Friday 26 May 2017

Humble Beginnings - Growing pains

Promise I wont drown .. 

During my schooling I was awful at sport, often being given to the best team as a handicap. I was put out past the boundary in cricket, behind the goal for football, and right back on the touch line in Rugby. Anything with a ball was bad news for me!
So when one of the teachers started a canoe club in the school and I said  ‘’yes please – what is that ??’’
I remember taking a note home for my Grandmother to sign that said my parents would agree that it would not be the schools fault if I drowned! I told her that it wouldn’t cost anything as I would be using all the schools equipment. How wrong I was !! (– but more of that later!)

Gang Shows
I was a member of the local scout troop and enjoyed being ‘part’ of something. Each year the troop would put on a ‘Gang Show’ and we all had to perform on the stage in little sketches and comedy routines. I loved it as I was able to volunteer for all the girls’ parts, and they gave them to me!  
I was about 12 at the time, my voice hadn’t broken and I was still singing soprano in the school and church choirs, also being very slim (skinny!) and about mid height.  So I was a natural choice for the parts. (Probably the fact that no one else wanted to dress as a girl may have been in my favor as well …)
In one show I played a house wife, school girl, Florence Nightingale, and the Queen !
I was in seventh heaven!  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was following in the footsteps of many great female impersonators of the past.
One of the scoutmasters' wives was the costume mistress and was able to find outfits and wigs that suited my shape and size, and she had a great time transforming me when doing my make up for the shows. This lasted for two wonderful years when I would look forward to the shows and rehearsals, counting the days till they started.

Then it all came tumbling down …
I often stayed at my grandmothers at the other end of our small town, closer to the town center. My grandmother had some old clothes stored in the room that I used when I stayed with her, and I used to try them on at night when everyone had gone to bed.

At first I was content to see the transformed image in the mirror and feel contented, but as time went on I wanted more.
I think that most TG’s know this feeling, I call it the ‘Pandora Paradox’, the more you let Pandora out of the box, the harder it is to put her back, and the next time she wants to start where you left off, so the boundaries get pushed and have to be re-set.
So after a few sessions dressing in the bedroom at night I wanted more, and with the bedroom being on the ground floor, I used to pop out of the window and go for a walk at 2am. First this was just in the area around the flat, then after a few nights, I stated to venture into the town.
On one particular night I was wearing a long roll neck jumper with a belt that looked like a dress on me, with a pair of tights and some flat white sandals. My hair was very sort at that time, but I found a fluffy hat that looked like a wig and wore that. My boobs were my rugby socks in one of my grandmothers old bras and I felt feminine and it was an amazing feeling.
Window Shopping  
The night was dry and not too cool. I wandered into the town looking in the shop windows and enjoying being ‘me’ for the first time on my own terms. The town was very quiet and after about an hour I was making my way home when a car came passed. I just kept on walking, ignoring it as I was not concerned, but it pulled over and 2 police officers got out, concerned that a young girl was walking about the town alone at that time of night.
They took me to the police headquarters and sat me down and talked to me, asking me who I was and what I was doing out at that time of night. I was in tears and couldn’t say anything. Then after a little while  one of the women officers pulled my hat off and showed my boys hair cut to the world. It was then that one of the officers recognised me as living near him, and called my mother.

So arriving in a whirlwind at 3am at the police headquarters to find me dressed as a girl was one very unhappy mother.
I was taken home, changed and put to bed after receiving some corporal punishment.
The following day I was driven to school late, and told to sit outside the headmasters office for a long time while my mother was discussing the situation with him. Some time later I was put in a room with a child psychiatrist who had me do all sorts of mind games, drawings, and story telling. After a while another psychiatrist came in who was more direct, asking ‘why’ questions, ‘how did I feel’, ‘what made me do it’ etc.
This all concluded in having my mother and headmaster in the room with the 2 psychiatrists and the direct one asking me to explain my reasons for dressing and going out. Was I trying to pick up men? Was I attracted to men? Did I know what a homosexual was?
I was in tears and shouting that I didn’t know, I just wanted to ‘do’ it, but no one was listening to me. He then accused me of being sick, and he asked me if I actually wanted to be a ‘little girl’. (I had no idea if this was actually possible, as April Ashley hadn’t hit the headlines at that time). I was distraught, I was freighted that I would upset my mother again and disgrace myself in front of my headmaster, so screamed ‘NO’ in answer to the question to please them…not myself.

