Saturday, 27 December 2014

Bye to 2014, hello to 2015

So 2014 is drawing to a close. It's not been a good year overall. My son, Rhys, was taken seriously ill with two tumours, one which was removed and the other is being monitored. He's also had lots of problems with stomach pains, the reason for which has yet to be diagnosed properly, and is currently having to have lots of supplements in order to try and increase his weight.

In November we lost my Mum, very quickly after we found out that she had cancer. On Monday (29th December) we are having the internment service so that we can bury her ashes. Its just going to be the immediate family so will be a very private affair.

As usual I set myself a number of goals, looking back at them I didn't manage to achieve many. I managed to attend a number of belly dance classes throughout the year and I've fleshed out a dance routine which I aim to get to performance standard next year, and to hopefully perform it sometime after I've had my GRS.

I managed to do a number of burlesque workshops in the second half of the year which was more than I've done for a while. They were fabulous and reinforced just how much I enjoy doing burlesque. If I lived in Bristol rather than Yeovil then I'd be doing burlesque a lot more than I have done, I'd probably even be performing regularly.

I managed to complete a couple of half marathons but didn't achieve any of my fitness goals. In fact my fitness has suffered, I've not even managed to make it to the gym that much, something that does annoy me as I'm paying for membership that I'm not using.

As far as transition is concerned that all went a lot better. I had my second opinion at the start of the year and then went to Brighton in the summer. After some hiccups with regards to funding for surgeries I'm happily expecting to find out the date for my surgery early in the new year.

Looking ahead to 2015 I've not set myself some goals, all of which are achievable to some degree.

My fitness goal for the year is to complete the Great Welsh Marathon in April. I entered the race the other week and now just have to get my training underway. I'm planning on using it as a way to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of my Mum.

As far as dance goes I have the belly dance routine I want to perfect and hopefully perform towards the end of the year. I also have a burlesque balloon pop routine I've been meaning to develop and I plan to do that in 2015, maybe even managing to perform it if I'm lucky. I plan on joining a local burlesque based class on a Monday evening in January so I have the incentive to work on my burlesque with a group of other ladies.

As far as work is concerned I'll be changing projects in January just as soon as I've completed the work I'm doing at the moment. If my surgery dates come through when I'm hoping then I'll be enjoying a number of weeks off during the summer. If not then I could find myself heading to Australia for a month, something I'm hoping not to do. In the meantime I have the exam for the Advanced Technical Test Analyst course that I took earlier this year to complete, and to pass.

I also want to do more writing. There's a couple of projects that I've started that I want to complete. I've been working on turning the blog we wrote when my son was undergoing a bone marrow transplant into a book. Its something just for the family really but I need to complete that, its only got a few things that need to be done to it and the initial draft will be complete.
I've also got my own life story that I've been working on, I want to try and get the initial draft of that finished next year. Again its only really for family but it will be nice to do next year.
Finally I really need to write more. I enjoy it so much but have been a bit lax at times, next year I'm determined to do more.

Of course the big goal for next year is to have my operations. Hopefully come May that will happen and I can move onto the next stage in my life.

Finally there is my spiritual side. I'll post something more about that in the New Year but suffice to say that over the last few months my spirituality has been changing and I'm moving away from my Christian beliefs and returning more to the beliefs I had when I was a lot younger.

So had 2014 draws to a close I want to thank everyone who has been there throughout the year providing support, advice and helping to keep my feet on the ground and not letting me take things to seriously (looking at you Miss C). May 2015 bring you everything that you want in life.

Happy New Year and blessings on each and every one of you.



Saturday, 22 November 2014

Sleep tight Mum, may angels guide you to your rest

On Wednesday I received a text message from my sister, "Ring Dad now", while I was at work.
I've had a number of "Have you rung/spoken to Dad" text messages recently but this one was a first.

Immediately finding an empty office I dialed my parents number. Dad answered and I asked what was up.

"Your Mum is worse, the nurses have said that she's not got more than two weeks to go but it could be days. They've said if anyone wants to see her then they should do it sooner rather than later."

Coming off the phone I spoke with my immediate line managers and told them I wouldn't be in on Thursday and let my wife and son know that at least I would be going to Wales to see Mum, in the end the three of us were able to go.

Speaking with my sister she told me she'd be down on Friday.

The trip up on Thursday was uneventful, the weather was nice for a change and by lunchtime we were pulling up in front of my parents house.

Dad greeted us and told us that he'd seen Mum (well he would since he lives there and is looking after her), but that it was up to us if we wanted to. Turning to my son he said "You're not seeing her".

Mum was lying face down in bed, her breath was laboured but she did look like she was just sleeping normally. After getting some more details about her condition from Dad we went back downstairs.

Dad nipped out just after that in order to take all of the drugs Mum had been having orally to the chemist as she no longer needed them. While he was out we told my son that it he wanted to see Nanny then he could, we'd just not tell Grampy.

A couple of minutes after Dad has gone out the community nurses arrived to do their thing, minutes later one of Mum's cousins also arrived. While the nurses were busy with Mum I chatted with her cousin. At one point I had to point out who I was as she had a bit of a puzzled look to her. When Dad returned we called in Mum's cousin's grandson who was waiting in the car for her.

While Dad talked to her I ended up having a conversation about computer games and games consoles, including a discussion about Commodore 64 and BBC Micros and the joys of playing games that needed to be loaded from cassette tape. The noise of a computer game being loaded from cassette is one that you never forget.

At one point Mum's cousin turned to me and said "You look just like you Mum." I'm still not sure which of us I feel sorry for. Probably Mum for looking like me :-)

Eventually she was able to pop up and see Mum, when she returned it was with the comment "that's not your Mum" and she was right. Mum wasn't there, only a shell really remained. The personality, the life force, that was Mum was gone. There would be no more conversations with her. No more sharing things, no more advice from her, no more silly little comments about my transition that only a parent that doesn't fully understand but is trying so hard to be there for you will make.

We made sure that Dad had a proper meal before heading back, as much as I would have liked to have stayed up overnight I knew that I'd have to make arrangements with work and tie up a few loose ends before taking some time off.

Friday morning and I was awake at 6am. As I was about to get out of bed I said to my wife "At least we got through the night", no phone calls in the early hours thank goodness. Then the phone rang.
As soon as I picked up the handset I knew what I'd hear. The display showed the call was from my parents. Dad told me that Mum had gone, she'd stopped breathing at about 5am. Mum was finally at peace.

I spoke with Dad for a few minutes before putting the phone down, only to have it ring again as my sister rang to check if I'd heard from Dad.

It was hard talking to her, knowing that she had been heading down to see Mum before she passed away but that she'd not be able to do that now was too much and I cried. I know she wanted to see her but I'm actually glad that she didn't. Last weekend when we were all there Mum was in a better state than she was on Thursday. With various doctors and nurses going in by the time my sister would get there Mum should be looking peaceful.

I popped into work and spoke with HR and one of my bosses and told them what had happened, they were surprised that I'd actually come in but I needed the distraction for a while. I actually had some interesting conversations with people yesterday morning about some things, but that's for another time.

Mum was still at the house when my sister got there. She told me that she looked peaceful but that her tongue was just peeking out of her mouth. Even in death Mum is still poking fun at the world around her and poking her tongue out at us all. She wanted her funeral to be a celebration and not something sad and she made sure that she was going to remind us of that even at the end.

Sleep tight Mum, sweet dreams, I know your with your Mam and Dad now. Just don't give your brother too much of a hard time will you because I know that you've got a few strong words to have with him after all this time.

Love you xx


Monday, 3 November 2014

Pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard

For someone who loves to write I've found it really difficult to do that recently.

I've managed to do just one of the weekly writing prompts from Laura's Writers Roadmap over the last few months. I've struggled to write any posts for this blog and after agreeing to put together a webpage for our companies intranet site that will be used during our Diversity and Inclusion Awareness week I've really struggled to come up with a suitable introduction to the subject of Transgender.

I've got to get that done today or tomorrow as they are putting together the webpages for that week soon. I have managed to pull together something which I've uploaded to my own website. Hopefully I can get something together that I'm happy with. With it being such a wide subject area its hard to do it the justice that it deserves. (If anyone wants to take a look at the Transgender section and give me some feedback that would be most welcome as the website is a work in progress and I want to expand on a lot of it anyway.)

