Opinions on my Progress

Since the events of my last post life has been somewhat better, with several health appointments attended related to my transition almost 18 months ago to a happy-me… as well as an unremembered, but rather important, anniversary, which in terms of chronology is the first thing to mention – a year last mid-May was when my hormones were approved by the head consultant of the Northern Ireland GIC, which therefore means that I have completed my GIC-dictated Real Life Experience (RLE)! That anniversary meant that the next path of my journey in theory became available…  surgery! However, for the gate to that path to be opened, I was required to attend not one but two GIC appointments, called First and Second Opinions – these are where I am interviewed by gender specialist consultants to ascertain how I have progressed, if I am ready for the contemplation of surgery, and if I pass certain qualifying criteria.

Prior to me attending my First Opinion the GIC requested that they call someone at work (rather late in the day) to check things have gone okay… but also in a kind of big brother style to confirm that I have every day been turning up for work as Andrea, and not cheating. I arranged that they would call my boss, who expressed a preference for someone from Human Resources to also be on the call, so I asked for the lady I came out to first of all in HR to help – to cut a long story short, the call I gather was rather short, and all went very well.

My First Opinion appointment at GIC was on Tuesday 17th May. It was with a consultant I met one time previously, about 18 months ago, with my therapist there too. The consultant essentially went through what has happened since she last saw me – acceptances (or not, as remains the case with my daughter and brother), full-time living, work, friends, my social life, and so on, and the conversation was all very positive… and that is because that is how transition has been for me, I miss my daughter but it is what it is and there’s just no point in dwelling on it, otherwise all is good. She then asked “So how do you feel now?” and the first word that sprouted from my mouth was “Happy”… because that is finally how I truly feel about my life – ups and downs aside – where every day I feel right about myself. She also said I look very different now… and not just my own hair, so those in the know obviously notice the physical changes… and perhaps mental ones too.

My Second Opinion appointment at GIC was the Friday of that week and was in a somewhat similar vein to the first one… except that it was with someone I had never met before, a Dr Khoosal from Leeds. Perhaps I should have been a bit nervous, but not at all, no need to be when I’m simply being me… and Dr Khoosal was also very down-to-earth too. The nature of the conversation was very similar to the First Opinion really, except it also covered aspects of my early life too, when I first realised about my true self, and “why now”. All went well, and I expected that I’d be hearing back in perhaps a week or two about how things went… but there and then he said “Well I consider it a positive result” and so we shook hands, and I went off with my therapist to talk about the next steps… to eventual surgery! It won’t happen quickly, if only because of the admin, and application for funding, but that’s fine because there is plenty to think about with different options to consider… mainly, for me, muddled due to my intense loathing of the bits and pieces I was unfortunately born with which alas has almost resulted in me having such a phobia to them such that I want nothing to do with them in any way. To celebrate overcoming my latest hurdle I decided to treat myself to afternoon tea at M&S, brought to me by two waiting staff, followed by some clothes shopping… where my credit card was helped by a kind lady stopping me and offering a 20% off voucher.

The next day I met up with Kirsty in the afternoon for more shopping, mainly just a few pairs of trousers for work to accommodate my somewhat expanded girth (HRT, and perhaps chocolate, assisted) and also a pair of Sketchers trainers which, so far, have been probably the most comfortable pair of footwear I have bought. Then we went to dinner at a restaurant I have wanted to go to for, literally, AGES… and it was well worth the wait, the Mourne Seafood restaurant turned out to be splendid – I had a dreamy mackerel pate, a good sea bream main course, and a lovely chocolate fondant. The night was still young and we headed off to the cinema, where Kirsty had booked the only two tickets in what turned out to be a pretty packed cinema to see Our Kind Of Traitor, a pretty good spy thriller with the ever-present over-proliferation of unnecessary foul language but otherwise reasonable entertainment.

All in all, a pretty successful and good period… and feeling now closer to my ultimate destination.

Month NINE As a Full-time Woman – WWF, My Neighbour… and An Eight Month Challenge Over

As per my previous blog post, it is over a month since I posted. Part of that is due to ongoing apathy over posting – as written in my replies on other blogs, I have considered stopping these posts, wondering what the point in me continuing them really is, for my life is pretty damn normal and perhaps not that exciting to many. But then again, maybe that is a reason to post, at least for those who are following a similar path to me but are further behind and perhaps apprehensive, to illustrate just how normal this new life can potentially be, and if you work hard to put the building blocks in place then it really can be very rewarding. As usual, there’ll be a bit of diary stuff here, but I’ll get a couple of things out of the way first in respect of the title.

I wonder what you are thinking my “Eight Month Challenge” is? Is it anything to do with my transition perhaps? Have I given the transition idea up for any reason? Hell no, I can’t imagine me living life any other way… and it’s so difficult to imagine how I ever did, especially for so long. No, the eight month challenge (which started out as six months) was to not wear the exact same outfit to work on any day – well, I did it! When I first went full-time I wondered whether I had a sufficiently-sized wardrobe of clothing – well, it would seem as though I have… although, as I write, I am still in the process of enlarging my miniscule autumn collection!

WWF? No, this is not, as my BFF joked, the ‘World Wrestling Federation’, but the online game ‘Words With Friends’. For any of you who don’t know it, it’s very much like Scrabble… except with a few tiny variations so that Scrabble makers can’t sue them! Anyway, I’ve been playing this for months and months, with an assortment of people, some friends and the remainder random players from around the world, primarily in UK, Ireland, and USA. For all those months I have not as yet mentioned it in my blog… and so what has changed? Well, there is a chat facility on the game, for those that wish to communicate with other players… and I have had some guys chatting to me! And it’s been rather fun!! Mainly, it’s been a bit of an education as to the different types of guys that are out there (not just in WWF-land, but the world in general) for a potential single lady like me to be matched against… and some of them are rather unpleasant to me, such as the lager-swilling guy whose fourth question to me was “yer married then?” and subsequently went on to describe his interests as “football, going out with mates, and sex” – uh, goodbye, low-life!! But I have also met on there quite a nice softie of a guy too!! Now I don’t think he is relationship material for me, but we get on really well with our chatting and we have lots of laughs, every night he wishes me sweet dreams followed by the emoji blowing a kiss, and probably the best thing is that when I am down he is really good at cheering me up and putting a smile on my face. He doesn’t know about my gender history, as yet, and that is because he doesn’t need to – he recently described me as “an intelligent posh lass way out of his league”, well, he perhaps does himself a disservice, but I quite liked that. Last month in one of his messages he termed me “super minx” (I’m not sure whether that’s good or not) and that he “takes my excessive chatting for granted as I’m a woman”… which I suppose is a compliment to the fact that, not only do I try my best to look the part, but also I come across as the woman that I am just from my written chat. I have more recently started chatting to another guy, so far things are going nicely enough, though I wonder if WWF is more a weekday pastime while he is working away from home; anyway, have had some interesting chat.

Throughout the month my voice has been a problem to some disagree, due to what I consider is an ongoing medical issue for which I am soon going to ENT to be checked.

