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