November Christmas

Long sticks of coal glowed in a bundle with colours from white ash to deep infrared sat under the grate with heat I could feel on my face all the way from the counter. German sausages lined up in their tens and coming off the rack and slotting into long bread buns as fast as they were hitting the grate raw. The cold air around me accentuated the warmth on my skin and added to that feeling that it was November-Christmas; that subtle time where Christmas is hinted at with market stalls selling wooden sculptures, berry gins and lanterns but without the crayon thickness of Christmas tunes, mostly from the eighties, in December roaring from department stores full of the hard sell.

With guests visiting for the weekend I spent at least two hours catching up on my vacuuming, dusting and frantically washing work clothes, includethose gender-thing trousersfor the week after before they arrived for the weekend. I’ve still yet to understand how Garlic paper finds it’s way to the bedroom floor, let alone the front hallway or living room. May be one for the New Year Resolution, ‘check floor for garlic skin after cooking.’

It was a far away scene from the working week stuck on crowded trains. It’s hard enough being hot from a rainy walk to the station but, if I’m lucky to get on the train, it’s a place of people pressed against the doors and a line filling the aisles end to end. Cattle shipped to work and back each day. When it’s like that a thought passed briefly, that moment when everyone is finally jammed on this already late train and the doors close and I wait for that little bit of silence before the engines start and I would shout, “tickets please!” Somehow I don’t think it would go down well at seven something in the morning. I suspect I would be lynched from the nearest luggage rack if anyone was able to move more than a spare arm across the chest.

I kind of enjoyed the return to commuting. I felt like an observer. As if it was a temporary thing that I wanted to see how the commuterarti lived. Like Jarvis sang, ‘I want to live like common people.’ except I wanted to travel like the working middle classes. But with the crowding so bad it was hard to people-watch like I might in a cafe over a hot chocolate topped with cream. Looking how people felt in the morning by the look on their faces and how people dressed for work in the winter, especially with Christmas coming up. In fact what I did see of those morning faces they, at least, didn’t look too bad, certainly not like those on the Tube in London. There’s nothing more winter-certain than a patterned scarf and dark coats or long dark hair over a warm red coat.

I can’t help myself looking at other women’s shoes and thinking, ‘I wonder if I could get away with wearing those’ or a pair of trousers and wondering if that pattern and colour would be my next purchase for work. It may take longer to get to work by public transport and, my god, is it more expensive than driving, but there are some times when people-watching is as much entertaining as it is comparing and looking for ideas and lifestyles.

I pulled my phone briefly from my pocket to check the usual cycle of email, text, Instagram and what have you, one day last week and then I realised – I was missing out on the scenery going by and just life. I sit in front of a screen most of the day and have plenty of other times to check my phone. I put it away and glanced around. It was difficult to find anyone that wasn’t glued to a small screen. Watching some video, listening to music or endlessly scrolling through Facebook. I thought for a moment, ‘Is that what it looks like from the outside? Twenty minutes fixated on that little ice white rectangle of light.’ I felt privileged to have realised that sometimes it’s good to put it away. For some, I guess, it’s to keep themselves shielded from the depressing obscurity of monotonous late and cancelled transport.

It was the weekend though and when my guest, Maddie, arrived – Maddie, my ex-who-knows-from-a-decade-or-so-ago – I felt all my stresses fall away. A weekend of hints of Christmas in the air, a visit to a National Trust manor house and coffee in the cafe allowing time to just float away. It’s at times like that the gender-thingjust kind of takes a backseat and I just am. That is, I’m not worrying about it or thinking about next steps and stuff like that.

You know, I think it’s another one of those moving on a stepkind of things, where if I mull over some of the advances I’ve made in the last year or so in who I am and how I present myself and where in the past I would have been a bag of nerves about it – I now just sort of smile to myself how good I feel about it. It’s slow progress but it’s my pace and in my own time and that’s what matters.

I think my heart would have stopped at the very thought of say, wearing my running clothes at my parents after one of the running events, yet a few weeks ago I was sat across the table in a cafe, my three quarter length running trousers, from my Mum over a coffee and having one of our chats. Just another little more at a time.

Until next time,

Hannah x


Above It All

Traffic passed along the carriage way slowly but at least moving. I stood on the side of the road, keeping warmed up, waiting to cross. The sun long gone with the winter sunset times and headlights beaming in the cold air of the early evening. I started running again through a break in the traffic and headed down the old quiet road between the fields and towards the small village on the hill. The road soon became devoid of street lamps only a patch in front lit by my mobile phone. Flashing lights on my trainers lighting the tarmac behind and warning unlikely drivers on this near dead road of my presence. A brief patch of light approached from a lone street lamp along side the cemetery beaming through the old iron black fence and then back into darkness for a short while until I reached the well lit road at the bottom of the hill that snaked upwards into the old village.

At the junction at the bottom, which was surprisingly busy with modern cars commuting home, stood a boarded up building, an old workshop of some sort and next to it a tiny cottage with painted boarded up windows. Not the usual chocolate box large cottage that serves as a farm house or a typical English thatched roof cottage from an oil painting but a small Welsh shoe box cottage with dark black Welsh slate in the shadows and quarried stone work. It looked just a little too unkempt to be saved but too old and frail for anyone to pull it down guilt-free. It felt like an introduction to the little village on the hill where the road climbed steeply enough for me to take a breather from my run.

I stopped half way up for a moment and looked across the land that fell away to smaller flatter countryside that stretched ten or so miles to the sea. The difference running on a dry winters evening was the view of darkness and the lands bumps, dips and woodlands only suggested by the pins of lights. It started just at the bottom of the side of the hill, a small town crowded with white lights and hints of colour from branded shops. The lights then spread like arteries into the darkness with pairs of lamps flowing towards the far reaches of darkness carrying people home.

I stood their in my running tights thinking, ‘I think it’s about time, given it’s winter and all that, I should get some full length ones.’ It wasn’t cold enough to worry about it that-night but I knew colder nights were probably coming and thinking this way instead of taking a stiff upper lip attitude to making dowas a sign of the new job I had started and having money again.

