Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Field of dreams?

     If you spend a lot of time wandering the British countryside as I do, you become familiar with the crops grown by the farmers. Wheat, barley and oilseed rape(canola) are ubiquitous, beans, peas, spuds and maize are not unusual and the occasional crop of linseed or clover is not unknown. The agricultural equivalent of a trainspotter, me.
     Yesterday brought a new one for me though, a crop grown for industrial fibre that isn't often grown on that kind of scale on these shores. Hemp, though not in its "medicinal" form. Last time I saw leaves like that I was a student, and they were being grown in a pot(no pun intended) on a friend's windowsill. Not very illicit, but then again I think they were mostly for show. 

Monday, 28 June 2010

Ze Var is over for you, Englander

     It's over, we're out of the World Cup. Not before time, we really were crap, disallowed goal or not.
There's another reason to rejoice, it means an end for the time being to the obsession among the tabloid press with the second world war when it comes to any mention of the German football team or the Falklands war when it comes to the Argentinians. We shall fight them on the pitches indeed! I have to agree with the German interior minister on this one, get over it people, it's getting old!
     But then again, if it's acceptable to harp on about long-ago military endeavour in these situations there's a whole history to choose from. How annoying, we played the USA in the groups and I didn't seize the opportunity to mention the war of 1812! Yeah, a quick mention of Lord Liverpool is sure to have 'em quaking in their boots!

Bloke down the pub

     Picture if you will, two people in the queue to be served at a pub. Talking about motorcycles. The acceleration characteristics of a large trailbike versus those of a sportsbike, the result of the Dutch TT in the absence of Valentino Rossi and the annoyance of having to pass a scooter rally - several hundred Vespas and Lambrettas all at 45 mph - on the A5. Yes, Stace and I do "Bloke down the pub" conversations with aplomb.
    It was a flying visit and since my wife was working I was alone. As they're over from the Netherlands with a tight schedule we were meeting at one of those cheap-and-cheerful food pubs somewhere not far from the M1. Maybe the best place for delicate gender-variant conversations is a large and crowded beer garden, after all everyone else is only paying attention to the World Cup or to their errant children. I hope Mrs. Stace did not glaze over with boredom too much when our conversation turned to the geekier aspects of maintaining a 1960s car. At least in my scruffy motorcyclist guise I should have gone some way towards putting her mind at ease, past encounters with the more "out there" among our community have heightened her apprehension level, something she shares with my wife. It is certainly good for those of us who have to find a way through this mess to engage with others in the same hole, I hope it is similarly of use for our partners.
    As we parted and went our separate ways, Stace having tried a monster trailie for size, I was thinking about our conversation as I rode through the Northamptonshire countryside. We were talking about bikes not to present a male impersonation but simply because we're both motorcycle enthusiasts. I couldn't help raising a chuckle at the thought of the effect on those around us had we had a "girl" conversation instead. I've got a barbecue coming up to go to, I should have sought Stace's opinion on what outfit to wear.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Comes with air conditioning

    We're sweltering in the high twenties Celsius here in the southern half of the UK. As a country completely unable to deal with any slight variation in the weather, we've all collapsed into perspiring heaps of pink En-ger-land clad flesh and are loudly bemoaning climate change.
    Well, some of us are, anyway. Not me, yesterday I decided to partake of some of the finest air conditioning available and wheeled out the larger of my motorcycles to run an errand in a nearby town. A quick blat down the main roads, deal with my task for the morning and then off I went into the maze of minor roads that connects the dots in the British countryside.
     There was a time when I was an all-weather commuting motorcyclist and this machine was my main transport. Now I'm that most derided of riders, the weekend biker. The shame! On summer weekends you can't move for weekend bikers on British A roads, they're the ones in brightly-coloured skin-tight leather race suits (And they say transvestites look ridiculous!) on sportsbikes taking insane risks and riding like nutters. Fortunately they balk at the challenging corners, potholes and rural detritus of the minor roads so aside from a short detour to rev the tits off my machine as I passed the home of a well-known and annoying television motoring presenter I was able to leave them behind.
    Aimless riding on minor roads in the heat of summer is a true delight. Fast enough to keep cool but not fast enough to miss anything, you experience the sensations of the countryside in a way that car drivers never can. I have yet to pass through a sun-drenched village in a car and be assaulted by the smell of the climbing roses that adorn the houses, for instance.
     I parked the bike in a field entrance next to a linseed crop in full flower and just sat for a while against a stone wall. I thought I saw a bit of grease leaking round the rear hub where I'd had the wheel off last year and leaned in to investigate, managing to burn my arm on the hot silencer. Damn.
    I'm off on the bike again today, heading off for lunch with friends. Might as well make the best of another fine day. Enjoy your Sunday, whatever it is you're doing!

