I wasn’t planning on driving on the track this time, not least because I’m still running the same tyres which are now starting to look rather worn, and also because I didn’t fancy getting up super-early.
Tag Archives: social
I’m not entirely sure how many people actually read my blog, or follow me. When I moved to self-hosting, very few people have re-followed me and I’m not sure if my followers from wordpress.com still get notifications for posts made here or not.
But, regardless of whether or not anyone reads this blog, I thought it was about time I posted an update
I’ve been a bit remiss about posting lately, so thought it was about time for an update.
One of the things that my various social media accounts often results in is contact with other t-girls, and one such girl is Siobhan Hapgood who regularly comments on my Facebook posts and who has become a friend as a result.
We’ve been meaning to meet up for a while, and Siobhan suggested that since the Monthly Market at Farnham Maltings was coming up and, since as a regular reader she knows I often visit that, maybe we should meet up for July’s, which sounded like a great idea to me, and so a plan was formed.
Somewhat surprisingly, people actually read my blog (I know – it came as a surprise to me too) and people have been asking me what I’ve been up to, and how the job is going.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the job is predominantly based at my own home office, with most client interaction being via Skype (either voice-only conference call, or IM) and email. Up until last Friday, I hadn’t actually had any further in-person meetings, but on Friday we had a catch-up and progress meeting which I attended.
Based on previous meetings, I knew people dressed pretty casually so I chose a casual t-shirt dress by Atmosphere which had cost me the princely sum of £5 in Primark, plus the shoes and tights I mentioned buying from M&S in my previous post.
The meeting went very well, and people seemed happy with the progress I have made, my estimates for how much is to do on what I am doing, some design ideas I have, and also a roadmap for what I will work on next. It was all very encouraging.
As before, everyone was very accepting of my presented gender.
However, at one point I had the most bizarre thing happen – I’d just taken a sip of orange squash, put it down, and then a few moments later without any warning or feeling that it was about to happen, a really loud burp escaped from me. I could have died of embarrassment! I was absolutely mortified. I got teased a little bit in a good-natured (but not blokey banter) way, but was still so embarrassed. That really has never happened to me before – normally I can feel a burp coming and suppress it. What surprised me the most, though, was just how much more embarrassed I felt in girl mode about it than I might have in guy mode.
When I got home I did a small photo shoot for a schoolgirl outfit I have been working on for Flickr, but I’m not happy with any of the shots.
The next day – Saturday – it was the Monthly Market at Farnham Maltings, which I like to go to. I’ve mentioned it a few times in previous posts, and it’s an Antiques, Crafts and Collectables Fair. It’s a reasonable £1 to get in but the car park is not free and costs £1.20 for 1 hour and £1.40 for 2 hours (and more for longer obviously). I usually go for 2 hours as although I could whistle round in an hour, it’s not worth feeling rushed just for a saving of 20p.
I dressed casually in a nice butterfly top I recently got from eBay (in fact I like this one so much I now have 3 of them in different colours) and a skirt by Hollister. I wore flats in the end, rather than the wedges in the photo, as I knew my feet would get sore quickly in the wedges.
It was clear that a lot of sellers were on holiday, as the place felt very sparse compared with normal. I didn’t find much apart from a very cute silver pinky finger ring of two entwined open hearts, marked 925 silver, which the seller said was 1970’s. It wasn’t in the best of condition, but it fit me just right, and the seller wanted £10 for it. I decided that I already wear rings on both pinky fingers, so told him I’d leave it whereupon he said he’d take £8. I decided to walk away though.
I really regret doing that now. It occurs to me that I already have two rings that fit only my right ring finger, which I choose from as the mood takes me, and my pinky fingers should be no different. A missed opportunity there, because it was very cute. Never mind, maybe the seller will be there next month and still have it.
When I got home, I tried again on the schoolgirl outfit shoot, but still wasn’t happy with it.
The rest of the week was spent working from home, then on Sunday I went up to Maidenhead for the Shabbytique and eatonthehighstreet fair. I wore a pretty top by Per Una, which was one of my many eBay / Charity Shop bargains, some jeans by Autograph (also a M&S brand), and a pair of boots by DUO.
Steve Conway was singing, so it was really nice to catch up with him and his wife and was worth going just for that.
The fair itself was a little disappointing, with a mix of stalls selling crafts and the like, and an equal number of food stalls, all spread out over the length of the pedestrianised part of the High Street. It felt like slim pickings though.
However, I did manage to get the most adorable necklace from a lady who is retiring and selling her remaining stock off at half price. The necklace I bought was £10, reduced from £20, and features a Murano glass pendant with flecks of gold in it, and a Sterling silver chain. I thought it was beautiful.
After that I headed home. I didn’t feel like doing any further photo shoots and had a pretty quiet remainder to the day.
As you may or may not know, I work on a freelance basis rather than being a permanent employee of a company, although often it is on a contract basis with just one client.
For the past 2+ years I have been having a fairly long distance daily commute to just such a client. Although it was good work, and I enjoyed working with a great team there, the commute did leave me fairly tired a lot of the time and also ate into my leisure time enormously.
Just over a month ago, they gave me a month’s notice that they wished to discontinue the arrangement, which is fine as it’s the nature of freelance work, and a flexible, dynamic working arrangement is all part of the service. More on that later.