It wasn’t the only thing that the new job had created. I was now wearing to work size 12 trousers rather than 32. Inches were now a dress size for trousers and while I’d always wanted to try them and take that part of me to the working day and work place I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. Like I had said before, start as I mean to go on, and I did just that on day one and things just felt right. They may be black but it made me feel like the day was in colour rather than grey scaled and it wasn’t that hard. I’ve spend so long wearing skinny jeans and running gear in ladies styles during my free time that it just felt like another day – without the saddening effect of wearing dull same as the next pairof mens trousers.

It started a few weeks ago in the run up to starting my new job. I flicked through rails of trousers both mens and ladies and I felt torn. Was I kidding myself being able to bring that part of me to my work life. In one shop I found a pair I liked. They felt like a good start, a basic pair of nice black trousers that would be good for an office job – but they didn’t have my size. I desperately tried the next size up in the changing rooms in the hope that their sizing was different, but they weren’t. I looked through the mens trousers but that feeling of being their before, the style, the colour, that straightness. Don’t get me wrong, these trousers look fine, just on other people. I felt, well, bored by them.

A few days later with time running short towards my start day, and while looking for those bootsin the city, I visited another branch of that store where I found those trousers I liked – and there they were, in my size, reasonably priced, and they fitted. I still felt a little on edge about whether to get them. I hadn’t started work yet and while money was tight and a pay day would of course come along, I still hadn’t started this new work and until it was in my hands it didn’t feel real. I really needed to know that I wanted them and that I wouldn’t end up putting them in the cupboard and not wearing them. But I bought them. I still wasn’t sure but something inside just said do it.

I feel so much better about myself now, a few weeks later, wearing them and retiring the remaining work trousers that had hung around, with a half life of several years, since my last office job over a year ago. Now that I realise how much better it makes me feel about myself I feel I’ll be getting more and may be this will make me feel good about the working day; after all we spend so many hours of our week in work.

I set off again up the hill running around the road curving into the village into a narrow road between tall old houses overshadowing the pedestrian walkway that narrowed even more so. I took a lane away from the road, my ankles taking the strain of the uneven cobble stones and spartan lane lamps that peppered the floor with a spill of light into darkened walls that bordered the gardens. I was soon clear of the old houses and cottages that clung to the side of the land, many of which had been there long before the last century, the path lead through a cattle gate under a tree and out onto the wild tough grass that took the brunt of the climate that came from the sea hitting the Welsh countryside.

I may have not seen the sun set but the darkened view with the moon cutting through what little cloud glowed orange around it was as inspiring as the oxygen that had bought me a couple of miles. I stood there for ages. I had imagined what I wanted at the destination of my run and it didn’t disappoint. Seeing people rushing around in their cars and the last of the workers in the shops below having to work on into the evening. It was serene being above it all. It was energising evening after a tiring day. I hoped it was a sign of things to continue. To take an opportunity when the mood took me and to feel good about it. All I had to do now was run back.

Until next time.

Hannah x

A Thousand Feet, Ten Miles Apart

‘Round laces –’ I sighed to myself, ‘try them anyway.’ I pulled on those leather boots, I say leather but they weren’t, I searched the entire boot but the only label said ‘Made in China’ and ‘Fabriqué en Chine’ and several other languages but it was clear that it was completely unclearwhat they were made of – just not leather. It was long gone lunch time and I was hungry and just a little tired. Hungry and tired made me irritated that getting new boots for a new job was just so frustrating.

Leant over on a low stool in a middle of a department store amongst shelves of black mass manufactured blobs made to look like a shoe but failing on most of the specification. I glanced up as I struggled to push my foot in as another shopper squeezed past me all looking to over-spend on products with a race to the bottom on price with quality following just shy behind. This particular pair I struggled with because those laces had been annoyingly laced in that, black and forth with one end while the other just lazily strung from the bottom eye to the top one diagonally; I think these are the same people who put the loo roll on with the end directed to the wall.

I spotted a zipper on the side, ‘thank god, now it makes sense, a zipper would make it a lot easier and it makes them a little more stylish’ I thought. I tried to pull the zipper down the side of the boot but it felt jammed. ‘Damn it. I just can’t get a break with these boots, the zip is already jammed and I’ve not even taken them to the counter.’ I looked inside on the back of the zip to look why the zipper was jammed and it was fairly obvious, the top of the zipper was surrounded by a box of stitching – a fake zipper. But hold on, if you’re going to go to the trouble, as a manufacturer, of fitting a zip, why actually stitch it up and stop it working? I mean no money saved. By fake I mean it was non functional but the zip itself was real. It was there.

I needed these boots badly though and persevered. It would be hard enough to find ladies boots, being a size just one above most ranges, but these were mens boots; the cutest I could find at least in a generic gender way. Pulled the laces out and eventually slid my foot in. These did it just the same as the several boots from several other shops had done and just dug into the back of my heel again. Annoyed I slotted the boots on the self with a clunk in defeat and moved to another shop.

If they had red stitching that made them look different, they were too narrow. If they looked from the outset they would be just right, they didn’t have my size. I wasn’t winning. I decided on one last shop, which wasn’t much of a choice because I had exhausted every shoe shop and department store in the city and my head was spinning not from lack of choice but a void of food.

I trailed along the shelf looking at the styles that seemed to be much like the other shops but with just a little changed to allow them to sell pretty much the same thing but at their own price off a dice roll. I found a pair of boots. They were cute. I could get on with these. The front weren’t too long and the shape and colours… I slipped it on – and there is was, the back again pushing into my heel. I think I literally shoved the mystery material in the shape of a boot onto the shelve determined to head straight to the car and telling myself ‘there are other days between now and Monday to find boots.’ The reality was that I was unlikely to go to the shops again for a fruitless search for my feet. May be everyone else just had different shaped feet to me. It was pointless to buy boots that would be more uncomfortable than the mildly uncomfortable boots I already have.

