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: socialising
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.
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.
Following on from Staycation: Update 2…
Thursday. The plan for this day was to get up at a reasonable time, get ready in girl mode, and then head over to London to do whatever in the morning and then meet up with two girl friends for lunch, and then after that do whatever. Various options were available for the two “whatever”s including the V&A museum, shopping, and the like.
I set my alarm for 8.45am but woke just before. I can’t say that I tore around in a hurry getting ready, but I didn’t overly dawdle either. In truth, though, had I really applied myself I could have left the house earlier than the time that saw me finally out the door. If I’d planned the journey the night before, I’d have had a better idea of the hard “leave by” time that I had to aim for and would have got my skates on. As it was, I thought I had more time in hand than I did because I was relying on past experience rather than journey planning. Also I really should have planned my outfit the night before (I had a rough idea what I was going to wear), and also got my handbag ready the night before too – I usually use a brown handbag and I knew that my outfit would need a black handbag so I really should have done that. But at least I did my nails the night before.
Another thing I had not planned for on the day was ripping the seam of my dress as I put it on, and having to sew it up again. I also spent ages on my make-up and wasn’t totally happy with it – I felt I put too much eyeliner on and that it was a little wonky.
So, anyway, I set off at just gone 11am with a view to parking up at Westfield Shopping Centre (since it is convenient for me to get there, and also is £6.25 for the whole day to park there), and Google Navigation immediately told me my ETA was 12.07pm, which was a bit of a shock as I was estimating 40 mins. Considering I had to be at L’Anima Café on Appold Street, EC2 for 12.30pm, I immediately knew I had a really big problem on my hands. There was nothing to do but press on as swiftly as possible, and I arrived at Westfield at pretty much bang on the ETA – Google Navigation is scarily accurate on that. The plan had been to get on the Central Line at Westfield (Shepherd’s Bush) and go to Liverpool Street Station, then walk. Because I was running late, and I am a complete rube (or, rather, it has been far too many years since I lived in London) I thought it would be quicker to hail a cab. This was a MASSIVE mistake. As the time counted down, and the money ticked up, I alerted the girls as to where I was via Facebook. At about 12.25pm, as I was nearing Paddington in appalling traffic, Beth phoned me and told me I didn’t have a hope in hell of getting there any closer than Christmas (ok, she didn’t *actually* say that – she said it would take me another 45-60 mins), and that the restaurant were chuntering them to order already. I told her that I realised that and was getting really stressed about the whole thing. She asked if I wanted to abort and reschedule, and I thought it was polite if I said yes, but told her and Jay to go ahead and have lunch without me since they were already there. I then told the taxi driver to just take me to the nearest tube station.
The taxi driver, bless him, told me that he would take me to Baker Street tube station and I should take the Metropolitan Line to Moorgate, if I still wanted to make my lunch date. He also said that he would only charge me £12 (the meter was already on £18-odd). When we got there, the meter was showing £19.80 and he still insisted on £12, so I gave him £14 and thanked him for being so sweet to me.
Now, if you haven’t got a clue where you are and have no GPS signal due to being in a station, Liverpool Street is a bit difficult to exit on the correct side and, in keeping with my run of cock-ups, I exited on the complete opposite side to the one I was meant to be on and it took me a while to orient myself, during which I initially headed off in the wrong direction (*sighs*), losing yet more time.
Finally, at around 1.30pm I arrived, and explained to the Maître d’ that I was meeting friends there. He naturally wanted to know if I was sure I was at the right place (there are two L’Animas), in whose name the reservation was, and the like. I knew Beth had booked the table, but he couldn’t find her name, so I phoned her but the phone rang out. I was just wondering what to do, when Beth spotted me and waved and the Maître d’ was happy for me to go over to them.
Beth and Jay had eaten by now, and had just ordered a pot of tea to finish, and I had no appetite. So after greetings, I just asked for a bottle of water. We chatted for a short while, during which I briefly recounted yesterday’s failure to find open Antiques shops and Beth told me that I really needed to go down to Old Spitalfields Market. In no time at all (it seemed, but was probably 15 mins or more), Beth very apologetically said she really had to get back to work as she had meetings, which I quite understood – I knew she was at work that day. Jay too had to get back but wasn’t under such tight time constraints. So she and I were able to talk for a little more after Beth left, and then she walked me down to the market and we parted.I had a lovely time wandering round the stalls there. As Beth predicted, they had exactly the kind of stuff that I was hoping to find at the Antiques shops the day before. I found a couple of things I liked, but they were too bulky for me to want to carry them all the way back to where the car was on the other side of London. I also found a lovely Art Deco style necklace that I really agonised over buying but ultimately didn’t.
