Sunday, 22 July 2012

A very special Wedding and a little making up and telling

Friday July 20th was a great family day – the wedding day of Sarah (my eldest daughter) to Paul.

Sarah told Paul about Andrea a few months ago. She told me they were having a conversation about little known things about each others families. She had wanted to tell Paul for a while, but the opportunity hadn’t arisen. So this seemed like an opportunity. She opened a page of this blog and said … that’s my dad.

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Sarah said that she thinks Paul didn’t think she could tell him anything that was surprising. But he was … well … surprised. I don’t know if Paul will ever want to meet Andrea … that’s up to him completely … but it’s good that he knows that Andrea exists and that he isn’t totally mind blown by the concept.

Sarah and my wife Sally had done pretty much all of the organising of wedding things with a lot of help from friends and family and even some from myself and Paul.

And, just as it should have been, it was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. Pretty much every moment went smoothly, and even the weather took a turn for the better.

In amongst all of the regular things that happen during the run-up to the occasion and on the day itself, there were a few not-quite-so regular things happened.

Tatyana, one of Sarah’s closest friends, and also a great family friend and a bridesmaid was staying with us.

She volunteers to take care of the camera and take pictures over the coming few days.

Thursday morning we ferry things from home to the venue of the wedding reception. It’s at Beaumont in Old Windsor.

Beaumont is now a hotel, conference centre and venue for events such as wedding receptions. In the not-too-distant past it was a venue for IT (Information Technology)training courses courses and I spent about 21 years of my working life there teaching things ranging from COBOL in the late seventies and early eighties through to database management and XML in the early part of the 21st century, so the place.

Before being an IT training college the building was a school run by the Jesuits.

In the days of IT training, the school chapel housed mainframe computers and had false floors and ceilings hiding the architectural beauty of the building. These days, the interior chapel building is visible again and used for events such as wedding receptions.

On arrival we moved things to Tudor 2ready for the staff there to put onto tables in the chapel the next morning.

Flower vases are unpacked and candles assembled.

The candles have a mind of their own. However carefully and firmly we press them into the adhesive in the candelabra, they insist on leaning over at all kinds of crazy angles as soon as you turn your back on them.

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Jars are filled with sweets (candy) and boxes of cigars are set out. Little blackboards are decorated … one for the sweets and one for cigars.

Sarah points out that the cigars that I’ve drawn on the blackboard look a bit like willies.P1050853_1280x960

A photograph of each guest is attached to a small stand.

Paul and his mum and dad arrive, having driven down from the north west of England.

A little later we head for Windsor and a rehearsal for the service at Windsor parish church and meet up with bridesmaids, ushers, best man and priest.

The rehearsal goes smoothly.

Sarah and two of the three bridesmaids head off for a session of nail polishing at a nearby salon. Sally and I head off to help ferry the wedding cake from a friends house to the reception venue.

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Later in the afternoon, Sally decides she’d like to wear some nail polish, though she doesn’t usually. We’d already talked about this possibility a while back and since Andrea has the largest selection of polishes in the household, I’m asked to provide the polish and to do the painting.

My own recommendation was red … I like the colour, it applies easily and seems to dry faster than a lot of other colours.

Sally’s preference was something more dark pink than red. So in the end Rimmel Pure Sin was the selection. Two coats.

Tatyana has some really nice shiny, sparkly red nail polish. Somehow or other I’m asked if I could paint her nails as well. So, with a certain amount of trepidation on my part, it’s two coats of red for Tatyana. So far as we know, Tatyana doesn’t know about Andrea … only that I have unusual expertise in nail polish.

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On the morning of the wedding people arrive to do makeup for Sarah, and also her hair.

The makeup lady has even more makeup brushes than me.

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Just hair for Sally, Katie and Tatyana.

The doorbell sounds. It must be the photographer.

But no … a man to replace a cracked window. This is a bit of a surprise and I explain it’s not a very convenient moment. Sally chats with him a while and in he comes and gets the job done without any hassle and in a very short time.

A glass of champagne and strawberries.

