Fed Up, regression (?)… and some walking tips

In one of my recent blog posts (not that they are that frequent as of late) I mentioned the underlying issue that has made me so fed up in the last couple of months. It is nothing to do with my transition, all is going pretty much as well as ever in that respect (albeit with the occasional teensy blip), daily life is normal and satisfying, I love seeing my new face complete with lovely girlie hair, am happy with my new voice, and so on.

No, the issue that has made me so fed up is the leg injury that showed itself while I was away on the interesting island of Gran Canaria at the end of February… which remains an issue, with not a significant amount of recovery after two months. I had two doctor appointments in March, the first ruling out DVT (a small risk now that I am on HRT) and the second ruling out a fracture and concluding it was a severe muscle sprain most likely caused by the jogging that I started in early February. After that, and little recovery in another couple of weeks, I embarked on a series of three physio appointments where it was also stated that the issue was muscular (tendonitis) which the physio himself said he had had a few years ago after a jogging incident, although he seemed to think that my injury was caused due to a lengthy irregular driving position in a strange (or, awful, as it turned out) hire car for a prolonged period; personally I think it’s a combination of jogging high-impact physical stress, car driving position, and possibly due to feminine footwear. At my physio I could feel parts of my leg muscles that he kneaded were rather sensitive, so that I suppose at least also supported the muscle prognosis. After the third physio appointment he said that there wasn’t anything he could really do and all he was actually doing was helping to ease the pain, and so recommended going to a podiatrist… and so the weekend just gone, after a couple of weeks when I ordered arch support inserts and got on poorly with them, I went to an appointment at Newry Foot Clinic – on the plus side the girl who attended to me didn’t indicate anything untoward was wrong, the conclusion was that my feet have quite a roll-in which requires arch support… and so ballet pumps, which I love and have quite a few of, are a total no-no (sobs as she writes), heels are generally not great either, ankle boots are agreeable, but ideally I should spend most of my life in trainers. Sobs again (probably), I have spent the majority of my uncomfortable life in horrible trainers, and more occasionally ugly blokey shoes, and so that idea does not fit well whatsoever with me. Then she said that the best shoes for me are those made by the likes of Ecco and Hotter, and so after the appointment I went to a nearby shoe shop selling an assortment of styles and makes of shoes, including those two… and I nearly cried when I saw them, essentially if you imagine a frumpy grandmother with a typically fashionless dress-sense then you will just about have the shoe in mind. Ugh!! So, as I write, I am rebelliously wearing a pair of ballet pumps, albeit with the arch-support inserts.

All these problems with my legs (mainly the right one) have meant that activities that I have typically done for the last couple of years have taken a back seat – I have not been able to go to any walks with my walking group, I have not generally even been in a state to drive my new car any distance in order to attend any more social meetups in Belfast, or even meet my friends Kirtsy and Michelle very much… and in fact driving at all has been generally unenjoyable, and I have found if difficult finding a comfortable driving position for more than a day or so. And this is why a part of me feels like I have regressed, at least temporarily, not back as far as my incorrect gender because that will never happen, but towards the unsociable me that I used to be… and thus life has generally been extremely frustrating apart from the very occasional meal with my two friends and a hair appointment and lovely lunch. I have also not even dared book another holiday for fear that I will either walk or drive too much and further damage my leg(s).

As regular readers will know, and as mentioned above, I belong to a walking group… though my walking tips I am about to document are nothing to do with that hobby, they are not tips on places to walk…. but actually a topic relating to transition. Before I ventured into the world as the real me, and I am not talking full-time but in fact for the first time, I spent months and months and months researching and then practising various things, and one of these was on how to walk like a woman because once out and about I didn’t want to stick out as someone walking rather oddly and draw attention to myself; in fact, even when having to keep up the façade of a male persona I started walking like a woman, partly to practise and partly because the real me was eagerly trying to burst into the world. My research involved largely reading on various transgender websites for hints and tips on what to do and what not to do, and I put as many of them into practise as possible, and for me I believe they have worked… not that I think I actually ever walked really bloke-like, and in fact when I came out to someone at work shortly before going full-time he told me I ran like a girl! Anyway, my current injury issue has enabled me to examine the various aspects of the female walk, both in terms of what I really still need to do (which pretty much comes naturally now anyway) and also observing women around me, and my conclusions are as follows:

  • As the girl at the foot clinic said to me, everyone walks differently… so just supposing you look at someone and think they have a very feminine walk that you’d like to emulate then look at another girl and they are highly unlikely to walk the same way… although as per the next point, there are certain things that most women exhibit when they walk.
  • The vast majority of women walk with their body straight and, unlike a typical bloke, the torso itself does not move at all… so they don’t trudge! Women also rarely walk with their hands in their pockets, practically always swing their arms as they walk (and usually one arm as the other arm has a handbag hanging from some part of it), walk with their legs together (so not like a rugby player) so that the legs almost brush on the insides, and very importantly they take shorter strides than men do and therefore more of them; ignoring the latter can potentially mean that someone supposed to be walking like a woman will look more like they are moon-walking like Michael Jackson.
  • Women in heels will to a certain extent swing their hips – this is at least partly because wearing heels naturally makes one do this. However, excessive hip-swinging, or ‘mincing’, is just going to look ridiculous and will make one look more like a very camp man; I have observed a girl in my office walking like this, and she looks idiotic! Women wearing flats or trainers generally don’t do much in the way of swaying, if at all.
  • I read on one site that a woman’s body structure means that their torso is more forward in relation to their pelvis, which probably accounts for the fact that certain women have obvious bottoms (I don’t mean fat, just, well, stick-out shapely I suppose). To try and achieve this it is possible for a trans-girl to roll their pelvis forwards, and I have done this over the last two years… and although I think it helped me pass well on the whole, at this stage in my transition, where I think I pass well enough due to my naturally feminine hair, improved looks due to HRT, and confidence in myself, my injury has made me realise that I don’t need to do this any more… and in fact it may have contributed to my injury by putting undue pressure on my knees.
  • A trans woman told me that women walk with their toes pointed inwards. Really? Not in general, from what I have seen.

I could think of more to say I suppose, but I’m weary so I hope the above tips will help some of you further back in the journey than I am; these are my opinions, I think they will help someone to blend in more… but that’s only part of the equation, if one doesn’t make much effort with make up, has poor dress sense or dresses out of keeping with their age, then no amount of walking practise is going to help an awful lot :-/

Today I looked at the websites of Ecco and Hotter… and if one wades through the frumpiness there are just a few sensible and even pretty shoes and well-styled boots… so I may soon go footwear shopping!

 

Another year, another Canary island

Up until November last year I had never been to the Canary Islands in my life, and had a naive pre-conceived idea about what they were like… which proved ill-judged as, having then visited two islands in as many months, I was bowled over by the scenery of both Tenerife and Lanzarote and, apart from the touristy towns which I skirted or avoided, they were interesting places with individual and likeable character. So, into another year, and it was time to try out another one… and try and find that elusive ‘winter sun’ too with miserable weather back home, with a long weekend Gran Canaria.

