If I cast my mind back to October of last year I have fond memories of a long weekend away with my best friend Kirsty where we met a dear lady called Ruth at a transgender-support-group-specific weekend event… except that the fond memories are of the times that we spend as a threesome, out and about, doing real-world, every-day, touristy type things, shopping, and a drink at a local hostelry; a primary purpose of that weekend was to challenge ourselves, and relish having a long period of time away from home as our true selves the whole time… and that we indeed did, as numerous blog posts at that time attest. We had said tearful goodbyes to Ruth, with suggestions and hopes of meeting up again…
…and this is what happened mid-May 2015. Being a first-time novelist I had fancied going on a research trip, to Hull of all places, to refresh memories of this city which is the main base for much of my novel’s events… and as Hull happens to be within an hour and a half of Ruth’s home-city then it seemed a good idea to combine the two and meet our lovely friend again, with Kirsty along too for good company enabling our second getaway adventure together. In some respects, this vacation is of more significance to Kirsty as she is alas not able to live full-time as her true self, whereas I am into month four of a wonderful new life; but in some respects there were a few firsts for me too… such as this being my first holiday living full-time as a woman, my first trip away carrying my own, female passport (not that I had to show it), and so on. Overall we had a great time… albeit that as I seem to be permanently deficient of sleep owing to persistently awful sleep patterns, and thus half the time only part-Andrea and part-zombie, then I fear I was a bit of a moody cow for some of it and at times not vocal enough with my own desires.
Anyway, following on from my previous blog post, Kirsty arrived at my house on the night of Thursday 14th May and we were instantly filled with excitement; the next morning we set off at around 9.45 in the morning… and alas I soon became travel sick, as I often was in younger years, though not enough to bring up my breakfast. At Belfast ferry port we swapped car seats, and I drove us to the ticket barrier as the ticket was in my name and then onto the Stena Lines ferry where we ascended several floors to our Premier Class lounge and grabbed a couple of seats at the front of the ship. The crossing took about two and a half hours… and alas I felt sea-sick for much of it – I went shopping to try and take my mind off it, and did buy some perfume after much sampling and a necklace, but then had to go on deck for fresh air… where a mid-fifties Scotsman came out and asked me if I was okay.
Once off the ferry we embarked on our lengthy journey to Leeds, which took around four and a half hours – we stopped at a town called Gatehouse Of Fleet for some fresh air, where we viewed an old mill, avoided a kilt-making centre (a tiny building with the frumpiest-looking design show-piecing in the window), and went into a higgledy-piggledy nick-nack shop where, after a bit of looking around, the shopkeeper said “Can I help you girls?” and then proceeded to do a dreadful-sell of the ‘café’ there; after a loo-stop, we set off again (driving past a car with a bag of potatoes on its roof – obviously a local custom)… and at about 8.15pm arrived at the house of Ruth’s significant other-half ‘Kate’… who was out when we got there. Ruth greeted us with big hugs and much excitement, and showed us to lovely bedrooms within Kate’s beautiful house. After some catch-up we sat at the kitchen table and were served up some very nice stew… and about halfway through eating, Kate arrived home from band practise – she plays the saxophone… rather better than she claims. During chat in the kitchen, finishing off our food, and subsequently some delicious chocolates with cherries, it soon became clear what a lovely, accepting, and down-to-earth lady Kate is. We went to bed after midnight, and although I had a comfortable bed I suffered a dreadful night of sleep – new bed, drunken people outside returning from the pub, pigeons waking me up at 4.00am… such is me, the light-sleeper of the party.
Saturday’s agenda was to include a trip to Leeds centre followed by a visit to a historical abode. We had a rather too-leisurely breakfast, such that a planned appointment for me to Yorkshire Building Society to change my name with them did not materialise… though it is difficult to tear oneself away from the breakfast table with scrummy home-made bread and jam on offer. As Leeds is the city of the owl, I wore my owl earrings – the first non-stud earrings I have worn in my pierced ears. We eventually got to Leeds centre just after midday, and headed to the banking quarter where I was able to go to another bank to change my name on a credit card, then joined my two friends to do a bit of shopping in a very busy city centre where I don’t recall anyone paying us any attention; I was rather proud of my self-restraint in only buying a single item of clothing, a lovely dress half-price in the Debenham’s sale, considering the grand selection of shops in the city. We all had an upmarket panini for lunch at the café of a Leeds gallery which is furnished in grand style; on a trip to the ladies, I had a quick look at a few paintings, where I did see quite a nice landscape in France, but most of the portraits did nothing at all for me… and frankly seeing pictures of women sprouting breasts I find rather degrading. In the afternoon we went to Harewood House, a splendid building with beautiful gardens… and a ludicrously steep entry price, £10.50 each for only the gardens!!! We had a lengthy walk around the grounds… and I was sure glad I talk my coat, because a couple of hours later I was frozen! The first area we went to was the bird cages… and I suppose, typical zoo-like arena, half of the poor things either had too-little greenery or two small-a-cage; there some quite unusual species though, including a bird that looked like it had an egg growing on its head, poor thing… and it was quite unusual to see flamingos in Leeds!! We also watched a red kite diving for fish in the lake. Then we had a walk along part of the lake and into some really beautiful Himalayan gardens, with hundreds of beautiful primulas, a little pagoda-type structure, a wooden bridge… and some tall stepping stones across the lake’s outlet, a challenge in itself, that Ruth passed with ease, I crossed on my little legs with some trepidation… but Kirsty could not manage this death-defying test. Once back at the lake we passed some beautiful carpets of bluebells, and then went onto the formal gardens of the house itself… which included an out-of-place modern sculpture of a naked male that I just could not look at. Back at Kate’s house we had tea/coffee and Kirsty’s yummy brownies… though it did not spoil our appetite for our meal out at a Loch Fyne restaurant – we had a nice evening out, and it made a change to be able to drink some wine dining in the company of my BF…. but the meal itself was a bit disappointing, with a knife dropped in Kirsty’s lap, burnt toast with my lobster bisque, a fish pasta with too much seasoning, etc…. but it rounded off a pretty grand day out.