Saturday was probably the wettest day of the 2015! It was raining when I woke up, was raining when I put my light off at night, did not stop raining at any point in between, with a maximum temperature of about 6C… in May; such is the climate of Northern Ireland. Luckily my walking group were not meeting up on that day, and so I got up late, pottered around a little as I got ready to go out, and headed for lunch at Belfast as I had arranged to meet up with my hairdresser Paul at the Lee Garden, a Chinese restaurant in the Botanic area of Belfast. I went up the spiral stairs to find Paul at a nearby table, with his partner and a friend called Louise, who I recognised from a charity cake sale several months ago that I had helped out with – our lunch was very good, authentic dim sum starters and tasty main courses… all for only ten pounds a head. For the remainder of the afternoon I shopped, though without excessive spending – I bought several sets of new earrings from Claire’s (at a 50% discount, as that is where my ears were pierced), groceries… with the highlight being a visit to a Peacocks clothing store just outside Belfast, where I managed to find a top in my size that had been sold out in all-but-tent-sizes in my local store, but also when I was paying for it the till froze and so the checkout girl said to her colleague “Can you put this girls stuff through on your till?”… so it was another one of those treasured moments to be nicely addressed with my desired nouns recognising the girl I really am.
Sunday I stayed at home; the main reason for this was a rehearsal for a medical appointment, but I won’t go into that at this point. Quiet days like that sometimes provide moments to ponder… and this was one of those times when I pondered a few things, including my voice. For the last three-and-a-bit months I have used only one voice… and that has been a, somewhat, feminine voice – it is not perfect, though I get by with it, but what is most important to me is that is a voice that I am happy with, finally one that I like the sound of as I hear myself speak and one that matches what is going on inside my wee, girly head. The other thing that struck me is that I cannot remember any more what my old voice specifically sounded like, even if I know it was a fairly monotonic, downbeat-sounding drone, and at this stage I wonder if I could even get that voice back… not that I have any intention of ever requiring it again.
Monday 4th May was May Day, a Bank Holiday in many parts, and was the date for my group’s latest walking event… and what a day to pick weather-wise, as it has turned out it has been the only good, sunny day between prolonged spells of miserable weather. For the first time, I also decided to give someone a lift to a walk – it was longer than usual to get to, and the girl in question I had met once before and recalled having a sizeable amount of nice chat with. Over the previous couple of days I had made arrangements with her by text, and that morning I left home at 9.00 to pick up Jennifer in Belfast and, after a slightly altered pick-up due to the Belfast marathon, we were on our way… and for the next hour and ten minutes had a really good chat until our arrival in Portballintrae on the northern coast of Ireland. After an urgent stop at the Ladies, we met with the rest of the group and soon set off, walking alongside a lovely beach and, at the Giant’s Causeway visitors centre, heading uphill along the cliffs above the Causeway, and onwards for several miles. The walk was simply delightful, with stunning coastline that I had never seen before around every corner, and lots of good chat with several ladies and a couple of guys, some of whom I knew from previous walks while others were new faces. We stopped for a lunch break above some impressive cliffs with basalt columns, then headed on for a while, to even more impressive views. Eventually we turned around and headed back, I chatted for a while with the group leader, who knows I am a transsexual woman, and she gave me advice about labour-relations boards if I have issues with my HR department about taking time off for appointments for the significant, life-changing (but, for me, fulfilling) medical condition that is gender dysphoria. Then I chatted to another lady who I had met only once or twice before, called Margaret – after a while she asked me “What brought you to Northern Ireland? Was it work or a man?” A man!!! So she, a genetic female, thinks I am one too!!! And inside my head I think that I am as well… but of course there are certain physical abnormalities that still need to be taken care of. At that point the walking group split up, an some of us, including me, took steep steps down to the Giant’s Causeway itself – for those of you not familiar with Irish folklore, this volcanic rock formation is the legendary remains of a causeway built by the giant Finn MacCool who had been challenged to a fight by a giant in Scotland. Although the rock formation is quite impressive, it is dreadfully over-crowded compared to where we had previously walked, and consequently less enjoyable… but I did have a nice chat with Jim who organises walks for another group. Back at Portballintrae we indulged in our traditional snack of scones and jam with tea and coffee, then Jennifer and I split, and walked back to the car.
Rather than head straight back, I had suggested in advance to Jennifer that we could do one or two other local attractions if there was time, and she was still agreeable for doing that and so that is what we did – first of all we drove through Bushmills, renowned for whisky distilling, and to the pretty little harbour at Ballintoy, where some early portions of episodes of Game Of Thrones were filmed. After a walk along the harbour wall, we carried on to Kinbane Castle ruins, situated on a rocky arched promontory at the bottom of a cliff that we walked down to along a wild flower lined path. Then it was time to head home, and drop Jennifer off as she had nine cats to feed! (She was baby-sitting eight of them).
So a pretty good weekend, with Monday obviously being the highlight in so many ways; it would be nice if it turned out that I have made a new friend from that day.