HOME FROM HOME & HERE COMES THE CIRCUS

Since the beginning of 2017, there have been but a few opportunities to meet with my dear friend Kirsty. The principal reason being that due to commitments her free nights do not often coincide with mine. So it is always a delight when we can meet up. A few weeks ago Kirsty announced that she would be available to meet if that suited my timetabke on Wed 26th of April, possibly even in the afternoon though that was a bit up in the air due to her potential family commitments, but the evening would most certinly be on the cards. Consequently I decided to book myself a day’s holiday from work to be ready in good time and to spend some welcome ‘me’ time in the afternoon before we would meet up.  As the new support group temporary premises are now located just off the city centre in Belfast whilst we seek a replacement for those in Lisburn, a meal in Belfast city centre would be an obvious option. I asked would Kirsty mind choosing a restaurant as she would have a much better knowledge of both where might be available and just as importantly where might be a good choice. I think Kirsty was a little bemused by my faith in her choosing somewhere, but I have little knowledge of the scores of excellent restaurants that exist in the city. The only time I am dining there is normally with her and she knows the city so much better than I. Anyhow she did come back fairly quickly to me to say we were booked for 18.45 in a restaueant called HOME in Wellington Place for the 26th. I had to bring up Google maps to find out where that was. Ah! So that’s where it is! Close to the City Hall. She assured me that on street parking would be possible close to the venue. She was right, but I shall come back to that later. 

So I got prepared that morning and made the 80 mile journey from home to ‘the big smoke’ arriving at the premises where I store my belongings shortly after midday. So what to do for the afternoon? Several ideas ran through my mind. I could, after getting ready, travel over to the town of Ballymena some 30miles north of Belfast. I know Ballymena quite well having worked in it off and on as Bob these past 34 years and it is an excellent shopping town with an array of both big chain stores but more importantly a good variety of local independant retailers. Ballymena is also famous for being the centre of ‘The Bible Belt’ in the North of Ireland. I did make a trip there last week but that was mid evening and although the main shopping centre (The Fairhill) was open until 9pm, at least 50% of its’ stores were closed from 5 or 5.30pm. But even though it was nice as a venue change. Alternativly I could simply head for Belfast City centre. Another thought, and something I have been intending to do for over a year now, was to make a trip to The Ulster Museum in the Queens University area of Belfast, but given my probable time of being ready was going to be around 2pm, three hours to properly visit the museum might be tight, if I was to take in all on display. The museum did however appeal to me as I really wanted something apart from simply shopping for clothes or shoes which really I don’t need. Finally there was the formerly named Junction 1 outlet in Antrim town. (Now just called The Junction).  As it turned out this was where I travelled to. Being as it is less than 30mins drive away and returning into Belfast around 6pm should be relativly easy with respect to traffic as much of the traffic flow will be out of the city and not into it. 

So at approximatly 2pm I made my way to The Junction. These past few years this outlet shopping area has been in a decline with at least 50+% of its stores now closed down as one after another large retail chain folded during the recession. It has recently come under new ownership hence the subtle name change and there are plans to have it restored to its former glory days. I shall not hold my breath but who knows. There was nothing I had in mind to buy but I was content to browse and mingle with the shoppers there and I did spend a very pleasant few hours which included a nice coffee break. What I did finally purchase was a card for Kirsty to congratulate her on a very recent momentous purchase. I shall leave it to her to spill the beans on what that was. The card may gave been a tad premature, but as we meet infrequently I reasoned that now was as good an opportunity as any. I also had a second card I needed to get for my nephew’s 21st birthday which is this weekend. Now a 21st card you would consider to be an easy buy, but what was on offer I felt was not the wish I wanted to convey. The majority were about getting drunk or similar things. Why…. Why is that acceptable? So his card had to wait. 

So armed with my huge purchase of a card for Kirsty, I left Antrim town and made the journy back to Belfast for a quick change of skirt, top and heels and ventured to Wellington Place and our meal at Home. I found a parking spot almot too easily and too convenient to the restaurant. It was marked ‘Loading Only’ but as it was 6.30pm I reasoned that that applied to business hours. I was about 12 mins ahead of schedule so I sat to wait on Kirsty. Two mins later she drove by so I kept my sights on the restaurant entrance some 60mtrs away. Five mins later Kirsty drove past me again. I got a text a few mins later saying she could not get parked nearby and she had parked at least 5mins walk away. As it was the time that our meal had been booked for I replied that I would head on in and meet her inside. So in I went and our waitress showed me to our table. I explained that my friend was still finding a place to park and would be in shortly. Sure enough about five mins later I glimpsed Kirsty passing by the window, however it seemed an extrodinarly long time for her to eventually enter. As it happened she had met a friend outside. A few mins later in came a smiling Kirsty. When I told her where I had got parked she informed me that the loading bays in Belfast are 24hr and I might wind up with a ticket. Our waitress confirmed this. So on with my coat and out to the car I rushed, Thinking it may be maybe 15 mins at least before my eventual return, I told Kirsty what my order would be. Luck must have been on my side because I found a safe and legal parking spot even closer to the restaurant and was back within 5 mins. Result indeed.

Our meal was very nice indeed. I opted for grilled whole seabass, not thinking that would be exactly that. The whole fish, head bones and all. However it was delicious despite having to negotiate the bones. We both had a lovely conversation and a good old catch up on what was happening in our lives, though Kirsty’s I must say is much more interesting at present. We spent a lovely two hours in deep conversation, enjoying the excellent food, before leaving the restaurant and Kirsty accompanied me back to the Belfast Butterfly Club meeting place for the remainder of the evening where she did a dry run on us of a quiz she had designed for a family get together she is to have soon. 