The first day was simply spent travelling to the island, with a four hour flight which arrived at about 6.00pm. I do worry a bit about flights, especially longer ones like that, as being on hormones I am at a somewhat increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis; I do wriggle my toes and my feet now and again on flights, and I arrived all in order… although slightly disappointed in the weather, because although the airport was in sun much of the island elsewhere was shrouded in cloud and the pilot warned of high winds getting out of the plane. I hurried through arrivals to try and get ahead of people at the car hire desk… and soon my heart sank, as this time I had chosen hire company Goldcar (as cost much lower than Hertz this time) and the queue at their desk was massive. The staff were hopelessly slow, and the queue took an age to diminish, and only an hour and a half later was I at the front of it picking up my keys. Another issue I had with Goldcar is that they don’t pre-authorise ones credit card, they actually debit it with a deposit… and as they operate in a different currency then I am being penalised by fees. Another disaster with the car hire was that when I went down to the garage to pick it up, there was nobody in sight and another hire car had rolled in front of mine as some idiot had not put the handbrake on!! So I had to unlock it by putting my hand through the open window, pushing it forward myself, and then jumping into the seat to put the brake on. All that trouble to pick up an awful, plastic Toyota Yaris! I drove to my first hotel in the dark, and managed to get lost, much to the amusement of the locals of a tiny village in the hills that I asked directions from. But I eventually arrived, and had a good night stay at my hotel, below one of the island’s tourist attractions, a volcanic crater called Bandama.

Waking after a good night sleep I pulled the curtains and was dismayed to see it raining! I had hoped to leave rain at home!! As I got ready the rain showers were mixed with sunny spells, but the weather prognosis was not good, and as I popped up in the car to visit the crater grey skies and rain-filled clouds were visible in the distance all around! Having P1070670earlier looked at webcams in the hotel, it appeared as though the best of the weather was in the south east towards Maspalomas and so this is where I headed… and low and behold, by the time I had got two thirds of the way down the motorway on the east coast I found sun, and 24C temperatures. At the junction for Maspalomas, I headed in the opposite direction inland away from tourism for interesting or impressive scenery, and found it soon enough (see above right); further inland and at higher altitude I was eventually driving into mist with heavy grey clouds higher, and so I headed back to the coast along a different route in the sun, and then on a scenic road to the west… although at that point the weather deteriorated making photos and scenic diversions pointless. Then things got worse, I had hoped to travel along road GC200, a very P1070690 rainbowimpressive road along the west coast, but it was closed due to rock falls! So I had to take a much longer road inland climbing into the mountains, and once into the northern half of the island the rain became torrential, with flash waterfalls appearing along the road, and a very tedious decent along windy, flooded roads to where I was staying for the remainder of my holiday, at Puetro de las Nieves; all that driving with little in the way of breaks hurt my leg, which caused me worries after my holiday for a while about DVT and fractures. A few miles out, I finally found the sun again after about three hours of grey skies and increasing rain… although once in the sun that rain did allow me to take this picture of one of a number of rainbows I saw; I also had a nice little walk to a pretty little beach and impressive coastline beyond (see below). It was good to get to my hotel, especially with tea-making facilities available, and after a little rest I smartened up and ate at a local restaurant… having a rather average meal served by a grumpy guy who couldn’t be bothered to pick his feet up whoever he served.

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The next day the weather was thankfully rather better, although I did have to head clockwise on the motorway around the island again towards the south to find it; I had a lovely breakfast at a café on the seafront, with good views of the dramatic cliffs beyond the small port. I firstly went inland in the north though to a typically Canarian town called Moya, with pleasant streets and old buildings, and a very imposing church… although disappointingly it was locked and so I could not visit the allegedly impressive interior. In P1070727 Roque Nublothe south, I ventured inland along a different road, and found some splendid scenery, firstly seeing clouds lifting from the mountains, and then along higher roads revealing impressive rocky outcrops and valleys. The highlights of my explorations were two outstanding rocky lava plugs, Roque Bentayga, and top attraction Roque Nublo, the latter mysteriously poking through the late-afternoon clouds (see photo, right). That day I could not walk to Roque Nublo, as by the time I got to the car park the cloud had lowered, and so I drove back towards my hotel, hoping to be able to head along the western coast south – I made it in good time, and saw some dramatic coastline, although after a while the road was blocked due to the aforementioned rock falls; I stayed until the sun had nearly set (see below photo), and then headed back, with an achy leg from driving again. My final dinner, on the seafront, was a bargain indeed, with three courses (seafood soup, sole and salad, and almond cake with ice cream) and a beer with tip for €19!! I also enjoyed being Ma’amed to death by the waiter once he discovered I was English.

P1070747 sunset cropped

On my final day I once again headed south, all the way around the motorway (which takes about an hour and quarter from one end to the other), past the town where Kirsty stayed last year, and then inland, past Mogan in which there is an old windP1070681mill, and up a windy mountain road past numerous cyclists torturing themselves to get to the summit. Once there I again I encountered lovely, dramatic scenery, including a distant view of a snow-capped Mt Teide on Tenerife as I explored. This time I was able to take a good walk up to Roque Nublo, an immense monolith from which super views were available. The final touristy thing I did was to go to nearby Pico de las Nieves, the highest point on the island from which there are incredible views of Roque Nublo, Mt Teide, and all scenery in between (see below).

So, another Canary  island visited, although not completed for there is much left that I feel is worth seeing and doing, but despite the variable weather I had 20+C temperatures every day… even though I had to search to find them; won’t be renting from Goldcar again though!! Once again, I was away with nobody making any indication to suggest that they even wondered whether I was transsexual… which is just how I like life… fitting in like the woman I am.

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Reunion… on an Accidental Mother’s Day Weekend

I have been living full-time in my true, female gender for over a year now and for that time there have been two people who have had an issue with that for one reason or another, my brother and my daughter.

I don’t imagine that my daughter will come round any time soon and I doubt my ex- ever has anything positive or encouraging to say about me – that would break the habit of a lifetime – but I will continue to communicate via email with her and live in hope.

As for my brother, one of his big issues in making any acceptance-progress has been that he just doesn’t communicate… and in fact not just on this, but with anything much really, certainly not anything more than superficial. Anyway, about 5 weeks ago I started the ball rolling by sending him a little message saying that I miss my parents, having not seen them for over 5 months, and seemingly not able to come over either… and his response totally ignored my emotions. Shortly afterwards I had an email from my parents asking if I was okay and reminding me that I had not been in touch in a couple of weeks… and so it enabled me to tell them that, actually, although healthy enough I was a bit sad that I had not seen them for so long… and, to cut a long story short, I had booked flights for the first weekend in March to go over to stay with my family, as well as a hire car to get there as my brother did not want to meet the new-look me for the first time by himself, which is fair enough I suppose considering the length of time he has been stuck in time. About a week before my weekend away, I was shopping in Tesco and saw reminders about Mothers Day on 6th March… and then was even happier about my trip arrangements, because I would be over for Mothers Day with my mother, something I did not know when I had booked flights.

