, I could have just gone to the loo at Lynda’s office, but where is the challenge in that? The shopping centre was quite busy… but no bother. It was lovely to see Lynda and, once the signing was done, we chatted for the best part of an hour, and she said that with me there properly made up and fully-presenting as Andrea I looked so happy… and she complimented me on my make-up again. I waited while she packed her things away, as I know she does not really like to leave the office on her own in the dark, also she has a dog that cannot walk down stairs, and so as usual I helped her carry her things out to her car. After a bit more chat we hugged goodbye, with best wishes.

Then it was on to meet my BF Kirsty at 9.00 for supper – we went to M&S Sprucefield cafe and, as usual, the time out with her was great. We had some nice toasted sandwiches and chat, and then did a few minutes of independent (i.e. separate) browsing and a loo stop before meeting at the entrance to see rain heavily pouring from the sky… so it was time to test the hood of my new coat and do some girlie trotting to the car before I got totally drenched.

The final venue of the day was my local support group and, as it was a Christmassy-type evening with cake (and also dinners for those who do not venture out, which I had to skip for that very nature… because I DO venture out, as much as possible) there was a good turn out. There was someone there who presents as ‘Sue’ I think it was (have never met her before), and a guy called James (I think I have got this right, have met so many people this year and am terrible with names), the discussion eventually came round to me and my journey, and my imminent coming out to my daughter, and as I brought them up to speed they both provided good advice and James in particular asked some very pertinent questions.

So, a pretty full day… and a successful one too in every respect.

Thank you for reading.

X

P.S. Have eaten a couple of those chocs while writing this – oh, yummeeeeeeee!

My first Christmas Dinner as Andrea… and surprising progress with my parents

You know, I have never been that fond of the run up to Christmas, and this is partly because the only party I ever got invited to was a work do, and there is such an overwhelming emphasis on getting obscenely drunk that it just turns my stomach; this drinking style may suit some of you readers, and that is fine (though I fear for the condition of your liver and skin if such indulgence is on a regular basis), but it is not for me, I have always had a low threshold for being intoxicated by alcohol and so any heavy sessions are just beyond me; I also have a quiet voice, and so I get drowned out conversationally the more drunk people get. In fact, as I write, my office party is occurring tonight, and a guy sitting behind me this afternoon was talking to someone else and said “I intend getting seriously drunk tonight”. WHY?

Anyway, enough ranting, the purpose of the above paragraph is to highlight the difference this year… because, for the first time in decades, I was invited to a non-work Christmas-orientated event, by my two female walking buddies Margaret and Deirdre – it was a meal at a restaurant called Prezzo in the Victoria Square shopping/entertainment centre of Belfast. The meal was at the start of this week, on Monday… and it was absolutely FAB!!! I arrived surprisingly earlier than the scheduled time of 8.30 although, as I approached the restaurant and was about to call Deirdre on my mPrezzo outfitobile, it became apparent that they were already inside at our table, and so I went in. I was wearing a gold and black top (see right for selfie at the end of the evening once home), smart black embroidered trousers, and black heels with a red winter military-style coat. We said warm hellos, and then I took my coat off and sat down; Margaret said to me “I knew that you would look lovely Andrea, and you do”. Aw, what a nice thing to say. I complimented Margaret on her black velvet outfit in return, it was very smart. Altogether, we were together for almost three hours, and the whole evening was great – I didn’t feel at all nervous, their company was lovely, and we just chatted like good friends with subject matter covering a plethora of topics, from our walking group and its various personalities, places to visit, clothes, wine, family, and so on… as well as a bit of man-bitching too for good measure. The food was pretty good, I had a fried ravioli starter followed by a lobster and king prawn risotto (which tasted much better than it looked), finished off by an amaretto flavoured bread and butter pudding. One amusing part of the evening was the amount of things being spilled, dropped, or smashed – it was almost as if we were in the haunted corner, and it provided some amusement! Margaret spilled her sparkling wine (not once but twice), cutlery was dropped, the bar worker smashed some glasses, and so on. But it was a great night, and at 11.00 it started to draw to an end when we got kicked out of the closing restaurant. We took the escalator down two or three floors and then came to a point where out directions would differ, so we stood around and chatted for 10-15 minutes about Christmas arrangements, including a walking event! Margaret referred to me as a woman in one of her comments which was great, she said “I couldn’t believe this mad woman Andrea getting up so early to get to these weekend walks”. Eventually, after continued merriment, we had to part, with hugs all round, and Margaret called me “dear” as we said goodbye.

By the time I got home, some 45 minutes later, I had already received an email from Deirdre saying what a lovely evening it had been and we must do it again in the new year… and within 12 hours I had a similar email from Margaret. Of course, I was quick to email them both back to say that I would love to do it all again. Oh what fun, and what acceptance – I think Margaret knows I am TS, but I have no idea about Deirdre; whatever, I am overjoyed at this latest success.

