Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 - a reflection

I’ll be up-front. Most of this post will be positive but it has to be said first that 2013 has been a dreadful year, not just for me but for many of the people I know. Too many losses and goodbyes to people and things all over. The sadness of anyone affects the mood of others, too. Much of the bad stuff this year has no especial bearing on trans stuff which is obviously what this blog is mainly about, but just to say that one friend’s gender op disaster, the sudden death of a supportive friend, and family troubles and illnesses have been very upsetting this year. However, this blog is also aimed at being positive about being different and the good things that can come from unusual situations so I’d like to highlight the better stuff.

Plenty of meeting up with friends in London this year, of course, usually in the West End or Brick Lane but also in outlying parts of the capital. I do eat out quite a bit and I must get down to writing proper reviews of places the hungry and thirsty TGirl can enjoy best. More on that idea in the new year. I haven’t done as much shopping as I used to and that’s partly because I’ve had to concentrate more on work this year so time for idling in the shops has been less.

Embankment Gardens, London

I’ve enjoyed having friends to stay: early in the year it was KD and Mrs KD, with whom I’ve become good friends, also Tina, and then Maddy later on, with Stella and Jo staying over for the TGirl bar. My home really does need a lot of redecorating, though, to make it more presentable so I’ll be trying to concentrate on that in my spare time. Other friends have come to London also and I had a great evening with Gina and Tiff and a good few days joining Emma and Mrs Walkey at the theatre, around Tower Bridge, Camden and Greenwich.

Some trips away as well: Brighton, staying with the Stellas was a proper little break, and also a trip to Pink Punters and, of course, Sparkle, which is a highlight of the year as I get a chance to see friends that it’s often very hard to see at other times.

Canal Street, Manchester, during Sparkle

The TGirl bar was another big event, better than last time and an amazing thing to be involved in.

Just about all my long-term friends now know that I am trans and have been not merely supportive but pretty enthusiastic about it! Somehow, though, my extensive research into what can be done about living with transness (or whatever you want to call it) has left me unsure about the future. Surgical transition is pretty much the only thing officially on offer, but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of trans people don’t go for it and I've witnessed some awful things over the years at the gender clinic. So what now? Supposedly a guy, I have dressed as a woman each and every day for nearly twenty years, and much of the time before then. I don’t know what now.

As for this blog, thank you for reading and especially those who read me publicly. I appreciated Sam’s Liebster Blog award and was happy to participate in Lynn’s Our Different Journey site. I hope it’s entertaining and informative. I’m really aiming just to show that you can be accepted as trans or just a bit different by friends and public alike and there are plenty of enjoyable things to do along the way.

Obviously, I can't be sure what 2014 will bring. But I will try to do more regular West End lunches, by popular request. I do know that having been enabled to work just part-time over the last few years I’m going to be back full-time from now on, which reduces leisure time. And I hope to rejig this blog a bit to make the links to others more obvious and provide some kind of better index than just a date list. Not being much of a techie does hamper me, though.

Thanks for reading.

Sue x

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Seasons Greetings

You won't believe the long hours I've been working recently, so much so that it was only yesterday that I finally did any proper Christmas shopping, bought a Christmas tree and generally started to get things ready.

But I want to wish all of you who read this a very wonderful festive season, wherever you are and however you are spending this time.

No time for a Christmas photo this year so here's a pretty tree from last year. (This was taken in the attractive Market Place in Kingston-upon-Thames, which is in the far south-west corner of Greater London).

Happy Christmas from Sue x

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Rotating Glass Elevator, and other adventures

It’s been such a busy month with work that I decided to take two days off to recuperate. So on Thursday I went up to London’s West End and see my friends Pippa and Joanne for a spot of lunch at the Cambridge and a catch-up.

How many pictures are there of me eating lunch? Never mind, here's another!

And naturally, we needed to do a bit of Christmas shopping and see the Christmas lights of Oxford Street.

The best thing, though, is the newly-installed rotating glass elevator in Selfridges that takes you from Louis Vuitton bags on the ground floor to ladieswear on the second floor, with a spiral of bags going up the outside. There are apparently only two in the world and it was a delight to ride. Weird at first, but then so beautiful to rise up among the stylish luxury in this crystal cylinder. You must do this. Dressed elegantly, of course. But with a fond remembrance of how you wished you too could travel in Willy Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator. (I’ve swapped my craving for chocolate and sweets for one for shoes and handbags)

Going up
Stepping out

The Selfridges windows are good this year and have reverted to something a little more traditional yet fun, if you like hundreds of tiny figurines of penguins, Santas and snowman skiing or people trekking up and down giant shoes of perfume bottles. But I am sad that their hosiery department, once a wonder, has shrunk to almost nothing. I guess a lot of us buy our hosiery online these days.

I met Kimberley for dinner and we enjoyed a good meal at Ristorante Cappuccetto in Moor Street, Soho. This is a very good Italian but the other clientele must have been bemused by our weird conversation!

On Friday I packed my bags and went to the last girls’ Big Night Out of the year at Pink Punters. http://www.pinkpunters.com/ This is becoming a bit of a tradition now but there weren’t so many of my friends there this time as last year. Never mind, it’s an opportunity to make more friends and it was great to get to know Linda and Jo in the bar at the Campanile Hotel where I was staying and Sophie Hunt in the club later.

The obligatory photo in the Campanile Hotel bar

Ange, Maddy, Bobby and Mrs Bobby, Jemma and Kimberley all came. I also bumped into Kerri, she of the Erotica bar. Santa had his grotto upstairs and all the good girls and boys could sit on his knee and get a present. Those of us brought up in the Jimmy Savile era were wary, but he wasn’t too naughty. I have a new eyebrow pencil and some lipgloss as a result. Thank you, Santa. When it come to clubbing, I’m a lightweight, though, and went off at 2am. And besides, most of the girls there are so glamorous and perfectly turned out that I just can’t compete! You do wonder about the ordinary looking blokes in Saturday casual clothes who are leaving the hotel the next morning. Who was who or not or what the night before. But, hey, it’s all part of the life we lead! 

Batteries recharged.

Sue x

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The TGirl Bar 2013

At last ….

Well, we did it again, and we really wowed the crowds this time.

I had Stella and Joanne come and stay with me for several days as we had volunteered again to serve behind the TGirl bar at the revamped Erotica show. Whereas last time it had been held in the Victorian magnificence of Olympia, this time it was held in the Victorian vaults of Tobacco Dock in Wapping. 