So, on March 4th, I was flying out of Belfast on my way to my family, feeling quite excited… although at the same time not particularly well, having had my third cold of the year for about a week, and also an annoying leg ache, that as luck wouldn’t have it escalated during my travels and made me think I had DVT. At just after midnight I got to my family’s house, relieved and overjoyed to be there, actually in the home that I grew up in, but feeling right about myself… albeit unwell. The next morning I was up and ready in reasonable time, and tentatively went into the kitchen where my brother was making bread, with my mum safely nearby… and it was not long before we were in conversation, and laughing about things! And it wasn’t much different to how it ever was… except of course I was happy within myself. Later my brother went for a walk by himself as he had a headache… at least that was what I was told… although he does do this a lot when I am not there, so I IMG_20160305_132026707decided to go down to the small town centre for some shopping. Before I went I asked my dad whether any of the neighbours knew about me and, when he said no, I asked what I should do if I should encounter any of them, should I just smile sweetly, say hello, and walk on… and he said “it’s up to you”! This really pleased me, essentially he was saying that if I wanted to let them know then that was fine, and he was not afraid of any resulting gossip, for example. I was out for maybe an hour and a half and had a nice time, even though the town where my parents live is hardly very big – it’s a farming and mountain-activities town, with supermarkets and a few standard shops as well as a number of hiking shops, so hardly a place with in-trend fashion stores, but it was nice to wander around what I call my home town as my true self, without anyone treating me any differently from any other woman; see photo of happy-me, taken on the bridge over the main river passing through the town. The rest of the weekend was very nice but nothing much to write about, we played cards, ate quite a bit, chatted quite a lot, but ultimately it was enjoyable and pleasant without any awkwardness; on the Sunday night my brother bid me farewell, as he was working the next day, and he said it was nice to see me… and so I am quite hopeful that all will be well with him and me 🙂

The Monday morning I was tired and after washing and styling my hair and eating breakfast I went to bed for a while. After lunch I was packed and it was all too soon time to go – as my parents accompanied me to my car I got sad, and when my mum hugged me goodbye I burst into tears! My mum told me not to cry, and that they would be over to see me soon. After a hug from my dad, I got in the car and dried my eyes and cheeks, and then set off… and it was only after several miles that the threat of tears subsided.

All in all, a pretty successful, and very enjoyable weekend!

 

More First Anniversary Celebrations

Having actually not celebrated my first-year anniversary of living properly as a woman at all on the actual day itself I hoped that the week following it would make up for it… and, as it turned out, it did so rather sooner than expected!

I went into work on my earlier train on the Monday morning, although it was a bit late arriving… and once at my office it was rather obvious that someone had been rather busy at my desk preparing it for celebrations! This is what it looked like:

desk

(It doesn’t normally look like this… although as I write the balloons are still mostly present). Lots of appropriately coloured balloons, a card, and not one but three presents!! I was full of big smiles and, after taking my coat off, opened the card and started reading very kind words… and then stopped as it started explaining the reason for 20160203_095101each present, the main two appearing in the photo alongside. We had  a good long chat, and I thanked the girl in my team who had created all my surprises a lot because I so appreciated her kind effort and words, it really picked me up after an eventless weekend… and, as it turned out, she was the only one who even gave me a card; thank you!

Another thing that made the day nice was a breakfast special at the work restaurant, waffles with chocolate and caramel sauce and maple syrup. Normally I have a pretty healthy breakfast, but it was a celebratory breakfast and so I pushed the boat out… and so glad that I did – YUMMMMMY!!

On the Saturday following that I went out for dinner with friends Kirsty and Michelle at a restaurant called Coco’s, as I had had the pre-theatre menu there once before and it was excellent. This time the food was still very good, although I didn’t like my dessert that much as it was very gingery; my rabbit pasta starter was lovely though, and my main of halibut bourguignon very good too… once I had asked for the sauce, which was missing from the plates. However, the meal was somewhat spoiled by a very noisy atmosphere – some people seem to think this is great, giving a place a buzz, but I have a soft voice and I don’t want to risk wrecking it by raising my voice continually… and so after a while, with the noise getting ever louder and worsened by ramped up music volume, I could not hear what my friends were saying and gave up any attempts at conversation… and so was fed up. If I want to out for a nice meal and catch-up, I don’t want to do it in a semi-disco atmosphere.

After dinner, and a drive back to Lisburn in Michelle’s nice new car, Kirsty followed me back to my house for an overnight stay; I enjoyed several hours with her until 2.00am, sharing a bottle of Cava, and playing an amusing chocolate-taster game… as well as some music and nice chat. The following day Kirsty rose at around 9.30-9.45 and I about 15 minutes later… and it was nice to be ready several minutes before her and much quicker for a change – now that I have my own hair, and have a much speedier make-up routine, this is now possible. After a bacon sandwich prepared by my own fair-but-limited hand we went to Ulster museum (after a quick visit to the palm house) as there was a Rembrandt self portrait on display, as well as several other pieces by other artists of the period – from the painting notes it became apparent that Rembrandt painted the most self portraits of all famous painters… and I don’t quite know why, as he wasn’t exactly, well, an oil painting… if you see what I mean. We also had a look round some other paintings, including many period pieces (on the one hand quite a few stuffy looking portraits, but also some nice landscapes, including some local scenes such as this one near Warrenpoint) warrenpoint pictureand then the modern art section where, as before, some paintings interested me and some I just didn’t get whatsoever. After a wander around a few other areas of the museum we had a coffee and biscuit/cake, and then went shopping in Belfast city centre; I had a really fun time, and it was nice to have an honest friend who provided affirmations and the occasional negation on clothes on offer, and also nice to help her choose something too. As the shop-closing hour arrived we drove to Malone Lodge where Kirsty has a book group meeting later on, so beforehand we had a bar-meal early dinner, which was pretty tasty if a little fat-saturated. As 7.00 neared, book-group meet-time, Joanne from the group came to the bar and said hello to the two of us (I know her from a different group event), then Kirsty seemed to joke with me about coming along to the group… and I returned the jokey chat (“okay, I’ll see you there in a few minutes… ha ha”) even though I didn’t see the point in me going as I had not read the book under discussion and also I think I am a bit of a literary dullard compared to the average group person. So I drove home and did some wallpapering – like one does at 8.00pm on a Sunday evening – to round off a great, celebratory first-anniversary week of me living full-time as my natural, female self for a whole year.