Sally asks what eye shadow I have … and so one of my biggest jobs for the morning include applying shadow and mascara to Sally’s eyes. And then helping finish off applying shadow to Tatyana’s.

sally blinks a lot when having mascara applied … so I’m glad that I have plenty of cotton wool buds.

We come to an amicable agreement not to even attempt doing the lower lashes.

Katie and Tatyana also borrow some of makeup brushes and Tatyana borrows my eyelash curlers.

Sally’s nails needed a third coat.

It was a little surreal. My guess is that most father’s of the bride don’t spend quite so much of their time painting the ladies nails and eyes.

I have to say, though, that it was great fun to do. Much more enjoyable than the earlier job that I’d been given of cutting the grass on the front lawn.

The photographer arrives and begins snapping things.

Katie helps Sarah into the dress.

The car arrives.

Tatyana takes a lot of lovely pictures of Sarah and bridesmaids in the back of the car.P1050954_720x960

The bridesmaids get into the taxi and head for the church.

Sarah and I relax in the back of the car. We wait a few minutes and the driver sets off.

A few people wave as we pass them and in almost no time there we are, walking down the church aisle.

Hymns, a short message on selfless love, readings, songs, rings, registry signing, vows and there they are … Mr and Mrs and a chance to begin to say hello to everyone.

A short walk and then some photographs near Windsor Castle.

Then to the reception.

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Drinks. Canapés. Photographs. Chats.

Introductions. Speeches. Food and wine.

Coffee. Cheese. Dancing and chatting.

The candles have survived.

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And Katie enjoys the sweets.

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The chapel windows are enchanting and change as the lighting changes.

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Part way through the evening Sally says that she hopes that I don’t mind, but that she mentioned the Andrea part of me to a close friend of ours, Rose.

Rose and her husband Brian are amongst our very closest friends. We’ve known them for more than all of our married lives. Rose and Brian introduced Sally and I to each other.

When Sally first found out about Andrea, I said that she was free to tell anyone that she wanted to, and so no, I didn’t mind.

We’d actually been thinking about telling both Rose and Brian for a long time.

The challenge, though, as ever, is never being sure how people will react. Of not wanting to risk a deep and dear friendship.

Sally says that Rose was surprised.

Later in the evening, talking with Brian I mention that I’m a transvestite.

He’s surprised. But I don’t think appalled.

We talk quite a bit about things.

It’s not an easy thing. But as always, being able to talk about things is one more little burden in life less to carry.

Our friendship remains.

For Brian, I understand that there are challenges in all of this. His Christian faith will, I think make it challenging.

We talked about this a little.

I shared some of the things that I find difficult with some aspects of Christian beliefs in some, though not all, parts of the Christian Church.

Things like the idea that maybe almost everyone that ever lived could be destined for an eternity in hell.

The view that gender is a fixed thing … male or female … with no shades of both and no transition between the two.

The subjective way that everyone interprets the Bible.

The way that same sex relationships are viewed to be wrong. Even where people love each other in a deeper and more genuine way than do some heterosexual couples.

That maybe it’s ok to be gay or lesbian and have a partner so long as there is no sex.

That it’s often ok for women to talk in church these days even though once it wasn’t.

The possibility that one day it will be possible for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to be honest about themselves in church without people in the Church feeling that such people need to be healed from some kind of an abomination.

We talk a little about what my gender means to me. About The Listening Project interview that I’d done with Katie.

Brian mentions that at one time a transgendered person came along to a church home-group that he led and also along to their church.

It was nice to know that that could happen.

Although, there was a sense that the hope of the people at the church was that the person would be healed from a whole series of hurts that they had experienced in life and also from their gender dysphoria.

I mention Brian McLaren and the book A New Kind of Christianity.

I’m glad that there’s been an opportunity to share all of this. Maybe there is something about weddings … this is the second family wedding where I’ve found myself in a similar kind of conversation.

Later in the evening I sit outside with my brothers and we discover the doors have been locked, so we walk back to the main reception to get in and then chat a while with a group of guys that are there for a wedding the next day. And then it’s time to sleep.

Saturday and we meet people at breakfast and say hello to the newly weds.

Back home we prepare for a barbecue. It’s great to see people from our families again for a few more hours.