I suppose the thing with starting a new job is that I was in two minds on what I would wear. ‘Start as you mean to go on’ is what some say and I think starting wearing something that’s a little more for the feminine side is a whole lot easier than wearing some standard shirt, trousers and plain old masculine shoes office expectation and at a later date start wearing something that makes people question what’s going on.

At home, finishing off some long overdue lunch and with the kettle on along with my cute boots I already had, walking around the kitchen I realised that I should just use what I have for now. The boots I already had were that start as a meant to go onas were the work trousers I bought. It didn’t matter what the end goal was once I had worked there for a few months, all that mattered was being happy and work was just a small slice of a nice chocolate cake.

It had only been a day ago that I was in a place that was devoid of silly stressed about how my feet would be protected from the elements and how my feet would look to others. Stressed about fit, price and being part of the retail therapy jungle.

The hill was hard going. The road had been hard going but riding up this hill was even harder. The further I went the steeper it seemed to get. A cold day but the few miles to get there in my sweater had made me hot. The grass was short and hardy set high up, dotted with sheep poo and kept by the sheep themselves nibbling all day. For every few feet I climbed on my bike the view became more and more spectacular and my legs deciding enough for now. I walked the last stretch of the high mound that stood at the top of the mountain pushing my bike by the handle bars with the bell tinging over the odd small bump in the ground. As I reached the top the wind from the north blew a chill over my exposed legs below my three quarter length trousers. It bit hard.

The sky felt closer with wispy clouds blending grey into the cold autumn blue to the horizon connecting to the sea in the distance. I felt like if I raised my arms as high as I could I would be able to drag my fingers through the clouds and leave trails for people to see miles around. Every direction had a view that dug deep into the soul and created temporary amnesia for any problems I had. Green hills to the north dipping into each other with little villages dotted in the gaps and to the west a forest with a carpet of leaves still hanging on in yellows, browns and deep autumn reds.

I had planned to stay there until sunset and watch the world change through light alone but the breeze had taken at least ten degrees off the temperature. It was unforgiving like much of the world but what was important is that once again, at that moment I felt like I was in another place both physically and culturally and yet just a few miles from home silly little problems like whether a pair of boots would raise questions in a new job or the type of trousers I would wear, it was just work, just clothes, the important bit is just being me and I had already proved to myself when it comes to running on the weekend with other runners that people like people for who they are mostly; work should be the same.

When I think about the difference of deciding what I want to wear to being on the top of a mountain surrounded by natural beauty then it’s just a case of reordering priorities. What is important. What makes me comfortable and when to push myself a little out of my comfort zone whether it’s deciding to wearing something new or climbing upwards on a mountain bike.

Until next time.

Hannah x

At Least For Now

The rain beat against my face. It wasn’t hard or particularly soaking me but September had started to make my fingers so cold they felt like clay only moving slowly. My knees with a little pain and the cold contracting my leg muscles that I felt I just had no energy to run. Being amongst other runners on a rainy Saturday morning just felt better than staying in bed, at least the alarm clock had woken me from a particularly disturbing dream on the border of a nightmare that had got the better of the quality of my sleep; socialising with other runners, despite the cold, was just where I wanted to be.

It was only twenty or so minutes before that I had been standing at the hand drier in the cafe toilets trying to dry my hands in a time that would mean the would be dry by at least lunch time by rubbing them in all sorts of random motions which appeared to just spread the water around my hands and between my fingers. The door opened and a man stood there, looked briefly at me standing their at the dryer, three quarter length running capris and a light coloured hoodie pull-over with my hair in a pony tail, “Sorry – I… must have the wrong…” he said while turning to the gender sign on the toilet door and then seemed frozen on the spot while his logic conflicted with his eyes and remained paralysed as to whether leave or not.

‘It’s happened again.’ I thought at that moment, ‘Oh, let’s make it easy for him.’ The single cubical within the toilet was locked, “It’s locked, I think someone is in there.”
“Oh, thanks.” he said in a sort of way that seemed to make him think, ‘that should make sense so it probably does.’ I decided damp hands were better than wet hands and left making it much easier for him to enter without feeling some kind of worry about whether he really was going into the right toilet.

From time to time it will happen and usually when that door opens I at least try to stand side on rather than the back of my head which just shows long hair which feels like it might be an even worse way of making someone feel awkward or feeling they’ve come into the wrong toilet – but what I have really noticed is it’s happening more often.

Why when in recent years, as I age, I feel that I’m loosing my feminine traits, apart from my hair, and probably feel I don’t come across as female so often that this is happening more? It’s simple I suppose. As I’ve become a little more confident I’m wearing the things I want to wear and as I’ve become more comfortable with that then that confidence shows outwardly. They do say that people who want to appear as the opposite of their ‘birth gender’ fare better when they take an attitude of just getting on with things. I think that is what’s happened here and did it creep up on me how often.

I tried taking in the big breaths I needed to try and get my legs working against the cold but for some reason, today, they just didn’t want to work that hard but still the bushes passed me by as did the tarmac path and I passed runners who’d started way to fast and faster runners passed me as usual and I was still glad to be there. It is one of the few things I have in my life right now.

When I compare to what I had before I told my girl friend all those years ago I guess things are just different. It’s a hard comparison because I am now older. Nearly twenty years older since I met Maddie. It was two years into our relationship when I told her and at the time, while one of the most difficult things I’ve ever said, it was also a huge unloading for me but also a big switch in the direction of our futures and a terrible weight for Maddie to take on. We may have stayed together several years more but the inevitable happened.

History has happened and what we have both done since then is play our lives out in a way that wasn’t as we’d planned; she married, I didn’t. Sometimes I can think ‘what if’ but I rarely think about it now because it’s so far on that may be things could have been worse from some terrible fate.