(Isn’t hindsight a marvelous thing….)

Thursday 25 May 2017

Wyverns Wandering Wagons

Gray Elgar 3rd 

Those who know me know that I am a keen Landrover owner and have had several over the years. These all get used as they were intended on and off road, as adventure vehicles and practical tools.

Ok .. its no the most girly of cars, its big, four wheel drive, cumbersome and often dirty, but its very practical as its got lots of room to carry shoes, shopping and take friends out to parties !!

So why Landrovers…
I learnt to drive when I was in the RAF and then spent some time on bases where I had the opportunity to drive Landrover ambulances, not very fast, but very practical for the task that they were designed to do.

Sitting in the SunSet in Ireland

My partner and I had taken some time out and cycled round the world, where we saw various NGO landrovers doing jobs that only landrovers could do, and our respect for the vehicle grew. On returning to the UK we bought a small car that was economical and efficient, but soon found we needed more space …so my partner knew that I wanted one and while I was working overseas in Mongolia, bought a brand new one as our main car!
It was a dark green 110 defender with 12 seats and was wonderful. It had lots of room to carry things and go to inaccessible places, and we loved it !


Elgar’s Rainbow
As we enjoyed traveling we wanted to use the landrover (who I named Elgar, as being British and majestic) as a camper. We constructed a rudimentary bed board in the back that was big enough to make a double bed and store supplies and equipment underneath, loaded our Trangier cookers and food then set of on touring the UK.

Elgars Rainbow - Norway

After about four years we traded green Elgar for a newer model with an upgraded engine, that was a lovely red colour.
Elgar the 2nd was a faster and more drivable landrover  which we continued to use it for camping, but wanted to have some more home comforts, so we arranged for a UK company called Dormobile to fit some equipment into the vehicle.
Dormobile are one of the original campervan specialist in the UK with a long association with landrovers. We had a cooker/sink unit fitted with a 30ltr water tank, and gas bottle. The seats were all changed for four camping seats that made two single beds, a wardrobe and internal lighting and many other additions.

The Dormobile Seats - as beds

This made the landrover very useable and we made trips all over the UK, and I was able to make the most of it when traveling back and forward to work.
Red Elgar 2nd was a great vehicle, but had several mechanical issues that needed correcting under warrantee, and after 10 years we found that all the doorframes had corroded to dust and would all need replacing.
Elgar 3rd was found when we were looking for a car that my partner had seen and expressed an interest in. This had all the right things that we wanted in a landrover camper base. Tinted windows, anti-lock breaks, traction control, air conditioning and a better motor/gearbox unit.
We moved all the dormobile equipment from Red Elgar 2nd to Gray Elgar 3rd and started to make plans for more trips.

Ireland Wild Camping

Travels with Elgar 3rd
Elgar 3rd was the most traveled of all our landrovers and the most reliable and comfortable with a good top speed and lots of useful extras fitted that made it more comfortable in cold weather.
My partner and I had been together for 25 years and we wanted to do a special trip to celebrate, so where is the most romantic place in the world that we could go to … Venice!

The Awning - and Wine 

So our first long trip overseas was a 1500 mile adventure across Europe, through Switzerland and into Venice.
The landrover performed faultlessly, the camping side was great and we found that the beds and equipment worked very well for our style of camping.

After the initial trip we continued to travel regularly and visited exciting places like Sweden Norway, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Austria and many more in transit across Europe.

Austria Camping
One trip we did was to the north of Norway, where we crossed the Arctic Circle and had 24hr sunlight. The weather was very mild for the time of year and we had only brought winter warm clothes so were rather warm most of the time. However we followed the coast with some of the most stunning scenery imaginable, (Slartibartfast was  credited with designing the coast and won awards for his efforts according to Douglas Addams ) We has some wonderful wild camping areas and met some lovely people en-route.

