Friday, 30 April 2010

A plague on all your houses!

    A nice long unfocused political rant for you. After all, this is the blogosphere!
    It's election time here in the UK. In a week, about 60% of us will go to our nearest polling station and cast our votes, and if the script is to be followed the Other Lot will kick out This Lot and remain in power for about ten years before being kicked out themselves.
    Only this time, we're told the usual script isn't quite as valid as it used to be. The Lot In The Middle might just be in with a chance at the Big Time after nine decades in the political wilderness, so this election may be the most important in my adult lifetime. Somehow I can't raise the enthusiasm required to welcome this.
    So where did it go wrong? I'm passionately interested in politics, I've been a news fiend all my life, I've woken to the Today Programme since the 1970s, why am I and thousands like me so dispirited about it all just when it starts to look as if it might be about to get interesting? The truth is, for the first time there's nobody on the ballot I want to vote for.
    Unlike seemingly the whole rest of the population I haven't blamed This Lot - Labour - for our economic woes. Sure I think they've been irresponsible and someone else might have done a better job, but the economic cycle being what it is I'm pretty certain any party would be facing the same underlying problems and no doubt having taken the credit in the good times would now be reaping the blame in the slump. No, I won't be voting Labour because they've crossed too many of my personal lines in the sand. ID cards, detention without charge, non-jury trials, security theatre, DNA databases, the police state, the Iraq war, even a crazy new set of wiring regulations that mean I as a fully qualified electronic engineer can't do my own house wiring, the list is endless. They have not left the country in a better state than when they got it.
    What about the Other Lot - the Conservatives? With my background I should be a natural Conservative, an insider. When I was much younger my parents were Conservative voters, I grew up in the middle of the swathe of blue seats on the electoral map and the social group I moved in for most of my first twenty years would be unlikely to vote any other way. Maggie was in power, and from the English Home Counties you could have been forgiven for thinking life was good. Unfortunately though my disenchantment with the Conservatives came because I saw what they are like from the inside. At the grass roots, not in their airily positive manifesto or scripted TV soundbites. (No, not that kind of TV, though it might be entertaining!) I'm afraid the grass roots Tory, with very few exceptions, lives in the Stone Age. These are people to whom everything is self-evident and for whom the world only matters to people like them, and though they are not often unpleasant people as such, this unthinking attitude leads to some breathtaking intolerance. Quite simply, they can't be bothered to even try to understand someone who isn't exactly like them and they aren't afraid to let it show. The steady stream of foot-in-mouth incidents in which Tory candidates have exposed their homophobic views during this campaign are ample demonstration of this. And there's the problem. These grass roots select their kind of candidates, who in turn select their kind of leaders. If politicians are divided into people from "them" or people from "us", I'm afraid in picking David "Bullingdon Club" Cameron and his associates they've most definitely become the party of and for "them". Which is why I feel I can't vote for them. I don't think their Britain would be a better place to live for somebody like me, and I haven't even started on their fanatical support for fox hunting or my experiences with the bent-as-a-three-pound-coin Tory local council where I grew up.
    After my previous two paragraphs, the Lot In The Middle - the Liberal Democrats - should be my natural home. And it's true, they tick a lot of my personal boxes. Iraq and  ID cards, on those two alone they so nearly had me a year or so ago. Unfortunately for them though if they want my vote, I live in a Lib Dem held constituency. And I'm afraid my Lib Dem MP is not someone I like. Sure, he's got a knack of appearing in the right place at the right time for a photo opportunity, but having engaged with both MPs my experience of the Tory weigh-the-vote safe seat MP in the area I grew up in is more positive. Even then, that's not the clinching argument for my not voting Lib Dem. I won't be voting for my MP because unusually for an MP representing a city he's a rabid supporter of fox hunting. For him it's a libertarian issue. For me it's an issue born of growing up watching rich idiots come out from London to spend a day as hooligans riding all over other people's property breaking fences, scaring livestock, threatening people and causing mayhem. If you're born on one kind of estate, you get an ASBO, if you're born on another kind of estate, you go fox hunting. And for some reason my Lib Dem MP thinks it's a wonderful thing. Well screw him, he ain't getting my vote!
     There are other parties on the ballot. UKIP might tempt me as a mild Eurosceptic, but they seem unable to control their more nutty right-wing tendencies. The Greens would woo me with the environment but are just too damn red on the inside. Besides, I've seen how Green councillors can comprehensively ruin a city. Beyond those two I'm in danger of descending into the nutters. Fortunately my constituency isn't high profile so the ballot seems mercifully free of them. Where are the Monster Raving Loony party when you need 'em?
    I've just talked myself out of voting for anyone, haven't I. Which leaves me two choices: spoil my ballot or abstain, don't vote at all. Both of these feel like failure. I guess there's a third choice, tactical voting, but then of the choice above I'd have to hold my nose on ID cards and vote Labour. And having assured one of their candidates face-to-face that I'd be one of the people they'd  eventually have to cart off to jail for not getting an ID card, I just can't bring myself to do that.
    I guess it doesn't matter. Our first past the post electoral system means that because I don't live in one of a few key marginal constituencies, my vote is meaningless anyway. I think I'll spend next Thursday evening in the pub next door to the polling station instead.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