It had been my intention to take a sabbatical after I finished there, but a week or so before my last day some new work pretty much fell on my lap. I was sought out by the owner of a small company to whom I had been recommended by two people independently – both former colleagues – and the owner of the company was keen to discuss how I could help them.
A meeting was arranged, discussions were had, and we established that I had exactly the skills and experience that they needed, including some business knowledge in their area, and was ideally placed to be able to help them. Furthermore, I pointed out that as a freelancer I represented a much lower financial risk and commitment compared to taking on an employee, especially as their requirements were for short-term assistance. Also discussed was the fact that their company does not have offices as such, and operates on a distributed basis, so I would be working from home with occasional meetings. And, even better, they are based quite near to me geographically so even the meetings would not be a huge problem for me.
The owner of the company is a trans woman and is also a campaigner for transgender issues, and since one of the people who recommended me had mentioned that I am genderfluid, I raised the subject of perhaps presenting as female for future meetings. She said she was more than happy for me to do this and that I could present however I felt comfortable, even if that might change from day-to-day. As you may recall from a previous post, this is a big departure for me as I have up until now presented exclusively as male professionally (although I confess that towards the end of my time with my previous client, I was mixing it up and wearing nail varnish to work every day).
We had a Perfect Storm, as far as I was concerned. Or, given that ‘Perfect Storm’ usually has negative connotations, I suppose I should say “a synergy of forces leading to a release of energy much greater than any of its individual contributors”, but that sounds incredibly wanky, so I will stick to ‘Perfect Storm’. But I digress. My point is that the timing was right, the location was right, my skills and experience couldn’t really have been a better match, and after some negotiation an agreement was reached for me to work with them for 4.5 days a week at a fee that was acceptable to both.
They were keen for me to commence sooner rather than later, so it ended up that I only had a week off between finishing with my previous client and starting with them.
So on Monday this week, I turned up for our 10am kick-off meeting in girl mode. I chose a nice Butterfly cowl dress by Purplish Fashion and my favourite black DUO boots, and wore my short wig as I thought that I might get less ‘hot & bothered’ with it. The owner and I signed the contracts, and then we were joined by two other members of staff and we got down to business, thrashing out technical details and talking about where I could contribute. Later, we all went out for lunch at a nearby pub, which was a good opportunity to get to know each other a little more, and then resumed before finishing mid-afternoon to go back to our respective home offices, having first spent time making sure my laptop was all set up to access their systems and that it all worked.
The next day was an all-hands meeting in the afternoon starting at 2pm, which gave me a great opportunity to meet everyone. It was also good to learn more about what the company did, and to see their roadmap for the immediate future as this gave me an idea of how what I would be working on fit into the bigger picture. Everyone accepted my chosen gender, and used feminine pronouns throughout, and never once got it wrong. Then from 5.30pm onwards it became a social. I felt so natural in girl mode, and much more at ease socially, and found it easy to chat to everyone which is not something I find so easy in guy mode. I also found I ended up talking to the other ladies rather than hovering on the edges of a group of guys, and felt a lot more comfortable with that and also very accepted.
I left around 7pm, then popped in to Maplin on the way home to pick up a “Collect In Store” purchase I had made a few days previously.
I’d ordered the item in a gender-neutral name, but unfortunately the billing details were in my guy name, and the assistant asked me if I could sign for it and what my relationship was to the purchaser. So I simply said “Actually, I am that person; I’m just presenting as female today” and he apologised and said that he would absolutely never have known and it never even occurred to him. Awesome – I’ll take that as a compliment thanks. 🙂
On the way home from there, I decided that I needed some more tights, some new undies, and some shoes. So I called into a big out-of-town Marks & Spencer’s near me. I was delighted to find that M&S now go up to a size 8 – in the past they only went up to 7½ – and this gave me a lot more choice.
Eventually I settled on some cute sling back shoes with a snake-skin effect block heel. And as a nice bonus, I qualified for a free pair of flip-flops too. Yay!
I also picked up a pack of tights and two 5-packs of the cutest cotton bikini briefs, but I draw the line at posting pictures of those. 🙂
Today (Wednesday) I was working from my home office and put in a really solid day’s work, took a little break every hour as prompted to by my Fitbit Alta, and walked the suggested 250+ steps each hour by using my treadmill in the next room. If anything, I think my life may actually become less sedentary due to the treadmill.
Right now I am feeling really happy and content. It’s a real change for me, especially presenting as female professionally, but I really couldn’t have asked for a safer and more accepting environment in which to do it.
I’m a big fan of the Art Nouveau movement, especially the works of Alfonse Mucha, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Charles Horner. I have a number of reproductions of Mucha’s works and a few items of jewellery in the style of Mackintosh. Sadly I don’t have anything by Horner as even reproductions are expensive.
I love the organic shapes of Art Nouveau, far more than the more minimalistic style of the more popular Art Deco movement that followed it, although that’s not to say that I dislike Art Deco; I just don’t like it as much as I like Art Nouveau. I do particularly like the Streamline Moderne (aka Art Moderne) movement that evolved from Art Deco, although I think it would be fair to say I am a fan of the whole Raygun Gothic catchall retro-futuristic vibe. But I digress.