Olympia 2011

We got ourselves smart on the first day and went there by the new Overground train, met up with Helena Love, the modest but fabulous doyenne of the London alternative and cosplay scene, at a nice little café in Shadwell, and found our venue and Holly, who’d organised it, resplendent in a pretty Austrian-style dirndl (I mean Holly was in a dirndl, not the venue, which came in a sexy roughcast brick and stone number). The TGirl bar at Olympia was stuck upstairs but here we were incorporated with the burlesque stage downstairs. Our bar was at one end of a large vaulted room, the stage with tables in front was at the other. The bar was very dark and space behind was narrow but we managed to stumble about and pour what were probably the right drinks in the gloom. Thank heavens for our lovely supervisor Carol and her two girls who do this regularly and keep everything running, despite the fact that all the bars at Erotica ran out of essentials like lemonade, coke and tonic on a ridiculously regular basis, and the lager was less than cold. Holly, Stella and Amanda waited tables by the burlesque stage and the rest of us pulled pints and popped corks (oh, OK then, we unscrewed caps).

Photos of the event can be found in various places (details at the end) but most of those here were taken by Leona Lovett who not only did some oustanding shots but also organised the Sunday afternoon photoshoot (see below), and it's no mean feat getting a diverse crowd of people to pose in an organised group.

It was very hard to get a good shot of the bar itself because of the dodgy lighting but this gives you some idea.

Photo: Leona Lovett.

Here’s my pal, pretty princess Pippa (in one of her trademark prom dresses selected for her by her teenage daughter), showing you in.

Photo: Pippa.

And here’s one shift, reporting for duty (or shirking duty) – this photoshoot was great, at one moment we must have had a crowd of a hundred photographers and public all snapping away. And I used to be shy.

Photo: Leona Lovett.

I like the Erotica show. It’s a lot more fun than your average London trade show which usually is all about selling lifestyle or professional stuff – antiques, boats, vegetarianism, French living, publishing, whatever. The traders and reps are jollier and people are more out to enjoy themselves. And the emphasis is on women in particular having space and time to browse and be entertained. Although the exhibition is for adults, the dirty raincoat brigade are kept firmly out and there’s no porn or nudity.

Holly organised a rota of 4 hour stints. I can’t manage more than one a day as I have hostess duties at home that are also tiring. We had plenty of chances to see the burlesque turns: Ophelia Bitz introduced the masochistic Bambi Blue, the very shiny Missa Blue, the breathtaking Miss Miranda (who also models 50s style lingerie for What Katy Did, a wonderful emporium for all that’s retro in lingerie - and don’t we just love her for it?), the high-energy Aurora Galore with the delectable behind, and the amazingly talented and amusing Cairo Mascara whose turn as Jessica Rabbit has altered my view of carrots for ever (look her up on You Tube for a version of her performance).

Ophelia Bitz. Photo: Leona Lovett.

Miss Miranda. Photo: Leona Lovett.

The Burlesque Stage from the TGirl bar. Photo: Leona Lovett.

I love burlesque and the modern take on the old style is very inventive and fabulous entertainment. Sexy yet classy. Regular readers will remember my review of the Hurly Burly Show last year. (Indeed, Miss Polly Rae, diva of that show, was at the main cabaret stage with other varied acts, including the Natural Born Thrillers who made so many female visitors quite overexcited!) The Circus Stage had some fantastic acts, too, once more compered by Ophelia Bitz (who must’ve been exhausted after hosting 18 shows over the weekend). Felicity Logan the contortionist was incredible and Hugo Desmarais spinning in a sort of aerial cage was astounding (and dizzying just to watch). I think my favourite was Karis Wilde with his stunning hula-hoop performance. I thought at the time that Karis was trans but actually he performs androgynously. And looks fantastic. You can find them all online.

On the Circus Stage. Photo: Leona Lovett.

Performers. Photo: Leona Lovett.

What else? Well, the stalls are also a feature. We soon made friends with the man selling gorgeous hats. I’ve never worn a hat but the moment he selected a wide number with white bows and long white feathers I was captivated. Stella, a regular at Brighton and Ascot Ladies’ Days, has a natural attraction to elegant hats and modelled his hats all weekend and gave out his cards. Here we are modelling hats. We’d look better outdoors at the races but the vault backdrop will have to do.

Photo: Stella M.

And the lady next to him promoting a fitness regime became quite enthusiastic about the behatted TGirls. She now sends me emails about getting in shape. Excuse me? I am in shape. Round is a shape, is it not? But my attempt to ‘guess the number of almonds in the jar’ was way off the mark, so I didn’t win a free fitness regime. I shall just have to stay podgy.

Ok, so that was Day 1!

Day 2, Saturday, is much busier and has a crowd more keen to have fun and dress up a bit. The bars, not just ours, kept running out of things and our beer was just froth. Not good, but the punters were remarkably patient. Having finished my shift, Holly grabbed Kerri, Stella and me and asked us to help upstairs at the main bar where they were short staffed. I was tired but, do you know, working at the main bar with its permanent counter and brass beer taps was the fulfilment of my life’s dream. Not to be a barmaid but to be treated as a woman in a normal environment. The regular boys and girls on the bar were being assisted by me and another TGirl and we were treated just the same as any other member of staff both by the management, staff and customers. So that was the highlight for me and a true fulfilment.

We three girls wended our weary way back to the Richmond Towers B&B and ate a hastily gathered supper. Our payment for working at the show was a free ticket to the Winter Ball at Club Colosseum in Vauxhall. But as the clock approached 9, we looked at each others’ drooping eyelids and decided that, actually, what three less-than-young ladies really wanted was some comfy slippers and to open that nice bottle of wine that had been chilling in the fridge. And so we gave up on our reward and stayed in the comfort and warmth of my home and each others’ company. So I still haven’t got to wear that PVC dress. But, do you know what, I’m honestly not sure that fetishwear at late-night clubs is really my thing. A comfy pair of stretchy leggings whilst lounging on my sofa with a glass of wine will do me fine! Especially with my pals around me.

Day three (Sunday) began with some plumbing work. Anyone who’d turned up at my home early in the morning would have been treated to the bizarre spectacle of three TGirls in nighties armed with mole wrenches and screwdrivers battling a toilet cistern that had worked loose. I can’t wrench a mole to save my life so I was glad that my companions had learnt some sort of male craft along their way of life.

Sunday at Erotica is quieter and there are fewer aficionados attending, mainly couples in boring jeans. We also made a change in our routine but going there by car. Not that you save any time, and still less any money, driving in London, which is largely why I gave up my car years ago.

The best bit about Sunday was the photoshoot (see pic above) and trying on corsets. The TGirl bar was quieter but it gave us a chance to see the shows better. And this time our beer was cold with just a small head, not just a pot of froth for every punter as it had been the day before.