   My wife thinks it's very funny. I obsess too much about my appearance.
Only I really don't.  I'm too damn scruffy for my own good. As a bloke, that is. She's amused because I'm obsessing about my appearance as a girl. This isn't what you might expect, it's not obsessing about whether I look girly enough, whether I pass. Hell, I know I'd struggle to pass in a room full of blind people, no, this is different. I really don't care how I look as a bloke so I dress like a slob, but I seem somewhere along the way to have acquired the obsessive nature of a teenage girl when it comes to my female presentation. In short, since I came out to my wife and began crossdressing as an adult I care about how I look, almost for the first time in my life. Which, as someone who didn't care in the slightest how they looked for over three decades, I find funny too.
    The saddest part of this is, that as a scruffy bloke, I make a better bloke than I would if I made an effort at it. Being large and fit, faded jeans and a well-used t-shirt bearing the logo of the NHL's finest sit well upon me, far better than suits and ties do. Telling someone you're transgendered when you look like this causes a double-take of epic proportions. It's more than a little unfair that a girl who makes as little effort with her appearance as I do would be pilloried by her peers while I can blend in as one of the lads.

Lifting the curtain slightly

    When I started this blog, I kept as many personal details as I could hidden. I guess that's a natural reaction of anyone leaving the closet. Several months later and I'm more relaxed about everything, coming out to all and sundry and being a lot more happy to be open about it all. So a quick look here and I realise I've made an omission. Easily rectified, the curious can now find my email address on my profile page.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The analogue computer of sleep

    In the days before ubiquitous digital computing, British academics modeled the flow of cash within our economy using water. They had an analogue computer, an assemblage of tanks, pipes and valves representing the different economic components and filled with water that represented the money. The idea was that a skilled operator could keep the whole machine running smoothly without any tanks running dry or overflowing, and the knowledge thus gained would allow the same operator to advise the Government on how to avoid the same fate befalling the country.
    Of course, it's never that easy. Like a music hall performer spinning plates on sticks, eventually they lose control of part of the cycle and something goes wrong. The academic could flush their mistake down the drain, the politician would be voted out into the wilderness, blamed for the woes of a cyclical economy.
     I've been thinking about that analogue computer of late. I'm sure you could construct one to model sleep patterns in the transgendered brain. You have two inputs: GD which causes insomnia, and sleeping pills which stop the insomnia. Your effects are extreme tiredness causing a vicious cycle of more GD and insomnia, or alternately an accumulation of the medication over time causing a spaced-out blunting of your mental faculties. The desired result is a point at which you get enough sleep to preserve normal function and perform at work without sliding  back into the insomnia or becoming a drugged-up zombie unable to satisfactorily do your job.
     Curiosity made me plot a rough graph a while back. It had three lines: one for how annoying I felt GD that day, one for how well I slept, the last for how useful my brain was feeling. Looking at the jagged lines didn't give any amazing insight beyond the obvious fact that it all goes wrong every ten days or so and I get to see what the world looks like at 4AM for a few days.
     You could probably reach the same conclusion by looking at this blog. Early posting times: no sleep. This post began early, yesterday was a spaced-out day so no pill last night. If I'm really lucky I'll be able to look at today's troubles in the world of database manipulation with something more than confusion, but I'm not holding my breath.
     Fortunately my problems are relatively minor compared to those faced by the economists advising those who run the country. Faced as they were yesterday with the shock news that we've slipped in the rankings of the world's top restaurants. Move over Greece and the National Debt!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The gender of machinery