As always an enjoyable day seems to pass by all too quickly and by midnight I found myself in my ‘Bob disguise’ on the road back home. Normally each week the long drive home is quiet with very little traffic, but on this occasion I met at least six convoys of heavy vehicles driving over the Glenshane Pass heading in the direction of Belfast. Each convoy consisted of an average of 10 HGVs and caravans. Tom Duffy’s Circus was on the move to yet another town to entertain those who want to see them. 

And so good people, that is it for the moment. Nothing spectacular is happening in my life. Life is good and I am content. I am also very happy for Kirsty in how progress has been this year for her and you can read all about it in her excellent blogs.

As always thank you for reading and always remain true to yourself.

A TRIP TO LA LA LAND!Β 

My friend Kirsty has since before Christmas 2016 been unable to meet up on our usual occasional Wednesday evening for a little bit of welcome conversation, gossip and a light snack due to other current commitments so we both agreed that a weekend meet up would be a good idea. Before seeking to arrange a suitable Saturday evening I wanted to give her space to sort a few private matters out. You can read all about that in her recent blog. Knowing that matters had gone well for her, in fact very well indeed, I contacted her to find out if she might be available this weekend (21/01/17). Indeed she was. So what to do then was the question. Kirsty asked would I like a cinema outing so I asked what was currently showing. She knows that I have no interest in sci-fi type films so she suggested a musical currently on release called La La Land. She explained it was a musical that aped the heyday of the great musicals.Yes that might do, and added to that she suggested an early evening meal, possibly at The Plough in Hillsborough. Great. I did ask as she was organising the film session would she mind booking the table for the meal that way we could avoid crossed lines of communication with respect to timings. Kirsty explained that she does like to pre book the cinema for two main reasons. You are assured of avoiding disapointment at the box office should the showing be booked out, and you can choose where you wish to sit. I had bever realised that some cinemas worked on seat allocation. She is way more experiened as a cinema goer than I am, so knew right away where the best seats were to be found. Excellent seat choice Kirsty, but I am running ahead of myself.

Saturday 21st arrived as a beautiful sunny but chilly January morning. The sunny calm conditions lasted throughout the day. As Mrs M was to be away for the weekend it was easier not having to think of a valid reason for my prolonged absence for the day and shortly after her departure I made my preparations and hit the road for the Belfast Butterfly Club premises to get ready to face the world at around 11.30 am. As I was approaching Lisburn where our support centre is situated I heard my phone give its familiar ‘ping’ sound telling me that I had a message. I suspected it would be Kirsty letting me know her own arrival time. As I turned into the street where the support premises are at 1.20pm I noticed her Ford parked up, so once I got parked myself I checked my messages. Sure enough it was from Kirsty

K “I’ll see you at the BBC around 5.30”

M “Outside now”

Clearly we both had expected the other to be arriving solely for the meal and cinema, not thinking the other may be planning something solo prior to this. In all honesty I had intended to be at the club premises earlier but was delayed at home. Anyhow this was not a problem as there are two changing areas available. By 3 pm I was ready to head out, Kirsty was already away almost an hour before me. My plan was initially go to the Junction One retail park in Antrim town and then make my way into the town centre. I lived in Antrim for seven years but having left there 26 years ago I was curious  to see how much things had changed. However due to my later than planned arrival time, time was against me. I was looking for a few specific kitchen utensil items and at Junction One there is an excellent kitchen / household outlet store except! There no longer was. The store was closed down like at least 60% of the Junction One outlet stores. In The North Of Ireland there are two Outlet retail parks, the second being located on the outskirts of Banbridge. Both are virtual ghost towns, both are essentially struggling to survive. In essence, well this is my theory anyhow, the bargains promised are not that great. Stores seem to offer what does not sell easily in the main stores, or last year’s product. Linked to these high street store ‘clearing houses’, there are also outlets for a few overpriced designer labels. So a combination of factors such as those I have already mentioned, allied to the economic recession over the last 10 years and the shine has faded from these outlet centres. And I doubt the eceonomic troubles will improve with Brexit. But I am getting off the storeyline. So as I was at The Outlet I thought why not! I shall browse what stores remain though I had nothing additional that I was looking for. Just over an hour later and I had exhaused the decent stores that remained in business and it was time to return to Lisburn to meet with Kirsty.

Around 5.45pm both Kirsty and I were on our way for a meal. The venue was to be The Hillside in Hillsborough. A new one for me, though I think Kirsty had been there before. It was located less than 100 yrds away from our usual dining venue The Plough. It was really nice to have somewhere new to dine. The Hillside turned out to be a bit of a ‘Tardis’. On the exterior it gave the appearance of a small public house which no doubt it begain its life as, but it went back and back and back plus it had a small first floor dining area, which was where we were both lead to our seats. I must say I was quite taken by the overall feel of the place. Rustic is I suppose an apt description. Service was very good and our waitress attentive. The food I would say was good also, but given my choice of dish, battered haddock with chips and mushy peas, getting that wrong would have been a sin. My only complaint and to be honest it is minor, and that us why serve this dish in a mock chip basket with mock news paper lining the basket? I personally find that whilst it may look visually pleasing, that is where it ends. Serve it on a plate, thats what plates are designed for! Should I be back at the Hillside, and I hope I am, and I order fish and chips I shall request a proper plate. Grumpy old lady rant over 😂😂. Kirsty sermed to enjoy her meal also, though I shall not comment too much as she may speak about it if she includes last night in her next blog. As we were under a time contraint, one course was all we had plus a coffee. I honestly believe Kirsty was a little disapointed at not having a sweet course. πŸ˜•