So why am I struggling with writing?

This year has been a difficult one for my family. My son has been in and out of hospital with the tumour operations and radiotherapy. He's had quite a bit of stomach pains as well, although that seems to have eased since I put the sign of the cross on his forehead about two weeks ago, using Holy water that one of the sweetest old ladies from church brought back from Lourdes.

Over the summer my partners Dad passed away and we've had to deal with that.

And then to top it all my Mum hasn't been well and we've been told that she has cancer and that its spread throughout her body so there is nothing that the doctors are able to do. We don't know how long she has got left, could be anything from weeks upwards.

We saw her about a fortnight ago and she wasn't too bad. Yesterday we went up to see my parents again as my sister was down to visit. Mum looks worse, she's so weak because she's picked up a chest infection. She's got antibiotics so hopefully they will sort that out and she'll be able to regain some strength.

Yesterday was hard, I managed to spend some time with her on my own. She asked me if I was happy now, I am I told her. She told me to be me, never mind what others want or think and then she says that she wants it to be a celebration. I wasn't sure what she meant until she said that she doesn't want black. I knew then that she was talking about her funeral.

It was hard trying to keep things together. My sister was almost in tears at one point. My partner was in tears. My son has been around death all his life and saw his grandfather in his last hours during the summer but being like me he doesn't show his emotions as openly. I spent so much time yesterday wanting to let the tears come but I held them back because everyone else is going to need to get through the days, weeks and months ahead. Someone has to be the source of strength that gets them through it all. As the eldest that will be me.

I sent my sister the following the other day when we were talking via email
"If it sometimes seems that I'm not upset by Mum's illness and what we're facing that isn't the case. I might not cry when I'm around people but that's because I'm so used to dealing with Rhys' illness and being a source of strength for everyone else to get them through the tough times. I might not openly grieve in front of people but that's because I need to do that my way and at the times and places I feel I can do that."

Once we've dealt with Mum we will have to rally round Dad because he is going to need so much support. Mum says he's stronger than we think but even so I don't know how he's going to cope with losing the person that has been part of his life for half a century. The time ahead is going to be one where I will have to dig so deep into the strength that has sustained me through everything that life has thrown at me. In a way I think being transsexual and dealing with all that entails has been training for everything that life seems to chuck my way.

So I'll apologise in advance if some of my posts seem to be a bit depressing over the months to come, or if they seem infrequent. There are going to be bright spots, I know that. For starters I've got to find something suitable to wear to Mum's funeral, something that is not black and it classy because when she was looking at some of the pictures from the photoshoot we had done earlier this year she said "don't wear so much makeup, go for the classical look." So classy and bright for my Mum when we say our final goodbyes it is.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Lovely Blogger Award

The lovely Cass included me in the group of bloggers to receive the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks Cass x


  1. Thank and link back to the person who nominated you
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Include seven facts about yourself.

  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know about the award.

  5. Display the award and follow the blogger who nominated you (if not already!).
So without further ado, and having completed rules 1 2 and 5 (I've been following Cass for some time), my seven facts.


1. I love to swim but learning to swim almost killed me
As much as I enjoy swimming I don't do it anywhere near enough. Most of the swimming that I've done during the past few years has been part of training for some event or another. I've rarely swum just for the pleasure of it.
When I was at primary school we were taken to the local swimming baths to have lessons. Most of the primary schools where we live do something similar.
After learning the basics and getting to the point where we could swim a width of the pool we finally told that we'd be swimming a length of the pool. If we got into difficulty then one of the instructors has a large pole with a hoop on the end that we could grab hold of. To get into the water we would have to jump in, at the deep end.
One after another my friends jumped in and began to swim, then it was my turn.
I stepped up to the edge of the pool and leaped into the pool. Down I plunged until my head was under the water but rather than coming back up I seemed to be suspended in the water. I could feel my breath beginning to run out and so wanted to get back to the surface but it was so far away. Well it felt far away. Suddenly something loomed through the water and I grabbed at the large hoop that the instructor was holding out for me to grab. Grasping it I was pulled to the surface, I gasped for air and then having composed myself, let go of the hoop and struck out for the shallow end.
Although I could have almost drowned that day, from then onwards I never had any fear of the water and took every opportunity that I was given to swim while in school.



2. I'm a qualified BSAC Sports Diver
At University I did the usual round of groups during the Freshers Fayre. Lots of different groups and activities but nothing really took my fancy until I came across the diving club. Here was something I'd not had the chance to do before and who knew if I'd have the chance in the future. I signed up immediately and for the next 3 years I learned both the theory of diving as well as the practical skills needed to dive safely both in a pool and in open water.
It was so much fun. I dived quarries, lochs and the sea. From the shore and from boats. Just pottering around the seabed and also diving on wrecks.
Throughout my time at Uni I learned everything I needed to know, and demonstrated the skills and knowledge so that by the time I graduated from my course I was also a qualified sports diver with the British Sub Aqua Club. I still have my qualification book at home, although my skills are rusty and I've not dived in over 20 years.
There's a chance that I might have to go to Australia next year for work. If that's the case then I'm going to be looking to get my diving skills up to scratch and if I am really lucky might managed to sneak a trip up to the Great Barrier Reef.



3. I was almost an officer in the Royal Navy
When I was younger I joined the Royal Naval Reserve as an Officer Candidate. After completing my basic training I started my officer training in preparation for sitting the reserver officer interview board.
About 12 months into my training I decided that I wanted a change of career and that I wanted to join the Royal Navy full time. With my qualifications and experience I enrolled to be an officer.
To join the navy as an officer you need to attend the Admiralty Interview Board, a two day series of psychometric tests, interviews, group discussions and physical exercises.
When I eventually sat down for my interview with the Personnel Officer she acknowledged the fact that in the discussion exercise I'd got the conclusion I'd wanted and had steered the others to that conclusion but that I could have done it in a more forthright manner.
At the end of the two days I found myself sat before the Commodore in charge of the Interview Board, although he acknowledged that the results of my psychometric tests had been amongst the best he'd ever seen I'd let myself down with the more practical leadership tasks and that I'd not be accepted into the Navy as an officer. It was disappointing as that also meant the end of my time in the Naval Reserve, failing the Admiralty meant that I automatically failed the Reserve version.
It was probably the best decision at the end of the day as I've likely done more through my career outside the navy.



4. I've gone down the bobsled run at Lake Placid
The first project I worked on when I joined my present company was for a customer in Vermont.
In the February I was sent over to the States to work at the customer site for two weeks.
The first weekend I was there everyone seemed to have things planned, either visiting friends or going skiing. As I don't ski and didn't have any friends to visit I was at a loose end. That is until a couple of guys and one of thems girlfriend asked if I wanted to join them on a trip to Lake Placid as it was the last weekend that the bobsled was open and they wanted to go down it.
With nothing else planned I agreed.
The drive to Lake Placid took a little while and I took the chance to enjoy the scenery. When we arrived we had a look around before heading to the bobsled run.
There wasn't a lot of snow so the run was pretty much concrete.
Each run involved two passengers, a driver and and someone to operate the brake.
One of the guys and I decided to go down together and so were issued with helmets and given a safety brief.
The driver climbed in and we got in behind him. The last chap made sure we were ready and then started the sled running before getting in behind us.
Down we went at ever increasing speed, our heads barely centimetres from the concrete. It was scary but also really exciting. All too soon though we had reached the bottom and the sled ground to a halt. We carefully climbed out, handed back the helmets and agreeing it was a brilliant experience made our way to a bridge where we could see the other two from our group come down.



5. I've started writing a book
When my son was ill and had to have a bone marrow transplant we wrote a blog about our experience for our friends and family. Over the past few years I've transcribed the blog into a "book" format. Its something that is only for us, although I've passed it to a few other people that might find it useful to read.
Recently I found myself thinking that our experience might be a good basis for a story, maybe even a novel, so I've started to try and turn it into a proper novel. So far I've got the opening scene. Still a long way to go.