Onto a few diary highlights… or lowlights in some cases:

October 2nd

A lowlight, a farewell lunch for my PM – he took his team, of which I am the technical delivery manager, out to a great Japanese restaurant… and he got a wee bit tipsy! This wasn’t his last day, but the farewell aspect was a bit sad, he’s been a really great PM and a very supportive person to me on my journey… and, as I write, I miss him.

October 3rd

A Saturday, meeting my hairdresser and one of his friends. Firstly I went to his salon and he took a look at my hair, not my wig but my real hair growing underneath it… and, wow, he is impressed and says in 2-3 months he should be able to do something with it! Yippee!! He trimmed the ends at the back, and also the fringe, and had a go with his hot irons… and it looked very promising. We then met up with his friend at a café near the Ulster Museum and had a lovely lunch with lots of fun chat; a couple of hours later I went into the museum with his friend to view an exhibition of paintings of victims of the troubles in Northern Ireland – the accompanying stories were, to say the least, harrowing.

October ??th

At some point during this week I wrote a reference for my PM who is leaving… and nearly cried as I thought about him going!

October 10th

Had a fun meetup walk with my group, after which we went to the Hillside Garden Centre for lunch (with ridiculously slow service but good food) followed by shopping for some of us – I said goodbye to some of the group who left after lunch, and entered the plant area, presently a couple of ladies from the group came up to me and asked if I would like to walk around with them? Of course I would!! The browsing probably took twice as long, but it was enjoyable, and one of the ladies kept referring to the other one and me as “ladies”… which is how I like to think I am. Later I met Kirsty at Costa… though it took an amount of convincing her to have another coffee, this time with her supposed best friend!! Grr…

October 11th

The event on this day is another reason I finally got around to writing this post…. because it fills in a hint in a reply to a comment on the previous one… as my neighbour had a long chat with me again, and THIS time I did get around to telling him that I used to live life as the guy that he used to know, even though that wasn’t really me at all – to cut a long story short, he said “as long as you’re happy”, and he wouldn’t spread gossip; we probably had the longest, and most rewarding chat, in our acquaintance. He thought he was a sister… which is an implicit compliment.

October 12th

Today I bumped into two women who met the new-look, improved, happier me for the first time. One was a girl who used to work for me several years ago who has returned to the company, the other is a lady who went on maternity before the news of me came out; she said “you look super!” J

October 16th

My latest laser hair removal session. Ouch!

October 24th

I had probably the most challenging walk ever with my group, to a mountain called Slieve Gullion near Newry. The trek up to the top was fine, I even joined a splinter group that took a more difficult route up which was fine… but at the top it was blowing a gale and I was absolutely freezing, then we descended the far side and passed through much water-logged bog land and ended up with water sloshing around in my hiking boots! Ugh!! The group split up again owing to a disagreement over us being lost, my splinter group made it back to the starting point first (yay), but it was hard work, wading through acres of heather and uneven ground. Later the remaining walkers arrived, one lady who I chat to quite regularly looked exhausted and came up to me and said “Thank goodness, a friendly face – I need a hug”! Ahh! Later I went out for dinner with Kirsty and Michelle… and for the life of me, I can’t even remember where we went, such is my commuting-weary head. Oh yeah, Deanes in Belfast – nice enough, but overpriced.

DSCN0967e

October 26th

My latest gender clinic appointment… which I suppose was okay on the whole, except for insensitive comments about the approach to voice after I told my therapist about my throat issues, she said something along the lines of “why don’t you go back to using your normal voice, most transsexuals do once they are accepted”! To me she is just totally missing the point, perhaps several – to ME, the voice that I have now sounds normal to me and for who I am, I absolutely loathed the sound that used to come out of my mouth that I heard in my head and in any case it would be totally wrong for me and would inhibit passing.

October 31st

A day of shopping, and packing for my latest holiday… which I will write about in my next post. I am just mentioning the shopping, for walking accessories, because I enjoyed the “Do you need any help madam? Would you serve this lady? Would you like some socks on special offer madam?”

So that’s the latest month of my full-time life and RLE, all pretty normal despite being plagued with voice and throat problems. For someone who is considering curtailing her blog posting, I have written quite a lot! Thanks to anyone still reading!

Weeks 32-35 As a Full-time Woman – September 2015… and Silence Is Not Always Golden

It’s getting on for being nearly halfway through October and I haven’t posted about anything since my Slovenian holiday that occurred in the latter half of August. One of the reasons for this is that, on the whole, life has just been rather normal – not dull or unexciting, although I have had some weeks at work where I have had no break from the work-commute routine, just everything ticking along nicely. However, the other reason is that my mood has been all over the place, with some very low moments… and that is because in mid-September I hurt my throat muscles and practically lost my voice for several days, and even now I am only in recovery-mode from this with hospital appointments for it on the horizon. Hence the title of this post, because I have been much quieter than is usual for my new, happy self… and this silence has NOT been golden but downright depressing.

Sunday 6th September

At just after midday I met up with Charley, a uni-student that I met at my local trans* support group some time ago in 2014, and had brunch at a place called Jenz – we had a nice chat and it was good to see her after her summer away, the food was okay too, my panini was nice… although Charley’s cooked breakfast bun just looked half-heartedly thrown together. I headed onto Queen’s Uni to a Meetup to view an art exhibition by Julian Friars – some of the wildlife paintings were stunning, one or two almost 3D like. Later I met Kirsty for coffee at Caffe Nero.

Monday 7th September

Back to work after my hols. Aggghhhhhhhh.

Tuesday 8th September

My birthday, and my first birthday spent living 24/7 as the real me… and a year older! But what a year it’s been! I had some lovely birthday cards, including one from my brother which said “To Andrea”, the first, and only so far, time he has used my new name. My daughter wished me happy birthday by email, but no card. The day after I celebrated my birthday, and those of my friends, with a nice meal at The Plough.

Weekend of 12th/13th September

On the Friday my parents arrived from Wales… and within a quarter of an hour my mum squeezed my breasts! Why she thought they might have grown to full size in two months I don’t know…. much as I wish they had done. On the Saturday morning once I got to breakfast mum said “Hello Princess” which was really nice… though later undid that my criticising my legs, saying that they looked muscular with thin ankles and I’d be better in trousers; well, thanks a lot. On the Sunday was the disaster that affected my voice – I was getting ready and just as I was about to put my wig on (as my natural hair is not long enough yet) my mum knocked on the bedroom door and started to push it open… and so in a huge panic I raised my voice to her without thinking, or putting any of my techniques into play, and shrieked at her not to come in.  Later on we had a two-mile walk along country roads where I live and near home we passed my neighbour as he came out of his drive, we said hello and that was it, but I was glad my parents were with me the first time I spoke to him… as a girl. Overall their visit was good, and my mum’s mis-gendering has reduced.

Monday 14th September

The day soon went downhill as my voice became more and more croaky and hoarse and by lunchtime I could barely speak!! Pat, my PM, asked me why I was fed up, and so I told him, opened up about my voice problem and my worries; as usual, he was very caring. But as the day went on, I felt more and more down… and I eventually started to contemplate how much value I am to the world

Tuesday 15th September

I got on the train at Newry to find it full, standing room only. There were two bikes laid in front of about six pull-down seats and I asked the guard if they could be moved. “Sorry madam, there’s nowhere to put them”… but a girl vacated a seat nearby and a guy nearer to the seat than me gestured that I take it J

My voice was total rubbish today, and several days afterwards, barely a word possible unless I took a very deep breath, so I used hand signals much of the time. A nice girl from Poland said that she liked my choice in clothes, not just that day but generally… and as usual I appreciated the compliment, but almost wished I had not had it, because it meant I had to use my voice to thank her!

