Friday, 22 September 2017

My Life, In Three Week Blocks

Staff Nurse Wyvern SRN
My life is a bit unusual in that I live in 3 week blocks, where one set of 3 weeks is spent out on an oil platform working 12 hr days and on call for 12 hrs over night as a platform 'Medic', then the next 3 weeks is spent at home cramming as much life as possible into the time off. My last time at work and home had been particularly busy so here is a quick abridged resume of my last six weeks.
I am a nurse with a particular interest in Occupational Health, and the offshore role requires my skills in trauma and medicine to help care for the platform population. 
I am ‘out’ at work and have no real issues with being Transgender in the work area, however I am not full time, but present an androgynous image due to my long hair etc.  

Northward Bound
Work for me starts with 5 hour drive from Cornwall to London, a trip in a bus and train to the airport, then a flight north to Aberdeen.
I have an overnight stay in Aberdeen and have a very silly o’clock check in for a 50 min fixed wing flight to Shetland then a 45 min helicopter flight out to the platform.
The platform is about 100 miles east of Shetland, halfway to Norway and produces oil and gas that is pumped ashore for distribution.
Home on the Sea 
My offshore day starts at 05:30 with breakfast then I fill my day with various occupational health management assessments and preventive medicine routines, such as water testing and noise assessments.
My role overlaps safety in many areas and I undertake some of the routine things such as inductions to the platform etc. However my main role is for medical emergency response, which I am happy to say is rare occurrence. (Touching wood and black cats!!)

ManFlu Management
The platform population of about 140 is made up from a young and aging workforce, so I tend to see a lot of conditions related to the maturing individuals, such as back and joint pain, hypertension and the likes.
I occasionally need to send someone on shore for a medical referral, and often confer with the onshore Doctors for advice on the management of a patient.
The role is very varied and dynamic with me looking after COSHH, manual handling, noise, HAVS, Asbestos and radiation etc. and also the poorly individuals that come to see me on a daily basis.
After 21 days my time offshore draws to an end and its homeward bound, retracing my steps southward.

Southwards Bound

Week One
This time home found me running all over the country and having a varied leisure time.
Landrovers Lined Up 
My first few days home found me fitting new parts to the Landover and taking the vehicle in for a service. While I was waiting I observed the twice yearly ritual of picking up a new car on the first day of the new ‘67’ registration. British cars registrations have 2 letters, (which signify the area it was first registered)  2 numbers (that signify the early or later part of the year of registration ) then 3 letters  (which is pot luck !) My previous Landover for example was WL07CYW .. WL = Westcoutry, 07 = registered after March 2007 and the rest as the DVLA pleases.  
Every six months there is a rush to buy a new car on the first day of the new registration and the land rover main dealer had lots of Range Rovers and Discoveries going off to new owners. One range rover was wrapped up with a big bow on top for the new lady owner whose partner had bought it for her. She squealed with delight as she thought that they were there to book her old car in for a service.. so she was totally surprised.

The rest of the weekend taken up with having some friends come and visit to plan the photo exhibition that my partner and they were holding in the newyear.  We all went out on the obligatory photo shoot to the beach and cliffs braving the stormy conditions.  That night saw us all out for dinner in the town, that was a lot quieter after the holiday makers had returned to their homes from enjoying the delights of the sea side, surf and sand.
The locals begin to peek out of their houses and scuttle round the town again about this time of year.

Week Two
I do some part time work for an occupational health company when not offshore and frequently work away on locations that have very technical work sites. One has an international project involving neutrons and magnets making an artificial sun .. described by one of the workers there as ‘rocket science on steroids’ !! 
As I have to stay on site I managed to take my canoe this time and enjoyed reliving my early days of training paddles up and down the Thames.
It’s also an opportunity to dress fem in the evenings and relax, and have a nice meal after work.