6. I always thought I had two left feet
All the time I was growing up, and for most of my adult life I've avoided dancing. Discos, weddings, parties, if there was dancing involved I'd either hide away or do the bare minimum.
Although there was that incident when I spent most of the night dancing at a work Christmas Party with my arch nemesis who didn't get on with me anymore than I got on with her. A curious situation to be in considering at the end of the evening we sat on the coach heading home snuggled up together and spent my entire leaving do sitting together having discovered that we actually liked each other a lot.
I've avoided dancing because I simply move my feet from side to side and pretty much don't do anything else.
Then I found burlesque and belly dance and my dancing has become a lot more animated and maybe even sexy.
Looks like I've finally found that missing right foot.



7. I still have two of the first books I ever bought myself
When I was in my teens our school handed out leaflets for a company that sold books which you could order and that would be delivered to the school for you to collect. I loved to read and so when I was flicking through the leaflet and discovered some science fiction books I had to order them. Over the years the books have disappeared but recently I was browsing online and discovered one of them for sale. I ordered it and it is now waiting to be reread along with a number of other books. However, these weren't the first books I ever bought.
When I was growing up I discovered the Biggles books. I was hooked from the moment I read the first one. After reading book after book you can imagine my delight when I discovered that W. E. Johns had written a couple of science fiction novels. Kings of Space and its sequel were the first books I remember buying and I still have my copies of them today, over 30 years after I bought them. Its a while since I read them but I have a feeling that they are going to find their way into my reading pile rather soon.


So to the last thing to do. Nominate 15 other bloggers.
Um, Ok, I have a feeling that most of the people that I would nominate may have already been hit by Miss Cassidy. I'm not a great person for nominating people for things like this so rather than naming specific people I'm going to throw it open to anyone reading this post that would like to share 7 facts about themselves on their blog.


In the meantime, normal service will resume shortly as I have a post I want to write thanks to Laura at the Writer's Journey Roadmap and also a belated write up of the Great North Run. Provided I can tear myself away from watching Mr Peabody and Sherman and listening to Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow, which I've just discovered is over an hour long for the 7 tracks :-) awesome.







Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Meercats and the mispelt "freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae" year continues

I've not blogged for a few weeks, although I've got a couple of posts started, because I've been having to work late days in order to make use of some equipment that is located at a suppliers site about five and a thousand miles away from where I sit in the office. I've actually been really impressed by that as I don't know anybody else in our company who has managed to do the same thing because we usually have the equipment in the same building, if not in the same room, that we're working in.

The last few weeks have been a nightmare on a personal level.

With the passing of my father-in-law in the summer we had to clear his flat the other weekend. The entire family turned out to help with sorting things out. Putting the things people had been left by him, or wanted, into two vans and putting everything else into a skip to be got rid of.

It was a tiring weekend but also just about the last time that I have to pretend to be my old self.

Most of the weekend went OK, our evening meal and breakfast at the hotel we stayed at were a bit of a disaster but the hotel itself was fine.
The evening meal we'd tried to book at the pub attached to the hotel ended up being at a restaurant about quarter of a mile walk away, which was a problem in itself because one of the group couldn't walk that far. Then the restaurant had run out of both tonic water and also fish and chips which at least one of the party had wanted.
Breakfast was absolute chaos as it was a serve yourself situation and they ran out of so many items, including glasses and mugs.

The last week has been more stressful than usual although I did discover that our local petrol station employs meercats behind the cash registers.

Yesterday I popped in to fill up with petrol before we went away for the day. As I was paying I caught a woman member of staff looking at me from the corner of my eye. She popped behind the counter and walked around the where the chap who was serving me was sat. She then looked straight at me. Completing my transaction I turned and left. As I was walking across the forecourt I turned and looked back and could see her staring at me and talking to the guy who'd served me. At that point his head popped up over the top of the till and they both stared in my direction.
Ok, I accept I probably wasn't looking my best yesterday but that was a spectacularly rude thing to do.
Still it was funny in its own way.

Last week my Dad rung me as Mum had been into hospital to get some test results. She's had a problem breathing for a while and when she went in recently for the hospital to have a look at why they'd removed what was thought was mucus from her but which they then said was a bit of food.
When they went back last week the doctors told them that she had cancer, their not sure whether its kidney or lung cancer but given her problems with breathing I'm hedging on the latter. She has an appointment at a different hospital tomorrow for some form of x-ray which will hopefully confirm what it is. We'll find out all the details on Friday when we go up to see them.

This week started off in spectacular style with Rhys being in a lot of pain. He's been having these pains for a number of weeks now. The doctors aren't sure what are causing it. Normally he has them at night just around bedtime. Sunday was no different.
Monday morning he woke up and still had the pain, a first.
We contacted the hospital and ended up spending the day there while they gave him pain relief and observed him. Eventually the pain subsided and we came home.
Yesterday he had an appointment for an ultrasound at our local hospital. The scan didn't show anything untoward and in fact showed that his kidneys were both working fine and looked normal. Something we'd been worried about after the radiotherapy.

In the afternoon we headed to Bristol so that he could have a MRI scan. This proved to be more problematic.
Everything was fine, the nurse collected us from the waiting room, Rhys got himself ready and we went into the room where they were going to do the scan. In another first I was told I could stay in there with him. I just had to sit in a chair and wear ear defenders during the procedure.
Well it was the most riveting experience, not. I almost dozed off a couple of times.
After about 20 minutes and not even a third of the way through the scan things took a turn for the worst.
Rhys pressed the panic button and the nurse came and got him out of the machine. He was in the worst pain that he had been in with his stomach. There was no way he could continue with the scan. Getting him dressed and with the pain subsiding slightly we got him to the oncology day unit where they checked him over without figuring out anymore about what was causing the problem than anyone else has done to date. They gave him pain relief and we were able to come home. Although the pain has eased from time to time its not gone away. He's managed to get some sleep over night but it looks like we're going to have to take him into hospital again today, something that is upsetting him because it means he has to miss college.
To top it all his Mum and I needed to be in Plymouth by lunchtime so that my she can see a consultant about her Neurofibromatosis. Something that we've been trying to organize since Rhys was diagnosed with his tumour. She really needs to see this consultant so that she can be monitored, the last thing we need is for her to be taken seriously ill and it be too late to do anything about it. Rhys is in such a state though that we're going to have to postpone that so that we can be around today in order to work with the doctors to come up with a plan to figure out what is wrong with him.

All in all its been a pretty mixed few weeks. Still the sun is shining and we've had the driest September for a while. As a bonus I found out last night that one of the girls from my GIC who went to Brighton the week before me has had her date for surgery. Hopefully I'll be able to get my date too. We'll see when I ring later.

Have a good one :-)

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Return to Clifton

The other week we were wandering around one of the shopping malls in Bristol when we came across a stand for Clifton Photographic Study. This is the place I went a year or so back and had my burlesque themed makeover and photoshoot.
I've been thinking for a little while about organising a family photoshoot. We did one a few years ago for my parents and their grandchildren so when we saw the stand and my other half wandered over to it then there was little doubt that we'd end up doing the shoot this year.

We organised the shoot for the same day as my sister was coming over to see us and we were going to Bristol Zoo. Originally it had been planned for late evening but while we were wandering around the zoo I got a phone call asking if we could come in earlier as they had a cancellation. I said yes because it meant we'd have more time to go out for a birthday meal for my partner.

The shoot was wonderful. We did two looks. The first was a casual one with the second being more dressy due to its party theme. All of us enjoyed it and the look on my partner's face when she opened the present we'd kept back for her to open was literally a picture, the photographer got the look of surprise on her face as she took the picture. Tickets to go see Singin' in the Rain which we'd not been going to see until I persuaded my son that it might be good to go for his Mum's birthday.

This week we had the viewing of the pictures, all 44 of them. It was hard whittling them down but even more harder to try and come up with a package of pictures and frames, all of the photos come in frames, that would allow us to get a USB stick with all of the pictures on it. Eventually we managed it and in about 8 weeks time will get a large framed picture with 9 photos, a large desk frame with the picture of my other half opening her birthday present and a smaller desk frame, which was the complimentary picture.

I'm not going to include lots pictures of the others but here's a few of me on my own with one of Rhys and I and another of all three of us.