Thursday 24th September

After struggling on with my voice, or lack of, for a week and a half I finally made it to a doctor’s appointment – the lady was very pleasant, and gave me a prescription for two medicines. With time to spare before the next train I made a quick trip to a crash repairer to have damage inspected on one of my car doors – the guy was really nice, and courteous, as he gave me a quote. At Newry station the young guy checking tickets joked that I was up late, and at Dublin the older guy who seems to now look out for me said the same thing – when I told him I had been to the doctor he looked a bit concerned, but when I light-heartedly said that at least I had had a lie in he laughed.

Weekend 26th / 27th September

On the Saturday I met up with my friends Michelle and Kirsty to do a treasure trail at a place called Oxford Island on the shore of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the UK. I was tired, noticed by Michelle, and on the way there I shut my eyes in the back… and so they chatted merrily away about assorted musical subjects. The trail was fun, the weather really good. Later, after a supermarket shop, we all went for a lovely meal out at a fab restaurant in Belfast called Blu that we had not tried before. I had the largest scampi that I have ever seen in my life, and they were delicious, as was the rest of the meal; the ambience of the venue was great, with cool lighting and subdued music, and the service was very attentive. Near the end of the meal I went to Las Vegas, well, actually, the ladies loo, but as you can see from the photo it was easy to confuse the two.

Blu toilet LR

On the Sunday I was at the end of my garden by the road, starting digging lawn up for a flower bed, when who should come along but my neighbour from up the road – my heart was pounding as I chatted to him, but the conversation was nice enough. He asked where I was from, whether I liked the countryside, and so on, he then said I looked a bit like the guy who used to live there that he had not seen in ages… and I felt SO anxious, unprepared for a revelation, that I merely said “oh”; the chat carried on a bit more, and then he said “well, it was nice to meet you”.

29th September

I got wolf-whistled as I walked to work – I have no idea whether it was someone who fancied me, thought I looked nice, or was taking the mickey… but it was quite fun.

30th September

I wrote a reference for my PM… seeing as my boss hadn’t bothered to make the effort – I was only to pleased to do so, as he has done a great job and been so very supportive and caring about my welfare since I started living life as a woman… though I practically cried doing it, thinking about him leaving. Must be the hormones!

Getting off the train after work a regular commuter who I have never spoken to before pressed the button to open the door, and then stepped back a bit and gestured for me to exit first – ah, what a gent, and I thanked him in a voice that, for once in those last couple of weeks, I was really pleased with.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

So that was my September, nothing outstanding I suppose… other than living in my true gender. I haven’t written about half the things that happened I guess, well not in any detail – I get complimented from time to time, and that is nice, guys working at both Newry and Dublin stations are regularly nice and friendly (the one in Dublin often chatting, and saving a paper for me for the train), and Meetup events which I have forgotten the detail of. But, overall, despite the voice problems, life still feels good… and, most of all, right.

Reflections of Slovenia

It’s almost a month since I got home from Slovenia. Of course it feels like a lifetime, although the memories are still vivid… because it was SUCH a wonderful holiday. I wish I was still there, rather than back in the routine, high-pressure drudgery of work. So I thought I would summarise and reminisce a little about that first holiday away as Andrea rather than post a typically diary-like post.

What do I think of Slovenia as a holiday destination?

Well I was only based in one village, although saw quite a bit of the region around it, so cannot comment on the whole country. As per the scenes depicted in photos in my previous two posts, I think it is a beautiful place with spectacular scenery. It is good for active people, walkers, cyclists, or mountain bikers alike – there is a good network of paths, although with a minimum of cable cars then to get anywhere high one must generally rely on one’s own fitness… although with that comes a sense of achievement when certain walks are completed. I am not a city-person, but fellow guests told me that the capital city of Llubjana is very attractive, and from pictures this would seem to be the case. There are also an amount of water-related things to see and do, including lovely lakes (quite a few of which can be swam in, some even being rather warm), impressive waterfalls, steep gorges, and rivers with rafting available; there are a number of cave systems too, one of which I saw about 26 years ago (though not as the real me of course), which I remember being very impressive… though I understand it is now quite commercialised. The local food and beverages are also very good.

What are Slovenian people like?

From the experience of my holiday I have to say that Slovenian people are almost all very nice, apart from the bus drivers who come across as rather grumpy… though that may be in part because I likely pronounced all of the place names incorrectly, although not so incorrectly that they didn’t know where I wanted to go. I was told, upon my return, that Slovenians are honest and up-front people who will either tell you or give you an obvious indication if they don’t like you – well, I didn’t notice any of that, wherever I went on my walking adventures people were friendly and greeted me with a generally cheery “Dober Dan” (good morning in Slovenian), or similar for the afternoon, or another greeting which I still can’t quite pronounce; so I can only conclude that nobody found me to their obvious dislike.

The hosts at my little pension hotel were extremely friendly, warm and welcoming, and ever so helpful; it was more like staying with friends who wouldn’t let you do anything at all to help!

The Slovenian language is quite unlike any other I have ever experienced, and I was told very difficult to learn. Luckily pretty much everyone speaks English… to a very good standard.

How did I feel during my first holiday as Andrea?

My first emotions after having been shown to my hotel room were ones of heart-warming delight; the view from my room was stunning, the warm welcome amazing, and everything felt perfect. As I ventured out for a short walk around the nearby lake these emotions soon turned to tearful astonishment and amazement… because, less than two years after having ventured into the real world for the very first time, I was not only living full-time as a woman but I was on my very first long holiday, having used a passport with my female photograph to get there.  The next day, as I started my first walk, in the afternoon, I felt very lonely and sad, that although I was away on my long holiday in a lovely place I was away for the first time on a long holiday all by myself, without my brother or my daughter accompanying me, in the knowledge that they can’t come to terms with my choice to live my life in an honest way that is natural to me; but in the evening these feelings vanished as I got talking to very friendly British guests. The emotions for the rest of my holiday were pretty much the same – joy, contentment, and HAPPINESS… and that is what life is all about!  But, unsurprisingly, the feelings took a nosedive on the morning of departure, and when I paid my bill I was sniffly and close to tears.

How accepting of transsexuals are Slovenians?