Friday, 25 June 2010

You can't blame it for everything

    Have you ever known someone who is defined by membership of a minority? Someone who is not merely part of a group, but wears that group. It's the first thing you find out about them, and the perceived injustice it confers upon them they tell you is responsible for everything that happens to them, rather than the ups and downs of life that do the same for everyone else. I've known one or two like this over the years. It's not important under what minorities they defined themselves, only that by behaving in this way they not only made their own lives more difficult than those of people in the same group who just get on with it, but also that they made themselves somewhat of a pain in the arse for those around them.
     When you define yourself as part of a minority, it's easy to let that define you, subsuming your personal identity. In the case of gender dysphoria we have a disadvantage, here's an annoying condition that will quite happily take over your brain and colour everything you do if you let it. Once you come out to someone it could be all too easy to slip from being Just Another Person They Know through being The One Who Is Transgendered to becoming The One Who Is Transgendered And Keeps Going On About It.
     The other danger is to let your minority status become the single point of all blame for all your ills. I think I can justifiably claim that gender dysphoria has caused me significant problems in the past with depression and suicidal feelings and I believe it has an effect on my ability to do my job, but I can't blame it for things it's not responsible for. If it turned out for instance that I was simply crap at something in my work, sheltering behind my gender issues might get me off the hook but only at the expense of making them less credible as an excuse when they are genuinely to blame. Not clever.
     I have among my Friends Who Know, one or two people I've been able to talk to in-depth about all this. You know who you are if you're reading this, and thank you very much for your ears.
     It's odd to realise that with some of these friends I've slipped effortlessly into talking to them in girl mode and others I'm still speaking through the male impersonation. Either way it really helps to now have people to whom I can talk as who I feel like rather than who I look like. I just hope with them I'm still a me but from a different angle rather than a me Who Is Transgendered And Keeps Going On About It.

Banana ice cream

    Too damn busy to think here right now. This post is by way of apology to the several people whose emails I should have replied to or whose blog posts I should have left comments on. I have a busy and mostly-blokeish weekend on the road ahead of me and today the customer for my current piece of software is being especially demanding so adding the general dopiness of  a higher-than-normal girl fog noise floor to the mix means I'm struggling a little to keep on top of everything. Normal service will be resumed...
    Banana ice cream? Last night I created what I considered to be a masterpiece of the art of culinary improvisation. My wife didn't agree, offering the opinion that it looked like baby-puke. To be fair to her, it did resemble something a youngster might have barfed.
    I grew up in a household in which bananas were always slightly over-ripe. My mother was young during the war, so never had bananas for a significant chunk of her formative years. She thus to this day sees a banana as having something of the unimaginable luxury about it, and since the bananas that arrived on these shores post-war were invariably over-ripe, that is how she likes them. As a result I have grown up wanting any bananas I consume to be only just turning yellow, barely ripe at all.
     So what do I do when I have a bunch that goes too far? Perfectly good bananas that haven't been bruised so their flesh is still creamy white, but have blackened skins and are soft and squishy inside. Last night I decided to try to make some banana ice cream. A pretty simple procedure, mashing up the fruit in a bowl and adding some milk (Soya milk in my case) to make something the consistency of a banana porridge. Thereafter all I had to do was put the bowl in the freezer and set my kitchen timer every fifteen minutes so I could bring the bowl out and give it a quick stir before returning it to the freezer.
    My ice cream took nearly three hours of this to be ready. I was rather pleased with the result, it wasn't quite like dairy ice-cream but as a spur-of-the-moment ersatz it was surprisingly credible. My wife didn't quite share my enthusiasm: "We waited THREE HOURS for this?".
    I ate a little too much, gave myself brain-freeze.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Things you can't say out loud

    There are some things you just can't say out loud.