 


Monday, 4 August 2014

Brighton part 3 - what to expect

I thought I'd finish off my Brighton trip by covering what I'm expecting when I go for the surgery and afterwards.

Brighton part 2 - Nuffield

This is the continuation of my trip to Brighton.


Brighton part 1 - hair

I've been a bit busy over the last week so its taken me a bit of time to sit down and write about my trip to Brighton last week.
I've broken it down into a couple of posts as it was getting quite long.



Friday, 25 July 2014

Sad times

Last weekend was one of the hardest I've had to endure for a long time.
Two and a half years ago I went full time. One month before I started living as a woman 24/7 my father-in-law was taken into hospital and operated on to remove a cancerous tumour.
Two and a half years later, last Sunday and this man who has been a part of my life for the last 21 years passed away. It was dignified.
I can't imagine what it must be like for his daughters, especially my wife. I've almost lost both my parents. One to bowel cancer and the other to breast cancer but both are still with us.

Apart from when we had a major falling out that resulted in me walking out of my home and telling my wife that until he left I wasn't coming home, we've had a very good relationship.

He taught me so much. I learned how to tile a bathroom from him. How to put up fencing. How to lay a garden path. We build the shed that houses our bicycles together.
I learned so much about D.I.Y from him that I even refitted out kitchen myself.

Over the time I knew him I learned so many little things from him.

And then there were our chats. He was well read and it was a joy to chat with him late into the evening when he came to stay with us.

And then there was our shared enjoyment of whisky. I couldn't even begin to count the number of bottles of scotch and malt that we have shared over the years.

I cried after I left the hospital room, darn hormones. The last time I cried like that was when we put down our dog Judy when I was a teenager. I'd not even cried like that when my grandparents passed away.

He's at peace now and in a far better place.

I will miss him.

And after his funeral I will raise a glass of malt to him and his memory.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

A busy summer

Summertime and the living is easy
Summertime and the living is good

Or not as is going to be the case this summer.

In just over a week my family will be heading to Bristol for 6 weeks so that my son can have his radiotherapy. They are going to be there Sunday to Friday, which means I get peace and quiet at home for a while.

Unfortunately it also means that I'll be having to work longer days so that I can drive back to Bristol on a Sunday evening to pick them up and bring them home.

Having them away does mean that I can make a serious attempt at losing weight. I'm nearly 13 stone now so need to lose a lot of that. Hopefully over the next 6 weeks by watching what I eat and also getting a lot more exercise I'll be able to shed the pounds.

With my training for September's Great North Run underway I'm running four days a week. I've just discovered that the leisure centre I'm a member at does Body Balance on a Monday evening so I'm going to start going to that from tomorrow. I'm also going to try and get in a few sessions at the gym since I've changed my membership to allow me to use it at any time and not before 5pm on a weekday.

With luck, by the time they are permanently back home in Yeovil I'll have managed to get my weight down closer to 12 stone and be on my way to the weight I'd hoped to be by the end of the year.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Should have been born a girl

For a while now I've been hoping to bump into S, who I used to work with a good number of years ago. She doesn't live far from me but she retired just around the time I changed jobs. Over the years I've bumped into her while shopping but I've not seen her since before I transitioned, my other half has and told her about my transitioning.

Today as I was on my way home I had to pop into the supermarket to pick up some cherry tomatoes for dinner. As I was just about to go in I saw K, S's husband coming out and then saw S.

I called out to her and she stopped and turned towards me. I watched for a few seconds as she tried to recognise me before going over and saying "You don't recognise me do you."
S replied "Yes, you're ..."
"It's <my old name>"

Her face lit up at the same time as I spoke as recognition dawned.

S asked how things were going, how work had been with everything and how my family was.

We chatted for a few minutes and I said that she'd not changed. She said the same about me before adding "Which proves that you should always have been a girl."

There are some people that you just love to pieces no matter how long since you've seen then and S is one of those for me.

Just Lie Down

This is something I wrote for the Just Lie Down writing prompt at The Writer's Journey Roadmap

Let it go, let it go!
Can’t hold it back any more.

The first time I heard the song Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen I knew I’d found my latest personal theme song. It sums up the way I’ve had to leave behind the life I’d built up to have the life I needed.
For the first 45 years of my life I lived the life I that I thought people would expect from me. My childhood was a good one. I always had everything I needed, my parents worked hard to provide for my sister and I. Still they could never provide me with the life I ached to have. How could they for as far as they were concerned I was happy, healthy, had a good education and a good job when I left university. What more could a parent want for their child?
Still it was all a show. Everyone that knew me saw the person they expected to see. They saw what was on the stage, not what was behind the scenes.
My partner came along and I finally found someone that I could let see behind the scenes. I took them backstage and found a person that I could finally be myself with. Of course I eventually found out that they were equally good at projecting an image while thinking and feeling something different. Still we’re together after 20 years and have a relationship that is as strong now as it was back then.
I worked hard at having a career. I did sports and took it to extremes by doing marathons and then moving onto open water swimming and long distance triathlons. People that knew me, even close friends, saw what I wanted them to see, what I thought I had to let them see.
Then I reached the point where I had to let go of being what I thought they needed to see, I let go of what I though I needed to be, and decided I had to be me. I’m still doing that now, as I patiently wait for the time when I’ll finally be completely me.
You see I was born a boy, raised as a boy, grew up to be a man, started work and built up a career like the other men around me. Played sports and did the things other guys did. I was so good at it that nobody suspected a thing.
But inside was a little girl screaming to be let out and over time that little girl grew into a young woman and continued to grow until she was old, enough and strong enough to be able to deal with life on her own. So I let it go, I let being the male that I thought I had to be for my family and friends go. I let him go and allowed her to be free to take life as she wanted it and how it came.
Sometimes I regret his passing but like a character in a book, his story had reached its end. Its my time and my story that needs to be written now.

So to paraphrase the song from Frozen

Let it go, let it go
That perfect boy is gone
Here I stand, in the light of day.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bristol Again!

Last week we had to go to Bristol so that my son could have a kidney scan in preparation for his radiotherapy that is going to be happening over the summer. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Quite hot but not unbearably so. Of course with weather like that I had to think carefully about what to wear.

I have a problem with my shoulders and the tops of my arms as they are far to masculine looking. At least that's what I think so when I go places I tend to cover them up as much as possible. T-shirts that hide my shoulders are good but strappy tops, no!

Until Thursday. I couldn't find one top I liked that covered my arms. The only think I could find was a gold coloured top that had thick straps but left my shoulders completely visible. A bit of thought at a very light cardigan that would hide them came out of the wardrobe and into my bag, where it stayed for the rest of the day. Bare arms and shoulders were on view all day and the world didn't end or the ground open up and swallow me when I had to deal with someone.

The scan went OK but while my son and his mum went in to get it done I stayed in the waiting room. I was the only one there apart from one of the hospital housekeeping staff. As I sat there she came over and stood looking down at me, then started talking to me about guys that she's been seeing and how the relationships have been. All I could do is try and answer in a sympathetic way. I did feel really awkward but she seemed fine discussing such personal matters. All I can think is that she simply saw a fellow woman who was waiting around and she just started chatting about whatever was on her mind.

After she'd gone to find one of her colleagues I continued sitting there waiting for the family to return when a porter came in wheeling a patient. He went back and forth a couple of times and as he passed me on one of them complimented me on my shoes!! I was so stunned all I could do was say "Thank you" in a quiet voice.

Once the rest of the family had returned from the scan we headed back to the shopping centre to browse for outfits for my other half and I to wear to a wedding in the summer but before getting into some serious shopping we grabbed some lunch at Subway. That's where we had the only disappointment of the day when the guy that served me referred to me as "Sir" over and over. The first time he said it I thought it was simply his accent and English not being his first language (I suppose that could be the reason) but after he'd said it 3 or 4 times I was feeling miffed. Not wanting to cause a fuss since the place was quite full I let it slide and didn't say anything to draw attention to myself but it put me off using Subway, particularly that one, again.

The rest of the day was fabulous. Shopping but failing to find the right outfit. A visit with my other half's Aunt and Uncle then a trip to Pizza Hut to get dinner before making our way home to watch England manage to lose their second match of the World Cup. I can imagine that a lot of people are disappointed by the way their playing. I would be too, if they are playing a real game but its only football. Its not like their playing rugby, now that's a game for real men.