Despite this it is hard not to feel some guilt about not being completely the person who Maddie thought I was and our mapped out future was suddenly broken. There are times I feel like I was the Vince Pinner to Penny Warrender, while I didn’t stand Maddie up at the altar, telling her that I had gender problems was as good as not turning up to the church in its impact. Over a decade on though, as our lives took their own directions and that split of our relationship and how we have moved onI find myself feeling like Emily in Hampstead. Stuck amongst the memories decaying around me and not replacing them quick enough with new warm meaningful days and people.

I sprinted the last few yards with anything I could find and the standing water flicking up off my trainers up my uncovered calves. As I paced through the finish line and stumbled to a halt, bending over trying to catch my breath and hoping not to have to catch volumes of sick, I realised that at least I had people like these in my life. I have my friends, I have my close friends, and I have my running friends. May be it’s enough, at least for now.

The Longest Deepest Breath

I had cut the grass the day before all to perfect height and it had recovered from the harsh summer that had left it that sandy white colour of death to a fresh green that would give most golf greens a challenge in saturation with a luscious feel under on the soles of the feet. The sun had come out bright and strong enough to feel the burn and enough to look for that half used bottle of factor twenty that I thought might have been on the shelf until next year. Summer had returned and it was still here despite the over due calendar turn for September. Even the air was warm and gone was that artic cutting edge from the north last week.

I laid out the blankets on the grass. I could actually walk bare foot on the spring fresh grass that would have spiked me on every step just a few weeks ago in it’s hay stiffness. A couple of cushions scattered, a hot cup of tea and a book. I stopped reading for a moment. It seems mad that just a week ago my life was in a totally different direction. Work consisted of excitement but intermittent and barely paid. The gender clinic was just a few weeks away of another appointment, the third of which I would have nothing to offer with progression and a cancellation on it’s way to them. My running achievements were ever upward but more importantly my direction had felt lost. I just didn’t seem to be able to put together some cohesive positive forward movement that felt like I had a future and one that I was looking forward to. It’d been lost.

Now I’m contemplating starting a full-time office job with a stable future and old ground that I have tread so many times over the last two decades; I am just a little conflicted. I had applied for the job out of desperation. Partly to fulfil my obligation to the job centre but also to myself and my family – financially and, I suppose, emotionally; worry. The thing is even though I have been working the shifts are few and far between, underpaid and very antisocial hours and I find my bank balance slowly topping up over the weeks only for a huge chunk sliced away at the end of the month on rent. Slowly my money was disappearing and I didn’t want to be draining on other people.

It had been the start of a new week and that morning I had an interview. Back in my old new media industry with the only thing on my mind was that it would pay the bills at least. I pulled the shirt off the hangar and slid on a pair of trousers I’d probably not worn in two years or more. I sorted through the ties and looked at what would suit the shirt and whether it was soft enough to soften out as much trace of masculinity as I could. I felt my face drain of happiness as I saw some masculinity return.

If it wasn’t for my hair straighteners that created a beautiful straight and shiny ponytail from my long hair and the cute pair of chelsea boots I was wearing I think I would have held onto that disappointing feeling of regression for the rest of the day. Those cold air days of the last week had also meant I wore a warm smart coat and although it may have, to a little extent, added to the tie and shirt morning,I did at least feel smart walking through the city on my way to the interview. People look at you differently when you’re dressed smart and while it’s not a favourite past time of mine, give me some cropped running capris and a yoga top anytime, it made me feel a little worthy – of something.

I imagined for a moment how smart would translate to feminine clothing for work or an interview. Somethings just aren’t as different as I would imagine. Trousers that are just more curved or shaped nicely rather than hang from waist with minor pleats to make them seem interesting in a masculine way. Shirt becomes a woman’s shirt or blouse which is a little more fitted. I just had to put that thought aside for today though. Go to the interview, for which I studied solidly to get back up to speed, and think about the fact that within an hour or two I’ll be on my way home and whether or not they offer me the job the control of my fate, ultimately, is in my hands.

It seemed strange after the interview. I felt like they wouldn’t hire me because I felt they were probably reading my lack-lustre by the tonne and I wasn’t sure if they were really into it themselves. I was just glad to be on my way home and ditch the interview attire.

It was one of those decision moments that had hit me that day. If I’m offered this job what do I do? Do I continue with my current job barely supporting me but find a way through while trying to find that illusive something elsethat I’d rather be doing and really chase it, or do I take this job and at least have money to buy new jeans when I need them, feed myself properly and have petrol for the car to go to places I can’t afford to go to right now? At first it seemed obvious that I should take a better paying job and think about that something elsemove while I’m there. Then I thought about it again. I’d been here before – this situation. I’d taken a safe office job in the past and ended up in the same place again, feeling dulled by the lack of instant excitement.

Several days passed and an answer came. An e-mail pinged on my mobile phone while I was out at an evening event with my best friends. “We’d like to offer you the job. Please get in touch if you would like us to send you a formal offer.”

Those thoughts of which direction I should take came rushing back. I knew I had around twelve hours to respond before it became impolite and I had to make a solid decision.

I remembered how I felt when I walked into that office for the interview. I could feel the policies and procedures of the terms of employment contract oozing out of the walls and the veneered perfunctory desks. It was no good. The drink had been flowing that evening and I couldn’t make a rational decision, intoxicated, about my future that could be anything from six months to six years of my life. If I’m intoxicated enough to be doing a pros and cons list when I got home that evening then making a sound decision that moment would be a bad idea. I would literally sleep on it.

In the morning my head had cleared. There was a rational inspired mind-set that had returned over breakfast and tea. ‘All I needed to do was accept the job. Wait for the offer to come in. If it’s not right I’m not tied to it.’ I thought to myself.

As much as I hate changing my mind and letting people down, not doing this in the past had not served me. I had to play this for me as much as I could. Over the coming hours I felt good about the decision. I wasn’t just doing this for me I was doing it for people around me who worry given how close I have been sailing to the financial wind.

It felt hard to think I would have to give up the other job where no two shifts would ever feel the same. The famous people I had seen and some of the crazy stories I had heard. I was also giving up having to cover my feet in plasters to protect from all the blisters of walking in those work-boots and the days of getting home at six in the morning too wired to sleep. It suddenly didn’t seem so bad and may be this new job, much like the old one, would get me by.

