My first holiday as 100% me! (Part 5) – A battle at Hastings, trapped in Battle… and mushroom shopping!

Sunday morning, 19th October, was perhaps just a little anti-climatic after I had been crowned Snow Queen the night before… and another late night to bed with too-little beauty sleep did not help matters. So I was on a go-slow that morning getting ready (even more than normal), with bits of make up glitter still visible. It was nearly 9.45 before I deigned to appear at breakfast, and my loyal subjects did not appear to have started without me! ūüôā The waiter appeared to take our breakfast orders, once again I asked for mushrooms with my cooked breakfast and again was apologetically refused. So instead I asked for precisely what I wanted at breakfast – two sausages, one bacon rasher, two poached eggs, one tomato… and by the time the waiter left with his tail between his legs Claire had buried her head in her hands in embarrassment!

Hot on the heels of the Snow Queen theme was another fancy dress event… taking place during breakfast! I’ll sound like a real bitch when I say that I wondered if some of the breakfast attendees were in fancy dress already (another lamp-shade skirt appearance, some dressed far to grandly, etc)… but the morning’s theme was a Onesie Breakfast. Needless to say, my friends I were not taking part, I always associate onesies with children… and when I saw the wonder woman onesie it SO confirmed this was not an event for us… and I tried to ignore the proceedings as best I could, and chatted to my good friends… and we soon agreed our agenda for the best part of the day – to be out and about as much as possible.

After a quick return to our rooms to brush teeth, check face, and ensure contents of handbag sufficient for the day I returned to the lobby… only to be confronted by an assortment of people urgently asking for me, and that I just HAD to see Stacy, the Transliving event coordinator. Uh, but, my friends and I already have plans, how can someone else be planning my day without talking to me?? So I went to Stacy and she said two things had been bothering her – my beard cover and my hair. My hair, uh, what is wrong with it? I know it’s not perfect, but I have been doing pretty well, and my hairdresser helped me with it… so I ignored that part of the discussion, and after a quick demo with her make up product I rushed to my friends, apologised for my lateness, and we were off. Driving along the sea front we passed three girls who were so obviously from our hotel event – they looked SO dreadfully stand-out, especially one in some revealing, lime-green outfit… oh I couldn’t get away from Eastbourne quick enough.

Hastings turned out to be quite a drive… and of course, being a girl, it wasn’t long before I wanted to go to the toilet! So Kirsty stopped at a Starbucks, I confidently strode in and did my business (without doing any monetary business with Starbucks) and we were off again. We parked at a “pay-display” car park at the sea front and soon discovered how windy it was when the ticket that Ruth just bought for the car blew out the window! But eventually we were sorted, and headed in a round about way to a funicular railway that would take us up to the cliff-top from where we could access Hastings castle, hair blowing all over the place… and this was our battle at Hastings, trying to look presentable despite the gusty weather, probably not at the top of the priority-list for the poor soldiers in 1066.

We found the railway station, paid in turn for a ticket, and waited for the next train to arrive. We were soon packed into one of the two little trains with many other similar-minded tourists, and as is almost always the casFunicular railwaye these days we didn’t seem to be attracting any attention. The journey was short, and rather jerky (well, the trains are quite¬†old),¬†and we emerged to witness fine views of the town… but no views of the castle. This seemed rather odd, I had visited¬†the website shortly before our holiday and the site promised a huge, sandy-coloured castle of immense size. We followed some other tourists past a sign for the castle and after a while some paltry ruins became visible, though with no obvious paths to them – in my poor ballet pumps I daintily descended wet, muddy steps, then followed my friends to a dead-end, and then we eventually found the way to the entrance; we had passed a couple of other tourists at the start of the dead-end path, who I told not to bother with the path… though I wasted my breath, but I still turned and beckoned them towards us once we knew where to go.??????????