Roll on the next 12 months, life’s feeling pretty good… even though, as I write, I feel like I am coming down with my second cold/flu of 2016 :-/

x

 

First Anniversaries – Celebration & Brief Reflections

Well just where has the last year gone??? Time flies when enjoying oneself I guess, or living a really happy life as I have now, finally, been doing… because today is the first anniversary of the day when I began living full-time as my true female self, 12 months ago today!! Alas, I am celebrating the day by remaining at home not just today but tomorrow too as I am recovering from my latest laser hair removal treatment yesterday – it went well, though I left with a very numb face, which is now a bit puffy and sensitive.

I suppose I could write reams and reams about how the last 12 months has gone… but if you’re interested in all that detail then it is covered in my previous blog posts. Most of all it is just so comforting how normal and happily the last 12 months have gone – I could put that down to a number of things I suppose, such as how nice many people have been, perhaps the significant preparatory effort in previous years that I put into presenting and sounding reasonably well, aided by speech therapy sessions and more recently by HRT which is very slowly affecting my shape, but also it is simply because life has felt so totally right and natural… which only leads to feelings of remorse that I did not do this years ago, although circumstances of one sort or another perhaps just didn’t mean I was ready to do so until recently. I have done lots of fun, and some new (as Andrea), things in the period, such as going on a number of holidays abroad with my female passport (including one with my walking group) and an assortment of cultural Meetup events. Any anxieties I might have had (and I don’t recall many, because it was just the right and only thing to do) of life full-time in my true-gender have been unfounded, life at work has been fine and so many people have commented on how much happier a person I am, commuting has been no bother, and my social life has been enjoyable and fun; I can also count the number of times when by myself that I have been aware that I have not passed on the digits of one of my hands, and I think that is pretty good going over a 12 month 24/7 period as myself… considering that most of it I was still wearing a wig while growing my own hair.

I have actually in a way celebrated my anniversary already, because tw20160128_204254o days ago I went out with a nice woman from work to an upmarket Italian restaurant in Dublin – it was a very enjoyable and fun evening, even if the dining room was noisy, and I had the most alcoholic but delicious tiramisu of my entire life. We got to the restaurant at about 6.00 and left just over 2 hours later. We then took the local DART cross-city train to the station where I get my intercity train home, and hugged before I got off the train, it was a really nice end to a lovely evening and I was happy all the way home on the train (see picture).

Alas another 12-month anniversary that has recently past is the last time that I saw my daughter, but all I can do is hope that time will help her understand and realise that this change in her parent is due to the unhappiness that she noticed in me, and that my personality is little different – I may well miss her, just like I wish I could visit my parents without the hurdle of a brother who doesn’t try and understand what I have been through but is stuck in the grieving stage, but life will carry on and I will continue getting as much out of it as I can.

Who knows what 2016 and the next 12 months may bring…

 

Christmas Highs, Christmas Lows, Christmas Dinner… Christmas Alone

Most years I hear ‘adverts’ on the radio (if advert is the right word), particularly/primarily from charities, reminding viewers/listeners that there are people out there, especially the elderly, who are alone at Christmas, and who can be quite vulnerable, in one way or another. Upon hearing such past reminders, I expect I pondered for a moment, thought that a bit sad, but could not think of anyone that I knew that was in such a situation… except that this year it has been me in this situation, and I now fully appreciate the difficulties that such charities highlight. In the ten previous years I have spent Christmas Day on my own owing to marital separation, but it has always been in the knowledge that within a day or two I would be with someone that was close to me, my daughter and maybe also my parents and brother; however, owing to the circumstances of my transition to simply live as my true feminine self, the reward I have been given for living my life in this honest fashion is that I have spent the whole of the Christmas period without this company… and it has generally been a very lonely time.

Perhaps because of this anticipation, soon after the first Christmas dinner with my two friends Kirsty and Michelle at the end of November I decided Plough xmas 2015-2that it would be nice to have a Christmas dinner close to the 25th December, especially after our first attempt was not a Christmas menu, and so I arranged an outing for us on 23rd December at The Plough, one of our favourite restaurants… and I am so glad that we did this because I left feeling a bit Christmassy – it gave me an opportunity to have a traditional Christmas dinner (as well as a yummy dessert and reasonable starter) with two good friends, I was also able to show Michelle my new hair style… the first style with MY hair. Afterwards we exchanged presents and cards, and left for home.

On Christmas Eve, the first for many years without my daughter who I have traditionally taken to work with me, I went to work alone, and gave out the rest of my Christmas cards. Actually, the first one of the day I gave at Newry station to the guys there who I see every week, and the one on duty said “Och, thanks so much!” and gave me good wishes. The second card was to this elderly guy who works in Dublin Station who I see most days, he is always very friendly and sometimes saves a newspaper for me to read on the train home, anyway I went to give him the card… and he took my hand and then gave me a kiss on the cheek and wished me a Happy Christmas – uhhh, that’s never happened before (for obvious reasons) and I left the station for my office with a humoured smile. At work I gave out my cards, and in a few I gave thanks for all the support that certain people have given me throughout the year since I started living full-time as a woman, that has contributed to 2015 being the best year of my life by miles and miles; one guy in particular was quite touched, and warmly laid his hand on my arm. I then gave a card to a lady called Audrey who I have chatted to a lot during the year, and because she has given me some good advice as well as been a very good listener I gave her a small present too – she said I was very thoughtful… and then proceeded to give me a whole BAG of little presents!! I couldn’t believe her kindness, she said they were only small things, but she knew I would be alone over Christmas and wanted to give me something – as regular readers will know, I display quite an amount of emotion in my life (I’m allowed to, I’m a woman) and I could not help but spill a tear or two down my cheeks. I left the office reasonably early, and went straight home and put all those presents under my tree alongside those from my two friends.

I woke up on Christmas Day… and did not feel very Christmassy or jolly; opening the curtains made me feel even less so, as I was due to go a walk but the skies were very grey and threatened the rain that was forecast. I decided to still get ready though, but as I set off the rain started, and within a few minutes drive the rain although light was steady; I actually stopped, looked at the rain through the car window, and turned back wondering what I was thinking of… but in a minute or two I turned around again, and carried on driving to my walk, as I did not want to spend the whole day on my own… and I am glad I did that. The walk was up to Cave Hill above Belfast Castle where I met about 15 other people in my group, including several friendly faces. We had reasonable chat as we went, and at the top we did have a white Christmas for a few minutes as the light rain at altitude fell in little flakes. Once back at our cars a few people drifted off while the remainder of us went to the house of a group member who lived nearby – she had plates of biscuits and chocolate log ready, as well as tea and coffee, and we stayed around 45 minutes and warmed up nicely… but eventually it was time to depart, and we thanked the lady for her hospitality and had a hug…

…and then, within an hour, I was home, and on my own for several days of20151225_presents unseasonality over the Christmas break. On the journey home I had a call from a girl at work to wish me Happy Christmas, though I could not take it… and once home I was not in a happy mood to speak to her and so texted her back with my own wishes. I warmed up with soup and toast, and then got an email from my daughter thanking me a lot (with many OMGs) for giving her an iPhone for Christmas – I sent her a reply… and as I proof-read it a sense of longing overtook me and at that moment I cried a little as I missed her so much. Within a half hour I was crying again, but a good (if ‘good’ is the word for a sad emotion) long sob this time while opening the presents from the lady at work, as I opened more and more it was even clearer how kind and thoughtful she had been – the presents may have been small, but many quite girlie and useful – and as I carried on I felt so alone. After all that crying I sorted myself out with a  few chocolates, a few messages back and forth with two supportive friends (one local one and one I ‘met’ on Words With Friends a few months ago), and sat in front of a couple of light-hearted movies… although my eyes itched from my earlier tears.