    One of them has to be "That's a lovely skirt, I have that one too!". Women have those conversations all the time, as a silent observer I have heard many. But not scruffy blokes in conversation with their fellow office workers on a visit to the coffee maker.

    Unsurprisingly she looks far better in hers than I ever do in mine.

The plus side

    Being an insomniac can be rather annoying. But at this time of year waking up at 4:30 in the morning brings an unexpected bonus, as I found this morning when I was once more robbed of sleep after an insomnia-free week. Why? Being nearly the longest day of the year meant that my city was bathed in rose-coloured early morning sunlight. So I went for a walk. It didn't banish the girl fog, but an hour wandering the deserted streets beat half an hour on the exercise bike any time!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Notes from milepost 76 and three quarters

    A long walk in the countryside followed by a well-earned pint is a cure for multiple ills, but not it would seem gender issues. Note to self: next time don't go to that small town when they're holding a music festival, it'll be full of radiant hippy girls with flowers in their hair(no, really, I didn't realise they did that any more!). Sigh.
     We jumped on a train yesterday, alighting in the middle of the Cotswold Hills. Now if that sounds exciting don't hold your breath, there are amazingly beautiful bits of the Cotswolds but mostly they are unremarkable English countryside that happens to be at a slightly higher elevation or slightly more rolling than the norm. The towns and villages that used to be unpretentious hardworking agricultural communities when I was much younger are now twee dormitory and second home enclaves for rich Londoners, the locals having been long ago deported to council estates in nearby towns. And this we are told by the Sunday colour supplements makes it somewhere very desirable.
     A circuit was planned for the afternoon somewhere in the ten miles ballpark, perhaps I should have got technical with my phone so I could quote way points and distances to the millimetre or something but somehow I couldn't be bothered. Mostly it was on farm tracks and bridleways through developing fields of wheat and barley, alone save for the wind and the darting swifts. My wife wrapped up slightly because the wind held an unexpected chill, I was weighed down by a pack containing enough Gore-Tex to see off a monsoon. You can't be too unprepared for rain hereabouts.
    Still, it was very good to be together and in relatively pleasant surroundings, completely failing to identify some of the wild flowers and failing to get close enough to a juvenile robin to take a picture. And there is nothing more satisfying than quaffing a pint at the end of the afternoon in the knowledge that you've worked for it unlike the red-faced blobby guys by the bar discussing the World Cup.
    Opposite us on the train home was a bloke doing his best to dress like Pete Docherty.  Hat and all, ostentatiously reading the Guardian. For which I'm rather thankful, in my frame of mind he was infinitely preferable to the girls headed for the festival we'd had before us on our way out.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


    If you are a dedicated follower of blogs you may have noticed a lot of template changes in those hosted by Blogger over the past week. Those crafty Blogger developers have released a new template editor and not surprisingly many of their writers have enthusiastically taken to it.
    This blog has remained as it is though. It uses a variation on the most basic of the original Blogger themes, called Minima Stretch. White background, full screen width black text, no images, no fancy fonts. The web as it used to be, welcome to 1998!
   So why, given that for a living I stay a step ahead of the cutting edge on these matters, have I retained such an archaic look and feel? The answer is threefold: clutter, accessibility and bandwidth.
   Clutter, because this for me is primarily about writing. The occasional picture finds its way in here, but the word is where it's at. Too many widgets, banners and animations take away from that focus. I want you to read the text and I don't want you to be distracted from it. Of course, the text has to stand up on its own, but that's a function of my writing and your taste, I can't blame the design if you don't like it.
   Accessibility, because I want this blog to be easy to read. I used to work in an industry in which it is de rigeur for web sites to have a black background. Against that the slightest funny font or indistinct colouring made them almost impossible to read. Some of the Blogger themes seem anxious to replicate this to the extent that there are blogs I follow that even I with my near-perfect vision I find almost impossible to read through their web interface. So black text on a white background with an easy-to-read font means this blog is as readable as it can be, nobody should come away frustrated because they couldn't see the text.
   And finally bandwidth. Most people won't notice this one being on super fast broadband connections, but the more stuff there is on a web page, the longer it takes to load. As a recent adopter of an Android phone I've had this brought home to me recently, loading a large page over a rural 2G GPRS link can be painful at times. A minimalist template like this one is about as quick to load as a Blogger template can be, meaning that browsers on slow connections get their word fix quickly.
    This has been a geeky post but I'm not sorry. It touches on my professional life as well as my life as a blogger so it's a subject I have some views on and I've unloaded them on you. Thanks for reading and next time you change your blog template bear some of the above in mind. Your readers will thank you for it.

