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I’m still playing catch-up with my blogging after May’s trip to England. I have decided that it is most inconsiderate of time to continue flowing while I’m in this mode, as the present day seems to be getting ever more distant from the time about which I am writing. So I’d better get on with it.

Wednesday 10th June

In the week leading up to today I had mentioned to Andrea that I might be up for doing something a bit different, or maybe meeting up on a Tuesday rather than Wednesday for a change. Andrea slightly mysteriously asked me that if we met on Wednesday, when I would be likely to be ready, and I replied that it would be the usual 7.30-8.00pm. Her reply was that we had best just make it Tuesday then as she was going to an event and was going to invite me to it, but I’d need to be ready by 7. Well I wasn’t going to just leave that hanging. It turns out that the event in question was a fundraiser for Andrea’s hairdresser Paul, who is going off to Jordan in August to teach hairdressing skills to young adults from underprivileged communities, in order to help them acquire a skill which may help them gain employment. The event in question was a Jordanian-themed evening and once I heard what it was, I made sure Andrea knew that I would make appropriate arrangements to be sure of being ready in time.

I manipulated my diary to ensure that I was ready good and early on Wednesday, and at shortly after 7pm Andrea joined me in my car to drive across to “East Belfast” from Lisburn. Her directions were a little vague, I felt I was on something of a mystery tour, so when Andrea told me to pull up at a certain spot, I fully expected to be on a short walk to some kind of a community centre. But no, we were actually going to Paul’s salon, which had been specially decked out in an arabic theme for the evening. Andrea and I had both passed on the “themed” dressing, with me going in my cream lacy batwing t-shirt, floral jeans and blue wedge sandals, and she in a floral day dress (well she had been at work!). As soon as we walked in Andrea was greeted like an old friend, and we had our photo taken with Paul, who was dressed in a kaftan – I assume that was just being “on theme” and it isn’t his usual garb. We took a couple of seats next to each other in the salon, and sat down with our drinks of rock’n’roll mouthwash (aka Diet Coke and Club Orange), then for about the next hour not a lot happened.

In the Arabian-themed salon

In the Arabian-themed salon

I have to say, thank goodness Andrea and I had each other to chat to because there really wasn’t a lot going on. At least I did get to meet Andrea’s friend Lynda. Those of you who read Andrea’s blog in addition to my own will I’m sure be familiar with the woman previously known as “Lynda-laser”. Lynda had administered Andrea’s IPL treatments, and the two of them hit it off to such an extent that even though the IPL is now finished, they are now just friends. It was also Lynda who introduced Andrea to Paul for his hairstyling expertise. When I met Lynda I said “So you’re the famous Lynda” and she replied “And you’re the famous Kirsty”. A right bunch of celebrities, us. It’s a wonder the bouncers were able to keep the paparazzi away.

At around 9pm I decided that I needed the loo and of course the entertainment began while I was away. I emerged from the loo to find a belly dancer doing her thing around the salon. I tried to retake my seat as inconspicuously as possible but I think I attracted the dancer more when she noticed me get out my phone to film her. Once I had put it away she then came over to me and Andrea and tried to coax us into coming up and joining her. Er, not a chance. I really didn’t like this. I don’t know if we were singled out because she read one or both of us and was doing that “all trans woman are flamboyant entertainers” thing that I despise, or if she just picked us because we were sitting quite close to where she was dancing, and she had seen me filming her. I hope it was the latter but I fear it was the former. She did get the message and got back to her dancing without either of us, but it kind of ruined my enjoyment. The dancer was to emerge again later in the evening and managed to find a couple of more willing victims volunteers in a couple of women who had very much entered into the spirit of the event with the full “Arabian nights” look.

Joint salon selfie!

Joint salon selfie!

I’m sure there were easily 40 or 50 people at the event, with women outnumbering men by about 4 to 1, and every one of them arose together when Paul announced that the food was ready. We made our way out to one of the back rooms in the salon where there were all sorts of things waiting for us. Chicken and vegetable curries (both nice), salad, rice, chicken goujons and my first, and almost certainly my last falafel (not very nice at all). There were cupcakes too for dessert.

After dinner there was an almost interminable number of ballots drawn, none of which were won by either Andrea or me, despite there apparently being more prizes than there were people in the room. While this was going on there was a rather short but very muscly asian man going round in his pants selling hugs for a £1. Now as you probably know I’m not really into men (with one or two honourable exceptions that I’m not going to talk about here) but even if I was, I don’t think I’d have been into him. But he found a few willing takers. Then after the ballots were complete, it was another quick bout of belly dancing and then our scantily-clad friend really came into his own. We all relocated to the pavement outside the salon for a display of fire-eating. Wow. It was incredible. And I think that we brought a little bit of traffic chaos to East Belfast as every car passing by stopped for a look. I captured his performance on video, so here’s a little package of the belly dancing and fire eating.

This was actually my favourite part of the entire evening, and not just for the sheer entertainment value of watching a man blow fire out of his mouth. Once out on the pavement Andrea and I had become separated from one another, and I ended up getting involved in some chat and general joking around with a different group of three women and one man, and it was great. I was accepted into the group and I just felt completely relaxed with who I was. They even laughed at my jokes! It’s another illustration of how sometimes, being the only trans* person in the room, or in the group, is something to be embraced, because doing that and feeling that acceptance is a huge part of what makes me feel like the woman I am, or want to be. It’s largely the same reason why I avoid LGBT venues, gay bars and trans* nights. I don’t want to exclude myself from mainstream venues and hide away from everyone else, because I’m not going to feel like any other woman by doing that. But I’m probably treading old ground going over that again. Anyway, after a slow start I had a lovely evening at this event, and I am very grateful to Andrea for inviting me.