Goodwood Revival
Staff Nurse Wyvern SRN
After my week away, I made my way home in time to unload the car and pack for the annual trip to Goodwood Revival.
My partner and I made the 7hr drive arriving just in time to have a meal with our friends who were also attending the event.
This year I was attending the first day as a 1950’s nurse as our friend had recently had surgery on her knee and was unable to walk far, so we had a wheelchair and I pushed her all around the event.  I had borrowed the uniform from a good friend and it was an opportunity to wear my nursing qualification badges again that I haven’t worn since leaving the NHS.
Sadly the weather hadn’t been very good, with heavy downpours the day before turning the site into a quagmire of mud, making the walk from the carpark an adventure. However as we had a wheel chair we were able to make the use of the curtsey vehicles that were on site for this service.
The car that picked us up was a new ford 4x4 with less than 100 miles on the clock,  but we couldn’t see what colour it was as it was plastered with mud from driving around the site.
Once on the site we started to mingle with the crowds.
There seemed to be a higher number of people in 1960’s fashions this year, with the knee high white boots being very popular.
My ‘patient’ and I had lots of admiring comments and some people asked us to pose for photos. My partner had made her own ‘Vogue’ patterned dress from the 50’s with no buttons or zips, and that was very much admired. They did suffer a wardrobe malfunction however from having a ride on the carrousel, where the wind from the ride nearly showed off her unmentionables to all at the event!  
Sadly the weather kept the majority of the flying program on the ground, but there were a couple of short displays with a mustang, spitfire, Corsair and P40,  the star of the air for me was the Lockheed P-38 Lightning which was wonderful and graceful in the air, sounded amazing, and was fast too … what more can you want from an aeroplane! 

There were rain showers on and off during most of the day but that didn’t dampen our spirits, with the fabulous things to see, people watching and admiring the outfits. Sadly shoes took a bit of a hammering with mud, mud, glorious mud and everyone seemed to be suffering. I was very pleased that I hadn’t worn my irregular choice ones that were more vulnerable to the effects of the mud than my black leather court shoes that matched both outfits for the weekend.
After leaving the event we were driving back to the hotel and realised the time – we would miss dinner at the hotel so stopped off and had a meal in a pizza express, all glammed up in our fancy outfits, well we do like to make an impression !!
Windswept 'Jackie O' and Warhawk P40C

Sunday found just my partner and myself at the event as our friends had other things planed for the day.
I wore a bright green 2 piece 1950’s ‘Jackie Onassis’ style outfit with matching gloves and hat, whilst my partner wore a new leather flying jacket that they had bough the day before and some warm trousers and classic heels. I had a faux fur stole to wear for the day that was just in case it became cold. 
The day was more of the same with a look at the aeroplanes parked up on the side of the airfield. There was a Bristol Blenheim bomber there this year and I must say is one of the most ugly aircraft that I have ever seen, even though its very practical and was very successful, it has a face only a mother could love !  
However as bad luck would have it, we were the farthest point from any shelter when the heavens opened and a mini- monsoon deposited its self all over us. We dove into a small tent to keep dry whilst others stood under the wing of a Norwegian Dakota DC3 that was being exhibited.
We took in the sites and wandered round the vendors and had a look at some of the cars in the vintage car park were drivers who drove them to the event could park their pride and joy for all to see.
Bristol Blenheim 
We decided to make our way home about 3pm in order to beat the rush, but on the way to the exit we were presented with an invite to participate in the vintage fashion show, which is a big honor as there are not many tickets given out at each day… sadly we had to pass as we would have been caught up with all the traffic.
On the way home we stopped off and had dinner with one of our friends who sadly was not able to attend the event at the last moment. We both had our outfits on from the day and made yet another entrance into an unsuspecting restaurant.

Week Three
Monday saw me working from home and slaving away in the office doing occupational health referrals, this was to be the plan for the week, with my part time work keeping me busy every day. We had dinner with a neighbor who had transitioned in her early 70’s and was still living life to the full!! And I had a night out visiting one of our friends one evening for fish and chips. 

Bits and Watsits
Friday saw us off out to the land rover show in Peterbourgh in the midlands of the UK. I am a very keen Landrover owner and so is my partner. We are both members of a 4x4 support team that are used to support the community when required.
The show is the height of being a Landover geek !
There are stalls selling widgets and whatnots, all manner of bling and bits to bolt on or replace, for every style and type of Landover you can ever imagine.
The Night Time Discovery's Disco-tech 
When you consider that the standard Landover is an agricultural vehicle of 50 year old design, with a one of the most diverse range of uses that are imaginable.
Farming, construction, utility services and emergency services are all the day to day things that Landrovers are used for, then there is the overland travel/expeditions, caravan towing, off road trialing and the list goes on !
The show covers all these aspects and shows off the Landover in all its glory (and oil leaks and rust!)