I had a very lazy day on Boxing Day, spending much of it in bed either on my tablet or dozing while the radio was on… but later in the afternoon I fitted a new curtain pole in my bedroom, very pleased with the result, and had a lovely hot bath and styled my hair… and was VERY pleased with that result, and so I was in a very good mood by the evening time.

Sometimes the key to keeping one’s spirits up is to keep busy… and that is what I did on the Sunday, gardening for four hours into the afternoon, achieving a lot, and later stripping wallpaper from the walls of a spare room; well, it worked, I was happy with all that I did.

Monday I met my BFF Kirsty for coffee, some sale-shopping, and a good meal at a new restaurant for us called Home, where I ate a salmon dish with lovely white wine sauce followed by a chocolate fondant which was rather better than the one I attempted the weekend before; we finished the evening with hot drinks at a new-favourite coffee shop called Arizona… but eventually it was time to go, and it wasn’t long before my Christmassy loneliness returned… and so the next day I kept myself busy again.

For many, many years I haven’t worked between Christmas and New Year, but with no loved ones who felt capable of spending time with me at Christmas I went to work for a couple of days at the end of December. On the New Years Eve I got a kiss from the Dublin station guy again, both arriving at Dublin and departing… although the latter he had just had a smoke, and so that wasn’t very pleasant. Once home, all tedious New Years Eve viewing was abandoned to some weepy movies… and I was in bed with the light off well before midnight, with nobody but my teddy bears to bring in the New Year with.

And so that was my Christmas… and perhaps you are wondering what is the point in this post? A number of reasons I suppose, for me and for others – firstly, remember those that you know who are alone at Christmas time as it CAN be a difficult time emotionally to cope with (I KNOW), secondly if you are alone then do whatever you can to be positive even if it means keeping busy to get through difficult days, it’s also a reminder for me that I’ve got through this Christmas largely on my own and without the company of loved ones and with very little support from them. In past years I would have phoned my parents on Christmas Day, but as I knew I would not have a great day then I warned them I would not ring (I hardly wanted them wishing me a “Happy Christmas”, how could I be happy all on my own), and instead the next day I sent them an email with an update on things, and telling them about my Christmas Day; disappointingly I received no reply from them… which I don’t find very supportive… whereas at least my brother was a bit sympathetic via some online-chat… although he fails to get half the point in that it is him that has prevented me from being invited to spend Christmas with my family.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year, thank you for reading during 2015.

x

 

A Hairy (?) Weekend

I couldn’t think of a snazzy title for this blog post, but you’ll get the thread of it soon enough as to what the title is about. ‘Hairy’ can mean adorned with lots of hair, or alternatively a difficult situation, well, there was a fair amount of hair involved… and the weekend I am writing about, the one before Christmas, could have had some difficult moments emotionally, but thankfully nothing too awkward.

I have been living full-time as my true female self for almost eleven months, and up until the weekend before Christmas all of that time, at least away from my house, had been spent wearing a wig… for obvious reasons, because my own hair was not nearly long enough to be styled into anything feminine. I last touched my hair with a trimmer in early November 2014… and so thirteen and a half months after that I had an appointment with the lovely Paul Meekin at his stylish salon to finally get my hair cut, coloured, and styled. Earlier in the week I had had a colour test with him to make sure my skin would not have a reaction to the hair colour, and with that going fine it was all systems go for the weekend. My appointment was at 11.00, and not too long after I arrived Paul took me into his VIP room and my wig was removed for, hopefully, the final time, and he applied the hair colour – it looked an alarming orange colour in the mixing dish, but on the hair it looked promising, and I waited with a pile of magazines after he had finished while the colour took/set. Then a girl gave my hair a good wash and condition in the main salon rooDSCN1225e - first cutm, I sat on one of the reclined seats, and the girl pressed a button and then it reclined further, the sides pulled themselves up to caress my body, and the seat gave me a massage while my hair was attended to! I felt like I was really being pampered. Once that was done, and my hair towel dried, it was back into the VIP room where Paul blow-dried, styled, and ironed my hair… and when he was finished, surprise surprise, emotions took hold again as I could not hold back my tears because I was so overjoyed by the resulting look – Paul did such a wonderful job and it made me realise that women don’t go to a salon just to “get their hair cut”, they go so that they leave feeling good about themselves, looking good, and having been pampered by people who care about what they do… at least that was how it felt at Paul’s salon; see photo that he took of me following my first ever girly cut!

Once I had paid, both for my haircut but also my very own pair of hair irons, I gathered my stuff together, touched up my make-up after one or two more tears, and then left with Paul for lunch; as we drove, I couldn’t help myself but look at my hair in the car mirror! I was slightly worried that the fringe was a bit light, but now I realise that is only because my wig was SO heavy and unnatural by comparison. We picked up his partner at his apartment building, and then drove to a café owned by one of his friends who has just started up her own business, a place called Linen and Latte near Glengormley… and we had a FAB lunch, Louise and one of her friends were waiting at a table for us, and the three of us all ordered club sandwiches which were really tasty on lovely bread… and Paul and I went for dessert too, I had a lovely chocolate cake, he some apple pie; the service was really attentive, and the food good value, so I left a tip as we departed. Paul dropped me back at my car near the salon, and I offered Christmas wishes, feeling SOOO happy.

I had arranged to meet Kirsty at the Banbridge Outlet, but before that I popped to Boucher Road to return some clothes at New Look, where I tried on some boots; I suppose that was the first test of my new hair… and, of course, all was good… because now my hair looked totally natural, because it was MY OWN!! I met Kirsty in Costa, and it was just slightly deflating, and that was because I was hoping for an immediate OMG-type look from her when she saw me… and yet I sat opposite her only three or four feet away once I had got my mocha and, well, NOTHING! We chatted for a bit, and she asked me what I had been up to, I said I had been in Belfast, and so she asked if I had been shopping… uh, nooo, and so I actually pointed at my hair, and FINALLY the penny dropped, at which point I got the reaction I wanted, she was very complimentary and said it was so good… and, oh, it very much was!