❤ –

What if I ended up staying. How would I feel about the gender thingat this office job. Could I go through a change of gender there and how would I feel about it? I think I’ve always asked myself that question whichever job I’ve started. I usually start by thinking, ‘Yeah, no problem, I reckon I could do it.’ and then, as the months pass by and I get to know people and they know me, some kind of identity protection kicks in and I feel nervous about the idea.

The difference these days though is that I now remind myself that whenever, if I do§, it won’t matter where or who sees the change, because it has to happen somewhere. May be that’s part of the plan I should have, rather than decide when is best to transition based on how confident I feel at that place, decide where I want to be when it happens and find that place when the time comes and do it there. That’s probably not a great way to decide on a new career but may be the whole thing will come together that way.

I laid my head back on the cushions and spread out on the blankets. The sun still shining hot but felt like it was in it’s last throws of the day now that early evening was closing in. I drew a long breath. It felt like the longest deepest breath I’d had for months. I could almost feel the oxygen racing down my veins in drenched blood and my stomach relaxing as if it had been tense since last year.

As the light started to fade I decided to light the chiminea. That foraged wood that I had been hanging on to so long burnt clean with flames that danced captivatingly. The breeze howled inside the chiminea intermittently as it drew over the fire and upwards feeding the flames. May be I hadn’t left things standing too long after all.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Shelter For Woodlice

The wood sat in a pile on the decking like it had for the last year since I had foraged it. Thin twigs for kindling, some thin branches to get things going and a few big logs for the duration. In the darkness they sat there getting dampened by the fine pouring relentless rain unused when all I could think of was the popping and crackling of the warm reds and yellows of the flames in the chimenea that would have been nice for a Saturday night.

Instead I had kept the wood there in a nice pile saving it for the right night but of course all I had done is left it there for a year providing a shelter for woodlice and missing every opportunity to actually sit in front of the fire because ‘just in case I used it all up.’ Fuel, like opportunity in life, is there to be used and like a film run end to end. Had I left myself on the decking for the last year?

I thought about it for a moment. Did it really compare to allowing some wood to rot on the decking and missing out on the warmth. Should I have done some more about the gender thinglast year. Given it much more priority. There again there was something warming about leaving the wood on the decking. I had, at least, provided a temporary roof for the woodlice between the hot days and the wet. I may have not gone as far as I’d have liked but in retrospect I’m out running with a group of people partly the way I want and not giving a damn and to some extent around my family too. Some things really can’t be rushed. The last thing I want to do is over cook this gendercake and end up with little ingredients left to try again.

May be some wood is meant to be left; not to rot but to mature. The time being right for one person is different for the next. Burning fast and bright isn’t for everyone and may be that’s what will happen in the end anyway but things tend to play out as they should.

I find myself in August writing another appointment cancellation letter to the GIC in London. I kind of started looking for signs that I shouldn’t be moving another appointment, which will be my third, I mean even the ink in the printer started running out when I tried to print it. I thought may be that was a sign, no ink, no letter, no cancellation. I looked for reasons to not cancel it, may be I should get up there, find the money some how and at least make some progress but that triggered some thoughts above the financial.

I realised that I wasn’t ready to go back. What sort of progress would I make with another appointment in my current situation. There was little point really. Appointments really aren’t the be-all-end-all. Certainly not at the GIC anyway. I would exclude counselling and therapy from that but the GIC are to some extent gate keepers, as much as I hate to say that, because they can and do help people but I think that help is limited. When I last went one question thrown at me was, “So what do you want from us?” I guess it’s a valid question, with what seems an glaringly obvious answer, but it’s just a question to see where on the check list of things they can do for meI am and then tell me what I need to do next to get there. The thing is – I know what’s on that check list, I know where I am and there isn’t much point in trying to check any more boxes until I do some more box checking of my own at home.

So it’s a case of refilling the ink cartridge and letting someone else take my spot who is ready to check another box. In the mean time I still have much that will distract me from doing anything towards any more box checking like finding a better paying job without dreading the thought of being underwhelmed by being in a boring office doing dry dull things in a professional manor.

It’s that old catch twenty two of being too worried about money to do much else at the moment and once thats no longer a worry being too busy and tired after work to do something towards a different career. Either that or may be I just don’t try hard enough.

I guess I’m at a big junction in my life much like when I turned thirty, which seems a life time ago, but rather than just moving up a notch in a career I now find myself at a junction between later youth and early maturity with options open to me but finding it hard to pin down what I want to do or those things that I know I’d like to do but not having the confidence to think I could be good at it. I may be talking about my career or occupation but may be it applies to my gender too.

So. If you happen to get a call from the GIC in London offering to bring your next appointment forward to September – raise a glass or an ice cream to your friend Hannah and her thoughts that make her take her time over these things.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Emotional Twenty-Two

There it is again. Just ignore it and keep typing, “During my time at the digital agency..” Again. Go away. Rising up my face and sinuses with what feels like the side of my nose, inside my face, trying to clench onto the pressure to stop it happening. Damn it, how on earth would I manage if I had female hormones if I’m like this now. It was no good. Whatever I did I was going to well-up and for no particular reason. It was just a place my body was in either from lack of sleep or strange work patterns or may be just because.

I was sat at the dining table, the doors to the living room open which made the house feel bigger than it was but it was the silence that had made me feel like a small person in a large room alone. I had switched off the TV so I could concentrate on this job application form online and I hadn’t realised that the silence had echo’d my emotional state back to me amplified ten fold. It’s happened in the past plenty of times but I seemed yet to find a way to cope with it. Sure, I knew the one thing I shouldn’t do at times like this was go through old possessions that I want to throw away because nostalgia and the hoarding fairy would quite clearly win – outright, but that was about it.

