J’adore Le Feu De Bois – A Christmas Special

There was no sparkling settled snow on pine trees. No dark quiet forest that would enchant the week before Christmas. That was for those north of the snow line. It was raining and a quieter than normal Wednesday while most were still in work and I was able to finish all my Christmas shopping, put a line under it, and not be landed with a building anxiety of unbought presents.

I walked through the department store into a cloud of different scents of perfume and eau de toilette. Bustling with people being talked into purchasing sizes of bottles that would. by two thirds of the bottle spent, become tired and boring or stale. A bottle of perfume caught my eye and I was instantly curious because I’d remembered the shapely clear bottle that was necked with a set of gold wire-like rings and the woman on the advert that had been on the television for months walking across a lake wearing a thin dress with hints of gold flowing in the breeze that tried to convince that ‘you too could be as free as we’re trying to make out’; and it certainly worked. The bottle widening to the bottom with it’s contents like being held in the palm of the hands and presenting it’s whiskey-like copper liquid in an almost elixir of life beyond water. The top like a stopper formed like a decanter top. Inviting, understated and rare – despite it being sold in the millions.

I picked up the bottle and looked around it but placed it back on the shelf. An assistant seemed to appear from nowhere much like the assistant in Mr Ben but much more pounced in a pushy sales tactic. “Did you get to try it?” she asked without as much as a ‘hello, can I help.’

“Er, yes.”, I hadn’t. I don’t even know why I said yes other than some panic reaction that would be the quickest way to move her on. I hadn’t any intention of buying any being short on money and just wanting to see the price out of curiosity for the future.

“So we have this size which is seventy pounds – ” already I knew this was going to be more than just expensive, it was the up-sell about to come, “and we have a special offer on the one hundred millilitre at…”

She didn’t need to finish. My mind had already switched off from what she had been saying because my eyes had locked already locked onto the top shelf where the largest box stood behind the glass door with a mediocre lock. One hundred pounds.

It’s not just the price. I have refined tastes, usually, which also means expensive tastes but even so the size of the bottle if it was that big would feel indulgent and may be even a little crass. That said, if someone gave it to me, I’m hardly going to complain. I would probably just have to use it twice as often. This is unlikely to happen.

“OK, thanks, that’s great.” I said kindly but nudging her away with words and slowly shifting down the banks of other perfumes pretended to look at others and hoping to escape. Her pushy tactic had turned me off any interest and I wasn’t planning on buying. It was a future pin in the board and all I wanted to do was seal or release my interest. I didn’t even get to smell it and now I didn’t even want to. I would leave it until another time. A retail therapy markup in my new year’s resolution diary for when I did have the money. Besides, this was yet another distraction from allowing me to actually get my Christmas shopping done, today. I moved on.

I walked up the wide staircase, the banister thick dark glossy wood, heavy and robust, and squarely turning back on itself to the upper floor. The heat held in by shelves full like a condensed forest in the form of books. Insulated and sound deadening and why people tend to talk a little hushed I don’t know. A hangover from how we used to behave in a library – which these days is a noisy place full of chatter and foreign exchange students leaching internet access to call home. I pulled a book from the shelf. A potential present.

I opened to a random page and the smell of ink on the page hit me. Unmistakable new book smell. I opened to the inside column of the front cover of the hard back to read the introduction. I suddenly felt an excitement inside. That new feeling you get when you start something new. May be starting an exciting new job, joining a new group of people of something that interests you or taking a holiday in a new place, it was the same. It was partly a feeling of wanting to read books again that I had taken a break from since the last time I went on holiday. It was also the possibility of what it might be like to be a writer. Successful, may be not, but just to have my words in print suddenly felt like something I would like to do. A feeling I’d had before but reignited by a match in the form of a description of an author. ‘An author.’

Not about riches, though that would be nice, not even about a face on the back cover or the inner sleeve but my own words for others to read and if not enjoyed but something to think about or to allow a strangers mind to imagine. It was a complicated feel of what could happen but it was also a simple feeling of doing something that mattered. Food for thought.

I closed the book and bought it. I came away with a present for someone and a reignition of motivation. I didn’t know where it would lead, if anything, but it solidified what was important and that was the words. On the way out I spotted a book that had been on sale last year for twenty pounds and now available on the bargain table for three pounds. The reality.

The reality didn’t really matter anymore because that wasn’t the dream and that last day of Christmas shopping did as much for me, my future and state of happiness as it did for the short term feeling of not having to worry about finding any last minute presents. The bottle of perfume and realising it wasn’t a contrived notion of femininity, it was just something I wanted and the book and it’s ability to light a fire inside about expressing myself in words and having it on paper was just as instinctual and innate.

And so I returned home where the only twinkle of snow on pine trees was the ice white lights on the Christmas tree shining out from the shadows of the living room barely lit by the dull winter light struggling to get through rain clouds. But with the tree and it’s razor-sharp lights reflecting in the gloss black paint of the piano and a warm mince pie on a plate, there was a little of that Narina type Christmas approaching.

This Christmas Eve would have been nice by an old log fire in an equally old typically British cottage pub with someone special but at home with a-glass-of-something and a supply of romantic films would do just fine for now.

I feel in a good place about myself and my well-being. I might not have made as much progress as I want, and when is that never the case, but I feel at one with who I am right now – and that’s probably the best Christmas Present I could ever have.

Until next time.

Merry Christmas x



The opening of eyes in the morning of a Saturday. Slipping on those clothes that trigger the happy response that psychologists and self-help gurus like to talk about. Capris, a T, fingerless gloves if it’s frosty and slipping on crisp running trainers, pulling the laces taught and pulling back my hair to a high ponytail. The sun glimmering just behind the trees and the smell of rich petrol after starting the car.