There were also some really interesting and eclectic people there – all sorts of dress styles including hipster, gentrified, rockabilly (I confess I’d love a rockabilly dress), Bohemian, and the like. But then, it’s close to Shoreditch so this isn’t entirely unexpected. But it was all new to me as I don’t really get into London much these days and certainly not into the hip areas.
I was getting pretty hungry by now, having not had a thing to eat, and the market had loads of little kiosks selling all sorts of food. One did oriental and I noticed they did Singapore Noodles which I absolutely love. So I ordered that and they were some of the best Singapore Noodles I have had in ages – all the ingredients I like, none of the ones I don’t (I find that many people put way too much onion and Pak Choi in, since they are cheap ingredients, but there was little or none in this one), and a decent portion too. Outstanding. Sadly I completely forgot to take a photo.
After that I wandered round the market some more, and the surrounding shops, but eventually decided it was time to head back.
In keeping with my day of navigational cock-ups, I headed for what I thought was the nearest tube station but which turned out to be an overground station – Shoreditch High Street. In fairness, Google Maps on my phone did use the underground symbol rather than the overground symbol. That’s my excuse anyway. I couldn’t see any way of it taking me anywhere near to anywhere I wanted to go, so decided I should walk all the way back to Liverpool Street Station. Still, at least it let me browse the popup stores of the Shoreditch Boxpark, I guess. And it was good exercise.
At this point I should mention that I was starting to get the impression that I appeal to older guys. I was getting checked out a lot – and I don’t mean in a smirking “look at the tranny” way, but genuinely checked out. But only by older guys (as in 50+). One oriental guy in a van stuck in traffic gave me a good look, which I saw. I looked away, and then I looked back, and he gave me a big friendly appreciative grin – I was half expecting a thumbs-up too from his grin. I have to confess it kind of made my day a little. I was getting pretty much ignored by younger guys though. I noticed a number of girls look at me, then look me up and down, before looking away. I don’t know if I passed whatever test they were submitting me to though.
Eventually I got near to Liverpool Street Station, passing under the amazing Exchange House at Broadgate. I love the architecture of a building seemingly built into an iron span bridge. Whilst under it, on the edge of Exchange Square, I took several selfies, none of which I am particularly happy with, but this one is the best of a bad bunch. As I walked on to the station, a guy in a yellow High Vis jacket stopped me and asked me if I’d taken good pics. When I looked at him quizzically, he said he’d seen me taking my selfies and that he’d have been more than happy to have taken the photos for me. Which was very sweet of him. Although he must have seen me from quite a distance, though, as where he stopped me is about a quarter of the way down the building on my left shoulder (on the right-centre of the pic), past the trees you can see.
So, finally, I got down onto Liverpool Street Underground and a train arrived. And it was rammed. I stood for part of the journey but eventually got a seat and in not too much time arrived at Shepherd’s Bush, thus confirming what I should have done in the first place when trying to get to my lunch date – Central Line from Shepherd’s Bush to Liverpool Street. In fact, with hindsight (and knowing where to go), I doubt I would have been more than 15-20 mins late for lunch if I had done that. That’s hindsight for you.
I wandered round Westfield Shopping Centre for a little, but really my heart wasn’t in it and I was tired, so I decided to head on home. Although not before taking another selfie. 🙂
It was about 5.20pm by now, which I knew was probably the worst time to be setting off.
Being in the underground car park, I had no GPS signal so I set off whilst Google Navigation was still waiting for a lock (you can see where this is going, can’t you?), and promptly turned the wrong way and hit solid traffic. I had to queue all the way down to the roundabout, round it, and back up again, before I got back to where I’d been (which took a good 20 mins) and then picked up the A40, then the M40, then the M25, and finally the M3. The traffic cleared pretty quickly once on the A40 and I had a good run home.
I had a quiet evening and an early night.
There’s not much to say about Friday. Despite the weather seeming to be fine, when I called about the gliding I was told that the Chief Flying Instructor felt the clouds were closing in and he was cancelling my flight. The rest of the day I spent pottering around, including writing the previous blog post, quite a bit of this one, and also watched the film Edge of Tomorrow, which is like Groundhog Day but with guns and Exo-Suits. I love Exo-Suits, Gear, Power Armour, Mecha and the like, so it was right up my street.
I don’t have any more plans for the rest of my time off.
Anyway, sorry for the length of post. I hope it wasn’t too boring.
My work has taken me back down to Hedge End on a regular basis, and I was in Sainsbury’s Hedge End recently, which was where the Brides in the Aisles photo shoot was.
