Thursday, 1 June 2023

Travels and travails

 I am back home in the Med after six weeks in England. That time in England was strange in many ways and I am still processing it. It would have been less strange if we hadn't had a pandemic preventing any serious travel for nearly three years.

I thought I would recount my journey as I had two suitcases and a shoulder bag to take home so I decided to travel gently by train. Flying is stressful, mainly because of the chaos of airport security, whereas trains let you carry more, keep it with you, stroll about, break your journey and see more on the way. I wore a pair of straight-leg women's trousers from Marks & Spencer that are wonderfully comfortable, soft and feminine; Also soft and comfortable were my women's polysilk shirts and I had a soft fleece for cooler weather.

All my trains ran on time and were comfortable enough. But the one thing I have to complain about is the insanity of modern ticket gates. At Chester, a large, busy station with many platforms and trains of all kinds, there are a mere five automatic gates to and from all seven platforms. With people trying to get in with bags and bicycles, and a trainload or two trying to get off simultaneously, it is chaos and needs two or three members of staff to help. The Eurostar terminus at London St Pancras has 10 platforms but the 18:01 to Paris and the 18:04 to Amsterdam were lined up on adjacent platforms both reached through a single door. Each train can carry 750 people. You can imagine the bedlam as 1500 people try to get through a single door with big luggage. Why did they put two trains adjacent like this? 

Paris Gare de Lyon is slightly easier in that each platform has five ticket gates. This obviously works better ... until the old idiot in front of me couldn't find his e-ticket on his phone and spent a minute or more blocking the gate as he searched for it. Meanwhile his wife had passed through the adjacent gate with a large dog which promptly defecated just past the barrier, thus blocking another gate while she cleaned it up (well, at least she did that rather than leaving it for people to step in). On the train, these two marvels and their dog were sat right in front of me and, although the dog lay down and went to sleep readily enough, it stank. OK, I am blaming the dog; it might have been them, of course. But I had to move as the smell was horrible. It was three hours to Marseilles, the next stop, where thankfully they got off (into a hailstorm - ha! karma!). Jeez, a dog farting for three hours is a bit much. Or the owners. Or all three. How to be antisocial!

Anyway, I broke my journey in Paris and stayed at a hotel overlooking the station, the Gare de Lyon. It was still light at 10 pm so I took this photo of the impressive building. French stations are often much grander than their British counterparts.

I arrived home safely last night with my luggage. Naturally, the largest case is the one with all my new makeup, dresses, lingerie, wig and so on. Priorities, eh? Now to unpack, put away, try out and feel thankful that at last I can be fully femme again after these years in limbo. 

More on my new goodies soon.

Sue x

Sunday, 28 May 2023

There and not there

 In his tragicomic novel Coming up for Air, George Orwell writes as a man attempting to rediscover his childhood haunts, only to find they have changed, and not in ways he likes. Showing that nostalgia just isn't what it used to be! 

I lived in London most of my life, sold my house there five years ago and moved abroad. Last week I needed to go back to London and, although I was busy, I had time to check out some of the places I used to frequent. The results were interesting!

I started with my old office, which has been demolished and rebuilt as brand new office suites. A good thing, I'd say, given the age of the building and, frankly, who seriously misses a workplace anyway? A small firm I worked for has gone, as expected on the retirement of the owner, a decent man I liked working for, and is now a Waffle Café. I tried to have breakfast at the café just to see what eating in my old workplace was like but, bizarrely, they weren't open at that hour. And I thought waffles were supposed to be ideal for breakfast! Despite the disappearance of my two main workplaces, the art studios I one rented a space in are still there, despite having been slated for demolition twenty years ago! Now that is very weird. Perhaps the council planning department is being artistic with its scheduling!

I took the London Underground and it was vile. Now, the "Tube" has always been crowded and cramped but the warm, oily smell blowing down the tunnels always had a tinge of efficiency. This time the place stank of dirt and the trains were filthy. I couldn't get off fast enough. Yuck!

It was frightening to see Oxford Street, London's foremost shopping street, half boarded up. This is where the flagship stores of all the big chains are so that suggests a pretty big economic recession. 