Once coffee was done, we drove20151220_152411 to my house, because Kirsty was coming over to help me erect and decorate my Christmas tree… partly because she had not been over for some time, but also because if she had not come over then I would not have bothered decorating it just by myself. I treated myself to a new tree a few days beforehand, one of those with fake snow on the branches, and I was really pleased with it because the branches were nice and bushy and to me the snow looks quite realistic; when Kirsty folded down the branches some of the ‘snow’ fell onto the carpet… but I reckon it looks nice. Anyway, to cut a long story thankfully shorter for you readers I’m sure, the tree ended up looking fab (see photo), Kirsty cooked me a lovely starter and main course while I failed (alongside a list of numerous previous Masterchef contestants) to cook a chocolate fondant. I had an enjoyable evening, as well as the morning after… but alas Kirsty had to leave at around 12.30pm, and at that point the weekend did get a bit difficult for me, because I suddenly felt alone with Christmas looming like an ugly grey cloud… and so much chocolate was consequently eaten.

But, overall, it was a great weekend… with another major milestone crossed on my amazing journey – my own hair finally on display to the world. Over the next few days at work I had many compliments about my hair, from “Wow, I can’t believe it, it’s brilliant” to a couple of “is there something different about your hair?”, the overriding opinion was that it was rather better than before and more natural. During the week I caught my reflection in the train window a couple of times when it stopped at a station… and I was so pleased… a new look for the New Year 🙂

Away with the Canaries… AGAIN

I am writing this post on Christmas Day but, being alone at this time, I want to write about anything other than Christmas to avoid bursting into tears for the third time today… preferably recalling more enjoyable, recent times.

In my last blog post I mentioned Seasonal Affective Disorder, I have not been clinically diagnosed as having this but I am totally certain that I suffer it to some extent – every year in autumn and winter my mood is lower, I find it difficult to get up in the morning when the hours are short and especially when there has been a prolonged period of dreadful weather (today being typically awful, with grey skies and increasing rain since before 10.00am this morning), and so on….

…so this year I thought that I would do something about it, at least for a short period, and so I decided to go away for an end-of-year holiday, in mid-December. I had thought of doing something new, as I have become more prone to adventure and willing to try pretty much anything (except for bungee jumping, parachuting, and vindaloo curries) at least once, and the idea of visiting one of Germany’s Christmas markets came to mind… but the price of the flights last-minute (for I only started planning at the start of this month) was ridiculously expensive, and I am not made of money. Then I figured that that was a dumb idea, because if I am already suffering from S.A.D. then surely I need to go somewhere with at least a marginally better climate to home, and so I looked for the cheapest flights possible to somewhere reasonably warm… and ended up booking a return flight to Lanzarote for only £84! Less than two weeks after I booked that, as well as three nights half-board at a reasonable hotel and ridiculously cheap car hire, I was setting off on my break. Canaries here I come… AGAIN… only six weeks after I had left Tenerife! So… this is another holiday post, and as I’m lagging behind a bit in what I want to write to you about, I’ll cover the whole break in one post… probably with the usual bucketful of photos.

The only downer was right at the start of my holiday in that I had to get up at 2.15am as my flight was departing from Dublin at 6.15am!!! But it was worth it, as I was leaving Lanzarote airport at around 11.00am in my little hire car for a full day of exploring… in BEAUTIFUL sunny Stonework beach, N Lanzaroteweather, 23C and a cloudless blue sky. After a couple of stops along the east coast,
passing some nice beaches and coastline, I got to Stonework Beach near Orzola at the northern tip of the island… my first favourite spot of Lanzarote (see picture, above right); there was a bit of a breeze, but the temperature was still wonderful, and I was warm enough in just a girly T-shirt. There was quite a swell in the sea, and some great waves for surfers. From there I headed up a pretty scenic road to a small village called Ye, and then toLa Graciosa Island Lanzarote a viewpoint that offered a lovely vista of a long, thin island, called La Graciosa, pitted with collapsed volcanic
cones (photo 2, left). After some more driving around, and a few little stops, I ended up walking very happily in my T-shirt on a scenic beach… in December!!!! With time getting on, I started heading south to my hotel, through the amazing Timanfaya Volcanic park that I would see much more of the next day (see logo statue right, and late-afternoon photo below)Timanfaya statue. Shortly after 6.00 I checked into my hotel in Playa Blanca and was given a glass of Cava by the friendly porter who showed me to my room; the hotel had taken onboard my request for a quiet room, and it was perfect, away from any noise, and very spacious inside too. I dressed smartly for dinner in summery, floaty trousers, a thin top and matching cardigan, and ate outside… in December! Such fun… and a very enjoyable dinner too, with a HUGE buffet spread, including fish cooked freshly by a friendly chef in front of me; the waiting staff were very friendly… and madamed me several times.

Timanfaya Sunset 1

I awoke on Saturday to another beautiful day and, after a plentiful breakfast from another bountiful buffet (where I got ‘ladied’ by a waiter), I set off for a full day of exploring. My first stop was one of the number one tourist attractions on the island, the Timanfaya Volcanic Park… and rightly so, because the scenery is stunning and other-worldly, different from anything I have seen before, a landscape drowned in immense lava flows from the last major eruption lasting six years from 1730 and littered with numerous volcanic cones in assorted burnt colours; see photo below of one example from the park itself. At the car park one of the tour guides said “my dear” as he gestured me to the next tour bus, which soon left, along an extensive road through some of the major volcanic sites; he stopped several times while the tour tape explained the history of the area, and he was kind enough to roll the door window down so that I could take some photos without reflections in the windows. There was also a geyser near the car park that sprayed passers by every so often. The only aspect of the park I didn’t like was that the experience was all a bit synthetic compared to Tenerife, in the park itself it is practically impossible to stop anywhere to take a photo – I understand that they don’t want people wandering all over the volcanic rocks, but it would be nice to have a few stopping places for marvelling at leisure at the amazing scenery.