The running was two-fold positive. It was endorphin generating and a public place and gathering to be a little more me. Me time early on a Saturday. The murmur of a smallish gathering of like-minded people of all ages chatting happily, some stretching and warming up alone, sometimes an actor spotted keeping themselves to themselves because like me it was a place to be themselves without breaking a fourth wall between fiction and reality. Unbothered by others.

The feeling of cool air around my legs between the tops of my ankle socks and the bottom of my running trousers. The inspiring talk of a run group leader before the go and then the pulling of the ground as my trainers grip on tarmac and loose stones. Deciding how I will pace my breathing and how fast I should be running to survive the miles as I pass others and others pass me.

The half way mark when I realise I have to do it all over again and the last third where I wonder what the hell I was thinking doing this distance again and trying to make sure I push myself but not so much that I will throw up like the few I have seen. The last 200 metres. Do I do it now. I can see the small group of volunteers at the end but I can’t hear them yet. If I go now will I peter-out? That’s enough past the 200 meter sign, just go. I push hard taking in unfeminine deep breaths. Everything in sync, legs, muscles, heart, chest, arms – hair!

Then to a stop. Trying to catch every life-giving breath leaning over until I feel I can stand straight without going all fuzzy and collapsing. Trying to fumble with a zipper to pull out my time card and hand it to a time keeper while trying to put together ‘thank you.’

The elation. The realisation. ‘Ah, that’s why I keep doing it.’ It’s a natural human endorphin drug and that’s the happiness and good mental health. That and being with other like-minded people. The morning. The air. The taste of fresh water that suddenly never tasted so good and to top it off to wear a few things that make me – me.

I miss it. A minor injury with enough pain to stop me doing it for weeks that have turned to months. I miss the feel good factor. I miss getting up especially for it each Saturday and I miss looking forward to it in the week and trying to run between and just get a few seconds off my time. The rush of happiness and elation after it. Doing something good for me and being me.

Such a small thing with huge effects. It’s like a taster of real-life as it might be should I do something about that gender thing. More importantly what it does for my well being. Not just fitness but everything in my head. I feel so much more grounded. Reset each week. Something to live for. Empowering and worthwhile. No cost.

In the meantime it’s been about finding little things to get through while I haven’t got it. I always wondered if it would happen to me, some kind of sports injury where I would be out of it for a while and there it came. I got desperate last week. The tablets had been working and coming to the end of them I thought I would be at the end of the injury. It felt so good to get dressed up ready to run. Out of the house and through the houses. ‘I’ll even try a new route for a change’ I thought. But not much more than two minutes in and the pain returned, even with the pain killers. I pushed through and completed a whole circuit but knew it was wrong to continue. Like some kind of addict I had regressed.

I was disappointed rather than elated and just a bit frustrated. I know I’ll be back to it in the future but its at times like these I remember how much I got out of it and much like gender identity, looking back at what I was and where I am now, whether or not I progress anymore there is little inside me to return to masculinity, if there ever was any?

I can’t imagine what I would go back to anyway. What was it, when I didn’t come to terms with some of the gender traits and expressions, that made me different to now. Are they just frivolous things that I would have a hard time figuring out what they were with little more than photographs. But it’s beyond just external appearances and expressions. It’s also about what it feels like inside and feeling that little bit more at one. Who needs the past? Lets leave it for the photographs.

Until next time

Hannah x

How Could I Ever

It was a party. The music loud. Worse a shirt that fitted, but didn’t fit. You know – that awkwardness of knowing you just don’t feel you should be wearing it. At least I got to wear my jeans. I thought for a moment, looking around at all my family and their friends, some talking deep in conversation and laughing, others dancing in front of the DJ, I thought for that moment how could I ever go through with re-adjusting who I was on the outside and feel comfortable amongst all these family, friends and friends of friends that I didn’t know. How could I feel able to sit there without my stomach taught with concrete anxiety paralysing me in every way. This wasn’t just about what I might be wearing if I were to change my outward gender, it was feeling comfortable that people weren’t looking and may be saying to each other “oh yes, thats the one.”

But then I thought again about how I felt now, sat here in a shirt that even thought it’s nice and worn with as much femininity as can possibly be managed, I’m still in that mens shirt, I’m still the uncle, the brother – the son. It doesn’t matter who has suspicions right now or who might think I’m feminine for a male, that’s still how I’m being perceived and at this moment I am feeling that exact concrete feeling in my guts, the paralysis throughout that makes me just feel uncomfortable. Like the metaphorical shirt just doesn’t fit. Pulling my body to be shaped a different way. Anxiety. If I’m going to be anxious anyway then why not pick one of the two genders that I’ll be most comfortable during most of the days of my life and live.

That night at that celebration party I’d felt I’d lost. I’d lost the ability to be confident in the direction my gender might take, a direction that I can just get on with things and something in the back of my mind that would slowly grow and come to the fore, was going to be defeated.

I woke the early the next morning despite the late return home from the party the night before. The sun hadn’t quite risen with just a dull glow seeping through the fabric of the curtains. I pulled them open a few inches. The trees lining the top of the near by hill with silhouetted against pale blue and dark ocean grey clumps of cloud and a hint of yellow and the quiet of a Sunday 7am. The new day and a fresh stillness of the morning, and the possibility that I was one of few to be up at that time, had made me feel a warmth. A cosiness of pulling on some jogging carpi’s and a pull-over. A comfort of femininity was still there. It was the opposite of the night before. I felt it didn’t matter who would know and a sense of genuineness and authenticity.