In the days when I organised London lunches for the Angels we had a number of favourite places that welcomed us. I don't know if Salieri restaurant in the Strand has gone for good or is merely being redeveloped (for a second time in 10 years? Unlikely). But the Chandos pub off Trafalgar Square remains. This belongs to the Yorkshire brewery, Samuel Smith, and always charged Yorkshire prices, which were markedly lower than London prices. But not any more. Which was a shock to my purse when I met a friend for lunch there last Wednesday.

One source of joy, though, was that the Scooter Café that I reported had closed last autumn has worked out its issues over its fire certification and has reopened as it was before (but presumably with better fire safeguards!) A friend took me there for one of their classic hot chocolates in the cosy back yard on a sunny evening and that was lovely, very much like old times.

Another lovely thing was that café and restaurant staff in various places recognised me even after these years away. That surprised me, given that they have many customers, and their taking time out to catch up with my news was so nice of them. 

I also caught up, albeit briefly, with several friends after all these years, including Grace who is the membership secretary for my professional body. She explained how the Covid lockdowns forced everyone to work at home for months on end to the extent that that arrangement is now to become permanent and the organisation will be abandoning fixed premises once the lease on the current building ends next month. They will merely rent a space if and when face-to-face meetings or conferences are needed. She doesn't like it as going to a workplace is an important part of one's social life, one's interaction with the rest of the human race, and she's right. The hardest part of working for myself was the isolation, which is why I built morning café time and evening shopping into my working day so that I saw other people twice a day every day even if there was no other socialising lined up. But this is the way the world seems to be going, so hotdesking and working at home are likely to become normative. If your home life is good then that's a great thing; if it's not, then heaven help you.

Anyway, I managed to buy the things I had set out to buy, notably a cute shoulder bag, my favourite bras, my favourite sunscreen that I couldn't find in Switzerland even though it's made there, and also replenished my makeup stash. I also got some of my female clothing from my storage unit that I intend to take home to Italy, so all in all the trip was worthwhile.

Feeling silly

I saw this book prominently displayed in a museum shop. I guess it could come in handy if your human relationships haven't been working out!

Sue x

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Busy days, and a memorial

 Hello blog, I thought I'd better check in as the last few weeks have been very hectic and I haven't had time to write. After nearly three years of global pandemic restricting what one can do and where one can go, all of a sudden it's been possible to deal with stuff that's been waiting a long time to be dealt with, from dental work to catching up with family and close friends, to buying new clothes and makeup and digging out old ones, to considering what to do with residual stuff in one country when I now live in another... I'm quite tired now but I have decided that six weeks in Britain are enough for the time being and I will be going back to my home in the Mediterranean next week. 

I've already described my clothes, makeup and accessories situation and there's a lot to say about my lightning trip round the South East of England and the East Midlands last week, but I will leave that for now as my poor friend Kate is still on my mind. It would have been her 62nd birthday yesterday and tonight there is a memorial for her in Manchester that I can't go to. I'm sure it will be a fitting tribute to a much-loved lady, followed by what Kate herself enjoyed best: eating and dancing. Rest in peace, my lovely. 


 Over the course of my life I've seen family, friends, colleagues and neighbours pass away and this is always distressing and leaves holes in your life and emotions. But when Bill, a friend of mine and stout trans ally passed away some years ago I cried so much. And when lovely Bobby died two years ago. And now I can't think of Kate without crying my eyes out, too. I said that I can't go to her memorial tonight and that's chiefly because I'd be too upset. Maybe we trans folk become especially attached because of the secrets we share with and keep for one another, the support we give one another and our need to look out for one another against hostility. Or maybe it's just that some friends are special, never mind the transgender thing. I don't know, but I can say that I and others have been very tearful this past month. 

Thanks for reading.