We left a very busy Hillside around 7.20pm and made the 500yrd walk back to my car. Climbing the steep main street back was much easier than coming down it. My heels were only approx 2.5 inches but walking down the hill going to the Hillside was a bit of work. Stepping into the chilly night air felt good and refreshing. So back to Lisburn and the cinema complex. Parking looked like it could be problematic, but fate was with us and we found a convenient parking spot less than 100yrds from the cinema door. Because Kirsty had pre booked we were able to enter quickly by-passing the box office queues. She simply presented her phone to have a bar code scanned. First stop though was a quick visit to the ladies. Kirsty turned right and I stopped her to tell her the toilets we to the left. “Not ours” Kirsty said. I looked at the sign again and then I saw it. I had simply read toilets not seeing the male symbol. Doh!!! Silly girl. Exiting the ladies and whilst walking across the foyer, Kirsty discretly announced that I had a piece of toilet roll caught on my heel. Yes I did indeed. A quick pause to remove the offending debris. Well at least I had not caught it in my knickers and was trailing a whole roll behind me. Now that would have been amusing. 😂😂

Talk about perfect timing. We settled into our comfortable, well positioned seats (Excellent choice Kirsty) just as the ads and trailers had finished. Straight down to business. Now I don’t mind admitting that I not a fan of musicals, but I was keen to give this one a chance and more so hoped that I enjoyed it. I will not spoil the story for anyone wishing to go and see this film. What I shall say is this though. This is a musical in the style of the traditional Hollywood style of the 40s & 50s heydays of the big musical right down to the music style of Jazz. It is very much a feel good movie of boy meets girl, both struggling to make it in entertainment. Well two things happened for me. After a very slow start, the film picked up and I can say with all honesty, that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think Kirsty felt the same about the slow start. The other thing for me was getting an appreciation of where Jazz originated, or should I saw how it orginated. I am not a fan of Jazz by any streatch of the imagination, but as a lover of Blues and even some Funk, I appreciste that it is an essential element within the bigger mix. Jazz permetes so many styles if modern music. Rock and Blues (listen to the late Rory Gallagher, it is heard in quite a bit if his work), Country (Willie Nelson can be very Jazz orrientated), to just name two musical forms. Just after 10pm we left the cinema. Kirsty asked me how I enjoyed it and I told her honestly that after the very slow start, it really picked up and yes I really enjoyed it. She agreed totally but added that she would love to watch it again. So success then.

We made our short drive back to the BBC support premises and said our respective good nights to each other. Kirsty made her way back home and I had the prospect of diguising myself as Bob again. :?. A very very enjoyable evening. Thank you Kirsty, and so great to see you again after a month.

So folks, time to sign off again. Be yourself and reach for that goal. It is your journey. Make the most of it.

LOST IN THE MOMENT

He looked like a military man. That was the impression he gave. Probably in his 70s but as I age myself it becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain the age of those that I suspect are older than me. Well!  Look like they are older than me. I have met people younger than myself but to me look older. Age can be confusing sometimes. ‘You look around, and you look around and then there are no more old people’ Not an exact quote from folk singer Tom Russell but pretty close. With his white moustashe neatly trimmed, full head of short and neat hair a tad longer than a regulation forces cut, decked out in winter jacket and slacks. Yes I would safely say military. His wife sitting about two feet to his right. Somewhere between 65 to 75. Both well preserved. Not a word uttered between them, like two teenagers engrossed with their mobile phones surfing the internet. Facebook? Probably! E-mail reading. E-mail answering. Possibly!. Whatever was occupying their attention, both were lost in their own cocoons, seemingly oblivious to each other and the world around them. I studied them intermittently for close on 35 mins. 

Three tables to milirary man’s left (at 9 o clock in his world) sat a lone middle aged woman. What is middle age?  Who knows. A 55yr old once described themselves as middle age in a letter to the late Terry Wogan on his breakfast radio show on BBC radio2 several years ago. Terry quickly quipped, “does this mean you are going to live to 110”. A valid question. Middle aged lady sat legs apart male style, thankfully she was wearing trousers. Her pose had me thinking how a pint of Guinness accompanied by a whiskey chaser would not look amiss in an Irish pub, as she enjoyed the craic and atmosphere of the bar. Log fire burning in the grate, traditional session in the corner, fiddle bowed, bordhan beat, guitar strummed, jigs reels and hornpipes. She too was absorbed in her own little broadband universe. Surfing the web or doing her Facebook thing. 

Meanwhile glancing back towards ‘military man’ I see him writing notes or is it numbers, figures, into a small paperback pocket-size notepad. Online bets, online business, selling, buying? Who knows. All three. Milirary man, milirary wife, woman at the bar. Oblivious of who was there, seemingly oblivious to the world. Only looking at their smart phones. Fingers dancing over screens. A quick swipe here, a flick there. Observing these three people as I tucked into my regular Wedensday meal at the local Marks and Spencer. Ham and cheese toastie, very tasty. Hot medium black Americano to wash it down. Coffees, or was it teas that sat on the tables in front if my three internet surfers? I guess ‘milirary man’ is a tea fan. Earl Grey? Yes that would sound right. None of your fancy beverages for him. Keep it simple. Traditional! Of course. 

Still surfing. Still lost in the moment

Are ‘military man’ & ‘military wife’ so comfortable with each other, that words are not required? So comfortable that they sit and seemingly can ignore the other’s presence? But it looks so rude to those who can see them. Well to me it looked rude. Were their phones so important to them? If their phones were not available, perish the thought, they would have to make conversation. Still maybe they are comfortable just knowing the other is there. Maybe that is sufficient. I just cannot help but think though that something inainmate, is of more importance. I am too judgemental? Possibly

Meanwhile ‘bar lady’ continues to do her inrernet stuff. But she has a valid excuse. She is alone. 

Occasionally each of these three momentarily pull their eyes if not their being away from their phone screens. They glance around them. Faces lacking expresdion, emotion. Nothing odd their eyes declare and it is straight back to their business. 

