Monday, 30 August 2010

Paved with good intentions

    The Ridgeway is one of our more accessible long distance paths, a neolithic flint trading route that snakes its way along the crest of the Chiltern escarpment from Buckinghamshire, crosses the Thames and then follows the Berkshire Downs all the way to Wiltshire. You can see for miles on a clear day like today from up there, it's a spectacular sight!
    Or so I'm told. I wouldn't know, I wasn't there today.
    Today we'd planned to take the train to Goring, walk up the Ridgeway for a few miles, then drop down off the hill to Cholsey, from where we'd catch the train home. A perfect walk on a lovely sunny day. We had a minor errand to run, so why not stop off the train at Reading, nip into town, then catch the local train to Goring? Fantastic idea!
    We'd forgotten that this weekend saw the Reading Festival. Reading station, when we arrived, resembled a war zone as the massed ranks of disheveled and mud-spattered youths had descended on it and changed mass transit into mass queuing. We could leave the station, but going back in would have meant a wait of several hours. What could we do?
    Simple. We went shopping. My wife was particularly pleased to find a shop that carries OPI nail products, even though they were at an eye-popping price when you're used to them in dollars. Rip-off Britain! I think a Desigual top she found in the sale might have helped soften that particular shock though.
    People-watching, a favourite pastime of ours. The Oracle turned out to be fertile ground today. The "Did I really just see that?" prize went to a lady in an adventurous cross between a pair of pajamas and a romper suit. You had to be there to believe it.
    So when we'd judged that the rock-fans would be long gone we wandered back to the station, which had mud everywhere from the festival-goers' wellington boots. A very successful day for both of us, but not the healthy outdoor exercise we'd planned.
    Never mind, there's always tomorrow for that, isn't there!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Last day at work

    So that's me finished at my employer. All projects handed over or put to bed, my PC tidied up, my desk cleared. Goodbyes said to other people in the building, special farewell pub lunch eaten. As it was my last day I even had a pint of real ale with my food, something I never normally do at works meals because it makes me sleepy at work. So I was sitting in a pub drinking beer and listening to my young colleagues banter as they eyed up the women among the other customers. Gosh, how blokey!
    All pretty harmless but it underlined part of my needing to move. They're not unpleasant blokes at all and I've enjoyed working with them, but all the testosterone swilling about that office was getting irksome. I start at my new employer in a little over a week and it will be an extremely different environment, like moving from a pub to a library. Aside from the opportunity it offers by being spot-on for my specialism, I'll be dealing with a completely different kind of people. I don't expect to hear many conversations about webcam strippers, for instance.
     As I said my final goodbyes I was gripped with an insane desire to say "Oh, by the way, there's something I think you should know about me...", just to see the shocked looks on their faces. I must be careful to curb my mischievous urges, that would have done me no good at all.
     How marvelous, now I have a week off with my wife to look forward to. In no particular order, sleeping, shopping, hillwalking and making a fuss of the stray cat that has recently walked into the life of my friend C. Just what I need to lose the mountain of stress that has accumulated these last few weeks.