    It was the trainspotter that started it. Early morning on the platform at Didcot Parkway waiting for a train heading west I'd wandered the length of the platform, looked at the power station and just for the sake of some exercise retraced my steps past the waiting room and continued towards the London end.
    An EWS freight locomotive was heading north round the curve with a container train, its exhaust note oddly flatulent for a weekend morning. Mitsui OSK lines, with the cute alligator logo. I distinctly heard the middle-aged trainspotter say to his mate: "She's giving it some!". That's right, they were looking at the locomotive.
    Never having been one for attributing personalities to my  machines I've always found it ever-so-slightly creepy. Mainly because in the circles I move in the people who do it are often those who should perhaps get out more. When you park your bike or car up and the otherwise similar one next to it is polished to within an inch of its life in contrast to your own machine's squashed bugs, minor oil leaks and enthusiastically used tyres, you just know that you're about to be accosted by a character in a WWII-style leather flying jacket who's only too anxious to tell you what a right little goer his girlfriend motor is. It's always the sports car owners (present company excepted, naturally!), recognising an owner of what they consider a lesser example of the marque and wishing to assert their superiority. Faced with that, "it" becomes the automotive pronoun of choice.
    I guess there must be machines that deserve a gender. Boats, for example. But why are machines always "she"? Where are... No, don't answer that.
    To me a machine is always a thing. A clever assemblage of components designed to do something. I may will it to perform its task, for example I once willed a Volkswagen Polo with all my heart to make it to the other side of a flood (Note to self: NEVER drive under a flooded railway bridge again!), but in doing so I am not assigning personality and least of all gender. Why is it that some people feel the need to do that?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Five decades worth of bodging continues

    If your tastes do not run in the direction of motoring lost causes then you may choose to move on, for I'm about to describe my weekend to come and it's going to include a lot of oily things. Writing about cars as therapy for girl fog.
    A little over five decades ago a factory somewhere in Warwickshire produced a small car. It was sold to a couple in Devon who owned it for over thirty years before age forced them to give up motoring. At that point it nearly went for scrap, but for a lucky intervention from a mate of mine, like me one of a select band of individuals who share an interest in such cars, who spotted it and bought it. His problem was that he already had more of them than he had room for, I can just imagine his wife's reaction, so he had to find a buyer rather quickly.
    At the time I was young, geeky and gullible, so I parted with the cost of some seriously attractive wardrobe and drove away in one of the slowest cars I'm ever going to own.
   Running a quirky old car has its moments. The glacial acceleration and lacklustre braking are not the high points, but Saturday mornings on an empty B road make up for those shortcomings. If you are bored with the characterless boxes we surround ourselves with today then something that doesn't corner on rails and in which you can't just rely on bottomless acceleration to get you out of any missed gear changes is likely to put some fun back in to your motoring and a grin back on your face. 
   I ran that car for over a decade. Sometimes as my only car, other times as my spare. Then as sometimes happens to we tech workers, I lost a job and the car lost its clutch, so it had to come off the road. Since then it's gazed accusingly at me and my occasional attempts to keep it clean and rust protected have not assuaged my guilt over its abandonment.
   So late last summer, I decided to do something about it. I got it on the ramp, fixed its brakes, replaced hydraulics, gave it new ignition components and a second-hand clutch, so by November it was driveable. Fantastic! Of course, that wasn't enough to put it on the road. In the UK we have a mandatory roadworthiness test for cars over three years old called the MOT test and there was no chance my car would pass one without a bit of welding.
    Which brings me neatly to the present. This weekend I'll spend my time in the sun getting myself filthy grinding away five decades of other people's bodywork repairs including some horrific work I did myself before doing my best to replace them with something that could last another five decades. By Monday if I'm lucky all the car will need for an MOT will be a set of new tyres. At which point I'll be very happy indeed.
    I may not have the car on the road by the end of the month but I'll give it a damn good try. And who knows, if I wear the right garment from my grubby old t-shirt pile I might even go some way towards erasing my farmer's tan. Which, as I'm sure you'll appreciate, will be the icing on the cake.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Farmer's tan

   I once had a work colleague who held casual far-right views and would probably vote accordingly. He hailed from the part of Glasgow where the football team you support really matters, and one of his peculiarities was that he refused to expose himself to any sunlight to avoid tanning, in his words "In case someone thinks I'm a [expletive denoting Pakistani origin]". I felt duty bound to inform him that from my viewpoint his pasty-white and beetroot-red visage stood very little chance of provoking such a misconception, but still he remained firmly in the shade.
   This lunchtime I thought of him as I took my customary wander through the fields surrounding my office. You see here in the UK it's been a beautiful week despite dire warnings of Icelandic ash, the sun has shone and life outdoors has felt good. And early signs have started to show of my usual summer's tan.
    Should you encounter me en femme in the next few months you'll find me easy to spot. I'll be the one with the brown, red and pasty white striped arms. I mean, what can I do? If I stay in the shade, people might think I'm a BNP voter!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Get thee behind me, girl!

