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After the ever-so-slightly intense last post, I thought it was about time to write about the nice things I have been up to. The “should I stay or should I go” question is still rolling round my head, waiting for my subconscious to tell me what I’m going to do. Michelle told me I needed to follow my heart. Well pardon my while I wait for my heart to decide where it’s going so that I can follow it. In the meantime, this stuff:In dining out news, I am a bit of an aficionado of spicy food, and I love a good Indian or Mexican meal. Unfortunately, my usual two dining companions are not of the same opinion, so I had long since resigned myself to not getting out for a curry with either of them. Certainly it appears that such a visit continues to be a no-no for Michelle, but after I announced a couple of weeks ago that I would be unable to make the usual Wednesday evening due to parenting commitments, Andrea suggested that she and I go for an Indian meal on the Thursday evening instead. Greater love hath no woman than she lay down her taste buds for her BFF! So that’s what we did. I booked us a table at the Nu-Delhi lounge in the centre of Belfast, and hopes were high for a quality meal as out of 788 restaurants listed in Belfast on Trip Advisor, Nu-Delhi is rated 3rd best. That’s quite an endorsement.

We turned up just about on time and met in a street-level car park a short walk from the restaurant. Even though I had reserved a table for two, upon arrival we were shown to some seats at the bar and asked to wait until the waiting staff could get a table ready for us. It took them a solid 15 minutes, which was not impressive. Once we did get shown to our table, it was in a pleasant enough location, and the waiter who brought us our poppadoms and dips was polite and courteous – plenty of “madam”s and “ladies” which is always welcome. Upon looking down the menu the food was rated from one to five stars for heat, although I couldn’t actually see anything that had the full five stars. Andrea stuck resolutely to one-star heat, whereas I had a two-star starter and a three-star main. Even then, Andrea felt that her starter merited at least one more start than it had been given. My starter was a Kathi Roll, something akin to an Indian fajita. Chicken, onions, peppers and spices rolled up in a thin naan bread, with a nice side salad. Like Andrea, I felt that it was a little under-starred, as the heat built up in my mouth quite considerably, but for all that I really enjoyed it.  However as I felt the spice level glowing in my mouth, I began to feel a little apprehensive in advance of my three-starred main course arriving.

When it did arrive, my chicken chilli garlic with jeera rice was a little disappointing, being basically just chicken and sauce. There was a decent flavour, and the spice level was modest, in fact three stars seemed a little excessive, but I slightly regretted not getting my more usual jalfrezi which at least has some discernible vegetable matter floating about in the spicy suspension. Andrea’s korma was similarly serviceable if nothing to write home about. Dessert on the other hand was poor. We both wanted something called a Moucinni, but were told that it wasn’t available, and in fact all we had to choose from was chocolate brownie and chocolate fudge cake. Andrea had the former, I had the latter, but I suspect that they were in fact the same thing cut into different shapes, and neither was fantastic. So overall, I would give the food maybe 6 out of 10.

For all that, I had a lovely evening. Andrea was the first person I told about the transition schedule spreadsheet that I have been working on, and there was a lot of heart-to-heart advice which was very welcome. Having said that, there was also our fair share of hysterical laughter too, and all in all it was a lovely evening. Ten hours after leaving the restaurant I would be driving past it again on my way to work, dressed in suit, tie and a light dusting of stubble, feeling miserable as sin at the change that those ten hours brought.

Another changing room selfie

Another changing room selfie

The following Sunday was the next book group meeting. As I often try to do, I got away from home early so I could get a bit of Kirsty-time prior to going along. A few weeks previously, I had spotted a really pretty jumper dress in M&S Newtownabbey, near where I live. I noticed that it was also available in long fitting, but the didn’t have that in stock in that particular store. So I searched in Sprucefield, where I couldn’t see the dress at all, and I searched online, where I could see the dress and knew that it was available. However, before making the purchase online I thought I would have one last check in the Belfast city centre store, which is what I did on that Sunday afternoon. I even made sure I wore some black tights going into town, as I discovered to my frustration last time I tried on a skirt in a store changing room that doing so in knee highs doesn’t give a good impression. So in I went to the Belfast M&S and before too long I found the dress in question, and I found it in size 14 long fitting. Yay! I picked it up and went straight to the changing rooms, where I discovered that it was every bit as nice on me as I had hoped. I even took a wee changing room selfie and shared it on Facebook, so pleased was I with this new imminent purchase. And buy it I did. In fact, I liked it so much that I wore it to the book group.

IMG_3356This months book was “Let The Great World Spin” by Colum McCann.  I had never heard of the author before, but he is someone who grew up in Dublin, but lives in New York.  The book itself is a snapshot of intersecting lives in 1974 New York, all viewed beneath the backdrop of Philippe Petit’s wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.  It reads at first like a short story collection until eventually the links between the characters and their stories become apparent, building into a beautiful patchwork quilt of a novel, filled with memorable characters.  Corrigan, an Irish monk living the question “what would Jesus do?” by living among the prostitutes and the drug addicts in the Bronx; Claire, the wife of a judge and mother of a casualty of the Vietnam War, holding a support group for other mothers whose sons never came home; Jazzlyn, a heroin-addled prostitute and her mother Tillie, also a prostitute; several others, their tales all brought together beautifully.  It was one of the finest pieces of writing I have ever read – involving, beautiful, harrowing, heartbreaking and dazzlingly clever, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.  An absolute joy from start to finish.  It seems like the rest of the group agreed, because it has now overtaken “The Poisonwood Bible” as our all-time top rated novel.