Oh, and as for the wedding outfit I've managed to find a top and trousers to wear (other half has banned me from wearing a dress because although the bride is my other half's cousin's daughter and I've known her since she was quite young we don't really know her friends and fiance's family). I'm currently looking for another top because the one I've got is a bit short apparently and with the trousers I've picked my other half is worried about people noticing things she doesn't want them to in the groin area. A slightly longer top is on the cards with some form of jacket to wear over the top.
Once I've got the outfit I'll upload a picture so you can see what it looks like.

Friday, 13 June 2014

What to bring

When I go to Brighton next month and see Mr Yelland I'll be discussing the chest reconstruction that I need to have. After receiving the appointment details I started thinking about what I might need to take with me. Will I need a sports bra or something in order to work out what size implants I need? With that in mind I emailed his secretary to ask.
The response I got back was that he would discuss sports bras with me at the appointment, all I needed to bring with me was an idea of how I want to look. So between now and then I have to give some serious thought to my body image, in particular how I want my breasts to look.
So do I want something understated or something that is going to have the guys talking to my chest rather than my face, something that did happen once and I found quite funny.
Time to put my thinking cap on.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Yeovil to Brighton

I've been a tad busy recently dealing with my son's illness. Its still a long journey ahead of us but we'll get there.

After my recent experience of getting told that laser wouldn't remove the hair that needs to be gone before I can have surgery I've managed to have the funding approved for electrolysis.

I've started with removing the hair and have 2 hours of electrolysis booked each month for the next two months. After that we'll see whether I can step up to an hour a week.

In the meantime I have my appointment with Mr Yelland and Mr Thomas the surgeons that will be operating on me at Brighton. My appointment with them is on the 29th July. Two months away but that is fine with me.

One step closer to my operation :-)

Monday, 21 April 2014

Are you the godmother?

I've had two interesting experiences related to children over the last few days. Both have made me smile. One of them I'm still not sure whether it was genuine or not, I suspect it was.


New blog and changes to this one

The other day I changed the layout on the blog. Not big changes, pretty subtle ones to be honest but for a reason.


Friday, 18 April 2014

I hate people like you!

For the first time since I transitioned someone told me that they hate people like me. It was a bit of a shock to hear that from someone I'd only said hello to.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Silence

It's Sunday and it's midday.The only sound I can hear is the gentle humming of my laptop.
Oh yes!
My motley crew have headed off to my sister-in-laws for a few days and will be back Wednesday or Thursday. Probably the former. So 3 days of chilling and doing whatever I want.

Bliss!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Better pack a suitcase

My son had his MRI scan this week and it confirmed what the ultrasound had shown. He has a tumor just in front of and slightly below his right kidney (at least I believe its his right one).


Monday, 7 April 2014

I Swear He Does This Deliberately

Really, honestly, I swear he does. He waits and waits until the time is just right and then springs things on us.


Saturday, 5 April 2014

At least my face stayed on

Last Sunday was my local half marathon. A lovely 9am start for the race. Well it would be if it wasn't for the fact that this is the UK and on Sunday we switched to British Summer Time.
For those not familiar with the concept in spring the clocks in the UK go forward by an hour, in the autumn they go back an hour. Last Sunday they we therefore lost an hour meaning that in reality it was 8am.
Normally I'd drag my tribe along to a race but as it was also Mothering Sunday, Mrs P refused to go as she was going to have a lie-in and forbade Master P from going so that he could make her tea and toast.
She did agree to come and see me at around about the 9 mile mark which passes close to our home and also at the finish.
Being the kindly soul that I am (muahahaha),  I took our car to get me to the start (so I could collect my race number and be able to sit in it rather than stand around for an hour waiting for the race).

I've did this race a few years ago before I transitioned so I was keen to see how my time would compare against my pre-hormone days. When I'd race before I'd run with a colleague. This time I was running on my own.

When I registered for the race I put down my full name, not Jen which I've done in the past, and also put down female for my gender. To avoid any awkward moments if they called out people's names as they crossed the line I decided to wear make-up (I've found a brand that seems to survive exercise so I'm quite happy). Nothing overly dramatic, foundation, eye shadow and lipstick. I was also able to wear my slightly padded sports bra to stop things bouncing about too much.

The race got off to a great start. The weather was almost perfect, a little too hot which resulted in a couple of runners collapsing due to the heat.

The first couple of miles I was quite happy. I was clocking up 9 minute miles so was well on track to have finished in under 2 hours. The first two miles are slightly uphill, after that its downhill until you reach a park area and run through that to reach the only real hill on the course. That's at about the 6 mile mark.

By the time I'd reached the 3 mile mark and the park area though I was starting to have problems. My left ankle was hurting and I found that I was beginning to limp slightly. Still I carried on because to stop would have meant I'd have had to make my way back to at least home, if not the start area to collect our car. If I had to do that anyway I might as well finish the race.

Reaching the hill I put my head down and kept going, even managing to overtake a couple of people as I did so.

Dropping back from the top of the hill the remainder of the race was slight inclines or flat, my pace was dropping considerably and I found myself considering dropping out at about 9 miles where I was expecting to see my family waiting for me. Typically they managed to miss me as they arrived about 10 minutes after I'd gone by.

Just before the 10 mile marker I finally gave in and decided that I had to drop to a walk and try and give my ankle some relief. Every time I reached a uphill part I stopped and walked until I reached the top, on the flat and what few downhill sections there were I tried to run as best I could.

A few times I managed to put on a reasonable burst of speed and found that my ankle didn't hurt as much. Not sure why that was as I would have thought it would have hurt more.

Eventually I reached the last few hundred yards to the finish and with so many people around I resorted to my usual tactic at the end of a race and went for it. It wasn't a sprint but it was certainly fast enough to get me to the finish quick enough that by the time that my family saw me, I was gone again and across the finish line. As is a regular thing at the end of races my son was left standing there with my camera around his neck unable to take any pictures of me.

I was impressed when I crossed the finish line as the Mayor and Lady Mayor were there, the Lady Mayor handing out medals (which I was lucky enough to receive from her and the Mayor shaking everyone's hands, mine included. Its the first time I've had that happen.

Getting clear of the finish with my goodie bag I found a place to sit down and drank most of the bottle of water I'd received and started munching on a bag of peanuts (smokey bacon flavour - yum). My family appeared after a few minutes of searching for me and I waved to my son when he was looking in my direction. By that point my ankle was feeling better, typical.

All things considered it was a lovely day and a great race. As its local I know that I'll give it another go at some point. Next time hopefully without ankle problems so that I can do the race the justice it deserves as far as I'm concerned. In the meantime its rest and recuperation before starting to train for my next half marathon in September when I travel to Newcastle Upon Tyne and take part in the second biggest half marathon in the world, the Great North Run. Which does leave me wondering about whether or not to take part in the largest half marathon in the world, the Göteborgsvarvet. A trip to Sweden sounds nice!


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Somerset hit by nuclear blast

Ok, not quite but its entirely possible that it could happen if my other half hears what happened today after church.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Anthem

I missed seeing Disney's Frozen at the cinema but I had caught this song being sung and then found it on YouTube. Yesterday I picked up a CD with the soundtrack and was playing it in the car while going to see a friend. As I listened to this track it struck a chord with me, so much so that I had it playing on repeat for the 40 minute journey home afterwards.

By swapping just two words in the song it means so much more to me, its the new anthem to my life and the journey I've been on.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Validation and Verification


As a software engineer, specializing in testing I spend my time performing validation and verification of other people's software and systems.


Last week I had a couple of incidents where I underwent validation and verification of my identity.

And yes, I've finally discovered all about jump breaks on Blogger.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Bravery

"I think you're really brave"
If only I had a pound for every time someone has said that to me I'd have all of about 3 pounds.
I'm sure that a lot of people have experienced the same. Family, friends or colleagues decide that you have to be brave because you have made the decision to be yourself, and maybe even have surgery to give you a physical appearance more in keeping with the gender you have transitioned to.


Last week I had that conversation with someone that knows that I'm hoping for surgery later this year. I did try and correct them by saying I wasn't being brave but it wasn't the place and I don't think they were really listening.