     Just when you think it's safe to breathe easy, it comes back and gets you. Yesterday afternoon my brain went walkabout. Have you seen it anywhere? Just when I needed it to help me deal with a tricky piece of array manipulation for a rather cool software problem on a sadly mundane product, it went on holiday. Perhaps it's trapped abroad by the ash cloud. In its place, girl fog, leading to the insomnia disregarding my pharmaceuticals and treating me to a lovely dawn chorus from the neighbourhood bird life and despite my best efforts disturbing my wife's sleep too. Now I've spent a morning slightly confused, implementing the fix to yesterday's software problem that I painstakingly thought out at four o'clock this morning. Something achieved, and the lift you get from at last having a piece of code that runs as it should certainly raises you out of the fog for a while.
    You have to focus on the good stuff on days like these. It's a lovely day outside, the cherry trees are in bloom and we're going round to a friend's  house this evening for a Chinese takeaway. On a blog like this one the following sentiment might seem a little odd, but get thee behind me girl, I need to work!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

You're a Roman, Brian

   Last night we stayed in the pub until closing time. My town's long-established gay pub, very comfortable and friendly if a little loud. And a first for me, accompanied as I was by twelve other t-girls, my wife and another partner. Why a first? Gay pubs are nothing new to me, having hung out with a varied crowd when I was a student I've seen in more than one New Year in other similarly colourful surroundings for the sake of a safe space for several of our party. This was a first for me though because in the past I've only ever been to a gay pub because of who I was with, last night for the first time I was there as one of its target clientèle.
    Considering that to a casual observer I was the very large bloke stooping to avoid the low beam, hand-in-hand with the genetic girl, I must have looked anything but a gay pub customer despite the rest of my party.
    The realisation that I'd always seen the establishment as "their pub" without really considering that yes, I was one of "them" led me to consider this: if we only spend our time in safe spaces we've created for ourselves, are we really "out"? Who cares I guess, it was a thousand times more civilised than the Wetherspoons just round the corner, I know which pub I'd rather spend the evening in no matter what company I'm keeping.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Fit note

    This morning saw me making an early trip to my doctor's surgery through a beautifully sunlit and deserted city for the first appointment of the day. I came away holding the thing I'd asked for, a fit note.
    Fit notes are an example of our government's penchant for meaningless re branding. We used to call then a "sick note", but to call someone "sick" is obviously not enabling enough, hence we now have the same piece of paper but with a different name.
    As it happens though it my case it's a good description. I wasn't looking for a pass to Easy Street, I'm very anxious to keep working. As an insomniac I'm concerned that the combination of alternate insomnia, girl fog and the cumulative effects of the anti-insomnia drugs have blunted my edge somewhat when it comes to doing my job. I make money with my brain, and when that brain goes walkabout half way through a thought that money-making ability is dented. My employer is really good and fortunately I seem to be at last reigning in the insomnia, but I feel it's still worth having the fit note to provide a legal cover for my arse in the event his patience runs out.
    My doctor was kind enough to describe the cause of my malady as "A hormonal imbalance awaiting the assessment of a specialist" Which is I guess the truth, sort of. And which neatly avoids my coming out at work. I'll leave the Long Chat with them until after I have a proper diagnosis in my hand.
    So I've officially joined the ranks of the Unwell. The sick, the infirm, the ailing, the ill. And I have the paper to prove it. Which is kind of weird, as I've almost never been more physically fit in my life.

