Sunday, 29 May 2011
Photos not long sucked into the mac so you will have to wait a while to see what we have been up to on our trip, have patience...
This is all back to front! We went on an early spring road trip to let Julie enjoy the cooler weather, her range before getting weary is greater in the cooler seasons. We hit an immediate heatwave in the south of England then once near the Mediterranean while it was briefly cooler than expected and while the rest of France dried to a crisp it soon warmed more than she had hoped for. Arriving home we find April and May have reversed this year and storms have ravaged the country, friends who were opening their garden for the “Gardens open” charity events for the last time, since age creeps on, were in the news instead with trees blown down! It looks sunny out there but the winds are blowing a cold chill round the garden, not my idea of fun.
I have always just worn any old rags discarded by others for garden work, my clothes were too delicate! Now I find myself grumbling that my wife's castoffs are not really feminine enough, no wonder she could not really see me as “not a guy” even wearing her own clothes!
The new life just fits so well I hardly think of it now until something brings me up short like my odd time in France or the occasional person who wants to talk about it, most seem to just accept. My sister had saved up a years worth of questions despite our long phone conversations. It seems I parried questions about my strange lifestyle and presentation, clothes , painted nails, long hair, hair removal and clothes etc with such casual and simple explanations that neither sister really suspected anything about my true nature. Once I finally found someone to live with they stopped questioning all together, probably with a sigh of relief. As we worked through her question you could see her reflecting on these past misinterpretations and the life I went through. Sad that we can miss a whole lifetime of living honestly with those family so close to us .
One of our stopovers was with a couple whose wife is a family doctor in a general practice where she had come across several patients like me but only in fairly recent times and she does not have too many years to retirement. Most had their lives quickly transformed once they asked for help but I was a little taken aback when she said that one patient in the practice had fully transitioned to female but after several years came back for help reversing the process. I have become so accustomed to the stories of lives saved by transition to hear of one who could get it so wrong "and" be somewhere in the health system as a psychiatrist now was disturbing. I know just how fundamental my identity is to my being. This is not like fancying a sports car and regretting the decision because it does not fit your lifestyle!
If I had been able to test drive the life I have now no matter how briefly, all those decades ago when I first discovered that in some places there really was help, I would have done everything possible to gain this life then.
Wisdom and regret of old age!
Saturday, 28 May 2011
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Home at last. I would have stayed on the road until the money was all gone, I had got to that point but Julie had reached the opposite conclusion and wanted home and NOW. This missed a few hoped for days with friends in the south of England but…
So much to do to get back into home life and the post trip dip to get over too.
Seven weeks away is quite a while and catching up on blogs has had it’s usual quota of misery while more than half of my blog list has now ground to a halt with blogs stopped, gone private with no way in or dormant for months. This corner of the net has not been the happy friendly place it used to be for a while now but it is feeling distinctly lonely here now!
I am still here and normal service resumes shortly.
Friday, 20 May 2011
Something like normal service has been resumed. The sadness of he past few weeks is not forgotten but we are now too busy with being on the road to often think about it.
We left after lunch on Tuesday, lunch was in a smart restaurant, research for the family business! It only took three hours so we were on the road by four pm! Farewells were done as if nothing was amiss, probably for them nothing is.
By early evening we were settled into a chambre d'hôte in an old farmhouse deep in the country on a farm growing asparagus and serving their own kiwi fruit juice at breakfast.
In the morning we set off to a small town to collect a package of bed sheets ordered too late to arrive with us in the south but promised to be at a shoe repair shop in a supermarket complex in the middle of nowhere. I had nothing to do with these arrangements but had noted where to find the place the previous evening. The building seemed to be being totally rebuilt whilst business continued as normal, our shoe repair, key cutter parcel holder etc etc guy was one of the first of the new small enterprises to start in the new complex. He saw us standing at his counter while he chatted to someone a short distance away and came over to serve us beaming a smile and asking in that charming french way, good morning, how can I help you ladies? As I said normal service has resumed.
A picnic lunch acquired, we set off to explore the Ardeche gorge, think very small grand canyon. The road wandered over the countryside in the shape of a piece of dropped cooked spaghetti. Marvelous views along the way and not enough traffic to hinder much or block parking at the laybys to hang over the edge. By he time we had exited the gorge and joined the road along the Rhone we had traveled a fair way south, switching on the satnav it said you have 500 Km to go north and it will take you most of the day to get there!