Three months on finasteride

    It's about three months ago that I asked my doctor for a finasteride prescription to help me hang on to my hair. Not for reasons of vanity, purely because it occurred to me that someone in my position would be well advised to hang on to what they have. This post is simply to record my experience in case any readers are considering the same, both in terms of whether the drug has had any effect and how any side-effects have manifested themselves. Nothing to see here unless you're in to the boring minutiae of hair loss medication.
    Finasteride comes in two doses, 5mg and 1mg. The 5mg dose is given to patients with prostate problems while the 1mg dose is for treating hair loss. My NHS doctor is unable to prescribe the 1mg dose as it is too expensive for NHS budgets, so he gave me a prescription for the 5mg tablets and instructed me to buy a pill cutter. I cut each pill into quarters and take a quarter each day for four days before taking nothing on the fifth day and then repeating the cycle. I have to be very careful to keep any particles of the broken pills from getting anywhere near my wife, as were she to become pregnant there is a risk it can cause birth defects in male children.
    Finasteride has several side-effects, as this quick cut-and-paste from Wikipedia describes:
Side effects of finasteride include impotence (1.1% to 18.5%), abnormal ejaculation (7.2%), decreased ejaculatory volume (0.9% to 2.8%), abnormal sexual function (2.5%), gynecomastia (2.2%), erectile dysfunction (1.3%), ejaculation disorder (1.2%) and testicular pain.
    So which of those have I had? To be honest, I'd have to say none of them, at least not as described there. I have noticed a reduction in unwanted arousal, that's about it. As someone with a brain from the girl parts bin I find that particular side-effect to be welcome, lessening as it does the intrusion of blokedom when I don't want it. And no gynaecomastia. How sad, to think there will be patients seeing that effect who are all bloke and hate it, while I who wouldn't mind it am steadfastly flat-chested.
    How about the hair? I should have had a tattooist inscribe a ruler on my scalp so I could chart any hairline movement. Sadly though I didn't, so I have no idea whether I've advanced, receded or stayed still. But that's not really the point. I asked for finasteride because I could see hairs every day on my desk at work. Not huge numbers of them, but more than I used to see when I was younger and their numbers were increasing. In the last few months I am pleased to say this is no longer happening. I no longer have to worry whether my desk is covered in hairs before someone comes over for me to show them something.
     In conclusion, I think it was worth asking my doctor for this prescription. It won't give me significantly more hair and anyway having a bloke life to maintain I'm  keeping it to a buzz-cut, but I'm seeing evidence that it's reversed any decline I had. The funny thing is that as a bloke I have no problem with hair loss - after all, look at Patrick Stewart! - but as a girl I recognise that it's possible I could find myself very glad at some point in the future that I took some steps now to hang on to my hair. If I reach that position I'd imagine I'll be in one hell of a state, no point in making it any worse needlessly.

It's not just us

   My last day here, thus my last day being annoyed by the squeakings and fumings of the Express as I make my morning coffee. And this morning's headline is a cracker to go out on, with surprising relevance in our little corner of the world. "NHS squanders millions on fat surgery". Seems we're not the only group targeted by people who consider life-changing surgery to be unnecessary. On the front page version of the story they preface it with "As cancer patients are denied vital drugs...", presumably referring to another recent story about an NHS decision not to fund a bowel cancer drug because of its marginal benefit.
    I find it particularly offensive, the notion that some NHS patients are more deserving than others. Particularly the idea that a cancer patient who smoked twenty a day all their life or ate the wrong diet that increased their risk of bowel cancer is more deserving than an obese person who has been unable to control their weight through diet or exercise (Surgery is an option of last resort for these people so it's a given that they *will* have tried everything else first!). Or than a transsexual whose only "sin" is to have been born with the wrong brain for their body, for that matter. The founding principles of the NHS are pretty clear on this: that good healthcare should be available to all, no matter what's up with them. End of.
    It's interesting to observe the parallel between the attitudes towards the obese and those towards the trans community. Both are pilloried for apparently tying up NHS resources that could be used for the so-called more deserving patients, yet both have medical problems that can take them out of the workplace and cause them to cost the State far more than their NHS treatment ever would. No doubt the Express and their ilk would complain about benefits being paid to either group, too.
    My headline for the day? "Hundreds of thousands squander 50p daily on ink-wasting layabouts"!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Counseling for my wife

    Yesterday my wife had her first session with the counselor at our local GP practice. She's been in the queue for a while, I guess it's a popular NHS service. What I'm about to say is second-hand through her, I believe it is worth relating here in case anyone else in a similar position to us is looking for a similar service.
    The first thing my wife asked her was whether she had dealt with transgender issues before. It turned out that she had, though she didn't specify whether she'd previously had any patients who were married to one of us. Having read tales of people being sent to counselors with widely varying experience in the matter and even sometimes completely inappropriate specialties she wanted to be able to assess how useful the experience was likely to be.
    As you might imagine the session was mostly spent going over my wife's background and the reasons for her seeking the counseling. My gender issues as they relate to her, and the aftermath of her recent cancer scare. Her life story, my life story, our relationship history. Probably pretty standard stuff for such a consultation. She tells me it was a very free flowing conversation rather than a structured question and answer session.
     As a first appointment its purpose was explained by the counselor as mainly to help evaluate whether further counseling was appropriate or whether a referral to another therapy would be better. Again, it seems this is standard practice, she sees patients with a wide variety of issues.
    The counselor seemed surprised by my wife's age, it seems her other trans patients have been older than us, and she spent a little too much time discussing sexuality for my wife's liking. If she returns to this theme my wife may have to gently put her right on the difference between gender and sexuality. My wife came away from the appointment feeling that it had been worth it. She has a course of further consultations lined up, I hope they will be of help to her.
     As final point, you might ask where my counseling appointment had got to. It's true, there has been a marked contrast between the NHS reaction to me and to my wife, I've not been offered in-practice counseling. However I'd have to point out that though I've received a message of slight confusion at what to do with someone who wishes to avoid transition I am on a defined path and though it is a very slow one I would like to pursue it to its logical conclusion before I seek anything else.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Slowing down at work