It really did feel genuine. It felt right. Calm. Just there. It may just be clothes but it seems to be a sum of it’s parts. The recipe of ingredients. I lent back on the sofa, looked at the ceiling and ran my fingers through my clean dark hazel hair that is as long as it has been for such a long time and I felt a need to plait it out of the way. Just another small thing of running fingers through my hair felt refreshing and felt like just another one of the ingredients.

– ❤ –

The week passed quickly and once again I woke to the comfort of the duvet and a dull light. After socialising twice and having to take most of Friday to recover from Thursday, friends and drink, an early night and morning seemed refreshing both physically and spiritually. I got out of bed and split the curtains to be drained of stress and further enlightened by the horizon of trees with golden sunlight just below tinting several interleaving clouds and a hint of a pale wash of blue above. The tops of the wooden fencing dusted with snow and white crystallised within the grass. Early enough that the powder coat of snow on the roofs of houses and garages had not melted from central heating. Stick a Robin on the fence and you’d have had a Christmas card.

I love those moments when I am up early enough to see the beginning of a new day with the quiet of the morning and love myself for doing so rather than pulling that duvet up higher and drifting off a little more. I decided to enjoy an hour or two of that wake up with a cup of Earl Grey and some breakfast and find time to go and see my Mum.

We sat over a table of cups and a cafe desert treat in the busy and noisy town coffee machine and talked about anything and everything. Allow my Mum to vent and me to listen. I always thought if I was ever going to tell her about the gender thing it would probably be there. I don’t know if it would be the right place or the right moment. It was just a place I’d chosen – in my head. It was a place we both feel comfortable and talk about our lives and share stuff. I even thought about it at that moment. Thoughts passing through my head, ‘would this the moment.’ Would she be talking about something her friend had said and then in a break of the conversation I would broach the subject, or even just say it, or would I have to wait until we were roughly already talking about thing related to gender even if it was just about something vaguely feminine. Did feminine really need to be the subject, it’s certainly not the whole story. How do I casually mention a few decades of gender identity.

I suppose if I decide that time should come then its as good a place as any.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Femininity or Female

Femininity, he said, is part of the ego. He was talking about Carl Jung the psychiatrist, and it was obvious that my psychologist had taken some of his expertise from one of the fathers of psychiatry. The point was that people have both the masculine and feminine and even though this was a few years ago that I’d had my sessions with him, it had stuck with me. What was the cut off point? I mean when you think about it where was the border where I am a male with more feminine traits than most or so much so that I am, when it comes to gender, female with a male body.

It was a bit of a get-out clause to some extent. I could just say to myself the ‘easiest way to get through the whole gender thing was to just accept that I am male with female traits’ so much so that it would affect who I am, what I like, what I wear and how I interact – but then there is always that remaining something. That little thing that says I’m not completely comfortable in my body. It’s not just about lipstick and dresses, it’s about how I feel in myself. In my own skin. That little something extra that says it’s not just about being male who is much more the female than male.

I drove to the local hospital. The local mental health unit as I had done over the last three or so years but now it was an appointment with a psychiatrist who was random as far as I wouldn’t remember who he was. It wasn’t like when I had first been attending where we would explore who I was. At least that was the case with the psychologist. Since then I had been with the gender identity clinic in London but locally they still needed to see me. To, sort of, support me but more so to tick those boxes to ensure the money spent in funding my referral to London was being well spent I suppose.

I sat in the waiting room with the receptionist who was tapping away at the keyboard and daytime television beaming out from a television hung on the wall to keep us entertained. Within a few minutes a woman had burst out from the corridor exclaiming to the receptionist ‘he’s given me the wrong medication.’ The psychiatrist followed calmly to reception. ‘He gave me someone else’s address.’ she continued, “Go on, ask him what my address is.”

‘I just asked you to confirm your address and then you called me an arse hole.’ he said calmly clarifying the situation.

The receptionist had looked at me briefly in a kind of sorrow and apology with just a short glance.

It didn’t matter that this was holding up my appointment. I felt relaxed. I felt that anything I could do to help, no matter how small, would make me feel better for it. I felt like my attendance was just a box-ticking exercise. A counter signature on the cheque that was funding my further referral for help.

After some frustration the psychiatrist asked the patient to leave the premises while asking the receptionist to call someone to ‘escort her off the premises.’ She left on her own terms.

It was sad that someone who was a patient had to be ejected from help through her own frustrations. Those frustrations that I suspected had come from the pressures of her own life and problems that were redirected to the psychiatrist. The receptionist apologised to me for the wait, “He shouldn’t be too long.”

“That’s ok – ” I said, “Let him have a coffee and take five minutes.”

“I think he’ll need something stronger.” she said.

It wasn’t long before I was in one of those three consultancy rooms that I had so many deep and meaningful discussions in the past about the depths of life, gender, relationships and the soul. It was crazy to think about some of the discussions I’d had with the psychologists in the past that were ripe for dissecting at a lecture of psychology.

I sat at the metal framed office chair next to his desk and updated him on my progress. I knew more than he did. The gender clinic in London had continued to update my GP more than him and the mental health unit and this continued to annoy them as the gatekeepers of funding. Despite the utilitarian expectation of the session we chatted. It came down to this, was I going to move on with my gender, tell people, live the role, be myself, or was I still unsure. As he said, if I wasn’t making progress then the gender clinic would just keep booking appointments and money would be spent. It wasn’t pressure to do something, but it was more a suggestion that if I wanted to do something about my gender, then I needed to do it; I needed to do it now.

It wasn’t a deep discussion but on the way home it ran around my mind, femininity or female? Did I really need to keep going with this or could I just be happy with being that certain percentage of the female side of me and not needing to be anything more whether psychical or just mentally. I remembered the beauty in the conversation I’d had with the psychologist all that time ago describing how males can have both the masculine and feminine side and I thought, for that moment, did I really need more than this. Did I really need more than I have right now?

