Here's how it went. I can recall the details perfectly as the evening is indelibly printed on my mind.
I'd agreed to meet Emma Walkey at her hotel in London and we would go for an evening meal. Now, Emma had invited me to join her as she assumed that I was already confidently out and about; and I agreed to join her as I thought she was, well, confidently out and about. We were both wrong: neither of us had done this before!
Having got dressed and made up, Emma rang down to reception for a taxi. "Do you know any good taxi firms?" I heard her say. I was about to suggest, "Ask for a black cab" (i.e. a standard London taxi) but then I thought, "Doesn't matter. Reception will know".
Very nervously, I left Emma's room with her. We got to the hotel entrance and waited for the taxi they had called. And we waited. And waited some more. Half an hour late, a minicab (private taxi) arrived. I told the driver where the restaurant was and he started to punch the name into his satnav. "This doesn't look good," I thought. It sounded a lot worse when he said the fare would be £25! Obviously, he was used to shuttling people to and from the airport and never went to the central maze of streets.
Being my first time out in the real world I had really wanted to avoid complications because I was very nervous, but I had to act and said this really wasn't what we were after. The driver was decent and realised that there had been a misunderstanding with the hotel and he left us for free on the Bayswater Road to catch a black cab. Now, if you know London, you will know that the Bayswater Road is one of the six-lane main arteries of the city and at seven in the evening it is packed with traffic. And I had hoped for a discreet, quiet time and not being too much in public view! So there we stood on this busy main street in our finery with the traffic trundling past until we managed to hail a black cab that swerved across lanes to pick us up. Phew! That was quite a baptism of fire given how nervous I was. I rang the restaurant from the cab to keep our reservation open as we were going to be very late. For comparison, the fare was about £12.
|My first appearance in the street|
We arrived at Sarastro's in Drury Lane. This place has featured a number of times in this blog as it's a fun place to go, with extraordinary décor and a mainly Turkish menu ( https://www.sarastro-restaurant.com/ ).
We enjoyed a good meal and very nice treatment from the staff. I had booked it because I had assumed they would be trans friendly. Of course, as time goes on, you realise that everywhere in big cities is actually trans friendly. After all, trans money is as good as anyone else's.
|In a dining booth in Sarastro's restaurant|
Emma suggested we finish off the evening at a pub. "Wow! This is an evening of firsts", I thought. "First time out in my home town, first time out in the street, first time in a taxi, first time in a London restaurant and now first time walking about and going to a bar."
We walked through Covent Garden and it was the longest I had ever walked as a woman. Negotiating the cobbles in high heels was a new skill to learn! It was getting on for 11 pm and it was hard to find a pub open. We went all the way to Wardour Street, very much the heart of the West End. There happened to be lots of elephant statues in London that summer, painted by different artists, and we came across one in the covered galleries of Covent Garden Market.
In Wardour Street we found O'Neill's fake Irish pub and rounded off the evening there.
|A blonde and a brunette walk into a bar ...|
We made friends with a couple of students who were very complimentary about our appearance. We like people like that!
Well, after that we caught a taxi back to the hotel, had a last photo and returned to the humdrum world.
|Emma and I have been firm friends ever since this day|
My journey home by night bus took a very long time and the dawn was about to break by the time I got to bed. It had been the most amazing night out, breaking so many barriers. It was what I had dreamed of doing since I was a little kid. And now it was real.