To my left two ladies are heavily engrosed in a conversation. They were there when I stepped into the cafe and would be when I stand up to leave 35 mins later. Quite normal. Very civilized. Behind me sat a bespectacled middle aged lady, like myself enjoying her own company. Was she people watching also? As she was behind me I did not know. I see her leave 10mins before I do. Further behind a group of 5 ladies enjoying a coffee together. Their conversation is lively, a little loud but not so much so as to be intrusive. I certainly cannot hear what they say, but one has quite a piercing laugh. I hear it above the low rumble of general conversation every now and then. Just a normal and not too busy evening at the cafe. Through the entrance archway or should I say opening a few late night shoppers go about their search for that perfect item. Sale bargain? If they are lucky. A bargain is only a bargain if you need it. I have just recently been one of them and when I leave the cafe I return to join them though I will leave empty handed. Shop staff I can see “buzzing” around, arranging floor displays or moving stock. Summer displays beginning to appear in store. The cafe manager sitting alone at a table by the kitchen entrance completing the day’s requisite paperwork. He must be bored but it has to be done.

People watching. Therapetuic? Probably

Enjoying my snack, my Wednesday evening meal, and yes I gave in to the temptation. Gave in as I knew I eventually would. The naughty, the ‘sinful’ slice of double chocolate layer cake looking at me, mocking me, staring me down. Saying to me “Eat me. Eat me”  Sitting on it’s plate waiting for me to finish my toasted sandwich. It does look delicious. It tastes delicious. Ten mins of sheer heaven as I slowly work my way through eating it. Resisting everthing but temptation. Thats me. But I have been good since the beginning of this year. I have avoided such tasty crumbs, until now. And it was delicious, tasty and satisfying. Back to ‘porridge’ after that. Well a girl needs a little treat every now and then so long as it is only every now and then. 

Lost in the moment. Loving my own company. Enjoying it. People watching. Part of the crowd and apart from it. Doing my thing. Relaxing. Relaxed. Happy to be. Savouring my precious weekly 5 or 6 hours just being myself. More hours. Many more hours, days even, or weeks, months years, for ever would be wonderful. Michelle forever, now there is a lovely thought. But I make do. I have to I have made my choice a long time ago, accepted how life has worked out. Happy with it? If I am honest? Yes I am. I think about recent events, in particular recent events in the unfolding life of my good friend Kirsty. And I smile happily to myself. So happy to know that everything will be fine for her. Yes life at this moment is good. 

In my own little world and loving every moment.

“Meantime life goes on all around you” Bob Dylan


So as always be yourself, be who you are not who someone wishes you to be. Reach for your goals. It is in your hands.

VANITY CAN MAKE US FEEL IT IS NOT ALL FAIR!

Is there such a state as having ‘The perfect body’? Well advertising thinks there is. Hollywood or should I say the film industry thinks there is. Media leads us to believe the same. So it is no wonder that we humans have come to believe the hype. I know I would tell you different. I would say that I am not influenced by all that and I as I tell you this. Well!! Just watch my nose growing longer. Both myself and my Bob persona are influenced. My weight is important. How I appear is important. How people see me is very important or should I say how I expect people to see me is important. We are vain. We create an illusion of who we are, of who or what we wish to be and sometimes all may not be as you see it. I am a case in point. I create an illusion of who I am. Foundation wear creates a body shape I wish to portray to the world. I have done so for years and rely on it for both self confidence and appearance. I suppose if we are basically happy with who we see in that mirror, then we are confident.

“Mirror mirror on the wall”

And that is the crux of the matter. Being happy with our appearance in so far as we can influence it. A case in point with myself was that towards the end of 2016, I finally decided to address a matter that as Bob bothered me, but as Michelle really embarrased me. It is a genetic trait but I had managed to cover it as best I could for the last 10 to 15 years. Eventually vanity got the better of me and I really have to say the results have transfomed how I feel about my appearance. Outside of my immediate family, my friend Kirsty was the only person I told that I intended to get this done or even that I had done it. With help from my dentist I no longer try to hide my teeth and the result has been worth the effort. Now by no streatch of the imagination are my gnashers as perfect in appearance as those below, they are not quite as white or straight but that is not and never was the goal. Not to be self concious was the aim.

So of course it is the little things that influence us. To use a certain supermatket’s slogan “Every little helps”, and that essentially sums us up in many cases.

Being trans* one can find, well at least I do, that we have two people to cater for in style and appearance. Both are important to me. However I am more discerning than Bob and generally better dressed, a lot better dressed. Where Bob is casual 95% of the time in jeans, shirt and trainers, I am much more smart-casual, well to be honest very much at the smart side of the smart / casual spectrum preferring a skirt, top and court shoes. Maybe I over compensate for Bob’s dislike of formal wear. I digress though. The title of the blog alludes to vanity and our need to appear as we feel right. The right clothes, the right make up, the right shoes, to have the right body be that by natural or artificial means, and this in a long winded way brings me round to the initial inspiration for this blog.

I have in my minds eye how I want to appear, how I want people to see me and to achieve that desired look or at least to approximate it, I have to create it by what ever means is realistic to do so. In essence I have had to learn to be an actress, but I am far from alone in that one. So for many years now I have carefully transformed from Bob to myself by following a certain well tried and proven formula or procedure, I have always believed this to be working for me and to be honest it more or less does, but a little pointer or well placed word of guidance can be invaluable. Sometines even welcomed, particularly if I have been looking for a valid reason to change but have been frightened to do so. Β It can move you out of a certain rut or change how you think about something, and hopefully for the better.

Soooo!