    With three days left at my current employer I should be pretty free of stress, but sadly it isn't working that way. The two customers I spend most time dealing with have both succumbed to the lethargy of high summer and don't seem to have got it that after Friday I'll be gone and though my colleague will be able to service my software they won't any more have direct access to the person who wrote it. So several things that really need to be done before I leave seem to be slipping by the wayside. I know on Friday they'll panic and I'll be expected to do a week's work in an afternoon. On top of that my wife's work has become liable to floods in heavy rain due to a blocked drain, so she's very stressed, spending her time glued to the BBC Weather service looking out for showers.
     As a result the level to which my GD has been annoying me has ramped up over the last few days, to the extent that last night I found myself unable to sleep despite having taken my sleep medication. A very weird sensation, the feeling of drugged sleepiness while simultaneously staying unable to succumb to it.
    So I'm not fit for much, back to being barely awake and girl fogged. It'll pass, but meanwhile it's extremely annoying.
    Fortunately I've been finding some time to play amid the fog. The image above is a QR code. If you're not familiar with them, it's a two-dimensional barcode. I'm interested in them at the moment because they are a quick and convenient way for someone like me to convey a piece of information to a mobile phone, the phone owner simply points their camera at the QR code and their scanning software automatically picks up the information.
    So I've been playing with Google Image Chart Editor and the Zxing QR code generator to explore the format. My application needs to pass a location to the phone user, something which should be easy but has slight annoyances (iPhones and Android phones behave slightly differently, for the curious).
    When I found myself scanning the barcodes on my groceries to see what information they contained I knew it was time to stop. Tesco tinned tomatoes, for the truly curious, are 000436408451. Fascinating!

Monday, 23 August 2010

When Drunken Wasps Attack!

    The earliest apples are now just about over at my parents place. I spent a while at the weekend harvesting some of them, a cooker called White Transparent. As always at this time of year, the wasps have moved in on the ripest fruit and since this year has been a bumper year for wasps this means that half the fruit were mostly eaten already. Each one would have a hole in the side through which you could see a mass of wasps busily hollowing out the flesh.
    Not just wasps, but drunken wasps. It seems I'm not the only one who makes cider, the stomach of a wasp is the perfect place for a drop of apple juice to ferment.
    As I reached up to pick one apple the wasp-filled one next to it detached itself from the tree, bounced on my shoulder and rolled down my arm. I could see the wasps inside it spinning round as it rolled, as if in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble trying to wrestle something from Dino. For a moment I had drunken wasps being thrown from it at all angles, bouncing off my clothing to land helpless on the grass.
    It seems wasps are not belligerent drunks, I doubt any of them would remember where their sting was, let alone how to use it. I couldn't help laughing, both at the antics of the unfortunate insects and as nervous relief at avoiding so many of them without being stung.
    And all for an apple pie which with luck I'll be making this evening. I hope my wife enjoys it, given what I had land on me to secure it.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Exploring my height issues courtesy of my mother