At the entrance to the castle ruins we paid in turn for tickets, the friendly attendant kindly telling us all the wonderful things we could see for the fee… which turned out to be a few ruined walls, a film theatre/shed… but also tremendous views over the town, its pier, and the coast beyond. We spent about an hour there altogether, including viewing the rather amateurish film detailing the castle’s interesting history, having our hair tossed about by the wind as we wandered amongst the reasonably impressive ruins, and visiting the dungeons… which I found was a good test for our female voices – they really mustn’t boom, and the dungeon echoes were useful for this. Overall, despite the less-than-anticipated castle remains, it was a fun time with friends, and eventually we returned to the car via the descending railway and were on the road again with rumbling tummies.

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Our next tourist destination was the small town of Battle, known for the actual site of the Battle of Hastings (which is probably just an unremarkable field) and Battle Abbey, an imposing building in the centre of the town, both of which we intended to visit. We parked at Battle Abbey car park, a ridiculously expensive tourist trap, and as we started walking we prioritised some lunch as the time was fast-approaching 3.00pm.

Right next to Battle Abbey was a tearoom called the ‘Pilgrim’s Rest’, the quaintest building we had probably seen all holiday – it was a beautiful old timber-framed building, Tudor I presume, with a lovely cottage garden??????????. Inside the character continued, with wooden rafters, a lovely old fireplace, and even a few antique-looking chairs. We took a table in the quieter part of the building and ordered drinks, teacakes, and a scone from a very pleasant waitress. Presently a young lad brought our eats and, just like the chatterbox that I am (now), I commented on what a lovely building it was and asked about the history of it; he obligingly disappeared and returned with sheets for each of us detailing the history of the Pilgrim’s Rest – it turned out that we were eating afternoon tea in a building that was almost 600 years old! I commented that it really was one of the most special buildings I had ever eaten in. After a loo stop (where Kirsty accidentally went to the Gents cubicle – though I have to say they looked quite similar – and Ruth and I sympathised obtusely with her) and a make-up check we left the Pilgrim’s Rest for some sight-seeing…

…only to realise that it was a bit late to make a worthwhile visit into Battle Abbey, especially considering the significant entrance fee. So we spent aDSCN0223 while walking up and down the main street of the town, where almost all of the shops were closed as it was a Sunday afternoon. However, a Co-op local supermarket was open and a thought sprung into my head! If the hotel refused to provide their queen with mushrooms for breakfast, I would provide my own! I’m sorry, call me mad, but I know what I like! Alas the shop only sold large containers of mushrooms, and so I left disheartened… but not beaten.

We returned to the car and drove up to the barrier to leave. A car in front of us stalled and Kirsty laughed at him, and I am sure I said that she shouldn’t laugh because she won’t know what could happen to us. And you know what, it nearly did! Kirsty drove up to the¬†unusual self-payment barrier, and stared feeding numerous coins into it to make up the ridiculous ¬£4.50 fee – she reached ¬£4.00 okay, and then it seemed to just stop accepting anything! Between the three of us we scrabbled around, offering more and more coins with increasing hysterics! After some time Kirsty rejected the whole lot and started again, and eventually we were free!!! My cheeks were dripping with tears, ones of immense fun… and perhaps it was at that time that my mind quickly whizzed through what the three of us had done so far that weekend and truly realised what special girls they are.

On the outskirts of Eastbourne Kirsty filled up with Diesel and then a few minutes later I asked her to stop as I had spotted a little Tesco supermarket that might sell mushrooms. They did, but again only containers, and I really didn’t want to waste. But a hundred yards away was another Co-op which I rushed to… and I was in luck!! Loose mushrooms for sale, so I put three in a bag, paid, and returned jubilantly to the car, with cheers… probably mixed with views that I am slightly mad.