Stella went directly home from the show so Joanne and I had a last thorough look round the sales outlets, tried some tasty wine from the wine merchant stall, fell in love with a Goth lace dress at the Burleska stall (I like Burleska, they have an outlet in Camden Market http://www.burleska.co.uk), but in the end we tried out various corsets and settled on the excellently made selection from Susie Adams. These were outstanding and we both got superb hips and bust. A hundred years ago we’d all have worn them, but now they are reviving as an under or over garment and, frankly, they look amazing as does anyone who wears one. Susie also runs a TGirl dressing service in Bournemouth, in case TGirls on the South Coast are interested. One friend of mine has already expressed approval of it. Anyway, we liked her and her products best of all those we saw so I will plug her here: http://www.fetishcorsets.co.uk/ (though the site's not working that well at the mo) and www.chateaufemme.co.uk. I also particularly liked the real leather handmade skirts at B Barbarella http://bbarbarella.co.uk/main/

Joanne and I packed up and took a detour into the West End and visited a couple of favourite venues for a bite to eat and drink before heading home.

I was sad to see my companions go. They had stayed with me the best part of five days and it was fun all the time. Note how just about every girl who did the pioneering TGirl bar two years ago at Olympia volunteered again this time. It’s that fulfilling an experience, despite being hard work. We’ll be there next year – 3rd-5th October 2014. Come and buy a drink from us and be entertained at the fair or, if you are a TGirl who fancies being well-treated in a public environment, volunteer as a barmaid. I won’t lie – it’s hard and serious work and you don’t get paid (except in ball tickets and food) – but it is so fulfilling. And, of course, you get to make new friends.

There’s a feature on us by Kerri Summers in this quarter’s Transliving magazine, too: http://www.transliving.co.uk/

Kerri's feelings about working at the main bar are so like mine: it's good to be treated as just one of the staff.

There's more photos of us in the dedicated group on Flickr but you have to join: http://www.flickr.com/groups/2389098@N21/

Kerri's Flickr photos are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/83667614@N05/. Susan Matthew's also has some lovely ones: http://www.flickr.com/photos/88375291@N06/with/11237417055/

Leona, who took so many of the photos featured here, is writing an article about the event for Rose's Repartee magazine http://www.repartee.tv. It would be good to see it in print.

Amanda Maroulis has also pointed me to her blog with an entry under 28 October, which has a great photo of the crew for the very first shift posing on the burlesque chaise longue http://www.amandamaroulis.blogspot.co.uk/

It was good to meet Susan Matthews at last and catch up with so many friends and chat to other girls: Pippa, Holly, and Helena I’ve mentioned, Priya, Vanessa, Amanda, Kerri, Sabrina, Dianna, Rebecca … and especially Jackie Blake whom I managed to miss at Sparkle, and Ria Lacey whom I keep missing as her London culture trips always clash with something, and chat to the other girls and  exhibitors.

The 29 girls who took part were: Vanessa Vee, Tia Slaven, Tammy Baker, Susan Matthews, Sue Richmond (me), Stephanie Hancock, Stella Martin, Sabrina Wolf, Ria Lacey, Rebecca May, Priya Rai, Pippa Bunce, Nicky Lustre, Michelle Luff, Michelle Griffiths, Mandy James, Lisa Goodridge, Leona Lovett, Kerri Summers, Joanne Stevens, Jessica White, Jackie Blake, Holly Johns (the boss), Helena Love, Elaine Adams, Dianna Skeggs, Debbie Louise, Bea Little, Amanda Maroulis and we mustn't forget Carol and her permanent staff who kept us all together. Other girls had volunteered but couldn't make it in the end.

Finally, a thanks from the organiser:-

Please accept this brief note from me to acknowledge the extremely useful role played by the T Girls at Erotica 2013. Frankly the show would not have been as colourful and charismatic without the T-Girls who worked tirelessly and under some challenging conditions at times with faulty lighting and equipment.

Please extend my thanks to all the Girls and hope as many of them as possible can return next year!

Thanks, Savvas. I will be volunteering again.

Sue x

Monday, 25 November 2013

A farewell to art

I'm a bit sad as I cleared my art studio over the weekend. I've decided to give it up as I've not got as much time to go there as I once had and, besides, the building is likely to be knocked down very soon as the massive tide of development that's sweeping out from central London hits it. You wouldn't believe how much building there is going on. If you're a crane builder you must be cashing in big time.

Anyway, I will still paint at home and do a few more portraits of TGirls. My plans for an exhibition of such pictures has never really got off the ground yet, but who knows.

It's sad to leave, but there you go. The art world is very accepting of people who are a bit different like me, so it's been a good experience. I may find somewhere else but for now I need to concentrate on other things, like work that pays!

Old-fashioned selfie
Sue x

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The rate of suicide among transgender people is higher than average and the number of trans people who are victims of murder is believed to be well above average also.

I won't comment further but just mark today's date as one of reflection. On a personal note I would like to remember in particular Chrisie Edkins.

Sue x

Friday, 15 November 2013

Beer and birds eye views

This blog has just had over 20,000 page views. Wow! thanks for reading. I’m still writing up what happened at the TGirl bar but I thought I’d just mention in the meantime a visit last weekend by one of my best pals, Maddy Watson, who is best known as one of the bossladies of the Nottingham Invasion. I’d invited her ages ago and she finally managed to visit.

Our big day out was Saturday when I took her by train and Underground to the West End. It was her first foray onto public transport, which is always a frightening prospect, but it has to be done. Our journey was uneventful, as ever. A nice coffee at Vergnano’s to wake us up after our heavy dinner at home the previous night and we made our way slowly to Belgo Centraal. Maddy likes her beer, you see, and where better to try excellent beers than a Belgian restaurant, especially one where the waiting staff are dressed like Trappist monks! Our waitress, Roxane, was excellent and recommended some really good beers to go with our food. We were joined by Helena and Tanya and we managed to sample eight different beers between the four of us. Very enjoyable, as you can see.

Belgo's with Tanya, Helena and Maddy.

A stroll round Covent Garden (which includes a compulsory visit to the Kurt Geiger store with its luscious red sofas and mirrored walls) and we stopped in a nice little pub, Nell of Old Drury, just opposite the Theatre Royal. 

Covent Garden: one of my favourite places.

We looked at the lights of London from Waterloo Bridge and then Maddy had the idea of going on the London Eye. I went on it when it first opened in 2000 (when it was called the Millennium Wheel) but I haven’t been on it since, and that was during the daytime whereas now it was dark. The morning rain had washed the sky clear and you could see everything. It was nice to chat to a couple of young women in the queue in front of us and nobody took the least bit of interest in two TGirls in the pod, so we snapped away at the view.