Read on below the fold, hopefully there's nothing there that will upset anyone. It is, however, how I feel after people keep telling me that I'm brave. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Could I get a second opinion please

This week has been a bit of an exciting one for me.

For the last two years I have been going through my RLE. On Thursdy I finally took the next step in my journey.

In order to be referred for surgery I need a letter from a second psychiatrist to say that they agree with the diagnosis that I am transsexual and that they agree that I should have gender reassignment surgery.

So on Wednesday, along with a friend, I drove to the hospital in Bristol.

I'd decided that I was going to make an effort and dress up a bit. Nothing over the top but just enough to ensure that I looked my best.

Back in Taunton after my appointment


The journey there was uneventful but on arrival we discovered that most of the hospital looked like a building site, which isn't surprising as they are just finishing construction of a new hospital building.

Driving around looking for somewhere to park we eventually found a multistory car park. We drove up to the top level looking for a parking space but failed to find any. By the time we reached the top I was getting flustered as we'd only had about 10 minutes before my appointment when we'd arrived. With no spaces to park in I didn't know what I was going to do but my friend came to the rescue, digging out her phone she rang the doctor's secretary to inform them that we were at the hospital and were trying to find a place to park.

Eventually we found another car park and after watching a transit van trying to park and failing, we parked in the space that was left when it drove off.

After  a five minute walk to the mental health services building where my assessment was going to be I had just enough time to compose myself before the psychiatrist came through.

Doctor D came out and as I'd been told he was good looking but not my type. Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it, but apparently he has some rather nice muscle definition when wearing a tee-shirt.

We went through to a room, leaving my friend behind, and the two of us sat down and Doctor D started to ask me questions. Nothing too hard, and nothing I'd not been asked before. Towards the end of the assessment the doctor looked at me and told me that I'd made his job too easy. He did say that he'd think about asking me a difficult question but never did.

As we chatted I couldn't help but smile. After all it was a big moment for me and seemed to be going really well. As our chat continued I found myself wanting to giggle. It wasn't until afterwards that I realised I'd been acting very girlish. It would seem that Doctor D has that effect on women as my friend got all girlish when she was talking to him.

After about 20 minutes my assessment was over. Doctor D told me that I'd made it really easy for him and that he would be recommending me for gender reassignment surgery and also chest reconstruction.

So I passed. I got my second opinion and shortly will be getting a letter confirming that. Then it will just be a case of sorting out the funding to allow me to have my GRS in Brighton, even though it would be so much easier if done in Exeter. My chest reconstruction will be done in Exeter though as apart from it being closer I've also had a surgeon recommended to me.

So that's the next step on my journey completed. My next step is probably going to be the biggest of all. No not getting my breasts enlarged silly, but getting things corrected down below. That is still going to be a long way off. Between now and then I expect I'll be asking myself if I'm making the right decision so stick with me if I start being very analytical in some of my posts.





Sunday, 2 March 2014

Twisted Cabaret

Its not that often that I go out. Well unless you count for the odd meal with my family or to the cinema with my son, or to belly dance class and cell group.

OK, I go out quite a bit.

But I don't go out, go out.

Last Friday I went to a charity burlesque show being put on in order of our local hospital's charity appeal. As my other half works on a Friday night she couldn't come but I'd arranged to go with some of the ladies from my belly dance class.

Taxi was booked to take two of us there. I'd decided on a pair of heels and a new dress. Purple necklace and matching earrings completed the outfit. Oh and my obligatory insanely filled handbag with everything I could imagine needing for all eventualities (OK, I did leave some things at home).

Leaving my son at home until his mum returned from work I headed out.

The taxi driver was friendly and before we knew it we were at the venue. The doors hadn't opened so we had a couple of minutes to wait.

8pm came and we found ourselves inside. The place was brilliantly decorated. Each of the tables had a little, lit, tea light sitting on it. Gave the place a really nice atmosphere.

Finding a table with a good view I popped to the bar and got us a couple of drinks. I think I must be getting a lot more ladylike in my drinking habits as I only had two drinks all night. A glass of white wine and a gin and tonic. And no the wine glass wasn't big enough to hold a full bottle. Unlike the one that my sister bought as a present a few years ago.

Before too long the place was packed out and we'd been joined by the rest of our small group. I was even surprised to see one of our friends there with some of our friends. I wasn't sure that she'd recognise me but she did and we had a chat at the bar during one of the intervals.

The show eventually got underway with music from a duo called the Decibelles. Both of the ladies were incredible singers and were also very funny. The point where one of them started to sing and swayed her mic stand from side to side before promptly smacking herself in the face with it had people laughing, not least her partner. Take two for that song and they had to stop because they were laughing themselves. Take three and she managed to finish the song.

The dancers were brilliant. As you would expect there were lots of burlesque acts. There was also a very good belly dance performance that involved the use of a sword which was balanced on the ladies head. Oh, and there was a boyesque performer who also removed everything but his posing pouch.
All of the performers were brilliant and I had a great time watching each of them. In fact I was a bit overawed because I'm hoping to go along to the classes that are run each week. Now I'm beginning to wonder if they are a bit too good for me. I'm seriously thinking that I might stick with the girls I know because even though they are all as good as the ones that I saw on Friday, I know them and feel a lot more comfortable around them.

The show ended with an amazingly glamorous routine that involved fans and the removal of an evening gown.

The Decibelles then took over and performed for nearly an hour as the place wound down and people began to leave.

I even managed to surprise myself by doing something that I've not done for ages. I got up and danced. Part way through the show the Decibelles did a number of songs and encouraged everyone to get up and dance. I found the rest of my little group getting up to dance and so, even in my heels, got up and joined them. After the show had finished I again found myself on the dance floor strutting my stuff. I even enjoyed it.

Eventually though I had to sit down and catch my breath and it was that point that I noticed one of the other women across the room. I'd seen her earlier and thought that she was wearing an amazing outfit. She was wearing what I can only describe as a steampunk gladiator dress. Brown leather dress with buckles and straps and a few pouches at the waist. As I watched her she was dancing very provocatively with a guy who I assumed was her husband.

As I watched I found myself wishing that it was me dancing like that. Me dancing provocatively with a tall, handsome guy. Woo girl! Careful what you wish for, you might just get it. Well if I do then I've seen the outfit I'll be wearing. And even if I don't then I'm still getting the outfit.

Brocade Steampunk Corset

Brown Gathered Steampunk Skirt

I'll certainly stand out in that outfit.

The evening ended on a high note. To get home we needed a taxi and so made our way to where we could see some. We had a choice of two and as we approached one of the drivers lowered their window and asked if we needed a car. We said yes, got in and told him where we wanted to go. Throughout the journey he addressed us as ladies and was very polite. He even apologized for encouraging us into his taxi and said it was because he didn't want to take a chap that was hanging around talking on his mobile phone who was obviously drunk. That rounded off what had been a perfect night out.

The next show is in April and I might just be tempted to go along to that one too.