Timanfaya conescape 1c

After the park, I headed north, for more exploring and much photo taking, I got a bit hungry… and decided for the sheer novelty value of it tMe and my ice creamo have an ice cream, just because it was mid-December and the weather suited it. Then I went to my favourite place on the island, a place with what I consider to be magnificent, unspoilt scenery and, best of all, little-discovered and in fact devoid of any tourists. One reason is because it was not easy to get to – I had to drive off the main road, beyond the suburbs of a small town, down a gravel road, and then at a make-shift parking spot walk a half mile to the coast and then another half mile to the spot where the coastal photo below is taken. To me the waves were lovely to listen to, nature and nothing else, and the red rock in the distance quite unusual and
spectacular; I may return and explore further. I visited quite a few other
sites, and took loads of photos, but I won’t detail them laboriously or drown you in photos… though I will soon put more photos on my Flickr page if you are interested. I always think that there is a certain romance in watching the sun go down at the coast, seeing the sun dip below the horizon… although I didn’t have anyone to share it with… but it was rather nice, the photo below is of the sun setting beyond the still ‘harvested’ salt works on the island; the best thing of all, the sCoastal red rocks 1un set at 5.55pm (nearly two hours later than at home), and yet the temperature at that time was still 21C! In the evening I went shopping in Playa Blanca for bargains, haggling with a guy in a perfumery to get a bottle of my favourite My Burberry for a very reasonable price, and then spending rather too long in an electronics shop as an Indian guy tried to flog me a camera that must have been a fake for the price he was trying to sell it for… and so I was not tempted to buy even though he madamed me to death. The staff at dinner was really nice, I asked one of the chefs what the meat was that he was slicing off a leg bone and he joked “donkey”, and when I looked agog he laughed and said it was lamb. As I ate outside, quite late, there was some quite enjoyable entertainment at the Arabian bar nearby, belly dancing… though it was more the music I enjoyed, having little interest in the actual dancers… but as I sat back after my dinner and finished off my drink, I wore a huge smile on my face, having had SUCH a good day and feeling SO on top of the world.

Salinas sunset

Sunday was another sunny day – how lucky was I, huh!! EXACTLY the weather I went away to find. Another day of exploring (I don’t do relaxing / pool), more so inland than the other days, marvelling at the other-worldly lava flows almost devoid of vegetation, and also the envineyard fielddeavours of the locals to farm the land as best they can – see right for a vineyard, where cones of ashy lapilli are raked out of the land to plant vines in the fertile ground below. I eventually ended up at another really interesting tourist spot, a volcanic cone called La Caldera Los Ceurvas which was the very first one that made up the eruptive activity of the 1730s – it was a bit of a walk to get to the cone itself, which was fine, and then I started walking around the base of the cone… and then inside it!! It was sooo eerie, but lovely and peaceful, with bold, colours of ochre… and the amazing thing was that the landscape actually smelt burnt! But despite that, as I walked further around the cone, there was some flora Volcano Geraniumand fauna, including these beautiful geraniums. After visiting a number of other places, including Teguise which is one of the bigger and more attractive old towns on the island, I eventually ended up at the very volcanic coast not too far from my hotel near the salt works where there is an impressive natural feature called Los Hervidores, basalt columns of rock jutting into the sea, with a cave all the way under one of the rocky spines (see photo below) through which sizeable waves crashed like thunder. Alas the sun was going down, and I returned to my hotel and started packing for my departure the following morning. I had a lovely final meal, greeted by a friendly wasiter who as usual said “Good evening madam”, treating myself to a very good half bottle of Spanish wine… and proving that I can still walk in sizeable heels when tipsy! While I was eating my dinner I was surfing on my tablet and playing Words With Friends, I was chatting to one guy on it and telling him about the lovely bath I had and he said “Bet your boobs didn’t freeze when you got out!” – uh, no! 🙂

Los Hervideros 1

Sadly Monday morning I left my hotel about 8.45am for the airport, though there was just time for one or two short stops for photos before getting there; in the arrivals area was a Christmas tree… anLanzarote Xmas Treed I guess as it is Christmas Day then I should include a picture of it. Several hours later I was back in Dublin… to totally grey skies, pouring rain, and single-digit temperatures… but I didn’t mind, as I had had three, perfect days of holiday away in a place I had not even considered venturing to prior to a few months ago… and although this afternoon, on my own at Christmas, I have been very upset a couple of times, writing this blog and reviewing my photos has cheered me up – that’s what these happy memories are for, a temporary lift to S.A.D. and some at least temporary buoyancy for my mood during Christmas.

I hope you all have a good Christmas yourselves, however you are celebrating it.

xx

 

 

 

 

 

ENT, RUA, SAD – Normal Life In Acronym World

Since I returned from my great holiday in Tenerife the weather at home has been pretty appalling – I know, Ireland and the UK are hardly renowned for loads of sunshine and warmth in autumn, but this year it has been reported that November has been the dullest on record, and strong winds, persistent rain, and blankets of grey skies have been generally relentless… and so someone like me (or a valued friend of mine, as I found out recently) who suffers from self-diagnosed SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can, and has, got pretty fed up with getting out of bed one day after the next to miserable weather. Luckily life has been pretty good otherwise, though as I write this now, with Christmas just around the corner which I am really not looking forward to, I am feeling a bit down. I wonder if my lack of enthusiasm will show in this blog, as I catch-up from early-November to mid-December…

In mid-November I had an appointment in ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) in a Belfast hospital to have an examination of my nasal passages and throat owing to my long-running throat problems with post-nasal drip, a condition which means either a runny nose with no warning or too much phlegm. Anyway, the rather uncomfortable examination revealed nothing that looked damaged or untoward, which I left feeling quite relieved about. In the lift on the way down to ground floor the door opened on the floor below the one I had entered and a girl from one of my Meetup Groups got in, which was a nice surprise; we chatted all the way to the car park, and swapped phone numbers for a potential future cinema meetup.

In the last few weeks I have become more efficient at getting ready, and it normally takes me barely more than an hour now to get ready from out of my bed to out of the door; one day I even did it in 57 minutes!

In late November there was quite a chilly period and it snowed on the hills above Belfast… but, despite being a fair-weather person, I went for a walk with my group to the top of Cave Hill and I did enjoy the company… even if it took my face about an hour to defrost over some nice chat and a scone and tea.

The next day was a very interesting and activity-packed one. The morning was to another meetup group event, this time to Ulster Museum to visit the annual RUA (Royal Ulster Academy) art exhibition, where RUA members and other artists submit their work and the subjectively-best work is chosen for their annual display; this event was one of many that a nice guy called Jim has posted up this year since I joined this group. There was actually some very good art work there, both paintings and also sculptures, including a knitted crane! After that many of us went to Café Renoir for a really good lunch with much chat; I had quite a tasty burger. Next on the agenda was a lone-trip to the cinema to see Matt Damon’s latest film, Martian, about how a guy tries to survive on his own on Mars – I thought it was very well done… and near the end I cried… which I never thought I would do at a film set in space! Then I headed over to the Lisburn Road for supper with my BFF Kirsty at a coffee shop we like.

DSCN1149

At the end of November my car was at the repairers for a couple of days to have a minor bump sorted out – the guys there were really nice, the older one kept addressing me as “love” and desperately tried to give me a lift into the centre of town… though I had over an hour to kill before a dentist appointment and so I walked as it was, for once, dry… although on the Saturday I did accept a lift as it was rather wet. Having got the bus into Newry, I popped to the ladies, and there was a woman at the sink in only her bra changing her clothes!! In the evening I enjoyed another fabulous meal at Blu in Belfast with my two friends Kirsty and Michelle.