We had agreed to meet Joanne later that evening but we stopped off at another favourite pub, the Ship & Shovell in Craven Passage near Charing Cross Station. The pub is split between the two sides of the passage and the smaller, snugger part is my favourite. We ate dinner at the London Chinatown restaurant and joined Joanne at her workplace, the Cambridge, right in the heart of London. All in all, a very good day.

I was sorry to say goodbye to Maddy on Sunday. She’s one of the girls from the Class of 2010 whom I met when I first started going out and we’ve had a load of fun and laughs together. I even painted her portrait for my series of paintings of trans people. I really enjoy taking friends round London and am looking forward to my next guest. I must try to get back to the Nottingham Invasion soon which has been an amazing success thanks to her promotion and that of her partner in fabulousness, Sam.

Sue x

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Surgical update - positive news

Just a very quick post for all those who followed my news on my poor friend who suffered a considerable loss of tissue and a severe abdominal infection following her gender surgery.

She diligently kept to her dilating and other regimes and now after three months she says her surgeon is impressed with her recovery and the general state of affairs. She is due back at work in four weeks but still finds it difficult to bend. I'm pleased to say she's going for very long daily walks. Several miles a day, in fact. When I saw her two weeks after her op she could just about stand up and hobble a bit, whereas most of her fellow operatees (operatives?) were merrily charging around the hospital after just a few days (OK, I exaggerate, but they were mobile). So it seems that all is well, largely thanks to her diligence in looking after herself (and with help from her family, colleagues and friends).

She tells me she is now ready to join a regular dating site, and I hope that at last she will find a cute guy who will genuinely care about her.

Sue x

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Evenings in

The clocks have gone back and the nights are getting darker. I can't say I particularly like the dying of the year as the sun fades away and the leaves drop and the cold creeps in. However, there are compensations.

I'll be posting about the TGirl bar soon when more pictures are available. But till then, draw a chair up by the fireside and I'll pour you a glass of something warming. I quite like evenings in with my girlfriends when you just don't fancy heading out into the cold and the dark. This afternoon, just as dusk was falling, my friend Gillian came round. I hadn't seen her for a while and we had a bit of catching up to do. Coffee and a natter and a game of go (I hadn't really played it since I was a kid but she's a champion). A good way to spend three hours after work.

I'm not sure if I'll join the girls heading out to Covent Garden tomorrow. I confess I feel sated after my five day trannathon last week so today's evening will compensate for a day at home tomorrow.

Sue x

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Preparing the big event

Well, the pretty bedlinen is spread and there are some beautiful flowers on the table. I'm having two TGirls, Stella and Joanne, stay with me over the next few days as we're employed as barmaids at the Erotica show over the weekend.

Just before you think we're a bunch of sex maniacs, I'd point out that Erotica is just a trade fair, and erotic only in a sort of British nudge nudge, wink wink kind of way. You could take your granny there without too many blushes. The idea for most of us girls is to have fun and be ambassadors for the trans community. We were really popular last time and so many visitors left the show knowing a lot more about trans life and they've given us a bigger and better location this time.

It's at Tobacco Dock (next door to Rupert Murdoch's infamous printworks), Fri/Sat noon-9pm, Sun noon-8pm. Come and say hi (but don't bring any reporters from The Sun with you).

And on Saturday night we receive our 'pay': free tickets to the Winter Ball at Club Colosseum in Vauxhall. I think that will require a change of outfit.

I'll report back in due course.

Sue x

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Hierarchy

Most of those who are trans will know the hierarchy. Those who aren't are unlikely to want to wade into the complexities of the trans hierarchy, which can be as arcane as that of a centuries-old institution like a university, church or order of nobility, even thought it is actually very new. The hierarchy simply disgusts me and I find it hard to talk about it without expressing that disgust. So I will commend my talented and witty friend Amanda's video to you as she has done it very well.



Well done, Amanda, and thanks.

Sue x

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Ungroovy, baby!

For various reasons I've spent a lot of time in Central London these last two weeks. The other day I was in Regent Street and a group of American tourists coming towards me were enthusing about Carnaby Street.

"The coolest street in London" one was insisting.

"Say, we're close to Carnaby Street, right?" one asked me.

"Yes," I replied, "just through there. But if it's cool you're after, you're really about forty years too late."

"No way!"

And then, for reasons I cannot fully explain, I broke into an Austin Powers impersonation: "Oh yeah, baby. The swingers got ousted by developers and they're just a bunch of squares, man. It's very ungroovy now, baby."

I got the weirdest stares from the group.

And then it dawned on me. When you're presenting as a London chick, it doesn't do to turn into Hollywood's idea of an eccentric English dude.

"Erm, have fun," I said as I disappeared into the crowd.

Oh, well. Maybe I'm just a lot less self-conscious these days!

Sue x

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Future bookings

I still have to write up the great three days I had with the Walkeys when they visited London in August, but let’s leave that for when the weather is grey and miserable and we need a reminder of summer.

But I have some special plans ahead and have been booking up accordingly.

First up is another trip to Berlin and this might be my first outing en femme on the continent of Europe. But we’ll see. Certainly Berlin has a long history of transvestites, as witness this well-known photo before the Nazis stamped on them.

I'm going to be a barmaid again at the TGirl bar at London’s Erotica show in October. We did this two years ago and were a real hit (see my blog post here http://suerichmond.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/barmaids-go-go.html). They insisted on our coming back, and this time they have given us a better pitch. It’s a great opportunity for us to interact with the public and show them that we are humane, elegant, hard-working, nice to talk to and personable. We improved the understanding of trans matters for so many people that it was a seriously positive thing to do, as well as being a laugh. Hard work, though.

I’m also booking December’s Big Night Out at Pink Punters. A lot of my friends will be there and this seems to be becoming a tradition.

And finally, there’s Christmas. It may very well be another girly Christmas rather than one with family, like it was two years ago. That would be really festive.

So, it’s not all work work work (but I really ought to concentrate more on that!)

Sue x

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A break at the seaside

Well, I am feeling guilty. After the August holiday season you are supposed to get back into the rhythm of work and normality. But I squeezed one last bit of holiday time into early September by visiting my friend Stella who has recently moved to Brighton. 

The British seaside is normally characterised by wind, rain, spray, fog and cold and the British themselves are a hardy breed, swimming in freezing waters with churning waves, eating ice cream in the cold and wet, and generally being determined to be in a Good Holiday Mood despite the howling sandstorm blowing over their beach picnic. This summer, however, the climate here has been wonderful and the weather was as perfect as it could possibly be with not a cloud in the sky. It was more like the Mediterranean (but with fish & chips).