Sue x

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

A lot to replace

 I was glad last week to have been reunited with most of my clothes, makeup, wigs and so forth that had been in storage for some years. Most of the makeup has had to be thrown away as being too old and dried up. You shouldn't keep certain types of makeup, such as eye makeup, for more than a few months anyway because it accumulates germs, so items like that were ditched without ceremony, but of course other things have dried up, like nail polish and, essentially, I have to buy my entire makeup bag again. This is doubly distressing as a lot of it wasn't cheap. I try to buy quality foundation and eyeshadow because my skin can react badly to certain chemicals in modern products. So I've spent some time this week finding where I can find local Mac and Benefit counters after the department store closed down and very fortunately they now sell them in the large Boots the Chemists in town so I don't have to travel to one of the larger cities.

I remain overweight and this means that all those pretty dresses I had when I first ventured out no longer fit and, at least for now, I am buying new clothes in larger sizes. I got the seal of approval for some wide-leg trousers from the sales assistant as she happened to be wearing exactly the same ones and showed them off to me, doing a little twirl in the shop! They are very comfortable and decidedly feminine and contemporary. Among my favourite new items are a pretty cotton summer dress that fits me nicely, and a sheer black shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons. 

I have also been buying new bras and knickers. Marks and Spencer no longer seem to do my favourite T-shirt bras and microfibre briefs but the substitutes are not bad. 

I have new glasses, too, which suit my face whether fully femme or not. And a new prescription so I can see properly again! I am also getting some dental work done. Yes, they have opticians and dentists in Italy, too, but it's a bit cheaper in Britain. You have to shop around, right?

We're getting there. 


Spring contrasts

I'm enjoying the contrasts of spring in Britain with spring in Italy. One of the reasons I went to live in the Mediterranean was because I couldn't tolerate the minimal sunlight and cold, variable climate of Britain any more. Where I live in Italy now there are 300 days of sunshine a year, the lowest temperature I have ever noted was 8C (46F), and my health has improved no end as a result. However, there has been a drought in Italy for the last 18 months so the soft rain of North West England these last three weeks has been a curious and pleasant contrast. The grass is lush and bright green here, there are bluebells in flower and the trees are putting out leaves. This is in total contrast to the evergreen palms, agaves and citrus of the riviera. I'm enjoying the common little birds like sparrows, starlings and blackbirds hopping about in the hedges; where I live in Italy it's collared doves, seagulls and wagtails. The contrasts and differences, even in common things, are what make the world so fascinating and I'm enjoying the change.

Castle, rolling green acres, deciduous trees, grey skies, drizzle ... this is not the riviera. Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, Cheshire, England


A dip in the archives

I haven't dipped in the archives for a long time and that's because I had no archive material left. But I've been reunited with many old photos so here's one of me in a pretty, floaty summer dress ten years ago.

Sue x

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

We can rebuild her

 Positive news now. I was beginning to feel people might think me a fraud for writing about trans life but rarely appearing en femme on these pages of late. Not any more as I have, after nearly five years, been reunited with my "feminine critical kit" that was in storage in one location whilst I was living a thousand miles away. On my trip to Britain - yes, that has finally happened - I've now found the box with all my newest wigs and wig care kit, my makeup, my jewellery, several perfumes and, most importantly, my breasts. You've no idea how good it feels to have these items back.

There's quite a story attached to these items. On the day I moved house in autumn 2018, I was hit by a cyclist on the pavement and my leg was damaged enough for me to need crutches for several weeks and I wasn't able to walk properly for about 18 months afterwards. But on that moving day I had put my feminine critical kit into a special box to be kept at the front of my storage unit for easy access later. Since I was agonising on the floor of the facility after the accident, I wasn't able to direct the removal men properly and the box ended up somewhere at the back instead. No matter how hard I looked in subsequent visits, I couldn't find it and I wasn't in a position, as I limped about, to heave everything right out of the unit simply to find this one box.

Then there was a flood in the storage facility during a storm in August 2020 when I was locked down in Italy and the storage people dried and repacked all my items that had got slightly wet. My feminine critical kit was in a new box which they had politely labelled "wigs, makeup and beauty". I'm not sure what they made of a lot of loose boobs in a crate, but I guess they see all sorts of stuff in their storage, and I reckon the term "beauty" covers it!