The thing is I was filling out an online form for a job application. ‘Add Employer’ it said, and I had to fill out every single employment I’ve had over the last twenty years. It seemed to be taking forever to repeat everything from my CV into their perfect-fit boxes but as I got further down my CV in the descending order of years, remembering managers names and their positions, trying to remember addresses of the offices which they had probably departed some fifteen years ago, it started to come over me. The welling-up. It’s not particularly those places I worked that I was longing for, in fact only one, may be two I can think of I would, rose-tintedly, feel I missed, but just the times around them.

The one place I worked at fell dramatically in the dot com crash in 2002. I went out to lunch one day and came back to several people missed due to redundancy. It was cold, horrific and axe-lead. I was one of the lucky ones being freelance I was served a good warning well over a month with another renewal promised. The poor girl opposite was invited to the hotel next door for a meeting, “oh, bring your bag with you.” I never saw her again. When my time ended there were staff enthusiastically moving to another part of the office in one of those, “let’s move the desks around to refresh and rejuvenate everyone.” Sometime later the whole place was shut. It was the place that seemed to have so much promise. The place I worked with the most well known names. The place I saw police walk in the office and arrest a member of staff for stealing books. The place I saw the Twin Towers fall thatmorning while everyone watched in silence around the office cafe television.

I guess with that particular place what I felt was a missing end. When I’ve left somewhere in the past it’s been down to a new and better opportunity or because I can’t stand the politics anymore. But with that place it ended because no one could stop it. Rose-tinted indeed though. Things had become quiet in what had been a very vibrant and post-modern work-place of the noughties. I liked most people there and the politics rarely ever affected me because I wasn’t a permanent employee despite being there for two years.

The place still reminds me of having admirations of the Web Producer. I just remember how confident she appeared and important she looked. Talking to clients and then bringing that to us. It seemed an exciting role and place to be, especially as a woman, but that wouldn’t have been an aspiration I could have worked on at the time being extremely secretive about the gender thing, in a relationship that I didn’t want to loose and, well, I was a contractor, disposable, no career path – worse still lacking the confidence to do anything about it. Now I feel so much older and past that youthful optimism, an expression I recently read in a job description.

I couldn’t take it anymore. That silence was cutting into me like a knife for every emotion rush in my face. I switched on the Hifi, turned up all the knobs and found some music dangerously from the time period. It was like the loudness of the music overruled the emotion. The neighbours were out and shaking the walls just wouldn’t matter. I thought picking music from the period would either shout the emotional state away or it would make it ten times worse but get it out quicker. It did neither other than mask it; but it was something.

I think this is a little more than nostalgia for times past though. I think there is more to it. I think the emotion reflects where I am now rather than where I was. Here I am applying for an office based job, somewhere which will be fraught with structure, business ethics and dryness, though good pay and holidays, but also leaving a job where I see exciting venues and working for famous people but for very little money and zero security. When I mix that with my current gender situation I think, “What am I doing?” Doing it all over again going back to something that’s dull but respectable and ignoring what I should be doing with the gender thing. Surely by now I should be applying in my female name?

Then I also feel like I’ve been ignoring my female side. When was the last time I remember putting on a skirt, yet when not actually paying any attention to it, surely that’s the normality of living a female life? That’s the reality of it. I go running I wear my female running shorts and whatever else goes with it, it doesn’t have to be unbelievably obvious. I mean, that’s what it feels like, it feels normal and so that’s what’s making me feel like I’ve not been giving enough time to it. A catch twenty-two of feeling guilty about not giving enough of my feminine side but wanting things to be normal and genuinely natural.

When I think about it I realise that the subtle place I’m in of femininity isreality. It’s normal, but more importantly genuine and innate and may be all this emotion I’m feeling today is just a normal natural cycle that is part of that which sometimes we like to think of as a natural feminine trait. May be what I need to do is get my head into a state of what I want next. Where do I want to be not just in employment but also how I live that female side of life and how far I go. Do I stall here for a while or move on a little more. The thing is I know this is a passing emotional moment. It’ll be gone in a few hours. Tomorrow I might be on for a positive and enthusiastic high with all my goals and wishes as clear as spring water.

What I know I should do is pin up the past on the cork board of things I did in my twentiesand be happy about them. If they fall off again, pick them up, take a look, smile and pin them back up. Forcibly put a metaphorical full-stop on them so that the end of them is very clear. Move on to new things that will over-shadow the things of the past with happiness and contentment.

I went into the garden for a moment. My bare feet feeling the roughness of the concrete slabs and tufts of grass, where the cement had broken away, had grown between them over the last few days of rain. The sun was shining again, hot on my face and amongst the green weed leaves, yellowed grass and a few yellow flowers, a single white bloom of seeds of a dandelion. I know I don’t want to be readywhen it was too late. I didn’t want to have gone to seed when the other flowers were already out.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Split Second

Waves gushing against the manufactured coastal protective rocks and a breeze as constant as the passage of time blew away days of pollen from my eyes. Even though the sun was still shining bright and hard with heat the sea air had blown away as much of my soggy head as it could. It was medicinal and even though this was just a walk to the cafe to get some ‘work’ done on the laptop, I really felt like staying and sitting on this rock all day just watching the white sea foam wash the rocks and the cormorantsdive into the sea and pull out lunch in a twentieth of the time it would take one of the fishermen on the harbour wall.

I’d brought my own salad lunch of mixed leaves in a box with Spanish omelette quarter on top, ham and a drizzle of olive oil. I found a spot, sat and eat my lunch with the drama of the sea in front. It felt good that I could do this and I imagined how I would do this sort of thing if I lived along the Mediterranean, lunch watching the sea and running in the morning along the coast. If I would do that if I was there then why don’t I do that here?

We’ve been truly and sort ofseasonally lucky with our heat wave early summer in the UK these last few weeks and I’ve been easily duped into feeling I can enjoy this sort of moment whenever I want. The problem, I am expecting, is that in a week or so we’ll have a few rainy days and the temperature will drop and things will feel just a little cooler and greyer. I’m not saying there aren’t times where I can sit in the back doorway of the house or in a cafe and watch and listen to the rain – but those times I want to do that are fewer than the days of blue skies and warmth. Blue is the natural anti-depressant, grey is the influencer and fuel of deeper thoughts.