The rain hammered down on the windscreen of the car on the way home and even thought it wasn’t that far home I had thought so much in that short journey. Doubt and fear. I felt myself reclining and reversing my the beliefs in myself. I thought back to all the progress I had made, the last six months, the last three years and how I had to believe in my own cause. The cause of progress to what I wanted in myself.

A few days later, late evening about eleven thirty, I looked at the sky and saw the stars sharp and contrasting against the darkness. It was that cold that even after stepping out of the house you knew that within a few minutes the cold would reach your bones and chill you through. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness more stars appeared and the sky became that glorious wonder of pin points where we were all made and that deepest depth of the unknown wonder that makes us realise how short our own time is and how selfishness in who we want to be is so important. It reminded me of that core feeling. That knowing that something about gender is beyond just the masculine and feminine. It’s a need. A need to be. Much like those stars, nebula and galaxies. I don’t know where it comes from and why. I just know it is.

Until next time.

Hannah x


She walked into the office and sat on our group of desks. Late twenties, glossy brown hair in curls and start-up glasses that finished her face with a strength of knowing what she was doing. Smart casual which was acceptable around management and clients. Her title was Producer and even though it was actually just a fancy way of saying ‘project manager’ in the thick of the new media bubble in 2001 it felt like something more. She wasn’t always at her desk or handing out work to us and when she wasn’t around I imagined she was out with clients giving them assurances and listening to their needs – oozing confidence, self assurance and a contentment. It was probably the first woman in the work place that I’d seen as a role model. It just all fitted together, a freedom to move between teams and act as some kind of creator of ideas and putting them into action. Ever since I worked at that place that feeling of role model never left me, even sixteen years on and now much older than she was then, I still aspire to be her in that moment. Something in the back of my head that whenever something reminds me of that desire for career and success a small flame would light and the idea would surface that I could be that person but in my own form. My own way and my own ingredients.

It was a crazy place. Full of buzz, music of the new millennium flying across the office getting people working at the limit voluntarily. Come and go as you please. Management keeping themselves to themselves for much of the time until a company wide motivational speech of how well the company is doing and then off to disappear, busy by their absence. Work would just come in, land on your desk and every confidence you would just get on with it, understand and deliver it back. Push scooters to float between one team to another at the other end of the fourth floor that we occupied. A large plasma screen hanging above the cafe table and chairs area when flat screen was pretty new and where we watched, in silence, the towers fall on BBC News that September.

It wasn’t the height of my career in a progressional sense but for work, life, finance balance the scales were bang in the middle. I was in the middle of my twenties too and I still just about had all that confidence that came with it and optimism in life. Life was good and times were fast.

In that time very few people knew about my gender thing and the odd weekend out in the very same city had only just started. I had only just started exploring myself outside the confines of my own thoughts. There was no way that I was going to be getting a promotion to becoming a ‘Producer’ and try out that life, I was freelanced in for a start and without being that type of female employee the whole recipe just wouldn’t have been the same and in that frame of mind I was in back then, hidden, secret, afraid – guilty and ashamed it was never going to happen.

I was dazzled by that role model but not enough to do something about it. The whole idea of dealing with gender identity back then just seemed a fantasy. When people get older they often say about the things they wished they had done in life – a lost moment. I have few regrets with some of the decisions I made in life. I chose the right movement in my career, at the time, when I had left university and moved on to the next big company when it felt right. I told Maddie about my gender identity issues and it eventually ended our relationship. I regret that something so special had to end, but I had no control over that other than the revelation itself – things were just as they were, fact. I regret few experiences in my life, even if some seemed crazy at the time, but that ‘Producer’, that person I saw some kind of role model in for less than a thin slice of cake of a reason still from time to time haunts me just a little.

I have moved on with my interests. My writing and attempts to change career, my progression as a musician and my needs to have an interest in whatever job I do that is more than just a frivolous shell of a facade of ‘seen to be dashing between clients and teams looking important and happy’. Yet, this week, when I came across a job for a ‘Producer’ within the very same industry that I have been so desperate to exit, came up on the screen all those feelings came flooding back. The idea of the confidence. The idea of doing something slightly different. Perfect hair and the right clothes. Some kind of contentment. For that moment I felt those same feelings from back then but also with some kind of wisdom from age that for a moment I felt, ‘regret’, ‘if-only’, ‘why didn’t I’ – ‘too late’.

The job, at least from the description, was in itself just a shell of the job that the Producer did back in the early noughties, but I applied to the agent anyway – but it had been filled. I questioned myself with everything about what I wanted to do. I mean what were these feelings, was it a viable way to move on for work and a career or was it just some rose-tinted view of a time that passed so quick and would no longer feel the same if acted upon now? Was it just like a bar I was going to for a drink to only find the place was empty and the owners had long since gone? I mean within about six months or so of me leaving that company back then I had found out they were another victim of the crash and all employees given their P45s and only the name remained within the parent company. It was sad. It was gone.

May be it’s a long lost idea I had, a dream of how I would move on with my life and how I would start in another outward gender and now I’ve let so much time pass on that I should just let the past be the past and come up with another way to inspire myself. I have other role models – more substantial ones and as far as gender is concerned, well, all that I’ve achieved in recent years have been through my own ideas and my own confidence. May be my role model is me.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Every Last Ounce

It was like building a wall of pebbles on the beach against the rising tide, just as we did as kids, that no matter how many mediterranean salads I created or cured ham baguettes with olive oil and sea salt, I was still firmly at home and being away in the sun was a fading reality and a solidifying two dimensional memory; at least unless I closed my eyes in what little weak sun we have here and think very hard.