In a subsequent post I will show what I have of the above, but it will make this post too long if I do it here and, besides, it deserves a post of its own.
A month or so ago, I learned that I had a missed an exhibition of Alfonse Mucha’s work at the Russel-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum in Bournemouth last year but that it was currently running at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia (UEA) until 20th March, so a plan was hatched to visit my best friend Claire in Lowestoft again and for us to attend the exhibition.
So, tickets were booked, time off work was booked, and a hotel was booked. The weeks dragged by somewhat until the weekend we had dubbed “Bestiefest” finally arrived.
I travelled up on Friday morning and the journey was not good. The M3 and M25 were ok, but the two lane M11 was a nightmare with loads of lorries doing elephant racing.
Here’s one of those maths questions for you – if a lorry travelling at 60.01 mph overtakes a lorry travelling at 59.99 mph on a two lane carriageway, how many miles of abject misery can they cause for other road users? Answers on a Carrier Pigeon or Stone Tablet please.
In the end it took me just over 4 hours to get to Claire’s, having set off around 10am. Although, in fairness, I did stop for 15 mins at a service station for a loo break, and also had a panicked switch from the A14 route to the A11 route because I thought I knew better than Google Navigation. I should learn to welcome my digital overlords, because I was wrong.
It was good to see Claire again, and we spent the afternoon just nattering and catching up. She had to pop out to get the kids from school mid-afternoon, so I took the opportunity to drive over to the hotel to check in, to freshen up, and change.
I had decided not to book myself into the same hotel as last time, but to use a Premier Inn. Upon arrival this proved to have been a good choice. Although Premier Inn are quite basic, the price was very keen, and the room turned out to have everything that I needed – a nice comfortable bed, a comfortable chair (a chaise longue, no less!) which also doubled as a place to put my suitcase, a small desk, and a small dressing table with illuminated mirror for doing my makeup. Everything I needed and nothing I didn’t need. The only thing lacking was a lift – lugging my suitcase up a flight of stairs was a bit of an inconvenience.
The downside of my choice was that, rather than being 5 mins from Claire I was now 15-20mins but, to be honest, the cost and benefits made that worth it. I just wish I could have the best of both worlds. As always.
It took me a little longer than I anticipated to unpack, freshen up and change, and although we weren’t going out that night I probably slightly overdressed but never mind. It was late afternoon before I got back to Claire.
We spent some more time nattering, and I also helped her with the new website for the band that she is in (the band is called ICONIC). She is developing with WordPress and was having a few problems with a few things, and I have some experience there so we were able to work on that together. In fact the rest of the day fairly flew by and I’m not entirely sure that we did a lot more besides that, apart breaking for dinner.
All too soon it was bedtime and I headed back to the hotel where I had a really good night’s sleep, which considering that I often suffer from insomnia was a nice bonus.
The next day I got over to Claire’s mid-morning, and a little while later we headed over to Norwich for the exhibition. We got there a little ahead of schedule and I spied a large Next store so we popped in there for a browse and a coffee, then headed over to UEA to arrive in time for our “slot” at the exhibition.
I went to university at a non-campus one, so entering the campus of UEA and driving round looking for the SCVA was a slightly new experience for me. In the end we found it, and even managed to find a space in the small car park with free parking that had been set aside for exhibition visitors. In fairness, had we not been able to park there then there were other car parks on-campus, and a free parking permit was available from the front desk of the Centre, but it would have been a little bit of a hassle of back-and-forth to go get one then go back and place it in the car, then back again. It was nice not to have to do that as no permit was required in the reserved car park.
The exhibition was small, but was well presented. There were examples of Mucha’s artwork throughout his career and also examples of his sculpture and jewellery on display. In the corner was a television showing a loop of a documentary about him which ran for around 20-30 mins, so we sat and watched that and it was very interesting and I learnt things about Mucha that I did not know. It’s made me want to read the book I have on him in more detail as I confess that I had only skimmed it until now.
After we had finished at the exhibition we went down to the gift shop. I very much wanted the weighty 168-page paperback guide that went with the exhibition (£16) and they also had some very good quality mounted reproductions of some of Mucha’s art. I have wanted some of these for a while but have been very wary of buying online – when I enquired of one seller on Amazon Marketplace a while back as to the provenance of their pictures they told me that they printed them themselves on an Epson printer on ‘high quality paper’, so being able to see the quality, and to see that they had been commissioned by the Mucha Foundation, was a big selling point. They weren’t cheap, though – £25 for a larger size and £15 for a smaller size. There were also some unmounted posters of A2 size for a more reasonable £12 each. There were also various books on Mucha, including a book of posters whose quality was very good (£12).
In the end, after an awful lot of pondering, I limited myself to one larger print, one medium print, the guide, the poster book, and a poster. This came to a not unsubstantial £80, but I could very easily have spent double that.
Even now I’m not convinced I chose the right prints, particularly Bieres de la Meuse which I already own as a metal sign. I think I should have chosen a different one, and perhaps given in to my desire to buy more of the prints. I justified the decision not to at the time as I rationalised that I could cut out the posters in the poster book and frame them, but now I am not so sure.