I saw the young Sainsbury’s employee who was roped into the photo shoot, but I was in guy mode so obviously she would never have recognised me. But I had really liked her during the shoot, and I felt I just had to say hello. So very bravely I waited until she was on her own and asked “Um, excuse me, but were you in the Brides in the Aisles photo shoot?”
When she said that she was, I said “I thought so. Um… I’m Joanne”
I’m not sure what I expected, or feared (certainly my heart was pounding in my chest), but she could not have been more natural, accepting, or friendly. Without missing a beat she just started chatting with me like it was the most natural thing in the world. We reminisced about the shoot, whether we had attended the actual event, I asked whether she had got into trouble for being seconded by us for most of a morning, etc. And when I mentioned I had been worried about saying hello in guy mode, she looked at me in momentary incomprehension and then was completely dismissive of it (in a good way).
Truly we are raising a generation way more tolerant than the previous. And I think that is totally awesome.
On Saturday evening I spent a rather nice few hours with the wonderful Miss Sarah Lovely who I know via Flickr, who more than lived up to her adopted surname. If you haven’t visited her Flickr stream then be sure to do so as she is indeed, er, lovely.
Sarah and I have been meaning to meet up for a while, and on Friday night she emailed me saying that she knew it was short notice, but did I want to go to a Way Out club event at the Gilt Bar in London the following night (ie. Saturday).
I confess my initial reaction was mild panic, and I initially declined and then mentioned it on Facebook to my friends. Cue lots of friends telling me to “woman up, Princess” and to go for it. As the day wore on I became more and more resolved to go for it, although I was stressing about what to wear and how to do my makeup.
Eventually I settled on this dress, although I have to say that I wasn’t too keen on it and thought it made me look a little mumsy. Also lots of things went wrong whilst getting ready, including ripping my last pair of nude tights and having to wear a pair of black ones. Then stressing about the fact I didn’t have a handbag that matched. And also not being happy with my makeup as I was using gel eyeliner for the first time, and also tried to wear false lashes (which was a complete disaster and which I gave up on). In short, I was in a bit of a state of panic by the time I took this pic.
I estimated that I’d need to leave at 8.45pm to get there for 10pm, which was the time Sarah and I had agreed to meet there. I was slightly late setting off (by about 10 mins).
Now at this point I should make a brief aside and say that my venerable and much-loved HTC Desire-Z (with the flip-out keyboard) died just before Christmas. Something caused it to brick, and a factory reset and attempted console recovery bricked it further. Short of rooting it (which is notoriously difficult on this model) and installing a custom ROM on it, it’s dead. I’ve been trying to source the new Motorola Moto G as a replacement but it has proved difficult so far. I managed to source one from Amazon which I ordered on 18th December, and which was despatched on 19th and, under Amazon Prime membership, was “guaranteed” (sic) to arrive on 20th. However the courier was Yodel (you can see where this is going already). On Saturday 21st I contacted Amazon pointing out that the fact that Yodel’s tracking database was saying that it was “on schedule” for delivery on 20th was a little optimistic unless they had a time machine, since it hadn’t arrived. Over the following days it remained resolutely stuck “In Transit” at Yodel’s Reading depot, despite many platitudes from Amazon as to them trying to unstick it. Finally on 27th December I told Amazon it was an absolute joke whereupon they gave me an immediate refund and magically Yodel’s tracking database updated to “Returning to seller” almost immediately.
Still, at least Amazon extended my Prime membership by a month by way of apology, but that still leaves me without a smartphone.
Anyway, given the above, I was without a smartphone when setting off and hence without SatNav. But I had a cunning plan! I had my Nexus 7 tablet with me and had google maps on that, and hence I had navigation. And it was indeed a cunning plan, except for one small issue; I hadn’t offlined the maps before leaving the house and the N7 is Wi-Fi only. Bugger. And I was a good way down the M3 before I realised.
At this point I had a choice of turning back, or pressing on and buying an A-to-Z of London and doing it “old skool”. On reflection this was a mistake in some ways. But I had become rather bloody-minded about going by this point, and also Sarah had texted me to say that the other gurl who was going had cried off and if I wasn’t coming then she wouldn’t go either.
Well, to cut a very long
journey story short, I had a terrible journey. Once I got into London I got lost many times, found much of my route a Red Route with very few opportunities to pull in and consult the map, and when I could I frequently discovered I had gone wrong and was way off course, and my stress levels (and tears of frustration) grew and grew. I also ran into extremely heavy traffic round Picadilly Circus and got stuck there for ages. I sent many progress texts to Sarah which must have played out like a soap opera to her. By the time I arrived at the club and parked up it was around 11.15pm rather than the 10pm I was aiming for. And, to add insult to injury, admission after 11pm was £12 rather than £7.