As the day progresses we say g’bye as people leave.

My brother Pete and his wife Mary, his son and his son’s wife (Paul and Jenni) spend the night so it’s great to see a bit more of them.

A wonderful, wonderful few days.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Sparkle 2012 - thoughts, feelings, pictures and video

Sparkle 2012 has been and gone.

As ever, it was great.

Tina and I travelled up to Manchester together last Friday. We set off  a little after 9:30 am from Windsor.

Eddie Stobart truck name spotting is an affliction that I acquired in July 2012 … and it’s all Tina’s fault. We saw Nicole (don’t remember her second name) and Beatrice Ann … and several others as well. Still no sign of an Andrea or a Tina.

The traffic was pretty reasonable. We stopped for a coffee en-route and arrived at the Premier Inn on Portland Street in Manchester a little after 1:30 pm. The weather was grey and wet most of the way.

The traffic got a lot worse not much after we had passed the M5 / M6 junction … a few people we met spent a few hours in traffic jams.

All the staff at the Premier Inn on Portland Street that I’ve met in the past several Sparkle’s have been really helpful and friendly. It’s a great place to stay and is very TV (transvestite) friendly.

We checked in, dropped off the luggage and parked the car.

At round about 2:00 pm we began the process of of getting made up and dressing.

Round about 3:30 we called into the hotel bar to meet up with Veronica, who Tina had chatted a little with on TV Chix.

Veronica was chatting with Maxine who she’d bumped into while having a ciggy break outside the hotel, though Maxine was currently in male mode. Emma was also there, and currently also in male mode.

Here’s Veronica with Tina:

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And Veronica with me:

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We had a drink and then went for a walk round the corner to the Paramount Weatherspoons pub on Oxford Street.

Just in case you are interested … here’s a picture of the Gentlemen’s toilets taken from the web site … I don’t know if they were really like that though, having only ever visited the Ladies:

Here’s Tina in the pub:

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And here am I:

 

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The only not-nice incident of the weekend occurred here.

Veronica visited the Ladies and a guy that was very much the worse for wear in terms of excessive alcohol consumption … began to bad-mouth her. For no good reason.

There was a member of the Weatherspoon’s staff close by at the time who called a security guard over and the man was escorted from the premises.

When we left, the guy was still outside the building with a few of his friends.

He was abusive to everyone and if it hadn’t been for the efforts of his friends in holding him back, I guess all kinds of things could have happened.

Incidents like this have different effects on different people.

My own feelings are varied.

It didn’t bother me much … I try, though not always successfully, to not allow the behaviour of bigots, idiots and drunkards to upset me … and the guy seemed to fall into all three of these categories.

It was good that his friends could see the unreasonableness of his attitude and behaviour and that they were prepared to calm him down.

However, a part of me would have been happy to hunt down a police officer to explain to the drunken man the unacceptable nature of his behaviour.

Really, I don’t intend to offend or upset people.

At the same time, I am who I am … and the law agrees that I have the right to be myself. And so do Veronica and Tina.

A song called Second Time Around by Amy Ray includes the following words:

Here's what I've learned about compromise--
Don't do it if it hurts inside
'Cause either way you're screwed.
Eventually you'll find
You may as well feel good.
You may as well have some pride.

And I think that kind of attitude is a fair one for transgendered people to take.

Next stop, a change of clothing. Something shorter for the evening. Without shoes:

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And with some pink ones:

 

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Then back to the bar at the Premier Inn for a meet with Veronica, Emma, Tina and Maxine … all girls this time:

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And then out for a meal.

We ate at the Red Chilli restaurant which is a short walk down Portland Street. The food and service were excellent.

And then for a night on the town. Mainly in the the Via bar on Canal Street.

We hadn’t been there long when Nikki and Rachel showed up:

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We knew they were around somewhere, but hadn’t been in contact … only minutes before they arrived Tina had said, wouldn’t if be funny if they showed up here. And, het presto!

We chatted and danced.

Later in the evening we dropped by Eden and sat and talked for a little while longer. It was getting close to 2:00 am when we headed back to the hotel.