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The email traffic between my parents continues with me replying with as much information and assistance as I can in order to gain their understanding. Their last queries-email was somewhat shorter, as they said that many areas of discussion have now been satisfied. They also said that they like my chosen second name, Denise, which I was really happy about. In their closing paragraph, they said that they consider that they may soon be up to phoning me and asking for a photograph or two. So, overall, it appears that my parents are slowly coming round just nicely. Yippee!

My Wet ‘N’ Windy Wonderful Weekend… and I Got Kissed Again!

The most wonderful thing about the weekend just gone is that until a few days beforehand I thought that none of it would happen! I was supposed to be working, doing a software release the whole weekend… but that thankfully got canned and so it was fun, fun, fun.

Now, it has to be said, the weather was not good at all. One of the highlights of my weekend was another event with my walking group, a circular walk on Divis mountain above Belfast. I awoke early on the Saturday morning to get ready and although the sky out of my bedroom window was only partially cloudy, towards Belfast was quite grey, not a good sign; but at least it was dry… at the time. I broke no records for getting ready, and as usual cut it fine for getting to the walk on time, especially with the almost-obligatory loo stop at this stage. Alas within a few miles of the car park the rain showers arrived and, as I got out the car with woolly hat on to clamp down the hair, gentle rain continued, and the mountain itself was buried in mist. I parked next to two girls that I have met a few times before, Paula and Kerry, and they cheerily waved to me as I parked. I gave them Christmas cards as we zipped up coats, and then chatted a bit. As we set off a former (and, maybe actually, he still is) admirer Alan greeted me, and started chatting… and we ended up having a really long conversation about all sorts of things, with little bits of conversation from a few others as we went. As we continued the gentle rain caught by the wind stung our faces like icy needles, and I despaired what my made-up face was going to look like before we finished – I had visions of streams of foundation and mascara dripping off me! Half way round we stopped at a viewing point… except that with the mist nothing could be seen. I chatted with Paula and Kerry again, and we all hoped that we would not be stood still for long as the wind at that point had become very gusty; I had worn thick tights under my active-leggings and had four layers on top, but was still cold. Eventually we set off again, and I got chatting to a new girl called Aidin, who is EVEN more keen on travelling than I am, so it was really interesting hearing all about places she had been. As we neared the end of the walk and came to a National Trust building with a cafe, my whole face was half-frozen, and as we entered I headed straight for the loo to look at my poor face – after a wait, and a chat to a new guy who politely let me go to the unisex loo first, I looked at my face… and ALL was good!! A few moisture drops had captured foundation, but a quick dab with toilet paper and a dusting of compact powder and all was well! So, a FAB and successful weather test for my face. We all queued up for hot drinks and cake/scones, and I chatted to another new guy called Andrew who has a really cute dog of the Jackadoodle breed – he was quite nice to talk to (Andrew, not the dog), and I got him all his cutlery for his snack, and then we headed off to sit down; the cafe was fairly full, so I ended up next to my dear friend Margaret, a Belgian girl I had never met (who turned out to be quite nice), and Alan. We enjoyed nice conversation, good scones, and a hot chocolate, and after a while, as Alan was about to go I gave him a Christmas card; I had written just a small number, for the people who have been most friendly to me. He was genuinely quite overwhelmed, and he got up and gently leant in to give me a peck on the cheek which I naturally offered; it was all very nice… apart from him being rather prickly with his wiry white beard! Eventually it was time to go, and we walked back to the cars, and I chatted to Michael who I had met once before who said it was nice to see me again as we parted.

Next on the agenda was to get two new tyres for my car. I considered this a new challenge, garages and thing are, well, dare I say it, a bit of a male environment. I changed out of my walking attire into jeans and top in a MacDonalds loo and drove over to a tyre place called Kwik Fit on the Lisburn Road of Belfast, parked, and went in. I said what I wanted, didn’t want to pay the earth but didn’t want a budget tyre either, so we settled on Good Year (that they had an offer on) and I gave him my phone number which he wrote next to “Mrs {surname}”! 🙂 I headed off for lunch nearby, stopped on the way to browse in a boutique… but at £99 for a smart top I was hardly going to purchase. In Starbucks I had a panini and a mocha… another hot drink to help me defrost! 45 minutes later Kwik Fit rang, and I returned to pay – I had some nice chat with the guy, mostly about the weather and where I had walked (which he said was a nice spot), and it was all just normal… and good!

Owing to my fortunate change of weekend activities I had at the last minute managed to book a table for dinner with Kirsty (who unexpectedly found herself free at the last minute too). I had time to kill though so ended up going to a couple of shopping centres (that I have not been to before), and bought a few bits and bobs, including some Minnie Mouse slippers for my daughter. I also went into a large homewares shop (called Dunelm Mill on Boucher Road) where I had a good browse and eventually bought a present for one of my friends (not you Kirsty).