Visit the neighbours

    Making the news this week here in the UK was the Saville Enquiry, otherwise referred to as the Bloody Sunday Enquiry, publishing its report. In short as I understand it, the report concluded that a breakdown in discipline among a small number of British soldiers resulted in the shooting dead of thirteen innocent and unarmed civilians at a civil rights march in Londonderry on the 30th of January 1972. Uncomfortable reading for some, vindication after decades waiting for others. It was sadly the not the atrocity of the Troubles claiming the highest death toll but it was arguably one of those that did most to prolong them. I am reminded of an interview I once heard with Cardinal Cahal Daly, then Roman Catholic Primate of all Ireland, in which he insisted that to achieve peace all involved must put aside what he called "whataboutism", the tendency to respond to a mention of one atrocity with another greater atrocity from the other side. Wise words that made an impression on me. You haven't had to look far to find whataboutism this week in the more vocal sections of the press, thankfully David Cameron resisted the temptation.
    I mention the enquiry as background to what's on my mind. As I am sure you will agree it is a subject that still attracts intense controversy and it is a foolish blogger that wades in to such a quagmire.
    I've never been to Ireland. The North or the Republic. My wife was surprised by this when I met her, after all as close neighbours sharing political union in the North, a language and substantially similar culture you'd think a holiday on the other side of the Irish Sea would be somewhat of a no-brainer for a mainland Brit. That I haven't done so as an adult, and in particular the reasons behind it are I find a cause for slight guilt and even shame.
    Growing up in the UK of the 1970s meant that the terrorism of the Troubles was never far from the news. By terrorists I am not referring to the sense of the word as used by some politicians in the last decade meaning something closer to "people we don't agree with or who don't look like us" and usually accompanied by security theatre and assaults on civil liberties, instead I mean real terrorists as in the people who set widespread explosives with the aim of maximum civilian casualties for most of the first half of my life. In my part of the world all that meant was a blown-up railway bridge, a hidden arms cache discovered near a main road and a few small firebombs in High Street stores, but some of our larger cities saw significant casualties from terrorist attacks. The experience of travelling on the almost empty Tube in London with my parents as a terrified five-year-old during the 1976 IRA Tube bombings demonstrates perfectly the effect of such terror campaigns, despite near-nil chance of danger the fear of attack had caused an entire city to abandon its mass transit system. I've always loved the Tube, particularly the Victorian and Edwardian deep tubes, but I remember having nightmares about being caught in a tube train with a bomb afterwards. Scary stuff for a kid that age.
     So like most people of my generation growing up on the British Mainland I will never be able to completely remove the mental association of "Northern Ireland" with "Bombs and terrorists". My 1980s self would have been astounded to hear me say this, but I can only respect those key players in the Troubles from both sides who have laid down their arms and joined the political process. I'm afraid this is not universal among my compatriots, find a Daily Mail reader and the chances are you won't have to scratch very far to find some rather regrettable utterances on the subject. Another lasting scar from those days has been a lingering distrust of Americans in some quarters stemming from the fundraising activities of NORAID among the Irish diaspora in the USA during the Troubles. Depending on whose side you sat on they were either a front for IRA funding or a humanitarian organisation, nearly twenty years later their legacy muted the response to the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath from some sections of the UK population who don't fully appreciate the meaning of the phrase melting pot.
      It's against the backdrop I've just described that my wife's innocent question about travel caused me some guilt. She doesn't hail from these isles so she didn't grow up with all that. And since those events are now decades old and an entire generation has grown up knowing nothing about them, the realisation that they still unconsciously influenced me came as a bit of a shock.
      I think I owe her a holiday  on the other side of the Irish Sea some time, don't you?