Work is pretty much the same as ever, not terribly interesting, but at the same time no bother in terms of my new life, apart from occasions when stress makes my throat feel tight and keeping my new voice going becomes somewhat exhausting; many guys are very well mannered, holding doors open and so on. A girl on my team is getting married at the end of this month, and I enjoyed organising a collection for her; she seemed to enjoy being spoilt with the resulting presents which it took me a VERY long lunch to decide upon, as well as flowers… I just hope she likes them. I have had several lunches out with colleagues past and present at Dublin, a favourite venue being the Art Of Coffee which serves lovely sandwiches on Italian bread.

I had an uneventful gender clinic appointment… although once again, when we covered my throat issues, she stated that many transsexuals carry on life with their “normal” (???) voice… although how they do this satisfactorily I can’t imagine because to me living life as a woman but making no effort to sound like one makes no sense at all… and to me only now do I have a voice which, at least in my head, finally DOES sound normal.

I have run out of things to say, not many of which I am sure are that interesting; next time I’ll write about a measure to at least temporarily halt my SAD.

x

Another Adventure Abroad (part 3) – Andrea’s explorations

At the end of part 2 of my adventure recollection in my previous post I was saying goodbye to my walking group, because they were heading straight back to a miserably wet home while I was lucky enough to be staying on for another two and a half days in the blissful sun of Tenerife… and seeing a wealth of magnificent and varied scenery that my group had only touched on. I also planned to suss out some good walking routes should my group wish to come to Tenerife again. I anticipate that this post will contain quite a few pictures and perhaps not so many words – I can’t imagine immense detail about my convoluted but carefully-planned route around the island is of huge interest and, anyway, the landscape in the pictures speaks for itself.

Once I picked up my hire car, a nippy  Seat Ibiza, I headed quickly awP1070227ay from the arid southern coast
and large touristy coastal towns in search of more scenic vistas inland, and it was not long before I found some as I got to Arona; this picture is of Roque Imoque nearby. From there I took the road up towards Mt Teide, the volcanic peak dominating the island, stopping many times to take photos, explore side roads, and enjoy the views as my route climbed higher and higher; at one parking spot there was a fairly elderly guy wearing a huge sombrero standing there merrily strumming away on a guitar. Eventually I reached Teide National Park, marvelling at the bleak but dramatic landscape – lava flows blanketing the barren lands, bizarre rock formations, and jagged peaks, as well as the conical volcano itself; it soon turned out that there were many marked paths in and around the park, and it was a shame my group had not been on any of them. I was also astonished by the odours too, there was the scent of pine from the trees growing amongst the lavP1070258a, but also the burnt smell of the blackened land itself. I did not stay at the park for too long, because I intended to visit the next day, and I also hoped to get down to Los Gigantos to see its cliffs before the sun had set. As I headed down the west side of Teide I could see the island of La Gomera beyond the top of the Gigantos cliffs (see below), though by the time I got down to a viewpoint for the cliffs the sun had descended to the clouds above La Gomera and so I was alas just a bit too late.

I returned up the hill to my B&B in Tamaimo and checked in with the lady co-owner who did not speak much English. Later her husband advised me on local places to eat but, once changed into a smart dress, a quick drive along the main street highlighted that his recommendations for a lady to eat were fairly tatty-looking bars, and so I drove down to Los Gigantos. I ate in a lovely little place called The Fisherman’s Inn, on the terrace overlooking a small harbour – yes, I ate outside… in November!! The food was good, although the menu was a bit too geared away from local dishes towards standard European/British dishes – I chose as local as possible, having prawns in a garlic sauce and local fish with Canaries potatoes and salad; I enjoyed my meal… and I think I enjoyed being repeatedly addressed by the owner as “my dear”… though he did seem a bit of a gigolo.

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The next morning I once again awoke to beautiful sunshine and, after an average breakfast, left for a day of exploring. I started by touring an excellent loop covering the north west corner of the island along the TF-82 and TF-436 roads, which are hardly as hairy as some Tripadvisor comments make out (just anointed with numerous hairpins), descending first to the quaint old village of Masca, with outstanding cliff and mountain views along the way; I was able to see where a famous walk starts, noting it for my group. I then headed onwards, with amazing vistas P1070293of ravines and steep hills around every bend in the road, eventually ending up passing immense cliffs several hundred metres high to reach a lighthouse at the northwest tip of the island… which I didn’t stay at for long as it was thronged with visitors. I returned to Tamaimo via a different route, with some lovely coastal views, and then headed up to explore Teide National Park in depth. Mt Teide is the highest mountain in Spain, at over 12000 feet high (3700m for European readers), and is still an active volcano; it last erupted over a hundred years ago in 1909, but its devastating power is much in evidence in the surrounding landscape, with immense lava flows, layers of ash and cinders underfoot, and a generally barren landscape. As one explores the park, it becomes clear that the volcano at some point in the past was much taller and wider, as a long line of ridges and massifs extends north-south to the east of the peak which is a former crater-line. There are numerous pull-off points and car parks to explore the park, and many footpaths too. There is much to see, much more than a portion of one day can afford, with changing lighting throughout the day highlighting different areas of the park at its best for me like me who enjoys taking photos with care, but this was my first time to Tenerife and I wanted to see as much as possible until I am able to return. I did a couple of little P1070318walks, one around the Roques de Garcia (rock formations jutting out of the ground at the base of the volcano), and then drove on, eventually descending on the scenic TF-24 road, with splendid views down to the coast, at times on both sides of the island. As per the previous evening, I had an agenda to meet before the sun went down, which was to catch the cliffs of the Punta De Hidalgo on the northern coast, which this time I got to just in time (see below). I drove a short way back to my hotel at La Laguna, the second city of Tenerife – the city was beautiful, as an evening stroll after dinner proved, with many pedestrianised and cobbled roads lined with old buildings of much character, as well as a good assortment of stores. My hotel was mixed, however – the room was lovely and spacious, but the food in the evening was bland with a menu unrepresentative of the island.

P1070342 Punta de Hidalgo

Sunday was my final day on the island and, again, I was lucky to have lovely, sunny weather. After a quick stroll around the city centre, buying an item of clothing for moi and a Christmas present for a friend, I headed quickly on to explore the north-east corner of the island, dominated by the Anaga massif and forest. Once again I witnessed stunning vistas of the coastline, ravines, and peaks as I drove mile after mile… but alas I did not have time to explore every part of the island that I would have liked. After a drive east along the southern coast as far as the road would go, I headed towards the airport, stopping along the way for a stop at a coastal village for a quick, windy walk at a beach and then a change of clothes from summery attire into jeans and top for travelling. I got to the airport at around 5.15 and, after a friendly chat to the guy at the hire-car desk, checked my bag in and then wandered around duty-free, reminded that as seems to increasingly be the case these days, the offerings in duty free are not the bargain that they used to be.

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At 11.30pm I was home, in a very chilly and rather wet Northern Ireland, having had a wonderful holiday in an island full of surprises. I think I will be returning to Tenerife, and other Canary islands, quite soon…

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