Busy weekend ahead

    Sitting on the sofa writing this I have a chance to think ahead. Today's going to be a busy day, the black sheep of my family will be visiting my parents so I'll need to make the trip in their place to be on hand in case any disaster-aversion is required, and my wife and I will be going out to a restaurant in my home town with a group of semi-local t-girls.
    The former may be stressful but is nothing I haven't dealt with before. You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives. The latter I'm looking forward to but I'm aware it's putting my wife into a situation that's new for her. She's been out with the Swindon support group, but never in our home town. I have confidence that the evening will be enjoyable for both of us but I'm also acutely aware that I'm coming close to the edge of her comfort zone with this, even though I'll be present only as bloke.
    If you've read my previous posts on the subject of my wife you'll know that someone in my position probably couldn't expect more tolerance from their spouse than mine gives me. Yet I'm aware that her accompaniment of me is for her to remain in control of what's happening by being there as much as it is for her to enjoy the outing. I welcome this, if she feels in control of events then she's happier, and since she's placed very few restrictions on me that aren't entirely reasonable for someone in her position I can hardly complain. But I'm concerned, I don't want the having to be there to retain control to eclipse the being there to have fun and ruin her evening.
    All this concern should be misplaced of course. We'll go out with a lovely group of ladies, half of whom she's met before, and we'll have fun. She'll make a bunch of new friends, they'll make a new friend. It's happened that way exactly in Swindon, why shouldn't it do the same here? I hope my concerns are misplaced.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Lobby for the large of foot!

    As part of my investigation yesterday I noticed Walktall are to start supplying large size ladies shoes.
I've dealt with Walktall for a while now for all my bloke shoes and I find them to be a very good company to deal with so in my view this can only be a Good Thing.
    There's only one problem, their enquiry form only goes up to size UK13. Nothing for we ladies of larger foot. I've mailed them to suggest that they consider stocking Pleaser and Le Dame to name but two examples in even larger sizes because they could find a surprising number of their existing male clientèle might be interested.
    So could I ask any other ladies of imposing height who would also like to see better availability of larger size shoes in the UK to give Walktall a shout and say so? It'll probably come to nothing, but if you don't ask you certainly don't get.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Where does the Queen get her socks?

    If you look hard enough, you can get anything made for you. Take shoes, for instance. I've only found one manufacturer of ladies shoes in a UK15 and though their range is very nice it's a little limited if your tastes do not veer towards the slightly more flamboyant end of the spectrum. Not a problem though, when I'm prepared to shell out the cash for a made-to-measure last I've found a specialist who will happily make me any footwear I desire in whatever style I want, and an exact fit.
    Socks, however, are a different matter. Girl mode is easy enough in tights but it would be nice to be able to source a nice pair of ladies socks in a UK15. Such a simple piece of clothing, yet so elusive. You'd think they'd be no problem in bloke mode at least, and I guess that's the case. You can have any colour socks you want, so long as they are black. Or grey, or that horrible barf-tastic brown diamond pattern (Just what bloke under 80 wears those things?). Be still my beating heart!
    You'd think there would be someone out there making bespoke socks, but no. Not even the Queen has someone with a Royal Warrant for supplying her socks. And there in the microcosm of socks is my more general problem. Since being forced to poke my head above the parapet at the start of this year I've had more than one well-meaning person point out to me that my height alone need not be an impediment to my passing as a woman. And I have now grudgingly to admit they're right of course, every now and then when en femme I'll see my reflection and have a "Wow! You almost had it there!" moment. When not placed alongside a girl of the average sixteen inches shorter than me height, I can see it's not quite as unattainable a goal as I once thought it might be. But that alone, fun though it is chasing it, still isn't enough. To be convincingly female in appearance, you have to be able to do so in more than a few situations. And to return to my example above, you can't do that in bloke socks, no matter how good an actress you are.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A friend with no notion of gender

    My wife's friend R is Hungarian. She's a lovely girl who's a lot of fun to be around, and we see her quite regularly. I won't be coming out to her any time soon for cultural reasons, but we count her as a member of our closer circle. Having lived in the UK for several years now she speaks excellent English, but for one charming oddity. For her, "He" and "She" are interchangeable because it turns out that the Hungarian language does not have gender specific pronouns and it has been difficult to lose the habit of a lifetime.
    It's rather nice to have one of your female friends refer to you spontaneously as "She".