So now I have all my lovely things back and can sift through them all to throw out anything that's unusable, like eye makeup, and get back to wearing my proper boobies again. That will make such a difference to my femininity that's been, well, deflated these past years without this stuff. And it's not like it was easily replaceable during lockdowns and such, especially as some things, like a lot of my jewellery, has sentimental value as it is presents from friends.

Going through Batch 1 ... there's plenty more where this came from!

So more selfies soon, I hope. 

I have been on a shopping spree for new underwear, too, but also got a lot of my old clothes from storage. And I'm reunited with my old desktop computer with lots of the photos I've been missing. I will also write about the emotional roller coaster that going back to Britain has been.

Kate Collins

I left my post on Kate up for a couple of weeks as I have been upset enough not to want to write more. Thanks to Calie at T-Central for promoting my tribute so girls all around the world know how much we will miss her. I've seen some lovely words of condolence and memorial online. 

I am not certain about Kate's funeral at the time of writing.

Sue x

Friday, 21 April 2023

Kate Collins: a tribute

 I am heartbroken to have to write that my friend Kate Collins passed away the other evening.


Kate was a big presence in the trans scene in Manchester, eventually setting up the Manchester Minxes as a trans social group that would meet up regularly in the Gay Village. She also promoted trans awareness at work and had her office represented at Sparkle, the UK's annual national trans celebration. 

Kate at work


I first met Kate at Sparkle in 2010 and every time I went to Manchester she was there with her wife, who has always been a kind and encouraging ally to all us trans girls. A good organiser, Kate would arrange meet-ups in restaurants and clubs, and dancing in Napoleons club would usually round off a night out. We had some lovely meals out over the years.


Kate and I at Sparkle in 2015

When Covid came and the world was locked down, Kate set up TGirl Zoom chats every Saturday night. Knowing you had that regular commitment to get yourself dolled up for a video chat with the girls helped us keep sane and balanced when so little else was predictable, and was just what we needed to give our femininity a boost when the lockdown attitude was to let your appearance go. On that subject, Kate could wear short dresses with conviction as she had great legs (and I'm not jealous at all, no).

Kate could be a strong campaigner for rights, not just of trans people but cyclists as well - she hated inconsiderate, bad motorists in particular. But she had a good sense of humour, too. Her favourite trick was to pull her "Helen Lederer face". I haven't got a photo of her doing it but this is on the way to it:

I have arrived back in England after nearly four years away and I had hoped beyond hope I would see her before the end that she made clear was coming, but I just missed being able to and that makes me doubly sad. But I hope to see her kind wife soon.

Thanks for all the many good times, Kate, and for all the things you organised for the trans community in North West England as well as for all your friends. You are at peace and out of pain now and I will miss you terribly. My love and condolences to your wonderful wife, your son and daughter-in-law and baby grandchild (you called yourself "glamparent"!) and to all your many friends, colleagues and everyone else you touched. Ta-ra, chuck ... your own favourite way of saying goodbye.

Sue x

Saturday, 15 April 2023

First Pride 2023

 I'm pleased to report that the first Pride event of the year, at Sanremo, attracted record numbers. After last year's Pride, which was a commemoration of the first ever pride protest in Italy fifty years before, and which attracted around about 2000 people, the organisers this year felt that about 1500 would be the likely turnout. Instead, it's estimated that between 3000 and 5000 attended. That's like about 10% of the population of the town!

Here's a photo borrowed from their Facebook page:

 I like this picture too, of lesbians protesting against the government's pressure to reduce same-sex adoption. Italy's current prime minister is the far-right Ms Meloni, and her surname translates as "melons". I suspect I don't need to translate further. Well, it made me laugh!

I was busy getting ready for my sister's visit so I only waved them on this year, but there will be other such events to join in with in due course.


I've been putting my suitcase together to go to England next week. Only a little case as my storage unit has crates of clothes waiting for me. There don't seem to be any strikes in France or Britain to prevent my arriving in London on Tuesday evening. It's going to feel very odd being back there after three and a half years away, and five years since I packed all my belongings away. I've a lot to do there to sort things out and that aspect of the trip is not something I'm looking forward to. But having my clothes, hair, shoes and all the rest and seeing friends again will make it worthwhile.