Back at Eastbourne, we decided a belated stroll along the sea front to the pier was overdue, especially as the pier had been badly damaged in a fire a few months earlier. I changed into my ankle boots, and we then took a leisurely stroll along the promenade, and onto the pier. After passing the fire-damaged buildings we arrived at a gift shop, and I decided that I had to get something for my daughter and so we went in… and soon wished that we hadn’t. After some browsing time I found a twee gift that might be suitable for daughter and went to pay… and the woman behind the counter asked in a friendly voice whether we were part of the gathering at the Haddon Hall. Our hearts sank, I could sa??????????y absolutely nothing, and either Ruth or Kirsty muttered something in vague-agreement in response. One of those moments one wishes the Men In Black were around to blank out that memory. Of course we could have said something more constructive, trying to deny we were anything to do with it… but that might become a lie, and I really don’t like lying to people… about anything. But it was so disappointing, because I think the three of us are very passable… especially compared to the three we had witnessed in the morning who may well have visited the pier themselves, so to be linked with them was momentarily soul-destroying. But one thing it did confirm to all of us – it is unlikely that we will ever come to Eastbourne again… because we had already determined that we could have just as a good a time at any other hotel as a small group of friends without any Transgender links, and this was more ammunition for that idea, the desire to just blend in as ordinary women.

We returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner, but before ascending the stairs I asked the barman for his opinion on local pubs because my two friends and I really fancied getting out and about after dinner… especially as the fancy dress theme for the final night was “Military”, which I will say no more about. He advised a few places, including The Dolphin which sounded nice. For dinner I wore a black velvet knee-length dress with a lace panel at the top of my chest and along the arms; I was pretty happy with it… though I wondered if I could have even squeezed into a size 8!

After dinner I changed into a slightly less-posh dress and embarked on another first, a visit to a pub (as Andrea) with friends – in September I had visited pubs on my own for meals, but this was the first time to go just for a friendly drink. How would we get on? We walked for quite a way in our heels – no bother for us girls – and entered The Dolphin, quite a pleasant establishment with some character. It was fairly quiet but there were quite a variety of customers and none of them seemed to find anything untoward with us… and why should they. My friends girls drunk a couple of pints of beer and ales while I alternated from a glass of wine to a bottle of fizzy water… and all too soon it was closing time and, after a nice bit of chat to the barmaid, we walked back to the hotel… and I paused along the way outside a wedding dress shop caught in a daydream for a moment.

The night was still youngWindblown evening at Eastbourne and I think we really wanted to prolong our return to the security of the hotel, so we took a walk to the seafront. I had imagined that the pier would be all lit up, but I was in for a disappointment and so instead we went down to the bandstand to show Ruth where we had had the Snow Queen pictures taken… and our lovely friend took a more casual photo of the two of us herself (see left).

Being the last night, we sat up chatting on and on until around 2.00am, wishing our break would not end; also, as it was the last night, some of the more TV/CD-orientated hotel guests had decided to have a wardrobe blow out… and some of the attire was truly outrageous, something that no proper woman would wear… though it served a purpose as a further reminder as to how I have journeyed far across the TG spectrum.

It had been such a wonderful time there with my two friends, and I knew that it would sadly be an early goodbye to our dear friend Ruth in the morning… even if Kirsty and I would still have further adventures ahead of us…

My first holiday as 100% me! (Part 4) – Snow Queen… and my best princess and lady in waiting

As eluded to in my last update, as day moved into evening on Saturday 18th October a gala dinner beckoned.

As also indicated in a previous post, this weekend away was anchored¬†around a stay at a hotel event organised by online support group Transliving exclusively for Transgender guests. The reason why I originally booked this event, way back in March, was partly to meet friends I had made online and partly the thought of an Andrea-adventure away from home… although as my confidence has subsequently shot sky-high and I have done so much then this weekend really rather mushroomed compared to my original expectations. Another thing that attracted me was the main and, as advertised in March, the only fancy-dress evening, where the theme was Snow Queen – I am really not normally one for fancy dress (and in fact, as an adult, I have only ever done it one other time, where I dressed in a tiger suit… but that is another, irrelevant story consigned to my past) but this rather girlie theme really rather grabbed me, the thought of being able to dress up like a princess truly had me instantly excited!!