Monday, 12 April 2010

Resisting the coming-out urge

   Back in February my wife and I decided that to lessen the stress of having a Big Secret I'd slowly come out to my friends. Over a month later and the ranks of People Who Know have slowly swelled until now I'd have to throw a larger-than-average dinner party (for which of course I'd need a larger-than-average dress!) to accommodate them. I have friends in the group both male and female from several different circles, I've even come out to a family member and my mother-in-law knows through my wife.
    It has been a rewarding process. OK, I've selected them carefully, but nobody has reacted in anything but a positive way. I can now talk freely about all this in front of people I've known for years and trust and respect, and this has been very liberating. It's changed my relationship with them forever, and for the better. None of them have yet encountered me en femme, but when that day comes it will be something to enjoy not dread.
    My concern is that the process of coming out, through being such a relief, is becoming irresistible. More than once recently I've been insanely tempted to just get it over with and tell someone, and resisting the urge has in itself become a slight source of stress. I've been lucky in that it hasn't gone wrong yet and that is in no small part down to careful preparation. Skipping that preparation can only lead to failure.
    In particular, I had the urge to come out to my mother yesterday at my parents place. She's the person I most fear talking to about all this because I'm pretty certain that she has more than slight suspicions about it - she's a retired teacher who raised a child with gender issues after all - and I'm equally certain she does not want to be confronted with it. She shows discomfort when faced with anything relating to me that differs from her notion of the gender norm, for example when Magnus sent me their ladies catalogue by mistake her reaction was one of horror in contrast to my amusement. I wish I could remove the resulting worry at her potential upset by just talking to her, but to do so would be to cause her a lot of grief and it is not necessary to do that. Probably I never will.
    I do not regret deciding to come out to my friends and I will continue the process. I must be careful though to do so at a measured pace and to respect any boundaries I have set.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

I have a big head, it's official

    This morning I paid a visit to the excellent John Samuel to pick up my perfect wig after a lengthy choosing process. Well worth the effort to go to a specialist and I'm pleased with the result, far better than bad hair.
    Trouble is, I'm still wigless. We determined that my head is just beyond the parameters of normal wigmaking and it's had to go back to the manufacturer to be enlarged slightly. So near and yet so far.
    Bloke mode again for the support group then. Ah well, at least I'm good at it.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Hair removal the redneck way

    As a follower of trans blogs I frequently read other people's hair removal stories. Permanent hair removal is sadly a topic of only peripheral interest to me, staying as I am both within my wife's comfort zone and with a day-to-day male-impersonation act to maintain. I'd love to lose my stubble as I consider it to be a major PITA, but in the main my hair control is limited to the strictly impermanent. At least I'm blessed with genes that haven't left me with too much fuzz.
    There is one semi-permanent procedure I do use though, and it's that I'd like to share with you now. It's not for the faint-hearted, but it has the multiple advantages of being very cheap, surprisingly quick, and after a moment of jumping up and down swearing, relatively painless. And you get something to eat, too. Interested? Read on!
    At this time of year my arms are starting to edge out into the light. As you might expect I'd like to show them off when en femme, yet while I can just about get away with it I'm still a bit self-conscious about their light covering of bloke-ish body hair. Time for a visit to my specialist. My baker, that is.
    One of my geekier passions for years has been clay oven construction and baking. A clay oven is simply an enclosed, usually domed, space made from fired clay or bricks in which a fire is set so the stored and reflected heat can be used to bake bread, cook kebabs, pizzas and myriad other mouthwatering delicacies.
    This weekend, if all goes well, I'll be firing up an oven. When ready its internal temperature will exceed 400 Celcius, and to use it I'll have to reach inside it as quickly as I can to place and retrieve my baking. After the ritual jumping up and down swearing, and sluicing off the singed matter with cold water, I'll then be blessed with arms as smooth and hairless as the proverbial baby's bottom. A state that will persist for a couple of months if I'm lucky, and before then I'm bound to want some more bread of some kind!
    I just have to be careful not to touch the red hot clay round the oven entrance. 400 degree burns hurt!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

From a coffee shop window

   It's been a bit of an awful couple of weeks hereabouts. Someday I'll blog about what's just happened but for now without going into it I'm just glad that it's over.
    So yesterday lunchtime found us sitting in the front of our local café, eating and people-watching. That place is something of a gem, it's hardly a Central Perk and it has no sofa, but it serves excellent food and damn fine coffee in comfortable and civilised surroundings and as a tonic for the emotionally drained it was perfect.
    The slightly inclement spring weather had brought out a variety of both the stylish and the style disasters for our people-watching entertainment. To the girl on the bike, you were doing so well until you put on that hat. I mean, Ear flaps, what were you thinking!
    When you spend time in a very tense state and suddenly have the whole thing defused in an instant it takes a while to sink in. I remember when my wife received her qualification after several years arduous work, after the final verbal examination at which she was told she'd passed she was most unimpressed at my lacklustre reaction. The truth was that it was delayed, I couldn't quite take it in that she'd passed. And so it has been today, we had a huge load lifted from us yesterday morning and I still can't quite dare to believe it.