    My mother and I had a Long Chat yesterday. Since I came out to her as you might imagine we've had one or two Long Chats. I feel very lucky to have a mother with whom I can talk about this stuff.
    In particular yesterday she returned to a theme she's touched on before, while she's happy to accept me for what I am she really doesn't like the idea of my dressing, physically presenting female in the real world or otherwise is beyond her comfort zone. Not really surprising, it's a hell of a lot for a mother to have to contemplate.
    What I found interesting was her reasoning, it relates to my height. You see, my mother knows what it's like to be the tallest woman in the crowd from the days when the average female height was much shorter than it is today. She's in her eighties now, but back in the 1940s and 1950s as a young woman who stood over six feet tall she found herself the butt of many cruel jokes and insensitive comments. My quest for size 15 girl shoes pales into insignificance compared to her quest for size 9s back in the Austerity years, her feet were so seriously harmed by ill-fitting shoes that she had to have corrective surgery on them. She's been a customer of Magnus and Long Tall Sally for decades. Great. I shop at the same places as my mother.
     In short, she speaks from a position of authority when it comes to people's reactions to women of height. And she does not want me to experience what she had to, but with the added twist of being rather obviously transgendered. She's had her fair share of misgendering too, for that matter.
    I haven't confronted her directly with Jenny mode. She has to have guessed I dress, but she's never asked me directly and I haven't told her specifically that I do. But I have surprised myself with how well I have managed at it, and I told her yesterday that if going out dressed was what I chose to do then I'm sure I'd be able to do a good job. I know my passing skills are weak - at best I struggle at feminity, at worst I have something of the bloke about me - but the effect for which I have striven is one of having made an effort to look presentable. I tried to put that into words for her because I was worried she was imagining me going forth as a grotesque parody of a pantomime dame, this was when she went into depth on her height concerns.
     I think my insecurities about my height and presenting female can be attributed to a mixture of my mother's reaction and my own experiences as an oversized bloke. I've certainly heard her on this theme before, though not until now directed at me. Stupid really, it helped keep me in the closet for years during which I really should have come to terms with everything. It's a wall from which bricks are slowly falling away, but it's not quite gone yet. I wonder whether my mother's version of that wall, for herself or for me, will ever lose any bricks.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Youth of Today eh!

    This week, UK teenagers have received their A-level results. These are the exams that mark the end of secondary school, usually used as a basis for university admission. As always there has been a debate about whether educational standards have slipped, with the more traditional media saying how easy kids have it today and the kids complaining that hey, they worked for those results!
    This year's record pass rates have intensified the argument, boosted by a new top grade, A*, a step above A. An A, we are told, is too easy to get these days, so rather than discourage the kids by making it harder we simply redefine it as what used to be a B.
    I hate having to make the argument that educational standards have slipped, mainly because of the bedfellows I gain by making it. But a couple of things in the last couple of days have made me think about it.
    C is still in touch with one or two of our lecturers from our university days. Makes sense, he's still an electronic engineer by trade while my hold on that profession is tenuous. One of them shared a tale with him recently of a student with a good A level maths result who had never heard of long division. Now engineering maths is difficult, I for one was crap at it. But long division? That's primary school stuff!
    The other incident happened yesterday. I had to explain latitude and longitude to my young colleague for a Google Maps mashup we are working on. I also had to explain the trivially simple algorithm for selecting the points which lie within a bounding box. You define the box as anything between X1 and X2, and between Y1 and Y2, then step through your points and discard those that don't meet those criteria. He's not in any way thick and he holds a recent computer science degree from a respected institution. He'd just never been taught any of this, something I would imagine to be pretty basic stuff, general knowledge even.

    Back in my day of course it was different... :)

    Well, yes, it was different. We weren't short changed to the same extent in the way we were educated, and then we didn't have to suffer the ritual denunciation of our efforts when they didn't meet an imagined standard over which we had no control.
    I always thought being a teenager in the 1980s was a spectacularly awful experience. I can't believe it, I've just found a reason to value my Eighties youth!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Watching them not watching me