(As time went on, other fancy dress themes came up for different nights but they really did nothing for me whatsoever, and I started to think their purpose was to cater more for the TV/CD element of the gathering… and although that is fine for them, it is SO not me – the first theme was Bond Girls, which does not appeal at all if only because of the sex-object nature that it conjures up, while the theme on the last night was “Military”… oh please).

So, back to the Snow Queen theme. Well, as some of you who know me are aware, I generally tend to try my hardest to do everything as perfectly as I can… which is a typical Virgo trait for any of you who believe in astrology… and this approach really had to apply to this Snow Queen theme too – I had no desire or view that I could possibly win such a competition, but I was going to have a good go to come up with an outfit that made me look the part… at least that is what I hoped! I certainly did not want to make a fool of myself. I did not want to spend a fortune on such a costume because I knew I would hardly get much wear out of it… and so, within a day of booking my Eastbourne break, I was already on good old eBay searching for a dress as the base component for my costume. I had an idea what to search under, and it was not long before I saw¬†the exact style that I wanted, in pure white – it was available at the time from two sellers, and so I watched them both, one had a few bids on it and soon enough was out of my grasp, but the next I won! It didn’t take long to ship over, and once I tried it on¬†I j??????????ust KNEW it was right, it felt so special… and my mind was soon spinning with all sorts of ideas as to how to accessorise it – I Googled Snow Queen, which came up with a bewildering assortment of looks, but I zeroed in on the image I wanted, and spent the next few weeks searching¬†for all kinds of things, a jacket, shoes, princess-type gloves, make up, a new bra that wouldn’t peak above the line of my dress, jewellery, snowflake stickers for my nails… and of COURSE a tiara, in my mind every princess must have one of those. I’ll just put a photo here of my shoes, as to paste all the other items will just spoil in-advance the finished look… although if you have been reading Kirsty’s blog then you’ll already know what it is like. So on the whole I managed to get everything well before we went away… although when I started to Google snow queen make up I realised that there were a couple of things I needed… and another idea sprung to mind.

Kirsty and I decided that we would get dressed for dinner as snow queens, because we knew that it would take a while for our transformation into princesses to be completed. And we were SO right. I suppose I should have had a complete practise run with the make up, but I just did not organise myself well enough… so that took an age to do, especially as I decided I would try and glitter-paint a snowflake on my cheek! Once that was done I started getting dressed and once the dress straps were on my shoulders I really started to get excited. That is when I summoned my good lady in waiting, Ruth, as I knew that the zip on my dress was very stiff and I might need help… and it was a good job she came to assist, because even with both of her hands and one of mine it took a wee effort to sort me out. Ruth was prettily attired in a blue dress with a nice subtle pattern and, once I was sorted out, I showed her one or two more components of my costume… and as she left, after gushing comments, that is when the emotions really started to kick in big time! As I donned the final items of my costume – gloves, shoes, finely adjusted my make up and applied lip gloss – I started to get ever so teary-eyed, because there in the mirror staring back at me was a princess! One that I didn’t think looked half-bad at that. And as I slipped into the piece-de-resistance, a lovely fur jacket tied with pompoms, and I looked at myself again I started to cry. I have NEVER dressed, or even LOOKED at myself, and felt so special, and as pretty, as that moment. I was SO overwhelmed with a tidal wave of wonderful emotion… and of course, emotional wreck that I am, I am getting teary-eyed even thinking/writing about it now.

I packed my creamy-white clutch bag with essential items, exited my room, and down the hall at the far end was my lovely BF, looking very elegant in her own dress. As I walked towards her, Ruth exiting her room, a few tears dribbled down my cheek, I was all choked up with emotion and my voice was trembly. Kirsty, with her ever-incredible sense of humour, said “Surely I don’t look that bad?” I assured her that she looked lovely, that it was the special feelings that I had inside, like I was going to my first prom. I only wish that I had a photo of that moment… though it will always remain in my mind, a treasured memory.