Monday, 5 April 2010

I frighten old ladies, me.

    Yeah, it's true, my very appearance terrorises senior citizens.
    I took advantage of a bit of nice weather today to exchange my morning workout for a long walk through the river meadows. Lots of mud and puddles, windblown ducks and noisy scrapping coots. I ended up in town and since I had a while to kill I took a wander through the shops. I found myself in my town's largest bookstore.
    Which brings me to the subject of this post. The shop in question has a warren of  rooms over several floors connected by several staircases. Coming down one of these staircases I was surprised when an old lady about to come upstairs abruptly stopped and backed away. I was sorry to see real apprehension in her face. I smiled and thanked her for granting me passage and received a smile in return, but I was troubled by her initial reaction.
     This morning I was my unremarkable slightly scruffy male persona, jeans, Gore-tex, rather geeky t-shirt. There was plenty of space on the staircase and I wasn't moving very fast. That shop may be a bit snooty at times, but it's probably the most civilised bookshop in the world. In other words, this was no dark alley and I was no knife-wielding thug.
    Sadly I can only conclude that she was put off by my size. I hate it when that happens.

First bloke

    Though this risks turning this blog into a diary of the friends I've come out to it's worth relating part of my weekend because the other day I came out as transgendered to my best friend C. My best male friend, that is, so far the only people I've talked to about this have been female.
    Talking to C has been a source of anxiety for a while now. If I am to pursue my goal of making the Big Secret go away then he had to be first on the list because he has been my best friend for over two decades now and we have few secrets between us. Something of this magnitude had to come direct from me, I know it would have upset him had he heard from someone else at a point at which it was obvious that he was the last to know.
     The trouble is, C is of a conservative nature. He's a really nice bloke, but he has an instinctive view on most things and he's sometimes prone to say whatever's on his mind without thinking first. My big worry was that he'd let slip an initial adverse reaction and then bitterly regret it.
     Circumstances meant that we had a bit of time free this weekend and a minor road trip was just what we both needed to get away for a day, so we loaded up the car and headed east to the Fens, where C has lived for most of his life.
     For readers not familiar with the geography of these isles, the Fens are a vast tract of reclaimed land on the eastern side of the UK. Former salt marshes turned into farm land by clever eighteenth century Dutchmen, they are a near-endless vista of billiard-table-flat fields broken only by occasional dykes, rivers, electricity pylons and windbreak trees round farm buildings. You might imagine this to be a boring landscape but the contrary is the case, the open vista delivers some amazing cloudscapes  and beautiful light effects, particularly at this time of year when the British weather is at its most active.
      Sadly for us the drive was in heavy rain with low steel-grey cloud thrown over the Atlantic by Melissa's Bermuda high so it was to a very dim and gloomy Fenland village that we arrived the other evening. C was as welcoming as always though and we were all soon busy in the kitchen fixing a meal, cracking open a bottle of wine in the process. I left it until after we'd eaten before I broached the subject, we'd by then wandered into his sitting room and were well into bottle number two of cheap-ass rosé.
      So, Dutch courage imbibed, preamble over, straight into telling him. His reaction: straight away, just "OK, fair enough". The usual questions about what that meant for our future, what it all meant etc, but though it wasn't quite what he expected it was all pretty painless. For the second time in a few days, all without incident and I needn't have worried.
      One point has come home to me this weekend. For years I was in a bit of a state with depression and it was more obvious to those around me than I realised. I know it was hard on my wife because she saw me first-hand but I hadn't realised how much other people around me had seen the signs. It was obvious to them when I finally came to terms with my gender issues that something pretty big but unspecified had happened to end the depression, and like my mother-in-law C was half expecting me to talk to him about it. My male impersonation act must not have been as good as I thought.
      Part of his reaction was amusing. C and I have spent more than two decades as partners-in-crime on a wide variety of rusty automotive hopeless causes. Our way is lit by Lucas, Prince of Insufficient Light,  Castrol R is our perfume of choice and 20/50 multigrade runs in our veins. So it was with some anxiety that C asked "You're still into cars and bikes, aren't you?". With a completely straight face I answered "Of course! I am thinking of trading in the turbocharged rollerskate for a pink Nissan Micra though".
     He laughed at that one for about five minutes solid, tears came to his eyes and he became puce with mirth. We were a bit worried about him!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

