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 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


  1. Oooo under £39 for three courses and drink not too bad I suppose. It's just, well for those of us with long memories its still Kings Cross ;-) and it will be bleak once the sun has gone.
    Totally agree about the navel watching, get out there and spread the word is my motto and stop hiding in "corners".

  2. As an aside, The Ladykillers, the locations are here:- most of it has disappeared except one part of Argyle Street which is now more 'gentrified'

    1. Thanks for all your comments, Ann. I'm all for being out in the real world with real people rather than just speculating and arguing abstract notions. Yes, it's hard to imagine Kings Cross as anything other than a bit run down. And thanks for the location info. Most of the locations are gone now. Must sort out that Wiki entry as they don't mention the quite good stage adaptation with Tim Brooke-Taylor as the 'Professor'. An interesting local touch in that play was the interruption of the robbery by a streetwalker, which didn't happen in the film. Sue x

  3. I lived just behind the Euston Road for almost three years and KX was my stomping ground. I am amazed to go back these days its changed beyond compare. The Euston Rd might still be busy, I think the Kebab Machine is still up and running but the character has changed so much - so much for the better I might add.

    The comment about the dubious privilege of being female did make me smile and remember my guarded comments to my first girlfriend when expressing how nice it must be to be able to dress in so many different ways. She said that she envied men as the only thing they had to worry about was the colour of the socks and tie .... I am sure she then went on to moan about tights. My rational brain tells me I shouldn't be surprised that women sometimes she their lives as more difficult but the Trans side still days eh ? You serious !!!

    A nice day out for you Sue, and great that you have such lovely friends.

    Ps thanks for the review of the grain store ... I think its next week we go there :)
    Pps The lady,killers is such a great film !

    1. Thanks Becca. I guess we think natal women were born lucky ... and they think we're nuts! My friends have known me many years and we meet and holiday regularly so they dig deeper with their questioning.

      Hope you have a good time in the area. It's not really up and running yet, but you get a foretaste.

      Sue x