It was early afternoon by now so we popped into Norwich for a light lunch and then dropped in on one of Claire’s friends who was looking forward to meeting me as she’d heard lots about me. We seemed to get on really well, so that was nice. Then after a little while we headed on back to Claire’s.
A little later we popped out for a curry (and a natter, of course. Lots of nattering on this weekend). The portions were really big and at the end of the meal they asked us if we wanted the leftovers to be bagged up. They were so nice about it, and we felt so guilty for leaving really nice food, that we accepted.
By now it was getting late and I headed back to the hotel after. Again, I had a good night’s sleep – there must be something about those Premier Inn mattresses after all.
I was a little later getting over to Claire’s on Sunday morning as I overslept a little, plus I had to pack up and check out.
We spent much of the day nattering (yet more. I know) and working on the website and the like. Lunch was jacket potatoes plus all the leftover curry and sides from the night before, which was really nice and filling.
By mid afternoon I felt it was time for me to hit the road, not just because I had a long journey but also because I felt that Claire’s poor hubby had been somewhat neglected due to me being around so much and taking up so much of Claire’s time, and I thought that he would appreciate some time with her. So I left around 3pm.
The journey back was as expected, with the M25 being rather a nightmare. It didn’t help that idiot drivers like the one in a white VW Tourag were bullying their way into gaps that weren’t there and causing everyone to brake. At times we were reduced to walking pace, then back up to speed again for no reason – almost certainly the “traffic ripple effect”. But I got home eventually, about 3hr30 after setting off. That left me with the evening to wind down and prepare myself for the coming week.
And that was my weekend. Not quite as packed as the last time, but very enjoyable and I was very happy.
I was talking to one of my closest friends recently, chatting about something and she exclaimed “I’d never thought about it. I guess most people don’t really” so I thought maybe I would write about it.
As I’ve mentioned a few times over the course of this blog, I’m a genderfluid / two-spirit person and I can, and do, present as either gender. For mundane stuff like work, popping down to the shops etc., it is simply easier to present as my birth gender (‘guy mode’). For most social occasions I prefer to present as female (‘girl mode’).
This gives me an interesting opportunity to directly experience how people tend to react to each gender.
I wouldn’t flatter myself as to think I was totally passable as a cis-woman when in girl mode, but I seem to be passable enough that people have no problems with treating me, and interacting with me, as female. And something that I have noticed is that people tend to interact with me completely differently when I am in girl mode to when I am in guy mode.
I mean, people are pleasant enough to me when I’m in guy mode, but I find that when I’m in girl mode people are far more likely to smile at me, or to smile back if I smile first, or to initiate conversation. Overall, people are just generally far more open, friendly and chatty to me when I’m in girl mode.
In a similar way, I have found that women, on the whole, don’t like a guy they don’t know to speak to them. Telling a women who you don’t know that you like her top, skirt, outfit, or whatever is generally treated with suspicion and, in some cases, borderline hostility. However, in girl mode the response is overwhelmingly positive.
I think part of this is social conditioning; there are less social barriers when talking to a woman than to a man. But, also, a woman feels more vulnerable and distrustful when talking to a stranger who is a man than to one who is female so perhaps there is an element of this too. And, of course, there is the small matter that the majority of people are heterosexual – the suspicion being that a guy talking to a woman could have the ulterior motive of trying to chat her up, whilst a woman talking to a woman is taken more at face value.
Of course, this is all very contextual. Under some circumstances it is far more acceptable than others. And, as an aside, writing this blog post has made me far more aware of this and I will be much more mindful whether or not to start a conversation with a woman when in guy mode in future.
None of these observations are by any means a scientific experiment and, obviously, I don’t have a ‘scientific control‘ for each situation that I find myself in. Also, maybe I just appear nicer and more approachable when in girl mode than guy mode, which would of course skew the results. Certainly I feel more open, confident, and chatty in girl mode, so perhaps it really is as much down to me as to other people.
All of this post has been to do with interacting with people I don’t know. Obviously with friends and acquaintances it is far different and more complex, and probably not something you could make an observation on.
Anyway, I just thought this was worth sharing.
Growing up in the digital age, it’s funny to see how relationships can form in ways that in previous generations would be considered unconventional. To my parents’ generation, getting to know people on-line is rather strange and they consider that the friends thus made are not ‘real’ friends until you have met them face-to-face. My mum has pretty much said that to me word for word in the past. I disagree; it is merely a different way of meeting and getting to know a person and the technology is there to get to know someone very well indeed even before you have met face-to-face.
I have a friend called Claire who I have known for around 8 or 9 years. We originally met via Second Life and became good friends, and then decided to connect with each other via Facebook. We often talk, and we know lots about each other, including what each other looks like, because of Facebook. It’s just that, due to a distance of around 190 miles between us, we have never actually met face-to-face. We’ve long wanted to though.
Recently I changed my car for a VW Golf Mk7 diesel, which gives me around 60mpg and a range over over 550 miles, and is also pretty comfortable, so I found myself with the right kind of car to do a journey like that. As a result, we arranged to meet over the New Year whilst we were both on holiday. Claire is in a band and they were gigging on New Year’s Eve, so she suggested that we try to incorporate that which seemed like a good idea. She was unable to accommodate as she doesn’t have a spare room, but I was happy to book myself into a local hotel via Expedia.