It was not far wrong but we reached our next stop in Alsace just before eight o be greeted by a cat horse and goose at the front door of a wooden gabled house at the end of the village.
That was an eternity ago now. We have stayed two nights in Alsace spending one day in the Shlumpf museum in Mulhouse which has a marvelous collection of the earliest attempts at building a motor car then gets obsessed with nearly a hundred Bugattis including two of the Royals which have to be seen to be believed. A fascinating day.
From there we quickly passed into Germany with it’s free motorway system but a better equivalent to hell than such a place on a Friday is hard to imagine so we got off quickly and headed into the Black Forrest where we could smell the cut timber in the air and hear the birds sing. Our lazy route soon meant that we had to do the last part of the route on a second parallel motorway at Friday rush which is practically stationary! Better than a mix of trucks in one lane and black overpowered 150 mile per hour screamers we had earlier. Clearly these drivers have noting to do with paying the driving costs and I would advise investment in brake replacement parts as a good bet. Castration of male drivers as a requirement to receiving a driving licence would be an excellent idea for the overall safety of the general population!
Eventually we were with Lucy in Wurtzburg in her apartment on the edge of town with views into the street in several directions and a small roof terrace to catch the afternoon sun. Actually there was too much sun for the time of year and the air conditioning in the car had given up! It was quite hot and there was little air movement so deep into the continent, thankfully the apartment was still remaining cool.
A lazy river trip reached by tram took us down river to the bishops summer palace gardens and the next day we explored the quiet Sunday town roads by car and had asparagus for lunch in the shady part of the town center where a children’s festival was in full fling. Germans take asparagus very seriously when in season!
On Monday we departed taking care to avoid all major roads and had a delightful drive through a clipped and tidy rural landscape to the west, not a ruin ripe for restoration in sight. A red squirrel is watching me type from about ten feet away while I type this in the garden of Heinka & Woolfgang who have been determined to lavish us with hospitality from the moment we arrived. The hell of the autobahn has been replaced with a warm glow of charm but I feel a chill having looked at the map of where we are headed with almost no space between the roads!
Naturally they have no wifi and much time was wasted trying to purchase a ferry ticket with the usual impossibility of confirming the cards were not being used for fraud, we phoned before we left telling them exactly which countries we were visiting and when! In German and on a PC it was close to a nightmare the when it was done I found they had a cable which fitted the Mac! Mixed feelings as after a while away from the net both joy and sorrow always seem to be waiting there.
Country food and a world champion cake shop distracted us from the usual round of museums and galleries. One day trip was made to Heidleberg with it’s romantically ruined castle hanging over the city fortunately with a funicular to drag us up there along with hoards of river cruise passengers who whizzed through but missed so much, especially the gardens which had been built but not fully laid out to the elaborate plans when the French arrived in the 1600’s and set off the powder store! After centuries of new additions the Germans lost heart, abandoned the site to a romantic ruin and decided to build elsewhere.
No net at next stop! Blogger down for last evening and morning before departure so no blog update possible.
No Rhine-maidens seen on our gentle drive along the river from Bingen past Koblenz. The river, blocked just a short while ago due to a sunken barge lost in the raging floods is now working at very low water levels but still huge barges pass in both directions every few minutes with tour ships and cruises dodging between. Steep terraces of vines cling to the sunny hillsidesand ancient castlesperch on the high cliffs each side of the gorge. After a roadside lunch we bought a kilo of fresh asparagus and set the satnav to get us to our next temporary home. When we saw that we were an estimated hour from our destination we called ahead, no sooner were we off the phone than the first Friday holdup occurred! Two hours later we arrived though Julia could not recognise the house even though she had visited there soon after Gabriella had first moved in in the 90’s. Our definition of “too much stuff” has changed! Our task of rationalisation now seems like a small task compared to poor G who has even more things to places to put things than we do plus she has three parrots, two cats and a dog! The parrots have decided not to show off their repertoire and remain speechless.
The nearby city of Essen had been European city of culture last year which coincided with the rebuilding of the local art gallery so that had to be one of the things to do. A huge crisp modern gallery made us glad that Julia now had a set of wheels to save energy though once in a gallery with we hope the requisite reduction she leaps to her feet and we can’t keep up and took turns to take advantage of the wheels ourselves. I have always thought that every gallery visitor should be supplied with an electric wheelchair and I am now convinced! What joy to be able so sit in comfort and study a work closely. Too closely often for the legion of attendants as we regularly triggered the silent alarms!