Anyway, finally there, it was absolutely lovely to finally meet Sarah. Despite her protests I thought she looked amazing and, despite my protests, she said much the same for me. And also that I looked exactly like my Flickr pics (I think that was a compliment!)
I had been expecting a club, with very loud music, and little chance of talking. But actually it was a nice bar with opportunity to chat, but with a more noisy club-like room with dancing available for people who wanted it too. We spent most of the time in the quieter bar area, chatting, people watching, and just generally soaking up the atmosphere. We both agreed that we were mid-tier; by no means the worst there. But, oh my goodness, some of the t-girls there were simply stunning. The ones who were especially so were the Asian girls, although some had quite clearly had extensive surgical enhancement. But, still, fair play to them.
Sarah and I had a really nice evening, mostly talking (inevitably me more than her, since I have trouble shutting up), but eventually the clock wound round towards 1.45am and it was time to go.
The cloakroom at the club was a joke. We waited for ages for the lady in front of us to get her bag (she gave up in the end as she only wanted to put something into it), then waited ages for my coat, then even longer for Sarah’s coat, and as long again for her bag. We all felt a bit sorry for the girl in the cloakroom even though we also felt annoyed by her ineptitude. But finally we were away. I felt very embarrassed by the fact I don’t own a ladies’ overcoat, though, and had been forced to use a gentleman’s one. And I resolved to buy a ladies one when I could. But more on that next time.
Having ascertained that the slightly inebriated Sarah lived along the route that I would need to drive to get home, I offered her a lift home and we navigated ourselves past the throng of kind gentlemen offering us taxis home, and made it the short distance to my adorable little car. And then successfully navigated ourselves to Sarah’s place (which turned out to be exactly on my route home and within my local knowledge. Yay!). So, with my passenger seat suitably divested of adorable t-girl (and suitably invested with red glitter from her dress) I turned my wheels for home, hoping for a better journey back. Although my navigation was better, sadly the M3 was closed due to a major accident (I hope everyone was ok) and I had to track cross country to the A30 and make my way home that way. Fortunately I was on ‘home turf’ by then so no navigation needed. The only annoying thing is that I could so easily have stayed on the A3 route that dropping Sarah off took me to. It would have taken me via Guildford and then onto the Hog’s Back, but instead I chose to track up to the M3 with the inevitable unforeseen diversion. Oh well.
I finally made it home at around 3.20am (or thereabouts) and, after a brief time on Facebook to reassure friends that I was home safe and sound, I retired to bed. But before that, I needed to take my makeup off. 25 mins later I concluded one thing; gel eyeliner goes on like black shoe polish but is twice as hard to get off again. LOL.
I think I finally made it into bed at around 4am and then my stupid body clock woke me at 10am. Still, could have been worse.
Was it worth going? Hard to say. The effort expended was disproportionate, but overcoming the inner demons that so many times sought to make me give up was a major triumph. So, on balance, this is a win. Also, Sarah was great company and I so want to catch up again.
Did the dress work? I dunno. I guess it was pretty but I felt a little dowdy in it. I want something way more “me” next time. But I did get several compliments on it.
Finally I’d just like to say a ‘thank you’ to the lady who organises the “Way Out” meets. She made sure she circulated and greeted everyone, us included, and really made me feel like I was welcome there. Which was nice.
So if you are a t-girl (of any type) and fancy going to one of these events then I really encourage you to do so. They even have free changing facilities in case you want to go in guy mode and change there.
Find out more at www.thewayoutclub.com
On Saturday I went up to London again for another Voice Coaching session, only this time it was a group session rather than one-to-one.
I was due to meet a friend for lunch beforehand. I had a rotten journey up and was pretty late, and then we found everywhere very busy for food. We got seated at a restaurant but after 10 mins of not even having our drink order taken, and with me already fast running out of time, we decided to bail and go to a nice coffee shop that she knew, and even they had slow service. To cut a boring story shorter, pretty much everything conspired to make me late – the service, walking to the wrong tube station as we hadn’t realised there was another one on the same line that was nearer, tube train delays, and everything. But it worked out ok in the end as I arrived merely 10 mins late and they hadn’t started yet.
The 2 hour session went very well and I was very encouraged by my progress. We had a few giggles, not least a game of “My gran went to the market and she bought…” that got up to 12 items. My contributions were “a banana” and “two pairs of wellies for her pet Llama” which raised a bit of a laugh.
There were 6 of us (plus the coach), so for part of the time we broke into pairs for conversation training. One pair managed to get into an argument about cables, of all things, and thereafter every time someone made reference to that it set them off again. So we didn’t do that. Much.
I think I’ll definitely go back and do the next group session next month. Not only did I find it useful, and also encouraging, but the social aspect of it was nice too.