Since we wanted to spend a day shopping together, the plan was hatched for me to spend two nights up there. The question was whether the shopping should be on the day of the gig (New Year’s Eve) or the day after (New Year’s Day). I decided that a morning driving would be less tiring than a day’s shopping, so elected to drive over on New Year’s Eve.
I set off just gone midday, and Google Navigation estimated that it would take around 3hr30 to get to the hotel – the plan being to drive straight to the hotel, check in, freshen up, and then head over to Claire’s.
The journey was fairly uneventful but congested, and I finally made it to the hotel around the 4 hour mark at around 4.15pm.
I’d talked to Claire during the journey and she said we needed to leave her house by 5.20pm in order to get to the venue by 6pm as she needed to set up with the band, but that she only lived 5 mins from my hotel. Since we would be going straight there from hers, I needed to change into what I intended to wear in the evening, and also freshen up and re-do my makeup. I knew it was going to be tight on time and let her know this, especially as we were planning to eat at hers before heading out.
I found the hotel easily enough, checked in, and headed up to my room. I’d given myself the luxury of paying a small premium for a ‘deluxe’ room, so was a little disappointed with what I found. The floorspace was certainly there, and there was a king size bed as advertised, but there wasn’t a lot else. Two bedside cabinets, a small desk which was almost completely taken up with tea & coffee making stuff, a single chair at the desk, a wardrobe, a flat screen telly on the wall, and a full length mirror on the wall. That was it. No other chairs, no mirror at the desk, no chest of drawers, and not even a trestle to put my suitcase on. Plenty of floorspace for a suitcase trestle and for a comfy chair or small sofa though – the room certainly looked rather bare and empty.
Anyway, there was little time to dwell on this so I cracked on with getting ready. Despite having had a lot of laser hair removal, I still needed to take off some of my foundation, shave again, and then re-apply, and then apply more eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara for a more ‘evening’ look. Given the lack of mirror at the desk, I had to do my make-up in the en-suite bathroom. Then I changed into a dress which you’ll have seen on my Flickr before, my black DUO Aralia boots which you have seen before, a crocheted bolero jacket, and a Per Una cardigan that you have seen before. I’m afraid I can’t have a new outfit every single time I post a pic to Flickr! 🙂
I then headed out and got over to Claire’s at around 5pm.
Meeting her face-to-face wasn’t in the least bit weird. Far from it; we both felt like we had known each other for years which indeed we have, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world to finally be together in person. I also met her husband, Gary, who had apparently been a little timorous about meeting me, but he very quickly found that we had a lot in common so all was well there.
Since Claire and Gary only have the one car at the moment, we decided that it would make best sense to load Claire’s keyboards into my car and she & I head over to the venue, so that Gary could come down later. Of course, that meant that I was then unable to drink but it couldn’t really be avoided. With hindsight, if we’d thought of it sooner, I could have paid to add Claire to my insurance. But since neither of us thought of that (in fact I only thought of it days later whilst writing this), we quickly bolted down our dinner, loaded up and headed out, arriving at the venue just after 6pm.
I won’t lie – I was really rather bored for the first few hours as there was nothing for me to do and I wasn’t drinking. The venue (a pub) did have free Wi-Fi but the battery on my phone was going down alarmingly quickly and I had very stupidly forgotten to bring my Power Bank with me which would prove to be a massive oversight as a 10,000 mAh power supply would have kept my phone running all evening and kept me occupied. Especially if I had brought some headphones as well in order to maybe watch some telly.
Instead, I found myself twiddling my thumbs rather a lot and feeling a little self-conscious. Gary wasn’t due to come over until around 9.30pm which was when the band were due to start their first set. Claire did manage a little time with me, but between the setting up and the dressing up (the band do Glam Rock), I was on my own for an awful lot of the time. Claire’s friend Lou, who I had been really looking forward to seeing as we are friends on Facebook, wasn’t well and wasn’t planning on coming.
Partway through all this I realised that it would be a good idea to grab a table, and by then the pub was pretty full and I only managed to get one down the end far away from the band, and pretty much the last one available. Again, with hindsight, I should have grabbed one much, much sooner. Lesson learned there.
Finally Gary arrived, and then the band started. They were absolutely brilliant, but we couldn’t really hear them that well down our end and couldn’t see them. After a while Lou sent a message to say she was feeling quite a bit better and was coming down, so that was good and she arrived a little later and we managed to have a good chat whilst Gary went to watch the band and we held the table.
Claire joined us in the intermission between sets, but it was only a short break and then the band were playing again. Gary then held the table whilst Lou and I went up to watch the band for a while, and then we returned for a sit down. Then, a little later, we trusted our luck with the table by leaving our coats on the chairs, so we could all go up. Each time Lou and I went up, she quickly gathered an entourage of guys hanging on her every word and buying her drinks, as she’s very pretty and vivacious, and I kind of got pulled in too. I have to admit that I was somewhat out of my comfort zone here, but I did my best. Everyone treated me as female and nobody so much as used the wrong gender pronoun for me, which was really nice – it could have ruined the evening if someone had decided to be an arse (always the risk you take, sadly). I think the only comment that was even vaguely letting on was someone saying “Isn’t Joe a bloke’s name?” when I was introduced to them, and I replied that it was short for Joanne. To be honest, I prefer Joanne to Jo anyway so will probably introduce myself as such in future.
