The last time I met my friend Tim, who I have known now for 29 years, was in late-2012 – at that time I was rather fat, rather unhappy… and rather male-looking, at least to him, even though by that time I had recognised my gender dysphoria for exactly what it was, even if I had not decided upon the name of Andrea a few months after that. Now, of course, things are a little different – I am 10 inches thinner in the waist, and much happier… now living as my true female self Andrea. As per my posts in January, when I wrote to Tim and told him about the real-me, informing him that his old friend would be starting to live full-time as a woman within a few weeks and I hoped he would still want me as a friend, he was immediately accepting… and in letters and emails since then we agreed and planned a long weekend together, and the weekend right at the end of this May was the one that was agreed upon.
I packed for my four-night break away with Tim during the week leading up to it, and on Saturday morning got ready and packed the last few things. With a bit of time to spare before my train, I popped to my nearby shopping outlet and bought a pair of waterproof ladies walking trousers, wanting to be kitted out well as my friend is an avid walker. At 11.30 I lugged my bag onto the train and began my journey; I guess it seems a bit ludicrous that my bag weighed 21 kilos, considering that I was only going away for four nights… but a girl likes to be prepared for all eventualities, and have a choice of outfits too. As is typical of UK rail networks, weekend rail travel is beset by disruption and substitutions, and so the train that arrived was a tiny thing with standing room only… though thankfully at the next station there was a relief train that would leave a few minutes later, so I boarded that. As Tim is a vegetarian I had visions of consuming a meat-heavy lunch when I got to Dublin, but because of the travel disruption, by the time I had bought my rail ticket there was no time to do more than walk to the correct platform and board the local DART service to take me to my destination south of Dublin, a coastal town called Greystones… which I arrived at almost an hour later. Once out of the station I sat on a seat and waited – a couple of texts went backwards and forwards and, after a bit of confusion, Tim appeared around the corner and said “Andrea, there you are!”… so even though he had only seen one photo of the new-me, back in January, he still recognised me. I followed him to his car, hefted my bag onto the back seat, and then we drove to a nearby supermarket to stock up with supplies for the next few days… which soon served to highlight to me just how expensive groceries are in Ireland. We drove nearly an hour to our cottage, outside a place called Larragh and near the tourist hotspot of Glendalough, in the Wicklow mountains. The cottage owner showed us around the cottage and, after we unpacked a few things and I had gone round to the owner to get a spare mirror for my bedroom to do my make up, Tim and I settled in, had dinner, chatting non-stop the whole time… and even though in some ways I am very different now (especially looks-wise… and inner-gender-wise, of course) things between us didn’t seem that different from before, even if an amount of the conversation centred around my transition.
The weather forecast for Sunday was not good… though it turned out to be generally dry with an amount of sun, good-enough weather for an outing I had been looking forward to for a long time, to Glendalough. It is known for its monastic ‘city’ with a tall round tower, though it soon became apparent that there was a stunning amount of scenery in the area. Over breakfast Tim got my name wrong for the only time during my stay, which is pretty good going, and he immediately said “I KNEW I would do it!” We parked in the main car park, then crossed the nearby river and made a quick stop at the ‘city’… which was little more than a church, a graveyard with the impressive tower in it, and one other ruined building; around the tower were quite a large number of tourists so I kept my distance, took a few photos, and then we headed on, soon walking along the shore of the lower lake, with some very picturesque scenery. Not too far beyond that was the much large upper lake, with very choppy water and blustery winds; luckily I had seen sense to put my hair into a little pony tail. We walked along the far shore of the upper lake to a ruined and thus disused mining village, the purpose of which many years ago I assume was for ‘harvesting’ the immense boulders there and reducing them to more manageable sizes for construction purposes elsewhere. We paused there for a little snack, then started to ascend the mountainous area beyond that, climbing several hundred metres, passing impressive waterfalls, often admiring the impressive scenery behind us. At the top of our main climb on a plateau we crossed the river and, after a picnic lunch sheltering from the wind behind a rock, we carried on, across a board walk over bog land… where two unexpected things happened, firstly a short hail storm which we were caught in, and secondly shortly after that a deer crossed the path right behind us, soon bouncing off like Bambi! Sun soon arrived again for the rest of our walk, as we returned to the lakes, albeit separately owing to differing photo stops and my loo break where I had to find a discreet place to squat (too much detail I know, but Ruth loves a loo-mention), and when I caught up with Tim he said “I was thinking to myself, I bet that is what she’s up to”… so it was nice to hear him thinking of me as ‘she’; we returned to the cottage rather tired, after 8 miles of walking. I have posted a number of my photos from this walk, and the rest of our break, on my flickr page andrealough34… if anyone is interested.