I got an earlier train then anticipated which gave me a chance to visit the lovely little Lanes with their boutiques. I met Stella, looking amazing after a makeover at Mac, and we drove to her new home, taking the scenic route with the hood down - and getting compliments from pedestrians, too. A bit like Thelma and Louise, but without the violence!

In the evening we joined the local TGirls of the Clare Project for their monthly Posh Nosh gathering. It’s always good to meet other trans folk wherever they feel they are on the scale as there are always experiences worth sharing. This month they met at the Mesmerist pub, which I found agreeable enough. The food and drink were not bad and the atmosphere was pleasant (though the couple opposite snogging all night were a distraction). I had a good chat with several girls there. I’ll bear the meet in mind next time I go to Brighton. Here’s their website if you are in the area http://www.clareproject.org.uk

It’s so peaceful where the Stellas live and I slept like a log. The next day was a perfect cloudless sunny day. We had a lazy breakfast outdoors and I had a chance to sunbathe in their garden as Stella got ready. We drove into town and immediately went on the  Brighton Wheel http://www.brightonwheel.com/ which is a smaller version of the London Eye / Millennium Wheel and was moved to Brighton from South Africa where it had been set up for the World Cup. We didn’t opt for the official photo and souvenir guidebook as they wanted twenty pounds for them (!!!) so here are some of mine of the view of the pier and the beach.

Though hot, it was also hazy in the distance so we couldn’t see all the coast of Sussex as you can on a totally clear day. Fun, and for £8 I though it was worth it (you go round a few times).

More shopping and back home for dinner outside in the garden as the evening drew in on a perfect summer’s day.

Many thanks to Stella and her wonderful wife for a lovely break.

Sue x

Friday, 6 September 2013

Kings and queens and jokers

[ADD 15 March 2015: a few parts of this post have been altered in the light of subsequent events.]

I have just come back from sunny Brighton, which you will hear about soon. But first, London Kings Cross, three women and an amusing anecdote …

Last Thursday was a beautiful summer’s day and I met [some friends] at Kings Cross as we wanted to see the new development at the back which is replacing the old gasometers and run-down streets renowned in the last two decades for prostitution and general seediness. The wonderful ’50s Ealing Comedy The Ladykillers was set in the area, but it’s harder now to imagine Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom skulking in bomb-damaged Victorian terraced houses when you see the new glass and steel additions to the stout brickwork of former train sheds and warehouses. The Victoriana is still there, but disguised and reworked into the new Central St Martins art college (which is obviously now no longer central or close to St Martins). It didn’t take long too look around as, actually, this area is not going to be fully operational as a new office and commercial centre for another couple of years at least.

Funnily enough, Ann Drogyny had been there a few days before (see her blog entry here http://transfastic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/a-pheonix-rises.html) so I was mindful of her comments. Nevertheless we decided to have lunch at the Grain Store restaurant overlooking the fountain that boasts over a thousand variable jets. Lunch there was amazing. My starter was a pear and Roquefort salad which, although a dish you see from time to time, was very fresh with crisp endive. The poached salmon with peach and salted watermelon was extraordinary. I have never eaten this combination of foods before and never had salted watermelon but it worked brilliantly. The pudding of chocolate mousse, almond icecream and chocolate rice crispie cake was delicious. And I had a Roman cassis and clove wine, which was certainly interesting. My companions had the grilled woodcock skewers with pumpkin and leaves as a main, which they said was good. Service was attentive and pleasant and the staff were enthusiastic about the food, its sources and the way it was cooked. Though more than I usually like to pay for lunch, I thought it acceptable at under £39 a head. And the outside setting was very pleasant and the sun was lovely and warm.

There are over 1000 jets in the fountains at the new Kings Cross development.

My companions, having had the privilege (a somewhat dubious one in their view) of having been born girls, were again very full of questions about me and how being trans affected life and how I saw things going forward. It’s so hard to give answers that are full and can be comprehended by someone who hasn’t spent forty years wondering every day about her gender. When you are brought up a girl, you never really think about it, it’s just life. For me, it’s the question that’s been in my head every day since I was a toddler. How much mental effort have I expended in all that time? An awful lot. How many answers have I come up with for all that effort? An awful few! The trans community has a habit of isolating itself and gazing at its own navel rather too much sometimes and being asked challenging questions is vital in clarifying one’s own thoughts and feelings within the wider contexts of life and society.

And I got a lot of stick for wearing tights. Excuse me! They’re the lightest, most gossamer-thin 5 denier pair available, almost invisible and make my legs even more fabulous! I reckon it’s jealousy! But this girl is a hosiery uberfan and will always wear hosiery, whatever’s appropriate to the occasion. So there!

Anyway, we caught a lot of sun and one thing we agreed on was that being a little kiddie splashing worry-free in a fountain was a good thing to be.

Now, let’s end with a true story about Kings Cross prostitutes. They were famous at one time: the Director of Public Prosecutions about 20 years ago had to resign after kerb-crawling in the area and the whole phenomenon there became widely known. But my story concerns a guy I used to work with. Throughout the morning he would drink cup after cup of coffee. At lunchtime he would go to the pub and drink two or three pints of Guinness. Then he’d return to work and drink mug after mug of tea before finishing work and heading back to the pub for more beer. He must have had the most robust kidneys in the world because I never met anyone who could swallow so much liquid in a day. Anyway, his enjoyment of beer would often go on late into the night, so much so that he would sometimes miss the last train home and would be stranded at Kings Cross. However, he would just wait the four hours or so until the first train of the morning, get home, have a short kip, shower, and head back to work. Anyway, one time when he had missed the last train and was sitting out the night at Kings Cross station, a prostitute approached him with her cheery cry, “Business, love?” He politely declined and she went on her way. An hour or so later she passed him again. “Come on, darlin’,” she said, “’ow about a bit o’ business, then?” Once more he declined her thoughtful suggestion. Later that night she passed him a third time, with a further offer of her tailored services, with discount, and once again he turned her down. Annoyed, she shoved a pound coin in his hand and told him for Gawd’s sake to go get himself a cup of coffee! 

Sue x

Monday, 2 September 2013

Gently into autumn

Here’s to a new season and maybe a happier time.  

It’s been a great summer, the best for many years, at least in terms of weather, and because work was quiet in August I was able to get out a lot and top up my tan. Indeed, I have several enjoyable events still to write up. I’m hoping to go and stay with Stella in Brighton this week, work permitting.