Saturday 13th June

Back in February I had visited Tresses hairpiece boutique in Newry, accompanied by Andrea as my friend/independent opinion, and as I wrote at the time, I had a very positive experience and came away with a wig that I love, and that I wear regularly. A couple of Michelle’s wigs had come from the same shop, but she hadn’t been through the whole consultation experience before, so when she heard and read about how well I had been treated, she resolved to try it for herself. I think when she had been before it was a case of Bob walking in off the street, more or less saying “I want that one” and then walking out again, wig in bag. This would be an altogether different experience.

Tresses have two shops, the one in Newry that I had visited and one on Belfast’s Lisburn Road. Michelle had booked herself an appointment with the owner, Therese Hughes, at the Lisburn Road shop, and I am was pleased and rather touched that she invited me to accompany her, fulfilling the same role for Michelle that Andrea had done for me four months prior.

Michelle wrote about our experiences on that day in her own blog, so there’s not much point in me regurgitating that from my point of view, but I will say that I had a very enjoyable afternoon, and Michelle came away with a wig that she is very happy with. And there was something else that brought a smile to my face. It seems that Therese’s son has some sort of alert set up so that he gets a notification any time Tresses gets mentioned on the internet, so he received an alert about my blog post from February. And Therese read it! She seemed so pleased with what I wrote, it really did make my day. And I was only telling the truth!

After leaving Tresses, Michelle and I went for a stroll around Hillsborough Lake, which I though was rather daring for Michelle considering she was wearing heels. Thankfully it hadn’t been raining for around a week so the ground was hard enough to support Michelle’s shoes. We had a lovely stroll on a warm late afternoon, and a good chat as we walked. We even stopped for a pic or two. Then after a quick stop-off at Costa, we returned to the BBC to get ready for dinner.

Andrea and Michelle at The Ginger Bistro

Andrea and Michelle at The Ginger Bistro

Andrea came to meet us and we made our way in Michelle’s car into the centre of Belfast to The Ginger Bistro. I was looking forward to this meal, as it’s somewhere I have been for lunch several times with work and with Mrs K, and I have never been disappointed. This was to be my first evening meal there. And of course, I wasn’t disappointed. Not only that, it was my first chance to wear my lovely new dressy heels that I had bought from Primark Pradamark a few weeks earlier. I’ll be honest, the 100 metres from the car park to the restaurant wasn’t the most comfortable walk I’ve ever had, but nor was it the least, and I felt great. The power of stilettos, eh? I had matched my new heels with some sheer black tights and my old faithful black lacy bodycon dress with gold foil print. Of course my companions looked fab (despite Andrea’s protestations to the contrary), and Michelle was giving a very nice new top its first outing.

Our waiter greeted us enthusiastically by announcing “the important part” and handing out the wine list. He then produced a menu and added “…and we also do food”. Well since it would be several hours and a large meal before I would have to drive again, I ordered myself a glass of Chardonnay, but really the wine list wasn’t our focus. The food, however, was excellent. Ever Miss Predictable, I had the seafood chowder to start. The chowder itself was as good as I would expect, but really it was the accompanying bread that stole the show. It looked like a bun, or a fairy cake, but it was the fluffiest, crustiest, wheaten bread I have had. I could have eaten several. Just delicious. For my main I had pan roast fillet of cod with crushed peas with ham hock, clams in chorizo butter and garlic potatoes. Very very good. The garlic potatoes were suitably garlicky, the cod was melt-in-the-mouth soft, and everything else was a melange of tastiness and mixed textures. Then for dessert I had an “individual soft-centred chocolate cake” (i.e. a chocolate fondant) with berries, chocolate sauce and ice cream. Although the cake itself was slightly collapsed in the middle, it tasted great.

Yours truly at Ginger

Yours truly at Ginger

All night long the service was friendly and courteous, if a little slow. We were served by a rather quirky waiter, and a very friendly waitress, who “ladies”-ed us several times over the course of the meal. But it was at the end that we got some really excellent service, and certainly the most enthusiastic I have seen since, well that Stena Line ferry, but apart from that for ever. We had ordered coffees to finish the meal and as is her wont Andrea had ordered a mocha, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually on the menu. We were assured that this could be produced, so it was ordered and we waited for its arrival. However Andrea wasn’t particularly impressed with the chocolateyness of her mocha, so when the waiter came across to ask if all was well, she replied that actually, her mocha was a bit disappointing. The waiter made to say something a few times, then after these false starts, asked “are you guys in a rush to get away?”. “No”, we replied. “Right then”, he said, “I’ll make you a proper mocha myself” and rushed off gathering cups, cocoa and coffee and heading off to the coffee maker. Around ten minutes later he reappeared bearing a mocha for Andrea made with his own fairly fair hand. Her verdict? It wasn’t great either. But he had put so much effort into trying to please she didn’t have the heart to say. I don’t blame her.

It was a very enjoyable meal with my two best girlfriends, and suddenly it was over. Michelle took us straight back up to Lisburn where we parted into our own cars. The biggest problem I had was, I hadn’t left out any flats for driving so I had to drive back to my changing spot in 4-inch heels! Actually, it’s nowhere near as bad as it sounds, I was perfectly fine and safe, but it sounds horrific.

I’m getting there slowly but surely on these catch-ups. More fun and games next time!

Kirsty x

(P.S.  It was only when I hit “publish” on this post that I received a notification telling me that it is in fact my 100th blog post.  Wow.  Going by my rather verbose average blog length, that’s probably somewhere approaching 200,000 words.  A couple of reasonable-sized novels.  And all true.)