It was clear that nothing would change on its own and hanging around the house for a week not doing much was keeping me frozen rather than in contentment. It didn’t help having a cold and it didn’t help having a strict budget on my dwindling savings but at least for now I have a home. I live in a fairly nice place in a nice enough house with an eclectic collection of things that keep me occupied. I have food in the fridge and freezer and I survive quite comfortably. I have the ability to learn new things and have clothes to wear that aren’t thread bare but without the freedom from that budget I’m a little stuck. Imagine being on holiday but with no money – it can kinda get boring sometimes.

It’s not like money is holding back any progress with the gender thing, (gender fact?), apart from having to travel a long distance for one of them of course, appointments are booked and things are just happening as they are and as they should. I made progress on holiday, I feel content to some extent and know there is still work to do or at least more decisions to be made. With all that being so planned why am I so unplanned in other parts of my life. Sometimes I find myself doing little bits here and there in an unplanned nature around my house. Get the kitchen cleaned and tidy, a bit of piano practice, a bit of planning towards a future project but yet I still feel like I’ve not achieved much by the end of the week. I feel like days have been wasted.

I stopped for a moment, sat in the Sunday sun of October that is on such a shallow arch that it warmed my face and kept the breeze chill at bay along with the sun trap alcove in the garden, and rubbed my fingers down the brickwork of the house. It pulled at my skin like a stickle brick wanting me to stay connected. The bricks were here for the long term which felt like my plans for my future. The long term. The long stretch of time that it would take for fruition. It was autumn and my career plans needed to be spring – spring in a few years time. There were no short cuts. It was just like the gender thing, there is a long term transition of change but an immediate need, on top of that I had an immediate problem of money. I heard the scratching of the sky as a jet flew over at that moment. That summed it up – a direction and a more immediate need of urgency.

It was quite clear really. My goals and aspirations would take time. I needed to survive in the meantime to pay for the immediate things like rent and the electric bills but I also have choice. I don’t have to go back to my old career that brings such pain to my mental state, I just need something else for the time being. The same goes for gender identity. I’ve never been in a rush to have it all sorted but the immediate need to carry on can be done with all those little things over the years I have to get me by.

A couple of days later I found myself still pressed. Pressed to get things done in order but my head was still spinning both with things to do and with fatigue. I headed to the village where it was quiet, everyone at work or tucked away in front of day-time TV in the arms of retirement. The village of weedless front lawns cut to a perfect inch, clean Mercedes, small well kept shopping-trolley cars, electric garage doors and tudoresque windows in a weak attempt fit in with the few real cottages in the next street. Later that afternoon, if I were to hang around, there would be the smell of log fires filling the street on a barely moving breeze and the picture of a middle England village would be complete; except it wasn’t England.

A plane flew over as if to taunt me again with escapism and the only thing that broke the void of sound and change. Quiet may have been what I didn’t need right now but a walk to get away from the house, clear my mind and exercise a foot injury was the least I needed.

It wasn’t exactly cold as I walked on from the village to the depths of a country road surrounded by fields, hedgerow and single wire telegraph poles. At a gate a Carrion Crow flew from the branch of an oak slowly with large wings silhouetted in it’s deep black. The tree was wiry staging the onset of winter and the imminent approach of Christmas. The only sense of the living beyond the crow was the cold grey sound of traffic distant from the carriageway.

There was a misty grey sky that met the ultra-pale blue and yellow hue above, not as dramatic and apocalyptic as the Mars sky the day before, but still a drama that told a story of the slow progression to winter. It was slow progression I needed. I can’t do it all at once, my project, my writing, a script, a book, music – my gender. It’s all too much to want all at once. I needed to pick at these things a little at a time and prioritise.

At the house I gathered all the coins I could find that I had saved and deposited them in the bank. My future would need every ounce of money I could find – every ounce of belief in myself.

Until next time

Hannah x

Ocean Deep – Perfume and the Ocean Part Two

I could feel the hard lines in the decking through the blanket and the sun hot on my legs but it wasn’t quite the same. The air was cool and when the sun went behind the clouds it really did feel October-cold. I was squeezing every last ounce of vitamin D out of the sun like the last press of olive oil from an olive to recreate that sub-tropical release I had just over a week ago but it wasn’t quite the same. I was firmly back in the UK and the most I could do was this. Laying in the sun when it showed in the garden with a coffee, a recreation of a holiday island baguette and my laptop.

I heard the low note white noise that sounded like it was coming from a seaside shell. I turned over, laid my head on the many cushions and stared at the sky. It was blue but just not quite so ocean deep in its vibrancy and there it was – a jet cutting through the sky leaving it’s hose pipe spray of steam in it’s trail. I remember how an old friend of mine who had commented to me once about how every time he saw a plane flying over how it got him itching to be on it and to be elsewhere. I didn’t quite get-it at the time, he was uncharacteristically misty eyed about it, gone was his uber-excitement replaced by some kind of trapped feeling of being grounded. He was already travelling but the world soon became his life moving country to country to keep him happy. I don’t want to be moving country to country all the time but at this very moment looking at that plane I felt exactly what he had told me, an escapism. The problem is I don’t have his money and here I am on the decking periodically suffering post-holiday blues, even a week on, like I have never before.

I moved the blanket as the sun moved the shadows across the decking trying to keep that warmth. I couldn’t work out quite what would set me off with those post-holiday blues several times a day. It wasn’t just feeling down, it was actually welling up that would come in waves just like grief for a loved one. There was no actual death but there was a passing of something. It wouldn’t take much to set me off. ‘Oh a photo of the ocean crashing on the rocks that morning’ whoosh, without delay I suddenly welled up, ‘Lets have a licorice tea’, bang, thoughts of the box of licorice tea I’d left in the apartment and welling up again – pretty much anything would set me off. I think the death was what I had lost in coming back.