Biggles et al.
As I was on the east side of the country and not that far from London it seemed silly to go all the way west then drive all the way east again the next day, so I pottered south towards London and slept in the vehicle in a lovely green lane just off a quite B road.
Sopwith Camel 
After a quite night, breakfast and a quick wash, I stopped off and visited a site that I have always wanted to see that had a unique selection of airworthy vintage aeroplanes called the ‘Shuttelworth Collection’.
The aeroplanes at the site all fly and often are displayed at airshows up and down the county. This includes some WW1 biplanes, such as the Sopwith Camel that Biggles was credited with flying in the novels.
The oldest airworthy aeroplane in the world maintained there, a 1909 Bleriot type XI monoplane with an original engine along with the oldest British aeroplane too, a 1912 Blackburn Monoplane.
My favorite however, is the deHavland Dragon Rapied that is often at Goodwood, sitting in the hanger looking majestic, but that was next to the deHavland Comet Racer DH88 racer that has ‘it’ in bucket loads !...such a beautiful sleek classical design with so much style. 

Comet Racer
Blackburn Monoplane
Hawker Hurricane 
Dragon Rapied 
Bleriot type XI
The collection was started in the 1920’s with Richard Shuttleworth passion for cars and aeroplanes, and his keen interest in machinery, and grew from there. 

Vulcans and Dam Busters
After pottering around the aeroplanes I had lunch there and then made my way south to the RAF museum at Hendon.
This is a much bigger venue with fast jets and helicopters, but is in a pickle at the moment due to major rebuilding and many of the exhibits are crowded into small areas with no opportunity to see them clearly.
I was a little upset in how many American aircraft were on display as it seems to be an exhibition on WW2 aircraft and not the RAF. However there are some good British aircraft on display such as the AVRO Lancaster, supermarine spitfire and hawker hurricane. The fast jets included the Hunter, Tornado and Vulcan on display, with a wide selection of training aircraft and rotorwings.

So slightly disappointed I moved on and made my way to the place to park over night about 20 miles north of London in a small car park where I mange to twiddle with my wagon and fit some new sockets and reorganize the wiring in my cab heater while I had some time on my hands. The results were fab as I now have USB and plug sockets running off my primary battery controlled through the ignition switch and secondary battery controlled though an auxiliary switch – cool!! (sorry - Geek moment there !) 

…And Repeat ‘ad nausium’

The following morning I made my way to the place I leave my Landover whilst I am away at work and met up with some of my partners family before toddling off to Heathrow, to catch the flight to Aberdeen, then hotel over night then off up to Shetland at silly o’clock in the morning by fixed wing and helicopter, arriving at the platform for 09:30 …

Wow! Its ONLY 21 days to go till my next quite time at home !

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Humble Beginnings - Pandora and I, et al.

The Real World.
Having made the decision to move out of the services into the real world, I took a position as a staff nurse on an intensive care unit in west London, and moved into a house in Ealing.
I had made contact with a local Beaumont Society group, ran by a lovey woman called Janet, that met in Ealing, and attended frequently over the next few years. The meetings were held in a ‘hush-hush’ ‘secret squirrel’ sort of way.
The Beaumont Logo
I was able to make lifelong friends with some of the members, and was introduced to Christine, who had a house and was looking to take in a lodger to help with the bills and keep the place secure when she was away as she traveled overseas a lot.

Seventh Heaven.  
The first week I had moved in was a turning point in my life. I could dress when I liked, keep my clothes in my wardrobe hanging up, shoes on the rack and relax enfem. This was my Pandora moment and it was Bliss!
My night life took off too, as Christine enjoyed going out for meals and socialising, and as I didn’t drink, I very quickly became indispensible as the designated diver. So we were off gallivanting all over the capital when ever possible. I was living full time fem and only out of heels at work or at the canoe club.
But being a poor low paid nurse in the NHS, I couldn’t afford to keep my car, pay rent and eat, so sadly sold it and took to cycling the 17 miles each way to work as back every day. The upside was I had a fab figure, and this helped my canoeing as well. I averaged 34 miles a day, or better seen as 1000 miles a month by bicycle, no wonder I was fit!!

I had to register with a GP and the lovely Indian lady doctor in the surgery around the corner from the house took me on. I explained my situation and the fact that I felt I should have been female, and asked her advice. Surprisingly she had come across this before and was familiar with the Benjamin protocols, the real life test, hormone therapy and referrals for psychologist assessments etc. However she would not start any treatments for at least six months and only then after a psychological review, saying that I should start my ‘Real Life Test’ during that time, as it was a three year test so the sooner I started the better it would be. This was the early 1980’s and I am pleased to say we have progressed from this nowadays in many areas, but still have some way to go.