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


    The other day I mentioned that I spent last Saturday afternoon at my local Gay Pride, in the company of a few other local t-girls.
    I was there as bloke, due to my wife's comfort zone. She doesn't feel comfortable with my going out en femme this close to home. I think it's an embarassment thing, for which I don't blame her. I'm a girl with presence. No problem with that, presenting as female is fun but I enjoy the company of trans people in exactly the same manner no matter what I look like. Same when someone organises a trip to a restaurant, there I am, the rather large bloke usually accompanied by his wife.
    As a day-to-day bloke, I have the ultimate "stealth". Damn I do it well! Bloke and then some! But am I really less visible when in the company of my trans friends?
    If you read this blog, you'll know by now that my size defines me whether I like it or not. I've lived in and around this town for most of my life so I'm part of the scenery. Business owners, shop workers and other long-term local residents know me by sight. I must be "Big bloke" to them, in the same way as there are local characters I recognise such as "Beardy bloke", "Scooter kid" and "Bible lady". If you live in my town, you'll probably bring those three to mind too. Hell, you probably know what I look like! So by going out with my trans friends I bring my slightly enhanced visibility with me and instead of being the drab one fading into the background of the restaurant alongside the slightly more flamboyant among my companions I stand out as someone people know by sight. And sitting there in the Pride field with my shoes off in the heat I think few who noticed my toenails painted in preparation for my support group meeting would be in any doubt that yes I was part of the group I was sitting with. Bizarrely had I been en femme with wig and makeup I would have blended in, I may be a large girl but I'm not as er... daring in my presentation as some.
    Does this bother me? Not particularly. Having decided that my aim is to be openly transgendered I can hardly complain if someone identifies me as such. In fact if someone does so then good, I'm out, there's one less place I have to hide.
    Of course, it's easy for me to say this. I'm large and loud, I kick the arse of life. Nobody's going to give me grief for it, even the thickest of chavs is going to figure out that's going to hurt. Maybe someone more timid wouldn't be able to. But if by being large and loud and visible I make it easier for someone less confident in the future to go out in drab in my town with their trans friends then I reckon I've achieved something. And for that the minor regret of not going out en femme is worth it.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Frenchmen with too much time on their hands

    I would like to draw my readers attention to a piece from Jane Fae Ozimek at the excellent news organ, The Register. Required reading for we geeks.
    It seems one's gender is now to be defined by one's bust, in France at least.  Good news for someone like me who's just been prescribed a medication for which one of the possible side effects is gynaecomastia!
    You may recognise some of the names going into battle with the dullards in the comments on the piece.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Must be my sister or something

     I've got the stature to be a drag queen, but not the Yubaba wig. Yesterday afternoon was spent sitting in a park in my home town having a picnic with a few local t-girls and flying a very small metaphorical flag at our local LGBT Pride. A sort of LGBt, if you see what I mean. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, especially the police officers because their other choice was an animal rights demo on the other side of town.
     It was a bit too close to home for my wife's comfort zone so I was there as my day-to-day unremarkable bloke. Stubble and scruffy. Come four o'clock I made my excuses and left, I had a bit of preparation to do because yesterday evening was my local support group meeting. Attending in full-on seven foot guise thanks to the folks at Le Dame and going the distance, demonstrating standing on one leg, even toc-toc-tocing across the floor. My proving ground found at last! I have to admit though, changing into a pair of trainers afterwards was blessed relief.
     You know you've made a success of your female presentation when someone who knows you in bloke mode but has never seen you as girl genuinely doesn't realise who you are. Even when you've spent the afternoon with them and announced that you'll see them in the evening at the support group. Yes, I'm pretty sure she was genuinely surprised. Made my evening, it did.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

As seen on...

    The brilliant XKCD web comic features "Actual size!" stickers in its store. From the description:
80% of public advertisements would be greatly improved by an 'actual size!' claim, from 8.5x11 "Regina Spektor Live In Concert!" flyers to ten-foot PS3 banners to airline ads in the subway with pictures of 747s. You know what to do.
    In a similar vein, I feel there are billboard clothing adverts that would benefit from a sticker bearing this message:

    Thanks to Claire for the inspiration.