While I played out much of my holiday as a holiday, you know, restaurants, bars, entertainment in the evenings et al, I also played out a lot of it as though I lived there. I would sacrifice the tiredness from a late night out with an early wake-up, early in holiday world being no earlier than 8a.m., but it was at least an hour before the tourists. I would have that run along the ocean lined coast amongst the palm trees and apartments that spill out along the coast path and beaches with other local runners and walkers. Watching those shops slowly setting up for a long hot days competitive trading of gifts. The simple coffee and lunch at a cafe overlooking the ocean devoid of checking Facebook for updates because this was more interesting and immersive – it was real life. And of course there was being relaxed being me wearing some of the things I wanted to wear, the whole thing was pretty much perfect.

Now that I am back, jobless, I feel the grief of loosing that short taster course of what perfection of living would be. The warmth of the air was gone as was the feeling of being grounded. A slower easier pace of life. I’m not blind to the realities. Baring a lottery win or an unexpected win fall I would still need employment, a place to live, a budget to live on – friends; but I need that here too. Here I seem to be cut out for that one career I’ve been in nearly twenty years, the career that while on holiday I realised I didn’t want to go back to – one hundred percent to put it in numbers. I know if I don’t break from it now then when will I? Aged 45? 50? 60? Retirement? Would I get to retirement without breaking my mental state? It’s so enticing to be in a well paid career but at what cost to me and how to deal with that toxicity that runs throughout it.

I moved the blankets to the far end of the garden away from the decking as the sun started to fall away from the sky and the shadows became longer earlier. I worried about how tomorrow might be rainy and how my vitamin D might just fall away rather than enjoy this moment as much as I should be. Another jet just flew over, it’s orange colouring giving away it’s budget airline nature. I could cash in all my money I have left for a flight ticket back, and a ticket to the airport, put everything in storage and see how life panned out – but I feel just a little too much of a coward to do it like that. What would I do out there, how would I get by with the limited foreign language I have. What about my gender appointments and GP help. What about my gender progress?

I thought for a moment in the little remaining heat coming from the sun, ‘what about my gender progress?’ Really, what about it? I made more progress in two weeks away from here than I’ve probably made in two years. I’ve come back with a decision about my career, or at least the decision not to go back to it, and a sense of reality about the gender thing. In fact it’s so much less of a thing now and more, well, fact. I have a sense of parking and packing away those times ten years or so ago going out meeting people with some gender identity issue and drinking it away on a Saturday night and packing it away early Sunday morning – that was no more, I was archiving those memories away and happy to do so. I needed to move on and not feel guilty or devastated to do so.

Healthy salads covered in olives, olive oil and sea salt. Ocean spray in the morning. Grey days at a minimum and white villas with hard charcoal tiled floors. May be there is a way to construct what I need in my life to be content. Just may be.

Until next time

Hannah x

Perfume and the Ocean

Thick orange horizon fell quickly with the sun as it hid itself below the other island that was outlined in fading grey. Sub tropical air with the atlantic bringing in the evening surf and people, just like me, standing here in awe at the sunset. The humidity clinging around my clothes and the remaining orange glow where the sun, now gone, leaving the burning embers in the sky. I really was here, taking an hour away from my parents while on holiday and just taking a moment for what it was, no life stresses, no gender thoughts, no nothing other than that moment. The sky, the colour, oneness, wholeness – how things should be.

It started just a few days before packing clothes at home and trying to decide what I wanted to take, what would end up being those clothes that would never get worn on holiday, I mean who wears a denim jacket in thirty degrees. On top of that was what female clothes, my clothes, could I really take that I would use without feeling anxious around my parents on the rare time I would holiday with them. ‘Sod it’, I thought, and chucked my denim shorts with the coloured crystal studs and turns ups into the case, my black running short-shorts, my turn up soft leafy camouflage shorts in pale greens and creams, the new look t-shirt with the cropped sleeves and most things I really wanted to wear but rarely had the confidence. I stopped short of perfume because I was down to my last spray, there wasn’t much point.

It was funny how quickly, once on holiday, that conversations between myself and my Mum had turned to clothes. I think it was when a woman worked by with a thin white seamless long vest top branded with Calvin Klein, shorts and a seamless tan down her long legs. I say branded but as with many clothes bought and worn on the island the brand had been stolen, printed and sold for five euros a top. “I like her vest top, Mum” I said without thinking.
“Which one?”
“The white CK top. I’d like to have one of those for running.”

Thoughts seem to churn for her a little and within a day we were shopping together looking for the elusive Calvin Klein vest and it expanded into looked for linen cropped trousers and shorts. I was already wearing some of my female shorts. There was some immediate acceptance but the underlying reason still unspoken.

I slipped into a perfume shops and tried a few scents on either wrist and caught up with my Mum who had walked on slowly browsing the trinket gift shops. I smelt either wrist trying to make my mind up which I preferred.

“Let me have a smell.” I offered either wrist but didn’t mention one was perfume, the other the men’s equivalent which I genuinely wasn’t so keen on, but it was okay.
“Oh that’s nice – ” she said smelling the ladies perfume, “I prefer that one. It seems longer lasting.”
“Yes me too. I might get it for a change.”

It wasn’t too long before we were talking about it again as we wandered in and out of clothes shops with genuinely nice clothes. Mum was soon talking about perfume rather than ‘aftershave’ and not even ‘eau de toilette’, “well if you decide to get your perfume you can always put it in my luggage if it doesn’t fit in your case.” The holiday suddenly had lifted some barriers without any kind of dramatic conversation, it just happened organically.