The Things I Carry

"We have an event in a few weeks time and I want some volunteers. It will involve a 5 mile march and then shooting rifles at some targets."
The Chief Petty Officer in charge of new recruits announced to us one evening.
When I was in my 20s I enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve. It was an excellent opportunity to get to know more about the people that I was helping during my day job and was a chance to do something completely different to sitting behind a desk every day.
Five weeks into basic training the CPO told us about a shoot and run event that was coming up against some of the local Territorial Army units. Any of us that wanted to have a go would get taught to shoot which I thought would be amazing. Seizing the opportunity I put my hand up.
We were told we'd hear more in due course.
Weeks went by and I heard nothing so I decided I'd not been selected.
The Tuesday evening before the event the CPO called a number of us aside and proceded to tell us the details for the weekend. I was puzzled and told him that I'd assumed I'd not been selected.
"You volunteered didn't you?"
"Yes, Chief"
"Well you should have realised that meant you were selected."
"But Chief, I don't know how to shoot."
"Don't worry, we can sort that out."
The following Saturday I nervously met up with some fellow recruits and some of the officers and we made our way the venue for the race.
On arrival we got into our kit. Combat fatigues and boots. I'd worn mine enough that they were broken in. One of the other recruits hadn't done the same, something we were soon to find out.
The officer in charge started us off and away we went. Five miles of fast walking and running held no fear for me. It was what was to come at the end that scared me.
One mile, went past, then two. Our pace wasn't that great, we kept encouraging each other. By the time we reached the third mile we had a problem. One of the other recruits was starting to limp and before long we had to stop and pull off his boot and sock. Blood coated his foot where his boots had rubbed and caused the skin to blister and then burst.
We patched his foot up as best we could and got started again. Four miles down, we were taking turns encouraging the poor guy. The senior officer has us form up into a marching order, two lines, each of us paired with another person. It looked a lot smarter than the rag tag group that we had been at times.
Our support and encouragement helped him to keep going, despite the pain he must have been in.
Finally we reached the finish and could catch our breath and prepare for the final part of the event. The shoot!
Now it was mine turn to be carried. I still had no idea of how to shoot.
One of the army reserves handed me a L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle. I'd most definitely never handled one of these. I'd handled a SA80 rifle but only while learning to perform marching drills. Now I had a rifle with live ammunition on my hands.
We were told that when ordered we were to run to the shooting line, lie down and fire off five shots. The safety was on the rifle so there was no danger of me accidently shooting someone.
"I don't know how to shoot" I said to the officer in charge of our team. "I've never fired a gun."
"OK, just carry the gun to the line and get down alongside me. Once I've fired my shots I'll have your gun and fire your shots."
Finally, someone had seen sense.
The officer in charge of the shooting section started us off and carrying a rifle full of live bullets I raced across the open ground, dropped to the floor and caught the ground with the end of the barrel. Seeing a small stone in the barrel I pulled it out.
A screaming demon appeared from nowhere and shouting at me.
"Put your safety on. Do not fire that weapon. Put your safety on."
I stared at the officer staring into my face.
"I've not taken the safety off, it's still on. I'm not going to fire."
"Put your safety on. Put it on" he yelled at me.
Finally the snarling creature reached down to flick the safety on and realised that it was already on.
I explained that I was only carrying the rifle so that one of the officers could fire off my shots. I wasn't going to be shooting myself. The magazine was removed from my rifle which was then taken from me and handed to one of the territorial army soldiers.
"Go and clean the barrel of this rifle" he was told.
As he disappeared the officer in charge of our team had just finished shooting. He removed his magazine and was handed mine. He settled down and fired off my shots.
With all our shots fired we were finally finished and were able to enjoy the rest of the weekend. Food and drink followed that evening as we were staying over for the night. We didn't win ourselves but one of our other teams came very close to winning.
I only ever carried a rifle a couple of times after that and that was while preparing for and taking part in a parade. If I never have to carry one again then I'll certainly not miss it.


Written in response to The Things I Carry writing prompt at Laura Davis' The Writer's Journey Roadmap.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Who's Experience?

The sound of giant engines tearing apart the barriers of space and time filled the air. A wooden door opened and then slammed shut. The high pitched wine of a sonic screwdriver briefly followed before silence descended. The Doctor had landed.

Or rather a small rag tag band of people had arrived at the docks area in Cardiff Bay.

As part of my son's birthday present this year my sister had paid for him, my Dad and myself to go to the Doctor Who Experience at Porth Teigr. I suspect that my Dad and I were included as part of our Christmas and birthday presents.

Deep in the heart of the docks area of Cardiff Bay, and just around the corner from the Welsh National Assembly offices is a building that looks suspiciously like a warehouse. A big, blue warehouse. Across the front of the building are the words Doctor Who Experience and a familiar DW logo.

We'd arrived a bit early and after negotiating some rather interesting traffic bollards which lowered and raised themselves automatically we found a parking space. The Doctor Who site itself doesn't have visitors parking but there is sufficient parking in the area.

With about half an hour to wait we looked at a large board containing pictures showing the history of the site from its orgins as part of the docks all the way through to its opening. I also took a couple of snaps of my son and Dad in front of Bessie, the car used by Jon Pertwee's Doctor and also in Sylvester McCoy's Doctor in the story Battlefield. These were then followed up with some of my son standing in front of a large Dalek figure made out of Lego bricks.

Bessie
At 11 o' clock we joined the queue waiting to go into the main part of the building.

As our guide explained about the half hour interactive tour we were about to embark on my son and I looked at each other. Strobe lighting, no problem. Smoke effects, again no problem. Moving floors, OK that might be an issue as my Dad uses a walking stick to get around so hopefully he'd be able to manage those or at least get around those sections without missing any of the tour.

Finally it was time to enter the world of Doctor Who. Cameras and phones were put away as there is not photography during the initial part of the visit.

The 30 minute interactive tour was great and involved helping Matt Smith's Doctor who had been captured by Daleks. Lots of lights, some smoke and even a moving floor, which Dad was able to cope with as all we had to do was stand still while the floor juddered beneath our feet.

Everything around us was superb. There were lots of things that you could recognize from the series. Finally we finished the tour and found ourselves in the main exhibition and what an exhibition.

There is so much to see, each exhibit has its own plaque telling you about it.

There are the costumes worn by each of the Doctors and a number of companions. Not so much the older ones, although there is a costume worn by Sarah Jane in the Sarah Jane Adventures. The rest of the costumes are those worn by Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Rory and River Song.

There are the consoles from 3 different Doctors, two from Classic Doctor Who and the one used by David Tennant's Doctor.
Waiting for the Doctor to whisk me away
Four different TARDIS can be found around the exhibition space. One on the ground floor and 3 side by side on the upper floor. Although I'm sure that having that many versions of the same TARDIS in close proximity must put a strain on the time and space everything did seem to be quite normal, well as normal as you can get when you have a building full of children, teenagers and Doctor Who fans together.
Time And Relative Dimensions In Space (times 3)
The rest of the exhibition contained costumes and models of chaaracers both old and new. Cybermen, Zygons, Giant Robot, The Silence, Handbots, Ood and Ice Warriors abounded.
Mum used to have a hairdryer with a hood that made you look like one of these
Then there were the Doctor's arch enemy. The Daleks. Davros, their creator was there along with 6 incarnations of the creatures that he developed. There was even my all time favorite, the Special Weapons Dalek.
Don't Mess with Me

Rounding off the exhibition were some displays where you could watch videos about the development of the theme tune and also the costumes that have been used.

After nearly an hour and a half, during which we'd not stopped to read every plaque or look closely at every exhibit, we made our way out via the obligatory shop with my son buying a couple of things. Including a rather nice 3D picture and a model of the 11th Doctor's sonic screwdriver.

We all enjoyed our visit. It was great being able to come that close to so many things that are part of a show that reached its 50th anniversary last year and is watched by millions of people around the world.

Its a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, especially if you have children. I'll probably go again in a couple of years, but next time on my own so I can take my time wandering around and actually stop to read the plaques and watch the videos.




Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Let us pray

I know that I seem to be churning out post after post at the moment but there's been so much going on recently. Today I received a letter from my GIC notifying my GP that I was to up the dosage on my Sandrena gel to 3 sachets a day from two because my estrogen levels were outside the range that the clinic would like to see. I was surprised as I thought it would be my testosterone levels that would be more worrying but they weren't. I have to have my bloods taken again next month. I'm also supposed to have my blood pressure and BMI monitored every 6 months.

That's not the reason for this post though. Its to share something that happened yesterday at church.

We've not managed to get to church at all this year so far. Yesterday I decided that we really needed to make the effort and so I made sure that we were all up with plenty of time to spare. Of course nothing goes to plan in our house and so at quarter past ten I was ready to head off to church but the rest of the family were still cleaning teeth, and putting on shoes and coats. Eventually with about 5 minutes to spare we headed off on the short trip to church.

When we arrived there was one single space outside the front of the church where we could park. We left the car and made it into the church. I was expecting us to be late but we actually had a few minutes to spare.

As it was a communion service the church was full and so there was an overspill service happening in the church room. We found some seats and settled down.

Our associate vicar appeared and asked the lady behind me if she'd be willing to read the prayers. She declined. He then turned to me and asked if I'd read them out. I was a bit taken aback as its the first time that I've been asked since I transitioned to do anything like that. I was tempted to decline also but found myself saying yes.