People were getting really drunk by now, and it was really crowded near the band. I was getting jostled quite badly. Normally this would have really annoyed me and I would have wanted to remove myself from the situation, but I seemed to cope pretty well plus I was enjoying the band too much. It was really weird being stone cold sober amongst so many drunk people though; quite an eye opener. Usually I would be just as drunk and therefore not notice!
The band were really, really good and although the 70’s isn’t my favourite musical era, I really enjoyed their set and they had a really great stage presence. We saw the New Year in, and they played for maybe 45 mins more, once the encores were done. Then we had the reverse of the earlier part of the evening – the band now had to get off all their Glam Rock makeup (or face paint as one male member insists on calling it), change, and then pack away all their instruments, lighting, sound equipment and the like. This was probably the most awkward part of the evening for me as Lou’s little group of men were now extremely drunk, everyone was able to hear each other speak, and I was being dragged into conversation. I’m a little socially awkward and uncomfortable in group conversation situations, so this was a little difficult for me especially as I was sober – I get much more chatty when drunk. It did make me laugh that everyone thought I was from London though, since anywhere over my neck of the woods is apparently London and they had never heard of where I was from even when I said “near Basingstoke” or even “near Reading”. When one guy who had a slightly better grasp of geography asked me where I was really from and I told him, he said “But that’s nowhere near London!” and I just laughed, rolled my eyes, and said “I know!!! That’s what I keep telling everyone!”. 😀
It seemed to take forever for the band to pack up, and in the end I helped Claire pack away – not only so we could leave a little quicker, but also to get out of the awkward conversations. We did have a bit of a laugh with the rest of the band members as we did though, and we also managed to grab some fun pics for the band’s Facebook page. Lou needed a lift home, so I split the 60:30 rear seats of my Golf and we easily got both of Claire’s keyboards into the car on their sides, plus all her stands and stuff, poured Lou into the single rear seat, and then we were on our way.
It was way past 2am by now. We dropped Lou off, then I dropped Claire off and helped unload her stuff, and then it was a short 5 min drive back to my hotel. I got in just after 3am which made for a very long evening!
When I got into my room it was absolutely freezing. It turned out that none of the hotel staff had thought to turn the thermostat on the radiator up from zero, likewise for the heated towel rail in the en-suite bathroom, and I had been in so much of a rush to get changed and ready in the brief time I’d been in my room earlier that I hadn’t noticed. So I was shivering somewhat as I changed into pyjamas and got my makeup off, but did remember to turn up the thermostats so it would be warm the next day. Or, rather, later that day.
Claire and I had arranged to meet up mid-morning and breakfast didn’t finish at my hotel until 11am, so I had planned to sleep in. Sadly a combination of body clock and hotel noise conspired against me, and I woke at 8:40am and dozed until just after 9am at which point I decided to get up. The room was nice and warm by now, so I had a long hot shower and then got dressed and got my makeup on, and headed down to breakfast.
Breakfast was a disappointment to say the least. It was buffet-style, with everything pre-cooked and sat under heat lamps. This included the toast, which had taken on the consistency of cardboard. The sausages were the cheapest type imaginable – the ones whose main ingredient appears to be high density foam. The scrambled egg was bland and tasteless, and the beans were very cheap too. At least the bacon was ok, and the mushrooms were actually very nice. I didn’t go up for seconds.
I got over to Claire’s just before 11am and we spent the rest of the morning just chatting, as she had nobody to look after the kids until 2pm and Gary was at work that day as he’s in retail and his shop was open on New Year’s Day. As it would turn out, it was possibly the only one that was. But more on that in a moment.
Around 2pm Gary’s dad came over to look after the kids, and Claire and I headed over to Norwich in her car – the plan being to shop for a few hours, grab a bite to eat, and then watch the new Star Wars film. We parked up in the car park near the Odeon, popped in to buy tickets for a later showing, and then realised that the shops were a good 10 mins walk away as the site just has the cinema and a load of restaurants. That walk turned into a hard uphill slog of more than 10 mins and I was pretty knackered by the time we got up there. Then we found that pretty much all the shops were closed – the large Next was open but that was about the only shop that was. After a while we decided to give up and walk back and, since we had come out of a different entrance and weren’t sure of the route back, we relied on Google Navigation to guide us. This was a big mistake as we were taken on a magical mystery tour of the residential parts of Norwich, separated from where we wanted to be by a river that we had to parallel for ages until we came to a footbridge. It was very hilly, and some of the hills were very steep, and my feet were really starting to hurt. I think we must have walked for around 20-25mins and were both thinking that if we’d been in a city where you were able to hail cabs, we’d have hailed one. I guess we could have used Uber but neither of us had the app and neither of us thought of it at the time either. You can see a bit of a pattern emerging here, I think. 🙂
Finally we made it back to the Odeon and it was clear that we didn’t have time to eat before the showing we had booked, and we both needed the loo. Now, at a risk of going into too much information here, I had to pretty much undress to go to the loo. First my jacket came off, then my skirt came down, then tights, then the padded shorts that I wear to hold my tummy in and to give my hips and bum some shape, then knickers. I was tired, cold, and clammy, and everything seemed to take forever to come off; especially the padded shorts as they are fairly tight. After I’d had a wee, I then needed to get it all back on again and I was starting to worry that Claire would be wondering what had happened to me, as indeed she was. As it turned out, she’d been in and out looking for me, not knowing if I was still in or had gone out, had sent a text, and was starting to wonder where on earth I was. She eventually found me brushing my hair, having just washed my hands, trying to look less windswept, and wondering how I was going to find her. So all was well that ended well.