I’m afraid, though, that the stone in weight I had to lose at the start of the year has now turned into two stone to lose. Oops! Time to reregister at fat club, I reckon. (Sorry, don't know what that is in kg)

I have always tried to share as much positive stuff as I can about being transgendered. It’s a pest being trans but I’m determined to make the best of it. Truthfully, though, it’s been a very draining summer emotionally with all my family on the operating table in one way or another, my friends gender surgery going badly wrong, various awkward neighbourhood matters, a supportive friend’s death, and hearing recently that a TGirl friend was badly beaten up by another deranged TGirl who threatened to kill her and outed her to the neighbours. None of that has been good so blogging positively has been hard.

So I’m hoping for a more joyous autumn. I hope it will be for you too.

Sue x

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Compliments and more

Yesterday was a girls’ night out in Brick Lane but before arriving there I stopped off at the home of my friend whose surgery went wrong. It was nice to see that she was looking quite a bit better and was more mobile. It was also good to meet her mum. I’m hoping for the best.

On my way there I had to walk through a crowded high street and busy residential area and felt a bit conspicuous in my floaty summer dress amongst the prams and shoppers. A very smart looking guy in a striped shirt, colourful braces and trilby called out: “Nice legs, love! You look great! Have a good one!” and flashed me a nice smile and a thumbs up. Oh, I do enjoy the flattery!

So I met the girls at Verge Bar on the corner of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road as usual. It was nice to see Stella again as I haven’t seen her for two years.

At Verge Bar with Sarah, Stephanie, Rachel, Irene and Stella.

People relaxing at that bar are always very happy to chat and take the necessary photos of us. A couple at an outside table were very curious about all us TGirls and asked us a lot about who and why we are who we are and it was nice to talk to them and fill them in.

We went on to have dinner at City Spice up the road. Their chicken goa with mushroom rice is always a favourite of mine. The waiters are always nice to us, too (not to mention the free wine they give us and 25% off the bill which means we get dinner for only about £13 per person).

At City Spice with Stephanie, Stella, Irene and Pippa. Steph's photo.

Pippa, Stephanie and I took a taxi to Leicester Square to visit Ku-Bar. I’d heard a lot about Ruby Tuesdays, which is the big lesbian night out in the basement bar there. Few men are allowed in but TGirls are welcome. Truthfully, though, it was so crowded and heaving that it was hard to enjoy it much, especially when my drink got knocked into my cleavage – nothing that stained, fortunately. We didn’t stay long – I guess that we’re getting a bit old for this sort of thing. But we had a much more relaxing time at Freedom Bar on Wardour Street which is comfortable and wasn’t nearly so full.

At Freedom Bar with Pippa and Stephanie.

I left the others to start my agonising journey home by night bus, which always takes two hours partly because I always just miss the bus and have a full 30 minutes to wait for the next one. For such a huge bustling city with so much going on in the evenings, London’s transport situation becomes very bad after midnight. At least it was a warm night. Again, a nice compliment at the bus stop from a woman waiting there: “You look nice.” Thank you! I could get used to this!

Sue x

Saturday, 24 August 2013


Here’s the post about fun in the sun that I was going to write a week or so ago but got distracted by my friend’s plight. She’s been discharged from hospital after spending nearly a week being dealt with under A&E procedures and is at now home being looked after by the best of all possible nurses, her mum.

The usual vocal members of the T community are currently commenting on international TGirl of the moment, Chelsea (aka Bradley) Manning. I’m cautious on this one as her case reminds me somewhat of that of David Shayler, aka Delores Kane.

Anyway, back to more positive stuff. This summer has been unusual in the British Isles in that it has been HOT and SUNNY! After four bitter, snowy winters and five lousy summers we have at last had a proper summer. So what’s a girl to do but put on a pretty dress and go out and have some fun in the sun.

How about celebrating a friend’s birthday with a picnic on Primrose Hill overlooking London, for instance?

Or meeting up with friends for a spot of lunch at one of London’s oldest hostelries, followed by a drink in the outdoor summer bar at the Royal Festival Hall?

Or organising lunch for eight girls in our favourite venue, Salieri on the Strand, followed by a stroll in the Embankment Gardens and a photoshoot outside the Savoy Hotel?

Glamour girls outside the Savoy, as arranged by Stella. l-r: Irene, Stephanie, Rachel, Linda, me. Irene's photo.

Or spending three days taking friends round the sights, like the newly restored Cutty Sark in Greenwich?

Or just mooching around the shops and enjoying a coffee? Sunday lunch at a pub in Dulwich? Messing about on the river? This city is so full of life and when the sun shines it’s hard to beat. When the sun shines …

The sun lights up the city, late afternoon.

More on the sightseeing break in another post.

Sue x

Monday, 19 August 2013

When surgery goes wrong

The friend I accompanied to hospital three weeks ago is back there. Let me be up front: her gender op did not go well. Those of a squeamish disposition may want to stop reading here.

She spent the requisite week at the hospital after her operation and was sent home. I saw her at home a week after that and she could barely walk, though she insisted that we go out to lunch as she was getting bored of her own four walls. We did have a nice lunch with another friend, and she had a hearty appetite for traditional British Sunday roasts (note the plural!). She was, however, complaining of a discharge that she couldn't seem to wipe away. Two days later, having got in touch with the hospital, she rang to tell me she was frightened, that something like the alien in the sci-fi films was coming out of her. She photographed the problem, sent it to the hospital and they called her back and removed the offending 'alien'. Two days after this she was sent by her doctor to her local hospital because of an infection in her operated area and they sent her back to Charing Cross (CHX).

CHX is one of Britain's top hospitals and she is in good hands. The nurses are very attentive to her and she has friends, family and colleagues visiting her and phoning so she is not alone by any means. However, the infection inside her was terrible with much of her abdomen and thighs swollen. She was operated on this morning to remove infected matter from her abdomen and this evening she seemed much better, but she will have to stay in hospital for another day or two connected to antibiotic and painkiller drips.

This is not good. Whilst she looks good on the outside with no obvious scars, the loss of her inner lining is something that has only ever happened to one patient before, and the consequent infection was very painful, frightening and unsightly. She is surprisingly positive despite all this grief, fear and pain. I am hoping her surgeon, Mr Bellringer, will be able to right this as she deserves a proper outcome for her years of patience.

For my part it has made me think. I feel less squeamish and troubled by medical matters and hospitals than I was (I saw the photo of her 'alien', a strip of rotting flesh some inches wide and a foot long hanging out of her almost to her knees, and saw her disfigured abdomen swollen lopsidedly with infection). That is positive in a perverse way. But this has now put paid to the last remaining notions that I might seek transgender surgical intervention for myself. And boosted my querying about just what transsexualism is really all about.