    Accompanying my wife to a hospital appointment kept me away from work today. With an hour or two to kill in the morning we went in to town for a bit of shopping. She needed a couple of cosmetics so we went to our local MAC outlet, on the street-facing downstairs windows of our Debenhams department store.
    While she was receiving the attentions of the sales lady I stood back and looked out of the window onto the street, did a bit of people watching. MAC outlets are popular because they offer damn good quality cosmetics and a makeover service with knowledgeable staff. I was curious though because a frequent concern from the timid centres on their location, they always seem to have large on-street windows meaning that passers-by can see the people receiving makeovers.
     So I stood there for ten minutes, acting the uncertain bloke in the girl store to perfection, and watched the passers-by. My wife claims she saw a teenaged girl glance in the window, but I must have missed her because I saw nobody take an interest in the store. On a Wednesday morning everyone seemed more anxious to catch their bus or seize an opportunity to cross the road than they were to gawp at the cosmetics.
    I'm not convinced I need a MAC makeover just at the moment, but it's an important lesson for going out in the world en femme in general, people only really see what's right in front of them.
    The afternoon saw us in yet another waiting room in the hospital on the hill. This one was completely devoid of reading matter and I hate people watching in hospitals, everyone's so sad. Happily a family with three amazingly cute kids provided plenty of entertainment. My wife was pretty convinced she misgendered the oldest girl's teddy bear, something which I'm afraid to say amused us mightily in what was probably not the right environment for it. Well, until we heard the child talking to her she did look very masculine, in a cuddly ursine kind of way!
    My wife? It's official, there is nothing wrong with her. We celebrated at our local café.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


    Yesterday was the perfect English summer day, warm but not too hot, with a nice breeze. Walking across the hill to escape some medication-induced zombie-ness and a bit of girl fog I was very pleased to find the first blackberries have ripened since I last passed this way a few days ago. So here's the latest chapter in the search for free food from the hedgerows of Southern England. I returned to the office with fingers stained purple.
    I will miss my walks across the hillside when I change jobs.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Ain't never gonna be like that

    I find myself rather sad today. For once not for the girl I never had the chance to grow up as, nor the woman I might be but am not, but for the bloke I've never successfully managed to be. I thought I had the whole bloke thing sorted, but can't honestly stick to that line any more, can I.
    Yesterday in Swindon it rained. A lot. A "Free hugs" lady passed us while my wife was elsewhere and delivered on the promise on her t-shirt to my two companions, but passed me by. This amused me, for some unaccountable reason.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Drab deflation

    Tomorrow, in the company of some friends I will be attending Swindon Pride. (Looks at clock) No, today in the company of some friends I will be attending Swindon Pride. This one's been on the calendar for a while, anticipated because it's a rare chance for me for an outing in the real world en femme.
    So far so good. Unfortunately though it probably isn't going to happen as I've described it above, I fully intend to be there but it's looking as though I'll be there in my everyday oversized bloke guise, scruffy jeans, stubble and all. Why? It has become obvious that such a lengthy public excursion en femme in her company has edged outside my wife's comfort zone. What was previously acceptable has retreated into the dangerous as the moment of its occurrence has approached, and to avoid a difficult afternoon for both of us it's probably easiest if I just forgo the dressing and go along in bloke mode.
    On one side I don't think she's fully aware what the chance to go out as girl means in terms of my needing the feminine expression to stop myself going potty, but on the other side it's obvious that this has become too much for her at the moment and I have no desire to push things. This condition has told me more than I ever needed to know about stress and depression, so why should I wish to bestow those problems upon her?
     So tomorrow the chances are I'll be bloke all day. It's not all bad, as bloke I avoid all that tedious getting ready, the endless agonising about my choice of outfit, makeup or even shoes. After all, who in their right mind would want that!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

I don't give a fig

     S emailed me the other day offering figs in exchange for the bag of quinces I gave him last autumn. Quinces? I'd forgotten I'd given him any. My mother planted a quince tree years ago before she found quinces not to be to her liking so we have a quince bonanza in October. Meanwhile S lives in a house courtesy of his employer that comes with a mature fig tree on a south facing wall, so has a fig bonanza in August. And you thought the UK was a cold, dark and wet place unable to grow these exotic fruit!
    Speaking of fruit, the wild plum tree by the railway is covered in 'em. I'd like to think some traveler long ago flung a plum stone from a passing express which germinated and grew into the present slightly rambling hedgerow tree. Right now they're still a tiny bit sour, but in a week or two they'll be sweet and juicy and I'll probably give myself diarrhoea by eating too many at lunchtime.
    I like this time of year!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The generic early morning GD post.