    This is a learning process, isn't it. In girl terms, we're fourteen years old, we don't really know nothing about nothing despite decades of closer observation of femininity than is normal for a bloke. I don't have to take the crash course required of someone going full-time so none of it's too serious for me, but even so from time to time  there comes one of those moments when I realise I have something to learn.
    If you ask a cross-dresser wearing any label about their formative experiences the chances are that somewhere in the mix will be a tale involving shoes. Stana posted hers a few days ago, I'm sure a read around the blogosphere will reveal more. Trying on one's mothers or sister's heels seems to be an important rite-of-passage for the gender variant youth, meaning that the wearing of heels is as much a part of it all as the rest of the clothing and walking in them as an adult does not present a problem.
    Unfortunately for me I was denied that particular pleasure. I'm sorry to say that what female shoes there were in our house seemed to be spectacularly boring in nature, and having outsize feet from a relatively early age none of them would have fit me anyway. Perhaps that's as well, the most important footwear when you grow up on a British farm are your wellies.
    So I was presented with a bit of a problem yesterday when I unwrapped my shiny new Le Dames with their three inch heel. Yes, they fit. Wow! They make my feet look smaller! So that's what the top of the lamp shade looks like! Now, how the hell do I walk in them?
    Not as much of a problem as I expected. Ankles intact, I made a circuit or two of our flat. Damn. We live in a tiny flat. I need a proving ground. Ideally a long echo-y corridor straight from a school or a hospital. Tell me you've never sat there all envious as someone toc-toc-tocs her way along! Our flat is too full of furniture. So, open the doors, out of the living room, down the passage, into the bathroom, turn through 180 degrees, reverse the above, and so on. Avoid the kitchen with its lino, make sure to take in the nice bit of hard floor by the front door. Soundless on the carpet, so   -  -  -  -toc(by the front door)-  -  -  -  -toc-  -  and so on. At this point my wife thinks it's all very funny. I don't blame her.
    The plus side is that after all that fun and games, my feet don't hurt. I can now see why very tall women like my sister or my cousin rarely wear such heels. I'm very glad to have a pair though, it's one of those because I can moments. And believe me, I will.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and unjust fella
But more upon the just because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella

   Standing on the top of a hill when an Atlantic front is giving us a pasting is one of the unexpected pleasures of an English summer. Yeah, I know, all the jokes about British weather, it's supposed to rain all the time, but really it doesn't. Instead we get wild skies and fast moving heavy showers so while it seems to be raining a lot of the time in reality in any one place it's only raining for a short time. Hell, I've been to Vancouver, now there's a place where it can rain all the time!
   I've just spent a lunchtime looking out over the floodplain of one of our great rivers watching a small town twenty miles away receiving a thorough soaking. All around me was lush green new growth, above me was a steel-grey fast moving cloudscape and before me one of Nature's finest free live shows. I was taking some bracing exercise to fight the waves of tiredness and set myself up for an afternoon in the office.
   Unfortunately I didn't quite walk fast enough. Next time I must remember my Gore-Tex before going out when there's a risk of showers. The one that caught me is now deafening on the tin roof of our building. My colleagues think my current bedraggled state is very funny indeed. 

Up and down

   It's some crazy-early hour of the morning, a GD dip has robbed me of the ability to sleep, I feel all groggy from the sleep medication and something I ate last night has given me gas. Too Much Information? Hell yeah!
   Something happened that made me laugh yesterday morning. I went to see my doctor for a repeat prescription. I had one or two questions for him, all of which he was able to answer. One of them concerned hair loss medication. Finasteride. I'm by no means going bald, but I've reached that time of life at which my hairline is starting to recede a little. It occurs to me that someone in my position would be better served by hanging on to a decent head of hair while they still have it, hence the question. I doubt that my doctor has many male patients who are unconcerned when told that a side effect in two percent of patients is gynaecomastia.
   I nearly came out to my boss last night. It's time for the Long Chat at work. He'd had a rough night being woken by his baby daughter though so I thought I'd try to catch him in a better frame of mind. That's going to be one of those conversations that just isn't going to be easy because though he's a decent bloke he hails from a very plain-speaking Scandinavian country and unfortunately his main exposure to anything remotely transgendered comes from holidays in Thailand. How to you explain that the more "colourful" aspects of Thai society that you've heard him talking about are very different in a cultural sense from a medical condition that's ripping your brain apart? I hope he has the good sense to engage brain before letting his jaw flap because I fear he may say something he regrets later. Fortunately I'm not too sensitive but it would be unfortunate, to say the least.
   Sadly my wife is having a bit of a hard time of it just at the moment. I think the idea of accompanying me dressed to a support group meeting is weighing on her mind, and her comfort zone is undergoing a slight contraction. I can't blame her, this isn't in the user guide for Being A Wife, but it has made for some fraught moments. Though I would prefer to be en femme I'll go along as bloke if she'd prefer that but unfortunately she's taking a dogged approach, insisting that I attend as planned even though she's not entirely happy with it. As has happened before, once it is over and has gone smoothly I think she will be more relaxed in that particular direction. I'm certainly not anxious to push her envelope.
   So I guess you could say these are Interesting Times. I just wish I could sleep through them.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