Several weeks ago a long time associate member of our trans* support group passed a comment to me, which at the time I regarded as being inappropriate and quite rude. I still feel the same about it though rather than getting angry about it I decided to consider it. (Had they passed the same remark to a cis woman chances are it would have resulted in them receiving a slap across the face.) My friend Kirsty commented to me when I brought it up with her in casual conversation, that my eyes were throwing daggers at the person in question. Anyhow the comment was “Your tits are very big” Now they may have said this as they thought in humour, and that may be the case, but considering I am a modest ‘B’ cup, I failed to see why they should say this or even be so forward and rude. Now do not get me wrong I have a lot of time for this person and generally enjoy their conversation. Later Kirsty sheepishly said to me that my love of wearing a tight corset does exaggerate my breasts thus making them more prominant, hence the probable reason for this person’s comment. So! And this is not verbatum or even the true conversation, but it is basically how I recall it. Or should I say the gist if it

“I think your corset makes your breasts stand out more, thats why I think the comment was passed”

“Do you really think so”

“Yes. Honestly I do”

“But! I would not feel right without one. It gives me a more feminine shape”

” But you don’t need it”

“Do you really think so”

“Yes I do”

Kirsty then went on to say that back in June when we met with the wonderful Nour who had travelled over to meet us from England, that in her hurry to get prepared to collect her at the airport, she had forgot to take an item she had considered essential and as a consequence had gone that whole weekend without it to no ill effect. Well I had not noticed and I suspect no one else had. Her point in telling me this was that in reality my corset is a crutch. Nothing more and nothing less. Well that began to give me pause for thought. Maybe I do not need this item of attire, however I was so used to wearing my corset, in fact I liked wearing it, how it felt on me, except on the occasions when sitting that one of the steel rods would sometimes poke into my groin. Painfull? Yip! Also I suppose when we would be out dining, because it compressed my tummy, I would feel a little full after I had only consumed part of my meal. So! Could I forsake wearing it? Would I feel I looked OK without it? So I pondered the matter. My initial decision was not to fasten it just so tight, so for the following few weeks I did just that. It still had a tendency to occasionally stick a metal rod painfully into my groin. Then on the next occasion that myself and Kirsty were meeting up I decided to take what for me was a momentious step and dispense with it all together. See if she noticed. She did and complemented me on taking the leap of faith and assured me I looked great without it on. To be honest? She is right. I don’t need it.

Well five things happened!

1. My breasts immediatly became less prominant, more natural looking. Infact they became noticably smaller. My old ‘C’ cup breast forms that I used to wear now look right should I choose to wear them.

2. Ironically some of my skirts that I had previously found difficult to fasten or zip up, buttoned and zipped up much easier. That sort of confounded me. My corset had always pulled my stomach in and held it. Made it look flat. So how could this be? But as Kirsty rightly pointed out, although it was no longer being pulled in there was more flexability. She was right in that.

3. My shoulders, which incidently are not broad, at least when I am disguised as Bob, look more or less in proportion as my waist is not pulled in.

4. My bum does not look so big again as my waist is not pulled in. In other words my bum padding looks in proportion. However I would point out that a larger bum size never bothered me.

5 Β I looked fine.
So for around 5 weeks now the less restriced me has been on display and I really must say I do like the effect it has had on my appearance. I feel much more comfortable, particularly whilst driving or sitting in general. I do worry a little that the lack of a corset may leave me with a tendency to slouch by taking away a means of ensuring my back stays straight, but having said that I do normally walk with my back straight anyhow. It really was an un-necessary crutch. Something I thought I needed. I suppose this was a product of me wishing to create the body shape that I thought I should have when in reality my body is more or less where I need it to be. I am lucky in that I am of a slight build although I am 5’8″, a little tall but not outstandingly so. I regulatly meet cis women taller than me. Also I am slim(ish), but after the excess of Christmas I do need to shed several pounds of weight, though I would not be classed as over weight at 11st 5Ibs. I just need to get back to my target weight of 10st 7Ibs. So cake and sweet denial has begun in ernest and I am a lady with a very sweet tooth indeed. So vanity now kicks in with regard to what many might say is a non problem over weight.

There is always something to be vain about I suppose even if we say we are not.

So what else has been happening in the world of Michelle?. Well not a lot to be honest. My life is pretty much normal, as I have in previous blogs stated, I am very comfortable in myself. I do not meet up with my friends Kirsty and Andrea just so frequently any more and I do miss their once frequent company. However when we do meet it is all the more enjoyable. Our last get together was at our favourite restsurant The Plough in Hillsborough during the week in the run up to Christmas day. (Wed 21/12/16 to be exact). We had a wonderful few hours of relaxing conversation, good food and good surroundings before exchanging cards and gifts, and wishing each other a Happy Christmas and parting ways.

I continue to marvel at the lack of attention I draw. No one and I do mean this, seem to pay me any attention. I dine each week as I have done now for approaching two years at the local Marks & Spencers cafe. No doubt I am well known there, I normally am greeted warmly by staff members there. I am still not confident in my voice, but as Bob occupies over 90% of my time, I would not be too sure about voice training or at least the praticalities of it. I just hope my speaking efforts dont ruin all my other efforts. Teenagers still leave me nervous, but none appear to have noted anything out of the ordinary. Groups of youths scare me totally, especially where they are being boisterous in their quest to prove how macho they are in the presence of their equally immature friends. If they ‘clock’ you life could get very scary indeed. Mind you Bob is non too chuffed at meeting such a group either. I will go out of my way to avoid this type of group. I find that I am certainly much more aware of my surroundings, much more wary of danger, and not because I am trans*, but because I am a lone woman. Places I would not worry about going through as Bob, I think about twice, especially after dark.

So as always I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Stay true to who you are and reach for your goal(s). Be open to advice and opinion but also know it is just that. Everyone has their own views on things and we select that which we feel will benefit ourselves.

CHANGES / FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS & COMFORTABLE IN MYSELF

I am most certainly not a big fan of the late David Bowie, though he did compose some incredible classic songs not least Heroes which I simply love. He did have a few best of albums out one of which was called Changes. When I opted for this in the blog title which in the initial draft was simply Changes, I was not thinking about the great man but once in my little head I immediatly thought of Bowie and the album called Changes. Anyway I suppose I am simply using up space and words here by telling you all of this pointless fact. So what do I mean about changes? 