(Must pause here to mop cheeks)

Of course, we were late for dinner… again… but why break the habit of a life time, especially as we were snow princesses for the evening. We all daintily entered the dining room, and were slightly alarmed to note that, as far as we could see, there were no other snow queens to be seen. SURELY there must be others competing, as it was the main theme… and as it turned out there were, but they just got changed after dinner, so I think we deserved to get a prize just for the amount of effort we took getting ready! As soon as I sat down I took my fur jacket off, in order for this snow princess to avoid melting in the heat of the hotel dining room, and we commenceEastbourne006edd eating the courses of our gala dinner. I think the word “gala” translated as “having one more course than normal” which was a starter of scampi (which I expect was cooked from frozen), a rather bizarre dish for a gala dinner. Anyway, the food was nice enough, especially my salmon… and luckily I took up Kirsty’s suggestion of using my napkin only minutes before I clumsily dropped some of my dinner on my lap! Here is a photo of the snow princesses at the dining table. As¬†dinner ended I inspected myself in a compact-mirror like all girls do to make sure they still look reasonable… and noticed a minor disaster to my look! My blue glitter eye make up in the heat of the hotel had decided to shift up my eyelids, and I had mascara type flecks above that too!! Quel horreur! So I hurriedly returned to my room to make urgent repairs.

At around 9.00pm there was some vague announcement made that the Snow Queen competition was commencing and so we all headed downstairs to the dance floor where it was to be held. We sat for some time, waiting for things to get organised, and thankfully noticed several other snow queens already on the dance floor, boogeying away… so at least we would not be the only two competitors… and then I started to look at the other costumes and wondered how well we would be judged. Some did look reasonable… and some not, in fact one which I will not describe looked truly dreadful and not remotely queen/princess-like at all. And I suppose it was at that moment that I started to realise that the people in this room were really rather a mixture, not just snow queens but everyone there. I knew that there were some full-time TSs there, and some (such as I) intending to become full-time… and some who were at the very opposite of the spectrum, someone wearing a blue-tinsel wig, another wearing bizarre lamp-shade shaped skirts, others wearing skirts that were far too short, and so on.

The competition was started and the girls on the floor lined up, and so Kirsty and I hesitantly yet hurriedly joined them – I am really not an in-the-limelight kind of girl, and so I suddenly felt dreadfully nervous and somewhat out of place, I had loved getting ready and seeing my finished look… but now I was actually being judged! Kirsty in her blog said that she hated this part… but I soon realised that this would probably be my only opportunity to be involved in a cat-walk type scenario so I gave myself one of those “YOU CAN DO THIS” mental-kicks and I got into the swing of things… but in my own way – some competitors I felt looked rathersnow_queen_crowned¬†odd, with very unladylike walks and brash interaction with the crowd, but my modus operandi is always to be as ladylike as possible and so I walked as slowly and elegantly as I could, with no interaction to the crowd but focussing on the judges and trying to exude confidence and yet at the same time the softness that is simply me. After a few circuits of the dance floor we were all lined up, pictures were taken, and then after quite an amount of judging results announced, in reverse order as is usual. Third was announced, and then second, and I thought those runners up looked reasonable… and then it was ME that was announced as the winner!!! ME!!!

I have NEVER won anything at all in my whole life! To have put so much effort into something, been SO pleased with my resulting look and having felt so special, to actually win this was just unbelievably amazing!!! I walked to the lead-judge, and was handed my prizes, sat on the stage, and had my rather beautiful sparkly tiara replaced by some ridiculous feathery affair not befitting of a queen at all. Chop off their heads, I cry! Not really, of course, but to then hear my name again as the winner just seemed utterly bizarre. There were quite a lot of people taking pictures (annoyingly, NOT the person who had been entrusted with my camera – hmmph) and then the first thing I had to do was rush to my BF and have a big hug… and of course tears were forming again, I was still in utter disbelief. Here are photos, one of me having just been crowned and one of my BF hugging me as I hold one of my prizes, some bubbly, trying to hold the tears back.