Next morning Tina and I went for a wander along Canal Street and had a coffee at the Via Bar and a little walk around Sackville Gardens where the main Sparkle stage and stalls are.

And then we met up with Sarah, my eldest daughter, at Weatherspoon’s for lunch. The prices are good, and there’s a great selection of beers.

Next stop is a re-visit to Sackville Gardens.

We listen to the Burlesque Boys:

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There are a few strange animal passers by:

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And a nice mix of folk all around:

 

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And we have a chat with a few of the police support personnel.

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Then a short walk to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation on Richmond Street where some of the people featured on the Channel 4 documentary  My Transsexual Summer are interviewed … Karen, Donna, Lewis and Fox. I’d watched the TV (television) series and it was really interesting to hear a little more from them.

And then, Sackville Gardens again to hear Elouise

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And admire the Pink Punter Bus … the biggest, gayest bus in the world:

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And see Miss Sparkle being crowned.

Here’s a taste of it:

Another change of clothing and tidying up of makeup and Tina and I head for Eden. I’m wearing four and a half inch stiletto heels, so it’s a slow walk.

We have a bite to eat. It’s busy but not overcrowded and the food is great.

Later on in the evening … Sunday morning to be more precise … a girl comes over and says she loves the way that we look and can she have a picture taken with us. She’s with her mum and her girlfriend (all are gg’s rather than tg’s, ts’s or tv’s). She very sweetly says that she had to try hard talking her girlfriend into taking a picture because she was so jealous … so cute.

And here’s a picture or her mom and me:

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They’re really lovely people.

And then back to the hotel. A passing girls makes us smile as she says “you look really great girls”.

As we go through the door we meet Emma in male mode and have a chat. (S)he’s headed outside for a smoke and we arrange to meet in the bar in a few.

The bar is surprisingly busy for 2:00 am.

We sit and chat and drink Stella Artois.

Emma keeps apologising for being really drunk and for swearing. But is good fun talk with.

Eventually its time to sleep again.

10:00 am on Sunday morning and time to get ready for the day.

Tina gets made up. I’m in guy mode. Sarah is getting married on Friday and we’re planning on calling on her to collect things to take down to Windsor ready for the wedding. Her fiancĂ© knows about Andrea, but doesn’t feel ready to meet her, so I’ll visit as a guy.

We leave bags in the luggage store at the hotel , have breakfast and then wander around the Arndale shopping centre for a while and have a cup of coffee.

Collect the car and luggage.

Visit Sarah to collect the wedding things.

The drive back home.

The traffic is moving pretty well and we see a few girl trucks.

Another really good weekend.

Roll on Sparkle 2013.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

TV Dinners, Pictures and Sparkle

Last night was the occasion of one of the monthly TV (as in Transvestite) dinners at Billie and Kathie’s.

I actually managed to get there a little on the early side, for a change.

It was good to catch up with people a little.

Antonia had spent a short spell in hospital, but is looking really well now.

Laura is cool, as always. We talked a bit about music and about The Listening Project. She asked about the full length version of this … so if you make it this far, Laura, you can hear the whole thing by clicking here.

Kathie is busy knitting a pretty big blanket from lots of tiny squares.

Billie ran a half marathon not so long ago, but is taking a break from the running at the moment.

Tina has a nice tan … just back from a holiday in Italy.

Susan is maybe looking at a job involving training.

Jan has a new wardrobe.

Katie was explaining how people that phone her to ask about the dressing service that she offers ask some very odd questions. Like … whereabouts in Birmingham are you … when the advertisement mentions junction 6 of the M4 … which is quite a long way from Birmingham.

Adrianne arrived a bit late … first time visit … and took a wrong turn.

Carol had written to Farmers Weekly to talk about the woes of Internet access outside of cities.

On getting back home, just before taking of all of the makeup, I thought I’d try taking a few pictures. I take off makeup in the bathroom … hence the surroundings look a bit like … well … a bathroom.

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I bought the dress at New Look a long time ago, but hadn’t gotten round to wearing it before.

Friday is the beginning of Sparkle 2012.

Tina and I are driving up on Friday morning.

I’m looking forwards to it a lot.