At just before 7.00 I arrived at support group HQ to meet Kirsty. I was, unbelievably, slightly early (sometPheasant with Kirsty - ed1hing I am not very good at) and so Kirsty left the door unlocked for me to go into the lounge part to change my outfit into smart/casual evening chic as we were going to more of a gastro-pub than restaurant. Kirsty eventually appeared, in a nice woollen-look red dress, perfect for autumn/winter; she looks good in reddish things, I don’t think I suit them. For a change I drove, while Kirsty navigated, well, Kirsty’s iPhone navigated… though it was hopelessly pessimistic with journey time and we thankfully arrived more or less on time. The place we went to is called The Pheasant, near Annahilt, and it is rather a characterful building, both inside and out, with wooden beams and old pictures surrounding our table. Well, the whole evening was just lovely, great company and chat for almost three hours, and surprisingly good food – we both had a scallop and pork-belly starter, then I enjoyed a tasty meaty main with a lovely sauce and good Brussels sprouts, and a trio of mini desserts to finish off. See photo of me and my mocha, alas no photo of the two of us as when Kirsty tried that hurried selfie-idea her iPhone switched to flabby-face mode! We drove back to HQ and said fairly hurried goodbyes, as Kirsty was already late for returning home.

By the time I got home I had some good-to-meet-yous from my group, and a message from Alan saying how humbled he was by my charming gesture (the card). So he has offered a bottle of homemade blackberry liqueur in the New Year!

Sunday I had a fairly relaxing morning, catching up with a few emails, and in the afternoon headed out for more Christmas shopping. I went to the Banbridge outlet near me and spent an hour or two there, partially successful Christmas-wise – had a good chat with the girl in Thorntons who I think I have seen before. I bought a number of boxes of chocs and I said “They honestly aren’t all for me!” and thus chat ensued. I went in quite a number of other shops, partly also looking for a new hat and gloves to use at my walking group; unfortunately I wasn’t successful with either, part of the problem with me is that I have quite a big head, and with the rug as well then a large proportion of hats do not fit. After all that shopping, and no lunch, some sustenance was called for and so I went to Costa for a mocha and a Christmas muffin; it was very busy but, as with everything else that weekend, I had no bother from anyone.

I headed onwards to Lisburn to get my eyebrows threaded – they were getting untidy, and I had a forthcoming event to get them sorted out for. I parked at Tesco and walked to the shopping mall which was fairly busy. I had my eyebrows done at my usual place, though by a younger girl than usual – on the whole it was fine, it was nice to have the pampering treatment… but she clipped my (wig) hair back and when she had finished the fringe was just unnaturally sticking out everywhere, so I had to hurriedly brush it back in place before paying; I look forward to the day I can go there with REAL hair and not have that bother.

I headed over to my friend Andrea D in Whiteabbey, and had some nice catch-up with her over a cuppa before hurtling home to change and then pick my daughter up from Newry who had had an evening out with her friends; originally I was supposed to pick her up at 5.30 from my ex-, but with her evening out I had several extra hours as ME… so I was fortunate to have that, even if the pain returned as I had to wipe it off and pack it all away. But that won’t be happening much longer…

My Deed Poll Arrived!

This will probably be my shortest post ever on my blog… but I had to put an entry in because, today, I received my deed poll to change my name to Andrea Denise (surname) which is officially dated tomorrow! So, I just need to get it witness-signed (person lined up, time to be arranged with her), then return it and get legal copies done and sent to me… and then I can start informing everyone who I really am! It was GREAT to read it and see my new name in writing, with clauses indicating that I renounce my male name AND my ‘Mr’ title in favour of ‘Miss’. I was SO excited to receive this in the post!

I was also happy to today receive my latest parcel from Wallis, which is addressed to Miss Andrea…

This morning I met my lady in personnel and gave her some information on websites and organisations to contact about employers and transsexual employees, including gires.org.uk (which has great employment guides), TENI (Ireland), and SAIL/Transgender NI. We had quite a nice chat about her trip to New York, and all the clothes shopping she did.

Wednesday just gone I had my typical evening out, though longer than usual as I left earlier from work and so had time to do a good supermarket shop (as I could not get out as Andrea at the weekend), then go to Boots and the loo in Sprucefield shopping centre before having coffee and supper with Kirsty at Costa where we had a good chat until getting thrown out once they were closing. We then went to my support group, where there is a new girl there… and it was quite fun for the two of us to give her some basic being-a-woman lessons – she wanted her photo taken, and her arms and legs were totally wrong. But we have all been there to some extent, so it’s good to help.