Monday was a very wet day, raining from 8.00am for literally twelve hours, so no walking was feasible, only a drive around, and a visit to an old mill… with some very frumpy clothing products and dreadfully tacky Irish souvenirs! At lunch time on the way back to the cottage we stopped at a restaurant called the Wicklow Heather that I had found highly-rated on Google/Tripadvisor and booked a table there for the evening, and the woman said “I look forward to seeing you later”, which was nice. As it turned out this place turned out to be somewhere lacking in gentlemanly behaviour towards a woman (well, me anyway) – firstly, as I was about to exit the place after making my booking a Chinese couple were coming in and the husband behind his wife barged through before I could exit, and secondly my friend did not seem the gentleman either with me that evening… but then again being with me now as Andrea is very new to him so maybe it is nothing more than that. The food turned out to be very good in both of our opinions, and the waitress did address me as ‘madam’ at one point, which as usual I liked. We exited the restaurant to thankfully dry weather and drove beyond our cottage to a waterfall at the end of the valley, in anticipation of increased flow due to all the rain… and we were not disappointed. Back at the cottage we chatted again, and I had an overwhelming feeling that there I was, a soft, girlie-girl, talking to a guy… the way it always should have been.
The next day the weather was better, and we did a long walk around the Devils Glen, a steep river valley a few miles south west of our cottage. The walk was rather badly sign-posted, and we ended up walking rather more than we should have done, but eventually we managed to get to a pleasant river, with flower-lined pathways, and reached a waterfall at its end. Leaving at around 3.00 there was still plenty of the day left so, after a small food shop, we drove a long loop around two lakes and into the depths of the Wicklow mountains experiencing some lovely scenery, but also very changeable weather, with icy winds, sun, and short rain showers.
On the final day, once I had packed, we visited Powerscourt, a large country house (which, oddly, it is not possible to experience its interior apart from some modern, over-priced shops and a cafe) with splendid gardens which we explored at length, the highlight being the immensely beautiful, and authentic, Japanese Gardens. We lunched at the terrace café inside the house, which has a good range of tasty treats… although I had to complain about my hot chocolate, which was cold. After a further garden-walk, past Italian Gardens and the walled garden, we visited the shops (with very expensive clothing that I could not persuade myself to buy) on the way to the car. With time left before my planned train home we did a forest walk and a lakeside walk, then Tim dropped me at Greystones railway station where we said farewells – I thanked him for a lovely weekend, and he said it was good to meet me…
…but I departed feeling a bit down emotionally – the weekend DID go well, to me we seemed to get on very similar to how we have always done, but I have no idea at all what he thinks of the new-me… and, being a girl, it would have been nice to have just one compliment during our meet-up. But does it matter what he thinks of me? Provided I am happy with myself, and we are getting on as friends, that is the main thing.
On the first train home I finally connected to wifi, for the first time in days, and fond an email from my daughter’s counsellor with a draft of a letter that she was about to send to my daughter following my visit with her, so I suggested one or two small changes. On the express train home I struggled a bit with my bag, and a guy said “take your time” as I held him up getting on the train, and then offered to help me with my bag, which was nice… and finally felt like I was being treated like a lady for a moment.