I don’t know whether this question sounds a bit odd to any readers, but it was a question that a friend of mine (also a transsexual woman) asked me by email a few days into my holiday. Well, my honest answer is that I have absolutely no idea! Why? This is because during the whole of my stay in the country, and in fact including the journeys from my home to Slovenia and back again, I did not once receive even the merest hint from anyone whatsoever that they considered me to be anything other than a cis-woman; everyone treated me like any other woman, and numerous times I was addressed or termed “lady”, “she”, and “madam”… or “senora” by the group of Italian school children that I encountered on one day. My “no idea” response may well be for a number of reasons:

  • It could be that everyone these days is so open-minded that nothing makes anyone bat an eye-lid, however unusual; however, in early exploits out as Andrea, with sub-standard hair and on a learning curve appearance wise, I do know this is certainly not the case.
  • Perhaps I am so good at appearing as my female self that nobody ever notices anything about me that suggests I was not physically born as a woman; well, I know that this isn’t 100% true either, even now, having learnt so much and now having a human hair wig, there are very occasionally just the odd hint or two from people that makes me at least wonder whether they are contemplating my transsexual nature, even if there is nothing obviously negative vibing from them. But then, as has been discussed either or on other blogs, there are a great many reasons why people observe others.

Whatever the reason, I have always stated my objective in my new life to be that I want to blend in and be treated as any other woman… and on my first holiday as my true self, that is what I achieved… and that is what made it so perfect!

P1060832 - Jasna bridge

Week 31 As a Full-time Woman – My Slovenian Adventure, Part 2 – Wonderful Scenery… and my Limitations

After my leisurely day at the end of my previous blog post my walking continued in earnest – I am not going to put loads of detail about the walks, most of it I doubt would be of much interest, especially if you don’t like walking, so I shall probably let the pictures of the majestic scenery speak for themselves.

29th August

This day proved to me that I am sensible enough to realise my limitations and not exceed them. Only 20 minutes into my planned walk my chosen path soon became overgrown with robust conifers, which soon became scary with the path dropping away hundreds of feet… and then the path disintegrated altogether in places in sheer scree slopes, and so I turned back and completely changed my plans. I walked several miles along a generally level path, then up to a saddle between almost white limestone peaks. I had planned to descend into another valley… but the path disappeared seemingly vertically around a rock with metal ropes in slippery scree… uh, no, so I retraced my steps and after descending about two hundred metres came to another, ongoing limitation – my voice. A fellow walker came across from another path to join the one I was on about a hundred metres above me, he saw me descending and shouted ‘come’ (in Slovene), but I just couldn’t shout back, my voice just cannot do that… but having seen the path on the other side, and being quite tired, I ignored him and carried on, all the way to the bottom of the valley, and then along a river to a bus stop to return to my pension on the other side of the mountain pass. I waited… and waited… and waited for the bus and, after over an  hour I gave up and started walking down towards the next village… only for the bus to then come around the corner, so I stuck my hand out and he stopped to take me back… with a slightly sour-looking face.

While on the balcony of my room I heard English-speaking voices next to me from a couple who had come out from the room next to me, so I said hello and introduced myself, and told them a bit about the area… and then at dinner we had a longer chat; they seemed very nice.

P1060948 Javolec walk 1

30th August

P1060994 - slope toward TrentaThis was the most strenuous walk of my holiday. I took the bus to a village called Moystrana, then walked eight miles along a valley to the base of the highest peak in the whole area, called Triglav. However, that was not my destination, I am not a mountaineer, though, including the height gain from the bus stop I did climb 3700 feet to a saddle between Triglav and another high peak, including about thirty minutes climbing a scree slope occasionally with the help of metal ropes, and then descended the same height along a more manageable path on the other side to a small village called Trenta where there was thankfully a visitor centre with lovely toilets and a tiny supermarket to stock up with water, half a litre of which I downed more or less straight away after doing my walk in temperatures approaching 30C. I did that walk in one of my summery skater skirts and a white lacy vest top and felt nicely girlie and a certain freedom with my walking… and, for some reason, I seemed to get a lot more guys saying hello to me (mostly in Slovene).

Back at the hotel, once showered and changed, after dinner I had a lovely long chat with my neighbours Carol and Barry about assorted holiday destinations; they were great company.

31st August

This was another day where things did not go quite according to plan. After a bus ride to Moystrana again, I walked up another valley for a while, but there were too many trees obscuring the mountain views, and my legs were frankly not up to lots of climbing either… so I turned back, but overall I ended up walking 18 miles, with a short bus journey partly back towards my hotel village where I got off early to take the picture below, followed by some further walking.

P1070011 - Godz Hayracks

1st September

P1070062 lady's face in rockThis was alas the final day of walking and of my wonderful holiday… and so I was hardly going to have a relaxing, uneventful day! I did another valley/climb-type walk, from Ratece, along lovely flower-meadows, past ski jumps where school children were practising, and eventually up, and up, and up, a 3750 foot climb, finally to the summit of something, a mountain called Sleme – it was quite tiring, but so rewarding with incredible views around every corner. An hour’s walk brought me to the top of Vrsic mountain pass, from where I climbed about 15 minutes to view an unusual natural rock formation, Ajdovska Deklica, the face of a woman naturally present in the rock. I descended the valley, sometimes along the mountain road built by Russian prisoners at the turn of the 20th Century, and eventually got back to my Pension, a walk of around 15 miles.

During dinner one couple that I had talked to throughout my holiday said goodbye, as they were leaving early the following morning, and later I had a long chat with Carol and Barry before saying goodnight, and going to my room to start to pack my suitcases.

P1070045 - Sleme and sheep

2nd September

Sadly the time had come to leave Slovenia and my lovely hDSCN0934 KG church - lowresome-from-home pension. After breakfast and packing the rest of my bags, I paid my bill to Frank, and told him what a lovely time I had had and how his wife and him had been so friendly and helpful, and I had to resort to a tissue to dry my eyes because I was SO sad that my wonderful holiday with them was over. After a wander to the village centre for a final look around, including a visit to the church that I had not been to before, with quite a lavish interior, I returned to the pension and soon had to say goodbye to my wonderful hosts with a hug and a kiss on the cheek from each; Frank carried my bags to the minibus… and then we were on the way to the airport after picking up some guests from a couple of other hotels.

The journey home was uneventful, I got madamed on the Easyjet flight, when I bought a drink and then exiting the plane, and on the Ryanair flight a guy helped me with my case into the overhead locker… and by 11.30pm I was home… to a VERY cold Northern Ireland!

Week 30 As a Full-time Woman – My Slovenian Adventure, Part 1

In my next few blog posts I will write about my holiday adventures in Slovenia, the first time I have been abroad as Andrea; as it’s a holiday, and quite a long one, then there will be quite a lot of photos! Before I departed it seemed like it was quite a big step in a way, the first time using my passport, the first time travelling in busy airports and on planes, and of course the first time in a foreign country. Just how would people there react to me?

24th August

It was a damp, drizzly morning… and so I relaxed and took it really easy – just what holidays are all about! I painted my nails (something I’ve not done on a summer holiday before), read some of a novel, rested and listened to radio shows. In the afternoon I went into the town and browsed the few shops there, in one I had a good long browse and eventually bought a pretty hand bag – the lady owner was very pleasant and eager to help, and I also bought postcards from her.

25th August

After breakfast I chatted to another British couple, from Newcastle, for a while, and suggested a walk to them that I did on the Sunday… but within an hour it was raining, and so I rested again until 5.00pm when it finally dried up and I just had to get some fresh air; I had a two hour walk up and down a river valley, near the hotel I noticed a cyclist pass me from behind and give me a quick look up and down. Back at the hotel I caught up with the couple from the morning, and also another lady, then later I had a good chat with a Scottish girl – the couple ended up also talking to her about their day, and their walk that they said “this lady suggested it to us” (i.e. me).