The other part of the illusion is that my current ad-hoc work schedule leaves me with a lot of time during day-light hours where I can don’t have the rush to get ready for a daily commute let alone time to fit in a morning run along the sea thats half an hour away. In fact without some serious motivation I’m unlikely to be able to go wake, run locally, shower, commute, work. The temporary job, as defined by me, is just that; it’s a means to an end and the end will come soon as I mustmove on to survive financially. If and when the regular nine to five thirty returns then time in the morning to take in sea air before a days work will vanish; unless I relocate to the expensive sea-side locations and become financially and spatially less well-off.

Once I had finished my salad lunch and a few extra minutes of taking in just how amazing the sea was at reviving me I continued onwards to the cafe. With a free voucher for a latte I was soon on a financially frugal office consisting of a round metal table, a cigarette ash tray with an ash dune sprinkled with stubbed cigarette ends that I deployed with grace to a vacant table. Coffee cup down with a metallic clang and a near full laptop battery I worked on my own project happily and willingly. Whether the sea moment had given me fresh motivational head or that I was just more free of pollen near the water I don’t know – but it worked.

Battling these little things that bother me, like finding ways to take time out and destress before the stress starts, seems to be working. Free of my injury at the start of the year I am still running and that Saturday running event is something I feel I live for, both the elation and the friendly chat from others who are also experiencing the same endorphin rush whether they are at the back of the run or one of the insane people who practically sprintthe whole five kilometres.

I grabbed a photo someone had taken of me during the run. It had been so hot, even at that time of the morning, and my skin was glossy wet so much so that you could probably measure it in millimetres. I posted it to Instagram where I share like-minded thoughts with other runners from all around the world. Within a minute I had a few random ‘likes’ from other runners and then from a women’s 5K running training group out in Hong Kong. I smiled to myself for a moment. It was a ‘like’ from a group hoping to entice another runner along but they had mistaken my photo, which I suppose is kind of androgynous.

The thing was I thought the misgendered but correct genderedscenario didn’t amuse or validate me anymore but I suppose the truth of it is, it still does. What’s more validating than the narcissistic posting of my photos on social media and getting misgendered but correct gendered; it hadn’t been the first time. I suppose it’s all down to as I progress with the gender thingthat the validation need dissipates as we feel more genuine internally and more accepted by others. It’s just there will be times where I still need a little validation from time to time; who doesn’t, gender identity or not.

At the end of the run someone approached me with a bright smile, “Hiya, how are you doing, how did you do?” A friend of a friend that I had met once several weeks before. As we chatted in the shade to avoid any further heat and sweat still dripping from our arms I couldn’t help notice that every few words he would flicker a glance at my legs. It was as if he was fighting between looking and not looking. My legs without hair with my now summer running shorts. I guess with those who don’t know about the gender thingand are who are only aware of my birth gender there is an idle curiosity to what is going on – even if just for a split second.

Until next time.

Hannah x

By The Book

The vibrant sun drenched reds contrasted against the ice white plate with cured Serrano ham and different chorizos. The smell of the meats and green basil rich pesto drizzled on top rose from the plate and took me to Italy in a second. Hot Spanish omelette contrasted the freshness of the cool salad leaves and the sun-dried tomatoes gave depth and richness. It was just a meal but it said a lot about my aspirations.

The day was hot and even the occasional choppy breeze, that would quickly fade to stillness, made no change to the feel of the temperature – it was still hot and continental. It felt like part of the life that I aspired to had been brought to me, here, in the UK; all I would need is a gentle lapping ocean flung against the bottom of the garden and I’d be complete.

The thing is, about my aspirations, is that my tastes are simple but the ingredients are expensive. To relocate to a Mediterranean villa where mornings are yoga stretches on the patio and pre-lunch times are a quick swim in the pool before returning to a laptop under the sunbrella or at a local cafe to write for income; already the spend has far exceeded one point five million Euro and I’ve not even mentioned the family cost.

It’s the conflict of my aspirations with my emotions. The thought of being so far away from my family that it overrides the actual reality that I couldreallybe home on a plane in little over an hour and if I were that well-off to buy some premium property then I’d probably be visiting homeas often as I do now. These dream ideas of living along the azure are of course short of a lottery win and further away from reality than they are as far away from here; given I have little money right now. The thing is I see some people, when they reach whatever age that it is that is important to them, decide that these dream life styles to settle on are so far away and unreachable that they give up and settle on what they have with the monotony of everyday British culture. Work, TV, Pension (if you’re lucky) – death? I never want to do things by the bookand sometimes I just want to be left-field whether it’s the things I buy and the material objects I own or the things I do. Giving-up just isn’t me.

Some sea salt crunched between my teeth as I eat the salad leaves. Flavours from the red stalks enriched by the salt; I really had brought a little of my dream to my own home for a moment. The thing is, the more I think about it, as balanced as I can, I have the dream correct it’s the work balance and work itself that is keeping me from moving to where I want to be and more importantly me and my own body that’s holding me back. That’s not gender but lack-lustre. There will be days when I want to write solidly or start some project that might make a difference to my future but tiredness will just get the better of me or I’m run-down and just can’t function mentally to get anything solid for my future. Fatigue is my Achilles.

Saturday evening and I find myself in the garden again and even though the sun has departed westward the sky is still a bright blue with only the faintest hint of the dusk about to fall, the heat still present and close. The air is fragrant where someone has watered their lawn and the smell of fallen pollen has risen. A clank of cutlery on plates a few houses away break the dull noise of near-by roads along with magpie squawking that reminds me of the wild parrots in the trees of my last holiday.