I was handed the sheet of paper with the prayers printed on them and told what to do. As a certain meercat in TV adverts for a UK price comparison website says "Simples".

As the service got underway the enormity of what I'd just agreed to do began to sink in. I was going to have to stand up in front of 30 or 40 people, some who knew me, others who didn't and lead them in prayers.

Eventually the part of the service where we say prayers arrived and after a brief introduction of "and now Jenna will lead us in prayers" I was up in front of everyone.

I managed to read each prayer and left a small pause before everyone joined in with some set responses. Eventually I'd finished reading the prayers and was able to sit back down.

It was nice to be involved in a service once again. I quite enjoyed it.

The talk in the middle of the service was also quite good. It was based on two readings from Genesis and was about how men and women are made in God's image and were made equal. I found myself wondering about where transgender people fit into this idea that we are all made in God's image. If that is the case then God must be at the very least intersex in order that men and women are made in his image (I'm not going to get into the pronoun argument right not, I'll refer to God as a He/Him for simplicity sake).

When the current series of talks have finished there will be a Q&A session that we can submit questions for. I'm tempted to ask where transgender and intersex people fit into this binary view of gender.

I'm also tempted to ask the question "Why is it if you have questions of a highly personal nature, like do I fancy men or women now" that you wont ask me directly but feel quite happy to ask my partner. A highly personal question that is none of anyone's business but my partner and mine. A highly personal question that could cause real problems for my partner and I if she decides to query whether I like women, and especially her.

In fact the answer to the question is ...

Nobody's business but my partner and I.

The temptation to ask awkward and personal questions is there, especially if asking the partner of a transgender individual is fair game but asking them directly doesn't happen.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Fifty Shades of Grey

OK, now I've got your attention, this isn't about the book (which I've not read although there is a copy of it sitting across the room from me that I bought as a present for my other half and she's not got around to reading). I'm also not going to share any strange, kinky interests I might have. Although I did get some grossed out looks when I was talking with two people in work and shared with them one of my little secrets, yes, they looked at me strange when I said I'd quite happily sit and eat a whole plate of mushrooms as I like them so much. Takes all sorts.

The other day I was reading Julie's post  Fifty Shades of Grey and found myself thinking about a phone conversation I had with my Dad recently where I was talking about my son and his up and coming school exams. Yes, frighteningly, he has reached that point in his school education where he sits his GCSEs and as of next September goes onto college to study childcare.

One of the things that I've struggled with for quite some time is how he is progressing at school. I've always hoped he'd do really well at school but as he enters the last few months at school and I look at his projected grades on his reports I know that he's not going to do as well as I'd have hoped.

When he was born we found that he has a condition called neurofibromatosis. It has a number of effects, one of which is that it can cause some level of difficulty with learning. Also with the years of treatment for his leukaemia and also the bone marrow transplant he missed a lot of schooling and has been playing catch-up all through secondary school. The school could have done a lot more to help him than they have, but then so could we.

Looking at his projected grades I've always felt a bit disappointed in how he's been doing. He's never going to be an A* student but his grades are going to be on the low side. I know its not his fault, he's just not academic like that. He's good with computers as he's been using them since he was about  3 or 4 when he had his first laptop, a gift from a charity in response to a Make A Wish request.

He's also amazing with children. I think he'd be an amazing Dad but all the treatment that he's had makes him having his own children unlikely, still there is always adoption.

So back to the conversation with my Dad.

We were chatting about a few things and I happened to mention that my son had been to the college on their second open evening to talk about the course he wanted. We'd wanted to check that the application form had been filled in correctly with the name of the course. By the time he came home he'd hand in the application form and had a date for his college interview.

As I was speaking with Dad I mentioned is grades and that he should get on the course because the requirements aren't very high (its a level 1 course which doesn't require high grades). The course is such that he will also have a day a week to retake his maths and English GCSEs as he's not going to get the grades that the government have decided are the minimum level that youngsters should have.

Having spoken with one of the course lecturers, and from what they were told at the college, I know that he will have all the support he needs to get through his course and also retaking his GCSEs.

As I was talking to Dad I found myself having a lightbulb moment. I found myself saying that my son could always do evening classes in things like first aid and sign language as they would be more beneficial to him in his chosen career than some of the things that he's done at school. As I thought about it more I realised that of all the courses that I did at school and even at University now that I'm well into my career I appreciate the knowledge but the things that I've really learned have been since I left formal education. Their the things I've learned through work and through my own interests.

My son will probably do the same. He'll learn the skills that he needs to do the job that he decides on when he feels that he needs them. His career will probably be of more benefit and helpful to people than mine has been. He's going to be helping children as they grow and explore the world around them. With his experiences through leukaemia and his transplant he will have more empathy for children and families that find themselves going through similar experiences.

Yes, it would be wonderful if he'd been really academic and got good grades in his exams but he's got so much more going for him and its that I have to really work on remembering.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Lunchtime drinks

Last Wednesday I was the recipient of a text message, one I wasn't expecting, but a pleasant one all the same.
My oldest and best friend sent me a message to say that he was in town working for two days. It was the perfect opportunity to catch up with each other.
The last time I saw him was sometime early last year when I popped in to see him at his business while on my way home from Malvern.
Meeting on Wednesday was out of the question as he had one of his staff with him and so couldn't pop in on his way home, Thursday was a different matter and so we arranged to meet up at the pub next to where I work.
Thursday morning I was up early because I wanted to make an extra special effort to look my best. I wore a black and white, sleeveless dress and a long black cardigan with a pair of black heels.
Work went by slowly but eventually it was lunchtime and time to walk over to the pub. As I was making my way across the office car park I saw a car turn off the main road and head towards the entrance to the pub. I recognised the driver and waved.
Crossing the car park as quickly as I could we said hello and then strolled into the pub and ordered drinks at the bar, a coffee for my friend and a dry white wine for me.
Finding a table we perched ourselves on the stools and chatted for the next hour.
It really was great catching up but I found one thing really interesting about how the conversation.
In the past when we've chatted our conversations have been pretty equal. On Thursday my friend did most of the talking. My contributions were mostly questions that allowed him to keep talking. It was surprising and not something that I was expecting. We did talk about my job, family and transition but it was more in passing than anything.
I know that men and women communicate differently depending on whether they are in mixed groups of men and women or just groups of men or women. It was fascinating to see that demonstrated, especially as it means that he's made the mental shift to seeing me as a woman.

Pumping iron - again

Last November I suspended my membership at our local leisure centre. I'd been using the pool there for swimming while training for triathlons and the gym to add some strength training and different cardio exercises to my keep fit routine. I'd also been going to the gym with my son in order to encourage him to do some strength training.

In the run up to cancelling my membership we slowly stopped going to the gym as my son had lost interest. He also had some examination coming up at school and wanted to have the extra time available should he need it which was understandable.

So I decided that I'd suspend my membership until the New Year and he would have to decide whether or not he wanted to go the the gym himself at that point otherwise I'd cancel my membership altogether.

In January my membership resumed, it took a couple of weeks before I realised it had. Once I did I bought some new gym clothes, women's gym clothes, because at some point I knew I would need to start going to the gym as Jenna because I'd simply not be able to hide my breast development.

So today was the day. Today I went back to the gym, with my son, but not looking as a man but as a woman. Of course a padded sports bra helped give me a bit of extra shape up top but the biggest thing I did was to wear make-up. I know that my foundation can survive going out for a run, even the eye shadow, lipstick and blusher (yes it was full make-up) can survive doing some exercise.

I wasn't sure how people would react, so I was a bit nervous. As we were going in I bumped into someone from work as they were leaving and said hello to them. After showing my membership card the rest of the session was fairly normal. I got a couple of glances of people in passing but nothing more than I'd expect if I'd gone without make-up and wearing male sport clothing.

I went easy on the cardio exercises in order to allow me to get back into things. I even reduced the weights on some of the exercises but I was soon putting some of them back up on the second reps as they were too light, which was a surprise.

Hopefully this will now turn into a regular Sunday afternoon session. I've gotten over one of the biggest hurdles I think I still had to face which was going to the gym as Jenna. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Even my son has admitted that, after all the world didn't end or anything.