26th August

DSCN0763 - me at 3 bordersWednesday was, finally, a good, dry day, although there was alas a lot of low cloud which obscured the higher mountain peaks from view for quite a bit of the day – good for walking, not so good for photography, another hobby of mine. It was lovely and warm though, and I did a long walk from nearby village Ratece back to Kransjka Gora, including two climbs that together exceeded 4200 feet which is more than the climb of Ben Nevis in Scotland from its valley floor; I noticed quite a bit of interesting looking fungi along the way as I traversed the forest paths. My first climb of the day was to a tree-clad peak called Pec, the walk itself is called Tromeja which means ‘three DSCN0765 - fungi1borders’, this is because it marks the border point between Slovenia, Italy, and Austria; every year members of the three nations meet here, the conical construction behind me in the selfie is the point where the countries meet. I then walked roughly along the border for several hours, and eventually back into Slovenia… where I got a bit panicked towards the end of the afternoon because my walk went on and on as I struggled to find a way down the steep valleys, due to the absence of marked paths, from the forest logging tracks which zigzagged seemingly for ever; I really got quite upset as time went on and, although the occasional views through the trees were worth the walk, I was immensely relieved once I got to the valley bottom.

P1060840 - KG view from forest

27th August

A beautiful, sunny, hot day, with a major walk of 16.5 miles. I took the bus from Kranjska Gora to nearby Ratece, near the Italian border, and then walked a few miles to two nearby lakes in Italy, and around one of them from where the picture just below is taken; on the way a guy on a small, motorised plough paused in his work to give me a big smile. Then I climbed about 1200 feet to a refuge, at which points visions of climbing further evaporated as my legs felt like jelly, perhaps from the climbs the day before, and so I took another, more gentle path back down to the lakes – on the way I caught up with a very loud, Italian summer-school group, scrabbling gingerly down the slippery forest path in plimsoles and trainers, eventually a girl just in front of me who had given me a couple of glances figured I wanted to get by, and so said to her friends something along the lines of “Move aside for the Signora”, and as I passed others said similar things, all calling me Signora… which was really quite nice. Then I walked all the way back to my hotel, buying an ice cream along the way.

P1060857 - Italian lake 2

28th August

DSCN0812 - me at Bled lowresI had a rest day from walking, and had quite a social day on a day-long coach trip to visit two beautiful lakes in Slovenia; it was a good day, with not too much driving in it. Our initial stop was at Bled (pronounced a bit like ‘Blade’), quite a touristy town with a lovely big lake before it. We first went to the castle, perched on a cliff overlooking the lake – the guide took us around the grounds, including looking at one of the first printing presses, the views, and a museum in which there was a huge 3D landscape map of the entire Julian Alps area and he asked where we thought our resort was, when nobody immediately answered I pointed to a spot at the bottom of a valley and said “Is it there?” and he said “Yes, the lady is right”! This selfie is taken from the castle, and shows the church on an island in the lake.

We had a good amount of free time at the lakeside, including a piece of ‘free’ DSCN0823 - Bled church interior 1 lowresBled cream cake – the tradition is that when a guy wants to date a girl, he takes her for a walk around the lake and then buys her some of the cake… and, well, of course nobody offered to take me, but I had a nice time wandering around, in a few over-priced shops, and then into the impressive church nearby, its spire stretching towards the castle enclosing a beautiful interior (see photo). Some people actually went swimming in the lake, for the water is very warm, almost 27C degrees… though definitely not me, I am not a swimmer… and my hair and face would have washed away even had I joined those intrepid swimmers.

Then we drove onto Lake Bohinj (pronounced ‘Bochin’) where we went up and down a cable car (with stunning views), to an old church on the lake side, and an hour of free time to wander around what has now become a potential tourist destination for me now.

Back at the hotel, after a little walk beside the lake in front of my hotel (see below) on a warm evening, I had the usual nice chat with the Newcastle guests, and later a catch up with the Scottish girl again – when I told her about my lake trip she asked “were you wearing a white hat?” and, when I said yes, she replied “I saw you by the lake side, I said to myself that looks like the lady I the room next to me, she did say she was on the lakes trip today”… and so we compared our opinions of the area, me glad of course that she thinks of me and labels me as a “lady”.

(end of part 1 – thanks for reading)

DSCN0838 - Jasna evening lowres

Week 29 As a Full-time Woman – Abroad As Andrea For The First Time….. With Mixed Emotions

17th August

Yet another day with a sore throat 😦 For work I wore a smart but, as it turned out, quite short dress, so although I didn’t think I would ever do it, I did in fact spend several moments pulling the hem of my dress down to avoid anyone trying to look at my knickers! I had a nice lunch with Liesa, who liked my dress, and we c had a good catch-up over some enjoyable pasta. On the way to the  train I passed a guy on the street who, I think, said “Hmm, very nice!” (probably the short dress)…. and then made the type of noise one night make to attract the attention of a horse to eat some grass! Hmm…

18th August

It was a lovely summery day…. which obviously attracted a lot of day trippers, as I had to stand all the way to Dublin again, for over 70 minutes. I was wearing a retro, flowery dress which Audrey and Agatha at work both said was very pretty; I had a fab chat with Audrey who, as usual, is full of good advice. Later I had an email from my brother, it seems he had just forgotten to email back… though I know he is making no progress with coming to terms with me now being his sister.

21st August 

I was very busy with work for the rest of the week as Pat, my PM, was off. On Friday I had a farewell breakfast with a guy who has worked with me for over 18 months, he has always been SO obliging, and a really nice guy. Once home, early for the only time that week, I picked up a clothes order, then went to the pharmacy at Boots as my throat was still aggravated by my flu bug, really not good with an imminent holiday – the lady pharmacist was lovely,said there have been loads of people in with the same vital infection, and prescribed a throat spray – dozy mare that I am, I left my clothing order there, and she rang me (as my number was on the little parcel), to tell me. I got home at a reasonable time…. but spent ages finishing off my packing for my first holiday abroad as the real me, as Andrea!

22nd August 

I was up at 4.00am!!! Not good as I’m not a morning person, but I got to the airport in reasonable time for the first flight of the day. Going to security, staff directed me to a less busy queue saying “Probably best this way, miss” and going through security wirh my hand bag and stuff in a tray he said “are these your only liquids ma’am?” which I confirmed, then he said “anything in your pockets?” and for the first time ever I was able to say “I don’t have any pockets! ” as I was wearing jeggings. For the first time in am airport I enjoyed uninhibited perfune browsing, with one woman giving me several samples and two others offering to help “madam”. At 8.00 I went through gate security, showing my new, female passport for the first time ever, and flew to Stansted where, after collecting my bag, had a late breakfast at a Costa, with the server madam-ing me several times. At 1.00pm, after a hectic experience through security and a crowded duty-free, I left the UK on my second flight, this time to Llubjana, the capital of Slovenia, where I was met by a travel rep who guided me to a minibus that took a few of us to a mountain resort called Kransjka Gora, with beautiful scenery along the way; I spoke to the friendly driver a few times, who was thankfully able to understand my quiet voice. Once at my little hotel I was warmly greeted by the owners of Pension Milka, Frank and Maggie, and was shown to my room, the view from which is shown below. After hanging up my dresses and a few other things I went for a little walk around the lake…. and almost cried, scarcely able to believe that I am here, as Andrea, on a summer holiday abroad, encountering no problems at all with my travels…. only 18 months after properly venturing out of my house for the first time as Andrea. With the weather warm and sunny I dined al fresco on the terrace, soaking up the views.