London Friend

Yvonne Sinclair 
  The London TV/TS group on Upper Street, Islington, was a regular haunt of mine at that time, with meetings every weekend overseen by the famous Yvonne Sinclair, who keep the TV/TS helpline and venue going for several years We would all meet up at the group venue, chat and gossip for a while, then about 10pm dash over to Earls Court on the other side of London, to the Philbeach hotel for a meal in the Asian restaurant and then dance till dawn in the basement.  The restaurant was managed by Paula, a lovely lady who was transitioning, and we all got on really well with good humor and long discussions into the night on just about every subject under the sun!
Yvonne was one of the original London girls who introduced me to the balls!
We attended events every couple of months at the Porcehster and Tudor Lodge where Ron Storme presented amazing Drag Balls that attracted a dazzling array of individuals. We all glammed up to the nines in sequins and big hair, fab frocks and heels, there were fashion shows, outfits were judged and lots of dancing to live bands. Later the discotec style of event took over and we just danced.
It was only some time later that I learned that Ron would often use the proceeds from the events to support other London based charities.

Life in Technicolor
Living in Christine’s house was always interesting as she was very social and invited some lovely people back for snacks and drinks. One afternoon she turned up at home with a lovely lady who was about my age at the time, dressed in an amazing short dress, skyscraper heels and hairstyle to die for. After chatting she told me she was transitioning and her Arab sheikh boyfriend was paying for everything, flat, clothes, surgery, hair removal … and shoes!! (… I would settle for the just the shoes!! ) She was very positive about the arrangement and oversaw the property he owned in the UK so earned her keep.

When I was not working weekends we would hit the city. There were nights out at Stallions, Hippodrome, Heaven, The Way Out Club, Storms and the Fallen Angel. Even Ealing had a friendly club called Lucky’s that was in walking distance of home, and had a gay night that was well attended. We had become part of the ‘IN’ crowd of alternative London, dancing at all the trendy night clubs of the day, rubbing shoulders with rock stars, those on the up, the famous DJ’s of the day, politicians, and people you could see in the newspaper gossip columns. 
We often met celebrities at the Hippodrome with Peter Stringfellow including  Marilyn, Tiny Tim, Kenny Everet and Alan ‘fluff’ Freeman.

London Hippodrome 
I must stress that despite this bohemian lifestyle I have never taken any drugs or smoked and have never drank, so it shows what people can do when there is a will to have fun. Enjoyment with no stimulants or hangovers may have been strange to some of my friends at the time, but I was never tempted to slide down that path. 

I went out with the girls at the hospital a few times for meals or drinks, being invited to hen nights and even a wedding. We all got on very well, partly due to the large number of agency nurses that came through the unit and the small core team that kept the place running. It did make for some long discussions on nights about gender and sexuality, and prompted the first serious navel gazing that I undertook to try and understand what I was and why. After a few months of soul searching and asking lots of questions of my friends I came to the conclusion that I was me, unique and happy, so I told myself to just get on with life and be myself.

Meanwhile the TV/TS group had found a new venue in French Place, Shoreditch, and we all became involved in setting it up. The venue was much better than Islington in that we all put something into it to make it work.  It had a different dynamics as well as a vibrant atmosphere. It was ‘ours’ and open most days and you could always have a nice cup of tea and chat, there were changing rooms and big mirrors. It hosted meetings and events, including a memorable presentation by Dr Russel Reid.
Sadly it was not a long term success as it was a great initiative, and provided a safe haven for many new girls coming out. It seemed that this was destined to fail after a couple of years mainly due to the internal politics of the group around the management of the venue

Sole Mate
One of the friends that I was introduced to by Christine was to become my long term partner. She lived on the other side of Ealing and was in a relationship at that time with some one who was also TV.
The boss ! 
We got on well and would often all meet up as a group at the local night club and dance together. However I wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time and didn’t think she was either, when one weekend she phoned me to see if I could help as her niece, (who she was babysitting while her brother and sister in law were at the Bruce Springsteen ‘Born on the fourth of July concert in Wembley) had fallen off a slide and hurt herself.  When they arrived at the house I found the niece had landed on her arm and it was painful but not broken, so some ice for a while and a bandage was all that was required, and after a 10 min watch of cartoon on the telly it was all forgotten.  As payment I was invited to go to the ‘Big Top’ on Battersea Park to see a ballet with her.
One thing led to another and we eventually became partners.
She had a proper job as an editor of a magazine in the city, and I was the lowly paid nurse working shifts, so it was a complete role reversal where I was taken out and dined on her expense account at all the fashionable places in London, the ballet, opera, and I introduced her to canoeing, where I took her out on the Thames one new years’ day when the river was in flood and she nearly drowned. She eventually forgave me and we have been together for over 30yrs now !