Several weeks ago my very good friend Kirsty announced that she needed to be more spontanious and less regimented in her life. In essence she required change. Nothing at all wrong in that. It is no secret as she has indicated in her blog posts that she is on a huge journey of change and knowing her as I do, routine is not really her bag. So up to now most weeks when I attended our support group I would have been assured of her delightful company for a coffee and chat at the local Marks & Spence cafe. Shopping together regularly is really not our thing as we both love the freedom of solo shopping and our tastes in clothes are rarely similar though we respect and appreciate each othrs style and choice. Shopping together? I tend to feel I am holding her back when I am shopping and possibly she feels she may be holding me back, so I always would look forward to our chat and snack after our seperate shopping trips. That little snippit of time when we can simply chill and shoot the breeze. Our personal interests are a little similar. We are both huge music fans, we both are into road cycling. We do chat occasionally of our children and also our significant others. In short I do enjoy her company as I hope she enjoys mine. 

Initially I was feeling a touch rejected, no that is not the correct term. To be honest I felt and do feel that I am being left behind as my friends move to a new phase in their lives. However that is a result of my personal choice. Two of my close friends for this past two plus years are now either moving on or are already are on that journey of realising their true self. Andrea, the third part of what is affectionatly known as The Lisburn Ladies Fine Dining Club has been full time now for close on two years.(Was it Kirsty or our mutual on line friend Ruth who coined that phrase? No doubt one or other of the two ladies will clarify that) Kirsty is set to follow very soon. I shall never realise that goal. But do not feel sorry for me in that. I have made my decision to occupy two worlds. That of Bob and Michelle. Why?? Well as I have stated in previous blogs I cannot break my wife’s heart by going full time and also I would be too scared to take such a brave step. I have accepted that reality and can I believe live with it. So with that out of the way, how have I been finding being on my own so to speak? Well pretty good if I am being truthful, but I too need a little change of regular scenary. Just to do a few different things or to visit new places and well broaden my horizons. Kirsty has assured me that we will meet up probably monthly for a good old natter and a coffee. Yes please, I should like that immensley and will look forward to those times. So those are the changes I allude to in the title.

So it has been quite some time since I last posted anything. It has not been because I am not getting me time, it is just that much of my activities have been and are repetitive and I really do not wish to bore everyone with another tale of my shopping exploits, though I probably will do so at some point in this blog. I suppose I have really settled into a routine of enjoying ‘Michelle’s Adventures’. To be honest they really are not so much adventures any longer. I have long ago ceased to be worried or afraid to be myself in public. By and large I feel that I am just another woman going about her business, without hassle and with apparant acceptance as the woman I am. I still am concerned that my voice will let me down, give me away, but the strange thing is, that does not appear to be an issue with anyone whom I have encountered. I certainly would not wish to be in any way complacent about that, because in being complacent one is more likely to be caught out so to speak. I do feel that I hold a healthy awareness of my surroundings and I do try to ensure that I do not place myself at undue risk. In other words I am always aware that things could go a bit pear shaped in the wrong situation. 

I continue to do a bit of shopping, though these past few weeks I have succeeded in keeping the combination of my purse lock a secret from my self, and have managed to really spend very little on even more clothes or shoes though the desire for more is ever with me. Moths are now breeding in my purse I suspect πŸ˜‚. Skirts and tops are always high on my want list but really I have more than enough to be getting on with it. It has long been a running joke between myself and my dear friend Kirsty, that I am to skirts, what Imelda Marcos is to shoes. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. In reality although I have now a wide choice of outfits, I repeatedly find myself selecting the same few skirts or tops within my wardrobe. I suspect like anyone, I have my firm favourites, though something new or different is always nice to wear. Several weeks ago I found a lovely semi casual dress in one of my favourite stores, Menareys, and though I have yet to wear it out anywhere, I am looking forward to christening it. Probably the next time The Lisburn Ladies Fine Dining Club have an outing, which I hope is not that far away on the horizon. 

In a previous post several months ago I had mentioned the possibility of our support group having to find new premises. Well the upshot of all that is that we seem to be secure where we have always been at least for the forseeable future. The very thought that I would have nowhere to firstly store my belongings, and secondly to get myself ready, really would frighten me. What is available to me where we currenty are is quite simply a Godsend not to put too fine a point on it. I am not someone that would be prone to depression, but not being able to express myself would certainly tip that balance. However I am always, well mostly, a ‘glass half full’ type of girl and even ‘the glass can always be refilled’ girl, so I suppose I always see hope in most situations. Our support group does have an alternative meeting venue available, however wardrobe space would be severely curtailed. That is a bridge to cross however should the situation ever arise should our current premises no longer be available.

Yesterday evening (26/10/16) I had a very enjoyable hour with both my friends Kirsty and Andrea when we arranged to meet up at my usual Wednesday evening eatary, Marks & Spencers cafe. It was lovely to meet both ladies after several weeks and well catch up on what each other had been doing and just have an enjoyable conversation. It has to be around four weeks since I was last in Kirsty’s company and three since meeting with Andrea. We parted after our meals and plans have been made for a more upmarket restaurant meal and meet up very soon, probably next week which I really am looking forward to. Although we were catching up on each other’s lives and gossip, because we all keep in contact on line, mainly through an on line game of Scabble called Words With Friends, we pretty much know what is going on. 