Wish me luck on my journey.

Sue x

Wednesday, 12 April 2023

How it went with my phobic sister

I spent a while preparing mentally for my sister's visit and it went better than expected. I untangled a lot of what I think her transphobia is about, which isn't purely transphobia but more of a general omniphobia, a fear of many things and an inability to understand much from another's perspective. All very narcissistic, in fact. 

I also feel now that the religious group she belongs to that seemed so anti-LGBT may actually be fairly mainstream and the activity I was worried about may be more of her projection of what she thinks it's about than its actual policies, beliefs and interests. Her extremist stance stems from the cultlike upbringing we both had. In fact, her group seem a bit naive and disorganised rather than aggressive activists.

Her main focus these days is no longer LGBT people but complaining about venues that play piped music, a campaign she's had going for years but which is reaching a head. Personally, I find piped music mildly irritating but not anything like enough to spoil my dining or shopping experience. If it did, I'd choose another venue. Not her. For her, piped music in a café, shop, station or wherever is a deliberate act of oppression. She has been campaigning against her local supermarket but their reply was that hers was the only complaint, that other customers seemed to appreciate the groovy background sounds and the staff certainly did. So she either has to put up with the preference of the vast majority of people in there or shop elsewhere, right? I fail to see why the shop has to have silence merely for the one and only customer who dislikes it to the extent that she claims her rights are being trodden on. 

And this illustrates her approach to most things. The universe needs to bend to her will as she is allegedly suffering so much, yet she has no responsibility to accept other people's preferences or behaviours, however innocuous, or the mere existence of things that trigger a revulsion instinct in her. To illustrate, she has always had a fear of caterpillars and most other bugs, which is a common enough phobia, but instead of getting help to overcome it, other people have to assist in getting rid of the insects oppressing her. A friend of mine used to have crippling arachnophobia when we were students. He couldn't go in a room if it had a spider in it, get his bike out of the garage once because there was a spider there even though it was dead, and he couldn't walk down a street in a fishing village one day as the fishmonger's sign in the shape of an octopus reminded him of a spider. Then one day he realised his problem was crazy and he went and had therapy and, although he wouldn't say he now finds spiders cuddly, he at least has no problem chucking them out of the bathtub when necessary. So, he acknowledged he had a problem and he solved it. I shall pressurise my sister to get professional help on her phobias like bugs, piped music, unexpected noises, blue jeans, California, and all manner of other such oppressive things. If we start eliminating those irritants then I expect we may be able to work on the dislike she has for certain types of people, such as, I dunno, gay and trans people (or hippies or Anglicans or skateboarders, etc.), about whom she clearly knows so little. Bearing in mind, though, that after a certain age, people's habits are hard to change. 


I also began to challenge her unthinking bigotry as her doctrines seem to be very idiosyncratic and not at all mainstream. I got out of the crazed indoctrination of my upbringing when I was in my 20s; she hasn't and, in most ways, never will now but I think I can probably persuade her in due course that LGBT people needn't lie within the scope of her phobias as they are irrelevant to her. Besides, who's going to rid the world of all that piped music is she's busy gay-bashing? 

Given that she didn't spot that the clothes I was wearing, such as my Katie Mee shoes and Baby Angel jeans, were women's items, I think it's all a deeply introspective problem of her own.

So I think I have made some progress, at least, in establishing that her group are no more a threat to our community than many other religions are, and that we might be able to focus her attention on more constructive activities than complaining about the world being full of scary irritating things.

More than anything, I feel channels of communication can remain open rather than my having to give up on her altogether as I have had to do with my father.


My stash

I have booked a trip to England next week. Which will go ahead if strikes, especially in France but frankly just about everywhere, don't force me to rebook. 

The main thing to do is to go to my storage unit where the bulk of my possessions have been for nearly 5 years. And the most important items are in the 18 packing cases filled to bursting with lovely, delicious feminine clothes. 