23rd August 

After breakfast I went to the holiday company welcome meeting, with about 25 other people, and were taken around the village and given useful tips. One stop I found very amusing, the girl was pointing out health facilities, and said “Behind you is the pharmacy, opposite is the doctor where I can make an appointment for you if you are sick, and for more serious complaints on the other side of the road is the village cemetery”! In the afternoon I went for a forest walk to an impressive waterfall, and back along a river – at some points during the walk I was gleeful  that I was here, as me, at other times I was sad that I was here in my own, as this is the first summer holiday I have ever had on my own. But, overall, life is good, I am happy, and seem to be fitting in with surprisingly little bother.

20150822_174638

Living Full-Time as a Woman – Weeks 25 & 26 – Six Months without repetition, deviation, or hesitation… but now marooned at home after a severe blasting :-(

Monday 20th July

I wore a lovely, floaty John Rocha dress to work… that nobody commented on (grr), though Audrey liked my nail colour and Mary liked my shoes; had a nice, girly chat with both of them.

Tuesday 21st July

I got emails from my daughter, who is at Irish summer camp, and a guy that used to work for me who I haven’t heard from since Christmas… because at that time I was spending the last week with my daughter for what has turned out to be a long, long time, and then dealing the after-effects of my news to her… and then wondering ever since how I tell this guy that I am actually a girl. I had a really nice chat with an East European girl at work who I have never spoken to before, who initiated the conversation by saying how lovely my top was… not that I am likely to wear it that much because it creases while worn like nobody’s business!

Wednesday 22nd July

I was in a low mood as I realised it was six months since I have seen my daughter, as detailed in my previous blog post – I was weary, tired, disconnected, and clumsy. I had a meal in the evening with my two girly friends at Ed’s diner, and felt rather stuffed at the end of it; we got ‘ladied’ several times, and I got addressed as ‘honey’ for the first time which was nice.

Thursday 23rd July

I saw Debbie, a lady I have known to casually chat to on the train/platform for years, once off the train as we came down the escalator from Dublin station, and she said “I have to say, you’re looking fab!”, which was really nice, and appreciated as I was in a new summery outfit with wide-leg white trousers; we chatted about her recent hols before going our separate ways. In work Fiona said she loved my outfit too, that everything matched, and said “I’ll have to come to you for fashion advice” which is a huge compliment!! I was then mis-gendered at work by a guy who introduced me to someone and then started his next sentence “he…” though he immediately corrected himself… but it still made me feel really uncomfortable and deflated despite the earlier compliments… which I suppose proves that some people, such as me, tend to focus on the negative too much rather than the positive. I was quite happy with my voice on a conference call, where I was prepared to argue my point with someone trying to dismiss it. I met the nice East European lady again when I went to talk to someone else, and she said “you’ve brought summer into work”, then she compared the colours of our clothes compared to the guy we were with and she said that “we are two girls in pink”. On the train I was sitting with an oldish couple and their granddaughter, I closed my eyes as I was tired and after a while the girl announced that she needed the toilet “but the lady’s asleep”… so after a few moments I opened my eyes, and then the girl whispered “she’s awake!”. So, apart from one incident, lots of positive gender moments.

Friday 24th July

I wore a more casual, summery outfit, and Susan loved my trousers. For lunch I went out with Kenny to an authentic Italian restaurant where we had some nice paninis – it was quite loud in there, but most of the time he could hear me… something I often worry about, my quietly spoken voice.

Saturday 25th July

White Rocks Coast 3The forecast was, for once, good, and I was determined to do something different even though there were no meet up group events and no friends available for doing anything. So I drove for two hours to the northern Antrim coast to do some exploring of places that I had not been to before. I went to Downhill Demesne, a National Trust property that did not really inspire me – there was a huge, ruined house, but there was no interesting architectural detail at all as far as I could see; some of the coastal views were okay though, but it was cloudy, so after a while I headed east, and by the time I had got to Port Rush the weather had brightened considerably. Once away from the seaside town I was able to stop and explore the interesting scenery around WDark Hedges (V)hite Rocks Beach, so named for the limestone rocks and cliffs that stood to the east of it, with some amazing arches sculptured by the waves. I drove on a little, stopped for a quick photo of ruined Dunluce Castle perched on the edge of the cliffs, then on further along the Causeway road, where I stopped to take a look at a ruined castle, then along the coast road with splendid views to Kinbane Head for a walk down the cliff path to a pleasant secluded rock beach and another ruined castle. After a stop at the ladies toilet in Ballycastle at 6.00pm, it was home-time, but barely 20 minutes into my return journey the main road was closed (due to bike racing) and the traffic was taken down an assortment of B-roads… which serendipitously took me to another, unexpected tourist attraction called the Dark Hedges, a tree-shrouded avenue used in the filming of Game Of Thrones (or so I overheard from someone who had also stopped).

Monday 27th July

I had a girly lunch out with my work friends Liesa and Nuala to wish Liesa goodbye on her last day at work… except that it turned out that her plans had changed and she was now staying on, which was good news… for me, anyway. I received a load of photos from my daughter from her summer camp, which I showed to Susan, Fiona, and my PM Pat  the general consensus was that my daughter was stunning / beautiful, Susan said she should be a model and then earn enough money so I don’t have to work (LOL), I said I honestly don’t know where she gets her looks from, only her lips she really gets from me, and Susan said “Well, you hair’s quite long, like hers…” and, well, I can only hope that one day my hair will be that long because of course at the moment, as is apparent if you have read previous blog posts, I am still growing my own hair and currently still have to wear a wig… even if it is human hair, but it’s good she doesn’t seem to notice.

Wednesday 29th July

In the evening I met up with Michelle for a late supper at M&S café, the usual toasted sandwich and salad – she had told me to only come if it wasn’t out of my way, as it was late, but I was determined to… because I had a six month anniversary that I DID want to celebrate this time, it was six months since I came home from work, shed male clothes for the final time to start my new full-time life as the woman I now feel I should have always been. And this six months of life as a woman I have completed successfully without any hesitation or deviation at all (because it all feels so totally natural, like it should have always been, and every day has been positive), and I have also achieved my own little goal of not wearing the same outfit to work on any two days in that six months, I may have worn the same trousers or cardigans on several occasions, but there has always been one item of clothing covering, at least, my top half (either a top, jacket, or dress) that has only been worn once during the entire period! I am now also into week 10 of my gender-clinic Real Life Experience (RLE).