The Star Wars film was really good. As a big Star Wars fan I thought that, like Tron: Legacy, it was cleverly both a remake of the original for those who had not seen it and a sequel for those that had. I enjoyed it. I also really liked that it had such a strong female lead in Rey, and that she was a girl who could really look after herself and didn’t need a man to hold her hand. Literally.
The big shock moment (no spoilers, but if you have seen the film you will know what I mean) was somewhat well telegraphed though – there was no real suspense for me as it was set up in dialogue just beforehand and I thought to myself “this is going to go one of two ways… oh, right. It went that way. Fair enough”. 🙂
Anyway, an all round enjoyable film and it’s great that we finally have a 4th Star Wars film – it’s been such a long wait since Return of the Jedi in 1983. 😉
After the film, we went to an American Bar & Grill next door and had a small steak and chips each – neither of us were that hungry and it was a nice light meal that was also not too bad for the waistline. Mind you, it was just as well we weren’t that hungry as the meal was a small steak (admittedly very nice and cooked to perfection), a small portion of chips, and a tiny little saucer of coleslaw – no vegetables, salad, or anything.
When we got home, Gary was home, his father had gone, and then shortly after that Lou popped round, so we had a nice evening just chatting, watching YouTube videos on the smart TV as conversation threw up things that we wanted to show each other – an eclectic mix of music, martial arts fights, car videos, and all sorts. It was a really nice evening. All too soon, though, it started to get late, and both Lou and I were tired, so we both left and I went back to the hotel to go to bed.
Next morning, breakfast was no better than the previous day so the less said about that the better. Then I packed up, checked out, and headed over to Claire’s.
We spent a while chatting then dropped her kids off at her mum’s and popped over to Lowestoft for some shopping (with actual open shops!) and also to meet up with another friend called Rebecca who I wanted to meet – a friend of Lou’s I’d friended on Facebook a while back.
Claire and I had a good bit of shopping, and I bought a nice dress in the sale at New Look and also a top, then eventually we ended up in Quiz, which is in Palmers Department Store. I immediately spotted a jumper I liked and which Claire decided she did too. We both ended up buying one. We also spotted a gorgeous jumper with a fur collar and a brown leather buckle detail which was so her. When she tried it on I only had two words to say – “Buy. It.” 🙂
I’d have loved one too but they didn’t have it in my size and also I wasn’t sure if it would work on my body shape, so the fact that it looked fab on Claire and that she bought it was very much the next best thing for me.
Rebecca then joined us and we headed upstairs to Palmers’ restaurant / coffee shop and had a light lunch and chatted. It was nice to meet her at last. Afterwards we grabbed an obligatory group selfie, and then Claire and I headed back to hers and spent some more time nattering. My voice was pretty hoarse by now, I can tell you.
All too soon, the light was going and the kids were dropped back, and I had the 190 mile journey to do, so very reluctantly I said I should be going and hit the road.
The journey back was rainy but uneventful – I just set the Cruise Control and pretty much went at my own pace the whole way back and I had no delays, hold-ups, or diversions. I did the journey without stopping once (my dad would be so proud of me – in that one respect anyway) in a little over 3 hours.
Once home, I took some photos of that day’s outfit, then gratefully stripped everything off. I say gratefully because, although it was wonderful being full-time for 3 days, my wig was starting to really irritate me and it was nice to just take it all off and chill out.
And that was my long weekend. It was absolutely brilliant to finally meet up with Claire, with Lou, and with Rebecca, and also to meet Claire’s husband Gary for the first time. I had such a great time, despite the little hiccups like Norwich being closed and the aching feet. It’s such a shame that Claire and I live so far apart because we both feel we would love to meet up regularly and I know it would also be good for me to get out more in girl mode and have regular girl interaction – many weekends I simply don’t bother because I have no reason to. Simply getting “dressed” for the sake of it is not sufficient reason for me, even though I know it is for some t-girls. However, meeting up for a coffee would be more than sufficient reason. Plus I love Claire’s company.
We’re already planning our next meeting – perhaps Claire, Lou and I will convene in London.
After all, I am from there apparently.
On Saturday I cracked a bleary eye open at 7.15am and rather grumpily cursed myself for agreeing to a 10.30am appointment for Voice Coaching with Christella Antoni. Crawling out of bed, I made my way to the bathroom and started my morning routine and by just after 8.30am I was ready and left the house. This was despite having chosen my clothes the night before and laid them out. Getting ready in girl mode takes so much more time than guy mode!