A reply from Nationwide

    There it was when I returned home yesterday, a reply to my Little Britain letter to the Nationwide Building Society.
    As I expected, it has the feel of a boilerplate form letter. Here is the main paragraph:
I am very sorry to read that you find the television advertisements offensive. The characters in "Little Britain" are some of the most popular on British television, and using them for our new advertising campaign was not intended in any way to be discriminatory. We chose to work with David Walliams and Matt Lucas and the "Little Britain" concept because we believe that they can bring their highly successful brand to our advertising. However, we do appreciate that the advertisments are open to interpretation and personal taste, and we would like to apologise if any offence has been caused.
     I'm sure I would write something similar, were I a divisional director of corporate affairs at a building society whose profits have nosedived.
     Looking a little wider, I am disappointed to see that Dru Marland's open letter to David Walliams seems to have suddenly become significantly less visible in the search engines than other comparable posts of hers. A quick comparison: search on the open letter vs. search on another post. The former search returns only pages that link to the post, the latter returns the post itself. Such manipulation of content visibility either by practitioners of a very specialist niche within the search engine optimisation world or by direct approach via legal channels to the search engine itself is something I am not unfamiliar with by virtue of the work I do for a living. That I see it here indicates that the point being made has reached its target and steps are being taken to limit any damage to the Little Britain brand. It strikes me that any such damage is self-inflicted.

EDIT: Sometime later on Saturday 5th of June, as if by magic Dru's open letter post reappeared at the top of the search on its title (See comment below). Google searches do not rearrange themselves in this way over these timescales without editorial intervention. It would thus be tempting to claim success as a 1337 search engine h4xx0r but that might be a bit presumptuous. Google doesn't change things for simple bloggers. However it would be extremely interesting from a tech perspective to know what the story was behind the post's disappearance and subsequent revival. I guess I'll never know.

Friday, 4 June 2010

There's nothing sensible when it comes to shoes.

    A while back I lamented that my only chance of finding ladies shoes in my advanced size had evaporated as the UK supplier of Le Dame shoes  had given up on that particular line. Not being one to give up in a hurry I made a few enquiries and now with the help of Bernie at Le Dame and my amused-but-not-shocked Stateside friend G there is a new pair of shoes on its way to me.
    It's one of those sheepish moments, being caught in the act of an irrational piece of girl shopping. I don't need these shoes. They will not be the most comfortable footwear I've ever worn. They will look good to me on my feet but I'd have to question the sanity of anyone else who could see me wearing them without giggling. I certainly don't need to rise even further above those around me than I already have. Door frames already elicit an unconscious duck from me, why on earth should I make it even worse?
   Yet I want them. They've called out to me ever since I first found them months ago, black patent exerts a strong pull.
   Have I been caught in the same way buying frivolous stuff as a bloke? Of course not, naturally, blokes never buy anything frivolous!
    Well, maybe there was that Triumph Herald convertible. I didn't need a third car, especially not one that turned out to be as rusty as that one. And was it worth putting up with a 640x480 pixel CMOS sensor for a few years just to be the first person in my group to own a digital camera? Didn't think so. Gotcha!
    My shoes will arrive sometime next week, with luck. You'll know me by sight, I'll have a bruise on my forehead.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

First last

    Yesterday was spent on paintwork. Stripping the aftermath of a disastrous home respray about a decade ago from the bonnet (tr for non-Brits: hood) of my old wreck and spraying a good thick coat of grey zinc phosphate primer. Sanding down some of my horrific bodging, smoothing off the rough surfaces.
    Me and my dad, working on an old car on a Bank Holiday afternoon.
    By now my mother will have had the Long Chat with him. I'm sure his reaction will be similar to my mother's, but like her he'll never look at me in quite the same way again. My file will have a Post-it note with "Transgendered" written on it stuck to its cover forever more.
    So I've had my last unencumbered bloke-only afternoon with my dad.
My first "last".