    Waking up crying's a new one, never done that before! Hey, that first sentence could be a lyric from Dolly Parton at her most sentimental!
     OK, back to square one. Girl dreams, insomnia, the works. It's cumulative stress that's to blame, from work, family and life in general.
     Sitting in our flat with the curtains drawn you can hear the city waking up, if you are a seasoned observer as I am you can make a pretty good guess at what time it is from noise alone. The main road noise never completely goes away but rises gently from its night-time low while the trains all start their engines and sit idling from about five o'clock.
     I feel a little disappointed to have returned to this position. I could have made this post months ago, I thought I'd moved on from then and conquered the sleeplessness. Time to focus on the good stuff. And make some tea.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Can't escape the girl, even in a fast car

    A 1968 Dodge Monaco is a little large to go sideways round a sprint track designed for little European cars. My weekend went as expected, hanging out in a field drinking beer and looking at crazy machinery. Watching Luc Besson's original Taxi, fun and games coaxing a little Chinese generator into life, sitting on top of the race transporter to view the drift nutters going sideways. The perfect weekend for blokes,  grease-fest sausages and all!
     I kinda hoped a couple of days of gratuitous mucking-about and excess would occupy my mind and provide a respite from the GD-fest that's characterised the last few weeks, but sadly it didn't work that way. There is a constant noise floor of girl fog that won't go away, and trying to keep the resulting mood dips hidden from my wife for fear of upsetting her didn't make it any easier. This isn't to say that I didn't have a good time, just that the fog was always there waiting to pounce on any moment of inattention.
    Driving the race transporter made me think about the differences between C's and my driving styles. It's rather an unwieldy machine based on a large 1980s Peugeot van with about eighty Gallic horses waiting on the command of your right foot. It's by no means slow, but its sheer size and weight mean that in getting there it can sometimes be a little stately in its progress. I've owned a van before and driven thousands of miles in machines like this one so my strategy is to find a speed not too different to that the trucks are doing and sit there in the slow lane letting everything faster wash past. Vans tend to have a comfortable seating position so in my experience I can sit there all day if I have to with minimum stress except when circumstances demand quick action.
    C by comparison drives the transporter on the edge. He's always hanging on the mirror and looking for gaps, frustrated that he doesn't have lightening-fast acceleration to seize every opportunity. He was bemoaning the lack of power and wishing for a much bigger engine, as a result becoming burned out after not much time in the driving seat.
    I'm not a speed demon. Sure I have the Turbocharged Rollerskate and the bike, but unlike C it's not been so much the speed itself aside from early forays into motorcycling so 0 to 60 times mean little to me. My interest in the weekend's festivities stems from a love of fettling old machinery rather than of moving quickly in it, these days the attraction of the bike for me lies in its ability to deliver bucketloads of fun without risking my licence. I can talk the talk, but can't say I really get into that side of it all. Can I credit a brain from the girl parts bin with this? Can't really say, but compared to most of my petrolhead friends I do seem to be the one without the points on my licence. (Slightly unfair to C, despite taking his fair share of chances his licence is miraculously clean)
    I'll be back again next year. With luck I'll be in the Rusty Old Wreck by then. I may not be able to escape the girl completely but at least in that car there's no chance of worrying her with undue velocity. I hope C is free to come along again, but I suspect he may wish to pass on a lift from me. I must bear in mind, when racing the hare the tortoise won, didn't it?

