Sunday 26 February 2012

Ladies who lunch

I had taken the day off work yesterday, originally because friends wanted to come to London and stay over. However, that didn’t come about so instead I just invited anyone who wanted to join me for lunch.

I spent the morning wandering around the Seven Dials area, my favourite part of London. Cappuccino at Vergnano’s (where the coffee is completely perfect) followed by a stroll. Neal Street is always appealing with its shoe and accessories shops such as Tabio (posh Japanese hosiery). I bought a lovely floaty dress for only £10 (reduced from £50) at a branch of Yumi that was closing down. Outside the MAC cosmetic shop a girl from the nearby Benefit store grabbed me (I like the way they plant a kidnapper outside their rival's store!) and took me for an eyelash makeover with their new mascara, "They’re Real". I was genuinely impressed so I bought some, even though it cost a lot more than the dress! I already use their "Browzings" wax on my eyebrows, which I recommend.

I’d booked a table at Salieri, one of my favourite restaurants mainly because of the quality to value ratio of its menu, as well as the friendly service, fun décor and excellent location on the Strand. The food and wine are very good and you pay comparatively little, especially if you order off one of the set menus. Three course lunch with drinks, coffee and service was £25-£30 a head. Besides, the management know me quite well now and so presented me with the biggest slice of tiramisu I have ever seen and which contained so much coffee essence that I really didn’t need the coffee I’d ordered for afterwards! And how am I to lose weight now?

I was joined by my friends Helena, Amy, Victoria, Emma, Saffy and Ange. We sat down at 12.30 and ended at nearly 4, something of a marathon as Saffy pointed out, but was there any hurry? We had a lot of chatting and catching up to do.

Lunch at Salieri, l-r: Emma, Amy, Victoria, Helena, me, Saffy. Ange had had to leave by the time the photo was taken (sorry, sis), but she appears often enough in these pages so I'm sure she'll forgive us.

Following lunch we strolled round Covent Garden, accidentally being pushed by the crowd into the stunning Kurt Geiger shoe shop and Hobbs among other places. Our group gradually broke up, leaving just Amy and me to enjoy a little bit of culture at the National Gallery. Well, what better way to look like an oil painting (see picture above) than to study oil paintings? 

The Gallery chucked us out (to be fair, it was closing time) so Amy and I went to La Roche for tea, again another favourite venue (though no cake was needed this time after our vast lunch). 

A very pleasant way to spend a Saturday. And the best thing was that, trying on my new dress properly at home, I found it fitted perfectly.

Many thanks to the six lovely friends who made it such a pleasant day.

Sue x

Monday 20 February 2012

Well, it's one way of living

Here’s what happened last week, which I present as an example of my life these days. Admittedly, last week was a little bit more play than work (yayy!), so more interesting than average, but it seems fairly typical, both in terms of work-life balance and of male-female balance.

I should explain now that I work partly for myself, both at home and in a studio in central London, and also as a part-time employee in ‘creative retail’ (let’s call it that) two days a week. The latter necessary as I find it hard to work alone all the time so interacting with the rest of the human race is good, as is the regularity of employed income as opposed to the erratic income of a freelancer. I also have a good social life. As for male/female balance, I spend most of my time presenting as female but find it pragmatic to present as male for certain official purposes or where I am as yet known only as male. Yes, it’s a weird life, yet very diverse and satisfying in its own way. No two days are the same, which can be fun, although self-discipline is vital.

Monday, after some faffing around with work-related stuff at my desk at home (dealing with agencies drives me nuts!), I went up to town (male mode) and had lunch with two very good female friends, and then went on to work in the studio. I also had a further email update from a very lovely friend who is undergoing gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. She’s a brave and inspiring lady, and her emails are brilliant reading, both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Tuesday morning at my desk, then in the afternoon one of my closest trans friends came to stay, with her wonderful supportive wife. We went out to dinner in male mode at a local restaurant then joined my regular female friends at the local pub for a quiz night. Thanks to our special guests we triumphed and enjoyed winning some prize money, which was a rare treat! A lovely evening.

Wednesday was a girls’ outing to Covent Garden. We enjoyed coffee and cake at La Roche in St Martin’s Lane, one of my favourite cafés where the cakes are to die for, and then wandered around the Seven Dials area, dropping in to any shops that took our fancy. I bought a leather pencil skirt at Pop Boutique, one of the many retro clothing shops in the area. It’s a little too tight but I will slim into it (yes I will!). We had lunch at Belgo Centraal in Earlham Street, a Belgian restaurant with decent food and excellent beers in a cavernous basement where the staff are dressed as Trappist monks. We wandered to the main part of Covent Garden, enjoyed the Kurt Geiger shoe store and stuck our noses round the door of Charles Fox makeup shop, then bumped into Tom Jones in Tavistock Street. (Here for the BAFTAs presumably - dear me, he’s let himself go a bit, though! He was, however, too shy to be photographed with us superstar sex bombs!). I like bimbling around Covent Garden, though I was pretty tired by the end of the day.