The continent is now far behind us, we passed through the well ordered Netherlands with it’s tall elegant girls and the highest concentration of bicycle users I have ever seen though very few of them could ever be called cyclists! I thought I knew much of what there was to know about bicycle design but the vast interpretations on the theme by the Dutch had my head spinning. A few hours wandering the streets and canal sides of Delft had us feeling we could come back to this country even though all signs appeared to be sets of scrabble letters and I was more lost than in Germany and for a few minutes truly lost when searching for where we had parked the car, thank goodness it was one of the few red cars in the country!
After a poor fish meal near the shore we took the overnight ferry to the south of England, briefly visited my youngest sister to abandon our luggage the surprised one of Julie’s oldest friends who had not been seen for forty years and we had been warned would make an excuse if we gave her warning! She admitted that our warning had been right but was glad we had just turned up. A few hours catching up were followed by a magical mystery tour of Cambridge as she as a pedestrian and bus user tried t direct us to all the places she wanted to go.
Now with yet another set of old friends chatting till midnight when they gave me the web code, one of our few sets of friends who are not ludites!
Feel this has rambled on but … Normal service can’t be far off now.
Monday, 2 May 2011
Strange day in paradise. Sorry no pictures.
With the weather so changeable trips to the beach have been few and short, Julie no longer enjoys the beach being unsteady on her feet and for many years has hated the struggle to get out of the sea if there is any kind of wave action. Today there was wave action! The day was sunny and warm with a light wind, hardly enough to excite the meeting of the Mondial de Vent just round the headland, an event in some world series of windsurfing and such like. Blocked that village for over a week. I wandered off by myself for a stroll along my favourite beach with perhaps a short dip in the water. What I encountered was waves breaking a hundred yards offshore a couple of metres high, I come from a mixed up units age! Not since the evening when I nearly drowned had I seen waves like these! Shoulder high waves crashed, just 20 feet away from where I stood, into a hollow and the wash was surging high onto the beach.
I wonder how many in the western world get more than a few steps away from their civilised comforts, sensual pleasures in a darkened room. To be a mile from your car and clothes, just a light rub of suncream your only link with modern life, wind and surf up to the neck invigorating the skin at one with the wild elements more than makes up for the sensations I do not seem made to enjoy. Sadly our time here is drawing to an end, not quite as pleasant weather as we might have hoped for and not as many trips out as we could have done in the past.
It takes a long time for me to get my ears accustomed to the French sounds and start to understand what is really going on. What this has done is confirm my suspicions that this is the one place where I am least accepted. Not by visitors but by some family! Not anti what is happening to me, not wishing that we were not here but constantly miss gendering and in French it is quite blatant. I had been asked not to be too pushy with my brother in law and he sees no difference in his mind and happily uses masculine terms in public which cut to the quick. My heart is heavy, not a term really understood till now and my desire to return to this place, which for many years I have thought of as a second home, has diminished. They have had longer to get used to the new me than anyone and I have failed miserably to win them round. There are moments when you can see that they know that they should try but then when they are not concentrating it all breaks down…
At that point I had run out of energy and so had the laptop battery and all shut down and went black, at bit since my mood has been in the days since I wrote that.
Tomorrow we leave here and head north towards friends in Germany. Normally I would be a touch tearful and sad leaving this place and friends behind. I shall be sad and tearful tomorrow too but this time because I now know that I do not know when I shall be able to return if ever. They have been very generous towards us and in many ways as friendly as can be but the truth is that I have failed to be really accepted for who I am now by the two people who most need to be onside here. All their friends and new people we meet have had no trouble or even question my past then the spell is broken by yet another stupid offhand remark. I have been down for a couple of weeks now and have done very little because of it surfing the emotions on the edge of tears.
Julie now knows that I cannot return without positive proof that they have come round, I cannot return after another year and allow myself to be outed like this all the time. I have no idea where I shall have evolved to in a years time but I fear they will be in exactly the same place.
A few hours on the road and I am sure the sick tearfulness will abate and I may even be able to start enjoying the trip again. This part is all down to Julie’s planning, mine was to get us here!
I doubt that I shall get much sympathy, this is after all the only setback I have really had to face but it feels as bad as a bereavement.