I am sorry for the directness of this post but I am quite distressed and angry about this. I, personally, have never met anyone whose gender surgery went completely right first time, but this is a bad fail.

Back to the positives again next post.

Sue x

UPDATE 21/8/13: I have now visited my friend in hospital three times this week. She is still not well and the emotional strain has told on her, not to mention the exhaustion resulting from the pain and the infection. But she has had many visits and messages from her friends, and her boss has been an absolute angel with his visits, gifts and chauffeuring. Her mum will be coming to look after her from tomorrow. She has no regrets about having had her surgery as she now feels that her body is right and matches how she perceives herself in her mind's eye. It is a tragedy that such a thing should have happened to one who has shown herself so worthy of success in transition.

Although the paragraphs above contain some gory details, they are not the complete picture of this upsetting situation by a long way. It seemed inappropriate to post any more publicly, both for the sake of her privacy and, frankly, because anything more would render the text too lurid. I will be writing to her surgeon, as I feel others close to her will be, to emphasise that we expect her to get the best outcome possible from now on.

Sue x

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Two years in the blogosphere

I started this blog two years ago yesterday. It’s main aim is still to keep a record of things I have been doing, but to make it public so that other trans people feel encouraged to feel that they can be themselves out in the real world.

So, as of yesterday, this blogging site's stats tell me that there have been 16,880 page views (up from 5,828 a year ago), exactly 100 posts (60 a year ago) and my 21 followers of last year have risen to 32 (hello, beautiful people!). Hits are averaging 1100 a month. About half the viewers are in the United Kingdom but a great many hail from the USA and a lot from Germany and Russia. Although, to be fair, compared to the size of their country, the most significant number of readers come from Latvia. The most popular post is “Nottingham Invaded Again” from March 2012, followed by my answers to the questionnaire for “Our Different Journey” (Jan 2013) and “Nottingham Invasion” of Jan 2012. People also like the “Funny Girls photos” (Apr 2012) and “Hell Bunny dress” (Oct 2011). Most people still come here from Samanthatgirl, which is Sam's excellent blog: http://samanthatgirl.blogspot.co.uk/

Last year I thought the stats were a bit mystifying – i.e. I thought them a bit pointless, especially their obsession with what devices the blog is accessed by, but now I find they have a curiosity value.

Anyway, exactly as I said last year, if you've read something here that you liked, browsed some pretty pictures, or have been inspired or interested in any way at all, then I guess this blog has served some purpose apart from amusing me in the evenings.

Thanks for reading.

Sue x

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Another delivery at Charing Cross Hospital

I had a phone call from a close friend early yesterday morning. She was going into Charing Cross Hospital for her surgery (gender reassignment, or whatever you want to call it) and was wanting company on her way there. Staring bleary-eyed at Monday morning's emails I decided that a trip to hospital was preferable than dealing with certain clients.

So I met her at Hammersmith, which is altogether a more salubrious place than it was when I was a youngster in the '70s and '80s when it hosted regular pitched battles between punks and skinheads, nobody worked as they were either unemployed or on strike, streakers ran amok and schoolkids needed to watch out for perverts (two have recently been convicted for crimes there in that era). Comics Rik Mayall and Ade Edmonson captured the squalor there nicely in Bottom. Now it's more cafe culture and arts theatres than safety pins through the nose at the dole office. Sorry, I'm digressing. Hammersmith is the location for Charing Cross Hospital which hosts the gender clinic and I've accompanied friends there many times, as much as anything to see how I feel about attending the clinic for myself.

I found the staff kind and willing to answer all my friend's questions and reassure her over her worries. They put her on E Bay, which makes it sound like she's in an online auction (they probably all say that). The amenities seem a bit basic, though, and the view from the window is less than inspiring, especially as the tubs of what were flowers and grasses have died in the recent heat. I shall donate a watering can to the hospital! My friend was given a green pattered hospital robe and green surgical peep-toe stockings. Very chic. Very sexy. Green is evidently the new black! There were hardly any patients and the only other person who'd had the surgery was being discharged the next day so it was a bit quiet and lonely. I had planned just to see her there and make sure she'd settled in but basically she had a 6 hour wait before surgery and I did stay in the end till mid-afternoon as letting people feed off their own thoughts is not good when they're already a bit nervous, although she was cracking plenty of jokes (not all of them repeatable here). Sadly, I just couldn't stay to see her into theatre but we had a phone chat shortly before. Frankly, as well as having had work to do, hospitals make me feel ill!

I imagine she's resting today. I will try to visit her later in the week and I know other friends of hers are going as well. I think she's in good hands. Although it leaves me with mixed emotions as I don't feel, after considerable thought and research over many years, that a medical route to being trans is going to help me.

The hospital doesn't let you take cut flowers to patients and more, only pot plants. So all her friends have decided that what a girl with a new vagina would appreciate most is a nice cactus! Aren't we cruel! But that's her kind of humour!

Get well soon, honey.

Sue x

Saturday, 27 July 2013

People who now know I am trans

[ADD: 17 March 2015. It is not my normal policy to censor or change posts in this blog. What happened, happened, is my view. This post, though, has had to be changed as my original impression of this day was altered by subsequent events and leaving it as it is would give the wrong message to other trans people.]

Although I’ve made a lot of friends in the trans community over the last few years, I’ve also gradually been letting the friends who’ve known me longest know about my being heavily trans. Like many of us, I’ve disguised it well, and I think most of us do so through a fear of possible ridicule, abuse or even violence; a fear of unknown reactions to something most other people encounter only rarely.

When two of my closest female friends recently learned of the extent of my transness and, after having read this blog and looked at various other resources that I pointed them to such as Our Different Journey, they were keen to meet me as Sue.

So we met [and had lunch and they asked me many penetrating questions about being trans. I’m not sure I could give full answers, and analysing one’s deepest feelings and experiences is not easy. Whilst I thought that their questioning on this day was partly so that they could be supportive, in fact my answers were stored up and thrown back in my face the following year. The positive comments from blog readers below reflect my original delight that these people appeared at first sight to be on my side.

I guess the message now has to be that the policy of telling people that you are trans strictly on a need-to-know basis is right, since you never know who's actually on your side until something important to you is in their hands. ]

Sue x

Coming soon: fun in the sun

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sparkle 2013

That all-important occasion in the transcalendar was last weekend. Sparkle, the UK’s national transgender celebration, is held in and around Manchester’s Gay Village. Nobody’s quite sure of the number of people who attend it in one way or another but I saw the figure of 4,000 quoted for Saturday, though I’ve no idea how they can be counted. For me it was quieter than in the past because many of my close friends weren’t there. No matter, there were plenty of other good friends there and the chance to make some new ones.

