Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Year In Provence

Or more accurately a week in Southampton.

I'm spending the week on a training course in Southampton. Its the first time I've spent this amount of time away from home since I transitioned. Its also the first opportunity I've had to be myself where people don't know me as anyone but Jenna and to see how they react.

I've got limited Internet access so I'm going to post as I can. This is part 1.

Southampton 2nd to 7th December 2012


What a journey it was to get down here. To start with the hire car is one of those that has a key that you put into a slot on the dashboard. Once its inserted then you can press down on the clutch while pushing the key right into the slot in order to start the engine. The car doesn't have a traditional handbrake, instead you press down on the brake while pushing a switch on the console near the gear-stick. Its not too bad once you get the hang of it, and aren't panicking because the car has stalled or something like that.
The actual journey was OK until I reached Southampton. At that point things started to go adrift because the satnav told me that I'd arrived at my destination while I was still on the M27. Exiting the motorway at the next exit and heading into Southampton before stopping to reset the satnav so it would find the hotel was called for which even then lead to a roundabout trip as I managed to miss the exit on a roundabout and found myself back on the motorway.
The hotel is some distance from the venue where I'll be doing my ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst course. Hopefully I'll be able to find the place without too much trouble tomorrow.
At the moment its just before 10 o'clock, its raining again. I've not been out of my room since I got here. Tomorrow I'll be eating in the restuarant so I'll probably have a couple of drink in the bar as well.
I've got quite a bit of reading to catch up this week, in addition to any homework we get from the course. Reading wont be the only thing that I do though as I've brought a couple of my fans with me. I've already spent aa bit of time this evening working out the timings for my True Love routine and have gone through that a couple of times. Its not a complicated routine, neither is it very long (about 3 minutes 15 seconds in fact) so by the end of the week I should have it in a state that I can start jazzing it up and making it more of a performance.
Anyway, its 10 o'clock now and time to get ready for bed.


First day of the course done.
Last night I didn't sleep all that well. I usually don't when I'm staying in a hotel, the bed usually takes a few days to get used to as well as all the different noises. I was eventually awake by about 5:30 this morning but sat in bed reading my bible, something I haven't done for a while.
Just after 6 I started getting myself ready for the day, by just after 7 I was ready to face the outside world and heading for breakfast. I kept things simple this morning and didn't eat a lot, come cereal and a small fried breakfast.
Just after 8 I set off for the course venue in Ocean Village. It took me a while as the traffic was quite hectic initially but thinned out as I got closer to my destination. On arrival I was a bit worried as I didn't have much change for car parking and all of the car parks in the area were pay and display. I parked the hire car in the nearest car park and popped into the reception of the Innovation Centre to see if they could tell me the best place to park. Fortunately they have their own parking spaces to the rear of the building so I was able to leave the car there.
The course was interesting, there are only four of us plus the course tutor. He looked familiar and it wasn't until I got back to the hotel and checked the notes for another course that I did a while back that I realised that he was the one who had done that course.
The one thing that I'm definitely going to remember the course for is hazelnut coffee. The drinks machine uses pouches containing the drink that you want, there is a few things to choose from but I've settled on the hazelnut coffee option. I've drunk so much of it that I can still taste it even after a couple of glasses of wine. I think I might be getting addicted to it.
The trip back to the hotel was equally hectic but I didn manage to get into the hotel without having to do a roundabout journey this time.
A bit of revision and the obligatory phone call to the family and it was time for dinner.
The restaurant was heaving, I had to wait about 15 minutes before I got a table even though I had booked. The waiter that seated me was really nice and kept updating me on what was going on and checked to see if I'd ordered my meal and how long it would be.
I'd chosen to have duck breast with potato Anna. The duck tasted lovely, there could have been a bit more food though. Next time I'll know to order a side dish!
Some people do like to complain and the chap that was seated before me, after he had been served his meal and had pointed out to the waiter that there was some mushrooms missing, said "this place is like Fawlty Towers." It wasn't that bad!
Today has been a good day. I've not had any issues with people. The staff are well trained, I had a smile from one of the waitresses in response to a smile I gave her. My waiter addressed me as Ms. On the way to dinner I rode up in the lift with an older gentleman who stepped aside to allow me into the lift and then when he got out in front of me apologised saying that he should have let me out first.
I'd say that today was a passing day.