Mornings were started with solitary runs along the Atlantic coast with the deep blue ocean waters and fizz of oxygen turning the water aqua marine pale green as the waves broke. I would put on my short running shorts showing my now carefully tanned legs much like the woman with the vest and legs. My mum would already have woken and from the gap in the door wave to me as I left the apartment. Another day she got up early and took that refreshing walk with me and commented, “they’re nice shorts.”

“Yes, these are my running shorts. They’re nice to run in. I think I might have to replace them soon as they’re just about to start loosing their cling.” I pulled at the side with my fingers.
“They need to be clingy for running don’t they.” She said.

The jig was certainly up just like it was with the perfume. It was just accepted that I preferred perfume, I preferred my running shorts and cropped white Mediterranean linen trousers. Yet things were still unspoken. I know she knows. She knows. She knows I know. Rinse repeat.

May be this how it is or at least how it should be. No dramatic hand written letter about the gender thing or sitting them around the dining table, “Mum, Dad, there is something you need to know.” God, thank the stars for not having to go through that rigmarole that sums up that song and dance drama of the phrase coming out – eugh. The less of that the better. A long slow change of life rather than some overbearing statement.

Even my dad had been talking briefly here and there about what I was going to buy or wear. We might not have been sharing shopping trips and conversations of ‘how nice that girl’s top is.’ but he was equally trying some kind of encouragement to do what I wanted. When my Mum was pulling linen trousers and vest tops from the rack that were clearly female, especially with fancy cuts going down the back, hold it up and saying, “how about this one?” I felt suddenly at ease.

The coffee was short, hot and bitterly strong and the view from the beach side rustic cafe, dramatic and relaxing. With the few highly coveted seats on the wooden flooring surrounded by sand and rocks bordering the ocean I was home away from home. Holidays, for me, are always life changing. Re-evaluating and inspiring to change things for the better when I return, throwing away the ruts that drag but I didn’t expect to suddenly have this honesty thrown upon me. I suppose if I had known this would happen in advance I would have felt like that moment when you need to pull that plaster off your arm but are afraid to yank it through the fear and the longer you think about it the harder it becomes. Instead someone else just pulled that plaster and it came off painlessly like it was stuck on with Post-It note glue. Enough so that I would put on more plasters just to pull them off so I could be more me around my parents.

Until next time.

Hannah x

The Night Air Spoke

I leaned on the sill and stared out of the bedroom window into the cool near still night. Surround sound grey noise of a busy carriageway in the distance, the street lamps delicately producing the minimal picture of the houses and black sharp shadows beneath the bay hedges outlining the gardens. I rested my head in the palm of my hands together with my elbows gripping the gloss paint of the wooden sill. I thought all sorts. Sharing shopping with my mum, discussing clothes, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do that. A lack of testosterone that would normally eat away at me and make me annoyed like a dripping tap. A bit of stubble that had grown throughout the day now feeling spiky under my chin and jaw, wouldn’t it be nice if that was just gone.

It was as if the bank holiday weekend had just culminated all my fears of leaving behind the old male driven stuff and decisively made the decision that I would be better off without that stuff and allowing the feminine side to take precedence outwardly and not just inward. An acceptance of fait. An acceptance that things might be better or at the very least, not worse.

I looked around the surrounding homes. All those people for who gender probably isn’t even a thought, let alone an nightmare of self mental abuse in constant questioning every few minutes throughout everyday. I suddenly noticed a figure standing in the bedroom window across the road, I looked, the curtains twitched and they disappeared as soon as they realised they were rumbled. May be I’m the only one here who happily takes a moment to take in the night air, its sounds and atmosphere that is so different to any other time of the day and not rushing to bed hoping for enough sleep.

It was funny that such a subtle step forward this bank holiday weekend would lead to such a big change of perspective in my own head. I was getting ready just the day before yesterday to go to the beach and spend some time with my parents. With the sun out I was at an internal conflict. My instinct without thought was that I wanted to wear my denim shorts with the turn-ups, the soft thick stitching around the pockets and crop sleeve white t-shirt with the wider-neck-than-a-male-t-shirt design that just fell lovely over my shorts and freshly shaved legs ready for vitamin D; only normally within seconds of that initial ‘want’ this idea would be replace with the complimentary logic that “I can’t dare to wear that with my parents” and justify it with “I’ll have plenty of times to wear that stuff on my own, in the garden, or something.”

There was a difference though that day. There was a self assurance that I knew who I was and that really, I wanted to wear those clothes that day so much that I was, well, just going to wear them. Not just that but also be proud. I packed the car and got ready. Checked myself in the mirror and doubled checked it was ok and I wasn’t making a mistake or complete fool of myself. Christ it wasn’t like I was turning up in a beach sarong and a bikini top or something so obvious that everything was about to be out in the open. I didn’t flinch with the thought. I didn’t second guess. It wasn’t even an option, that’s what was right today, that’s what would make me feel good and nothing else really appealed.

At the beach my Mum said ‘let’s go get some ice cream’ and so we went for a walk. “Are those shorts new?” she said casually. They were hardly new but I don’t think I’d ever dared to wear them around her or Dad. The floral material lining the pockets were ripped on both and some of the subtle blue and green glass jewels on studs that pinned on the joins of the demon had fallen off; but some hadn’t fallen. They really had been worn to death and were clinging on to the crown of being favourite shorts saving them from becoming dirty cleaning rags or bin fillers.

“No, I’ve had I them ages – ” I really had, “the pockets are ripped even.” I pulled out what little material was left and showed the hole.
“Oh they look like new. They’re nice.”

We had shared a moment. I felt that thought cross my mind once again, ‘is this the time? The time to tell her?’ And then other thoughts of what we might share and how our relationship might bond a little differently, like an extra add-on to a coffee, salted caramel flavouring added to a latte and so the mother and son friendship which would have the additional mother daughter relationship that she’d never had, or myself for that matter, at least not fully.