The Arctic Circle

Adventure Recitals
I’ll not recite all the adventures we had, as I don’t think that the blogg site would take it, but I’ll give a couple of examples of what things we got up to..

On Top of the World in Ireland

Driving up past the Arctic Circle we found a fast flowing river swollen with snow melt that had a rope bridge across it. Being drawn to water, my partner wanted to take some photographs so we set about crossing the river with all the cameras tripod, back pack on the swinging rickety bridge holding on like Indiana Jones !
The shots were spectacular and worth the trip, but we were very glad to get back on solid earth after crossing the torrent for a second time.

Norwegian Bridge

Driving up from Bergan we went through one or two tunnels, sorry I mean 10 or 20 tunnels !! There were a lot of them ! We would be following a lake then pop into a tunnel and emerge in a snow field like popping out of a wardrobe in Narnia !
On one of these tunnels we popped out and found a lovely view point and pulled over to make a cup of tea, have a late breakfast and take some photos. A few minuets later a touring cyclist emerged and was heading our way. As he got closer we offered him a hot drink and some food, (Thus paying back some of the kindness we received when we were cycle touring)
Sitting chatting with the kiwi cyclist 

Chatting to him we found out he was a New Zealander and had been personally invited to Norway by the Prime Minister. He was a carpenter and was renowned for his work in the Antarctic for restoring the huts used by the various expeditions. The Norwegians had asked him to renovate Roald Amundsen's hut built in 1911. He had been paid by the government for the work and was touring the county by bicycle before heading back home to start the work.
We bumped into him twice more on the trip and we swapped stories of our various adventures.

A cool breakfast stop in Norway

On the drive back, we found we were passing the Olympic Nordic ski training center. This was high in the mountains and had a lot of snow shaped into demanding runs that the athletes had to negotiate as part of the training program. As we watched it soon became clear that  most of them were only wearing swim suits !! we were stood there in our thermal lined trousers and padded jackets watching them go round and round with next to nothing on!

Slartibartfast at his very best 

A New Chapter 
So now we have just sold our beloved Gray Elgar 3rd after 10 years of service and have replaced him with the newer ‘Poppy’, a red and black 110 with 7 seats and all the bells and whistles, which we are going to make into another camper with a few more refinements for longer trips that we are hoping to do in the future. 

Poppy - with our K2, in  Scotland 

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Humble Beginnings

As many of you know, we all have to start somewhere and this is my first jump into writing a blog, so bare with me and my misguided steps in to this new area of development.

I am truly lucky to have had so much happen in my life to even contemplate writing about things,  but this is the first post to kick things off and introduce myself to the cyber world.

I was born in a town called Devizes in Wiltshire, England, that is geographically the centre of the universe. I attended school and was not a high achiever, seeing the writing on the wall that I was not going to obtain any school qualifications I left when legally able and joined the Royal Air Force as I liked aeroplanes.
Now I must explain that I truly enjoyed most of my time at school and never missed a day of my five year at senior school, but I was not graded high enough to achieve ‘O’ levels or ‘CSE’ as they were at the time, and joining the forces was a way to gain a good employment with out requiring lots of examination grades.

I did have one thing going for me and that was being transgender.

So being transgender and growing up in a small west country town, going to a comprehensive school then joining the armed forces with no qualifications ...  what could possibly go wrong ??!!

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Sparkling at Sparkle 

Every year I try and attend Sparkle in Manchester with my friends, and have a long weekend partying and having fun with like minded others.
However due to my work rota it’s not always possible to attend, so this is a little note on one of my adventurers at a previous events.

History and back ground

For those who don’t know, The Sparkle Weekend celebration is held in the English city of Manchester annually and is probably the biggest TG related event in the world now, and will be celebrating its 12th anniversary on 7th July 2017.