Peddles and Paddles
Canoeing was still a major part of my life, and I was selected to race in Denmark. This was all well and good but the team were on a tour for over a week training in the Danish lakes and I couldn’t get the time off for the whole event. However L, who was also invited to race was not able to make the whole tour either so she and I hatched a plan! I managed to arrange night duty for the week before the race and the pair of us cycled the 750 miles from London to the center of Denmark in four long days – thank goodness it was mostly flat!  
It was a hard ride with minimal stops and long days, however some how we managed to get to the race location in daylight the night before it was due to start, and were met by the whole team who informed us that the race had been cancelled!! It took a while for us to believe them, but the other teams had to pull out and it became a time trial across the lakes . We had to follow the local paddlers most of the way as none of the British team knew where we were going, so after 15 miles  it ended up a 100mtr sprint at the end when we could all see the finish line!

An interesting aside to this was after we got back from the trip, I told L about my Fem side and we had dinner together. She was very annoyed as she said that she wished I had told her earlier as we had two weeks together on the trip and it would have been good to talk about it. Her father was a genetic scientist and was one of the expert witnesses called during the April Ashley divorce case, to explain the relevance of chromosomes in gender identification. Sadly his work was party to blame for putting the whole world on hold for the acceptance of transgender transitioning for many years.

Pastures New
I was really enjoying the London lifestyle and was living life to the full.
I had a nice place to live, great friends, a great job, I had been full time for about a year and was in a new relationship.
J, on the other hand was at the end of her relationship with her previous partner, was tired of her executive job and wanted to leave London.
She invited Christine and I to another of her nieces 18th birthday party in Cornwall, so that weekend right after a late night out at a ball we jumped in the car and drove the five hours arriving at 8am, and just in time for breakfast. The party was fun, if a little reserved from the one we had just attended in London, and we had the following day free to explore the area and visit the beach.

Our hostess, J’s Sister in Law, worked in one of the local estate agents and hearing that J had wanted to leave London and was selling her house, suggested that she may get a lot of property for her money in Cornwall. They discussed work options and fell upon a plan to buy a bed and breakfast that would generate some income and have a place to live as well, for the same price as her house was for sale for in London.

This was another period of change in my life and we had a discussion on what direction to take. So after a lot of sole searching I made a commitment not to progress my transition, put my fem side on hold, and moved to Cornwall with J.
I was still in my mid-twenties, and had not had a serious relationship before. I thought that this relationship would be a short-term event and that it may last for one or two years at the most.

Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside the Sea Side
We moved in the spring of 1984 into a lovely eight bedroom guest house about 500 yards from the sea, and took in regular guests to pay the bills, and provided respite for people being cared for by the Terence Higgins Trust and Body Positive, as well as arranging a few weekends for people from the Transgender community.
I worked in the nearby hospital to pay the mortgage, while J ran the house. We both worked hard to make it happen and were always looking to expand the market somehow, taking in surfers, school groups and outdoor activity groups. 
North Cornwall 
We sold the guest house after four years as we found we were great at having a fun time with our guests but were awful business people and the costs were outstripping the gains on the property value due to the sky high interest rates at the time. 
When we sold we decided to travel – so we put all the money from the house, bought two bicycles and a tent, and a one way ticket to Spain on the Santander ferry. We left with an aim to be away for about a year, but soon forgot that and ended up cycling round the world for six and a half years – which is another story all together.

Luckily in many respects I was proven to be very wrong and our relationship has lasted over 32 yrs now. We are still partners, and not married, despite her proposing to me many times, we are still together because we want to be together. I’m not sure why I am reluctant to get married, maybe something about another bind to break if I wish to transition.  Who knows or cares. 

It’s a Wrap
So now I am approaching my sixtieth birthday, we are still together and still have a very strong bond. I dress often when appropriate and we enjoy a vibrant social life including burlesque, theater, ballet, cinema and lots of traveling together.
We have boundaries that are often breached and need to be reset, but we understand each other’s needs and that is what makes it work.

Yes, it’s hard at times that I haven’t transitioned, and yes I would love to transition tomorrow, but the joint adventures and benefits we have achieved and experienced have far outweighed my personal gains. It has been my commitment to the relationship that has put me where I am, and I have no regrets.

My life encompasses many aspects, with diverse areas of international competitive sport, travel, heath care work in remote areas, academia and owing a landrover; however my dominant core is my female side, this is the largest part of me, the part that defines me, a part that I never want to lose, and one day hope to bring to the fore.

notes -Yvonne Sinclair’s web page
N.B. Some of the pictures above are from the web, while the others are of mine. 

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