Maybe I'll dive into heaps of dresses like Scrooge McDuck diving into the sea of dollars in his depository. It's been a long time, girls.


Sue x

Sunday, 9 April 2023

Life cycles

 Happy easter! I hope you're having a good weekend. And that the easter bunny has brought you something nice.

I'm a chocolate fan, but also overweight, and easter is therefore a time when conscience wrestles with indulgence, and usually loses! But I've been a good girl today and not unwrapped my easter egg yet, but I will tomorrow when my sister is here to share it.

It's one of the times of year for exchanging greetings. My emotions have been a bit muddled today. I got a message saying that an old lady I knew, my neighbour for 22 years, died last week. She was 88. She was the best neighbour I could have wished for. I got another message today saying that a lovely friend of mine is dying and there's nothing more the doctors can do. Both items of news made me very teary and upset. But then I got more messages: two other friends of mine are expecting grandchildren. So that's lovely. A life ends and another begins. And the babies are coming into families I know will cherish them.


In the second half of the month, I also hope to go back to England where boxes and boxes of shoes and skirts and wigs and earrings and all manner of feminine things are still stuck in storage after these years of chaos. My journey depends on the French not being on strike, though, as I have to go through or over France. I'll let you know if I make it! And what all the goodies are that I can try on again.

Sue x

Thursday, 6 April 2023

Preparing for my transphobic sister's visit

 My sister is coming to visit next week. I haven't seen her since a chance encounter in London in 2019, but not really since 2017 when she shocked me by revealing just how anti-LGBT her religious group requires her to be. I wrote about that discussion here: Hello, lugbutts.

I'm removing all signs in my home that I might not be the boy she thinks: things like flowers, chick lit, perfumes, feminine ornaments and so on. This creates a gender neutral backdrop on which to tackle the subject.

Years ago, I used to have a job investigating fraudsters. I'm trying to recall my interview techniques from that time but they boil down to not asking a question to which you do not already know the answer. I think John Le Carré says something similar in one of his spy books. 

The reason for this approach is that I think her religious group are not just unpleasant but even extreme and potentially criminal. If I find that she or they are, as I suspect, into continuing conversion therapy, or have been jamming LGBT switchboards with abusive calls (as has happened of late), or are harassing people, then I will need to consider involving LGBT organisations, the police or other authorities to monitor their activity. Fanatics don't care for rights, laws or people and my sister has said she'll go to jail for her beliefs. Maybe that's just bravado, or maybe a real threat. I intend to probe this further with as much subtlety as I can. My only fear is that I will be so disgusted that I lose my temper.

You may say that blood is thicker than water and one shouldn't investigate one's own family in such a way. But I would say that when you have been subject to as much abuse, fear and threats as I have from this cultlike family faith, then I think both I and society and the trans community deserve better. I can appreciate that if you had a family member or spouse who was a thief or conman of some kind, or into gang violence or whatever, you might hesitate. But cultism and fanaticism destroy lives in their entirety as they do not attack material possessions, money or even the body, which are replaceable, insurable or healable, but they aim to destroy or control very essence of another person. 

I may be wrong - and I hope I am - about this being a long-term problem rather than just a blip when I last saw her. I wasn't this concerned back then as trans rights were improving and religious nuts were on the back foot but now we are under threat and I don't want these unpleasant groups getting the upper hand. Besides, this is my family and I think it's primarily my responsibility to deal with them, at least in the first instance.

Wish me luck and composure.


My garden is a mess and the plants have all dropped seeds in each others' pots and everything seems to be mixed up now. But it's not been a good couple of months, especially with the high winds and low rainfall we've had, and so I've designated tomorrow as garden day. I've bought a new barbecue as traditionally Easter Monday is family barbecue day in Italy. 

So, burgers or sausages? That's the burning question!

Easter weekend

Wishing everyone a good easter break. Enjoy the chocolate! As well as a pretty egg, like the one I loved last year, I've also got a colomba, which is a traditional light Italian easter cake in the form of a dove (well, vaguely).

 Sue x