It was originally conceived by Kimberly Angel as a simple free festival in Manchester, where members of the TG community could get together and party. The present organisers, have continued the momentum and developed the event into a 3-day extravaganza of music, dancing, exhibit stalls and workshops to create a vibrant atmosphere for the 6000 attendees per day. (and its still free!!)
The Sparkle Weekend currently attracts around12,000 visitors and brings circa £2.8 million into the Manchester economy, so its now seen as a major event and has gained a solid reputation for being well orgnaised and a safe venue for all aspects of the TG spectrum.

The event management has developed over the last couple of years into a committee. It is now a registered charity and hopes to continue to progress and improve each year. Sparkle is held in the northern city of Manchester, which is home to Canal Street, the best known LGBT area in the UK, with hotels, restaurants, night clubs and a lovely park -- all in the heart of the former industrial revolution city.

The ethos behind sparkle has not changed over the years, but has expanded.  The management have a committed mission to promote a positive public image of the Trans community within the UK and beyond. Their  aim is to build confidence and resilience, to develop understanding and cohesion in society and to challenge stigma.
They believe that by continuing to deliver Sparkle – The National Transgender Celebration here in the UK, they facilitate a spirit of trans inclusion and acceptance within a quality festival-style event, and want to continue to work with and promote our local LGBT venues, whilst engaging with wider audiences to involve carefully chosen community-minded businesses and larger organisations across the UK.

The management believe the key values of the event are to ensure the Sparkle Weekend remains a FREE to attend event. To actively encourage those may have lower incomes to feel welcomed and be involved with the celebrations whilst feeling they are a part of the ever-growing Trans community. They have made it a key part of the sparkle vision to include everyone across the Trans spectrum; trans women, trans men, non-binary people, and those who are within sub-sectional minorities due to secondary identities, such as those with disabilities and those from 'Black Asian & Minority Ethnic’ (BAME) communities.

Whilst continuing to provide a marketplace over the weekend, they endeavour to increase the inclusion of trans-owned businesses and food concessions as part of their objectives. A solid direction which aims to create new and fresh ideas each and every year going forward; including the continued development of the Family Zone in association with key partner charities and community grass roots organisations.

So … now you know !!
But what’s it like being there ??? Here is a mini mumble of mine from 2014, which was the last time I was able to attend.

I sometimes miss Sparkle due to working, but when I am able to attend I always look forward to the event, planning a 4 day getaway. As usual I drove up from Cornwall collecting friends on the way, starting with Jemma then Ginny and Nicky, we all sat snugly in my landrover, the back pilled roof high with all the bags (oddly Nicky had the largest and heaviest bags but tends to wear the least clothes!!)

Heading North
It’s about a 6 hr drive to Manchester from my home in the south west, and we aim to get there in time for dinner and dancing on the Thursday night. The UK had another exceptional summer that year, with high temperatures and clear blue skies making the drive very pleasant. We only needed a few stops for leg stretches and food. Our hotel bookings were handled by Jemma as usual, so on arrival it was a quick shower and change then out on the town in light summer dresses.

Food Glorious food!
We had our first meal on Canal Street, the Gay Village in Mancester and found the every venue decked with the Trans Rainbow flag made for the event. A lot of girls had arrived there already, so we were soon chatting and touring the venues, dancing and enjoying the nightlife.
There are lots of very good venues on Canal Street and in the surrounding area, providing various standards of food to suit all tastes and depths of pocket. Many have great dance floors. But what makes Canal Street so much fun is the many tables and chairs along the road where you can sit and sip a drink whist people watching and chatting. So to rest our toes and enjoy the balmy evening we found a nice spot to sit for a while and enjoy the passing crowds. That night we danced till late and then headed back to the hotel for some rest before hitting the city for breakfast and shopping!

Friday is our shopping day. Being from the rural countryside we miss the big shops of the city. Our first port of call after breakfast was Long Tall Sally, where you can find clothes for taller women, and the staff are very TG friendly. Jemma and I managed to pick up some real bargain’s there and I even managed to buy something for my partner!
Nicky and Ginny then headed for the nail bar to get their nails done for the event, whilst Jemma and I took to the shops to top up on our makeup and a bit of pampering: I had my eyebrows threaded, which produced a fab result – but made me sneeze a lot!! Meanwhile Jemma had a professional MAC make over in preparation for our night out.
Friday night has a special meet and greet session for all the people who are new to Sparkle. There were welcoming hostesses positioned along the street to give out information and direct them to a special Chinese banquet meal, and the official welcome party for the event. Many of the venues had free entry for Sparkle, so no excuse not to party till very late!
There are also special events, such as the Sparkle Ball, but my traveling companions had arranged for us to have a meal on the Street again in a fabulous Italian Restaurant, followed by more dancing.