Thursday 30th July

OUCH! Today was my first, full-case and neck laser hair removal session… and it was REALLY intense and SO painful. I had applied Emla cream several times before I arrived, which is supposed to allegedly help with the pain, but I can only guess that I didn’t apply it very well because there didn’t seem to be much of a pain reduction as far as I could tell. When I arrived I had to wipe all the cream off, then wait for a while until paperwork and preparation was done, then the laser began, going backwards and forwards across my right cheek and neck, then my chin, then above my lips, and finally my left side. The nurse told me to breath deeply as she worked away, which I suppose was to try for me not to tense up quite so much… but when I climbed off the bed once finished my legs were like jelly, and she led me to a nearby seat and got a glass of water as I sat there trembling uncontrollably, and then eventually I went out to the waiting room so that the next person could go in… and then I cried, I don’t know why, whether it was because of the pain finally hitting me. Eventually I left, and got home about three hours after leaving, feeling totally exhausted and drained… and spent most of the rest of the day in bed.

Friday 31st July

I had hoped to get into work…. but when I awoke my face was still pink and blotchy, and also quite sore and tender too, and thus there was absolutely no way I could shave or apply make up to be presentable, and so had to stay home, though I did monitor my work email box the whole day and reply to a few things.

Saturday 1st August

This time I woke up and my face didn’t really look pink at all, though a bit tender but not actually sore, so I did shave, though left it until I really need to at lunchtime… and alas by the time I had finished my face was very pink and rather sore again; I applied lashings of aloe vera, which seemed to calm it down. At about 3.00 I went out, did some shopping and clothes-returns, and then met my friend Lynda at 6.20 at Sprucefield where we had a lovely chat for an hour over afternoon tea (well, for me, anyway). Poor Lynda was a little bit sad as her dog is going to be put down soon due to old age, and I was a bit teary-eyed over the phone when she told me earlier in the day, but our chat was good and not overly melancholy. Then we headed over to Lisburn Omniplex to see the latest Mission Impossible film, Rogue Nation… which was REALLY good, best film I have seen this year, great action sequences, with a Tom Cruise who never seems to look any older. About halfway through the film my face started to feel a bit itchy, and when I got home I wiped my foundation off as quickly and carefully as I could, and applied Vaseline as dictated by the laser nurse.

Sunday 2nd August

I woke during the night with an itchy face, though some aloe vera seemed to sort it out… but alas when I got out of bed at about 10.00am and looked in the mirror my face was a mess! Quite a number of little whiteheads all over my chin, and some also above my lips, and on cheeks and neck! Oh no, like teenage acne in miniature all over again… and then I remembered the nurse had said that I could get a skin infection if I shaved too soon, and so I can only presume that that is what it is… so I spent the whole day indoors with no make-up at all, cooling my face with a cold flannel, applying alternately Vaseline, aloe vera, and also savlon to the whiteheads that I just had to pop (I know I probably shouldn’t)… but more and more of them seemed to come during the day, I could literally feel them itching to break through and then an hour later they were there! I am SO worried what state my face will be returning to work on Tuesday, and have had to sadly cancel my plans with Kirsty for 3rd August (as I write) following advice from the laser clinic on my semi-ruined face.

Yours grumpily,

Andrea

x

White Rocks Arch

Living Full-Time as a Woman – Weeks 20 & 21… including health appointments, good experiences at work… and I have “turned my daughter’s life to hell”

Dear Diary… and readers, here are the highlights of weeks 20 & 21 living full-time as my true female self… into RLE week 5:

Wednesday 17th June

I had a lovely girlie lunch with some of my favourite women at work… though sadly half of the purpose of the lunch was to say farewell to two of them who are leaving the company. I had a delicious pizza, and fab chat with the three ladies for an hour and a half, and Natalie hugged me goodbye as her last day was the next day and I was unlikely to see her again. I was addressed as ‘madam’ or ‘miss’ by the two female waiting and counter staff numerous times, and of course enjoyed it all. Back at my car at the station, just before setting off for home I tied a dog lead (that had been left at my house by daughter) around a nearby tree for my ex- to pick up… such is her keenness to not meet the new me.

Thursday 18th June

I popped in to see Natalie on the way to my own office to drop a little good luck card off with her, as she has been so nice to me and helpful in my early days living full-time as my true female self that I wanted to show my gratitude as such, and wish her well too; we had a hug, and she wished me well with everything too. Liesa was over at lunchtime, and popped over to my desk for a nice chat, so we arranged a lunch for the next week.

Friday 19th June

cup cake work 20150619Another cheery hello from a station employee, who says hello to me every morning now. The train was rather busy, and I ended up moving to another carriage because my seat was behind a crowd of very loud women knocking back vodka at 9.00 in the morning; sorry, but I think that’s a disgrace, and I couldn’t stand the din. I had pondered my outfit for the day, but my attitude was “what the hell, go for it”… and so it was fab to be rewarded with positive comments from young Fiona, who loved my almost-knee-length suede wedge-boots and black disco pants. Late-morning I went to a charity book/DVD sale at work, and came away with some bargains, as well as a yummy cup cake. I left the office early and went to bed once home, as by early afternoon was feeling rather dizzy and generally not right; this was partly due to the office temperature rising to unpalatable levels in the afternoon, but also due to exhaustion.

Weekend 20th/ 21st June

A generally lonely weekend. I did quite a lot of shopping, though have no recollection what I bought (clothes, probably), and early evening went to the cinema with five other people from a meetup group – we saw Mr Holmes, rather not what I was expecting, but a nice film all the same. Sunday I spent over three and a half hours ironing! Never before have I spent nearly so long ironing, but when one finally has so many nice clothes that one is so pleased with then the effort is worth it… and it passed the time while watching television. I also phoned my parents, mainly to wish my Dad a happy father’s day – he misgendered me just once… but that was probably my mother’s fault, because he was talking to her while on the phone about herbal sleep aids for me and it is almost certainly the case that she said “tell him to take…”.

Tuesday 23rd June

Another day of health appointments – three in total – though before the two main ones I went to my local electoral office MandS afternoon tea 20150623to confirm my change of name and then ended up in a half-hour call with my ex- who spent half the time criticising me for something that was a result of her poor communication with me and the other half we talked about my daughter, where she mentioned the counselling sessions that she goes to where she “spends most of the time in tears which is heart-breaking to watch” – this isn’t the indication I got form her counsellor so, following an email of wise advice from my friend Michelle, I have since emailed the counsellor to see what the real story is. However, one plus with the phone calls was that when trying to get through to ex- a colleague of ex- answered the phone a couple of times and seemed to take me for any other girl… especially the second time when she said “Is that Hazel?” – no, it’s Andrea again, I said.

Early afternoon I was at speech therapy again, where the lady could see I was down-hearted from the conversation with my ex-, and so half the time we had a general chat, and the other half went through a few techniques. I left there nearly two hours later, a bit dizzy from not having lunch, so ended up in M&S where I had afternoon tea… which really was rather good, and just the thing to perk up my mood a bit – well done M&S! Then onto Gender Clinic for my monthly session, where she concluded that all is generally going well… which it is.

Wednesday 24th June

I left home in the morning almost in tears, having had a text during the night from my ex- saying the following

I hope you enjoy the rest of your life because you have turned our lives to hell.