Words With Friends is a game that Andrea introduced me to approximatly two years ago and because I always enjoyed playing Scrabble, I love it.It does differ very slightly from true Scrabble in that many of the scoring tile positions are placed differently on the board and I have also found that the dedicated Scrabble dictionary I have owned for many many years, longer than I care to mention, contains many words that are not acceptable even though they are in the original board game. Because it is on line, each game may take several days as you simply delve in and out as time or inclination allows, though on occasion I find myself switching off my tablet to do something else when I hear the familiar ‘ping’ telling me someone has just played a word, and of course I head sraight back to the game. Over time I have noticed my avearge scoring total improving and you do begin to think stategically as to the best place on the board to play to maximise your chances of a win and to hopefully, but usually not, block an opponant getting a high word score. Well that is the idea. Kirsty is a particualy skilled player and can be a hard opponant to beat. Even should I be 100 points ahead I never feel safe in the knowledge that I have the game sewn up. She has an uncanny knack of pulling something out of the bag. The most enjoyable or should I say exciting games, are those where throughout, the scores are evenly matched and up to the final play the game could be anybodys. I know Andrea enjoys that type of game too. 

So good readers. I supposed I have rambled on enough for now. In essesnce Michelle’s life is good. I am very comfortable and happy in myself. I have I suppose found my comfort zone. I know transition would be a wonderful goal but I am happy with how I am. I can accept it and live with it. More Michelle time would be wonderful but it is not always possible or practical given my situation but I am always very very thankful for what I have. Until the next time, as always thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings and thoughts and always strive for your goal. It can surprise you just what you can achieve. 

Words with friends game notification ‘ping’ has just sounded. Time to play another word!! πŸ˜‚

M.

AT WHAT POINT IN THE PROCEEDINGS DOES ‘BOB’ CEASE TO EXIST?

On responding to a blog post from another blogger recently I added a brief line stating that I avoid andorgynous attire in that I am either Michelle or Bob. This came in response to them raising a question, as I saw it anyway, over baggy androgynous attire masking their ever developing shape as they progress on their journey of transition, and may this cast doubt in the eye of those she would encounter? Now I was not suggesting that they or anyone else for that matter avoid dressing in any specific way, rather I was indicating my own personal view in regard to myself. I recieved quite a lengthy reply and quite a nice reply if I may say so. Towards the end of her reply she did pose a very searching, interesting and excellent question!

At what point during the process of your transition from Bob does Michelle begin to exist. Is it during dressing, during or after make up is applied? When??’


Now this is not quoted verbatum but it provides the general gist of the question. Immediately it had me really thinking and at the same time I thought to myself ” What a great topic for a blog”. And indeed it is. I gave the question a little bit of thought before making a response. Many questions were wizzing around in my little brain, questions like…

“Is there a defining moment that I say welcome back Michelle?”

My immediate response to this one had to be the point when I finally put my wig on. For me that single item transforms everything, it is the game changer if there ever was one. But immediately that answer seemed not to fit the question, or at least not to fit with how I now feel. Yes there was a time when that would have been a very easy and a perfectly honest answer. Not now though. It goes a lot deeper than that.

OoooKayyyy!!! 

So what moment or action defines when I step across that line? Is there a true magical moment? Is it the moment that I step through the door of the support group premises? At that point am I entering a parallel world? Mmmmm! It could be but again that no longer seems to fit. Over the last two years and certainly the last 18 months, very few regulars at the Belfast Butterfly Club have witnessed the presence of Bob. There are a few who in fact have never seen Bob, only Michelle and that is how I now wish to keep matters, however I will not be upset if they inadvertently do. For example one associate member or volunteer when she attended just over a year ago, had arrived much earlier than expected and was on the premises as I myself arrived. At this point I had no choice but to confront her as Bob. This felt very very wrong, it was decidedly weird to say the least. She had to that point only ever seen me and not Bob. I was not especially upset but was feeling a little disturbed by that encounter. Here was a person who had only ever known Michelle and that was really how I had wanted that to remain. A few years ago that would not have fazed me in the least. Maybe I am wandering off the subject a bit here. 

So I have established that the fitting of my wig is not the pivotal momemt that Michelle begins to truly exist. At least no longer. It is a significat stage in the transition but I began to realise that this is a much deeper, more probing question than it may first appear to be. It is not when I would arrive at the suppprt group premises either so when does the change happen, or does when simply not figure in this equation? Is it really a case of Bob and Michelle co existing at all times? Now there is a thought that until now really had not crossed my mind. I suppose I exist as Bob for roughly 92% of the time with the remaing 8% give or take being Michelle. However for almost 100% of the time I think as both. Michelle will occupy a considerable portion of Bobs thoughts and whilst Bob is very much suppressed during my Michelle time I am vaguely aware of him somewhere in the background. Does that make any sense? As Bob, Michelle is very much there. I am always thinking about and very much looking forward to my next batch of Michelle time. Planning what I shall do, what I may wear. Dreaming my time away.

Getting back to the part of the question which asked was there a part of the getting dressed, getting ready process that triggers the change from one existance to the other, I will say this. As I go through the getting ready process I do see the gradual emergance of Michelle and the dissapearance of Bob, but that is the visual clue only. Yes it is easy in that case to pin point a moment where one replaces the other. That is the physical or visual aspect, but the mental state or inner trigger is so different. As time passes I begin to identify more and more with being Michelle but I should add not to the exclusion of Bob. I have come to accept both sides of myself and have learned to live, with a certain degree of  reluctance, with this state of affairs. Transition for me is not on the cards, I have thought about the prospect on many occasions and for a number of reasons, valid to me, I have chosen to remain in this twiglight world. What are those reasons? Well first and formost I deeply love my wife and would never wish to ‘hurt’ her by following such a path. Allied to this, I simply would be scared to death by the prospect of going through the process, not the medical process but the mental process. Well truth be told I am not that brave. 

Getting back to the purpose of this blog post, I finally came to the understanding that in fact Michelle and Bob co exist 100% of the time. ‘She is he and he is she’ for want of a better phrase. That is the inner process. Michelle is always present as is Bob. On the other hand if it were simply the physical then I have to say that Michelle will exist from the beginning of the transformation process and more significantly from the point of the wig finally being fitted. I would say at that point “Hello again Michelle. You are welcome back”

So dear readers, there you have it. 