I had a good journey and by 9.40am I was parking up at the Westfield Shopping Centre. I like to park there because it is easy to get to via the M40 and you hit very little traffic (it’s motorway then dual carriageway the whole way), and it has good tube links to the rest of London (Shepherd’s Bush for the Central line, and Wood Lane for the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines) and also has a flat rate for all day parking. Sadly that rate has been steadily increasing and has now gone up to £9.50 which is starting to feel a little steep – it was a more reasonable £7 not so long ago.
I briefly considered doing a little shopping since I had so much time in hand, but decided to press on with the journey. I’m glad I did, because I messed up my exit a little and ended up coming out of the South side of Westfield, and had to walk round and ended up at Shepherd’s Bush Market to get a Hammersmith & City line train, rather than Wood Lane as planned. Then, due to a reduced service, I was waiting for a while for a train, and suddenly all the time I had in hand simply evaporated and I was starting to worry I would be late.
However, I got there bang on 10.30am but found the place locked up.
I sent a text to Christella, and also an email, and it was whilst I was in the email client that I saw the date. 17th January. Not 24th January. I was a week early. I am a div.
I was due to meet my friend Mark for lunch at 12.30pm so sent him a message asking if he was available earlier, and he said that he was, and to meet him at Somerset House (which is ironic, as I was wearing the same jumper dress as the last time I was at Somerset House back in October 2013) and he suggested taking the Jubilee Line from Baker Street to Westminster, and then it was just “5 mins walk” up from there.
What I didn’t know is that Mark is a keen walker and, for my little legs in block heeled boots, it was one hell of a walk. We were in contact whilst I walked and he decided to set off and meet me partway, and as we got closer phoned me and we easily found each other. I sometimes wonder how we managed without mobile phones.
Mark suggested we went for a drink in the American Bar of the Savoy Hotel (oooh, posh!) even though neither of us were really dressed appropriately. Especially as Mark was wearing what can only be described as “+10 Shoes of Awesome” (my description, not his 🙂 ). But we were allowed in and were soon at at the bar.
I’m a little bit clueless about cocktails so Mark asked me what I do and don’t like (for the record, I can’t stand gin and I don’t like cucumber, grapefruit or coconut) and he suggested an Old Fashioned made with rum rather than whiskey. It was an excellent choice – I really liked that. Later on we had another cocktail whose name escapes me, but was also really nice. I could get a taste for these.
We were in there for what felt like ages and talked about all sorts of stuff, but actually not a huge amount of time actually elapsed.
After that, Mark asked if I was up for a quest. A quest to find a cake, purchase it, and deliver it to a friend of his who was unwell. Only he wasn’t sure if she was in or even where precisely she lived. It sounded like a giggle so I readily agreed. Random Cake Delivery Quest – Challenge Accepted!
We set off, and to cut a long story short we were successful in our quest, although I had to ask him to slow down a couple of times because I couldn’t walk as fast as him, and in the end he took pity on me and hailed a cab. I was very grateful for that as my feet were really starting to hurt. I’m not used to lots of walking!
During the walk we passed along a canal and I asked him to take a pic of me for my blog and for Flickr. Yay! Thank you, Mark!
The recipient of the cake was overjoyed and not long after we left a nice Facebook post from her, tagging Mark, popped up. Mission accomplished.
It was lunchtime by now and we were near Paddington Station, and there is a Yo Sushi there, so we popped in there for some lunch. And then all too soon it was time to part as Mark needed to be elsewhere.
It’s funny, but normally when you’re with someone for only 3 hours yet it feels like all day, that’s a negative thing and implies the time dragged. But quite the reverse was true in this case. We managed to cram in an awful lot of interesting chat and had a really nice time. The Savoy was a real experience for me too – I loved it!
I considered heading over to Old Spitalfields Market at this point, but my feet were getting pretty sore so instead I headed back to Westfield. I made sure I took a Hammersmith & City line train and got off at Wood Lane, so that I could fix my bearings and know for next week where I should head to in order to exit Westfield at the correct place. Turns out it is at the end where the food halls are, and also where Next is. I will remember that for next week and it should save me some time.
I passed the Disney Store, and saw that they had a full size Elsa, so I just simply had to take a selfie with her. I’m a little gutted that it came out so fuzzy though. That little Panasonic camera I have is rather rubbish despite having a Leica lens.
I think Elsa might actually be trying to pickpocket me in this photo!
After that I decided I would head home and I had a pretty uneventful journey, stopping on the way at Sainsbury’s to pick up some food and drink for the evening.
When I got home I got my boots off and discovered that my toes were in a pretty bad state – several had been rubbed badly, and one was rubbed raw (I will spare you the gory details but it wasn’t pretty). Also, according to my Fitbit Flex, I had walked a total of 8 miles (estimated by the pedometer function – it doesn’t have its own GPS). No wonder my feet were hurting so much!
Next Saturday I have to go back up to London for my actual appointment. However, Christella has asked me if I wouldn’t mind changing my appointment for one in the late afternoon as it would help one of her other clients out enormously who needs to catch a flight. I was happy to accommodate as it means that next Saturday I won’t have to get up at 7.15am again. However, I will have to be careful not to tire myself out in the day or else I will be knackered by the time of the appointment.
Update: I wasn’t well the following weekend and so cancelled my appointment with Christella. She very graciously waived a cancellation fee and I am very thankful to her for that.