The street was getting busier as more sparkle attendees descended on to the city, with a diversity of colours, heels, and styles. Chatting about the impact of Sparkle to the restaurant owners, we found all of them regard it as the main event of the their year, where, unlike other events such as Pride, the majority of the participants spend most of their time (and money) within the area of the event for an extended weekend.
The police were also very quick to praise the management and participants of Sparkle. There was very little concern with the event and the police presence was seen as a supporting role only.
We spent the evening dancing again and chatting to lots of new girls -- as well as catching up with old friends, but by 3am it was time to head for bed and get ready for the main event.

The Erections
Saturday sees us in our comfortable shoes and off to breakfast around 9am. Wandering past the park we see the stage and vendor stalls being erected in the morning warmth, as an army of people prepare the sound systems, the food stalls and the pop-up gazebos for many different products.
Directions for the various workshops and discussions were being posted, banners and fencing located and positioned, as the park becomes the focal point of the event. As the town clock struck 12 the park was decaled open and we all made our way in to see the stage come alive with the start of the Sparkle festivities.

This year (2014)had an outstanding selection of stage shows from the transgender community as well as the Miss & Mr Sparkle, and Ms Golden Sparkle events. We also saw a trans-specific fashion show presented by a wonderful designer (the clothes more memorable then the name!!) and there was even KIT the car from the Knight Rider series!
The numerous talks and workshops covered a whole range of subjects including facial surgery, make up, drag king workshops, aerobics, older trans people, wardrobe and styles, as well as police advice and political support from Press For Change. Truly something there for everyone !
I can only give a short rendition of the numerous fringe events that go on over the 3 days, so its better to have a look on the Sparkle website to see the whole list of everything that was arranged.

The park
The focal point of sparkle is Sackville Garden. The stage has a nonstop music and entertainment all afternoon, with the numerous stalls providing a wonderful array of products and services. Wig setting and trimming, nail bar, make up lessons, underwear and trade unions were amongst the many stalls adding to party atmosphere for the weekend.
We mingled with the crowds, chatting with those we knew -- and meeting new people -- watched the stage shows, had some food and enjoyed the good weather whist soaking up the lovely atmosphere.
By now the street was full of people and the party atmosphere had become infectious. After dinner we headed to the dance floor at New York New York, one of the premier venues, which was full of dancing people and partied the night away.

Sunday started with a somber period of remembrance. Sackville Gardens is the home to the National Trans Memorial where anyone can come and sit and remember those of our community who are victims of Transphobic hate crime, have ended their lives though suicide, or have been lost though other causes. Everyone should participate, privately or publicly, in a moment of Transgender Remembrance - it's good for the soul. 
We had lost one of our very good friends recently and we were able to take some time with others to remember all the good times we had together.

The park stage continued to provide some wonder shows all afternoon, including the LGBT Chorus, a tribute to Hinge and Bracket by Kettle and Black, as well as some great tunes from other performers.

The street was still full of people enjoying the festival atmosphere and we were sad to make our way back to the car and load it up for our long journey home. After we joined the motorway heading south I glanced around to see my three companions sound asleep, with happy smiles on their faces… it was a long quite drive home !!!
We’ve just booked the hotels for next year …. Who’s coming to join us?

Thanks and further Info
Many thanks to all the team for making Sparkle happen.
Take a peek at the sparkle website for more information and past events. It’s a wonderful safe place for newbes to attend as a first step into the wide world, to meet new friends and pick up information on the TG community as a whole.

Humble Beginnings

As many of you know, we all have to start somewhere and this is my first jump into writing a blog, so bare with me and my misguided steps in...