'Er mom

    This wasn't something I was prepared for, but as of yesterday my mother-in-law knows about me. Which is to say of course that she's known about me for years, but now she *really* knows about me in that she now knows I'm transgendered.
    How did this come about? Family circumstances which I won't go in to here meant that my wife had to have a very long and deep phone call with her mother yesterday. It became obvious that she'd have to talk to her about a lot of things and that my gender issues were among them. She explained matters as they are, much as you'll have gathered if you've read some of my previous posts about my relationship with my wife.
    Amazingly my mother in law was fine with the whole thing. It wasn't what she'd expected, but she has a close relationship with her daughter and trusts her so when my wife told her that it doesn't change anything and she still has a son-in-law, albeit a slightly "different" one, who's doing everything to look out for her daughter, she understood and was OK with it. I'm sure at some time there will be some more questions, but that's it. My mother-in-law knows.
    This was the woman who was going to be last on the list because her potential reaction scared me witless. She hails from somewhere a long way west of here over the ocean where the skies are wider, the pickuptrucks are larger and (even someone with my background has to concede) the beef steaks are bigger and tastier. I don't know whether deer and antelope roam on her particular piece of range, but they might as well. They are lovely people in that part of the world, I've made friends there and I love to visit, but let's face it, the stereotypical Westerner won't be very liberal, will they. Yet she's OK with it because I'm still doing my damnedest to do right by her daughter. You could knock me down with the proverbial feather.
    There's an old and slightly insulting adage that advises a soon-to-be-married bloke to look at his future mother-in-law because that's what his gorgeous fiancée will be like in a couple of decades. I've always had a good relationship with my mother-in-law, but looking at her again in that light I realise I'm luckier than I thought.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

On waiting room reading material

    It has been my unfortunate lot recently to spend more time than I'd like to in NHS waiting rooms of various different shades. Before any Americans of a Republican bent seize upon my waiting as evidence of NHS failings I'd better point out that it has far more to do with my desire not to be late than it does with healthcare efficiency. Anyway, having seen a lot of them recently I have now become somewhat of an afficionado.
    For a start, the chairs are never comfortable. Yet again if you are someone concerned about Comrade Obama's Socialist Healthcare Utopia, be very afraid for your arse. You've got four years of waiting room comfort left. Makes sense, they're going to want you to stand up every few minutes to sing the Internationale, and you won't be so keen to do that if you're too comfy.
    I have learned pretty quickly not to rely on the reading material provided and to bring a paperback book. Once you've tired of posters exhorting the consumption of vegetables and signs in Urdu telling you not to pick your nose, all that is left are the tired-looking magazines in a heap on the table.
    Looking at the different magazines on offer I am mystified as to the process involved in their choice. My GP's surgery has a mixture of women's general interest magazines and very out of date "current" affairs magazines. Not bad, but while in bloke mode I'm quite happy to be seen reading Cosmopolitan I've seen more than one gloomy male patient thumbing through an Economist from last November. My local eye hospital has an even more bizarre selection, New Scientist, the National Trust magazine and interior design magazines.
    My most recent field trip yielded the most surprising result though. Accompanying my wife this morning to a waiting room almost exclusively visited by genetic XX women I found a few copies of Woman and Home, a Good Housekeeping and a couple of foodie magazines, but most bizarrely a big pile of classic car magazines and piloting and aircraft magazines.
    I can only conclude that there is a department within the NHS whose job involves distributing magazines to waiting rooms. Whether they are guided by a fiendish ingenuity bent on denying interesting reading material to bored patients or by a desire to cut costs through minimising magazine theft though I can't decide. I bet in the private hospitals you can order your preference of magazines delivered to you personally by a fearsome receptionist who looks and sounds like Joanna Lumley.
    I should be subverting the process by placing illicit copies of Ride in the eye hospital, Viz in my GP's surgery and Hello! in the ladies clinic, but I don't think the folk hero status I might earn would be worth it. Because they'd find me eventually and there I'd be, alone in an echoing waiting room, forced to spend eternity with nothing to read but Angling Times. And that's just too much of a risk.