After last weekend, when I was working the whole time, I was determined to do a variety of things this weekend… and indeed the weekend was very varied, in more ways than one.
(Warning – this is one of those diary-type posts, albeit with a number of observations, so if you don’t like those types of blogs then you may not like this post)
Saturday, as every other Saturday is for me, was in my walking group’s schedule for an event, and the morning did not disappoint. Alas, after 12 concurrent days of work, I was a bit weary and disorganised… and for a start did not register in my poor little head the time of the walk, so I hurtled away from home, and then a couple of minutes later pulled off the road to check… and discovered that I was leaving half an hour early!!! So I returned home to potter around… and then left late, and got to the venue slightly after the 10.30 scheduled time. The walk was up Cave Hill, above Belfast city, and as usual it is amazing how close we were to the city and yet it soon felt like we were in the middle of the countryside. I met a number of familiar faces, and one or two new ones, and had some nice chat most of the way round; it was slightly disappointing though that the group of 55+ people became so split up after a while, with the walk leader seemingly oblivious. Towards the end of the walk I met Kerry and Paula, who I have seen loads of times, and back at the starting point I got in my car and, after rescuing my hair with my woolly hat removed, followed them to the post-walk venue for scones and tea… and super-scrummy scones they were too, lovely and warm with cream and jam; I chatted to Kerry, Paula, and a couple of new girls and, once everyone was departing, I got clothes from my car and changed into shopping-chic.
Saturday afternoon I was to meet up with Kirsty but, in advance of her being available, I did some shopping, specifically on a mission for some comfortable work shoes… and Clarke’s seems closest to fitting the bill; after some time trying on a number of shoes, Kirsty arrived and, as usual, it was nice to see the cheery face of my BFF; after paying for a pair of shoes and ordering a couple more, we left. After a stop at TK Maxx, we went onto a meeting of Gender Essence – I was in two minds whether to go or not, but in the end my curiosity got the better of me, and I accompanied Kirsty; I was hoping that maybe there would be some useful transition-talk relating to my circumstances…but it all turned out to be a dreadful disappointment. Apart from Kirsty and I, there were only three other girls (Adrianne, who I know from Belfast Butterfly club, Keira, who organised this GE meet, and a nice but quiet girl called Fay(e)) and although they are all nice enough, it was all just light chat, stuck in a safe closeted room, a totally non-RLE situation… that I do not intend to repeat. At 4.50 Kirsty gave me a gentle signal about leaving, and I gave a slight nod and slowly put my coat on… but it appears as though the two of us were not synchronised and Kirsty did not follow suit. So I headed off by myself and, after stopping at a couple of shops, returned to my car, and drove to my next venue, not to far away.
I had arranged an evening with my lovely new friend Lynda (who did my pre-RLE hair-removal last year), a meal followed by a concert. We met where I had parked, and walked to our restaurant venue, a classy place called Cocos – the interior is very upmarket. Lynda said ‘deep breath’ as we went inside… but I didn’t need to, I’m living as me, and it’s rare that I am not confident, so I walked to the bar when the guy said “Can I help you ladies?”, gave my name, and we were led to our table and given menus. We ordered from a ‘pre-theatre’ menu, with selections sounding very appetising without being pretentious; alas the restaurant was rather noisy, dominated by a group of eight alpha-males who should have gone to a noisy bar rather than a classy pace like Cocos. Lynda and I chatted, catching up, though it was difficult for her to hear my soft voice at times… and after we had consumed starters Lynda found out that if I am not happy about something then I complain about it!!! I beckoned a waitress over, complained about the noise, and we were soon allowed to move by the manager to a quieter table, with profuse apologies from him. The rest of the meal was much better… and the food was lovely – my starter was the most delicious pasta I have ever had (penne pasta with a creamy sauce, pancetta, pear, and parmesan) followed by the most succulent chicken and a lovely potato gratin; despite the noise-incident, the whole dinner was delightful – we were addressed as ‘ladies’ several time… though of course because I was with Lynda, a biological woman who is certainly very much a lady, then this was perhaps obvious. Time was marching on and so dessert was skipped and we walked onto our next venue, the Ulster Hall, that has recently been decorated inside and looks lovely. The concert we went to was a classical music one, the first I have been to in over 15 years… and it was such an immense joy for me – it was something I had wanted to do as ‘Andrea’ last year, but that did not happen as I did not want to go on my own and a potential friend disappointed, but now I am lucky enough to have Lynda to be friends with so I had someone to go with who appreciates the music. The program consisted of four pieces, the highlights being a Strauss horn concerto (with the soloist being a very talented guy who produced the smoothest notes) and the finale which was Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, a collage of beautiful melodies that all tell wonderful stories with such emotion and increasing dynamics – this piece was my first introduction to classical music, at school at the age of 11… only a couple of years before I began to realise that something was a little different about me… and, so for this piece to be the first that I ever see live as my true self, was very emotional and as the final melody drew to a close my eyes were wet and a tear or two dribbled down my cheeks. The performance was brilliant, and the whole evening was fabulous. Once outside I took Lynda in my car to where she was parked, as I did not want her to walk in the dark by herself, and then we parted with a hug; I drove home, for a change in silence because I had echoes of the wonderful classical concert in my head that I did not want to dilute.
Sunday I planned to stay at home, and that is exactly what I did, so I didn’t bother cleaning all my make up off – this is the first weekend at home where I have presented as Andrea (as I will always do from now on) when I have not gone out on any day… and that is because, now that I am living full-time, then I don’t need to constantly go out any more! Nearly every day I am now out, mixing with generally hundreds of people (or maybe more), living all of my life as me knowing that the next day I will continue to do so, and so after a hectic time at work it was time for this girl to chill, and to catch up with things at home a bit.
I got up around 10.00am, patched up my make-up, and decided to experiment a bit with eye and lip colours… but after an amount of trying and wiping, I really decided that nothing much else suits me apart from what I normally use. After breakfast I rang my parents for our third chat post-news… and it was great – I maintained a reasonable girlie voice with them the whole time and we talked fine and light-hearted… even if my mum used my old name once, although immediately corrected herself. They said it was lovely talking to me at the end… and a few minutes later I rang my mum back to get some gardening advice, and she had had a bit of a cooking disaster and was very giggly at the other end of the phone.
I spent several hours in the garden, mainly tidying up and pruning… but I was struck by the difference in the way I felt since the last time I did this, because now I was full-time and what was there to worry about if one of my neighbours saw me in the garden, because the girl who they may have seen before is now a permanent fixture and the ‘male’ that they thought lived there does not exist. I finished off only a minute or two before a fierce hail storm, and then pottered around, emailing, painting my nails, cleaning my bathroom, cooking a fruit crumble… lots of every-day (and probably boring-sounding) things, and yet all done as part of a now-happy life, where nearly everything done I have a spring in my step… even if the weekend feels too abruptly short.
P.S. as an after thought, I have today had two messages from women in my meetup group, one about another walking group she is in…. and one from another woman for a recipe for pear and almond scones! What girlie fun! ☺