The day before the November book group meeting, I was sitting in the coffee shop at the gym, having a cappuccino and reading the final few pages of “Let The Great World Spin” while daughter no2 was in having her swimming lesson, when I was a approached by a guy called Stephen, whom I know vaguely through work.  He was asking what I was reading and we ended up getting into a conversation about books.  Turns out he is quite the reader.  So he ended up giving me quite a strong recommendation for another book, “The Long Road To The Deep North” by Richard Flanagan, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2014.  He said it was the best book he had read in the last decade.  Praise indeed.  I proposed it to my book group the following evening and so that is going to be our choice for the December meeting. So far so good.  However I made the mistake of informing Stephen that my book group were reading his recommendation for December, so a couple of times now he has asked how I’m getting on with the book, but more worryingly he has asked about my book group, how I got into it, how often we meet, what the gender make-up of the group is and so on.  The thing is, I’m starting to get concerned that he’s angling for me to invite him along which clearly isn’t going to happen as long as I remain in the closet at work.  If he comes straight out and asks me if he can come along, well I’ll have to say no, but I don’t want to offend Stephen because he is a pretty nice guy and hasn’t done anything wrong.  Hmmmph.

Last Sunday I paid a visit to Andrea D (the other Andrea!) in her new apartment.  I hadn’t seen her in several months, so it was good to have a catch-up.  She’s off to Brighton soon for her assessment with the consultant who will be doing her surgery, so she’s understandably looking forward to, as she puts it, “becoming complete”.  I was telling her of my own ongoing indecision at whether or not to progress with my own transition, and specifically about how I have been unable to determine just what my employer’s protocols are for transitioning in the workplace.  I had mentioned this to one or two others previously, and any replies that I did get were along the lines of just trusting to the confidentiality of HR staff.  I don’t think I could do that.  Andrea D had a different idea, and one which might just work.  I said I couldn’t just ask for myself and say I was asking for a friend, so why not get a friend to ask for me?  Or specifically, ask for help.  Andrea suggested SAIL, a local transgender charity.  She has had some dealings with a guy there called Simon, and she spoke very highly about him.  So her suggestion was to see if Simon or one of the other SAIL people could approach HR in my work to say that they have been approached by a staff member who identifies as TS, and who is considering transition, can they please provide SAIL with details of what their protocols are for dealing with this situation.  This would of course have two benefits, not only would I find out the information that I need, but when (if?) I do eventually come out at work, it won’t be such a shock to HR and they will already be aware that something like this was on the cards.  The only surprise will be who it is.  I think there’s a lot of merit in that idea.

The last few times I have been out it was more just general socialising.  The usual Wednesday night coffee and toastie at M&S, and then Saturday evening (last night) it was yet another outing for the Lisburn Ladies Fine Dining Club, dining with Michelle and Andrea (returned from hols) at one of our favourite haunts The Plough in Hillsborough.  The food was as nice as ever, although the waitress mixed mine and Andrea’s plates up, so were it not for Michelle’s alertness I would have tucked into some roast pigeon while she would have been cutting into my slow cooked brisket.  Thankfully plates were swapped and I was very happy with my choice, as I was with my starter (BBQ ribs & coleslaw) and dessert (apple pie, creme anglais, butterscotch sauce and honeycomb ice cream).  Service wasn’t so hot as usual for once, but we can put that down to being very busy on a Saturday evening.  The most off-putting thing was a group of men standing at the bar talking ridiculously loudly in such a joshing man-way.  Ugh.  Andrea hit the nail on the head when she described them as being like a different species.  One of them kept calling for someone called Dave to join them, but Dave wasn’t listening.  It was just “Dave, Dave, Dave, DAVE” for ages.  Reminded me very strongly of this;

While in the Plough, I received a compliment which made me feel bad.  I had gone to the loo at the end of the meal, and as I emerged from the cubicle there were two other women standing at the sinks, leaving the one in the middle free for me.  I moved into place and washed my hands, but soon realised that the other two women were standing in front of the hand dryer and paper towels respectively.  The woman to my right moved out of the way and said “they’re over there”, indicating the towels.  I thanked her and used them.  That same woman, probably around the same age as me, was still just ahead of me as I made for the door to leave the ladies.  She opened the door, and held it open for me, allowing me to pass.  As I went passed her she said “You look really nice”, to which I just nodded and smiled as I returned to my friends at our table.  I look really nice.  Great.  Except, why would she say that if she hadn’t read me?  If it had just been a regular woman-to-woman compliment, I’m pretty sure she compliment would have been more along the lines of “I love your dress” or “Those shoes are gorgeous” and so on.  “You look really nice” had a tiny tinge of patronisation which I didn’t like.  And I think that’s why it annoyed me for a while – it wasn’t really such a problem that I thought I had been read.  I’d rather not be read, but it happens.  It wasn’t that she treated my badly, she was relatively complimentary and clearly had no issue with me being in the women’s toilet.  The real problem was that I felt I was being patronised.  And that annoys me.  And it annoys me that it annoys me, because I’m sure she was actually trying to be complimentary and encouraging.  And I did look really nice.  That jumper dress again, with opaque tights and classy black suede block heels.

Well I’ve droned on enough for now, probably back to misery and soul-searching next time.

Kirsty.

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