Second day of the course. The restaurant was a bit busier yesterday morning. Had some fruit to start but it felt very unladylike trying to cut through chunks of pineapple, apple and melon with a spoon with people around. Don't think I'll go for that option again. Will probably go back to cereal or skip that and have a couple of pastries after my full English. Missed my favourite of button mushrooms though as they didn't have any out when I went to get mine.
Drive to Ocean Village was as busy as on Monday but I did arrive early, in fact I was first to arrive, the other girl on the course was second.
The receptionist greeted me when I arrived. She's very friendly and very smartly dressed. I like her.
The course went well as we got through all of the material easily which allowed us to get back to our hotels to do some revision on our own. I worked through some examples and then left it at that as I wanted to have an early dinner so I could have a bath and watch some television.
On the way back to the hotel I popped into the Asda Hypermarket at Eastleigh. I'd forgotten just how big they could be. I wandered around as quickly as I could picking up a notepad, some Pringles, chocolate digestives, a bottle of Pinot Grigio (hotel drinks are extortionate, over 6 pounds for a small glass of wine, 9 pounds for a larger one, the bottle from Asda was only 5 pounds) and a bottle of what I thought was Jim Beam bourbon which turned out to be a black cherry bourbon drink. Very nice, very drinkable and after one very large glass will be going in my case to take home.
I noticed last night that I've been forgetting to slap on my hormone gels. So made doubly sure that I'd remember to do it before I went to bed and when I got up in the morning.
Dinner was a lot quieter than Monday evening. The restaurant wasn't as busy at 7 when I went down. Service was great. Food was even better. I went for belly of pork with black pudding and potatoes followed up by vanilla and strawberry crème brulee with a shortbread biscuit and Chantilly cream.
While I'd been eating a nice looking American had been sat at the table next to me. As I was eating my dessert he asked if it was good, to which I put my hand on my tummy and replied yes. His dinner arrived at that point and as I'd finished mine I left him to it and we didn't chat any more. If I was more confident with my voice and appearance it would have been nice to chat some more.
I am meeting lots of different people, not just staff here but also other guests and I'm not getting any negative reactions so I'm happy.
After dinner I enjoyed a relaxing bath, finished my Jim Beam and had a couple of small glasses of wine in my room while reading my books, Coming Up Next by one of my favourite television presenters Penny Smith. I've had the book for a while and haven't got round to reading it. Now that I've started I can't put it down and will have finished it before too long. Oh well, will have to get her next book.


Finally finished my book this morning. Nothing to read now.
I've missed a couple of the programmes that we normally watch this week. Although I've got a TV in my room the things that I'd usually watch with the rest of the family like Grimm and Elementary are on satellite channels and not Freeview.
The course went well today. It was about a couple of testing techniques and once you understood what was involved they weren't too bad.
I chatted to the receptionist at the innovation centre when I got there this morning. Both of us have daughters. Her oldest is between Rhys' age how old Kayleigh would have been this year. It was a nice chat as both being parents we had things in common.
Weather today has been chilly, not as cold as yesterday when the car was iced over, so glad that I brought de-icer with me.
Two more days to go before the course is over and I head back home. Will be nice to have all the things that I take for granted when at home available to me. Even if is my last weekend before I have to start training for the Outlaw next year!
Spoke with the family using Skype earlier. So much easier than simply using the phone and better than Windows Live Messenger. Everyone was OK. 

More to come at the end of the week, or tomorrow if I manage to write up a post before I lose my Internet access.

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