Were these hints at what to do or hints of what I have means I can have them here? “The grass is always greener.” “A change of pasture makes fat calves.” Proverbs, useless answers for everything and a proverb for every opposing proverb. The fact is what we do is as good as what we make of it and if we don’t at least try we won’t know for sure whether it’s right – and if it’s not right then we do something else or change back and do what we were doing. Live where we were living, do the things we do and eat and drink what we know. Not everything is a one-way street. There, I’ve done it, made a proverb. “Not everything is a one way street.” Tut. I’ve defeated my own nonsense with more nonsense.

I’ve had a break from my career. It was more of a test the water break. I took a year out in the past and enjoyed every minute and it rejuvenated me for a while. It helped me see what I did and didn’t like about working in new-media, how I fancied a change and that, to some extent, my career had run it’s course.

On this break it was about trying out other things. Looking for what was out there and seeing what I wanted to do. The job I’m currently doing, all that setting up stuff for those international stars, was a temporary job that was carefully selected as it might stir up some ideas about working in another industry. It certainly did that and although it was never going to be a long term thing, and I enjoyed it for the most, it was also underpaid with an undercurrent culture, in certain parts at least, of racism, sexism, homophobia and drugs. So while I’m certainly looking to move on it also told me one important thing, I cando something else and there areother things I can do that are interesting and motivating. Christ, anything that can get me working through the early hours of the morning on an eleven hour shift must have intrigue.

I’m a realist. Some finances are just so high to reach for some dreams but I know some dreams do come true. Plenty have for me, some small, some life changing, and very few came my way without making them happen, taking a chance, grabbing onto them and not letting go and they usually fore-fill more than the dream but just in a different way. May be I should just make more things happen. May be there are certain plans in my life that need trying.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Too Settled

It was just a film where the protagonist walked out onto the balcony of his luxury old building apartment in the morning with a vista and vibrance of the city. So busy and full of promise you could taste the coffee in the air. It’s been ten or fifteen years since I lived in an apartment and suddenly it had hit me that I might just be settled – too settled. I’ve thought recently how I couldn’t imagine going back to the city and an apartment with it’s space seemingly reduced by clothes drying on a stand, noises from above below and the sides and it’s restrictions of strictly no pianos. This film though had made me question, at least for a short moment, had I settled too much.

Of course when I look at that scene it’s the excitement of a living city I miss rather than the abode. The difference is instead of being able to walk out onto a balcony in the evening and soak up the noise of the city and people almost always around, in the house I can lay on the decking with the darkness of the countryside and watch the stars in full panoramic view. The city where sparrow hawks and buzzards are replaced by seagulls and discarded hamburgers. It seems to be yet another fork in my life where I question, just for a moment, whether I continue in one direction or switch to another, even if it’s something I’ve done before. Both are inspiring – just in different ways and are always what you make of it. Should it just be one or the other though?

I took a temporary job a few weeks ago on a whim of interest and in the hope to at least take the sting out of dwindling finances and an increasing credit card balance. Comfort decorating and packing up for international stars. I saw another world where one minute I’m arranging a dressing room for a double-platinum awarded celebrity the next I’m walking along a quiet city street back to the car wondering if that really just happened.

I had a telephone interview for a new-media job. In my financial desperation I had applied left right and centre to get back to the industry, which I had left behind last year, which would make me comfortably well-off again without the need to worry about enough money for the rent and whether I should downgrade my tinned tomatoes any further but just as he started talking acronyms and personal development I suddenly felt uneasy. I thought for a moment, ‘how on earth would I handle this.’ While he spoke a thought flashed in my head of being sat at a desk, immobile, staring at a computer screen with the murmurer of other people in an office and the clock ticking down the seven or eight hour stretch with the hour hand holding back the minute hand and the second-hand bouncing on the spot like the battery was in it’s last throws of death. It was a far distant quiet monotony away from hanging velvet drapes and moving a chesterfield leather sofa so an A-list rock star can feel comfortable for a couple of days soaked in incense drenched air. This was a real fork in the road. One big bright letter Y shouting clearly in a thick American accent, “This way or that? Wadaya want!”
“Don’t take too long though, the offer closes in two days.” my insecurity would warn.

One would pay well with security and regularity. The other paid badly and the long hours and late, chopping and changing between day and all night which would leave me drained but in the knowledge I had worked for every single penny. Why did it have to be a perfect two prong fork in the road though? Why could it not have many fingers stretching out to different opportunities and in the mean time I would do what I could to tame the bank and all it’s direct debits. Whatever my decision I don’t have to let the whole gender thing dictate what that might be.

Walking home through the city streets in the early hours of the morning after work lit by modern sharp white street lamps with young drunks in doorways clad in sequins and nylon barely able to stand with a stolen wine glass in hand. Conversations outside a bar over a thick wooden table in the night air with the lead in conversation casually holding a cigarette in one hand and adorned with a ironic beard. I realised I was missing those going-out days. Sure I socialise with people who matter to me from time to time when I can but there was something missing from my life, I don’t know if it’s mingling with people from work – after work, or those days of the people I would socialise with who also struggled with the gender thing, ‘friends of circumstance’ as I would like to think of them eventually, and even though most of them would appear to not be suffering at all and on a night out would appear confident and fun, I could tell from what they would say off-line from the night out that things were still difficult whether it be internal conflict or relationship conflict all just because of gender.

There again when I see that care-free socialising around the city I do wonder if it’s just that I’ve matured and things have moved on for me. My twenties long since gone with my thirties not too far behind. I don’t think I have any regrets from those days of socialising regularly out on the town but, may be, neither do I need to return there. May be I just see people free to socialise as who they are and that may be I still don’t quite have all that freedom yet. Then again the changes in recent years have been so subtle that may be I haven’t realised I am more me that I care to think.

I think whatever I do next I will at least have things to write about and stories to tell in the future. I need to be true to myself and hopefully have the energy and enthusiasm to sustain it. Sometimes, when I’m thinking about a decision like this, in the same way some people say “When you’re eighty years old and look back, what would you have hoped to have done with your life?” I quite like to think, with a more in the presenttense, “if I had enough money that I didn’t have to worka regular boring job, what would I do with my time.”

Until next time.

Hannah x