Makes me realise how lucky I am to no longer me in a marriage with such a person… who, in my opinion, is another hypocrite in my situation where she preaches to a woman at work about her gay son and how there is nothing wrong with that, but when it is me then it’s a different story – another case of “it is fine to be LGB or T providing it doesn’t affect anyone you know”!

I received a cheery ‘hello’ from two guys working at the railway station, including one I have known for over 15 years… although whether he has matched the new me to the old one I have no idea. In the evening I met Michelle and Kirsty at Sprucefield for a nice supper and chat… and a bit of a shop.

Thursday 25th June

I had a really good day at work – my PM was off sick, I think partly because he was just run down after working at inhumane hours the previous weekend, and so I looked after some things he would normally have done… and I think I did a pretty good job… as did he, with a nice email later on. My boss also seemed very pleased, as I held a meeting with another guy that my boss failed to turn up to, and I thought of everything that he tried to fire at me afterwards. The highlight of the day was a lovely lunch with Liesa at the National Art Gallery in Dublin, where we sat and chatted for around an hour and a half over tasty vegetable lasagne; we talked a bit about my daughter and my journey, and she was very understanding and said some thoughtful things.

Friday 26th June

Another really good day at work, despite getting in early to check on a software release, when I thought I did very well… and so did my PM, he was off sick but monitoring emails and he sent me one at the end of the day saying “Smashing day, well done”; it’s nice to be complimented so well for my work. However, I couldn’t stand staying there beyond 4.30 because my boss and another guy were, off and on, on a conference call in our office for the best part of three hours, with the volume inconsiderately loud… such that I ended up with a headache. All I can say is, read the staff handbook guys!!!! Or, think about other people!!!

Once off the train I hit the shops in the Quays at Newry with the objective of finding a smart coat for summer… and ended up trying on trousers in Next, and a lot of other clothes in Monsoon and Debenhams, though coming away with only four items from the latter two, including a gorgeous John Rocha dress half price. As for Monsoon, although I think they have quite nice things, they are over-prices and the sizes and lengths are all over the place!

Saturday 27th June

A very active day, starting with a group-walking event… though thankfully starting at 11.00 so a bit of a lie-in – I was slightly late, owing to an inevitable loo-stop, but luckily the walks rarely start exactly on time. There were several people there I have met before, and so had a good chat with them during the walk, which was from Holywood to a bird reserve near Belfast called WOW, where we observed colonies of, mostly, black-headed gulls… though I was lucky to see a male sparrowhawk, even if the group leader tried to convince me (as he had not seen it) that it might have been a pigeon – excuse me, but I’m not that stupid, I think I can tell the difference… and a member of the RSPB staff confirmed that a sparrowhawk did indeed frequent the place. On our return we had a lovely lunch at The Dirty Duck pub, and I walked back to the car with a couple of the group, one of whom I have chatted to at length several times… and on this walk when we spotted a convertible I said that I had never been in one and she said “Well Andrea, you’ve gotta find yourself a man!”.

After over two hours of somewhat rushed shopping, I hurtled albeit-legally Nigella Mansell style to Hillsborough for a reasonable meal at the Parsons Nose with my friend Kirsty… although my starter was a bit bland, the main vegetarian course was a bit over-broccolied, and I ended up sending the dessert back as the meringue in the Eton Mess was rock hard and more like plaster of Paris… though I did end up with a replacement sticky toffee pudding which was acceptable (and free); we also got ‘ladied’ a few times by one of the waitresses. We then went for coffee in Costa followed by a trip to the cinema to see Spy – definitely recommend seeing it, really amusing, and well-done spoof spy movie about an over-weight woman who becomes unexpectedly active in the field… and really does rather well at it; however, the swearing was totally over-the-top, and generally not necessary – showing my age with that comment, I suppose.

Sunday 28th June

Just pottering around at home, taking things slow, not achieving all that much… and blog-writing. With my commuting-heavy life, now and again I need to take it easy and try to recharge….

Full-Time Life as a Woman – Week 17 – FINALLY, my RLE has started!

Tuesday 26th May was the highlight of this week – it was a day full of appointments relating to my transition, with a very positive outcome from the final one.

The first appointment was with my daughter’s counsellor, and its objective was to bring me up-to-date with how the counselling is going and to see how I can be brought into the process. Apparently at her first appointment her attitude was that she couldn’t cope with the new-me, whereas in her latest appointment it appears that she is prepared to try and progress things. Her counsellor is very nice – I gave her a history of my condition, to which she was very sympathetic – and we discussed various issues, such as what my daughter should call me (because I’m afraid that ‘dad’ is not an option with it’s male connotation), how I could enter the process, and a draft of a letter that would be sent to her with some input from me.

The second appointment, nearly an hour’s drive away, was with my speech therapist at City Hospital in Belfast. It was a lengthy visit, with quite an amount of re-cap and repetition of exercises, we talked about my goals for the sessions and then she taught me another technique for voice-improvement, around breathing, this time with focus on how I might attain more volume with my new voice. At my previous appointment a trainee had been present and I was given her feedback…. which was that my voice is ‘somewhat feminine’ and that my image was very good; so that made me quite happy.

I got to my third appointment after another drive, this one was my latest at my Gender Clinic and this time, as well as seeing my usual therapist, it was with the GIC head consultant in Northern Ireland, Mr Richard Ingram, who I thought was very nice. He discussed my progress and how things have gone coming-out (and was well impressed with my dear dad’s acceptance), went through the process and results of taking HRT as well as the risks, and how to minimise them… and then completed a consent form, which I signed, for me to be put forward for HRT medication! Yippee!! And the best news of all, that meant that that day was Day 1 of my Real Life Experience (RLE), of which a year is required before consideration for gender reassignment surgery. He left me with my therapist and we discussed a few more things before I headed home; I had thought about shopping on the way, but after all those appointments I was just too tired.

Wednesday I managed to leave work early… and was determined to do so so that I could meet my good friends and tell them my news. I went to Tesco in Newry for a few things, primarily for my forthcoming little holiday (I know, another one already), and had a nice chat with the checkout girl. Then I drove to Sprucefield and popped into Boots for makeup supplies where I had a couple of nice interactions – firstly I asked one of the beauty assistants for some highlighter for my cheeks, who was very nice and helpful, and then the woman who served me at the till was really nice too. After saying ‘Hi’ she said ‘I was just talking about you’, which I thought was highly odd… until the conversation revealed that Kirsty had just been in there for her own makeup; as I left she said ‘It was really good to see you’, which was nice. I met Kirsty and Michelle outside M&S and we went to the café where I first had a very tasty toasted sandwich, and then a hot chocolate… accompanied by a small piece of cake that I shared with Michelle. We had a nice catch-up, and I gave them my RLE news; there was also an amount of cycling chat, as Kirsty is fast becoming a keen cyclist as Michelle already is – I think I am gonna have to buy myself a bike!!!

The rest of the week at work was just, well, normal, but with some nice chat with the ladies in my office, including an amount of clothes-chat with Nuala, and with Liesa, in particular about her last-minute surprise weekend to Prague – how romantic!

And that post brings me and my blog up-to-date – lots been going on recently, mostly good… and that is how life feels.

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