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Like being twenty-one again

     Several hundred old cars and a '50s diner on an articulated truck are parked in a field in Somerset on a summer weekend. Their owners, mostly blokes in their twenties united by membership of an internet car forum, are busy firing up the BBQs. The beer will flow and out will come the project machinery, the modified mopeds, home-made unicycles and rocket-powered skateboards. Someone will  set up a makeshift cinema with a VGA projector as the sun sets and a few old car movies will be shown, Two Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, or Smokey and the Bandit. Tomorrow there will be a sprint competition, an autojumble and the chance to wander round a load more cars talking improbable rubbish about anything that burns petrol.
      My upcoming weekend might not at first reading seem that exciting, but I have to say I'm rather looking forward to it. For most of the last two decades a significant proportion of my peer group have been petrolheads and as a result their world is one I'm comfortable in. Right now I think my wife and I need the escape that a weekend away from home, work and gender issues can deliver so joining C and sharing the relative civilisation of a race transporter rather than roughing it in a tent seems rather attractive.
     In a way it's another chance to peer into my past. Most of the people in the field this weekend will be 20-something blokes, as yet unfettered by wives, mortgages or children and free to indulge their unhealthy interest in old cars. I was once one of them, a bit more depressed and withdrawn perhaps, but a summer weekend in the 1990s might well have seen me and the Rusty Old Wreck in this very field. Previously the evening high-jinks at this event have included some fairly unconvincing cross-dressing from the youthful petrolheads. I would say to look for the one that's enjoying it a little bit too much, but going by my own experience I'd say look for the one that's rather too strenuously not getting involved. Nothing changes really, I'm certainly not getting involved this weekend. I suspect that's as well, I'd probably do too good a job of it. Shame, it would make a change to be the most presentable of a group of crossdressers!
     So for the investment in half a tank of fuel for C's transporter and a campsite pass we get a carefree weekend assaulted by sun, wind, tyre smoke and rain. Sun cream and umbrella at the ready, plus camera, sunglasses, Gore-Tex and paracetamol (For non-Brits: tylenol). A chemical loo, a shower that only has enough hot water in one go for a very short wash and not quite enough mains power from a 2-stroke generator to power my wife's hairdryer. And we're doing this for fun? We must be mad!
    Whatever you are doing this weekend, enjoy it!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Are benefit loafers stylish footwear or not?

    Today's Express headline, staring up at me from the table down in the communal area at work: "ROMANIAN PRESIDENT: WE TAKE JOBS OFF BENEFIT LOAFERS". I wondered idly for a minute whether these benefit loafers were available in a size 15 or not.
    The end of the month can't come soon enough, my brain needs something with more substance to exercise it.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Unformed youth

    My employer has hired a new colleague. He's in his early twenties, very enthusiastic, very good at what he does and in the way of young blokes everywhere, unintentionally rather entertaining in his utterances.
    In particular he's something of a follower of the more achingly-cool parts of contemporary popular music. He's fond of tossing genres into his conversation, many of which have a "post-" prefix. Post is evidently further ahead of the crowd. "Post-rock", "post-hardcore", "post-indie". My boss and I joined in with a conversation earnestly discussing post-country and post-folk. Our young friend twigged that we might be less-than-serious when we arrived at the Postman Pat theme.
    My office is a rather blokey environment. Jokes about drinking, womanising and the exploits therein contained abound. I can handle it, I do bloke rather well, but sometimes my limits are reached. This morning he came out with a classic: that it was a perfectly acceptable piece of private enterprise for any girl to embark on a career as a webcam stripper. What could I do but wholeheartedly agree and add that the converse was also true, a lad such as himself would not be objectified or exploited in any way as a webcam stripper by his newfound popularity with his online gay customers. Surprisingly he didn't share this point of view.
    Back when I was his age I was firmly in the closet. Spending a while with my new colleague is in a way a chance to peer down memory lane, I know I must have been just as immature as all early-twenties blokes are back then. I just hope I wasn't quite that unformed. I don't think so.
    My new employer's office is a much more civilised affair. I must be very careful to tone down the bloke act, it has become such a habit at work.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The last close relative

    As a fitting conclusion to a very busy fortnight, on Saturday I had the Long Chat with my sister. It didn't come as a surprise that she was familiar with transgender issues, the nature of her work means that she's extremely widely read.
    I've become somewhat of a connoisseur of Long Chats over the last few months. I've not had one quite like this though, not even when I came out to my mother. In my mother's case she was accepting and there was no horror, but it was pretty obvious that she had erected a few walls. For instance I've yet to talk to her about my crossdressing, just at the moment she doesn't want to countenance the idea of me in girl mode. I'm sure when the time comes she will be very surprised to find simply a rather large girl who looks a bit like her son rather than a flamboyant drag queen who looks like me, but that's a story for another day.
     My sister though had none of these walls. Which meant I could talk about everything. Growing up, family stuff. Our relationship with our other sister, with whom we've rather fallen out. Our parents. A very honest and open conversation, the like of which I haven't had with her before. She surprised me with her insights into the whole business, and I hope she found the opportunity to deal with some of the family stuff to be of use.
    I don't think she expected to be advising her brother on the best way to change into a dress while sitting in a small car. Amazingly the experience doesn't seem to have scarred her for life.