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Kirsty and I sat down to catch our breath… and were soon on the dance floor again, for a photo shoot was to be taken… which I initially found rather exciting… until the variety of competitors and poses were truly encountered in all their horror! The first shots were on¬†the fire escape, we were lined up on the stairs leading up to pavement level with me at the bottom. Then we were led to the steps in front of the main hotel entrance – the first couple of shots there were okay… and then we all had to line up showing “a bit of leg”! Uh, excuse me, but we were supposed to be princesses! DEFINITELY not the right type of behaviour, even for ladylike me never mind a queen. There were a few cars driving by, one or two tooted horns or made more than one pass… and that is when things really started going downhill, when one or two of¬†the ‚Äúgirls‚ÄĚ shouted back in such ugly, deep, bellowing tones with such brash responses that I suddenly felt totally out of place and wanted to run off to forever-after-land with Kirsty. Then¬†we were dragged off to Eastbourne bandstand, above the pebbly beach, to get more pictures taken… with yet more loud, manly exchanges between some competitors that just irked me something awful. On the way back we passed a fellow, who I will hopefully not too unkindly describe as simple-but-nice, who said “Hey, you’re all princesses” and kept asking what it was all about; I just couldn’t engage with him.

Near¬†the hotel Alison (photographer) had an idea to take an Abbey Road-style photo of us walking a zebra crossing. As we were standing before the crossing a woman called Sarah approached,¬†walking her Black Labrador Pilot. She entered into¬†some light-hearted conversation and seemed very pleasant, soon¬†asking questions about who we were, what the event was, etc. Once most of us had crossed the road (I was the last) Alison asked Sarah if she wanted her photo taken – she didIMG_2086-2n’t seem sure, so I trotted back to her and, with a friendly word and arm around her shoulder, she seemed more comfortable. Once we were back with the others, some of the guys/girls started going on about how their dressing was a relief, a “chill-pill” (ugh), making it sound like a hobby… OH NO, and as soon as they started to lose interest in the lovely Sarah I HAD to just latch onto her and¬†stress that, unlike those who expressed these trivialised CD/TV-type views, for the likes of me (and Kirsty¬†and Ruth) dressing is such a minute part of the equation, that it is a way of life, that we can only be happy if we are presenting as our true selves because otherwise there is a conflict with our inner gender – we ARE women, and have a desperate need to be so. I ambled slowly back to the hotel steps… and must have stood there with her for nigh on 45 minutes chatting to her – I rushed into the hotel for a minute to get a cigarette for her, but otherwise we talked¬†the whole time, some of it was about my gender-journey towards full transition and happiness, and my worries along the way, but there was also chat about her, she had lost a good friend recently and had just had an argument with her partner who generally seemed rather insensitive – in other words, an archytypal man! Sadly we eventually parted, but the conversation had touched me and I felt we both got something valuable out of it.

I entered the hotel and sat with my friends, with a few blessed moments out of those sky-high heels. After a wee drink Ruth offered to take some photos… and that was the kind of photographer that I wanted, someone friendly who didn’t want racy poses but just nice memory-shots, with gentle encouragement when she felt she was getting a better shot. The one above¬†right is me in my full outfit, feeling relaxed well after the competition was over, and below is one of my BF Kirsty and I, not a full-length shot as Kirsty has that on her blog so I thought I would add some variety here. But all of the photos of us together just flood me with amazingly happy memories… because, Snow Queen Andrea and my princess Kirsty, our friendship and the special¬†times we have are what dreams are made of… and sometimes dreams really can come true!

Fingers crossed that my ultimate dream does too!

Snow queen and princess on steps