In the past two years Emma Walkey has joined me for a few days in London before heading down to Manchester but she couldn’t manage it this year so I went for four days of fun and friendship on my own. As usual I stayed at the Ibis Hotel in Charles Street which used to be referred to as Tranny Towers because it was always flooded with TGirls.

In my room at the Ibis just before heading out to see who was around on Thursday. Though not posh, I find the rooms big and comfortable and convenient for the event.

Thursday was much quieter than in the past. I met Debbie Roberts, one of Sparkle’s leading lights, who invited me to join her and Angelina for a meal at Eden. The drinks there are cheap and the food is good. We were too late for the ‘official’ quiz at Icon so ended up at the Molly House opposite, possibly the best bar in the Gay Village simply by virtue of its outstanding drinks collection and calm atmosphere. Nice to see Joan Tabb and Stefania de Villora again.

On Friday I met up with my lovely pal Joanne from Devon. Being so far apart it’s one of the few chances we get to meet. We went shopping for which, in my normal bid to blend in, I wore jeans but I realised too late that that was a crazy choice in the heat. Bumping into Stefania in her short dress I realised that on this occasion overdressed elegance would have been superior to inconspicuousness. I bought bits and pieces in the Arndale Centre but we particularly enjoyed the alternative styles in Afflecks. 

We came back to the Gay Village for a cool drink (I guzzle strawberry cider like crazy there) and bumped into Kate Collins and her lovely wife and enjoyed a natter in the shade and watched the narrowboats and other craft float along the canal.

With Kate Collins, a Canal Street legend, on the barge at Eden.

I had booked a table at Eden for dinner and cabaret that evening. Although initially for four, my table swelled to ten at one point! The cabaret, “Girls on Top”, was very mixed but the burlesque acts were good and Debbie Roberts sings well.

Sitting down to dinner and cabaret at Eden. l-r Gina, Emma H, Mrs H, Maddy, Jemma, Joanne S, Joanne T.

It was incredibly hot (the temperature, I mean, not the burlesque) so many people wandered onto the pontoon outside. I had chosen my black velvet dress with its red velvet rose and black tights with a red seam, kind of prom/burlesque wear rolled into one. But I stupidly wore my patent courts which are the worst shoes ever to wear, being rigid and slippy, so I changed them before heading out to the bars and clubs of Canal Street. After Churchill's, we eventually ended up in the Molly House again.

Dressy. Gina's photo.
Saturday is the Big Day. I have always booked lunch at Villaggio, the Italian restaurant on Canal Street. In the past this was for the members of the Angels forum who happened to be at Sparkle. But this time I arranged it just for myself and, initially, with my lovely pal Tiff who, in the end, couldn’t make it. There were 17 of us. Joining me were Bobby and Mrs Bobby, Emma and Mrs Emma, Maria, KD, Holly, Priya, Amanda, Kay, Joanne S, Maddy, Jemma, Wilhelmina, Joanne T and Gina. Many thanks to the staff at Villaggio who are always so accommodating (and serve tasty food, too, at reasonable prices).

Lunch at Villaggio's, Sparkle Saturday.
Hostess with the mostest? I actually bought the dress for Sparkle 2 years ago but it didn't get worn then. No excuses this year.

And so to Sparkle in the Park with its entertainment stand and varied stalls and the chance to bump into old friends like Maria, Elen and Mandy. This year we were gatecrashed by a bunch of “Furries”, people who dress in animal costumes. Apparently, Furry culture can be as complex as trans culture. My only concern was that they must have been boiling in their wolf and fox outfits. Try a floaty dress in this weather, guys. Much better! Though I'll admit that it's a close call when assessing relative cuteness!

Needed a cool drink in Via before getting ready for the evening with Joanne and my friend Zazoo from Glasgow, another girl I only ever get to see here. We left the Village and went to Chinatown for a light dinner and found a decent Thai restaurant, Phetpailin in George St. We were later joined by KD and her friend Maria and from there we went on to Taurus where it was relatively cool. And from there to Napoleon’s which, although frankly a bit of a grim club in my view, with its scruffy Admirers, is compulsory on any visit to the Village.

 It doesn't matter what look you choose as long as you are stylish. Four far-flung friends in Canal St at chucking out time: Zazoo, KD, Joanne and me. KD's photo.

Sunday is, however, my favourite day at Sparkle. I usually spend all afternoon sitting out on Canal Street and saying hello to any friends that are passing. This year I caught a lot of sun. The Gay Gordons Scottish dance team entertained us as they did last year.

Entertainment outside Taurus on Sparkle Sunday. (Note the Canal Street sign is neat and complete. So often some wag paints the C out.)

And it was lovely to see Mrs KD again who stayed with me in London back in March. We went round the back to the Richmond Tea Rooms which I had never visited before but which have an underlying Alice-in-Wonderland theme for posh teas. My slice of chocolate cake was too massive for even my guzzling chops. Defeated by chocolate for the first time in my life! I am embarrassed! And then next door to the Molly House for proper drinks. We were back there later having first met Jemma at Eden. Well, I do like those two venues!

Three girls at the Molly House.
There are too many people about sometimes to have more than just a brief chat but it was good to bump into Sarah Cat and her friend Bobby, Erin from Norway, Franziska from Vienna and, of course, Wilhelmina from Budapest whom I've known since Day 1. Stefania, too, who makes the most of the event and is everywhere! Nice to make new friends of Chris, Kerry and Katrina from the hotel, too. But I’m sorry that I missed others who were there like Jackie Blake, Jayde Grahams, Jenny-Ann Bishop, Jayne Whittaker and Chrissy O'Brien. Were you there too, Becca?

Sparkle has become the highlight of my year as it’s about the best way to get to catch up with people. Naturally, one has to look good too! I was still overweight but managed to shed half a stone in the week before.

There’s a lot to do at Sparkle and a lot of entertainment laid on, although I didn’t particularly follow the official events that much on this occasion and, although never a one for cliques, I did hang out more with the same people and visited fewer venues this time (no G-A-Y, no New York New York, no Tribeca, no New Union, though they are worth visiting).

Here are links to my favourite venues:

Next year Sparkle will be 10 and that should be an occasion not to be missed. Hoping to see all my T girlfriends there. And anyone else. A German couple at our hotel asked what was going on and when we told them were enthusiastic to join in. Please do, folks – you only have to be supportive and have a nice time there. Canal Street is less and less a gay/trans ghetto but is more and more frequented by office workers and families who come to enjoy the good bars and the pleasant outside location. It’s the place to go for your hen party, too, and for young men to come and gawp!

Sue x