As always I thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Where ever you are, what ever you do, reach for and grasp your dreams. No one else will do it for you. Finally a special tank you to Mia for asking me the question in the first case. You can catch up with her via her excellent blog. ohmiagod@wordpress.com. 

AN UNEXPECTED HEART WARMING MOMENT

As readers of this blog will have realised by now, I am a girl who enjoys her shopping. I generally no longer write about this past time as I fear that to continually recount what I bought simply becomes a massive bore to all who take the time to read what I may have to say. My very good friend Kirsty has on numerous occasions joked that whilst she may be another Amelda Marcos with her passion for shoes, I am the equivilant where skirts are of concern, and I fear she is very much correct in that assessment. I simply have way too many, and still it is not enough. Anyhow to get to the core point of this blog as is normal for me of a Wednesday evening I will make my way to the local town centre or should I say city centre as Lisburn was a few years back, granted city status. Bow Street Mall would be the main shopping centre or mall, and in its prime it offered a busy and varied shopping area. In recent years however several units have, mainly as a consequence of recession pulled down their shutters. There are still a few worthwhile shops remaining such as Menarys a local Irish chain which is best described as a Debenhams wannabe, and to be fair they do a decent job in fullfilling that. Other stores such as Dunnes Stores, another Irish chain which is a Marks & Spencer wannabe and which fails miserably in this respect, is present, but to be honest their drapery buyer is either blind or totally out of touch. This is reflected country wide, or at least in the part of Ireland where I live of stores that are devoid of any great numbers of customers. Apart from their hoisey I find very little to entice me in through their doors and to be honest if that is all they can offer me, well I can get those items in most stores. The recently closed BHS store in the centre was more in touch with fashion than Dunnes are and that is saying something. There is also the usual selection of big chain stores such as H&M / TK Maxx / New Look / Primark, M&S Simply Food, Semichem etc etc. But I am digressing.

Tonight I made my usual trip into Menary’s which is a store I particularly like. I had no real intention of spending any money. I was just in for a wee browse. As usual I proceeded to have a look through the sale rails as you never know what bargain may be lurking there. On the ground floor close to the handbags and accessories, the sales lady who is normally in that area, spotted me and gave me a very warm hello, nothing particularly unusual in that as she has a very sunny disposition and I have heard her simerally greet other customers in her loud and friendly voice. Anyhow we said hello to each other and I made my way onto the escalator to make my way to the first floor which caters for ladies more my age. Just as I began to rise up the escalator, I heard her voice calling to me from behind. I looked around and the shop assistant that greated me a moments before said to me that when I return back to the ground floor sales area to call over to her as she had a gift for me. Whoa! That was a bolt out of the blue. I replied that I would and continued my automated rise to the next floor. 

As I had expected most of those items on the sale rails were the same items as the previous few weeks, but to while away a bit of time I set about browsing anyway. Well who knows what might grab my interest and more importantly what price would suck me in. After about 10mins, I spotted a skirt. Now as I have previously stated, I have enough skirts already and I really needed another one like a hole in the head. However what really grabbed my attention were two things. The price, very low, and the fact it was in a size 10, my size. I had looked at this same skirt possibly two or three months ago when it was on offer at its full Β£25 and although I liked it, I had ruled it out as an un necessary expense at that time. However its new price was reeling me in. Β£8. Well as my good friend Kirsty is prone to say, “It would be rude not to buy it”. However I resisted initially as I wanted to check out other items. Then I spied a top that I knew immediatly was the perfect match to the skirt I had just seen and it too was on offer at…….Yes Β£8 reduced also from Β£25. It was however a 12 which in some tops is too small for me. So the decider in all this was if it would fit. If it did and if I liked how it looked on me, both it and the skirt were going to be mine. Five minutes later both were paid for and in my bag. 

Before making my way down to the ground floor I had a quick browse of the homewear section looking for a birthday present. (Mrs M celebrates her birthday early next week) but really there was nothing that would work so it was off downstairs. Part of me was curious as to what the sales lady on the ground floor had for me, and another part of me did not want to appear that I was simply going her way simply to get what ever it was she had, but either way the path out of the store would be past her till. Soon after I arrived in the area, she spotted me and rushed over to her till, picked up a little gift bag and presented to me. She informed me it was a few samples of perfume and hand cream for me to try. I was overewellemed. What a lovely gesture indeed. I thanked her and made my way out of the store. Just before arriving at the door I heard a customer who obviously knew the sales lady exclaim! 

” Is there not one for me?”

“We only hand these out to our best customers, but I might be able to get you one”

So I am regarded as a good customer?? Well I have bought a few items over the past year I suppose. Anyway I think that customer did get a little gift bag also. As I had no other errants within Bow Street Mall it was back to my car and a short two mile drive to the outskirts of Lisburn to my other usual haunt of Sprucefield. 

I arrived at Sprucefield around 8pm and had a brief look around the large Marks & Spencer store. On this occasion I spotted nothing new so at 8.30 I wandered into their cafe for my usual Wednesday evening toastie and beverage. Simple and delicious as usual with the normal great service. Whilst dining I dropped Kirsty a brief text and had a look through my Facebook notifications. Well I was dining alone so social media was not being rude. As always I will spend a little time studying those in the cafe around me and as usual I am always heartened at the lack of attention I receive. There is no greater means of getting me to relax when out. To be honest after over 18 months of being regularly out and about as myself, nerves are no longer an issue. 

I know I have said this many times before. I love spending time with my lovely friends Kirsty and Andrea, their company is always excellent and we always have plenty to discuss and chat about, but equally I love my own company. 

So dear reader(s) thank you again for taking time out to read my humble offering. Sorry I dont have any profound thoughts or theories to offer, just a few contented ramblings. As always I have enjoyed putting this together. Never loose sight of your dream. Reach for it and grasp it firmly with both hands.