Thursday was an employment day in male mode. Pretty quiet and not worth reporting on.

Friday, however, was busy as I had to go to central London to locate various items needed for work. This, however, was a long and pretty frustrating search which took up much of the day. After finally getting to the studio for a bit I joined two trans friends in the evening at Lounge 34 on Lower Marsh near Waterloo. Apparently, this is where TGirls meet in drab on the first Thursday of every month, perhaps appropriate as, unusually for a Friday, I was in drab too. After a quick drink there we went to an Italian restaurant, Olivelli, in The Cut nearby for dinner. I was persuaded to come out on Saturday night so left for home to pack a bag.

Saturday was a mixed day and perhaps more typical in the life of a TGirl. Employment in male mode today, but with my suitcase full of women’s clothes for the evening and the next day! That’s what it’s like. Had I had today off I would have gone to Nottingham again on Friday night for the brilliant Invasion as I did last month. Nevertheless, tonight’s entertainment was just as good.

So after work I went to my friend’s, had a bite to eat and glammed up for the evening. I think my skirt was too short even for a night out in Soho, but hey, I’ve got nice legs if I say so myself and I think I should show them off! We took the bus to the West End and went to Christopher’s in Wellington Street for a cocktail. It was nice perching on bar stools having perfect cocktails made very carefully by the excellent barman and enjoying the elegant mixed company. My sweet Manhattan was very strong so it’s perhaps fortunate that I have so many years experience of walking in very high heels and didn’t keel over! But that was enough booze for the night, I felt. Apparently Tom Jones was dining upstairs. Honestly, a girl like me just can't go out without being stalked by a megastar! The price of looking fabulous, eh?

After that we couldn’t find a club that didn’t seem to overcharge for entry (or require membership) but in the end we found Green Carnation in Greek Street. It was definitely gay in emphasis and we were the only two TGirls there, but the venue was nice, not too crowded, lots of sofas and enjoyable music to dance to. Inevitably, after nearly 18 hours on the go already, I started to flag so we didn’t stay out all that late. We were slightly amused by, if sorry for, a foreign lad in Piccadilly Circus who asked us if there was any club in central London where you could get in "for, like, zero pounds". Er, no! And so to bed via the lovely night bus which we just caught after a high-speed run in high heels down Haymarket.

Sunday, as you would expect, we got up late but, so what? it’s the weekend. Wore my favourite short heather blue tartan skirt, lilac sweater, my beloved Jane Norman jacket, thick black opaque tights against the cold and my lovely new grey Kurt Geiger ankle boots. I mention this because my friend has two female tenants who are so friendly and complimented me on my outfits. They're really lovely girls. We took the bus to Greenwich where we met our friend from Friday night at the welcoming San Miguel tapas restaurant in Greenwich Church Street and had a late lunch at an appropriately Spanish hour and pace. Sadly, you can’t have fun for ever so I returned home, battling the inevitable Sunday engineering works and travel disruptions with my enormous case in tow. You wouldn’t believe the tangle of suitcases and pushchairs on one of the buses! Thankfully none of the four stages of the journey home was too long and my cute new boots were nice and comfortable.

So, today’s Monday and we’re repeating the work cycle again. Maybe more fun is in store this week, too, but we shall have to see.

Sue x

Friday 10 February 2012

Cinema and dinner

It was cold and grey in London yesterday so something needed to be done to dispel the winter gloom.

So I met up with my pal Joanne at the Curzon cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue. We enjoyed a pre-cinema drink in the fabulous downstairs bar before seeing Martha Marcy May Marlene, a gripping psychological drama about a girl who has fled to her sister's after two years in a cult. Excellent understated acting, judicious editing and an important point to be made.

Well, after the tension we decided to relax over dinner and agreed to try an eatery more or less at random so we went to Melanie, an Italian restaurant in nearby Old Compton Street It turned out to be a very good choice. My whitebait was fresh and crispy and Joanne's prawns were succulent and easily peeled. The saltimbocca alla Romana, my very favourite dish, was not bad given the difficulty of sourcing good meat in Britain, and Joanne's veal and aubergine was declared very tasty. The tiramisu was disappointing as there was too much sponge (although it had plenty of booze in it). I don't care for strawberry cheesecake but I think Joanne's choice there was a good one. The Frascati was gently fruity and very agreeable. We liked the attentive staff, and chatting to them later when things were quieter was pleasant, though I'm not so sure about the cheeky serenade I got when my main was brought! The waitress, a slip of a girl of 21, was very complimentary about my hair (pity it's not my own!) and the Portuguese waiter was chatty. Luigi the owner is someone we decided it was worth getting to know better as we will definitely be back.

A great way to spend the later half of a gloomy Wednesday. Soho is just so fabulously accepting of the T community that you can let your guard right down and really enjoy yourself.

Sue x