It seems such a small thing in retrospect with two countries in the world in flood with the horror flashing on the news on the TV on mute that made it ever so more prominent and thick with sadness. Putting that aside as there is little that can be done from the forces of nature I realise that problems are just relative to everyone. First world problems fill the void for society where third world problems have been eradicated and no matter how more immediate those terrible atrocities are that fill our media those issues of mental health, depression and loneliness are just as sad and dark, hidden and difficult to deal with.

Point of view is the relativity of our problems, especially when it comes to the gender thing. Just when one problem is solved, like the subtle issue of denim shorts and cropped sleeve t-shirts, another more deep and complicated one comes to the surface. Complications with other people, new people, interactions that stop us being ourselves or just hiding away our true selves because of being afraid of being rejected. The story continues in the book that I’ve not read yet. Another chapter turned and a new fear to experience.

Until next time

Hannah x

Insightful Chemistry from the Ocean

I threw an ice-white linen cloth over the garden table and placed a small clear glass candle jar on the table and lit a tea-light. I returned to the kitchen to put the finishing touches to my dessert and returned outside, sat at the table, eating crumble made from freshly picked local wild fruits topped with a glaze of white custard, and watched the sky turn from dark blues with tall puffy clouds in the distance to the black of night. The smell of vanilla waft across the table from the candle with it’s fuel-like vapour reminding me of the late night smell of a chlorinated hotel swimming pool abroad. Coupled with the sound of grass hoppers bristling their legs in the lawn and the warm air that had come in yesterday, I could well have been abroad.

Abroad. A place in my mind to escape. A silly idea that if I went away to do my something different that all my troubles would float away on the thermals of air like the scent in this candle. Now short-term self retired, also known as self-unemployed, I have the world as my choice but I seem to have little in the way of credible ideas. My head has been mush all week. Unable to bring together any effort in either thoughts or physical activity and occupation of my time; with the exception of running which seems to be the only energy I can muster.

I did start a list of ideas what I might do next, one of which would be to return to the same type of job I just quit from, but soon wrote down next to that ‘to go through the whole thing all over again.’ In fact it would be just another cycle I hadn’t broken. The easy route that would earn money and allow me to sit in an office, at a desk, for the whole day, feeling uninspired by the work and feeling my life slip though my fingers and before I know it it’ll be a decade gone and I’ll be going through the whole process again. The week before I was excited by the possibilities of what I could choose to do for a career and yet now I felt lack-lustre. I don’t think it was particularly the ideas that were at fault but my current state of mind and health. I felt drowsy and so the ideas seemed drowsy.

I looked up from the laptop and realised, apart from the glow of the screen, I was surrounded by complete darkness and the air had cooled rapidly the warmth escaping to the stars in the clear sky. I took everything back in doors.

The next morning I went for a run in an attempt to clear this almost hangover fuzzy head which isn’t much fun when no alcohol was involved. But despite clearing my head a little I was still unable to pull together the thoughts I needed to figure out what I should do.

By the afternoon I found myself walking along the waters edge of a beach that spans the coast for as far as the eye can see and beyond. The sand still damp where the tide had retreated as far as it could. A blue sky filled with puffy white clouds above and tall dark clouds in columns over the flat horizon.

I pulled off my trainers and my pink and grey short socks, the toes already damp where sea water had found its way through my trainers. I continued to walk along the waters edge an inch deep in the incoming tide. It was cool but soon enough became late summer tepid that made it pleasant. Was it not this that I wanted, rather than specifically being along the Mediterranean Sea or the darker greyer waters of Britain, but just to be able to spend time by the sea. Was it time that I needed rather than a complete change? Being just me at the beach wearing what I wanted and feeling I was who I should be rather than the daily mask, even though much less of a mask these days, I was still not one hundred percent where my gender should be.

Much like the trickling clear water drifting it’s way down from a rock pool along a river it had cut into the sand itself, my thoughts on my gender were just as clear. It was clear that I should find a way to progress a little more with the gender thing and find an income that suits my needs for my time, my financial needs where the two can live in harmony with each other. Whether that be on the Côte d’Azur or in the highly charged seasons of the United Kingdom.

I found a rock where I could lay a towel, put my feet up on the coating of rock barnacles and sit with a dark bitter hot chocolate drink and allow the drama of the sky, the high sea breeze and the sun to dance between the fast moving clouds to stir my thoughts and hopefully lift this fuzzy head.

May be I need to mix things up. Keep a free flowing process in how to plan my life and also inversely be regimental. Make lists, jot down ideas, add seemingly unobtainable goals. Be a teacher to myself. Pull out the whiteboard and get busy with a marker. Pace around looking important with a felt pen muttering thoughts, anything that gets ideas moving and bullet points written. Be a bit harder with myself but also patient. If a villa over looking the French Riviera is what I want then put ink on paper and look at it the next day and think, can I, should I, and shout “put the damn effort in and you might just get it.”

It’s the same with gender. It’s a personal thing. Everyone is different and people have different stop-points where they become content. May be I’m content now? After my walk I feel I’m not quite there. There is still a freedom I don’t have and I don’t use – yet.

The tide just a few meters away from my rock. The self made little river continues to delicately make it’s way to meet the incoming sea that looks grey, white and hard when the sun is obscured by the cloud and full of dark earthy greens and white surface froth in the waves when the sun appears. The wind constant without breath and despite being August continues to bite around my arms where it has made its way, I suspect, from the cold of the Atlantic. My ponytail being pulled by the wind and material of my clothes fluttering. I wonder at this point why I spend so little time doing this, productive, thoughtful, insightful chemistry from the ocean.